With Google's announcement of the Google TV platform, there's a new potential light at the end of the tunnel for those looking for an easy way to get Web-based content on their living-room TVs. But for those of us who are fans of doing things the not-so-easy way, the concept of playing video files or surfing the Web via TV is nothing new, as we've been doing it through off-the-shelf or custom-built media center PCs for years.
Yet, as a longtime advocate of hooking a PC up to a big-screen television, I was more than a little surprised to find myself recently pulling the plug on my media center PC. There was nothing physically wrong with the home-built Shuttle small form factor system (actually the third media PC I had put together over the years), it was just that new technologies for consuming media content had made it largely superfluous.
With somewhere between seven and 10 devices hooked up to my plasma at any one time, any chance to simplify is welcome, especially as the media center PC was the only device in the mix not controlled by my Logitech Harmony universal remote.
For playing downloaded video files, we used to drag them to the media center PC's hard drive over our home network, and play them via VLC media player, using a Gyration gyroscopic mouse, which acted as a clever gesture-based media playback controller. The occasional ABC.com episode of Lost or CNET TV video was played in the same manner via Web browser.
But the media center PC was used most often as a Netflix streaming box; and once that technology came to the Xbox 360 (and later the PS3 and Wii), it lost a major reason for being. … Read more