One of the benefits of having a large flat screen TV is the wide abundance of video inputs. At present, there are 8 on our TV, 4 HD, 2 RCA style, 1 cable and 1 PC connection (DVI). This leaves lots of room for experimentation.
As noted on Saturday (http://oregonstate.edu/~reeset/blog/archives/614), I picked up a netbook, the MSI Wind (http://www.msimobile.com/level3_productpage.aspx?cid=3&id=40). Officially, the netbook is for my wife – who has taken up blogging and book reviewing as a hobby. It gives her a chance to work away from the desktop and in the living room with me in the evening. However, unofficially, it’s also a toy for me to try new things, as well as play with a netbook (as well as evaluate the feasibility of getting these for work).
Anyway, one of the first things that I did with the Netbook was drop Windows XP for the test build of Windows 7. I’ve been looking for a place to try it, and since my wife has been using Vista for a little over a year (I like the parental controls) – I figured that Windows 7 wouldn’t be too much of a difference. As I noted in the previous post, I was very pleased with how well it has run on this netbook. In all honest, it boots faster than the original XP system (takes about 10 seconds to go from a cold boot to active) – can run the areo interface on much lighter hardware than Vista (the netbook for example has no problem with it using the integrated video card), and as I spend time working with the system, have been really impressed with the polish in a beta build (especially when you consider what the first public Vista beta looked like).
So, that was a long explanation for my current project. I have a lot of computers at home. The oldest machine that I still use occasionally is a machine that I purchased from Dell in 1998 (I just keep updating the components) up to our current desktop. Well, yesterday, I was sitting around and wanted to watch an episode of the Simpsons . I didn’t have the particular episode that I was interested in watching, so I went online and found it (on hulu I think). Anyway, I hooked up the netbook and feed the video directly to the TV and it worked so well through the DVI cable that I thought I’d setup my own Media PC and see how well I could get it to work.
So….I dusted off a 4 year old media pc that I rarely turn on and decided to wipe the hard-drive and install Windows 7 and see how the new media functionality worked on it (as well as see how Windows 7 worked on a really old system that I wouldn’t touch Vista with). Again, like with the netbook, the install took approximately 20 minutes to install and apply current updates and create user account. As well, Windows 7 recognized all the old hardware, and appropriate drivers were added. From there, I moved the computer next to the TV and let the experiment begin. I figure, if I like this setup, I’ll likely end up purchasing a light-weight PC that I can use as a media machine – but for now – this will do. With the current setup, the machine can stream content directly to the TV (unfortunately, not recording yet – though I might pick up a cheap TV input card so I can setup a simplified DVR recorder). So right now, I’m hanging out at home watching the last episode of the Office (which I missed), an episode of He Man, masters of the Universe (I love old cartoons) and then an episode of Married…With Children (another one of my guilty pleasures). I’ve been primarily watching episodes via Hulu – and I’m surprised at the video quality. It’s not DVD quality – but certainly as good an anything off VHS or cable. I’m not sure if this is because of Hulu’s quality, my high speed internet (thank you Monmouth-Independence) or a combination of things.
But so far, so good. It looks like this little setup will work great for testing and seeing why so many people are getting DVR devices. If anyone has done something similar, give me a shout. Otherwise, I’ll continue to post updates as I (and my boys) spend time feeding videos through our new test media PC (the boys like watching cartoons online as much as I do, though they seem to be more interested in the current content on Cartoon Network).