IVB\’s Home Theater and Home Automation

You don\’t have to spend a lot for that smarthome.

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I wonder if its time to resurrect this.

Posted by IVB on September 21, 2015

I went silent on the blogging side years ago but never gave up the HA addiction, indeed i’ve expanded it significantly. I now have NFC, voice control, full smart phone integration. I wonder if its time to resurrect this site…


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Well, that kids PC certainly went over well…

Posted by IVB on March 31, 2007

Well, the kids were certainly excited this am. My wife warned me that they would fight over it, but my approach is that rather than get them 2 of everything, I intentionally get them 2 different things and force them to share.  I also kicked them off after they started fighting over it 20mins in, and told them they could come back “when you’re holding hands and talking nicely to each other, like sisters are supposed to”.

Here’s a picture of the physical install. There’s not nearly enough pink to suit them, they want to get a pink mousepad, and I promised them i’d spray paint the monitor frame pink after 30 days, once the dust had settled. (no, not joking!).  You’ll note that I got a 15″ LCD with VESA mounting. I picked up a $35 articulating arm mount off eBay, it’s pretty decent. moves eery which way. They can push it back when not in use.

I accept that they might break the LCD, but they’re both girlie girls, so the odds are low. Plus, I need to stop shielding them and let them make their own mistakes, although that’s certainly a hard thing for a father of 2 girls to do 🙂


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Get the kids into PCs young…

Posted by IVB on March 31, 2007

Daddy just built a (slow and old but they won’t know) computer for the kids, installed some new games for them, and built them their own CQC screen!  Obviously very work-in-progress, but i’ve been at it for 9 hours now (including 3 runs to compusa because the dang scavenging didn’t work out quite like planned)…
Look what they’re going to see when they wake up. It all works too.  (the notepad is because my 5yr old has taken to writing long rambling stories, and we’re seriously running out of paper…)

I’m automatically booting the PC into fullscreen CQC mode, even though it’s a locked down PC.  The games are starting over the CQC screen, so when they exit, CQC is back. Not easy to get to the desktop (unless they know to press that button on the top right, and i’m not telling).  That way there’s as little temptation as possible.

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Next “Intro to HA” Webinar set for 3/23, 6:30pm PST

Posted by IVB on March 13, 2007

Well, there’s already a dozen folks who want to learn more about how to use the Elk & CQC to setup an HA system, but either live in australia or can’t bring themselves to wake up early on Saturday.  I’ll be doing one on Friday 3/23 @6;30pm PST/9:30pm EST/ 12:30PM Eastern Australia Time on Saturday 3/24.

 If you’re interested, please monitor the below thread. Note that there is a dialin, and I haven’t yet figured out how to bridge VoIP with voice; I need to figure that out for this call.


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So close to intelligent Sage vs Theatertek vs Music control

Posted by IVB on October 19, 2006

I am so close to coolness that i’m drooling. Damn that I have to get up for work in 5.5 hours.

I got beelzerob’s CQC-sage TCP driver working in 2.0, the theatertek TCP driver is working just fine, and I just created a button that intelligently determines whether SageTV, TT, or a CD is playing, and sends a command to the right one.

The massive difference between this and something like Girder is that I can actually bidirectionally handshake with the app and confirm that it’s not only up, but it’s actually playing something before I send it a command. This means going from reasonable confidence to 100% reliability. That last little bit is always the toughest, but now it’s done!!!

Oy, how can I be expected to focus at work tomorrow.  I’ll recode my USB-UIRT driver to have this logic based on pressing the pause/play/next/prev/etc buttons.

Here’s the logic, it’s pretty dang simple. I don’t yet have a screen to show what’s up/etc, bank on that happening within 24-48 hours.


