“Cable” TV

We sometimes watch shows or movies from the Internet, and while sometimes this is via Netflix Watch Instantly on the TiVo, it is often via my MacBook Pro. Normally, this involves moving my laptop near the TV, along with its power cord, and connecting audio (3.5mm) and video (DVI) between the two. I don’t have one of those Apple remote controls, but I don’t think they work on most streaming video sources anyway. Either way, if we need to pause or otherwise control the show, I have to get up, go over to the laptop by the TV and do whatever needs doing.

Not surprisingly, I felt this was less than optimum. The most common result was that we didn’t watch online content as often as we might have. Also, in case you didn’t know, we don’t have cable. I considered getting a bluetooth mouse, and possibly a keyboard, but the it occurred to me that I could turn of display mirroring and show something different on the laptop screen and the TV. This meant that I could continue to work on my laptop while we watched online content. Yeah!

Of course, I had no intention of sitting by the TV to do this, so I needed to get longer cables. One day, while I was at Fry’s, I called home to have Marci measure how much cable I would need. The long and short of it is that I needed about 25 feet for the DVI and about 20 feet for the 3.5mm audio cable (since it would then connect to an RCA convertor). Fry’s offered a 10-foot 3.5mm extension cable for about $10, so $20 for the 20 feet I needed. Seemed expensive, but I grabbed two cables and went to find a long DVI cable.

I eventually found what I needed, but… $60 for a 25-foot DVI cable? I don’t think so. I set the audio cables down and left the store. I may have done a quick online search on my iPhone before I left the store, just to be sure that price was too high, but I couldn’t think of the name of the web site from where I like to purchase cable.

Eventually, I remembered that it is monoprice.com. From there I was able to order a 25-foot DVI cable for about $20 and a 50-foot 3.5mm cable for about $2.50 (they were out of 25-foot versions, which were only slightly cheaper). Add on $6 for shipping and the total was less than $30. I’m not sure how I would have felt about this cost if I’d started here, but after being confronted with nearly $90 at Fry’s (including tax), it seemed like a bargain.

Less than a week later, the cables arrived. I hooked them up and everything works great. We watched an episode of Bones from fox.com while I simultaneously updated Quicken. There are a few minor issues, some of which may be resolvable:

  • The 25-foot DVI cable is just a tad too short. It keeps me from pulling the laptop table as close as I’d like. Re-routing the cable to go under a piece of furniture instead of around it may resolve this issue.
  • The DVI cable is pretty bulky, which means there’s a good amount of weight on the laptop’s DVI connection. The net effect of this is two-fold — first, I make sure to screw in the connector to avoid too much strain on the connection itself and second, I disconnect the cable when we’re not watching online content.
  • With the audio cable connected, all of the computer’s audio is routed through my TV sound system. This is expected, of course, but is not optimal. I’d really love a way to select a particular audio source (the streaming video) to play through the headphone jack and have other audio sources play through the laptop’s speakers. I don’t see this happening.
  • The video signal output over DVI to the TV seems to be a decent amount larger than the TV displays. Put another way, there seems to be quite a bit of overscan on the TV. This is a 720p HD TV, and it doesn’t make much difference if I configure the output for 720 or 1080, though I prefer 1080 so that non-video views aren’t so large.

None of these issues are signicant enough to ruin the experience, which I, at least, think is pretty cool. šŸ™‚


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  1. #1 by Ken on June 19, 2009 - 2:23 pm

    We’ve done it using your “old” way only we actually just use the laptop speakers (sometimes this isn’t sufficient, but it’s never bothered me enough to dig up a cable to connect the audio). I too have overscan, but I always assumed this was due to my TV as other content consistently overscans as well (I vaguely remember the reviews for my TV commenting that my TV uses the same settings as the next size up and so it looses some content around the outside – but that might be faulty memory).

    One thing I think is nice is the Mac seems to have a “monitor specific position memory” such that when I use the TV it is “below” the laptop screen (I usually have the laptop sitting on top of the TV), but when I use my external monitor its area is “above” the laptop (since the laptop is usually on the desk). Anyway – to me this was a nice, and unexpected, touch.


    • #2 by Ren on June 21, 2009 - 9:35 pm

      Ken – I haven’t really connected my laptop to any other displays, so I haven’t experienced that benefit. Sounds like a good feature, though.


  2. #3 by Faiqa on June 19, 2009 - 11:27 pm

    My husband keeps trying to convince me to disconnect the cable and insists we can watch our shows this way.
    I don’t know — it’s too out of the box for me. šŸ™‚ Also, did you call it “the Tivo” on purpose? Either way, it was really cute.
    .-= Faiqa´s last blog ..Mack Daddy =-.


    • #4 by Ren on June 21, 2009 - 9:34 pm

      Faiqa – “the TiVo” as opposed to what? “our TiVo”? Or maybe you mean that I could have just said “TiVo” in that context? As I wrote it I was referring to our specific TiVo unit. Like I might say, “we played a movie on the DVD player last night.”

      Giving up cable means that we have to wait for some shows to come out on DVD (Weeds, True Blood and BSG are the ones I’m currently watching that way), since they aren’t available online legitimately. My own, perhaps peculiar, set of ethics doesn’t allow me to download TV shows that are not available to me otherwise, though I don’t mind using BitTorrent for broadcast shows that fail to get recorded for some reason.


  3. #5 by whall on June 20, 2009 - 10:09 am

    You have an iPhone! COOL! It’s like we’re TWINS!
    .-= whall´s last blog ..iPhone Details, part 2 =-.


    • #6 by Ren on June 21, 2009 - 9:37 pm

      whall – People mistake me for you all the time!


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