Tech 101: In the stream of things

A neat trick would be to ‘move’ Internet content directly on your TV. Can it be done?

By DAVID SHAMAH
June 18, 2010 19:28
4 minute read.
Sony's 3-D television is introduced as a model wat

Sony's 3-D television. (photo credit: AP)

‘There’s never anything on TV,” you hear people say more and more often. And this from people paying NIS 300 a month for cable or satellite subscriptions. We should’ve all listened when Bruce Springsteen predicted this, when he sang many years ago about “57 channels and nothing on.” We knew Bruce was “the Boss,” but a prophet, too?

There’s a reason TV has gotten so insipid of late: The most creative minds have moved from the TV studio to the Internet, where they are showing off their wares on sites like YouTube. Forget the 57 channels; YouTube has more than 120 million videos, with another 200,000 being added every day. It would take you 600 years to watch them all. YouTube is completely free, and there are actually ways to watch your favorite network TV series on the site as well (according to YouTube, about 12 percent of the files on the site are in violation of a copyright).

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Far be it for me to recommend that anyone cancel their HOT or YES subscription, but you certainly would be just as entertained – if not more so – if you relied for your TV on YouTube, and download sites (legal and otherwise). It certainly seems like an idea to consider during these cash-strapped times. And there’s no question that the Internet as a primary source for video is the wave of the future; Google just a few weeks ago introduced its Google TV platform (http://www.google.com/tv/), which the company describes as a service “that combines the TV you know and love with the freedom and power of the Internet.”

The problem, of course, is that YouTube videos – and all the other videos on other entertainment sites – are on your computer, with its small, office appropriate screen. It seems a shame to have to watch this content on your computer screen, when you have a perfectly good TV gathering dust in the family or living room. A neat trick would be to “move” that YouTube and other Internet content – as well as programs you download with, for example, iTunes (more on that below) – directly on your TV. Can it be done? Indeed it can, using some of the solutions listed here.

The simplest solution, but maybe not the best, is to connect a computer to your TV directly. Of course, you wouldn’t use your office computer for this purpose, but if you have an old PC hanging around, all you need to do is connect your computer to your TV (either using a USB to HDMI cable, if your TV has high-def input, or with an RCA connector from your PC’s video out to your computer’s video in). You might even consider buying a computer to use as a media server. A good, inexpensive choice would be the Acer Aspire Revo (http://aceraspirerevo.com/), with HDMI output (it costs about $200 at Amazon.com).


Then there are the media servers – hardware to stream video and audio files, YouTube videos, and any other Internet content, from a computer to a TV. There is a plethora of products in this category, including expensive, high-end devices with Blueray DVD players and a large hard drive to store files (http://tinyurl.com/28r5q2z), but two better choices for most people would be the ASUS O!Play Air – Wireless N TV HD Media Player (http://tinyurl.com/32dypwc) or the Western Digital WD TV Live Network-ready HD Media Player (http://tinyurl.com/338f4g7), both about $120 from Amazon.

Both allow connections to hi-def ports on your TV, and can stream movies, TV, Internet or music on either a wired ethernet or wi-fi network. The devices find the appropriate content on your PC and display it in menu form on your TV; all you have to do is click on the remote, sit back and watch. You may not be ready to break your relationship with your TV, but chances are you’ve already said good-bye to your living-room audio equipment. You may have a CD player, a tape deck or even a record player (!) collecting dust. But chances are you listen to your music through either the tinny speakers on your computer, or through earphones using an MP3 player. But that’s no way to listen to music; you need the Big Sound, the kind that you can only get from the high quality speakers in your stereo system.

For those who miss music the way it used to sound, there’s Apple’s Airport Express with Airtunes (http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/), still the best audio streaming device out there, more than six years after it first came out. You plug your speaker setup into the Airport Express, and open up iTunes on your Mac or PC (which you should be using to manage your music collection anyway). Once the Express is detected on your network, iTunes automatically offers you the option of playing any music in your playlists on your living-room speakers; iTunes, by the way, lets you share your library on all computers on your network as well, and if you have an iPhone, you can use it as a remote control to change playlists, skip or even repeat songs.

One last thing: While some of the hardware I’ve mentioned may be available in Israel, you can order directly from Amazon or any other Internet commerce site in the US using a service called Mustop (http://www.mustop.co.il), which, for a small shipping fee and relevant taxes (nowadays, that’s usually just VAT), will deliver any product – including the ones mentioned above – right to your door.

Http://www.newzgeek.com


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