1/03/2009

Christmas 2008 Connections

Another slant on this holiday period. Our family combined presents this year and find ourselves with a new 40" LCD 1080p TV, cheap by comparison. Expensive were the new cabinet required to hold it, cables to plug it in and investment in time admiring the details of the baby wilder beasts eyelashes as the croc eats them off.

Well this post is about connections because it seems all I have done is work out how to connect apparently useful devices together to produce alternate results. Lets start with the new WII.

The best way to by a WII is to purchase your kids college education using the National City Bank card and then use the points you accrue to invest in a gaming system to take your mind off the amount of money it cost you. So this "free" WII was plugged in using a low def composite cable (1) since Mario in low detail is still Mario.

The WII is internet connectable so that you can use the WII Shop online, oh how convenient that is. So a simple DHCP connection to the Linksys wireless router (2).

The welcome screen of the WII shows a set of "channels" to select. One is the CD with the game you plugged in last, another the WII Shop Online channel. Well if you head off to this shop you are offered additional channels to purchase in the "point" currency. Each "point" is equivalent to 1 cent US so the fact that it is a "point" only serves to help you forget you are spending real money. One of the items to purchase for a very reasonable 500 points is the "Internate Channel". I could not resist (3). What it appears to do is download and install a cut down version of the Opera browser into your WII so that you can navigate the web with with the WII remote. No flash, no video support but very large buttons to shoot with your WII remote. On the whole not a bad experience.

I needed to backup my Mac so invested in a Time Capsule which is a little white box that you plug some power into and hey presto you have backup (4). My first full backup took 27 hours. Needless to say the wireless part has a down side, however, now that it is just doing delta backups it is great. The Time Capsule is also a wireless access point but it didn't seem necessary to add a third subnet to the house.

A long time ago I was lucky enough to win a high end XBox from the Cincinnati DotNet User Group. Well it was finally time to crack the seals and see what she could do. A special high definition connection to the TV with the switch on the side of the cable set appropriately (5) gave us an excellent view of videos and music that we could buy if we wanted to. See, I only buy things that give me the option to buy more. If only Paulson could have come up with this strategy.

It didn't end there, with all these things to buy, what should one choose? Oh yes, Netflex, instant streaming of high def video through my XBox onto my TV, what could be better. Plus, bonus of bonuses, free for the first two weeks. I am in (6).

To hook up Netflix Instant Viewing through your XBox is not too hard but does require a little "out of the box" thinking. Firstly, spool through the stream of adverts that the new horrendous XBox console throws at you until you find the randomly inserted Netflix. Sometimes it doesn't appear, so you have to go out and back in until the right random ad appears. I was persistent enough to beat the ad rampage.

Once you click on this ad it downloads and installs something magical on you XBox that does nothing. Well I say nothing because it didn't do anything except tell me to go and find my computer and access the Netflix web site to create an account and enter a six character code.

Once you have created your account and entered all your relevant bank draining information you are ready to go. The first thing we did was go back to the XBox and try to work out how to get a selection of movies. That will not work. Don't do it. Wastes lots of time and there is likley some frustrated screaming and a little cussing going on as well. I feel sure this is in the Netflix business goals, "Maximise setup frustration to optimize relief when complete".

Instead, stay on the Netflix web site and select the movies you want to watch. Don't "Play" them even if it asks you to, that will just show them on your PC. Don't "Add" them because that means they will be arriving in the mail in a few days. Instead you have to find the few movies available for "instant viewing", hover over the "Add" button (don't click it), and a secret menu opens up inviting you to add the movie to your "instant queue".

Finally, with movies in your instant queue you can go back to your XBox controller and they will appear in the list of available moves to watch. Note, to go back into that list on the XBox later you will have to go and find the randomly displaying Netflix advert which offers you the opportunity to practice your zen deep breathing. We chose "Then she found me", some might call a chick flick but I call a delightful romp through the hideous decisions people make when in love.

Connection (7) is the XBox Extender which allows me to use the Media Center app on our little, slow, wireless connected laptop as a movie streaming hub. Yes, you guessed it, it's damned slow. However, we did find a nice use for it. It will play a slideshow of all the photos you have on your PC which allowed us a few minutes of joy with the "oohs" and "aaahs" and "do you remember that? No? Damn it thats were we met?" moments of our past.

The next connection is to my Mac Book Pro. Another $20 and I am in posession of a fine looking cable, kindley posted to me by my friend Apple. This connects the DVI port on the Mac with the HDMI port on the TV (8). The 17" laptop screen runs at 1920x1200 and the 40" TV runs at 1920x1080 interlaced. So if my post Christmas figurin' is anything to go by, a TV pixel is 2.3 times bigger but only 9/10ths the relative height. This makes for a grainy hard to read image that I can't distinguish the "i"s and "l"s on.

The last planned connection is a 17" 5x7 LCD picture frame to a 4G SD card from our camera (9). This was my present to my wife, the idea is, and note, this is how you make cool techy gagits romatic, that each time a pictures changes a new emotion enters the room. Say it together, aaahhhh.

The moral of this story is that connected life is an amuzing way to while a way a cold Christmas week.

1 comment:

gerard said...

Liked this post. Went through a bit connection adventure myself, having received an HD TiVo for Christmas. TiVo also supports Netflix, so I had much the same experience empirically determining what separates movies I could watch instantly and movies I could not. Also received our first digital photo frame. My gut reaction: just one more thing to plug in.

Got the big TV last Christmas, so nothing new there. Already hooked it up to my Dell too at one point. Resolution was great. Wish I had one of those on my desk at work.