Saturday, 29 August 2015

Building an LED-free tv setup.

Our CRT tv gave up recently and we've been working out how to set up a new tv system without having to buy an LED backlit tv. We're doing this because I don't get on with LED screens (described in a previous post).

We have managed to do it and now have a pretty exciting new setup, which we are enjoying very much, and which also saved us a bunch of money. Here's what we did:

Previously we had a Humax box (which records and replays tv), a video player, a DVD player, and a big CRT tv like this:

We also had a 23" CCFL backlit Apple cinema screen, and a tower PC that my son uses for playing computer games and watching YouTube. We decided to try using that as a tv. 

(In case anybody else wants to do this - you need to find a CCFL backlit screen which can be bought secondhand off ebay.) These cannot be connected directly to the Humax box because they don't support the right resolution.

It took a bit of fiddling to organise our new setup, but here's what we have now:

1) Humax box with updated firmware, which is now connected to our house's internal internet. This means that we can programme the Humax to record tv from the browser window of any PC in the house:

The Humax box has a Samba server inside and so it shows up in the file explorer window of the PCs in the house. This means we can drag programme files from the Humax box to any PC in the house to watch them on that other PC.

2) We have the tower PC set up next to the Apple CCFL tv. In practice we drag all the new recorded tv programmes across the internet connection on to the tower PC so that we can watch them easily on the big Apple screen. We then delete them from the Humax box by controlling the box from the PC brower window. This setup is handy as my son has access to all his favourite CBeebies tv shows using the Win 7 file explorer interface which is much faster then the Humax interface. 

3) The internet connection to the Humax and PC is set up using ethernet over power, which means that the network packages travel through the electric wiring of the house and pop out at the power sockets, where we have plugged in special plugs with ethernet sockets. The PC's ethernet cable then plugs into these special sockets. 

4) We also have a USB video capture device in the PC so that we can use the Apple screen as a tv directly using the Humax remote and without having to interact with the PC at all. The quality of the picture is not great, which is why we have the rest of the workaround. 

5) The PC is still in use as a regular PC, still with the Apple screen. It still has the internet connection for online games, and internet browsing and for watching Youtube. We can also use it for photo editing and all the usual stuff. We have a wireless mouse so we can sit far back from the screen for good ergonomics. An extra perk of this is that our son does all his tv watching and computer stuff in the living room where we can see what he's doing and help out. 

6) When we watch DVDs we put them in the tower PC and it plays them directly onto the screen.

We had a lot of fun setting all this up, and the result suits us down to the ground. It cost a lot less than buying a new tv. :-)


Here are a couple of photos of our setup. 

Apple screen on the top, PC on the left and Humax box at the bottom in the centre.

In case you were wondering, "Dogtanian" is still great. :-)