03 December 2005

One big geek

BIG geekWhat you see here is a Mac Mini, the same one I showed you a couple of days ago, but hooked up to a 'slightly larger' monitor. [Mini-Me is there, really. Just to the right of the stereo. Try squinting. And if you squint hard enough at the text on the screen, you can read my iChat with my dad.)

Slightly larger, indeed. The old Dell monitor was a 17-incher. This baby is a 47-in. HDTV screen on which pictures and video look awesome and text becomes a fuzzy blur of unreadable typos. But dang if I can't sit on the couch, here, with my feet up and my wireless keyboard in my lap, mouse handy on the plush armrest, a glass of wine on the end table and the dog gnawing on a rawhide bone next to me. (That would be the dog who is usually not allowed to chew on yucky things on mom's couch, but mom is in Geek Heaven so it's all ok tonight.)

I've been through this 'ok, the pictures look great but I can't read anything' situation before, when I got the 20-in. flat screen for my big Dell a few years ago. OK, it has awesome resolution, but I had to increase the size of the desktop fonts and start reading Word Documents at 135%. (And not just because I'm over 40!) Resolution would be better if we could teach computers to discern between text thingies and non-text thingies to 're-resolve' at the new resolution.

Meanwhile, I have to step back a few hours to tell you the story of the cable. It's a fairly non-specialized thing, a DVI-to-HDMI cable. DVI is what's on the Mac; HDMI is what's on the TV. Many DVD recorders, cable boxes and other fancy techie things use those types of connections.

A jaunt over to Amazon.com was in order. There I found a plethora of such cables ranging from $15 to way more than anybody in their right mind would spend on a cable. (I mean, it's wire with some thingies on the ends, right?) Of course the problem for a true geek is that Amazon.com ships stuff. So you have to wait. Whine!

Thus the Camaro took me on a little trip to the local Technoglomerates, which I'll call Circuits R Us and Best Boys. I have to give them credit for at least having salespeople with a clue. When I said, "I need a DVI-to-HDMI cable" they knew what it was & where it could be found. They also only stock only the most expensive gold-plated cable brand in the universe. A mid-grade 6-foot cable on Amazon cost $35. These were over $100. For that, I could get two of them and overnight shipping at Amazon!

I had to stop for dog food at PetSmart among my shoping errands, and since Wal*Mart was on the way home, I thought I'd see whether they had anything. Say what you will about Wal*Mart. If you don't need the dang gold-plated wires, Wal*Mart has some that will work just fine & beat Amazon on even three-day shipping.

So I ran home with the cable, hooked it up & voila. A computer screen I can't read from the couch. But how cool is a slideshow of your vacation pix on an HDTV monitor? Sure, I could burn them onto a DVD but how lame & old-school is that?

Geekette & muttThe problem is (and oh yes, there's a problem), computers don't like televisions. They like 'monitors.' If you are a Mac person, you will notice right away on the above picture that some things are missing. Key things. The entire top bar is gone, and the bottom 'dock' is half gone. This is a very common issue when connecting any computer (Mac or otherwise) to a television. It's called "overscan." Apparently TV typically sends a lot of nonsense along with the picture, and the television set is prepared to ignore that & show you only the actual picture in the middle of the nonsense. Computers don't bother with nonsense... which means the TV cuts off useful things -- in this case, all my Mac menus.

There are fixes for this. Two pieces of software purport to let you lie to the television so it thinks the usual nonsense is there. Unfortunately, even though they purport to include clear instructions about how to make it work, I am too dumb. Then again, it's shareware and I haven't registered it yet. I don't mind registering & paying for good shareware. I do it often, in fact. But (duh) I like to see that it actually does something before I shell out $. And I can't seem to make these programs do anything for me at all, except take up space on the hard drive.

Anyway, I know it will work out, and soon I'll be crowing about how lucky I am to be typing on a 1920 x 1080 HDTV monitor on which I can't read beans, but wow the pictures are really pretty.

By the way, the dog DOES notice Purp's barks over the stereo speakers. iTunes sounds a lot better, too!


Gabreael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unhinged said...

Now that's one big screen! I never understood, though, why someone would want to make their TV into a computer screen, unless they are a graphics or web designer. Nuts! It's nuts. But I love the photo of you on the couch with big black ... and the empty-ish wine glass on the side table. That could be me, only the dog would be a cat.

I fed Purp a bone. He's a cutie! By why does your sidebar begin allll the way down there?