Lazing Into The New Year

Happy New Year! I broke with tradition by staying up ’til 10 on New Year’s Eve, rather than sacking out at the usual 9.

As a family Christmas present—well, mostly for me—I second TiVo. It being an HD DVR, I could no longer live with the ancient non-HD TV, so I got a new one of those too (an LCD/LED, selected in part for the high contrast and brightness the LED backlights get relative to CCFD, but really more for the techno-coolness). That being in place, I am finding it difficult to live with the old DVD player and its pathetic low resolution and sorry black level, so Blu-Ray is next.

How long ’til all these things are obsolete?

A disadvantage of getting a super-thin closer-to-the-bleeding-edge-than-usual-for-me television is that it makes few concessions to old technology. The thing has only one component/composite video input; it expects you to use HDMI. So I had to run out and overpay hideously for an HDMI cable, not wanting to wait a week for a reasonably-priced one through the mail. Why are cables such a racket, anyway? Is it not obvious that they’re just pieces of wire and plastic, and are usually overpriced by a factor of 10?

The neatest thing about the TiVo (at least until I get a cable guy to come and install the card(s?) for the digital channels) is the streaming Netflix. I’ve been watching Netflix streaming stuff for a while on the laptop, which was just good enough to keep me from overcoming my natural laziness and cheapness and getting a TiVo/Roku/whatever. Which was of course stupid of me. The Netflix/TiVo thing turns out to mostly work pretty well, and the picture quality is much better than I had expected. The only glitch I’ve run across is that there is no way to control the aspect ratio—it is whatever it is (mostly 16:9 in what I’ve seen, but some 4:3), and the TiVo box makes no effort to convert it, as it will for plain old cable. That means you can’t really use it with an old TV that doesn’t have a settable aspect ratio. Unless you don’t mind stretched or squashed pictures.1

The TV/TiVo are in probably the worst wireless reception area in the house, so I ran an ethernet cable under the house, through the basement and the scary crawlspace (seriously; that part was like being in a horror movie). I also learned to crimp my own RJ45 cables, so I’m feeling pretty manly. In the nerdliest possible way.

 

1 Which apparently many people don’t. Widescreen televisions in public places are invariably set to 16:9, even though they’re often getting 4:3 signals. Does that not make anyone else crazy?

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