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Two HDTVs for my Media PC

January 12, 2012

Three years ago, my girlfriend got home from work and turned on her laptop to look up a recipe. The image was garbled. The screen was cracked. Her laptop was now unusable. The laptop was already fairly old and she didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars getting that fixed, she was going to buy a new one anyways, and so we decided to repurpose that computer.

What do you do with an old laptop with a broken screen? You plug it to your TV, of course! Most TVs nowadays come with a VGA input, which makes it trivial to connect your laptop and use the TV as an external monitor. I plugged it in and slapped Ubuntu Linux on it. My girlfriend and I have been using this setup almost everyday ever since. We’ve watched all of Star Trek TNG, Kitchen Nightmares UK and Deep Space Nine on there, as well as many other TV series and movies. To make matters more practical, we bought a mini wireless keyboard + touchpad on eBay. You can get them for as cheap as $30, and it charges through the USB port. It’s not line-of-sight like a remote control, which is another plus.

A few months ago, I bought another TV on sale for the bedroom (40″ LCD, $400), and decided to make our setup a little more epic. I passed a VGA and an audio cable through the wall between the living room and bedroom, and got us a VGA amplifier/splitter box. The result? We can watch our favorite downloaded shows, listen to music or browse the web in both rooms using the same computer and media library. The mini keyboard/touchpad signal gets through the wall just fine.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed to find out that the VGA amplifier didn’t pass through the VGA monitor id, which made it a bit trickier to use the TVs at their full resolution. This is, however, nothing a soldering iron and two short pieces of wire can’t fix…

Pins 12 and 15 says Wikipedia, easy enough, and I now get HDTV resolution without any Linux config file hackery ;)

From → Electronics

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