ZV Zinc, in beta as this is written, is the software half of a PC-controlled whole-house video distribution system. It works to collect online media resources such as Hulu and Netflix and send it to a TV or to work on the PC using a Windows Media Center remote. Here we download it and try it out.
Introduction - ZeeVee Zinc and ZvBox
What many older home television systems have in common is coax, or coaxial cable. As our family's house was being completed in the early eighties, I took advantage of a free weekend to wire the entire house with a coaxial distribution system with outlets in each room and a whole-house (antenna) amplifier in the laundry/utility room. Since switching to satellite television a few years ago, the wired system has been unused.
ZvBox is ZeeVee's hardware solution. It's a set-top box that hooks to your PC to distribute your online media and on-PC media (such as DVDs and Blu Ray discs) to HDTV televisions on your existing coaxial distribution system. It creates a "new" channel called "Zv," so in order to tune it, a digital television is required.
ZeeVee Zinc, as mentioned previously, is a software component that complements a ZvBox system and works independently with your PC and Internet connection to act as an online video aggregator - and to work in conjunction with your Media Center remote. Like the new Hulu Desktop and the Windows Media Center, it can work full-screen on the PC or an attached HDTV and fulfill the ten-foot couch experience we expect with HD.
In order to display high definition content from your PC to your TV, you'll need video hardware that can provide a "protected path." This is called HDCP, for "high definition content protection." Any modern video card with HDMI output should provide this, and it will work with Blu Ray discs and CableCard-protected high-definition content from your cable company through the PC. (But note that special PCs with CableCards must be purchased; the components are not available for do-it-yourself.)
ZeeVee Zinc - Download and Install
The Zinc viewer can be downloaded directly from ZeeVee. We grabbed the Beta 3 version, and it was about a 20 MB download. The installation was standard and glitch-free.
For images, hover your mouse to see title, or click to enlarge.
Running ZeeVee Zinc
Zinc runs as an application inside your web-browser. We tested it using Firefox, and it started its own window labeled "Zinc," and it started full-screen. A complement of icons for different video portals and services is shown. Navigation in this screen can be done with the mouse, the directional buttons on the PC, or the directional buttons and back button on the remote. Hovering the mouse at top-screen also exposes a back button.
The following image shows Zinc running non-full-screen on the desktop where its web browser heritage can be plainly seen.
Running in the web browser is not a bad thing at all, since the content that Zinc acts as a portal for is all web-based.
How is Zinc better than Windows Media Center or the Hulu Desktop? Though it is still in beta, Zinc currently offers more choices of content. Zinc is also easier to customize. For example, go to the link
using Zinc, and you'll see more content (TV shows, sports, webisodes) that you can add. This page also shows a technique you can use to create your own links inside Zinc.
So does using ZeeVee Zinc shine on the desktop and at ten feet?
Yes, it's very convenient that it gathers so many links in one place and that it works with a Media Center remote. Beyond that, however, it's not noticeably more convenient or effective than the Hulu Desktop, and it does not offer the terrific integration of the remote that Windows Media Center does.
However, it's a free application, and from time to time it will be a pleasant alternative to using the other ten-foot solutions, and it may become your favorite portal application. When bundled with a ZvBox, it may prove to be the best way to get high definition video distributed over an existing television coaxial cable system.
Since Hulu Desktop is also in beta, and Windows Media Center will apparently never be finished, we give an overall thumbs up for ZeeVee Zinc.
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