Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Media Entertainment Center Perfection (almost)

When you live on a small yacht like BeBe, you are always trying to get the most enjoyment out of the limited space and resources.  With anything electric, resources means the amount of current that is consumed by the item bringing you enjoyment.

OK, most of you that know us, know that we consume more electricity than most anyone our size.  Well, we have 2 freezers and a fridge/freezer, washer/dryer, dishwasher, 4 computers, hair dryers, fans, A/C and Heat, water heater, water maker, yadda, yadda, yadda.  We use electricity!

We make our own electricity, 230vAC (European), with a 7.5kw Onan diesel generator and we store the electricity in a bank of 13 105 amp/hr batteries.  When the generator is not running we have 24vDC & 12vDC available for DC gadgets and 230vAC - 1,800 watt from an inverter connected to the above batteries.  So, we can basically run anything until the battery power is gone, then we start the generator to recharge the batteries.  We normally run the generator for 3 hours a day (1.5 morning and 1.5 evening).

Now to my subject: Media Entertainment Center Perfection (almost).  When we first moved aboard, I bought a portable 12vDC DVD player that lasted about a month.  Then I bought a 12vDC car DVD player that lasted about 6 months.  Then I changed out the boat's AM/FM radio (like a car) for a AM/FM/CD/DVD player that worked OK, but the DVD player could not be hacked to country code zero.  You see the Hollywood music gurus invented country codes that prohibit you from running a DVD sold in Australia on a DVD player that is set for North America.  You have 2 choices: Buy only Chinese knock-off/pirated DVD's which work on any country code, or buy a DVD player that you can get the hack codes to convert it to play any country's code.  Got it?  Those Hollywood geniuses came up with something that they thought was good for them, but it forced us to buy Chinese knock-off/pirated DVD's.  OK, I admit we liked buying new releases for $2.00, but we were prepared to be law-abiding world-citizens, up to a point.  Oh, get this, when I complained to the proper authorities, they suggested that I buy my DVD's from Amazon because Amazon will ship worldwide.  I checked this out while in Malaysia.  Buy the time that I paid for the $39.95 DVD, FedEx shipping costs and Malaysian import/customs duty, the total came to $136...and I might go to jail for life if I ordered something that this Muslim country deemed pornographic!

Long story, short version: For $59 we bought a JVC DVD player that we could hack to country code zero and play anything including Chinese knock-off/pirated DVD's.  Unfortunately, it runs on 230vAC.  But we have 230vAC available when connected to shore power anywhere in the world except Japan and the USA.  And, we have 230vAC available when running the generator, or we can run the inverter and "convert" 24vDC battery power to 230vAC.  Are you making notes, yet?

When we moved on the boat, I bought a 12vDC 17" monitor that had A/V inputs as well as computer inputs.  So after I bought the JVC 230vAC DVD player above, we could watch DVD's at anchor while running the generator or the inverter.  Problem is that this expensive $900 monitor was really a piece of trash.  Additionally, it did not have HDMI.  So, while in Singapore, we found a TEAC 19" monitor that would fit in our entertainment "hole" perfectly.  It was also a TV with worldwide channel capability and had VGA, HDMI, Composite, S-Video and A/V inputs.  Wow, almost perfect, but it uses 230vAC.  At the time, I rationalized buying it because we had to have 230vAC to run the DVD player, oh well!

A year passed and things are changing rapidly.  Look at the photo below.  You will see the JVC DVD player and the TEAC 19" monitor.  Look closer and you will see a WD TV Live Hub.  This is a really cool product.  It has a Western Digital 1tb hard drive (1,000gigs) and Western Digital software that helps you catalog videos, music, photos and more.  The remote control allows you to easily page through selections and/or play lists and find and play what you want.  We now have over 900 videos and 14,000 songs on this device.  

Ah, you ask about voltage.  Well this comes with a little power brick that accepts international voltage on one side and outputs  12vDC to the device...and, remember, we have 12vDC without running a generator or inverter.  I took that little brick and snipped off the output wire and connected it to great.  This WD TV Live Hub connects via Ethernet to our network on BeBe.  And our network connects to the Internet via either 3g or WiFi, so the WD TV Live Hub has Internet.  It uses the Internet to get all sorts of content information about the videos and songs that you have, including minor things like album or DVD case jacket photos and reviews.  But, the big deal is that it will also connect to about 30 streaming video sources and it works great.  Also, note the USB connection on the front and back of the WD TV Live Hub.  You can plug USB storage devices into these to either augment the total storage or to play a friends video or audio from a USB stick.

The WD TV Live Hub outputs video and audio to HDMI which we have on the TEAC monitor.  It also outputs to AV, both audio and video.  This is a good thing because we wanted to play audio without having the TEAC 230vAC monitor on all the time.  But without the monitor's audio speakers ON, we needed an amp and speakers.

The Labtec computer speakers with sub-woofer was the perfect solution, and the sound is much better than the TEAC monitor speakers.  Same as above, the Labtec comes with a little power brick that accepts international voltage and frequency on one side and outputs  15vDC...and we have 12vDC (close) without running a generator or inverter.  I was not sure if the Labtec would work with a little less voltage, but decided to try it...took that little brick and snipped off the output wire and connected it to great.  

I only wish that I had a TV/Monitor that has a little power brick that I could snip and everything except the DVD player would be working on 12vDC.  There is one on eBay, but getting it here is difficult, and the one I have works fine:

So, all of you that have the ability to copy or Tivo good movies and TV series to a hard drive or some sort of mass storage, "all I want for Christmas is a copy..." and I will be bringing a USB 1tb hard drive home with me in December.

I guess I left out the part that since the TEAC is a TV and a monitor, all it took was enough coax cable to run to the TV connection when we are at a marina, and viola, we were watching TV.  Only down-side is that we are not at a marina that often.

Questions or Comments, please.

Don't forget about Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. That's quite a set up! As a "new" cruiser, I was encouraged by your recounting of the iterative process. Lesson learned: we can't expect perfection right out of the shoot, but we can keep "tweaking" until it works for us.


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