IVB\’s Home Theater and Home Automation

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Archive for the ‘Home Theater Automation’ Category

The blog comes back to life, but for a bad reason.

Posted by IVB on November 6, 2007

Oy. What would make me revive this thread?

Anger. Severe Anger. At Myself.

My god**%*&%&  NuVo Concerto that I bought off eBay for $500 turned out to be not such a good deal. It just died. 

If you consider that I bought the Xantech ZPR68 for $200ish 2 years ago, then this, for just a few hundred more I could have gotten something under warranty new.

I’m unsure about what to do next, figure i’ll sleep on it and ask Martin @EHX (get this one fixed and pay for it, etc).

Damn, damn, damn.


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HT led me to HA, led me to HR (home repair)

Posted by IVB on August 5, 2007

Interesting thing, this HA journey, and interesting places it’s led me.

I took a half-day off yesterday, had this burning desire not to shop at newegg (haven’t bought parts in weeks/months), not to muck with my interfaces or rules (haven’t touched screens or event engine in months), but to go to Home Depot and get some plywood, romex, and junction boxes for the basement server rewiring.  Initially I was just going to put up walls, but then decided that running the physical romex wasn’t that big a deal, I’d just get an electrician in to examine my stapling and do the terminations both at the box and at the panel. Oh, and maybe a fan. And a light.

Today, my in-laws decided to recruit me to help do some *very* simple work at their house. Replacing light fixtures, switches, outlets, etc.  I figured that would be simple and maybe 2 hours of work, esp after what i’ve been through, and given that their house was totally redone 25 years ago.  Well wouldn’t you know it, they picked the one room that hadn’t been touched in many decades, so that sucked up the whole day.

Anyhow, the point i’m trying to make is that dipping my toe into the HA pool led me to basic home wiring led me to basic home repair and has now led me to intermediate home repair. There have been some very interesting CQC developments, esp with the V2.2 that’s going G/A this week, but i’m still more interested in running that romex than integrating my iTunes with that new driver.

Normal people would have gone the other way, doing the wiring first, then going from there but there weren’t really any DIY’ers around 22ish months ago when I started down this road doing HA/HT and talking about it so I suppose the organic growth option has been entertaining.

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“Intro to HA” webinar recorded as a WMV file, now available.

Posted by IVB on July 23, 2007

The 125 Megabyte WMV file for the “Intro to HA” class is now available here (http://www.myhometheaterpc.com/downloads/Intro_To_HA.wmv) . As a reminder, here’s what we cover during that class:

1) Overview of what I did, why I did it, and how it helped. 5mins
2) CQC Overview & Architecture 5min
2) How to physically hook devices up to an HTPC for control – 5mins
3) How to tell CQC you have devices connected, and use it to easily create and render a screen to control them in realtime – 45mins
4) How to setup ElkRP to monitor your devices 15mins
5) How to use CQC’s event manager and the Elk together to perform the following: 15mins
5a) scheduled tasks (i.e., irrigation, turn off all devices at midnight)
5b) triggered tasks (i.e., turn off all devices when you ArmAway the Elk. turn on the light when you open the closet door)

There’s a few known issues with the session:

1) Readability of the text isn’t as good as it could be for 2 reasons:
1a) I forgot that I was recording it, left my laptop in 1280 x 800 mode. hence you see a really wide screen
1b) I didn’t put the ppt into “slideshow” mode for the first several minutes, so the above problem is worse.

2) Not all hardware was working at the time of the session. Like a putz, I was mucking with the server the morning of, didn’t realize I had accidentally pulled the zWave USB cable out until the session had started. Hence no zWave demo’s are done here.

I think that’s it, but let me know if you find anything. Also please let me know if you have any video codec issues – there were 2 options for the recording, I thought I picked the one where it transcoded into standard format. The first thing i’ll ask you to do is to go to gotomeeting.com and download their meeting software onto your PC, in case it’s a GTM codec thingey.

Grazie, and i’ll look to get both those and any other issues dealt with for the next session, which i’ll also record. One of these days i’ll get a clean session recorded.

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So you installed a zWave network. Now what?

Posted by IVB on July 3, 2007

If anyone is interested, I submitted the below article, just got put into zWaveWorld.


