Home Theater

Neuros OSD Video Media Player and Recorder, Page 1 of 4

Managing movies with the Neuros OSD

30 years ago, my wife and I made a decision that has had a huge impact on our life ever since. We decided not to subscribe to cable TV. We've never had it in our home. Instead, we decided to take the money we would save each month and buy the best movies hollywood ever produced. 30 years ago that allowed us to buy 1 or 2 movies on VHS tapes every month. Later on, we started buying movies on DVD.

Fast forward 30 years, and we now have thousands and thousands of licensed, commercial movies in a very extensive library. About 400 of those licensed titles came to us in VHS format. The rest are on DVDs that we keep carefully organized, in alphabetical order, in their original jewel cases, in a large set of library-style cabinets.

Like many people, we've retired our old cathode-ray TV sets in favor of more modern technology. We have a 42" plasma TV mounted on a wall in the bedroom. We have a big LCD panel TV in our upstairs media room. We also have a projector that we break out from time to time, and we have several PCs throughout the house. We enjoy relaxing for an evening of good movies. If it's a "big" movie with great video effects and surround sound, we watch it upstairs in our amazing media room. If it's just an old TV sitcom we're more likely to watch it downstairs or on one of the PCs.

Like many people, we haven't fully switched to "HD" (High Definition) yet. Although our PCs and big-screen TVs can view HD media, we've observed that many of the DVDs in our collection were carefully made with very good video quality, and the "upscaler" technology in our best DVD players make them look fantastic. We know that some of them could look even better in HD, but when we look at the value of our huge movie collection in DVD format, we get discouraged at the prospect of buying them all over again. For us, the value proposition just isn't there yet. For all but the newest, most exotic movies, DVD is "Good Enough". In fact, we have fond memories of the amazing quality that we sometimes observed way back in the VHS era, when we bought a movie on VHS that was particularly well done. Even that is still "Good Enough".

But we had to do something! 3 years ago I observed that great VHS players were getting harder and harder to come by, and that we would soon be unable to buy blank VHS tapes. The picture quality of some of our oldest VHS tapes had obviously degraded, and some of the tapes actually became brittle and broke. We also had a substantial collection of our own old "Home Movies" on VHS tapes that needed attention.

I decided to make "backup" copies of our VHS tapes. We converted some of them to DVD format, but I found it cumbersome to convert to or backup a DVD, and there were problems playing the resulting DVD discs in some of our players. After struggling with various combinations of DVD+R, DVD-R DVD-RW, DVD-RAM, and determining that there was just no universal answer that would play on all of our old and new equipment, I went looking elsewhere.

Eventually, I found happiness with the Neuros OSD. I like it so much that I bought 3 of them, and I've connected them to our WiFi network to make them central to all of our home entertainment activities.

Now, we can easily, instantly watch any of those movies, anytime we want, from any of the TVs or PCs in our house. We've got a networked, online copy of every one of our licensed movie titles, and we've got a reliable "backup copy" on a separate hard disk to protect the value of our large collection from unforseen technological disasters. We can even copy a few favorites onto our iPods or cell phones to view on the road. When we want the "full" cinematic experience, we can always go upstairs to retreive the original DVD, but we find ourselves doing that less and less frequently. It's just terribly convenient to pick up the OSD's remote control and browse our entire collection from the "sit-back" comfort of our home's easy chairs!

What is this OSD thing anyway?

The Neuros OSD is a small, low-power, low-cost, special-purpose computer. Hidden under its sleek, black skin, it's powered by a carefully customized version of LINUX. It's been optimized to record and play back video. Like our old VHS players, it's not perfect. It doesn't support HD. It doesn't even quite have the resolution of DVD. But it's close. For us, it's "Good Enough". For video in a home entertainment situation, it's "The Little Computer That Could!"

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