Sirlaugh’s Blog

April 12, 2009

Networking your TV — it’s not just for geeks anymore

Filed under: Uncategorized — sirlaugh @ 1:02 pm

Networking your TV — it’s not just for geeks anymore

shift_matrix_tv.jpgDVICE writers take a closer look at the latest tech trends in our weekly column, Shift.

Show of hands, please: how many of you have an Ethernet jack in your living room?

Other than my own, I don’t see many hands, and not just because this is a website and how could I possibly see? Maybe there are lots of hands raised, but I’d bet 95% of the world lack jacks of the RJ-45 kind in their living rooms. And that’s assuming Ma and Pa Consumer even know what an Ethernet jack is, whether or not they have a “router,” and if by “broadband” you mean the Pussycat Dolls.

Why do I care who has an Ethernet jack and who doesn’t? I don’t, but the divas of the HDTV and Blu-ray world should. Suddenly Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, et al. are hawking a new class of Net-connected living-room devices — specifically HDTVs offering Web access (e.g. Sony’s Bravia Link, Panasonic’s VieraCast, and the Yahoo! Widgets available on some Samsung and Sony models) and BD-Live decks.

Almost none of all of these new connected devices include any kind of wireless connectivity, Wi-Fi or otherwise. So a consumer will buy a connected HDTV or a BD-Live deck, get it home, and discover they can’t connect it to the Internet without miles of cable.

Why the connection disconnect? Read on.

The solution for purchasers of these non-connected connected products, of course, is easy: buy an Ethernet wireless adapter.

But Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, et al., are counting on the profits garnered from the sale of higher-priced connected HDTVs. And the entire success of Blu-ray — which faces increased high-definition content competition from sources such as iTunes and Netflix and a burgeoning bundle of scheduled, video-on-demand (VOD) and DVR-recorded HD cable and satellite content — may lie in compelling BD-Live content (which, what little there is so far, is the opposite of compelling, but that’s a whole ‘nother column).

Considering the stakes, how could these otherwise smart companies not include wireless connectivity solutions so folks can get to said Web content?
HD Theater of the Absurd

I’m tempted to make some disparaging remark denigrating their product-development acumen, but I’m not into the current populist trend of loudly voicing an opinion sans relevant facts.

Oh, to hell with it.

Not including a wireless option for connected HDTVs and Blu-ray decks is as absurd as…

…Botswana bidding to host the winter Olympics… treating a vegan to dinner at Peter Luger’s Steak House… opening a bikini shop in Tehran… attempting to delay a dimeless gang of galloping outlaws on their way to destroy Rock Ridge by placing a toll booth in the middle of the desert (I’ll snatch any opportunity to watch this scene).

Seriously, why would anyone buy a living room device requiring a connection no one has in their living room? Allow me to extend a Laurel and Hardy handshake to these non-networking dummies.
Networking for Dummies

To be honest, I don’t know why these devices lack a wireless Web option. I asked the Blu-ray product manager at a major HDTV and Blu-ray deck maker why said company (I withhold the name to avoid them unnecessary embarrassment) didn’t include a wireless solution. With a straight face he told me that they were worried the wireless connection would degrade the incoming video signal.

That, of course, is just a cave full of fruit bat guano. You’re obviously not streaming Blu-ray content over the wireless connection, just Web video (yeah, those YouTube clips are really going to suffer without a wired connection) or your PC.

What’s really got me baffled more is adding a wireless connection isn’t, to mix tech metaphors, rocket science. Most of the current media streamers such as Apple TV ($230, $330), Myka ($280-$390), the Kodak Theatre HD Player ($300), and the varying streamers from Netgear such as the Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150 ($400), are equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity. And TiVo offers Wi-Fi adapters for its HD DVRs.

In other words, Wi-Fi connectivity can be easily built into or included for a living room device without adding appreciably to the price.
Making the Connection

Perhaps HDTV and Blu-ray deck makers lack the Wi-Fi wherewithall. Or, not — Sony and Samsung have each announced wireless Blu-ray decks: Sony will start to sell its Wi-Fi-enabled BDP-S560 ($350) in July; Samsung hasn’t said when it will start selling its as-yet unpriced BD-P4600 and BD-P3600 Blu-ray players, which will include Wi-Fi dongles.

But that still leaves a lot of connected HDTVs and BD-Live decks with no way to wirelessly connect. As Sheriff Bart opined after extolling his own talent, “And they are so DUMB!”

Oh, you can put your hands down now.

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(17) Comments

wayne:
It really ain’t that big a deal to run CAT5 around the house as long as you have a basement or can get under the fl…More »

By marcus at 7:39 PM ON 04/02/09

I can’t speak for the other manufacturers, but I know at least Samsung sells a ~$30 wireless USB dongle that works with any of their TVs that have an ethernet jack. I’d imagine it works with the BDP sets as well, but I don’t know that for sure.

Personally, I went ahead and ran a single CAT5 cable to my entertainment center, and then plugged in a 4-port ethernet hub for my TV, BluRay player, and satellite box.

