Friday, January 20, 2017

21st century video entertainment.

One of my things to research was related to music streaming options but our research veered off into video options.  The elderly tube TV we were using for our workouts (too old to pick up HD signal, but capable of hooking up to a DVD) was increasingly unsatisfactory.  Among other things, having to buy our media content on DVDs was getting on our nerves.

So here's the quick checklist for what you need if you want to have decent video watching options but don't want to deal with buying a cable TV package:

1.  TV features - issues seem to include:

  • Resolution - expressed in terms of pixels (p) but keep in mind that this is total pixels, and so the bigger the screen, the more spread-out those pixels are going to be.  So for a TV in the size we wanted (we were looking at things in the 40-inch range given the size of wall and room we were working with), 1080 seemed like the reasonable minimum.  Below that, we could see some effects of low pixels on curved sharp lines.  There was a really fancy 4,000 pixel OLED TV that was just gorgeous, but it was in the thousands of dollars so not what we were going for.  Maybe in a few years when they come down in price or we win the lottery.
  • Availability of inputs/outputs - all seem to have an input for a cable or antenna.  Other desirable stuff?  HDMI slot or slots for hooking up media streamers.  AV jacks for hooking up an older DVD player.  USB slot for hooking up storage media, showing pictures, etc.
  • Consider where you'll put it.  Want to hang on the wall, make sure it as holes in the back to allow that.  Want to set it on a stand, make sure the stand will fit on the surface you plan.  

2.  Where the media comes from?  Here's options:
  • You can have a smart TV, like a Roku TV.  These can access a variety of media streams.  The ones we wanted to make sure were included were Amazon and Netflix.
  • You can have a media streamer, which fits into an HDMI slot on the TV.  Roku does one of those too.  These will hook to your internet via wi-fi or wired connection and play stuff that's available online like the smart TV can.
  • You can hook up an antenna which lets you get local broadcast TV.  This attaches via a coax cable.
  • You can hook up a DVD player and watch the stuff you already own.

So, we found a nice deal on the Roku TV, bought an antenna and a wall-hanging rig to go with it, and picked up the right kind of AV cables to hook up the DVD player to it.  So far, very happy!  Hanging a TV is pretty straightforward - they're not too heavy.  Just worth taking the time to get things level!

Ready for a workout?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Year, electronics purge, clean keyboard!

We're on a thorough decluttering rampage this January, and making amazing progress already.  Last weekend the amazing spouse cleared out many bags of graphic novels and books which we'd now replaced in electronic format.  I took them along with a big supply of Meyer lemons (from my tree) over to a local center which provides housing for families transitioning out of homelessness.

This weekend, I tackled some stacks of old electronics.  In past rounds of clean-up, I succeeded in collecting such things into a single space - but that space was taking up more than a full shelf of space and empirically hadn't been disturbed in months - so probably contained stuff we didn't need.

Sure enough, my purge uncovered many tech toys dating back to the 1990's in some cases that just didn't need to take up real estate in our home.  A grocery sack of items will now to to spouse's office where his IT team can be trusted to clean off drives and make things otherwise secure for donation or recycling; we also filled the recycling with lots of old manuals and documentation, and some items (like 3 inch floppies containing Win 95) went into the trash.

I also uncovered a keyboard which is quite compatible with our current desktop.  The current keyboard is nice - a very sleek apple keyboard, high on the "form factor".  But the older keyboard, while less sleek, has USB ports on it, which means that I could dispense with having a separate USB hub on the desk.  So I conclude that the form of the older keyboard is, on net, actually better than the new one.

But the old one was... filthy.  I am bad about eating at my desk, I have cats who wander the desk, the house has a certain amount of dust... the cumulative result was just gross.  So, before putting the thing into action, it needed a good cleaning.

How do you clean a mac keyboard?  It's simple:

1.  Take a photo or three of the keyboard before you start, both to document where the keys are positioned, and to remind yourself how gross it was when you started.

2.  Then just pop out the keys one at a time.  It helps to lay them out in the order they sat on the keyboard as an additional way of keeping track of what goes where.

3.  Then start wiping down the base of the keyboard.  Maybe take a picture to again remind yourself how gross it was.

4.  Once the keyboard is clean, you can start wiping down the keys one by one and replacing them on the keyboard. Once it's done, let it dry overnight to be sure that you don't have any dangerous dampness down in the electronics.  Oh, and take a picture to show how much improved it is!