Moving into the new trailer was a big change – so much more space, so much more comfortable, and easier to work and relax. Part of our relaxation process involves us watching a lot of movies. In the RV we wouldlie on the bed with a monitor set up at the end of the bed hooked up to one of our laptops. With the upgrade in living space we decided to go for an upgrade in our movie-watching experience too.
We started off getting a new TV – a Samsung LN22C350 (we’re pretty much set on Samsung displays). Most of the RV parks we have stayed at have a cable TV hookup, and it’s nice to be able to take advantage of it. We used to use a USB TV Tuner hooked up to the laptop, but being able to watch TV on the couch with a remote control and without having to unhook the laptops and move them over to the TV every time is great.
Watching TV was nice, but we needed a setup for movies. With just the TV we were still stuck with shuffling laptops every time we wanted to sit down an watch a movie, whether it was Netflix, a DVD or a movie file. We thought about all the options – a cheap laptop, building a custom machine, using a games console. We already have a Nintendo Wii, but it’s not really set up to be a media center box – it’s not a hi-def device and it doesn’t play DVDs without a hack (even with the hack it’s pretty awkward to use).
After a lot of thought and reading of forum posts and reviews online, we decided on the Sony PS3. With the PS3 we get a hi definition device which will hook up to our TV via HDMI, a DVD/BluRay player and…a game console. It was a good choice – the PS3 is now set up to do everything we need it to do, though it did take a little more work than just plugging it into the TV.
When we want to watch a movie now, it’s as simple as turning on the TV, the PS3, then selecting the movie. If we want to watch a NetFlix streaming movie, we just put in the NetFlix CD and the NetFlix movie browser starts up and lets us select the movie we want. If we want to watch a DVD or BluRay – well, we just put in the disc. If we want to watch a movie file, we can browse our media library and select the movie.
Enabling us to browse our media library and play files from it was a little more challenging to set up. The PS3 can play a lot of movie files from USB hard drives, but not all, and its subtitle support for our Kung Fu movies isn’t great. To fix all of this, we started by creating ourselves a fast wireless home network, buying a Netgear WNRD3300 wireless router. Now, our laptops, the PS3 and the Wii all connect to this fast wireless network. To get all these devices also connected to the Internet, I upgraded the router with the awesome DD-WRT open source firmware and set it up to use its secondary radio transmitter to bridge our local network with the RV park network. This allows us to have a fast, secure network in the trailer connected out to an external network for Internet – all without any network cables.
With the network set up and the PS3 able to securely communicate with our laptops over the network, I installed the PS3 Media Server on my laptop and configured it to share everything from my media library. The great thing about the PS3 Media Server is its ability to transcode any movies which are not in a format that the PS3 supports – into a format that it does support. It also performs the same magic for any of our movies which have subtitles.
For a little more nerdy fun, Amber has been playing Final Fantasy VII for the original Playstation on the PS3 and I have been playing the awesome Gargoyle’s Quest for Gameboy using the Visual Boy Advance GX Gameboy emulator running on our Homebrew hacked Wii.
Not everything we do involves staring at screens.