I download quite a lot of our regular programming using a Mac Mini hooked to the TV, but in doing some research for another satellite reason I learned about some newer recievers capable of picking up digital signals using the big C-band dish we happen to still have in the back yard. Even more interesting is that they can pick up both standard definition and high definition channels. Looking at this page tells me there's actually a lot of free programming being beamed around the world and everything marked with a "C" I could pick up!
So I started studying FTA (free-to-air) receivers capable of picking up C-band signals. I settled on the Openbox S9, an amazingly affordable (as in just $150Cdn) box capable of receiving HD signals and PVR functions (with a separate external hard drive). This box runs Linux software internally and is pretty snappy. It also blindscans satellites really fast so in just a couple of minutes I can see what channels are available on a satellite.
As this box doesn't directly control the motor out on the dish, I'm using our old Uniden Ultra receiver that we originally bought with the old 10-foot dish to move the dish and then we flip back to the Openbox to watch what's on the current satellite. I've ordered another little box called the V-Box 7 that will make dish moving somewhat automatic when we change satellites on the Openbox which will be nice, but it's not too big of a hassle to change inputs on the TV to use different receivers. I remember the days when we had to get up and turn the dial just to change channels!
What are we watching? Well, we're really into all the Retro TV channels on the AMC 3 satellite. I think there's almost 30 of them. Carla and I grew up with shows like The A-Team, Emergency, Knight Rider and now the kids are enjoying them, too! It's way better than all the reality crap on TV now! We've also watched a bit of FX but there's so much out there and I'm just learning the ins and outs of trying to get all the channels to scan in.
I've done a bit of "testing" in the past with hacked FTA recievers but this is so much better because it's legal so there's need to wait for a "fix" when the keys are changed. Just tune in and channel surf!