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Make your TV smart

MIT course on electricity and magnetism, iTunes

I got rid of my television when I left San Francisco, and I didn’t buy a new one until two months ago. As a movie-watching machine, I missed having a television. But I had almost forgotten how appallingly, incomprehensibly stupid broadcast television is. I don’t have cable or satellite. I just can’t justify the cost of it.

But here’s a cheap way to smarten up your television. Apple’s iTunes is available for both Macintosh and PC. The iTunes application is free to use, unless you buy a song, or a movie, or a television show through iTunes. It comes installed on Macintoshes, of course, but you can download it for your PC. In addition to songs and videos for sale, iTunes also has a lot of free content in the form of audio and video podcasts. There is also “iTunes U” — podcast courses from ivy league schools like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. I’ve been downloading the courses on physics and electrical engineering, but there’s also history, literature, language, health and medicine, etc.

You can watch these podcasts on your Macintosh or PC, of course. But I prefer to watch them on a larger television screen in a more comfortable room. There are two ways to get iTunes video to your television. You can use your computer to burn a DVD, and then play the DVD in your television’s DVD player. Or you can buy Apple TV, a $229 box that attaches to your television and wirelessly copies all your video and audio from iTunes to your television set. I aspire to having an Apple TV, but that has not yet come up in my miserable budget.

Downloading video over the Internet may take some time, but it gives your computer something to do when you’re not otherwise using it.

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