Home entertainment center

I mentioned the other day that we’re selling our TV, DVD player, and VCR, but didn’t go into details about why, other than to mention that we’d be using our computer to watch DVDs from this point on.

When we moved from a two bedroom apartment to a one bedroom, we had to figure out ways to save space, mainly by getting rid of stuff we don’t need and reorganizing the stuff we’re keeping. We’ve also been talking lately about ways to get rid of our TV. We only use it for watching DVDs and dislike wasting good usable space in the living room with what’s basically just a big, ugly black box. Our original thought was to put it on a wheeled cart and keep it in a closet when we’re not using it. Cheap and low-tech, this was a pretty good idea, especially since a lot of the apartments we looked at had large closets off the living room (converted murphy bed spaces, actually), including the one we ended up taking.

We then hit on a better idea: We’d be putting our desktop computer in the living room anyway, now that we don’t have a second bedroom, so what if we just used that for movies? The 17 inch LCD Studio Display would be quite a step down from our 27 inch TV, but it would work, and allow us to get rid of the TV entirely. Talking about this naturally led us to figuring out a way to get a new toy: What if we bought one of those big 24 inch iMacs instead? We’d get a 15% disount courtesy of a friend who works for Apple (thanks Melissa!) plus we’d make back a good part of the cost by selling not only the TV but our G4 tower and display as well, so it wouldn’t even be that expensive when all is said and done.

iMac entertainment center

It was delivered a couple weeks ago and Cairo, our old G4, has already been sold. Keeping with our international city naming scheme, we named the iMac London.

Front Row, Apple’s media center software, is pretty nice. It plays DVDs full screen, and also lets you control your iTunes music and video library and iPhoto photo gallery (which we don’t actually use) with the included remote control. Not only that, it also interfaces over the internet with the movie trailers on Apple’s web site, letting us browse and watch them from the comfort of the sofa. Sarai and I were pretty blown away when we discovered this completely by accident one day last week. The DVD player is a little too stripped down, but it does the job. There seems to be some subtle strangeness in the way the remote control works. The confusion seems to be caused by “menu” meaning two different things in this context: the DVD menu and the Front Row menu. Using the remote’s Menu button has gotten me both menus at different times and I haven’t yet figured out how to predict what it will do and, more importantly, how to get it to do what I want.

This being an Intel-based Mac, I was also able to install Parallels virtual machine software, which is so much nicer than Virtual PC it brings tears to my eyes. Now I’ll finally be able to fix the bug on my site that causes my archive navigation to display incorrectly in IE7 (I’ve been aware of it since IE7 was released but Virtual PC is so painful to use that I haven’t been motivated to fix it).