12 June, 2008

What the opposite of Murphy's Law?

Location: living room
Mood: surprised

The goal was a simple one. In concept. I wanted to watch Netflix streaming video on my large screen television set, with the sound coming through my stereo system. This sounds like an incredibly reasonable goal to have, yes?

Of course, any of you who have ever done anything with computers or home theater are probably thinking "yeah - simple in concept - and after you go to Radio Shack sixteen times, you will probably be able to make it happen!"

It's going to be a challenging process for a number of reasons. Here are some of the challenges that I would face in this endeavor:
  1. Just moved, so any cables or connectors that I might possess are probably packed away
  2. Have no idea what type of video connection will be made from laptop to television
  3. Watching video on my desktop computer was choppy - expect worse from television?
So. I decided to tackle the audio issue first, because it was something I have been meaning to do for some time now - get the stereo hooked up so we can at least watch movies with good audio. Started off with the easy task of getting the cable box and DVD player audio wired. Success.

The next step was "Can I get the computer audio to connect to my stereo?" And as you probably know, computer has the little mini-jack audio connections. And stereo's have paired RCA connectors. So chances are I would be taking a trip to Radio Shack (or "The Shack" as my father calls it) for this adapter. But, the thing is, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might have just such an adapter in one of my many boxes or tool drawers. But good luck finding it. So, I made a token effort to look, and voila! Found it right away. Make the audio connection, and I have computer playing music through my stereo system. Very good (FYI, I used the "VCR" input for the audio on my stereo, because the inputs are really all the same. They only label them for convenience so you can keep track of your different sources when you select them on your remote control. They could just as easily be called Audio 1, Audio 2, etcetera).

Next step. Video.

And this is where I suspect I will not have an easy time. I am guessing that the back of my 42" television probably has some type of DVI connector or other computer cable type connector. And I know that my computer is one of this D-Sub connectors. So there needs to be an adapter here. And I don't have it. But then, fumbling around behind my set, I notice there is an S-Video connector. I have never used S-Video before. But for some stupid reason, I do have a couple of S-Video cables that I purchased at some point to do something else, which I think was actually a failure in that previous mission. But still, how will I connect to the laptop? Well... how about this. The laptop has an S-Video connector on it!

After fumbling around with the transfer display button on the computer for a few minutes, and then fiddling around with the remote control on the television to select the right source (AV1), I finally have computer video on the screen of the television.

This is getting to be unbelievable.

Final step was to get Netflix to play. And this should have been a breeze. But first I had no wireless connection, and could not get the internet to come up on the laptop. Then I remembered that I can use hard wired ethernet, since we have an outlet in the kitchen. But then I realized I didn't have a long enough ethernet cable. But then I remembered that Jeff does have a long enough ethernet cable! So I've got internet. I am almost there, right?

But then comes the part where Microsoft tries to fuck me, and close the doors on the entire extravaganza. When I run the Netflix video, it says that it needs to upgrade Windows Media Player 11. And I kid you not, this was the longest step in the entire process. After taking about 10 minutes to download (on broadband, through Microsoft's shitty servers), I then had to wait over 30 minutes for WMP11 to install, all the while giving me bullshit progress bar indicators, a la Office Space, providing me with no information other than "It's not done yet". A couple of error messages and failure popped, too, during the install. So at this point, I am thinking that the end of this process will probably be a failure without a good explanation of how to resolve.

But... the install ended.

Netflix loaded.

And we watched the rest of Season 1 of The Office on my large screen television, with very good video and audio quality.

I have never had an effort such as this go as smoothly as this did (with zero trips to Radio Shack!). Maybe I had a good luck charm in my presence. I don't know.


  1. BBC Office or NBC? I love both, but find that some people get exquisitely uncomfortable watching the original in a way the NBC version doesn't affect them.

  2. i watched the USA version of Office first. and then i watched british version and could not find it funny. i cannot do without the dwight character. and american pam is better than british pam. i think the cringe factor with steve carrell is pretty strong too, in a good way.

  3. I watched the BBC version first, so I had a hard time adjusting to the US version. I'm now much more attached to Dwight (and everyone else) than I am to the originals, but some of the BBC version's scenes are so brilliant, the US version cannot compare. Tomato, tomahto.