I had read the first couple of Heirs of Alexandria books years ago, and saw this one for free at Baen.Since I had rather fond memories of those first, I gave this one a chance.
Suppose you wanted to have free TV. Suppose by that you mean series, not movies or news (both of which you can get in other ways).
Also, suppose you want to have it on your actual TV. Also, that you don't mind breaking IP laws. Well, this is how I would do it, if that was the case.
First: get hardware.
You need a general computational device with TV connectors and lots of storage. Like, say, a Mele A1000 or A2000 running android, and a SATA disk. This will cost you around $150 or so.
The Mele has HDMI, VGA and composite, so it can connect to pretty much anything that can display images. You could even use a 64GB SD card instead of a SATA drive if you want to go cheaper.
Second: choose some series.
You could go to ShowRSS create an account and just choose series you like. ShowRSS would then provide you with a nice RSS feed updated as your shows are uploaded.
You could even choose between SD and HD versions.
Third: get the episodes.
You would need a BitTorrent client that supports this:
Choosing the destination folder (uTorrent for android doesn't)
RSS Feeds with autodownload
For example: aDownloader
If you are using the Mele and the SATA drive, there is a bug in aDownloader where it can't write to the SATA disk. You can fix it if you have root and some patience.
Fourth: get a good video player.
You want one that:
Has HW decoding
Has SW audio decoding (a mele-specific issue)
Supports many video formats
Supports subtitles, if you need them
For example: MX Player
Fifth: get subtitles.
If you ever watch something that is not in your native language, you also want something that automatically gets subtitles for your videos. For example Subloader
How well would this work? Well, it would take roughly 5 minutes to download a show in SD or 15 minutes to download it in HD on a 10Mbps internet link.
It would let you play them in your own time.
It would let you see shows before they air in your country, and even if they will never air there.
It is also illegal as all hell, so don't do it.
Continues the stories of the first volume, of course.
I have been using the Mele A1000 for a few months now. I think I have settled into a usage pattern, so let's do a quick roundup of what it's good for and what it's not very good at.
First a quick reminder of what it is:
Small computer running Android (4.0.4 right now)
HDMI/VGA/Composite video output, ideal for using with a TV
SATA connector, full size SD card, 3 USB ports: basically unlimited storage capacity.
Remote control that works with most apps
Wifi and Ethernet
It will cost you ~ $90 to get one.
No noise, low power usage.
I have it in my bedroom, next to my old CRT TV. I could put it in the living room with the newer LED one, but I have a Mac Mini I got for work there anyway.
Having it plugged to an old TV means the video quality sucks. However, it works great for watching videos, and when connected to a modern display it works perfectly.
So, what do I do with it?
I watch movies and series on Netflix.
Version 1.8.1 of the Netflix app works fine (later versions do not!) and lets you see movies and series legally for a flat low monthly cost. The remote provided doesn't really work all that well, because you can't do "drags" and therefore can't scroll the movie lists left and right. So, to take full advantage of this you need to get a keyboard/mouse set. I use this one.
However, if you know what you want to see, it's just a matter of searching for it.
I watch videos in general.
MX Player works very well, and gives smooth, well synced video. The Hardware video decoder works just fine, but you have to switch to software audio decoding.
Having a pluggable SATA drive is very useful here. Just get any 2.5" SATA drive, plug it in, and start using it.
I used Samba Filesharing and it "just works". You set it up, configure user and password, and your drives are now shared locally and accessible to all your other devices.
I am using it to store backups from my "real" computers, created using rdiff-backup but any backup tool that can store in a remote folder should work.
Radio & Music Player
There are plenty of android applications that handle music streaming and playing your local music collection. Just use the one you like.
I like my TV telling me the weather. Uses a random widget from the play store.
In order to use it more comfortably, or be able to do stuff in it when I am on the notebook, I am using Droid VNC Server and that even means I can use my own phone as a "remote" using the Jump VNC client
Yes, that means I am in my bed using my android phone as a remote to my android TV's screen. If the performance were better, it would be as cool as it sounds.
I am using Jump because it's the only Android VNC client I found that supports dragging things (and it's not perfect by a long shot).
Possible future uses
Skype box (need to hook a webcam. Microphone?)
I have Need For Speed: Shift and I would love to play it on a large screen, but how would I control it? I need to investigate controllers, maybe joysticks or gamepads.
I bought this with the idea of using Ubuntu on it, but the lack of accelerated drivers and Netflix support has made that a non-starter. So, I am doing lots of things where Android really has lower quality software than Ubuntu, but those are forcing me to stay there.
I am quite happy with it, and as a "dumb-tv-smartener" it's quite awesome for its price.