Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

Replacing Television with The Internet, Part 1: The Screen [UPDATED]

[UPDATED: Well, “updated” is an understatement. Completely re-written is more accurate. This was done on July 24 when I realized this was not going to be a simple three part series.]

June 28, 2008
Like so many people out there, I am not a wealthy person. I am a starving artist. As a starving artist I have to buy things on the cheap, re-use whatever I can, and make what I have last.

I put off converting to HDTV as long as possible. I kept waiting for a 36″ 1080p set to come out and then I planned on waiting until it cost less than $600. My old TV was bought with the intent of lasting until my HD switch, so I had a lot of patience.

As I waited, the internet started catching up with broadcast in content available. “As long as possible” may be very long indeed.

Then I started thinking about my television itself. I haven’t used the tuner in my television since the 80s. First the VCR took over, then the cable set-top box, and (for the last seven years) TiVo. My television is a glorified monitor.

When I bought my last television (a decade ago) I knew it would be used mostly as a multi-input monitor, so I made sure it had enough inputs for everything I wanted to hook up to it.

The thing is a beast. It’s 32″ Sony Wega.

Weighing over 100 pounds, it was one of the first sub-$1000 TVs with “16:9” mode – allowing me to get 33% greater resolution out of my “16:9 enhanced” DVD collection. Snazzy. By 1998, I already had over 100 DVDs. Knowing this was going to be my last non-HD set and I was going to be watching it until at least 2003. I couldn’t go without those extra lines of resolution. Could you?

Flash forward to 2008. Life got weird, and I still don’t have an HDTV. Our year living in a cabin in the woods was almost over, and we were returning to Seattle. The TV that was supposed to be replaced a half-decade earlier is still working like a champ, but it’s just too big and heavy for this move.

It was time to do Hi-Definition. Unfortunately, that sub-$600 1080p 36″ HDTV never came out. Sure they could handle the signal, but most in the $600 price range have a resolution of 1366 x 768. and “downscales” everything. Yecch!

The TV-as-a-monitor thing worked out so well, I decided to replace it with an actual computer monitor this go round. If you don’t need the HD tuner, you can get higher resolution screens for a much lower price.

…and as long as we’re getting a new screen, why not switch to The Internet instead of HD-Cable or HD-Satellite for our TV Show needs?

Having decided to replace television with the internet, we started packing. As moving day got closer, we kept discussing Life After Television and packed the TiVo (just in case).

When we got back to Seattle our first apartment had an abandoned TV/DVD/VHS-combo unit in it… and the apartment building has free cable – so we hooked the TiVo up for one last season.

Television got a stay of execution until June 30. But now the time is near, and the new monitor arrived in the mail two weeks ago.

I chose the V7 D24W33.

From the V7 Website:

24-wide LCD monitor is a beauty of a monitor that offers 1920 x 1200 resolution, 1000-to-1 contrast ratio and a bright, vivid display. These nice features are further complemented by wide viewable angle from side to side and an intuitive OSD (On-Screen Display) controls to help you optimize screen settings. Standard model comes with analog VGA input and a HDMI connector for high-performance video connectivity. This large handsome monitor is further enhanced with a height-adjustable stand (4” up-down) that also swivels (rotates) sideways 90 degrees, pivots to vertical position and tilts from -15 to +40 degree angle. For high-performance applications with desktop publishing, video conferencing, presentations, video viewing, game playing and the most common desktop computing needs, the D24W33 is visual and ergonomic marvel in any work or play environment.
D24W33 has received a prestigious “Editor’s Choice Award” from Motherboards.org and the “Gamer’s Choice Award” vom Gamepyre.com.

The V7 came with an HDMI-to-DVI cable, so it hooked up to my Mac and worked with no configuration. I have one stuck pixel, but it’s stuck white and it’s near the edge of the screen so I don’t notice it much. I’ve tried using JScreenFix, but it didn’t help. Any suggestions?

The first step to Replacing Television is complete. Now I’m beginning to panic. How will I learn about new shows without commercials zipping by at 60X speed? Will I have to remove my Ad Blocker software on my computer and start reading/following banners? Will I cave, buy an EyeTV 250Plus, and get cable for another year? Stay Tuned.

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My TiVo Season Pass List

Here are the shows I’m currently using TiVo to watch:

1. In Plain Sight
2. The Simpsons
3. King of the Hill
4. Family Guy
5. American Dad
6. How I Met Your Mother
7. The Big Bang Theory
8. Two and a Half Men
9. Medium
10. Samantha Who?
11. Reaper
12. Men In Trees
13. Ugly Betty
14. Supernatural
15. Pushing Daisies (Didn’t that get cancelled?)
16. The Daily Show
17. The Price Is Right
18. Good Eats
19. The Colbert Report
20. South Park
21. What’s with That House?
22. It Takes a Thief
23. House Hunters International
24. Mythbusters
25. Nocturnal State
26. Fresh

We don’t need to see them all each week, as we tend to watch them two and three at a time.

During re-run season, we watch TV on DVD:
My wife just finished Las Vegas Season 5 on DVD (and Season 6 via Bittorrent), and we’re about to start House M.D. Season 1. We stopped watching Lost mid-way through Season 3, and got interrupted three episodes into Heroes. Should we bother catching up?

Making the Leap

I’m actually nervous. I’ve been thinking about doing it for awhile, but on July 1, I’m actually doing it. I’m giving up television. I’m going to go 100% internet for my pre-recorded entertainment needs… and I don’t plan on giving up any of my favorite shows.

At least, I’m going to try to. If a show becomes too difficult, too inconvenient, or too expensive to keep watching there is a lot of internet original programming out there and I’m dying to learn all about it.

The hard part will be prying the TiVo remote from my wife’s hand.

David Sadaris says the best way to quit smoking is to move to Japan for three months. We’re going to give up television by moving to a different apartment about a mile and a half down the street.