January 9, 2007


Just a couple short notes.

First of all, some may have noticed trouble logging on to TID earlier. This was due to a scheduled outage by Blogger and should be over by now.

Secondly, blogging will likely be fairly sparse for a while. Not only is it in the middle of the mid-winter duldrums (though it hardly seems like winter) but I find myself caught up with my new media gizmos.

My new computer has a dual TV tuner deal which can record two channels onto hard disk simulataneously, or you can record one channel and watch another. Of course, it also functions like a TiVo deal where you can pause and replay live TV. It also provides a complete TV guide which allows you to schedule recordings automatically. It also has a guide service like Dish TV, where you simply provide your zip code and your TV schedule is automatically downloaded from the net. You can search for a type of show you like, search movies, news, etc. and pick a show to record, or set it to record the series automatically. And of course it gives a capsule description of the show, and for movies gives cast and ratings, etc. And amazingly, this is all free of charge.

So now I actually can have my computer recording two channels while watching a third on my TV at the same time. Talk about media overload. And since my computer and TV are linked, when I'm not watching something live, I have a list of dozens of shows, documentaries and movies which have been recorded previously to watch. And the system came with a remote control so I can sit in front of the TV and control my computer by remote. I can adjust the volume and channels of course, but also play DVDs, view pictures stored on the computer, play videos, or even play online games, all controlled through the remote and displayed on both my TV and computer monitor. (I usually shut the monitor down if I'm not at the computer)

It's a little bizarre to be able to have your TV on your computer and your computer desktop on your TV or visa versa and I'm still fiddling with what it can do.

And since you can pause the shows and come back hours later and resume right where you left off, you can really pile up a lot of hours of shows. You can even start watching a show which is recording at the time from the beginning. Say you're recording Meet the Press, and Face the Nation, and you go to make breakfast or something. You can come back and even if Meet the Press is half way through, you can start watching it from the beginning even at the same time it's recording the second half of the show so you don't miss a minute. And of course you can pause or replay things you don't catch or want to watch again even when the show is live.

I can finally record shows I usually missed, like Frontline or Nova, or shows that jump all over the place and seem to appear at a different time every week, if at all. (Like the Simpsons on Sunday night) So instead of setting a VCR for 6 p.m. and ending up with a football game, it only records if and when the Simpsons are on. It's kind of amazing actually. You can even specify whether you want it to record first airings only, or both first airings and repeats, one time a day, or more than one. (For shows like Seinfeld that's on about 5 times a day on different channels, this is handy.)

In other words, it's like TV/Media/Technological quicksand that I'm wallowing in for the moment. But I'm hopeful that once the novelty wears off, perhaps I can pry myself from the tube, gird my loins and wade back into the fever swamp of local politics and issues a bit more often.

Of course, as always, if there's an issue or story you have an interest in or think others should, by all means put together a post and send it along for publication. I'd welcome the input.


At 1/09/2007 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TID, tell us how you've got that setup wired, and what hardware and software you're using to do that. Can you do split screen to the TV or PC?

I'm looking to geek out and set up some sort of Huck Finn Global Operations Command Center in my house, and I still don't know the best way to link the TV and PC.

I'm also waiting for the Verizon guys to walk up to my door and offer me a 1Gb/s fiber optic connection for $30/month. But that won't happen soon.

At 1/10/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Caution: Those with no interest in tech crap, stop here. The following is a bunch of incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo you can safely ignore.

As far as the way my system is setup, it goes like this:

The computer has a graphics card which includes a dual TV tuner.

The OS is Windows XP Media Center Edition, which provides the Media Center program which is a sort of all inclusive program to handle and view all pictures, video, and music on the computer, watch DVD's on the DVD player (in my case as part of the computer, but I imagine a stand alone could be attached to the computer or TV as well and be controlled this way)

It also allows you to view the TV schedule, play games, and burn CDs and DVDs from files on your computer or recorded TV programs much like a VCR would record VHS tapes.
(A stand alone DVD player/recorder would also allow you to record live TV onto disc if I'm not mistaken, and there are decks which include a VCR as well which allows you to transfer VHS tapes to DVD)

I have my TV connected to the computer by an S-Video cable running from a S-Video jack on the back of the video card in my computer to an S-Video jack on the back of my TV.

I spliced in a splitter into the coax cable from the wall and one branch attaches directly into the video card in the computer, and the other branch screws directly into the back of the TV. (If you have a set top box, you run the input to that and then to the TV and computer I believe.)

So now I have the signal going to the TV so I can watch that like normal cable TV, and to the tuner card in the computer so that it can "watch" or record two channels at once.

Through the input button on the TV remote, I can switch between normal TV and the S-Video source, which displays the same thing on my TV which appears on my computer monitor, and therefor to view the Media Center and all the content there.

In order to have the TV show what's on your monitor, you have to do a simple procedure to change the display settings on your computer.

You can right click anywhere on the desktop, click Properties, and then the Settings tab, then the Advanced button and change the settings there.

You have a choice of having the signal sent to your TV be a clone or copy of what appears on your desktop, or you can have it span the signal so that half appears on one monitor and the other half on another, and a couple other options.

But for 99% of applications, you'd just run a clone of your desktop.
You simply set it to this and set the input on the TV to S-Video (by pressing a button on the TV remote) and voila, you now have your desktop displayed on your TV as well as your monitor.

Now you simply run the Media center, which you can start and control using the keyboard and mouse or its remote.

In this set up, you can choose to watch live TV, recorded TV, DVD, listen to music or a slideshow of pictures or videos on your computer, and much other stuff, including a program which somehow strips the vocals out of mp3 and other music files and allows you to sing kareoke if you want. Bizzare, but.. it's there.