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Telco progress: Phone line hardening, RJ31, and Elk/DSL issues

Posted by IVB on September 17, 2006

Awesome day, even if I didn’t get nearly enough done as I wanted.  Clearly the hours of learning about how phone lines/telco paid off as it only took me 3 hours to:

1) Determine which of the 2 demarc blocks was main line, which was alternate
2) Pull telco line out of house, encase within flex metal pipe that I got from HomeDepot, secure to both outside and inside of house, cut the excess pipe [and dang, is it hard to do that]
3) Connect Elk RJ31X block
4) Run telco wiring to Elk
5) Mount Leviton 12-way structured media center panel
6) Run telco wiring to SMC
7) Jury rig an RJ11->RJ45 cable, so I could test it out with an analog line
8) Reconnect it all, and the phone actually works!

The one thing my research didn’t turn up is that I cannot connect a security panel right off the RJ31 then send to telephone lines for distro if I have DSL. If I turn on the Elk, my DSL dies as the alarm panel is interfering with it.( See http://www.homephonewiring.com/splt-alarm.html Here’s a good diagram of how to do it, (See http://www.hometech.com/techwire/dsl.html#CC-SPSH70SR1 ) Here’s the DSL whole house filter that I just ordered from HomeTech[/url] to deal with this for me.  This is the “cleanest” way to go, rather than some hokey inline filter, figured as long as I’m doing this whole thing I may as well do it right. Also while I’m “doing things right”, I’m going to move my DSL modem/router to the “right” location in the basement with the other stuff, not in the MBR like it currently is. All in all, the project has another few hours before I can declare complete. I wouldn’t call it “over allocated time”, as I didn’t think I’d be able to move that router so soon. The wife is going to love that as it gets the MBR that much cleaner.

Here’s what the outer telephone line now looks like. Note that it comes into the house about 4′ up, so it used to be pretty insecure. That’s what all the houses are like in our neighborhood. I pulled on it pretty hard, no chance that the average joe will be able to yank that tube out with a standard pull. I’m sure a pro could do something if they really wanted in my house, but if you turn to the right, our neighbors have an unsecured phone line and a 50″ plasma in plain view, so my theory is that I just want them to move to an easier house.


I also bit the bullet and ordered an $850 in parts machine to make up for the $215 geeks.com PC that didn’t work out. Clearly several levels higher than what I got, but I figured that rather than get another machine that’s an outdated machine, I may as well get a basic Core2Duo setup. It’s pretty basic, only 1 stick of 1GB RAM, but an Abit AB9 mobo with bigtime RAID on the mobo, and a fanless Gigabyte Geforce vidcard, so I can put it in the office and satisfy the wife’s desire for quiet as well as my need for a 2nd video renderer.

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Automated Lighting, CallerID, CCTV

Posted by IVB on September 10, 2006

Great progress in 3 main areas: CCTV, CallerID, and automated lighting.

1) CCTV works fine again.
I didn’t actually do anything, the machine must have reset itself into an ok state. It’s set for a nightly reboot at 3am or something like that, so it probably just took 2-3 attempts at that to work. Got a great suggestion from electron over at cocoontech to put an elk relay on the PC reset switch, and tie to a CQC button so I can reset remotely at will.  I’ll certainly be doing that soon enough.

2) Automated lighting
For those of you who didn’t follow (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=719955&page=1&pp=30) the AVS thread, I got some great guidance from QQQ and audiblesolutions about the value of automated lighting, and whether HomeWorks or RadioRA would be better for me.  I used to think that there were 2 main points to doing automated lighting:
A) Implement scenes
B ) Allow non-lighting events to trigger lighting (ie, I open my mud room door – the appropriate scene comes on if the security system is armed and it’s dark outside).

In reality, I completely missed the boat on this one. Alan over at audiblesolutions pointed out that the real value in automated lighting is the ability to control a large amount of lights in a single room without a whole bank of dimmer/light switches. Rather, mount those things in a room closet, central closet, or other hidden location, and just put keypads in plain sight. That way things are cleaner looking and you can have better control. This really hit home for me as I have 4-5 locations where the light switch is VERY inconveniently located, and we’re constantly irritated at having to go to a non-intuitive location to turn on/off the light. I’m going to look into putting the actual dimmer/lightswitch in the closet or even attic (so I can run a hardwire easily), and just putting a wireless keypad in the room.

