Sunday, March 1, 2009

Home Video Networking...a "Guy Post"

We all love Sabrina's posts about family events and dinner parties and most importantly... Cakes! But maybe some of you wonder what Lorne gets up to for fun. This post is about one of my latest and funnest hobbies. Home Video Networking.

For the un-initiated, I'm talking about the ability to watch video (movies, tv shows, whatever) on any TV or Computer in the house. I guess I got interested in the possibilities when Sabrina bought me my first digital video recorder - my "ReplayTV" (like a TIVO, but better since it automatically skips commercials and is capable of transferring video between the computer and the unit's own hard drive). With a little tweaking I could store movies on my computer and pass them to the TV in the basement.

Worked great for 3 years, but this wasn't going to last forever, since a) it won't support HDTV and b) the hard drive crashed in the unit. I was really excited when I was able to rebuild a new harddrive for the unit from some odds and ends I found on the internet... but I knew I needed to look for a High Definition way to store and transmit around the home.

I've been researching a solution for YEARS now, and I finally have found the solution I'm most excited about. Its called an APPLE TV. The AppleTV costs about $229 and provides HD video networking to your computer (running iTunes). It also connects to photo websites and Youtube. Typical to Apple, it has a sleek, simple and functional interface that makes it very easy to buy content from the Apple Store. You want a movie? Simple, browse the previews and buy right on the unit. Did you miss last night's Lost episode? Two clicks and you're watching it. Uploading your own movies is as easy as uploading content to your iTunes on your computer! ... and that's where I found an opportunity for improvement. Since encoding a movie to H264 (or MP4) could take several hours, I wanted my AppleTV to be able to play any video source - and not only files in iTunes.

So here's the SPECIAL SAUCE. I found a hack for the AppleTV that adds all this functionality to it. Its called Boxee ( It was easy to follow the instructions to make a "patch stick" (thumbdrive that updates the AppleTV) and now the AppleTV can play practically any type of media on my network *and* it will connect to many videos available online. TV Stations often make their shows available on their websites - and now I can view them in the comfort of my living room on my TV. Love it!

I'm really thrilled by these capabilities (and it irritates me that Sabrina seems to take it all for granted). When I was a kid, I remember being the first kid in my neighbourhood to have a VHS player... It was a miracle. Recording TV shows as easily as recording Radio music was amazing. We've come a long way!


The Tones of the Zarcone's said...

I told Kevin to check out your post Lorne...not sure we can get an AppleTV quite yet, but I think he might find it interesting!

Hope you are well.


Kevin said...

Great post Lorne. I should have known that someone would create a hack for that device soon. I'm still enjoying Tivo for now. But maybe when it crashes, I'll have you over and maybe we can geek out a bit and get me hooked up Apple style.


John said...

You are just like your father!
I'm pretty sure Neil has had an Apple TV for a little while now - you should maybe share some Apple TV talk...