Few options if you don't want a "smart" TV

Originally published at: Few options if you don't want a "smart" TV | Boing Boing


Our Samsung is labeled as a digital sign (eg, in store displays) and doesn’t reach the internet directly because I never hooked it up. Took some Google-fu to figure out which mode to get it there, but these devices are meant to be running long hours without interrupting the content being shown. A little more spendy? Sure. Worth it? Damn sure.

It may be swapping secrets with our Roku soundbar, and of course every service we use is likely tracking our watch patterns to the moment, but the screen itself is dumb as rocks and does not pepper us with ads.

I hope it lasts the same 15 years or so as the dumb LCD TV it replaced.


Not sure Roku would be my go-to example of a “trusted” streaming device.


I left all of the “smart” features unconfigured on my TV, hooked up a PC, and stream my content through that. It is old-school, but lets me run ad blockers and gives me more precise control over what I see.


You can purchase “digital signage” displays which are refreshingly dumb. Unfortunately they’re more expensive and don’t have the newest display technologies that consumer models do.


Articles like this are why I won’t replace my 42", even though it’s a bit long in the tooth and my eyes are getting ever weaker as I age. I do not want any of those features, but corporations will continue to include them and regulatory capture means government will do dick all to prevent it. I want to buy your products, not BE your product.


Some months back I set out to buy a TV to use as a monitor for an Xbox. I don’t use any of the smart features and the only thing I cared about was a physical power button so that it could still be used if the remote got lost. I was disappointed to find that the majority of new TVs (at least the ones at Best Buy) don’t have any physical buttons anymore! I found one cheapo one that did, but I’m worried that there won’t be any similar options at all next time.


If you just want a TV for over air broadcast just get a computer monitor with a digital tuner and an antenna.

I don’t get the problem, just don’t connect your TV to the internet. How can it track you or serve you ads with no internet.

The smart tvs in our RV are never hooked up to the internet. We just watch over air TV or hook up a hard drive with movies and TV shows that I ripped from dvds.


Reminds me that I need to recap my 15-year-old Samsung (on its second power board after the capacitor crisis of the aughts caused the first one to literally explode). Gonna hang on to this dumb set like grim death despite its current power supply problems.


Old hand-me-downs have served me well. Knowing how to replace dead capacitors in the power supply ensures a never-ending stream of vintage TV sets.


So there seem to be 2 things at issue here. 1. How do you stream content to a TV and 2. What security and privacy concerns are related to item 1.

As TV manufacturers have proven themselves to be despicable the answer to item 1 is: don’t hook up the TV to the internet ever. It’s not that difficult. You just ignore all the prompts to do so and never hook it up. If, for some reason, you want the latest firmware (which 99% of the time has nothing to do with improving your TV’s functionality) then you can often load from a USB drive or I suppose hook up the TV to the internet and then remove the connection but why bother? Just don’t hook it up.

As for Item 2. Well, you have to have some connection right? So there are number of ways to do that but for a consumer, it’s about who can you trust to not leave gaping security holes in the product and no support. Roku and Amazon Fire devices are the market leaders for sure. I know what they’re doing with my data, and that’s no different than what the TV companies are doing, so are they doing better at security than the TVs? There are also gaming consoles like Xbox and Playstation which many people have. Is it likely someone is going to hack a console like TVs are hacked? Seems unlikely.

If you don’t want to stream over the internet and just want over the air then buy an antenna and never hook the TV up to the internet. Seems very easy to do.


Best use of a Raspberry Pi that I’ve ever found.


I’ve got one set up, and it does an admirable job of ridding my Roku of the persistent ads. And it does an even better job making sites such as… um … ahem …BoingBoing :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth: … into usable and pleasant places to visit.


Where are these Roku ads I keep hearing about? I can’t recall having ever seen an ad. There’s a single ad to the right of the main menu I think, usually for one of the many streaming channels, but are there others?

Sure, of course folks can just “get over the air channels.” Which are crappy network television for the most part, full of ads we’re trying to avoid by using streaming channels, and (in my case) are almost impossible to get where I live in the mountains. So, ah, not an option then really unless I want to buy a 100 foot antenna and try and mount it by the house. Ugh.

Let’s face it, everything good turns to crap eventually. Streaming was great, and now it’s becoming crappy and ad ridden as they monitor our every viewing choice. Screw it, I’ll just play video games (and then the news comes out about how Steam is going to start selling our personal data… I’m sure it’ll happen…)


On the main page, that’s the one. On the streaming channels blocking only works sometimes, because the streaming channels themselves often host the ads so there’s no additional DNS lookup. But it’s effective enough to be worthwhile - and that single ad to the right is a good canary in the coalmine to give quick visual confirmation that my entire network is being protected.


My non 4k TV was purchased right at a time where dumb TVs were cheaper because they didn’t include the smarts. Already “repaired” it once by tightening the screws that do double duty as a ground.

For streaming I go Chromecast. It imposes zero ads itself and I figure since google already has my data…


Pernille Harder Football GIF by VfL Wolfsburg

The rallying cry of the 21st century.


I have a smart TV that’s hooked up to the internet, but I never use its smart features. I stream using a Chromecast, and I get zero ads. Not sure why you need to waste time looking for a dumb TV.


Roku at least uses normal DNS provided by DHCP, which means it can be pi-holed.

And TBH, of the two TCL branded ‘rokuTV’ units I have, only one gets used as such; the other one, if it’s reporting anything, reports that the HDMI inputs are used the vast majority of the time. (It’s a passable 4K monitor, and I also have a Switch plugged into it for games.)

Part of the reason why they are many thousands is because they are usually running 24/7. (Source: our A/V guys at my workplace, which has a LOT of the things) The ones I’ve seen do have HDMI… but also Display port, DVI, and analog VGA/ composite as input methods. They also have an expansion port for other purposes, and network ports, presumably for remote control via an A/V management console or as a streaming target.

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THIS. The only downside is that you do occasionally have to update the pi-hole (It doesn’t automatically update the software code, only the ad blocking lists), and every now and again you have to reboot it. ( If you are running Ubiquiti for core networking, you may also have to turn off throttling on the pi-hole, because the router insists on being the DNS server for DHCP. :frowning: )