Recently, we’ve been watching some videos on our TV via our Mac, using an appropriate video adapter and Front Row. Which works pretty well; I don’t plan to make a habit of it, but it’s nice to know that the option is available for the times when I want it.

Actually, I take that back: it works okay, but there are some flaws. Front Row works badly with multiple monitors: it’s unwilling to display on only the second monitor (or rather, I’ve gotten it to do that twice, but I can’t repeat that, and suspect that what I ran into was a bug rather than a feature). This means that, to watch stuff on TV, I have to have the laptop set to a small resolution, which is ugly. (And which takes more clicking than I’d like to switch out of, and it also rearranges my desktop icons.) Also, the laptop goes to sleep if the lid is shut, even if another monitor is connected (cooling issues?), which means that I leave it mostly closed and watch the movie on the TV while weird flickering shadows are mimicking it on the part of the laptop that I can see. And the remote is cute, but I think I’d want a few more buttons if I were using the computer as a DVD player. (Maybe not, though.)

Still, it’s good enough that I can easily imagine not buying another standalone DVD player: a Mac mini (or new Apple TV model?) that was plugged in directly to our TV would probably do just fine, and could also serve double-duty for other purposes. (E.g. iTunes storage.) I’m not sure Apple has just the product I want yet, but they’re fumbling around in that area, and maybe they’ll produce the machine/software I want soon enough.

Which raises the question: what is it that I want? I certainly need something that can work as a DVD player (which you would think is a no-brainer, but rules out the current iteration of Apple TV). My current DVD player is also a DVR, and I would prefer to keep that functionality. (Such as it is: the machine is complete crap, and while it has deigned to start reading DVDs again, it still frequently forgets to record TV shows.) The digital transition is happening in under a year, though, and I assume Comcast will use that as an excuse to force me off of analog, at which point my current DVR won’t work anyways, and I’ll probably have to go through Comcast to get that functionality. A lower price than the current Mac mini would be nice, too.

And then there’s always Blu-Ray: maybe I’ll actually care about that a year from now? And maybe Apple will have released a computer with a Blu-Ray drive? Which I have decidedly mixed feelings about: there seem to be significant technical costs to supporting it in your operating system, and while Apple might do a better job of navigating those costs than Microsoft did, I’m not convinced they’ll be able to really avoid them. So it looks more likely to me that I’d want to go the PS3 route if I wanted a Blu-Ray player. (And eventually there will be PS3 games that I feel compelled to play, won’t there?) Honestly, though, I feel not the slightest urge to switch off of DVDs right now, and I don’t see that changing for several years.

No clear conclusions, and I’m pretty sure we’ll stick with our current setup through 2008. But maybe we’ll fiddle around with this in 2009, depending on the effects of the digital transition and on what hardware is available.

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