Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Ways Technology Helps Keep You in Tune with TV

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

The new season of television shows is upon us. Critics are checking out the pilots (if they haven't already). Fans are making their personal schedules. Marketing is in full swing for new shows and shows moving to new times/nights. Casting announcements are popping up every day. It's really only a matter of time before we're all dying for the September and October premieres that most shows will have this season.

Earlier in the summer we ran an article discussing ways in which DVRs help to improve the viewing experience. But DVRs aren't the only thing that can help you keep up with everything that goes on in the television realm. Today we share 10 gadgets and technologies that are keeping us in tune with television this year.

10. The Web.
This one might be obvious. And it really encompasses a LOT of options, from reading blogs to checking the listings to following up on what happened last week. If you've missed an episode or want to know what season a show is in, or wonder where you might have seen that guest start before, IMDB, Wikipedia,, and the like are just clicks away.

9. TV-Related Device. You really have your pick at this point. From a PS3 or an Xbox360 to Boxee, Roku, or a Netflix Set-Top Box, you can stream content through several different devices. "Channels" are available both free and with premium subscriptions, and some of these options offer live content while others don't. There's really a wide variety of comparison, so you might want to delve deeper on your own.

8. Your phone or tablet. Did you realize you can use some smartphones and tablets as remote controls? You sometimes need an attachment to make it work, but the more tech-savvy you are, the more customized you can make your experience! And that's just for starters. Using your phone can keep you close with friends across the world, so if you want to watch something together, you can chat about it at the same time.

7.  Xbox360. Sounds weird, but you can now pay to upgrade/install some software onto your gaming console that will allow it to work just like a cable receiver. So you don't have to pay for another receive as long as you have one. You can access your DVR recordings, use chat while watching things, and save space, among other things.
6. An External Hard Drive. Yes, you may consider this to be a little excessive. But, for people who want to catch everything in HD, it can be necessary. Or, if you tend to keep a lot of things available rather than delete them, it's handy. You can hook it up to your DVR so you don't need to be worried about space - which can be a looming concern as time goes on and you just can't part with favorites.

5. Programmable Remote. These babies aren't cheap, but boy can they do a lot! I first bought one when I was in college, so I only had to use one remote for both my television and my VCR/DVD player (and yeah, I used the VCR option a lot more than the DVD back then). But they weren't ideal - the book provided a limited number of codes that would work. Now, you can get a programmable universal remote to accommodate a television, a VCR, a DVD player, a cable or satellite box, a DVR, a stereo, and even computers and gaming consoles if they're Bluetooth compatible! Gone are the days of running into the room at 7:59pm and realizing the TV remote is on the table but the cable remote is MIA... no more running around the room frantically, flipping over couch cushions and yelling at the kids (or the dog) while precious seconds tick away and a new episode of your favorite comedy begins. One remote, all done.

4. A TV Tuner Card. These little devices provide you with a way to catch television through your computer. Most often have a way to capture video as well, so they can function as a DVR of sorts. There are several different kinds, and most also pick up FM radio, if you need some music and for whatever reason don't want to use internet sources or need a local station. 

3. An Online Provider for Shows. Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, and Zune are among the options you have to watch latest episodes for a small fee (or free!). The internet can help you figure out if you'll spend less buying individual episodes than you would on cable or satellite if you only watch a few shows regularly. If you're on vacation and want to catch up before you return, this can be a quick and easy option as well. Plus, some networks offer full episodes of their shows soon after original broadcast, so check their sites as well.

2. Apps. Your Cable/Satellite Provider's App and a TV Listings App for starters. To make the most of apps, you'll need a smartphone or tablet, furthering the emphasis placed on technological devices in this day and age. If it's the end of the day and you just need a break, pull out your phone and see what you might look forward to that night - whether it's a new show, a rerun, or even a favorite movie. And, since many people wear their phones on their belts, you can even pull it out and peruse the listings while you're on a train or bus without digging through your bag. Use apps to manage your recordings, and some say it won't be long before viewing them will be just as easy.

1. The DVR. Really, I see it as the most useful piece of television-related technology we have at this point. If I'm at home, I don't go a day without using it. In a quick recap of the aforementioned article on DVR uses, it's just handy to be able to record multiple things simultaneously, manage them from afar, pause if the doorbell rings, rewind live television if I missed a joke, and keep gems at my fingertips for random pick-me-ups. Just a couple months ago my DVR system updated and now every receiver can pause live television, not just the one with the DVR unit... so much more handy. I wonder what the next update will be??

Oh, and a bonus? It never hurts to have a pair of 3D glasses around. Though it is pretty rare, we have seen episodes of several shows over the years that have 3D segments. Remember that weird, trippy scene of Third Rock from the Sun? Or the bits of Yo, Yogi! that used them while the bears skateboarded around? It's not the newest technology, but 3D glasses are handy, at least until 3DTVs pick up some more for use other than movies and sports!

What technology do you employ to stay in tune with what's on TV? 
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