I’m also ditching the idea of RadioRA and saving up my pennies for HomeWorks for 4 main reasons:
A) Once we remodel (in 2-3 years), i’ll be at 45-50 loads minimum, esp given the above realization of cleaning up walls.
B) Ability to have hardwired & wireless controls in same system
C) Richer protocol allows a more robust set of control
D) Better options for shade control

This isn’t going to be cheap, I hear MSRP on the dimmer HW switches is $270, but i’ll see what I can do. I’m getting the feeling that this could be 2nd in WAF only to mzone audio, as we’re all constantly irritated at our lights being left on and having to run around turning them off, plus the $400/month electic bill.  Hence, it might not be so bad. Besides, she spent $300 today at Banana republic on clothes she’ll only have for a year – these should last a few times longer than that 😀

3) CallerID
I couldn’t get the netcallerID driver that comes with CQC to work, so I decided to write my own. Besides, I knew I wanted to do massive upgrades, like integration with my outlook contact list, so I needed to understand it anyhow. Better to just write my own rather than learn someone else’s code in a language I don’t yet know.  V0.1 of the driver works fine for the last caller, it’ll get reset if CQC bounces though. I’ll write out to a file as soon as I learn how.  Here’s what the screen looks like:


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2-way TCP control of SageTV from CQC, anyone?

Posted by IVB on August 25, 2006

Check it out. Obviously still got major UI issues to deal with, but I can now bidirectionally control SageTV from within CQC! Won’t be able to actually select which TV shows from within CQC for a while yet, but a major major step forward! The big difference between this and using the SageTV Webserver is that I can use a single custom-painted UI to turn on the zone speakers, setting up the right inputs, starting up sageTV, adjusting volume. I can have a single screen to display what all the sources are playing, so I can subscribe to whatever stream I want from a given TV. This means that I don’t actually need a seperate extender for each TV – i can just have 1 HTPC per concurrent video stream and control that. Given that we don’t ever watch more than 2 different video streams, I only need 2 HTPC’s running to serve the house.

I also still have to figure out how to display the time correctly, that too shall come.

Thanks to Beelzerob, the developer behind this driver.


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I can see my CCTV over the PDA/Cingular network!

Posted by IVB on August 24, 2006

Got the wife to say “hey, that’s cool”. Gotta love that.

How? I got the Diginet PDA software working on the 8125 over the Cingular network, just showed it to her. Now we can pull up any of our cameras on the cellphone. It only gets about 1.25fps, but for this purpose it’ll be fine. If I’m somewhere with wifi access or once cingular rolls out their upgraded network in 6months, i’m sure it’ll be better, but again, not a showstopper at this point in time.

I’m contemplating setting up a CQC button to make an announcement over the elk HA speakers, ie “Yo dude, get out of my house i’ve already called the cops and emailed them your picture”. Too bad I can’t link the phone to the speakers, and talk into the speakers, THAT would be super cool.

Here’s as good a picture as I could take. You can barely but not quite make out a grid of #s on the bottom left, that corresponds to camera #. The image is markedly similar to the standard CCTV picture shot i’ve been showing you guys.


And here’s the regular shot.

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One step closer on recipes inside CQC…

Posted by IVB on August 23, 2006

Progress on a mechanism to integrate a recipe site with CQC!

As mentioned above, I bought www.myhomecookingpc.com and put Joomla and RapidRecipe on it. I’m very slowly adding recipes into it. The site is running an export every 15mins to a file for just the 4 recipe tables.  I used the windows event scheduler to automatically download that exportfile via ftp in a very simple NT command script. Downside is that each task only runs 1x/day max. I was hoping to do this every 15-30mins as it’s a 10second command and takes almost no CPU cycles.

At this point, i’ll probably put this project on hold until V2.0 with ODBC access to local datastores comes out as all I need is a local display mechanism. I do need to populate the site with recipes, but I don’t think i’ll populate with MealMaster data as it’s really 99.9% garbage, 1% useful. I might put in the recipes we use heavily [south beach stuff, indian food, etc].

Also, anyone else is more than welcome to signup and add their own stuff into it. PM me and i’ll give you the NT command script with the ftp login details for the site.

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