Creating an immersion environment

I confess I've fallen behind in my Japanese studies (though I have published a book about Video Game Programming, so it's not all bad :D).

I've decided to kick start my learning once again and I think one of the places I was suffering before was not enough natural Japanese exposure. I used Anki a lot and it has tons of content which I'm very familiar with but with out natural Japanese exposure my knowledge of how it all glues together is very limited.

To that end, I decided what I really needed was to live in Japan (which I'm not going to do at the current time) or have access to non-stop Japanese TV. I'm fortunate that I live on my own and can therefore easily create an immersion environment without annoying anyone else too much.

An immersion environment also gives me an excuse to buy some new toys mostly guilt free :)

I ordered the following two items and HDMI cable:
(I already have a TV but it's a CRT and doesn't support HDMI and I want things to be as simple as possible and as high quality as possible)

Samsung SM2333HD 1920 x 1080p 23inch HD Monitor/TV

UK     US (equivalent)

This was the TV that seems to have the best trade off between cheapness, size and quality for my immersion environment needs. There was some mention of the sound being a bit tinny but I'm pretty sure it will be good enough quality for my immersion environment needs.

Acer Aspire Revo R3610

UK     US (equivalent)

The Revo is the blue box on the back of this TV. If you are a bit techy you may have heard of the atom cpus. These are new CPUs that are ultra low power and still quite fast. The acer is a cheap, extremely small, low noise, lower power desktop machine that has HDMI out and is very, very easy to use as a media center. Connecting the Revo to the TV with HDMI means that I can watch Japanese television in high definition.

This is the computer that will play (and to some extent store) all my Japanese television programs.

(I shopped around and managed to find a slightly newer version cheaper on eBuyer than on Amazon but this probably varies day to day. I must add: the eBuyer website and in particular it's registration / checkout service are terrible and needlessly complicated and invasive. But slightly cheaper is slightly cheaper!)

Putting it all together.

My internet is not really fast or reliable enough to stream Japanese TV and I find such streaming sites can be slow or suddenly disappear. I want the immersion environment with as little fuss as possible - no messing around if I suddenly lose internet connection, or a streaming site goes down - just simple always on immersion.

I have quite a lot of video files of Japanese drama and some anime on my computer so I'm going to fill up the revo and have it shuffle them. I'll leave it on like background TV and that's it - simple. The revo is a full computer and it can play 1080p files, it won't have any codec trouble which something like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation certainly would (speaking from experience). With some tweaking it can be turned into a full media centre with remote control and a nice flashy GUI interface using something like the XBMC.

I can also grab more drama from sites like d-addicts. If you are going to use d-addicts they've recently changed how the torrents work if clicking the green arrow next to the torrent name doesn't work try clicking the red arrow :D

When choosing a suitable media centre computer I also considered the ASRock ION but it was more expensive and seemed to require a lot more tweaking to get it ready (installing operating systems and so on). It was also a bit bigger and forum posts said it could be a bit noisy - which is the exact opposite of what I'm after. I don't need something like the Xbox 360 where it's a like a small jet engine shuddering away under the TV :)


I'm now happily using this set-up. Nodame Cantabile is playing in the background at a nice high resolution totally divorced from this computer which I use for anki / web browsing / programming.

The default OS for the Acer is pretty rubbishy so I followed this very handy Lifehacker article and installed XMBC (using the Live Disk put on a USB key. My Revo has no net connection but luckily this proved to be no problem, I can just copy everything across).

The Samsung TV has a bit of overscan too which is very simple to correct in XMBC, there's a video calibration mode where you can pull the corners of the screen in. It's very happily playing 720p at the moment I don't have any 1080p files on there yet but from what I hear it should all be fine.

I had to fiddle a little with the options to get the HDMI sound working but it's all great now, total setup was maybe an hour or two.
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