G-Rated Non-Gaming Fun with your Wii ...And PlayStation 3
First, all of you sick bastards playing with your "Wii" can leave. I'm sure others with gasp at the thought of using their brand new console for something other than games, but these systems do have other uses people. Maybe it's just my geek side who enjoys fooling around with this, but hey when it's not only fun but useful, why not. I think the last time I used a console for something other than games was web surfing on Dreamcast. That's changed with Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PS3.
There is definitely more freedom with what you can do with a PlayStation 3 than a Wii, but I have been surprised at what Wii can all do. Some it even does better than PS3. Of course there are the obvious non-game PS3/Wii uses. Watching a BluRay Talladega Nights on PS3 is the most obvious answer (and Blu-Ray does look nice), but there are plenty more.
You can take the SD card out of your digital camera and view the photos on both the Wii and PS3, but Wii's Photo Channel is far superior to what PS3 can do. You can draw on Wii photos, play it as a puzzle, or even watch a slide show while listening to the latest Modest Mouse or Arcade Fire MP3.
Protip: While on the puzzle size selection screen, hold down button 1 on the Wii remote to get an option to play a 192 piece puzzle. Good luck with that one!
Web browsing can be done on both. PS3's is more robust with up to 6 tabs, HD, USB keyboard/mouse support, bookmarks that don't take a minute to load. Though Wii's browser is still in 'trial' form, and playing flash games can be cool (see Duck Hunt). Wii also has the Forecast Channel (NOT Weather Channel, they don't want to be sued Nbrid style) which while fun to spin the globe around isn't all that useful. Maybe the News Channel will be.
You can listen to music (CDs, MP3s) on PS3 which is mainly worth mentioning because they've added some nice visualizations to display while listening. In a nice change of pace from the usual proprietary accessories, using any Bluetooth headset, USB keyboard, and/or camera you have lying around you can can chat online with PSN friends. You can also watch movies, and I don't just mean on DVD or BD. You can download game and movie trailers from the PlayStation Store, or you can move your own videos over to the PS3. To my surprise, you can do this on Wii too. Which gets us to the next section.
I came across this site called Red Kawa. What it offers really isn't anything magical, it's just a video converter and a web server, but it is tailored to Wii and PS3. You just need to download the Video 9 video converter and the Media Center and you can watch the latest episode of Scrubs on your Wii. (Despite the fact there are Wii and PS3 downloads for each, they're the same thing just with a different name.)
The converter is pre-setup with options for various MPEG and FLV (flash, more on this in a bit) settings tailored for the Wii and PS3. Each has it's own setting since the PS3 can obviously handle more than the Wii. I'm not sure what it all converts from except that DivX works and that's all that really matters. All you do is select your console and file and off it goes (there's another program called Videora you can combine with your favorite BitTorrent client - read: uTorrent - to download and automatically convert files but I haven't tried it). Now to get the file to your Wii/PS3...
On your Wii you really have two options. You can transfer the file to a SD card (you'll need at least a 1 gig card if you ever plan on watching 24 since the default MJPEG file settings are about 500megs for a half hour of the Venture Bros.) and pop this in your Wii. If you go into the Photo Channel it will find the file and you can play it. You can only play it (meaning you can't fast forward/rewind or even pause it), but you can use all the photo fun on it, including the puzzle feature. The quality isn't fantastic, but it's really not bad.
The other way to watch on the Wii involves the Media Center. Just download it, install, and run. It's really just a mini-web server. In the Wii Internet Channel (this also works on PS3) enter your PC's IP address as it is on your local network (so something like http://192.168.1.1:8192) and you can now browse your computer files on your Wii. If you go to the movie section you can find files you converted to FLV. Click on one and you're now watching My Name is Earl. Though the video quality for this seems even less right now (especially on Wii).
Protip: In order to actually access the files the folder they are in needs to be added to the Media Center. On your PC launch the Media Center, go to Settings > Software > Edit Settings > click here. Also make sure if you're running firewall software that it's not blocking this program.
On the PS3 there are a few more options besides just encoding your files in a much higher quality. The easiest way is to just copy the file to a flash drive. Plug it into your PS3 and you can watch it much like you watch Goonies on DVD. You can also use the Media Center to browse to the file and then download it to PS3's harddrive to watch The Office directly from there.
Protip: While watching a video, hit Triangle to bring up the menu. From there when you select the Change Icon option it will save the next 15 seconds of the clip to use as an icon on the XMB for this file.
That all may seem like a lot, but once you have it set up it's really quite simple to just convert, copy, and watch.
Of course the big thing on PS3 is the ability to install linux. I downloaded Yellow Dog Linux and installed that (there are also PS3 installs for the Fedora, Debian, and Gentoo flavors). I was disappointed you can only partition 10 gigs for the install (either that or only keep 10 gigs for PS3 which isn't enough), but it was a relatively easy process to install (it took over an hour but only required a few minutes of manual input on my part). I haven't done much with it yet since I couldn't get it to recognize PS3's WiFi right now, but I did drag a wire across my apartment just so I could try posting on the Nbrid forum once with Firefox. Overtime though this could be quite cool, in a dorky sort of way.
Okay, so most of this really isn't all that special, yet. And it does have its fair share of issues (FLV files over 3 minutes usually end up freezing your Wii). But these systems aren't even two months old. Overtime hopefully Nintendo will release more channels. Sony will hopefully continue to update the XMB (there's supposedly a huge update scheduled for March). Maybe we'll even see some cool homebrew. For now I'll still spend most of my time playing Zelda or Resistance or Grip Shift or Gran Turismo HD or...
So what did I all miss?