My TV's computers


Pretty much the first thing I did when I got a new job was go replace my TV. I went down to Fry's and spent $500 on a closeout floor model 46 inch, 720p Toshiba LCD HDTV that looks spectacular, even if it's not 1080i or 1080p. It was replacing a 56" rear-projection TV that I was given a year or so ago, and it was a welcome size-reduction in both width and screen real-estate. Honestly, 56" or larger TV's just take up the mental space of any room they're in I think, where you can happily ignore a smaller one to sit on the couch and read or something.

Anyways, I'm starting to see a bunch of news flow out of CES (where I'll be starting tomorrow) about network-based set top boxes, streaming content from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, etc. and it made me think once again about how insane my TV setup has become and yet, how it still doesn't do everything I want it to do easily.

Let's count the number of devices I have plugged into it at the moment: DVD player, XBox 360, Nintendo Wii and a TiVo HD. The TiVo is taking the place of both the cable box (because of the integrated cable-card slots) and a Windows PC I had in its place over the past year. The PC hasn't disappeared though, it's over in the corner as of last night, providing streaming music, photos and video for the TiVo.

So if you're counting, that's 5 different boxes plugged into the TV for various reasons. The XBox and the Wii meet totally different gaming needs (the XBox mostly for me, and the Wii mostly for the munchkin). The DVD player is a cheapo $35 RCA model from Target, which I got only because the XBox was too loud, the TiVo and Wii don't support DVDs. (If I had my druthers, I'd never have to deal with a DVD again, ever. I would pop it into a box somewhere, it'd copy off the data and it'd be done.)

The TiVo is sort of a catch-all for the main video-watching stuff - it's a cable box and a DVR, and a streaming device for my data media. But just like how the XBox doesn't do much besides games well (though it can be a media device too), the TiVo doesn't do streaming particularly well either. It's still easier to copy a movie file from my computer to a USB stick and plug it into the XBox. The TiVo also doesn't support my cable's On Demand services, which has a ton of content - much more than I'd be able to record and store over time on the TiVo.

So! I'm tempted to put the cable box back so I can get access to the On Demand stuff, and I'm tempted to install Boxee on my extra PC and plug that back into the TV for the downloaded/stored movies (either that or maybe Apple TV), and I'm looking at these new Netgear boxes that stream online stuff as well. But the crazy thing is that all this stuff really could be done with just one box. Well, theoretically. There's been attempts to make a "PC-based game console" for-ever, and if the Windows Media Center stuff actually worked or there really such a great market for a do-it all DVR, then TiVo would have actual competition, which it really doesn't. It just seems nuts that my living room now has more computing devices than my desk area, which has nothing more than a laptop now.

I guess the other solution to all this is to stop spending so much time in front of my fucking TV... but that's no fun.



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