Connecting a computer to the TV – and why

This subject is one that’s absolutely amazing, once you take the plunge. Sure, it’s kind of strange having a computer in the living room. Sure, you have to find somewhere to hide it, or make it look like part of the furniture. But the amount of things it opens up to you … here’s a short list.

  • Netflix Streaming
  • Hulu
  • YouTube XL (that’s YouTube’s Interface for watching from a TV)
  • Boxee
  • XBMC
  • Pandora
  • iTunes
  • DVR Recording
  • All your photos
  • All your video files
  • All your movies
  • Computer Games

Imagine what it would be like to sit down on your couch, and relax while catching up on all the videos people posted on your Facebook Wall today. Boxee allows you to do that by pulling in your Facebook feed.

Imagine you want to show someone your recent photos of a trip. Why have them sit down at your computer, or watch over your shoulder? Put them on the TV.

First, it’s not worth doing if your computer is more than 2 years old, unless you’re willing to update the graphics card. Right now, I have a Dell Dimension from 2004 hooked up to my PC, and it works great with a updated and inexpensive graphics card. If you have a recent computer with an HDMI port, you have the easiest set up possible. HDMI from your computer to the TV – done. Make sure to never pay more than $2 for an HDMI cable, no matter what the Best Buy Employee tells you.  If you don’t have an HDMI port on your computer, adding a graphics card will give you that ability. Look for one that supports sound over HDMI, so you don’t have to run a separate audio cable. This applies for laptops too – make sure the laptop you own has an HDMI port.

Second, you’ll need some method of controlling the computer from your seat. A keyboard and mouse works great at a desk, but not really on a couch. There are remotes with mouse controls built in that work really well. Personally, I use the Firefly remote for most basic tasks, and the Lenovo MultiMedia Remote with Keyboard for more complicated tasks involving typing.  There are many other options, including using your phone or iPod to control things, but that’s a whole topic on its own.

Once you get everything plugged in, start changing the settings on your desktop to what blind people need. Change the resolution to something more appropriate for a larger screen.  Turn on Large Icons, Large Fonts, and any other settings that make things better from the couch. Install all necessary Hulu Desktop software, Netflix, iTunes, Photo Slideshow, and anything else you may find useful.

When you’re set up – you’ll never go back.

(Yes, there are more ways than HDMI to hook a computer up to the TV. VGA works, DVI to HDMI works, and so does S-Video if you want to get old-school. A few years ago, I did the S-Video to RGB thing. But, if you’re going to do it – might as well do it right – and use HDMI.)