DVD Player

Since we bought the Graphite iBook in 2000, that's functioned as our DVD player. It even came with the cables to plug it into the VCR (which runs through the stereo), so we were good to go out of the box. Sure, it was a little clunky at times, and it meant that we had to put the laptop on the floor by the TV when we wanted to watch, but, hey, it worked for us. OK, it was awfully sensitive to any scratches on the disc's surface, and some newer DVDs just freaked it out. But still. Why buy a DVD player when you've already got one?

When we upgraded to a new iBook last year, it didn't use the same cables (and didn't come with new ones), but that just meant the old one moved permanently into the living room, which worked pretty well because we could use it for streaming radio, accessing the iTunes library, and playing DVDs, as well as the occasional (slow) Web browsing. Never quite got around to getting a third length of cable so it could go on the tables we have out there and never worked out how to integrate it into the shelves, so it just sat on the floor in the corner.

As noted last week, the DVD drive seems to have finally died. Last year, the power source went, and I was willing to pay to get that fixed, but this just didn't seem worth it. So, before fencing Thursday, a quick stop at the local electronics store for the lowest-price, brand-name-I-recognized player they had.

Unpacking and looking through the manual, that's when we (and by "we," I mean "Monica") discovered that this wasn't going to just be a plug-and-play operation. To connect to the TV (ca. 1994, when Monica moved to Arlington), we needed to get an RF modulator and some more coaxial cable. Picked up those last night and got it all connected, with not a huge amount of grief — all so we could get our Mad Men fix.

However, it seems that we can't run the DVD playback through the stereo, at least with the current configuration. So the audio just comes from the built-in speakers on the TV. On the other hand, maybe now we can watch the rest of the (banged-up) Weeds DVD we have out on loan, and future downloaded Cinematic Titanic movies will play properly.

We'd picked up an Airport Express a while back with a gift certificate from M+D, but had to wait a few months to get it up and running until we upgraded the desktop system. The intent was to buy some little bookshelf speakers and set that up in the fireplace room, but it now uses the connection vacated by the iBook. The streaming can be inexplicably spotty, but thanks to PandoraJam, I can indulge in my new favorite geekery in the living room as well.

The old iBook now lives in the fireplace room, still good for some simple Web browsing. And it's the only machine capable of connecting to and configuring the old Airport base station.

Next week, the insulation guys come to work on the roof, and hopefully after that, we can get around finally installing the TV aerial up there. If we can find someone to hook it up. And then we get to revisit this whole thing again in a few months with the conversion to digital TV.

To summarize: technology — two steps forward, one-and-a-half steps backward.


So, it's actually raining right now, with the promise of occasional showers all day. We've got two cookouts to go to tonight.

Also, Jason's account of Santa Fe is posted.

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