Using A Computer Monitor As A TV

by JL Beeken on 4-02-2008

My very old television has been niggling at my mind for awhile.  It’s been in its death throes for quite a long time. In the back of my mind I’ve been wondering if I can use a computer monitor as a TV.Several months ago the TV started making loud noises while warming up. Then vertical white lines appeared. I looked up that phenomenon on the web yesterday and got offered the opportunity to read an entire manual on TV repair. Not something I care to do. However, I did notice one line in capital letters that said, “IF YOU SEE A HORIZONTAL WHITE LINE TURN OFF YOUR TV IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE SOMETHING IS ABOUT TO GET FRIED.”  Not the exact words.

This morning I was gazing at the vertical white lines and day-dreaming when all of a sudden the picture went out and there was nothing left except a piercing white horizontal line. It struck me as probably the one I’d just read about. So I did what the web page said and turned the TV off. Apparently, that means I saved IT (whatever it is) from getting killed so maybe it’s still salvageable? How salvageable is a 12-year old TV that cost $150 likely to be?

All this only hours after installing a second computer monitor. I’d been vaguely contemplating the situation for awhile, and it was either buy a new TV or a TV and a second monitor, or give up TV altogether and just stay with the one monitor. Two new screens in one week or even one year is excessive in more ways than one. After sorting out some of my misconceptions about how this works, I decided on a second monitor that I could also use as a TV if/when the other one died. I already have a TV tuner card built into my tower. It seemed like a good compromise.

Dual Monitors

After building an extension onto my desk for it, I purchased the monitor yesterday. There were the usual glitches. I forgot to take the model number off the present one to match it, so I had to come home and rummage through stacks of paper to find it. After I got the monitor, I found out there was no DVI cable in the box. But the sales person dropped off an adapter on his way home. A pretty good day overall and by supper last night I had two functional monitors. This is cool. Just like they say. If you try it, you’ll never want to go back to just one.

As explained, the TV died this morning or is dying more seriously than it was yesterday. So I was thrown into Step Next sooner than anticipated. No problem, I’m on a roll here.

I unhooked the co-axial cable from the VCR, got out my handyman’s ladder and started attaching the cable up one wall, across the ceiling and down another wall to the back of the tower.

A small aside here. I live in an extension tacked on the back of an old house that was built by someone who was not a carpenter.  Not an electrician.  Not a plumber.  Not anything even remotely related to the home-building industry. There’s not a single square or level surface in this entire place.

Wherever one would reasonably expect a 2 x 4 to nail something into there never is one. The simplest addition, even a single nail, is a major challenge. I was also 4 feet short on the cable. I had a shorter spare and I was pretty sure I had an inline coupler but I had to sift through several boxes and drawers of assorted mechanical and electronic junk to find it. Nevertheless, with a little patience and a combination of cup hooks and fencing nails, the co-ax cable was ready to be attached. But there’s two places to attach to. Which one? No help whatsoever in the computer manual. It doesn’t even show it having co-ax hookups.

I went downtown to kill two errands at once; pay for the adapter and find out what gets plugged where. The person who answers tech questions wasn’t there so I paid for the adapter, went around the corner where I found a cable I’d rather have instead, got my questions answered, tried to get my money back on the adapter without the adapter in hand … not … came home, disassembled the DVI adapter and analog cable from the second monitor and reattached the monitor with the DVI cable.

Then I slid the tower out and turned it around, being careful to not let it slide off the desk and smash onto the floor. I unplugged 6 wires to make room for my head. With my glasses on, holding a magnifier in one hand and a flashlight in the other, I still could not read the writing on the tower from 4″ away. Eventually I was able to make out part of what was probably ‘antenna’, compared that to the notation on the VCR, concluded it meant ‘IN’, hooked up the co-axial and took a deep breath.

Now, for some dumb reason, I thought as soon as I attached the cable to the tower, and turned my computer back on, I would be looking at Oprah. It was 4:05. I was just in time. Nothing. Just two monitors showing the desktop.

Then I remembered. It comes with an infrared sensor and a remote control. I plugged the sensor into USB, put the batteries in the remote control and clicked the power button. I saw a red light flash on the sensor but still no Oprah. Now, I was getting a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach because I was remembering something else. The remote is set up to work with Media Center in Vista and, as you may recall, I ripped Vista off my computer in favor of XP.

I’m not entirely sure but it appears I need some software to run the card. And maybe I need a different remote control because this one is programmed for Media Center? And maybe the card needs a different driver? And maybe different cards only work with specific software? I’ve got nothing but questions.

Normally, and I did do it this way once, if you buy a TV tuner card you get the software with it, so you’re good to go. Theoretically. In my case, it was not (good-to-go) but that’s another story.

Try looking up “got tv tuner, need software” on Google when it’s already been a long day.

I installed a trial of “Beyond TV“. Although I don’t really want to go beyond TV. Right at TV would be good. After accepting my setup instructions and getting all the way to the Finished button (I breathed a sigh of relief) it then launched into giving me two error messages and telling me to go to the SetUp Wizard and run a Channel Scan. I can’t find the SetUp Wizard. Or Channel Scan. There’s menus all over the place for downloading TV Guides, recording TV shows in your absence, burning them to DVD and things that no-one’s ever heard of, I’m sure. I just want to watch TV on my computer when I’m sitting right in front of it.

Is this easier than it appears to be? Does anyone know if I’m just having a senior moment and the answer’s right under my nose?

I’ll get to the VCR later. Seems simple enough. What do I do with that? Just hook it up about the same as I do with the TV. Line In, Line Out going to the Line In/Antenna on the tower. No problem. I just need some physical space over here to put it. It can almost fit between the speakers. I’m half an inch short. The roll’s over, I’m tired.

03 April 2008

Using A Computer Monitor As A TV

We’ve got Oprah!

I also installed SageTV so I could have something else to fight with. I wouldn’t have believed this myself but I had the co-axial hooked up backwards. After I switched it over, installed a driver for the tuner card and scanned for available channels I got all our local listings, just like on the regular TV.

However … and this could be big … besides the regular voices there’s an overlay of sound that’s somewhere between ticking and gurgling and it’s very LOUD. Anybody?!

 

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