Here’s an excerpt:


So You Installed a Z-Wave Network, Now What?
By Vivek

If your situation is anything like mine, once you get the whole Z-Wave setup working reliably and show it to your spouse, they’ll say something like: “That’s nice, but what was wrong with using the light switches and the $5 automatic timers with the floor lamps?” I know the various Z-Wave manufacturers have been putting more intelligence into their controllers lately, but there are limits to what you’ll be able to do.

That is, unless you consider moving more into true Home Automation (HA). By Home Automation, I mean integration with non-Z-Wave systems to accomplish functionality that your spouse will appreciate including being able to:

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Ripped out all my wiring and started over.

Posted by IVB on July 1, 2007

Every time I do more and more with HA stuff, I realize how wrong I was 2 years ago when I questioned the value of CIs.

As you can tell by the age of the first post on this blog, i’ve been taking a very evolutionary & organic growth approach to my setup. I don’t actually know everything I want to do, I just know I always want more. And it always seems to need wiring. As a result, my wiring was really unplanned, and has become extremely spaghetti-like.  It was getting to the point where I was introducing instability due to wiring/shorts, which is really dumb. 

I decided to rip out all my wiring a few days ago and redo it. As I started doing it, I realized I hadn’t setup the physical space to be well organized for the amount of wiring I now have. It was fine when I thought there’d only be 15 runs of wire there, but i’m getting up there now, and it’s just not working. Well, my rewiring job has turned into a full server room rebuild. I decided that the physical space wasn’t really conducive to organized setups, so i’ve now spent 2.5 days redoing it. Not full days, but the wife has let me spend 4-5 hours per day so far on it.

Now, if I were a CI, first I’d know to plan out the wiring. 2nd, and this is really the bit i’m suffering from now, i’d know how to physically mount the various modules as I’d know which ones take up how much wire, and which ones don’t.  I kid you not – I spent probably 3 hours just looking and staring at the equipment, both on the floor as I was mocking it up, and again on the wall, trying to figure out how to best position all this stuff so I wouldn’t end up with spaghetti again.  No idea if I succeeded, time will tell.

Well, my rewiring job has turned into a full server room rebuild. I decided that the physical space wasn’t really conducive to organized setups, so i’ve now spent 2.5 days redoing it. Not full days, but the wife has let me spend 4-5 hours per day so far on it.

Here’s what I’ve got so far. I built a table and mounted the plywood, made all the more difficult by the fact that the room doesn’t have square walls or level floors or ceiling.  I mounted almost all my stuff.  There’s only 1 PC there now, the wife is watching SageTV as we speak so I couldn’t move the other one. I’ve also got some very temporary network wiring on the right side, as this is an in-situ rebuild, so i can’t take the whole system down for a week without wrath of wife/kids.  I just bought a smallish onwall hinged rackmount, 23″ high, 12″ deep, so I gotta figure out where to put that. The patch panel, switch, and AP800 will go in there. Only two choices are left wall or build a right wall. I’ll be building a right wall anyhow as I will have to put a dehumidifer in this room in the winter, and i’d just as soon wall off a 7’x7′ area and only dehumidify that rather than the whole room.

i took 2 pics – one with everything mounted and the cans closed, one with the cans open (and a piece of plastic holding up the Elk door).  I had a Bosch enclosure, so I put the CCTV power and Rain8Net in there, and I put my DSL modem in the Leviton SMC can.

There’s no wires run yet, i’m hoping to redo that over the next 3 days (taking whole week off work). Hopefully it still looks pretty after that.


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Oh thank god, DirecTV tuning is back.

Posted by IVB on June 6, 2007

Ah, there’s no such thing as a problem that money can’t solve!

Tuning on my DirecTV has been down for 3 weeks ever since I had the power outage thing. Looks like it was the PatersonTech cable, I bought a 2nd one, just got it, plugged it in, it works fine!  I just sent them a note asking them how to deal with fixing the old one.

The wife will be very happy – 3 weeks of only one channel of DirecTV (i left it on, with only HBO enabled) made her very sad.

Of course, now that I got a 2nd paterson cable, once it gets fixed I really should just get the 2nd D* STB and have 2 SDTVs recording at once. And I could get an HDHomerun, and get 2 more HDTV streams.

Plus, now that Squintz agreed to do the AP800 driver, looks like that’ll actually get done on a timely basis too.  Things are looking up in the IVB household!

