Monday, July 02, 2012

rolling some more

PC owning is kind of funny. What happens is that you get used to what it can do, want more, buy a new PC, and if there is still life in the old one, it is hard to give away, sale or refurbish (to the new and higher standard of expectations). So what to do with an older PC (not too old).
First the scene: The component DVD player with my TV set up went down. I needed a replacement. Normally when the wife is watching girl flicks on the TV, I watch what I like on my PC. I have an extra PC and did to it all the standard stuff. Evicting dust bunnies, checking memory and disk drives, the DVD/CD drives. What? Replace a DVD player with a whole PC? Isn't that overkill? Don't get over worked up, please.

My fancy new DVD player is an entertainment center (sort of). You need firstly a TV with input jacks, a converter box of some sort if the TV doesn't have jacks, suitable cables, a PC video card with output jacks and software. Now most TVs have 4 kinds of input jacks or less. RCA jacks, S-video, HDMI, and or VGA. My TV has S-video and RCA jacks. The video card in my PC has RCA, VGA and S-video. I found a S-video cable, plugged it in and immediately got the PC desktop on the screen when I switched to the TV's aux input channel, but no sound through the TV speakers. S-video does not deliver sound. I believe the RCA connection passes sound but I heard the picture quality is less than that of the S-video connection. I use remote speakers plugged into the PC sound card, ooh stereo to boot!

So, match connectors with appropriate cables, remote speakers, basically the PC monitor is replaced by a TV. Now, software. You don't need fancy, after all you can already play media on a regular PC. An entertainment software makes it easier for the less tech savvy in your house to use it. There are several softwares for this, some are deep techno, some point and click. Do your own research, you'll see. On my Linux setup (because it's free), I use Xubuntu Linux (has a Win/Mac like desktop). Xubuntu is light weight, not fancy, not many extras, point and click. The application I use is called Moovidia, formally Elisa Multimedia Center. I also have VLC (Videolan player) just to complicate things. Keep things simple, don't automate everything, leave the dog alone.

So I turn on the TV and turn to the aux channel/boot up the PC, when the desktop appears insert disk, double click the Moovideo icon on the desktop and on the menu appears the available DVD bar. Click the bar and it plays. This does what the original disk player did. Moovideo will also play whatever audio disk is available and whatever audio and video files are stored on the hard drive. If the PC is hooked to the Internet, it is no different than any other PC. But the TV is a household shared thing so I recommend using a spare PC and dedicating it for TV use. In fact I didn't hook it up to the Internet. I use a jump drive or burn stuff to CD/DVD. Limits are good, but what is good for you. Keep it simple.

Now the extra. You can put your photos and your artwork on your multimedia PC and play them. Slide shows, presentations with audio, etc. I download art tutorials and history documentaries off the net for viewing. I control my own content. You have just expanded the usefulness of both your TV and your PC in one whack. Again if you got Windows XP on your old PC you can do this too, just have to find the appropriate software. I use Linux so I promote it. This is about re-purposing an older/spare PC, getting more life out of it and getting over a PC doing everything. It is OK if you limit it to doing one thing, after all it is a spare. Better than a dust bunny collecting door stop, say yeah! And stand aside, your blocking the tube.

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