by Jeff Smith
Your computer can be used for entertainment in many
diverse ways. Many of you already use it for
communication and games, but it is possible to get
much much more than that from your machine.
In our house, we've not had a TV for a few years
now. No cable, no dish. We've just had our
computers and our broadband internet connection.
We've not missed TV at all, in fact, when we go to our
friend's houses, commercials usually catch us by
If you're one of those people who just can't live
without your bigscreen, don't worry, using a video
card with a TV-out, you can output whats on your PC
monitor to your TV screen, regardless of its size.
And they make wireless keyboards these days with a
100-foot range, so there's no doubt that it will reach
to your La-Z-Boy. As with gaming, I'm going to break
this topic up over the next few weeks so that I can
get into more detail. But to give you an idea of
what will be covered, you can use your computer to
replace your stereo, dvd-player, cable/satelite box,
DVR/Tivo, and also record from your camcorder to
capture and edit your home movies.
REPLACING/INTERFACING YOUR STEREO WITH YOUR PC
Most of you probably already know this, but for
those of you who don't... as long as your computer has
a CD drive in it, you can use it to play store-bought
audio disks. Windows Media Player does this just
fine, and in fact, you can save songs from your audio
disks to your harddrive so you don't have to switch
out the disk every time you want to hear a song. You
can have your entire CD collection living on your hard
drive and mix up custom playlists to suit whatever
mood strikes you.
You can also download music from the internet from
places like MP3.com, Lulu.com and from programs like
Itunes and those "other" programs.
For radio, with DJ's and everything, there's
Shoutcast.com Shoutcast uses the net to stream
internet radio stations to your computer. While you
won't find out local weather and events from internet
radio, you will find much more variety than anything
you could possibly tune in on AM, FM, XM or Sirius. I
like to listen to the stream from Beatlesradio.com
Now you may be wondering how those tiny PC speakers
are supposed to measure up to a full-fledged stereo.
Well, if you already have a nice sound system, they
don't have to. If your stereo has RCA-jacks on the
back you can buy a cord from Radioshack (1/8th in.
male stereo plug to male stereo RCA plugs) for under
$10 that will let you hear your PC through your
stereo. If your stereo doesn't have inputs on the
back, you can spend a bit more and get an FM
transmitter to pump your PC to your FM dial.
If you don't have a pumping stereo, you can always
invest in a set of premium PC speakers. They can get
as big and loud as the best stereo systems out there.
Though keep in mind that if you want to get a 7.1
Surround Sound setup, that you'll need a soundcard
that outputs in that many channels. It all comes down
to how much you want to spend.
Next week, I'll cover playing DVD's on your PC.
Questions or comments, write me at