Now the signal appears on both the monitor and the TV. One snafu is that I haven't figured out how to have the monitor shut down into standby to save energy while still having the signal sent to the TV. So for now, if I'm going to be watching recorded TV or stuff on the Media Center for any length of time, I have to just shut down the computer monitor manually. Otherwise, it won't go into standby and shut down until after I've stopped using the Media Center.

And of course, the audio for all the TV, music, and videos runs through the computer system, which provides top notch stereo audio and has a lot of 3D sound option, effects, an EQ, the ability to adjust the sound spacially in order to custom tune the surround sound, and many other features you can set and adjust.

I just have a basic two speaker and subwoofer setup, but obviously, as far as sound systems, you can be as complex or expensive as you want, and you could also tie in a home stereo system into the thing as well.

Many people now have home theatre sound with 7 or more speaker systems which the sound card is designed to handle.

The only problem I'm currently fighting is that the picture on my TV is cropped around the edges compared to the signal displayed on the monitor. There are many ways to adjust the position and size of the display, and dozens of adjustments from brightness and saturation to the geometry of the signal, etc. But so far, none of them have solved the problem.

There's only a small area around the edges which aren't visible on the TV, so it's not the end of the world, but I'm frustrated at not being able to fix it.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to email.

At 1/10/2007 9:04 AM, Anonymous yinn said...

Don't forget to schedule some sleeptime in there someplace.

At 1/10/2007 9:13 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Oh, and I forgot to add probably the greatest feature. Since the TV programs are recorded digitally onto the hard disk, and the remote has a little button that skips forward about a minute or so, by pressing it quickly about 4 or 5 times, you can skip commercial breaks in less than a second. I LOVE that.

There are programs available as well which will take the recorded TV content, say, a movie, and convert it to MP4 format which is recordable to DVD, and also strip out the commercials.
I've also accomplished this by using a video editing suite. So it's possible to record a movie from TV, strip out commercials, and burn it to DVD. You can also fit about 4 or 5 half hour episodes of a show onto a standard DVD. The capacities are likely going to increase, allowing even more content to fit.

You can then play the DVDs like normal, and skip to chapters or episodes as you wish.

At 1/10/2007 9:17 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Amen Yinn.... I'm trusting at some point I'll get away from the temptation of being able to watch anything I want at any time. There's just too much interesting stuff on TV.
It wasn't apparent before too much, but with the ability to get a list of say, only documentaries or educational shows, or news programs all in a list, and being able to pick which one's to record.... you quickly end up with a lot of hours of TV!

At 1/10/2007 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful, TID, I don't want you to become assimilated.

At 1/10/2007 4:03 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

HA! Well, I'm on the edge, where I'm used to living. Too much of everything is just enough. But I think I'll pull back in time.

At 1/11/2007 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Weather Bulletin - Denver...

Denver has just encountered a weather event of 'biblical proportions' - a historic blizzard with snow up to 44" and winds up to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists, closed all the roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

George Bush did not come (heck, he did not even cause it!)

FEMA did nothing.

No one howled for the government.

No one blamed the govrnment.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton remained home.

The Mayor did not blame Bush, or anyone else.

The Governor did not blame Bush, or anyone else either.

No one looted.

Nobody demanded that the government do anything.

At 1/11/2007 9:36 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Your point is?

Are you REALLY comparing a blizzard to Katrina and the following hurricane?

Aren't you embarassed by your thought process, not to mention your transparent racism?

At 1/11/2007 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just a spinoff of an email making the rounds repeating one person's reaction to a killer snowstorm in Minnesota.

Lame comparison. When the snow melted, the houses were still there.

At 1/11/2007 2:36 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Sounds like it. But seriously, just how dumb does a person have to be to think that's something profound and worth passing around?

At 1/11/2007 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, it is a bit 'tongue in cheek' - a bit of a joke - lighten up.

Second, an act of natural is an act of nature, whether that be a hurricane, a flood, or a blizzard. Consequences are different and need to be dealt with in a different light, but in any case, the government cannot control either the act of nature, nor the consequences.

Lighten up!

At 1/11/2007 5:12 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thanks for the suggestion.

But even if it is an "act of natural", the government needs to be capable of responding in a competent and able manner. Katrina showed that Bush hasn't done anything to protect us from much of anything at all. As a matter of fact, FEMA responded much better before it was folded into the largest bureaucracy in history, the "Homeland" Security mess under Bush.

Think whatever you wish, but Katrina was the tipping point where the American public finally saw the reality of Bush administration incompetence and neglect to a point where all the phoney photo ops and spin in the world couldn't fix it.

At 1/12/2007 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on Dope, again, you must be smarted than you are showing...the United States Government cannot barge into a local municipality and take over.

FEMA was prepared, but was not invited in to assist by the Mayor, or the Governor. It was also the local authorities that were responsible for providing food and water to the people in the Civic Center and Superdome, not FEMA.

When they finally were finally invited in, it was, first and foremost a rescue operation, not a fed the hungry (that the local authorities overlooked) situation.

Why is the only complaint about 'Bush's government' coming out of New Orleans, when three states were affected? (Answer, it is because New Orleans officials dropped the ball - and need a scapegoat).

At 1/12/2007 11:08 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Again, just how stupid are you willing to sound in going down with a failed ship?

Government on all levels could have done better, but to try to hold FEMA blameless, and to try to suggest that they wouldn't have done better if they were run by people other than Bush political cronies is just nuts.

You seriously suggest that the Feds have to wait to be "invited" to help thousands of dieing and drowning people? You're nuts!

Bush had to stand around and wait for someone to beg him to help?

That's insane.

Good luck defending the actions of the federal government before, during, and after Katrina, and to this day, for that matter.

Heck of a job, Brownie.


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