How I saved $80 a month on my cable and Internet bill

I was reviewing my cable bill last month and was floored that I was spending $120 a month for a DVR, cable and Internet access. This blew my mind, and I set out on a quest to lower my bill without losing access to quality content (I like to watch educational shows and documentaries). I had a couple of requirements prior to heading down this road:

1. I needed to be able to view shows on the major TV networks.

2. Internet bandwidth needed to be sufficient to stream movies from Hulu, Netflix or Apple.

3. Wanted to be able to access on content on demand.

None of my requirements called for cable tv, so the first thing I did was cancel my cable and return the cable box. I replaced my cable with HDTV over-the-air service, which I am obtaining through a Leaf indoor HDTV antenna. This paper thin antenna works great, and I am able to pick up crystal clear reception from the major networks, as well as a number of other stations I didn’t know were available. Can’t beat free!

Cutting cable saved me $60 a month, but I started to wonder if I could do more. I went back to my bill and noticed that I was being charged $7 a month to lease a modem, and my Internet service was running me $43 a month. After a bit of research I realized you can purchase a modem, so I picked up a Motorola SB6121 SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (if you decide to buy your own modem make sure you get a model that works with your cable provider) for $40 and returned the modem I was leasing. This purchase will pay for itself in 6-months, and after that I will begin saving $7 a month. Nice!

So with two relatively minor changes I was saving $67 a month. Could I do more? Well it appears I could. I went out to a competitors website and started looking at their Internet rates. They have a plan similar to mine that was $13 less a month, so I called my cable provided and told them I was going to switch. They transferred me to their retention department who offered me the same plan as their competitor, which chopped another $13 off my bill. So if I you add up the $60 I saved from cable, the $7 I saved by purchasing a modem and the $13 monthly reduction in Interent service I’m now saving $80 a month! I still need to find a good way to stream movies and documentaries, and ideally I would like it to work with the roku digital video player. How are my readers watching movies and documentaries in the digital world?

Oh how I love my iRobot roomba

One of my friends recently purchased an iRobot Roomba, and he let me test it out while he was out of town. I thoroughly tested out his Roomba, and was amazed that it was able to do as good of a job as my existing vacuum cleaner! The Roomba also has a key advantage over my upright vacuum cleaner in that it could wander under couches, beds and dressers to get dust and debree that had made its way there. I was also overjoyed when I found out that once I pushed the CLEAN button on the Roomba, it would begin vacuuming the room with no manual intervention.

These things made me realize that a Roomba was in my future, and I ordered one once my friend returned. My Roomba is now operational, and I have it programmed to vacuum my carpets every other day. The price tag for the unit was a bit high, but the following benefits quickly made me realize that this was the right thing for me:

  • Vacuming an entire room is one button push away
  • Cleaning the Roomba is extremely easy
  • I have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of dust
  • It can get under couches, beds and dressers than normal vacuums can’t
  • The anti-tangle technology works extremely well

Having now owned my Roomba for two months, I have only found two downsides. First, the replacement parts (brushes, filters, etc.) are not exactly cheap, and the time it takes to get them is somewhat lengthy. But even when I factor in the upkeep costs, this has to be one of the best purchased I have EVER made! Long live the Roomba (and Chris, you sparked my interest in purchasing a Scooba to mop my floors)!

Dealing with annoying people on airplanes

I recently flew home to see my parents, and had quite a whopper of a trip back. The first leg of my flight wasn’t so bad, and the folks next to me left me alone (I was trying to sleep). On the second leg, things fell apart. I had a window seat in an exit row, and I think the guy sitting next to me had dropped some speed prior to getting on the plane. The dude was constantly moving around, and kept bumping me with his arm as he flailed around in his seat. Since I was cuddled up in the corner trying to sleep, I got woken up each time he elbowed me. After about the fifth time of getting elbowed in the ribs, I felt it was time to discuss this situation with Chucky. Our conversation went something like this:

Matty: * Taps guy on shoulder *

Guy on speed: Hi

Matty: Howdy, can I help you?

Guy on speed: No, why do you ask?

Matty: Well — you keep bumping me, so I wanted to see if you needed something.

Guy on speed: Oh, sorry.

Matty: * Closes eyes and tries to go back to sleep *

This ended the conversation, and I thought this was a diplomatic way to tell him to quit elbowing me. He sat patiently for 5 – 10 minutes, and then he elbowed me a few more times while flailing around. Since Chucky didn’t get it the first time, I thought maybe a second discussion was in order. This one went something like this:

Matty: * Taps guy on shoulder *

Guy on speed: * Speed dude looks at Matty funny *

Matty: You elbowed me again, so I assume you need something now?

Guy on speed: No — sorry about that

Matty: Ok, thanks.

After this, I heard the captain come on to tell us to prepare for landing. I am not sure if there is an alternate way to nicely tell people that they are being rude and inconsiderate, but hopefully some of my readers can interject their thoughts. :) The plane was 100% filled, so moving was not an options. :(

Switching jobs

After almost four years with my current employer, I have decided to move on. I found leaving my current job somewhat difficult, since I work with some incredibly talented people (I worked with people that could tell you the history of the world, how to make the perfect spinache quiche, and several individuals that could recite from memory the layout of the memory map that is passed between the BIOS/EFI and the kernel on x86 platforms). It is also hard leaving an environment you poured lots of nights and weekends into, but at the end of the day I guess you shouldn’t become attached to the bits you helped change. Testing new waters should be awesome, and I can’t wait to get back into the trenches in my new role. I think the positive slogan goes something like “onwards and upwards?” Viva!

Addicted to the Sopranos

The Sopranos t.v. series has been on the air since 1999, but I have never watched enough television to justifiy the cost of permium programming. On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to get the first season of the Sopranos from Netflix. I finished up season 2 last night, and am hoping to start watching season three tomorrow. The Sopranos is one of the best television series I have ever watched (I also like The Godfather, Casino, Goodfellas, etc.), and in my opinion it’s one of the best television series to hit the airwaves in the past 10 – 20 years. I miss classic television series like Macgyver, Airwolf, Knight Rider, V, Seinfeld, and for that matter, the rest of the awesome programming that made up the 80s. Luckily I have Modern Marvels, and three more seasons of The Sopranos. :)