IT Solutions: How To Build A Poor Man’s Netflix Entertainment System

A Poor Man's Netflix Viewing System
A Poor Man’s Netflix Viewing System

Normally in this blog I try to cover issues that are facing CIOs and everyone who works for them. You know, things like aligning IT with the rest of the business, staffing and retaining the best talent, prioritizing IT projects, that sort of thing. But not today.

Instead, I’m going to take a break from such weighty matters and tell you about how a cheap bastard (me) built his own 21st Century entertainment system. Oh, and how you can too.

So here was my dilemma: I’ve been a loyal Netflix subscriber for a number of years now. I realize that times are changing and that Netflix’s model of shipping DVDs out to customers won’t last much longer. In fact, they realize it too. That’s why a number of Netflix movies are now available to be watched online (I think that the list is about 21,000 and growing).

Now a lot of these movies are trash – sorta like straight to DVD releases from back in the 80’s. But there are some gems among them: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, past Seasons of The Office, etc. I had spent some time watching these on my little laptop; however, there was a problem – the wife.

For some unexplained reason, she really, really did not like watching video on the little 13″ laptop screen. It might have been because I kept moving the screen so that I could see it, but I can’t say for sure. No matter what, if I was going to tap into all the video goodness that Internet held I was going to need to find a better solution.

Now the folks at Netflix had a bunch of different solutions for my problem: I could get an Xbox 360 and link to the Internet and Netflix though this. Or I could go out and get a Roku device that can link to the Internet and stream Netflix movies to the TV.  However, as always, there was a problem – both of these solutions cost money. Did I mention that I’m a cheap bastard?

One more small item added to my complications: my main TV is quite old. In fact I believe that I bought it back in 1991 just about when 35″ TVs became affordable. My heart is filled with lust for those big 50″ LCD systems that I see every time I go out to Best Buy, but the engineer in me refuses to buy one until OLED units become available / affordable. So I don’t have any of those fancy computer to fancy-TV hook up ports to use.

Poor Man's Analog TV Ports: Video, Left Sound, Right Sound
Poor Man’s Analog TV Ports: Video, Left Sound, Right Sound

So what did I do? I went to Radio Shack, of course. I figured that there had to be some way to hook my very generic HP laptop up to my older TV. It turns out that there is! I needed to get two parts:

  1. A 6-Ft. S-Video to RCA Video Cable (Radio Shack part #15-3027)
  2. A 6-Ft (1.82m) Shielded Audio Cables – One 1/8″ stereo right-angle plug to two phono plugs (Radio Shack part #42-2483)

The (empty) boxes look like this:

Radio Shack Parts Boxes (Empty)
Radio Shack Parts Boxes (Empty)

After making my purchases, I hurried home to try out my Frankenstein video creation. To make a long story short, it worked. Here’s an ugly side view to show you what the hook up looks like:

The Final Ugly Poor Man's Netflix Solution

So there you have it: yet more proof that every technical problem has a cheapskate solution!