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Concerto Keypads can talk to CQC!

Posted by IVB on May 24, 2007

Super Super Super Cool! Hats off to Robertmee, and *thank god* I got those concerto keypads, I can now use them to control CQC! 

Specifically I’ve so far set it up so that the next/prev/etc buttons control the CQC CD player, but it looks like you can do buckets with this.  I’m going to see how to use the digits to change XM stations. And for that eye-candy, supposedly he’s using it put the song information on the keypad when it’s changed but only on the keypads in zones that are actually on and tuned to that source. Seems eminently doable. The other supercool thing is that you can detect which zone’s keypad was used, so you can build additional logic. For example, I may put a keypad in my kids room, and set it up so that as soon as the zone is turned on via the keypad it’s set to XM disney or some such thing.

Very cool stuff.

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HA is such a timesuck sometimes…

Posted by IVB on May 17, 2007

How much do I hate Home Automation sometimes, let me count the ways.  I spent another 1.5 hours tonight trying to get the damn DirecTV STB to work over serial to no avail.  This is a hardware level thing, i can’t get any program to change the damn channel.

If IR wasn’t so sucky, i’d go with that in a heartbeat.

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$100 MediaMVP’s are externally controllable!

Posted by IVB on May 16, 2007

On an upnote that could potentially have a *huge* impact, someone on the SageTV forums showed me to you can remotely control the $100 MVP!

Whoa! I had no idea. I never touch the server, never bothered installing the webserver there until tonight. (i use it on the sagetvclient).

If beelzerob can find a way to control a $100 MVP via CQC, then this changes everything, and (in my mind) suddenly thrusts SageTV into a very very strong position vis-a-vis any other DVR package, including Vista.  It would be simple to a handful of MVPs in a central location, and have truly zero equipment in a room for control.

Check it out. this is via the SageTV web server, but if he can figure out how to do this via native CQC widgets, then I think what you get for $700 just got noticeably noticeably better.  No more $300 xBox360’s.


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Intel mobo recommendation, plus some success

Posted by IVB on May 13, 2007

What a nice weekend I’ve had.  Well, mixed results, but still movement.

The good

I just had the absolute *smoothest* motherboard install i’ve ever had, so much so that i’m going to specifically recommend this Intel 965P Core2Duo motherboard ( http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16813121052 ) for anyone looking for something nice, simple, stable, and with RAID0+1 and RAID5 on the mobo to boot.

I got it for my SageTV server. I was able to put 5 SATA drives in, and in a matter of literally seconds after the first power-up, set it up so that SATA0 was the boot, 1-3 were the 500GB sata that I wanted in a RAID5, and SATA4 was a 400GB I wanted as standalone.  It all just worked.

Plus I migrated my SageTV server over and it started up just fine. I can watch OTA digital on the MVP, still can’t do HD transcoding on the fly. I’m contemplating migrating to SageTV 6.1 which I heard solves many issues, but 24 is on tomorrow night so I may hold off until Thursday (after American Idol/etc).

I was also able to use a PVR500, with 1 input for the CCTV, and 1 input for the DirecTV.
The Bad
I still can’t get the D* STB to tune, but i’ve now clearly proven that it’s either the cable or the STB.  I believe i’m at the latest firmware, but i’ll force-check tomorrow. I’ve currently only got HBO enabled, so at least I can watch Sopranos and Entourage.

I also still can’t get the damn DataLogDB driver to work with mySQL. Works just fine with SQLServer Express, but I want to start making some progress against the myhomecookingpc.com stuff. It’s simple to move mySQL databases around, no way to move SSE db’s around in an automated fashion. I guess I could have 2 db engines up & running (one for datalogdb, one for myhomecookingpc.com), as it is a Core2Duo box, but that just seems so wasteful.

And, another sad note, we’ve had 3 incidents of crime in the local vicinity in the past 7 days. Rather than wait for me to run wire to the windows for the sensors, I just ordered the new Elk wireless receiver (out Tuesday), and a crapload of wireless sensors. I also got some keyfobs, so I’ll be able to do keychain control of CQC shortly.  That’ll be nice (ie, turn on lights and turn up heat on the push of a button). I may also replace the outer doors, in which case I may do an electric strike for the same thing.

So, even more movement into the advanced areas.

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