Computers as a Home Theatre

Those of you who know me might be familiar with my favoritism of this idea. If you are not, get ready for me to try and sell you.

The technology isn’t really developed enough for it yet. Give it a couple more years; one maybe two. The learning curve is still a little steep for the average John Q. User. A Home Theatre Personal Computer (hereafter referred to as an HTPC) isn’t quite ready to be used regularly by somebody who doesn’t think that having to fiddle with things for 5 minutes to play a DVD sometimes isn’t fun in a perverse sort of way.

Imagine your TV, TiVo, DVD player, and your stereo were all combined, and you’ll begin to understand the possibilities of what an HTPC can be good for.

Computers are very good at emulating the functions of other machines. If your computer is at all modern, it can probably already play DVDs, and it would have to be really antiquated to be incapable of converting your audio CDs to files onto its hard drive for to play them later. It only takes the addition of a card that grows less and less expensive all the time before it can take on the role of a TV and Personal Video Recorder (a PVR or more colloquially known as something like a TiVo).

The average home PC is just spitting distance from an HTPC. But let get me to why you should care.

Let me give you a “for instance” of something that you can’t do any other way, but that you can get with a HTPC. Mine, with almost no set up, can tell me who is signed on to my instant messaging program. As I watch a movie, if I so choose, a little window will pop-up in the corner of my screen saying “TravellersBag has just signed on”. If I felt like chatting with that person, I could then do so.

That isn’t a really compelling reason by itself, but it alone isn’t really my point. As a fully functional computer, the HTPC can become integrated with any number of other programs and give the user all kinds of features that will benefit them.

Ok ok, that was a lot of tech-speak and it’s kind of vague and probably you aren’t interested in it.

Here’s a good reason for the average Joe: Remotes.

My brother-in-law and sister’s household has something like 4 or 5 remotes in their TV room. At its height, my parent’s living room was home to a similar number. An HTPC would be just another remote to clutter things up and make things more complicated and get lost, yes?

Not on your life.

Because the HTPC replaces other electronics, it actually reduces remotes. There is almost no reason that a home theatre setup based around a HTPC should require more then one remote.

That would be refreshing, yes? One remote to do everything once again. You haven’t been there since the VCR was invented, but I think the HTPC will take you there again.

Everybody loves the iPod, why don’t I?

It could be that apple makes superior products or – well – A superior product. But I am disinclined to think that the Ipod is the end-all-be-all of portable music players.

I own a Creative Zen Xtra (and if you want to read the company hype on it, feel free to go here). It’s one of the better products I own. I am rather pleased with its big, chunky, industrial shape. It’s large device, but seeing as I have large (rather clumsy) hands that doesn’t really bother me.

There are complaints to be made about it, to be sure. I will not get into them because I’m not trying to write a review here, you can find other sites for that.

My point is that there are portable digital media players out there that aren’t Ipods. Good ones that aren’t Ipods.

Perhaps it is my contrary nature that makes me suspicious of the something that a ton of people tell me is so great – scratch that – it is definitely my contrary nature. None the less, I think my complaints about the Ipod’s popularity can still be valid, even if my actual reason for disliking it is not.

I really would hate to see a one player market develop. Markets where one product dominates are always a loosing deal for the customer. How many people hate Windows but don’t have a reasonable alternative? Even I, who swims against the stream at whatever opportunity I can find, use it because the alternatives are too inconvenient.

If people keep jumping on the Ipod bandwagon, we’ll begin to see the feature-set of its associated ITunes product expand. More and more third party companies will begin to work with Apple to incorporate ITunes and the Ipod (It just now occurs to me that I’m not entirely sure I’m capitalizing in all the right places on these registered trademarks. What a shame.)

The downside to Itunes or ITunes or iTunes or ITUNES becoming more ubiquitous is that it means that companies are less likely to make universal features. Why go through the effort to make your new and cheap and super slick MP3 downloading service compatible with all players when you can just make it Ipod compatible and call it a day?

Where does that leave those of us who spent 200 in US currency on their inelegant and defiantly brutish looking bricks like mine? Up a certain creek without a certain implement.

The answer for us who have these lovely ugly chunks of electronics would be, of course, to jump on the bandwagon ourselves and begin to ride the iWave into the new era of being able to ignore your fellow subway riders. But about there is where you see my problem with this idea.

In order for me to be able to enjoy the prospect of ignoring my fellow man through the tunesmithing of the honorable No Use For A Name, I have to make a certain choice a certain way.

I hate being forced into decisions like that. Don’t you?

Anyway, that is a rational reason not to like the Ipod, though it probably isn’t a good enough reason for most people.

I like the fact that my Creative device cost an arm and a leg less then your average Ipod. The industrial age ugliness comes free with every purchase, too.

Gainful Employment

I’ve got just a couple of weeks before I have to hit the books once more for a full semester of classes. Also, I have to move from my current apartment to a much more expensive one just across the street.

Also my wallet is looking a little thin.

Anyway, the sum of the equation is that I am looking for a part time job to reacquaint me with some presidents. Jackson, how I’ve missed thee.

I doubt if you are looking for a part-time nerd with a good understanding of computers and retail experience. But if anybody sniffs out some prospects for one, you can be sure I’m interested.