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General => Users => Topic started by: twodogs on September 03, 2009, 12:56:47 am

Title: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 03, 2009, 12:56:47 am
Hello All,

I'd like a confidence check on my proposed setup. I have much of the equipment and I'm getting ready to start wiring. If you want to see our home renovation you can check my blog (greenrenovation.wordpress.com).Some details of the planned system are below, along with a few questions...
First, I hear that integrating DirecTV is troublesome, but the spouse needs tennis channel. The only thing on the market is the HD PVR and drivers are in early stages. I also hear that it puts a decoding strain on a media director so I went with a new e5200 computer. I'm using an older core because the PVR handles the encoding chores. Any comments on my selections?
Second, I think my wiring needs will be met by two cat5e cables to each major location. I can't see how I'd use coax since all my video will be HD. Should I put in some more/different wiring?

The Plan
It's a green home so I'd like to keep power usage to a minimum
Overall goals
   Stream DirecTV
   Watch DVD
   Stream music
   Control a small number of lighting scenarios
   Control sprinklers
   Control HVAC
   Stream HDTV
   Voice alarm for streetsweeping day to avoid the monthly $50 ticket!
   Home security with front and back video cameras
My wiring closet will be in the basement - lots of room and it's cool down there
   Core running LinuxMCE0810 (Intel D865PERL, GeForce 5200, 3Ghz P4)
   stereo amp with speaker wire run to the kitchen above
   Insteon modem
   DirecTV set top box
   Hauppauge HD PVR
   Elk M1
Living Room
   Media Director (ASUS P5N7A-VM, integrated GeForce 9300, E5200, net boot)
   Denon AVR3805 with RS232
   LG Plasma with RS232
   5.1 speakers in wall
   Microsoft Gyration remote
Upstairs Loft (not purchased but similar to living room setup)

Thanks,
John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: merkur2k on September 03, 2009, 01:38:00 am
you didnt address the video adapter in the md, hopefully you are planning on using an nvidia based adapter if you want to use UI2.
its still too early to think about the hdpvr, so you will have to use a sd capture solution or plan on ditching dvr features and watching direct.
you will probably find the ms remote lacking when compared to a gyration remote or even a wireless touchpad orbiter. probably need to throw in a usb-uirt at least for control of the directv box, and at any of the MDs if they have IR controlled equipment. or if you are planning on going with the ms remote anyway (the ms supplied dongles do not work very well).
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 03, 2009, 02:01:30 am
I was afraid the DirecTV might be pushing it. I have an Fusion 5 Lite card for OTA HDTV so I guess that can start me off. Good call on the Gyration. It wouldn't cost much and would allow for much smoother control. We also have an eeePC that we could use. I modified my original post to say that my MD has integrated GeForce 9300.

John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: tschak909 on September 03, 2009, 05:27:28 am
keep in mind, that the DirecTV reciever can be controlled via IR at least, and if you have your AV equipment properly integrated into LMCE, LMCE can switch inputs/etc to be able to view/control the DirectTV box, and automatically switching to LMCE when necessary, while you can attach the device to an SD tuner to digitize it and push it through the house.

-Thom

Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 03, 2009, 01:34:04 pm
That brings up a problem I've been wrestling with. The basement is by far the best place for the wiring closet with core and DirecTV box. The living room is 50' away - too far for a DVI cable. So with the system I've designed, I would not be able to watch HD from the satellite box, only SD. My initial idea was to buy a converter to send HD over cat5e, but these are expensive and require wall warts at both ends (9/24/09 edit - wrong!). We're setting up a solar panel array and, even though we'll be grid connected, I'm still trying to keep our power usage under what our array will produce. Philosophy aside, two wall warts won't break the energy bank, but there is another problem. If I make the core into a hybrid with AV cables running 50' to the living room, I would not need a media director in that room. But, then I'll have to run to the basement to play a DVD! There is probably a way around this, but I can't think of it.

