[FoRK] What do you think of my http://techcrunch.com/2013/07/24/google-chromecast/

Ken Meltsner meltsner at alum.mit.edu
Thu Jul 25 08:05:21 PDT 2013

On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM, Gregory Alan Bolcer <greg at bolcer.org>wrote:

> On 7/25/2013 7:19 AM, Ben (B.K.) DeLong wrote:
>> Goddamn showoff. ;)
> We updated our 13-year old Dish receiver.  Let that sit there for a
> while.....13 year old TV technology, cables, service, and remote controls.
> That seemed to be the finger coming out of the dyke leading to all the new
> tvs, boxes, services, etc.   It's like trying to replace a spark plug on a
> 1971 lime green Ford Pinto, one flap of those butterfly wings and next
> thing you know you've gone and replaced everything out of necessity.

Yep.  And HD sets are really, really nice in case you need a push down that
slippery slope.

The biggest obstacle for several people I know was the need to upgrade
their entertainment center/furniture -- especially the ones with the nicely
proportioned 4:3 hole for a TV.  It's amazing how much space you lose when
you replace a standard TV with an HDTV if it has to fit in the same hole.

Here's my solution from 4 years ago -- it has worked great: hang the TV
from an arm attached to a pair of columns in the old "hole."  TV floats in
front of the entertainment center and since it's on a moveable arm, it can
be repositioned if it's blocking something useful.


It's a common problem, of course. Our old entertainment center was sized
for the TVs of yesteryear. We bought it when we bought our first house (in
Schenectady NY) and we've dragged it along ever since -- Bill (Thing 1 for
long-time readers) was less than 2 years old when we first set it up, and
Thing 2 was probably 3 or 4 when we bought our last TV, a whopping 31" set,
the largest that would fit into the "hole" in the middle.

Times change, sets have grown, and worst of all, the aspect ratio has
changed. Now, some of our favorite shows are shot in 16:9 and the huge 31"
screen is whittled away with letterboxing; 2001 was a thin stripe given its
2.3:1 aspect ratio.
So, we wanted a new set. The aspect ratio made it tough -- a set that was
small enough for the space wouldn't have a screen appreciably larger,
although it would be wider so that l'boxed shows would look better. But
size always trumps common sense.

The other problem was that I didn't want to move the contents of the
entertainment center; I'm embarrassed to show the whole thing, but there
are records (LPs), cassettes, books (mostly graphic novels and coffee table
books), ancient stereo components, laser disks, and much more. Most of the
possible replacements lack the sheer capacity, and I was worried that we
would succumb to creeping upgrade syndrome -- make a single change and
everything else needs to be updated and improved to match. Let's see: new
stereo, new DVD, digitize the old records and tapes -- it was too much to

Luckily, I realized we didn't need the TV to fit *in *the hole -- if it
covered it, that was probably sufficient. First I considered extending the
shelf outwards -- a simple addition of some plywood and trim, probably. But
this wouldn't be quite large enough for the TV of our dreams. I could let
the TV overlap the clunky edging, gaining a few inches of width and height,
but any more and the TV would block the stereo doors and the components on
either side. I also realized that the TV would be difficult to reposition,
and given the reduced viewing angle of an LCD TV, it would be difficult to
watch while exercising (hah! as if that was likely). A movable arm would be
the perfect solution and would allow us to get the seemingly huge 46" set
of our dreams. In normal use, the TV would float in front of the hole -- it
looks surprisingly good that way -- but could be shifted for access to the
components or the storage above and below the hole.
I love an engineering challenge -- it makes me feel like a real man.
After much thinking, I managed to solve the problem of where to mount the
arm with scrap plywood. The two columns are unneeded bookshelves (leftovers
from when we used two of our bookcases for paperbacks and could fit the
shelves 8 or so inches apart instead of at hardcover-friendly intervals).
To make sure they were stiff enough -- the arm and TV are close to 100 lbs
and much of that weight might be extended close to 26", I used a stack of
plywood offcuts (roughly 1-1/2" by 3") strips of plywood to reinforce each
piece vertically. There's also a long piece of hardwood next to each stack,
although I can't remember why it thought this was necessary -- probably to
counteract any tendency to creep under load. The columns ended up with a
shallow "T" cross-section. They were assembled with lots of screws and
glue, although the shelves were previously finished so the reinforcement is
mostly mechanical. The shelves were already edged (on the front) with a
nice oak bullnose, so they only needed to be cut to fit the height of the
hole. It's an interference fit even without the sag caused by the weight of
the laser disks above the hole -- probably not necessary, but I thought it
would help reinforce things.

After I made the columns, I mounted 2x6 blocks (more scrap) at the top and
bottom of the hole, set back about 5" to accommodate the folded thickness
of the arm. There's an inch or so between the columns for cables, and to
avoid the need to join the two shelves. I used a heavy rawhide-headed
hammer to "adjust" (bash) the columns into place. Rows of screws attach
each column to the blocks, and the blocks in turn are screwed to the
shelves above and below. I ran a few screws through the top shelf into the
top block -- screws have lousy holding power in particleboard and I wanted
to make sure that the block wasn't pulled out by the weight of the arm and

The end result is exactly what I wanted -- the arm can be fully extended
and the TV turned to face the treadmill, or placed back against the
entertainment center -- the set is only a few inches thick. The arm also
allows us to tilt the TV if Wii users want to set on the floor (the
controller cable is only 6' long, although an extension cable is likely to
be ordered soon).
The arm also gives me full access to the connectors on the back of the set;
a real luxury after years of reach-behinds and precarious set rotations.

*Warning*: our entertainment center is really heavy (the main piece is
about 55" wide) and is loaded with lots of really heavy stuff. It doesn't
shift a bit when the TV is fully extended, but even so, I plan to add a
strap to keep the whole thing from tipping over in the unlikely event that
someone trips, catches the arm and adds his body weight to the lever arm.
Or if a visiting child decides to do pull-ups on the arm. *Anyone that
tries to duplicate this arrangement do so at his or her own risk*, and
should attach their entertainment center securely to the wall.


Columns: roughly 9" x 25" each, oak plywood with reinforcements.
Screws: Spax. #8x2"
Arm: Sanus Systems, 26" max extension. Mounted with the supplied lag
screws, but through bolts might have been better.
TV: Samsung LN46B640

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