It’s the weekend. You are probably sitting on the sofa watching your 50" plasma TV, trying to decide which of the 550 channels you want to switch to, or whether to pop a Blu-ray disc in the hi-def player.
Come Monday evening it’ll be back to the 23" RCA tube TV with 18 channels of crap while sitting on top of the far too hard/far too soft (pick one) bed.
If only there was a way to get something decent on that TV…
(Nothing described here is really "hacking", no theft of service is involved and you won’t run up any charges on your bill)
If you are in a decent hotel that recently upgraded their rooms you may already be looking at a fairly acceptable HD TV, but it’s still a rarity. Many Starwood and Hyatt properties have started upgrading their old systems to new HD TV’s. But if you are not that lucky, then this article may help you out.
The vast majority of TV’s in hotels are from "Lodgenet", but regardless of the system the hotel uses the TV itself is the key. Almost every TV has several inputs; one for the cable, and at least one for "AUX" or ‘LINE IN". By using that Line-In connector, and your laptop, iPod (or another decent video source) you can be in charge of what you watch.
But there is a flaw in that plan, and it’s called "the remote control". Hotels are so scared that you’ll steal the remote that they usually replace the standard one with a very cheap and more limited version. And they take away all the fun buttons. Especially the one that lets you change the input (Some hotels have the video input buttons on the front of the TV, or on channel 0 or 100, try that before anything else)
Now, what if you were smart enough to bring your own remote along with you? Suddenly you are in charge of the TV (as it should be) and you can tell the TV to change to the video input. You also get the added bonus of a remote that actually works without having to walk right up to the TV and put your full body weight on the volume button to turn it up a little.
You have 2 ways of accomplishing this. Cheap, and not so cheap (or; not so geeky, and very geeky).
The cheap/not so geeky method involves a simple $10 universal remote control. Pick one up at your local Radio Shack, Best Buy or other electronics retailer. Make sure you bring both the remote AND the sheet with "programming codes" along with you.
Before we go on; a quick word of warning; I’m not responsible for anything you do to the poor hotel TV. It’s suffered enough over the years. If you break it, don’t tell the hotel manager I told you to. If you switch to an input and can’t get back to normal channels, hide your remote and call maintenance (tell them to bring a new TV with them).
When you get to the hotel you’ll first check whether the TV even has video inputs. Then you’ll check the front to see if there is an "input" button, and do the same on the remote. If it’s the kind of TV I usually run into then you’ll have to grab your programmable remote and the programming cheat sheet.
Find the TV brand, and follow the instructions on how to program it. Many TV brands have 4 or 5 codes, so start with the first code. Try changing the volume using that code. If it works, you are in business, if not, move on to the next code till you find the right one.
Once you’ve found the working code, simply use the "input" button on your remote to switch to the video input, and skip to the end of this article to see what you can do with it.
Now for the geeky/expensive option (my favorite). It does the same as the $10 remote control, but it’s far more impressive and requires a computer. Get yourself a Logitech Harmony remote control. You’ll find them from around $60, all the way up to $500 (go for the $60 version). These remotes are programmable, but you’ll need a computer (and Internet access) to do so. The advantage of this is that Harmony has 1000′s of remote control codes, so no matter how old or obscure the TV is in your room, they’ll have a code for it.
Another handy feature is that the Harmony remote can be programmed for several different devices at the same time. You can even name them. So, if you are at the same hotel regularly you just name it "hotel x" in the remote.
Hooking stuff up to the TV
So, now you have been able to switch the TV to a video input it’s time to actually hook something up to it.
Most laptops have a video out connector on them somewhere. It’ll look like this:
Think back to when you opened the box your PC came in, and to that one black cable you couldn’t figure out what it was for. That was most likely the video out cable you’ll need. If you don’t have it, or you lost it then check Ebay for the correct one.
It’ll look like this and will cost around $5:
The three connectors on the end are for video (yellow) and audio (red/white).
Once you’ve plugged them into your laptop, you’ll have to let your laptop know that you are using the output. Check your laptop manual or use the CRT/LCD hotkey (usually one of the function buttons on your keyboard).
Now, start your DVD player software, Slingplayer or anything else that plays video.
Hooking up an iPod is even easier. All you need is the correct video cable. Plug one end into your iPod, and the other into the TV, make sure you have "TV Out" enabled on the iPod.
A quick word of warning; if you have a new iPod (80Gb or 160Gb) you will need the newest Apple video cable.
Now sit back and enjoy something decent., but please be sure to switch the TV back to the normal channels before you leave, just in case the next occupant of the room isn’t interested in hooking up his iPod.