Video Sender

Low Tech Often Beats High Tech

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In this post, I discussed traditional video senders, that wirelessly extend a video source to a remote receiver (TV, VCR, DVR, etc.). The 5.8Ghz model that I bought from Amazon.com is still working perfectly.

In addition to that need at home, we travel a lot for business and therefore spend a lot of time in hotels. While we’re not terribly picky about what’s on TV when we’re tired after a long day’s work, sometimes the pickings are pretty slim, and with the current writers strike dragging on, they will likely get slimmer.

I decided that I wanted to find an effective way to display things from my laptop on the hotel TV. This would allow watching DVDs, Internet videos, and my home DVR via the SlingBox.

I mentioned in the past that once I purchased one thing from X10, I got bombarded daily by a giant email newsletter from them. Just at the time that I was considering the above need, their daily newsletter had a special to purchase a wireless VGA to RCA Video extender. I ordered the following package that day (and I paid a lot less than the current price shown on that page).

The device works, for some definition of works, but I am not happy with it. I don’t know if it’s interference from WiFi devices (of which the hotels have many, and so does our house), or if there is some other problem, but, while I an get the video to show up (so it’s not broken), it’s not a satisfactory experience.

Now a diversion. A few weeks back, we were visiting friends in Richmond, VA. Another friend came over with a DVD of photos from their trip to South Africa. After trying a few ways to display the photos on the TV, I looked at the back of my laptop and noticed (for the first time) that I had an S-Video port. Our host happened to have an S-Video cable, and I was able to connect my S-Video out to his S-Video in, and display the photos.

When I got home, I did a search and found the following site (they ask for links, claiming that they don’t advertise!), and specifically, this low tech cable. I got to use the cable for the first time last night (in the apartment), and it worked pretty well. Extremely low tech, but extremely effective.

That said, my problem isn’t quite solved. It turns out that the hotel that we stay at all the time doesn’t include the ability to select alternate input sources (even though the TV has both RCA inputs and S-Video in). The remote control doesn’t have an input button, and the menu doesn’t contain one either.

A little further search on the Internet suggests bringing your own programmable remote to the room, and searching for their TV model, and hopefully being able to control the TV with your remote, including changing the input source. I’ll give that a try in January, when we are next in the hotel. Even if it doesn’t work, this new cable will find occasional use at home, when I want to watch an Internet video on the TV. A lot cheaper than buying something like Apple TV, etc. 😉

TV Experience Just Got Better

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In this post, I mentioned that I ordered a video sender from X10. The device was priced well, arrived quickly, is nicely packaged, and probably works as well as they describe it to. So, I have no complaints about X10 as a company, or this specific product. Well, the one semi-complaint about them is that I agreed to sign up for their email newsletter, and they send one every day, and it’s a giant file, with lots of image links, etc. I haven’t unsubscribed yet, but I’m close…

On to the device itself. Like I said, it likely performs exactly as described. Unfortunately, my setup was not conducive to the limitations of space and intervening walls, floors and stuff. In addition, given that the device is 2.4Ghz, it also could have been suffering from interference from my WiFi setup, but I did try all four independent channels on the X10.

My new TV is in the bedroom, and the DirecTivo (which is what I wanted to broadcast from) is downstairs, diagonally opposite the bedroom. So, the signal needed to travel the length of my house (diagonally), and through one floor and at least two walls, possibly a closed door as well, etc.

With a lot of jiggling, positioning, running around, etc., on rare occasions, I could get an acceptable picture. There was a hint of snow, but not that bad. The audio was passable, and had annoying hisses. If Lois moved her leg in the bed (no, I’m not exaggerating!), then the snow worsened, and the hissing got really bad. She had to immediately reposition, in order to get the picture back. Clearly, this was not going to work long term.

If either of us walked in the path of the beam, the picture went bananas…

Just before we left for Zope this past trip, I ordered the following device from Amazon.com. I had it shipped directly to Zope, so that I would have it ready when we got back last night. I was nervous, because the device costs more than twice what the X10 did. Obviously, I can afford it, but I hate buying things that just don’t work.

Anyway, even though my cordless phone system (a Uniden) is 5.8Ghz, this new RF-Link device works flawlessly. The picture and sound are as good as I’d like. We can break the beam with our bodies and the picture and sound are still good (if slightly affected), and the IR extender is working perfectly as well. Whew!

Ironically, I have a good use for the X10 device, so it won’t go to waste, but it won’t get the yeoman’s duty that I was expecting it to.