By JimK at 9:17 PM ON 04/02/09

I have a router and a switv h in my living room as I have two computers, an xbox, a dvd player with streaming, two tivos and a divx connected device that all need access.

By Smurf at 9:28 PM ON 04/02/09

Well I have also have my wireless router and switch in my living room with a line run across the room to my 62″ toshiba HDTV. When I get into the house I am currently buying I am going to run 2 cat5’s and 2 RG-6 coax’s into every room and come up into the hall closet in the middle of the house and make a server closet. Of course I’m an electrician/comm tech/alarm tech so its easy for me.

By Asdar at 11:15 PM ON 04/02/09

I believe that the reason many companies still do not provide wireless connectivity is simply because, in general, people are stupid. I see it on the roku forums everyday. Ma and Pa probably had someone setup their router for them, they dont know how to add a wireless device and they can barely hook up a wired one to the router. When you through wireless into the mix, that can be a support nightmare and I dont think most companies want to go through that.In this day and time, I feel that pretty much any device that is going to hook into the internet needs to have a wireless option built onto it, but I can certainly see why companies are not ready to fully jump on board with it yet. The knowledge in the general public is just not up to par with the current tech as it is.

By murc at 12:09 AM ON 04/03/09

there is only 1 wall between my bedroom and my living room…so I just drilled a hole. Now I have 2 ethernet cables that are coming from my router, into my living room for my 360 and popcorn hour.

currently, I have 6 things connected to my network.
1.pc
2.laptop (wifi)
3.printer (wifi)
4.popcorn hour A-110
5.xbox 360
6.NAS

I dont know if I want my tv through that busy network…
hell, currently I have to pause my utorrent to watch a movie.

By tsport100 at 2:22 AM ON 04/03/09

I think this article makes a valid point.

No house comes pre-wired for Ethernet and not many people keep their PC and/or internet connection in the living room, although a phone jack in the living room is fairly common.

Short of using ethernet down your power lines the best idea is probably having a wireless broadband modem connected to the living room phone jack with a hard-wired connection to your TV devices and wirless to your PC where-ever that is in the house!

Simple!

By RWATTERS11 at 3:16 PM ON 04/03/09

A few points, my house has at least one Gigabit Certified Ethernet jack in every room (yes, even the bathrooms). The living room has 2 or more jacks on every wall. There are also multiple speaker and optical fiber connections. It was less than a $1000 for the work when the house was built.

There are a few problems with Wi-Fi that should be noted:
1) Wi-Fi is generally slower that the video channel Cable companies use. You maybe lucky to get T-1 performance from yout cable ISP, but your cable video receiver is likely getting T-3 speeds or better.
2)Wi-Fi is not secure. You broadcast source to your TV and anyone in range. I’m sure NBC would like to talk to you about why that is a bad idea.
3) Wi-Fi does suffer from interference. There is a finite amount of bandwidth in the Wi-Fi. Currently wireless phones, data systems (computers, Media sharing systems, etc), and walkie-talkies can be on this frequency. Multiple that by anyone in range and you will soon swamp the the transcievers with noise.
4) Do we really know or understand the potential harm from living in the soup of radio waves a “wireless” world causes?

In the end, I suggest spending the money and have someone run the cables (or DIY it if you can). If that is not a option, install the broadband router in the living room. It can hide under an end table. Most of the one I’ve seen have 3 or for Ethernet ports. Use one for your TV.

By FuZVulf at 5:32 PM ON 04/03/09

Come on! Who doesn’t have at least one ethernet port in their living room? I’ve got three, one on every wall except the one with the Picture window on it. You never know when you might want to network something. I wonder if this thing will be compatible with MythTV.

By Nightwind at 8:13 PM ON 04/03/09

Interesting and humourous article which i am 100% in agreement on. But lets take a closer look at it?

You are right any gizmo these days can be equipped with WIFI, but simply giving WIFI access is not the end of the story. Most Bluray Players and IPTVs only have limited web access from trusted copy-right protected sources.

This does not allow web junkies to do all those wierd and crazy and often shady things we love so much. And by that i do not mean complicated hacker type stuff. The most basic things like streaming a video movie, saving HD movies to HDD, simply cannot be done. Most of these use simple bitorrent or P2P programs and these bring with them a new set of challenges…….you need plenty of HDD space and virus protection (unless u run Mac OS)….how many HDTVs and Bluray Players come with these?

Right now I regularly watch HD material from the net on my HDTV….via my old trusty laptop that is connected via a HDMI port..with audio optical out to my Hi-Fi speakers. And for the reasons mentioned above untill they fix these gaps….i think i have no other choice.

I tried using my PS3 to surf for awhile but the silly peopple at Sony equipped it with less then 1gig of Ram…duh…alot of good that will do as it will slow to a crawl after i open afew web-pages….

