Home Theater PC Adventures

I haven’t used my XBox in a week.

This is not some great statement on my ability to focus on work – I’ve been gaming, watching Netflix, and more.  I’ve just been doing it on an accidental Home Theater PC.

I say accidental, because it’s a laptop I got to let me work out of my home office more effectively.  But as I have thought of building a Home Theater PC (HTPC), I started experimenting.  See how the HDMI goes, try out a wireless game controller, take a look at Steam . . .

. . . and end result is that this is that I’m really not using the XBox anymore, which was my prime media system.

So as you may guess this has convinced me to build an HTPC because I see their power, because I can build a more powerful system, and because I’d like to use my laptop for laptopping.

Since we’re often discussing the future of media here, and what it means for our careers, I wanted to share some insights on the HTPC experience one week in and what it means to me and to various markets.

This Was Easy:
I turned my laptop into a HTPC almost by accident, just experimenting with things I thought I’d do later.  All it took was Windows 8, XPadder, and a wireless controller, and a Logitech keyboard/mouse combination.  Bam, media system.

You could build your own HTPC (I plan to), but someone who was dedicated to avoiding consoles and cable could just go buy a reasonable PC and be done with it.  A knowledgeable person could just give up on consoles and media boxes if they weren’t tied to cable (or routed it through their system).

You Can Double Your Use:
In fact, if I didn’t want a system that I could use for more intense games, the laptop would be all I need for a HTPC.  I imagine for other people it’d be the same way (pro tip – some kind of media laptop docking station?  Great idea).

This Was Powerful:
Now I got Netflix and Hulu running on my laptop – which is easy in Windows 8, they’re very slick and simple apps.  But when I began adding more . . .

XPadder let me use my controller as a mouse.  Steam gave me a gaming system.  Having a browser there meant suddenly my TV was a web browser.  An old camera taped to the top of the television made it a video conferencing system.  There’s a lot of other software out there I’m just exploring.

Really, the convergence of TV, computers, and media is a few years old.  Your television is just a monitor.  Combining the two is logical – an radical.

It Changes How You Think:
Suddenly you’ve got a computer in your living room and a giant monitor to do things with.  You have moved computing power out of the office/off of the laptop or desktop and into the living room.  It changes how you use that social space and technology.

So I was browsing Youtube with friends, or showing off games on the big screen.  I was looking at the idea of video conferencing with the whole gang in the room (say for a holiday?).    My social space was different.

Also as this was a laptop?  Portability came to mind.  I can plug this sucker in anywhere . . .

People Like It:
A couple I know are making their own HTPC after seeing this.  It is something people like an want.

Really, We Kind Of Re-Invented the Desktop:
It’s a computer attached to a larger, mobile monitor.  In many cases HTPC are the kinds of systems you don’t move.  So really this isn’t original . . .

So as you may guess, part of my enthusiasm for this is that I want to say “HTPCs are cool.”  They are.  I think you may want to consider one depending on your needs.

However, this brings in the inevitable discussion of “do I see these having a place in the economy” and ” hey, does this mean anything for my career.”  Well, yes, because as we’ve seen many companies are trying to make some kind of media system, from Roku to Microsoft, from Google to Apple.  There’s the idea something like this has a place.

It’s just not as easy as we may think, and I’ll cover that next week . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.