John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: totallymaxed on September 03, 2009, 01:51:02 pm
That brings up a problem I've been wrestling with. The basement is by far the best place for the wiring closet with core and DirecTV box. The living room is 50' away - too far for a DVI cable. So with the system I've designed, I would not be able to watch HD from the satellite box, only SD. My initial idea was to buy a converter to send HD over cat5e, but these are expensive and require wall warts at both ends. We're setting up a solar panel array and, even though we'll be grid connected, I'm still trying to keep our power usage under what our array will produce. Philosophy aside, two wall warts won't break the energy bank, but there is another problem. If I make the core into a hybrid with AV cables running 50' to the living room, I would not need a media director in that room. But, then I'll have to run to the basement to play a DVD! There is probably a way around this, but I can't think of it.

John

Hi John,

We do installations of our Dianemo system all the time that use HDMI->CAT5 converters & USB->CAT5 converters to remotely distribute the outputs/connections of the Core or the MD's. By the way if you rip your DVD's first then you dont need to go down to the basement with a physical disk when you want to play one upstairs.

All the best

Andrew
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 03, 2009, 02:03:30 pm
Andrew,

I was hoping to hear from you. I've searched for and read many of your previous posts about distributing A/V. Ripping doesn't really work for us because we own few DVDs and get our movies through our Netflix account. What do you think about an external DVD drive in the living room connected to the hybrid in the basement via USB>cat5e converter? Can you recommend any specific HDMI and USB to cat5 converters? Also, I believe I would need some kind of switching device in the basement because I would have two video sources: the video card of the hybrid, and the DirecTV box. Any hardware suggestions on this?
My thinking has gone down this path in the past. My rough cost estimate was $1500USD or about $500 a pop for the two converters and the switching device. I've never seen such a system in operation, so I was a bit concerned that I was creating an expensive Frankenstein with lots of moving parts. For instance, let's say my wife is watching DirecTV and wants to check the program guide. MCE would have to send a signal (IR?) to the video switching device to change the source from the DirecTV box to video card on the hybrid in order to display the stored guide info. Maybe it would work great, but maybe there would be a big time delay, or perhaps the IR signal didn't make it to the switching device. Then my wife would make me put down the margarita and get out of the hammock to go down to the basement and fix the problem. These doubts have prevented me from diving in. That plus the fear that, with my luck, as soon as I got this fairly expensive scheme working the HDPVR solution would become viable.
Am I over-thinking things? You apparently have this kind of system working smoothly

John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: Viking on September 03, 2009, 03:23:13 pm
Hi,

see to that you have nvidia cards in all PC's. And be sure the the Media Director Mainboard (Livingroom) is supported/tested with LinuxMCE. Otherwise you can get into lots of trouble.

Greetings
Viking
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: totallymaxed on September 03, 2009, 03:50:41 pm
Andrew,

I was hoping to hear from you. I've searched for and read many of your previous posts about distributing A/V. Ripping doesn't really work for us because we own few DVDs and get our movies through our Netflix account. What do you think about an external DVD drive in the living room connected to the hybrid in the basement via USB>cat5e converter? Can you recommend any specific HDMI and USB to cat5 converters? Also, I believe I would need some kind of switching device in the basement because I would have two video sources: the video card of the hybrid, and the DirecTV box. Any hardware suggestions on this?
My thinking has gone down this path in the past. My rough cost estimate was $1500USD or about $500 a pop for the two converters and the switching device. I've never seen such a system in operation, so I was a bit concerned that I was creating an expensive Frankenstein with lots of moving parts. For instance, let's say my wife is watching DirecTV and wants to check the program guide. MCE would have to send a signal (IR?) to the video switching device to change the source from the DirecTV box to video card on the hybrid in order to display the stored guide info. Maybe it would work great, but maybe there would be a big time delay, or perhaps the IR signal didn't make it to the switching device. Then my wife would make me put down the margarita and get out of the hammock to go down to the basement and fix the problem. These doubts have prevented me from diving in. That plus the fear that, with my luck, as soon as I got this fairly expensive scheme working the HDPVR solution would become viable.
Am I over-thinking things? You apparently have this kind of system working smoothly

John

Hi John,

Well there are a number of different approaches that can be taken to address your type of situation - there is no 'right way' or 'wrong way' as such...but usually the customer has a preference for one or the other. So below is one approach you might consider...and its one we have deployed for customers;

