Monday, November 26, 2007

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns...

An Australian man was shot and killed after he protested about a neighbor's loud music. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a Nationwide Gun Ban in Australia almost ten years ago? Nobody yet has come up with a convincing argument about how a person already predisposed to breaking the law is going to stop short of violating a nationwide gun ban.

The United States Supreme Court announced they will hear the challenge to the District of Columbia handgun ban this coming year, probably in the spring. If I understand correctly, the Supreme Court will rule on whether the rights conveyed under the Second Amendment are collective rights or individual rights. I hope our rights as citizens continue to be protected.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The high price of early adoption

I had a bad hankering for big-screen home theater five years ago. I already owned a 55 inch CRT rear-projection TV, but I had home theater envy; the kind you get after reading high-end home AV enthusiast magazines. At that point in time, making the statement “I want a really big-screen home theater” was really another way to say “I plan to spend an insane amount of money,” There weren't any $1,000 or less projectors made for home cinema, like there are now. It's still possible to spend $10,000 on a home-theater projector.... Of course, it was then and still is possible to purchase a $6,000 patchcord for your A/V equipment. (I'm sure I'll end up discussing my opinions about ultra-high-end AV equipment in another posting.) I wasn't prepared to embark on a purpose-built home theater room, or to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a home theater-type projector. I decided a data-grade DLP projector was what I wanted.

I did a lot of research. I wanted high-lumen output, and HDTV compatibility. At the time, my 55 inch analog TV was only six years old and was doing a terrific job for everyday TV viewing. Over-the-air digital television was already available, but I wasn't prepared to replace the 55-inch TV anytime soon. I figured I'd get as much HDTV compatibility as I could afford in my new projector as I could afford, and we'd do our HDTV viewing on the projector, with the help of a DTV receiver/decoder card for the PC. This arrangement served our needs for the next five years. The projector was supposed to handle DVI digital inputs, but it ended up not being able to accept DVI video from my HDTV tuner card. I was disappointed, but we ended up sending the HDTV signal over the VESA connector.

A couple of years after we bought the projector, I built my first MythTV box, and it quickly became the family PVR. My wife can navigate the MythTV menus and options better than I can. It quickly migrated from hobbyist project to a home appliance used on a daily basis. Before Myth came along, my wife had her VCR running throughout the day, timeshifting TV to her schedule. Once Myth came on the scene, I heard less and less of the whirring and clicking of her VCR, as she came to depend more on MythTV.

That first homebrew MythTV PC experienced hardware failure at the end of the summer, after almost three years of good service. I decided to upgrade the hardware, and to also move our HDTV watching and recording over to the new MythTV machine. About that same time, the 55-inch RPTV started showing signs of being ready to give up the ghost, so my wife and I decided to replace it with a new Samsung DLP model with LED illumination. (I'll have to rant and rave about that TV in another posting.) I had previously driven the projector with another PC running Windows XP and the HDTV decoder card. When my wife's Thursday night viewing of 'ER' rolled around, we had to boot up the Windows PC, and set up the projector in advance of the start of the program. I was now planning to drive the existing projector and the new TV from the new MythTV box. I decided to have the new MythTV box drive the new TV and existing projector with Component Video, so that my wife and I could easily switch between the TV and the projector. I'd arrange to have the same video signal appear at either device.

Remember from a couple of paragraphs ago where I mentioned I'd had no success running DVI to the projector? Well, it turns out it didn't want to display component video above 480p, either. There was no amount of reconfiguring my wiring scheme, and following recommendations on AVSForum that would get the stubborn projector to accept the signal from the MythTV box. Also, keep in mind that the DVI connection standard (which the projector supposedly supported, but didn't actually support adequately) had quasi-morphed into HDMI, and that HDCP was now on the scene (and the projector was old enough to support neither of these formats.)

Now, add to all that confusion my trip to Wal-Mart that first Friday morning in November, 2007. I and 89,999 other fortunate buyers laid our $100 down for an HD-DVD player. Whether or not HD-DVD took off in the marketplace, I figured it would be a terrific upconverting DVD player. Of course Hollywood saw to it that I'd never display HD content of any type via component video. They expected me to use HDMI with HDCP. (I'll be sure to spew some vitriol about Hollywood in another posting. I've got plenty to spare.) So, now I have a projector that wouldn't display DVI output from my HD decoder card, won't display component video over 480p, and will never display HDCP encrypted video.

I felt like I was out of options for coaxing my projector into working with my A/V system upgrades. My wife and I spent a socially significant amount of money on it, and I sure didn't expect to have to upgrade it after only 5 years. Nonetheless, I found myself in that exact position. I found a 16:9 projector designed for home theater that was on sale, and cost less than a third of what my original projector cost. I ended up buying that projector, and decided we'd sell our existing projector on eBay. I am still frustrated over the money, time and effort spent on the original projector. I am partly consoled by how relatively inexpensive the replacement projector was, compared to the projector it replaced.

I'm glad that the cost of home A/V is dropping I'd just as soon not run into any more high-priced early adoption 'opportunities' like this.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

That's too many words. You might want to pare that down.....

I'm often chided for spending too many words on getting my point across in personal and business communication. Most times I accept that advice and act accordingly. After all, in business communication, the idea is to not waste people's time with extra fluff. Since this blog is more of a quasi-constructive way to waste time, I don't intend to be economical with my words. At least I've given the gentle reader a heads-up. I really like to talk.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

... at least I thought of a name, finally

I'll have more to say in short order. Thanks to for making the process as painless as possible..