Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another Cool New Gadget

This has nothing to do with boating, but with living in a small space.

We never used the LCD TV that we had onboard, so we sold it at a cruiser's flea market earlier this year. But while we've been 'on the road', several times we've wished we had television capabilities. So I researched what might be available to get TV on my laptop.

Before we left the boat, I ordered a Hauppauge USB WinTV-HVR-950Q. It only costs $70 from The package includes the tuner, which is a USB device a little fatter than a memory stick, a small antenna, a remote control the size of a PCMCIA card, and a USB extension cord (in case you are trying to squeeze it in with something else in 2 side-by-side USB slots). Plus a connector to feed an external video source into your laptop.

I finally got it set up and got time to play with it today, and I'm impressed! Sitting at my dining room table on the ground floor in Satellite Beach, with the supplied mini antenna, I'm getting about 10 digital channels out of thin air (most from Orlando and Daytona). You can also hook a cable feed to it, but that's not what I'm after. It will also pick up old-style analog signals, and I THINK it will do the European PAL format too (will let you know after we go to Europe).

Not only does it tune TV channels on your laptop, but it can also function as a DVR (digital recorder), so you can record shows for later playback.

In about 10 minutes, the supplied software had scanned for all available Analog and Digital channels, and from then, to change channels, you just up or down arrow on your keyboard. (There's a remote, but I haven't played with that yet).

It seems to run fine on my Eee 1000 laptop, as long as the signal is strong enough. It can run full screen or in a smaller window. I've got 3 Internet Explorer sessions, Outlook, and the Windows Performance Monitor and I'm using up less than 50% of the CPU.

The software that comes with it is a little klunky, but there's a new version coming out soon. It does the job, it's just a little less intuitive to use.

I'm currently using a 21-day free trial of a $99 software product called BeyondTV. With an internet interface, it effortlessly provides the on-screen programming content that we've all become used to with Cable TV Smart Boxes.

This is a great option for 'road warriors' who want to get local news and weather on their laptop.

And for a boat or house 'installation', before you go out and spend big bucks on a hyped 'digital TV antenna and amplifier' (in the $100-$200 range), check out this video on how to build your own TV antenna out of coathangers. I haven't made one (yet), but it looks like fun and supposedly does a great job.

Have fun!

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