And to be honest Sony and afew brands do have dedicated PCs that allow you to hook to your HDTV and web-surf…..but they are expensive (above USD2k) and they basically allow you to do things on your HDTV which your laptop can already do.

I do know that technology for seamless integration between the HD TV and the internet is already here its just that you need to find one that suits your individual needs. And thats the subjective element as everyones needs are different.

At one end you have the HDTV buffs who will be satisfied with very simple limited Wifi connections to the net….just to watch their Bluray life content…..so wifi net enabled Blurays will satisfy their needs.

But at the other end we have the netjunkies who want to do all the elaborate stuff they do on Macs and PCs, on their HDTV….for these people a HDMI interface from PC to HDTV is the immediate solution. Of cause some devices like the PS3 also allow seamless sharing of content from PCs to PS3 to the TV but once again such devices lack the full range of players that can be downloadeed only on the PC…..

For instance quicktime files still cannot be played on PS3…so forget watching Quicktime movies on the HDTV via the PS3….you need the AppleTV or your trusty PC for that.

By Secret_Stash at 6:44 PM ON 04/04/09

Making these devices wireless and not so great idea. Too many devices as well all the reason people like myself don’t like WiFi devices (ranges, crowded, etc.)

So what’s the solution for devices like this? Go to most electronic stores nowadays and you’ll find accessories near the DVD/BluRay players most have never seen before. Along with USB flash drive and USB network adapters (for Tivos and satellite receivers) you see the best option for those lacking an ethernet jack nearby. HomePlug network devices. More and more manufacturers are jumping on this and the prices have dropped noticeably.

By Zibri at 5:07 PM ON 04/05/09

Ever heard of Ethernet over powerline ?
That is an easy solution for people without a cabled home.

By semky at 4:37 AM ON 04/09/09

well Yea I got a network connection on wall. but I do have my PS3 connected to it. (has a browser just have to get used to it). but my tivo used wireless usb to login. Oh my ip cam uses poe -so now everything has been mentioned. yes?

By nancy at 7:53 AM ON 04/09/09

Sorry – but with metered internet service on the way, and a max of 40 GB a month @ $55 + $1 per GB over that, can anyone really afford to network the TV that way

By Bob Harrison at 11:44 AM ON 04/09/09

My Sony XBR6 is an ethernet connection but apparently will not work without Sony’s $300 doodad. Eventually, I’ll try jacking in with a cable straight from the router, but Sony’s website implies that I can’t get any video that way. I don’t know what the real answer is, but I know I’m highly irritated that, after paying huge bucks for a set, they want even more money out of me.

By Jon at 11:53 AM ON 04/09/09

I think it’s a little silly to try to run so much over wireless. Even on N and MIMO class network products, you’re still limited to the throughput of your router… you can have 4x wired devices all running at 100mb/s speeds each, but if you’ve got 4x wireless devices, they’re all sharing the bandwidth of that one interface on your router.

As for who has ethernet in their living rooms – in my house ( build in the 70’s ), my parents house ( built in the late 80’s ), my sister’s apartment ( older than sin ), we all have an RJ45 line either mounted in the wall, or run along the floorboard to our entertainment centers, with a cheap 10/100 switch hidden behind everything.

There are more than 20 devices connected to my network at home, which includes the XBox, 360, PS3, PC, and DVR in my entertainment center.

Including all the terminals and plates, cabling, and the switch, running that line cost me less than $50 and an hour of my time. My make-shift IDF closet is a good 45′ away ( laterally ), too – so the majority of that cost was the 70′ of cat6 that I ran. Getting respective wireless adapters for each device I wanted plugged in would have cost a minimum of $200, and would have degraded performance for our family’s laptops – and of course had everything in the entertainment center running higher latencies to begin with.

I like running 720p videos from a NAS drive or server to my HTPC… when I first was setting things up, I used a MIMO class wireless device on the HTPC, and had difficulty getting a clean and non-choppy video if I have any other devices actively using my wireless.

Even if you don’t know how to run network cabling, chances are pretty good you know someone who’ll do it for the cost of parts + pizza and a beer. If not, there is an almost infinite number of mom ‘n’ pop PC companies who’ll do the install for next to nothing. All else fails, go to one of the retailers and pay a little more. Even if you’re not saving a little cash, the added value to your house and stronger / more reliable performance is worth it.

Just my thoughts. I guess the overarching issue I found with this article is the herd mentality of “OMG I LUV WIRELESS!!! MOAR WIRELESS NAO!!1”

Sometimes, it’s ok to keep the cable.

By Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc. at 3:34 AM ON 04/10/09

I’ve circumvented all that and watch tv on my computer on line

Rick

By wayne at 9:02 AM ON 04/10/09

It really ain’t that big a deal to run CAT5 around the house as long as you have a basement or can get under the floor easily. Doesn’t anybody know how to use a drill any more?
If you don’t have a basement or are running to the second floor, drop it down a ventilation duct.
My house is over 80 years old and I have CAT5 wherever I need it. (2 Desktops, 1 Laptop, and VONAGE).

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