- You locate your Core and the DirectTV box in the basement. You use an 1->N (where N is as large as either your requirements or your budget allows) splitter on your DirectTV box...this take one input and gives you multiple identical outputs (so that you can use those to route the video output of the DirectTV box to a number of other locations around your house if you later want too). One output from this splitter goes into one of the inputs of an rs232 controlled 4-1 combiner (this could be a 2-1 as 4-1 combiner would give you spare inputs you dont initially need) one of the other inputs is the video output from your Hybrid Core. Now your Core can control via rs232 the input selected by the combiner to be routed to its output. The output of the combiner is routed to an HDMI->CAT5 converter and sent upstairs to your TV (via a converter to take it back from CAT5->HDMI). You have in addition a USB->CAT5 converter that allows you to locate a small USB HUB near your TV so that you can plug in an MCE IR Transceiver and any other USB devices you would normally attach directly to the Hybrid Core. Now you have IR remote capability upstairs that is directly controlling your Hybrid Core. When you want to watch your DirectTV box you would select it from the Media menu and this would using a custom template automatically send a command to the 4-1 combiner to route the DirectTV boxes input through to its output and hence to via the CAT5 converters to the screen upstairs...IR control commands from your MCE remote upstairs would be routed to the DirectTV box via a blaster. This would mena you could now have full control of the DirectTV's UI/menus using the MCE remote...if you want to switch back to the video output of the Hybrid Core's Orbiter then we would usually trigger that by using the 'Green button' on the remote...pressing that would send a command back to the 4-1 combiner via rs232 to switch to the output of the Hybrid Core...now you have the video output of the Hybrid core onscreen and also the IR commands are now directly controlling the Orbiter and not the DirectTv box. If you want to go back to watching the DirectTV box again just select it from the 'Media' menu and its instantly back on screen again.

I know the above sounds complex...but its actually not in practice. It does require some special configuration though and custom device templates...but thats about it. We have several customers who have multiple Sat boxes located centrally in basement Racks with all of their MD's located in the rack too (we have systems with upto 8 MD's located like this where the customer wanted NO equipment other than the screen in the rooms around his property). All of these essentially use the configuration that I described above.

The HDMI->CAT5 converters using 1 single CAT5 are now about $100 USD for each endpoint...so this is not too costly if your thinking of this type of installation.

All the best

Andrew
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 03, 2009, 06:37:50 pm
Andrew,

Wow. Great explanation. That addresses my concerns about control and expense. Maybe I can pull this off after all. Results of my product research to follow shortly...

Thanks,
John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 04, 2009, 03:49:36 pm
Here is my latest system design that implements my understanding of Andrew's advice. The left side with the media director will be basically a mirror image of the right side. The Denon AVR 3805 will handle component switching, plus it has an RS232 control input.
(http://img2.imageshack.us/img2/7973/mceu.jpg)
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: totallymaxed on September 05, 2009, 10:22:05 am
Here is my latest system design that implements my understanding of Andrew's advice. The left side with the media director will be basically a mirror image of the right side. The Denon AVR 3805 will handle component switching, plus it has an RS232 control input.

Hi again John,

I think your going in the right direction. You can use a Denon to do the input switching for you so that would work fine. I assume that the MD + Denon on the left hand side of your diagram are to server a second upstairs room and in that case your diagram looks fine as the splitter allows you to route the output of the DirectTV to both rooms simultaneously. Obviously with only one DirectTV box every room can only watch the same channel on that box at any given time. In additional if you purchase a splitter that has enough outputs for 'future expansion' then you will be able to add additional MD's + Denon's for other rooms later which allows you to spread the cost of installation over time.

All the best

Andrew
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: wombiroller on September 05, 2009, 10:45:52 am
Small note on the 3Ghz P4...for something that is on 24/7...they use a fair bit of power don't they?
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 05, 2009, 02:57:52 pm
My old P4 does use a lot of juice. It was to be the core in my original design until the budget allowed swapping it. The main thing I want to do now is to figure out how many wires to run inside the walls. I'm setting up the system in the garage first to make sure I'm happy with everything. Then I'll wire the house and install in the equipment in its permanent location.
But the point you raise makes me think. We won't need the media director for a few months (until both floors of the house are livable). I'll throw a hard drive into my Asus/E5200 media director and put it to work as my hybrid. Then when the house is finished I can either use my Intel/P4 as a media director (now that it won't have to decode H.264), or perhaps bite the bullet and get something new.
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: skeptic on September 06, 2009, 06:17:03 pm
Take it from someone who is finishing their basement and have a wiring closet downstairs.  Run extra wiring, it's very cheap to do at the time, and $$ later.  My basement is almost finished and I'm already finding places where I wish I would have run more.  What I have is sufficient and fits my plans, but more wiring up front means more options later.  Little stuff like running cat 5e from the wiring closet to 2 walls in every room instead of just the one where I plan to use it.
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: totallymaxed on September 07, 2009, 04:34:34 pm
Take it from someone who is finishing their basement and have a wiring closet downstairs.  Run extra wiring, it's very cheap to do at the time, and $$ later.  My basement is almost finished and I'm already finding places where I wish I would have run more.  What I have is sufficient and fits my plans, but more wiring up front means more options later.  Little stuff like running cat 5e from the wiring closet to 2 walls in every room instead of just the one where I plan to use it.

