If you have been considering ditching the cable or satellite and going with streaming TV entertainment, you could use paid services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video. Or, you can get TV without ads, a bigger selection of shows and movies, and browse and watch it all in one interface like Kodi (formerly XBMC) on a Home Theater PC (HTPC).
There are 2 main ways to do this.
- Streaming using an unofficial Kodi add-on like SALTS or Exodus
- Download videos and audio using a Usenet provider and some free software (shown below)
If you want to explore option #1, follow those links for tutorials.
To find out more about #2, read on…
Sign up for a Usenet provider
There are lots of Usenet providers that offer unlimited Usenet access with unlimited bandwidth with 1640+ days retention, SSL, and 30+ connections for a very reasonable price. I’ve tried a number of them, and these are some of my favorite ones…
Overview of the HTPC Usenet PVR System
The applications that will need to be installed on the computer that handles this setup are…
- Sickbeard (for TV shows)
- CouchPotato (for movies)
- Headphones (for music)
All of these applications are installed and run in the background, and are only access through the browser at the IP address of the computer (or localhost) using the specific port number that each application is set to use. I recommend you bookmark each application’s page so you don’t have to remember which port it was.
Here is a flowchart diagram that illustrates how all the separate applications and elements interact with each other. This centers around Sickbeard, but keep in mind that CouchPotato and Headphones act exactly like Sickbeard but those are focus on movies or music respectively therefore get the movie or album data from other sources (instead of TheTVDB).
After you have subscribed to a Usenet service, the first thing to do is install and setup SAB (SABnzbd+). Download it from the SABnzbd Website. This application is simply the “downloader” which access the usenet provider directly to do so. But what is doesn’t do… is know where any of the files are. That’s where the other applications come in.
Download and install Sickbeard (They have instructions on their website). Sickbeard is a TV show management application. You tell it what shows you like and it fetches all of the seasons and episodes data and lets you pick what previously aired shows you want to mark as “wanted”. It is constantly doing searched (which use search providers… we’ll get to that next) to find new shows that air (usually an hour after it’s aired live) and to find old “wanted” shows as soon as they become available. Here is a wiki on How to Use Sickbeard.
Now, one thing you will need to do to improve your results with Sickbeard is to setup as many search providers as you can. Search providers do indexing of what files exist within Usenet. Sickbeard uses these to search for a show episode. If it is found, the search provider returns a URL of an NZB file and gives it to Sickbeard. This is called a “snatch” in Sickbeard. Upon a snatch, Sickbeard then sends the NZB URL to SAB to download the file that the NZB is referring to.
Here are the Search Providers I have setup in my Sickbeard…
- http://nzbtv.net/register (currently disabled)
Built-in Search Providers:
php (there is a one-time fee to upgrade to VIP)
- NZBMatrix is no more 🙁
Once the download is complete, SAB can run a script called “Sab2Sickbeard” (see the setup instructions) which sends the downloaded file back to Sickbeard to handle the post-processing where it renames the file with a unified naming convention, attaches metadata, and moves the file to the final destination. At this point, Sickbeard marks it as “downloaded”.
You can also setup notifications so that Sickbeard will notify XBMC (or one of many other media centers) that the file has been added and will trigger a media library update.
Headphones is like Sickbeard for music. See this site for an overview and instructions on the download, installation, and setup.
Play It Safe With a VPN
One more thing, if you’re going to be downloading TV shows and movies from a Usenet provider, I highly recommend you play it safe and use a VPN. A VPN will encrypt your traffic so your ISP doesn’t see what you’re streaming or where you’re streaming it from. Better safe than sorry, am I right?!
Anyway, I personally use IPVanish and it works great. Feel free to give it a free trial to make sure it works well for you.
Do you need any help or notice any important pieces of info that is left out? Leave your comments below. Thanks!