Redhat has recently been touting the hardiness of open source software during times of economic crisis. In light of our current slowdown, I figured a post about connecting your computer to your TV would be fun. You can use Miro and/or a lot of other free software to make finding and watching media from your computer a living-room-worthy experience.
The Nuts and Bolts
Step one is physically connecting your computer to a television or projector. I won’t go into much detail here, because there are lots of useful guides that cover the basics for mac and PC. This video shows the port-types. Once you get the computer connected, it’s on to the fun part.
Browsing and Watching Media
Step two is to decide how you want to access your media — you could just use Miro directly, but sometimes it’s hard to navigate inside Miro (the interface wasn’t designed to be used while sitting 10 feet away). You can also add a media center program that will give you access to all the media on your computer through a nice menu/playback system (with very large fonts, etc). A great option for Windows, Mac, and Linux is an open source app called Elisa. Alternatively, for Windows, there is Media Portal, and Mac iTheater.
These media center apps usually allow you to scan your computer for media and sometimes to “watch” a particular folder for new videos. You’ll just need to configure your media center app to watch the folder that Miro downloads to.
These are the default locations for Miro videos:
Windows: C:\Documents and Settings\(your username)\My Documents\My Videos\Miro\
Mac: /Users/(your username)/Movies/Miro/
Linux: /home/(your username)/.miro/Videos/
(our dev intern, Jason Brower, made a short video about how to couple Elisa and Miro on Linux)
I won’t go into much detail here, but you can often hook a game console up to play back media from the network (sometimes the console needs to be modified though). A few things to check out are: XBox Media Center, Wii Media Center X (not open source), and PS3 Media Center X (also not open source).
If you want to go totally crazy and have a way to pipe cable into your computer, it may be worth checking out MythTV, which is a free and open source Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The simplest option to install/use it is probably Mythbuntu, which lets you burn a CD and boot live into the application. Be warned that MythTV is a deep rabbit hole, and can get pretty complicated!
Not all media center software can play back all video formats — so if Miro downloads a Flash video (.flv) and your media center software doesn’t support it, you’ll have to watch it through an alternative app. Another issue is that when you watch a video in your media center software, it won’t necessarily be marked as watched (and expire itself) in Miro. Remember you can always connect your computer to your TV and just use Miro as your media browsing/watching program — don’t diss it till you try it.
We may eventually add a media center-like interface for Miro, but for the time being there are lots of ways to watch Miro programming on the big screen. If I’ve left out any fun or interesting programs for going from computer —> to television, please let me know. Also, if you’ve got a DIY media center setup you like, tell us about it in the comments.