Yep...100% agree with that. We always say to clients that it is the cable you did not run that is the most 'expensive' :-)

Andrew
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: skeptic on September 07, 2009, 06:19:08 pm
Take it from someone who is finishing their basement and have a wiring closet downstairs.  Run extra wiring, it's very cheap to do at the time, and $$ later.  My basement is almost finished and I'm already finding places where I wish I would have run more.  What I have is sufficient and fits my plans, but more wiring up front means more options later.  Little stuff like running cat 5e from the wiring closet to 2 walls in every room instead of just the one where I plan to use it.

Yep...100% agree with that. We always say to clients that it is the cable you did not run that is the most 'expensive' :-)

Andrew
Heh heh, words of wisdom.

I have to call my electrician this week to add two more power outlets (wife now wants a mini fridge under the wet bar/kitchenette counter top and a microwave hidden inside the upper cabinets).  While he is here I'm going to talk to him about running a phone line into the wiring closet, something I didn't even think about and didn't think I'd need because I only have cordless phones.  However, I have a fax machine I'd like to move downstairs and I didn't run a single phone wire there.  Stupid move on my part.
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 23, 2009, 08:43:17 pm
I've been looking at products to send video and control signals over cat5/6 cable per the diagram in a previous post. I have not found much info on the web about how specific models do or don't work (but the manufacturers claim they work great!) I'd love to know if anyone has any comments on the products below or similar. I have a lot of cat5e cable but I've heard that using cat6 might make the difference between a setup that works and one that doesn't. Also, it seems that all the USB extenders I found were 1.1. Maybe that would be OK for watching a movie on the external DVD, but might be a problem if I later upgrade to an external blu-ray.

In selecting components 'm primarily looking at three factors...

- LinuxMCE compatability
- Price
- Power usage (trying to minimize the use of A/C adapters)

The video baluns I'm looking at are all passive. I've come up with three options for powering the USB devices.
1. Power everything from the computer's USB port - baluns, 1:4 hub, DVD, Gyration receiver, and USB to RS232 cable to control the TV. (this might draw too much from one USB port on the computer)
2. As above, except get an external DVD that has an A/C adapter (puts the biggest power hog on its own supply that I could switch on/off when I get up to insert the DVD. I still might be overloading the computer USB port with all the other devices, though)
3. Power the baluns from the computer's USB port. Get a 1:4 USB hub with an A/C adapter. Power the Gyration receiver, external DVD, and USB to RS232 cable from the hub. (this may be my best option)  

Here are some of the products I've found...

Component Video over Cat5/6 (called variously - converters, extenders, or baluns)

MilesTek (kit incudes sender and receiver) integrated with wallplate $50
http://www.milestek.com/video-over-cat5.html?gclid=CJCS88WQiJ0CFRQpawodcjjcbg

MCM (two required) $52.95 bulk price for 4 or more
http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/50-7722

Muxlab (two required) $74.95 each
http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/MUXLAB-500050-/33-10060

USB over cat5/6 (Note: none of these work for my application, need a USB extender not a balun - 20 Feb 2010)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/515655-REG/Intelix_DIGI_USB_F_Digi_USB_F_USB_Cat_5_Modular.html
http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/IOGEAR-GUCE51-/83-9610
http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/DISTRIBUTED-BY-MCM-VAD-1110-/83-11534


USB Hubs

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16817201031


External DVD

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135195&cm_re=external_dvd-_-27-135-195-_-Product
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: skeptic on September 23, 2009, 10:16:42 pm
Do some searching here - there is a pretty detailed description of doing this from a LMCE point of view.  IIRC, specific hardware is even included in the write-up.

Just to add a bit to previous comments, I'm going to be dropping a few hundred bucks to get a phone line ran into my wiring closet..  Would have been almost free if I didn't forget about it the first time.  Doh!
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: totallymaxed on September 23, 2009, 10:54:08 pm
Do some searching here - there is a pretty detailed description of doing this from a LinuxMCE point of view.  IIRC, specific hardware is even included in the write-up.

Just to add a bit to previous comments, I'm going to be dropping a few hundred bucks to get a phone line ran into my wiring closet..  Would have been almost free if I didn't forget about it the first time.  Doh!

Yep ;-)

Andrew
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 23, 2009, 11:01:46 pm
I'll heed the good advice on running more wiring. I think I'll also put in an empty PVC conduit from the basement to the attic for future expansion.
I'm still not finding anything in the forums but very generic info on baluns, ie "you need to get a balun." Its hard to search for info because they are called baluns, extenders, converters, etc. When you do a search for "balun" you get about 5 posts. When you look for the other terms you get hundreds of posts that have nothing to do with video over cat5. I'm thinking I should buy some hardware and post my results.

John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: totallymaxed on September 23, 2009, 11:24:31 pm
I'll heed the good advice on running more wiring. I think I'll also put in an empty PVC conduit from the basement to the attic for future expansion.
I'm still not finding anything in the forums but very generic info on baluns, ie "you need to get a balun." Its hard to search for info because they are called baluns, extenders, converters, etc. When you do a search for "balun" you get about 5 posts. When you look for the other terms you get hundreds of posts that have nothing to do with video over cat5. I'm thinking I should buy some hardware and post my results.

John

John,

The problem is that there is such a vast range of these types devices out there...and they are more than often OEM'd by small Chinese companies...and it becomes incredibly difficult to document the performance of these devices. My company uses a make of HDMI-CAT5 extenders (Balun is an old 'audio' industry word for the same thing) that we import direct from China...as far as i know they are not available on the open market. We tried some of there product and we liked it so we stuck with it....I believe there are literally 100's of similar companies building similar products.

So in the end I would suggest buying some units and testing them.

Andrew
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on September 23, 2009, 11:33:45 pm
That's what I was beginning to realize. I think its time to start experimenting!
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: sk1 on September 27, 2009, 05:32:36 am
I think I'll also put in an empty PVC conduit from the basement to the attic for future expansion.

This is a great idea.  I just built a house and I remembered to do this.  I got to use it when they came to install the wireless (I am out in the country but up on a hill so I can WiMax to the watertower 5 miles away, 1.0 meg service is better than dial-up and a lot cheaper than satellite) and even though the rep on the phone assured me that I just need coax (RG6) for their installation, the installer gets here and tells me that guy is an idiot and they use cat5e.  So instead of having to fish cat5e (I actually used cat6 everywhere) through two stories to get from the attic to the basement, I just dropped it down one of the three 1.5 inch PVC conduits i ran along side the clothes chute.  One of the best 'extras' that I added while I was building this place.
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on December 27, 2009, 02:06:13 am
Does anyone know of an economical way to get a component video signal out of an ASUS P5N7A-VM? I have a Denon AVR-3805 that only does component switching. I've seen adapters for almost nothing, but they look suspiciously like adapters that only work on ATI boards. Other DVI/HDMI to component converters sell for up to several hundred dollars. Yikes!

By the way, Kudos to everyone involved with the MCE810 DVD release. Much easier than building from Kubuntu.

John
Title: Re: Advice On New System
Post by: twodogs on December 28, 2009, 04:50:34 am
I think there is a way forward. The TV and speakers are on the second floor directly above the main wiring closet in the basement - a distance of about 20 feet. I'll use the TV for video switching (it has an RS232 control port). I'll run a 30' DVI cable from the hybrid to the TV. I'll also run composite video from the DirecTV satellite box, using baluns and cat5e cable. The Denon also has an RS232 control port, so I can use that for audio switching. I believe that will get me up and running for now. When the HD-PVR driver is ready I'll integrate that into my system and simplify things.

John

(http://img694.imageshack.us/img694/9421/smarthome2.th.jpg) (http://img694.imageshack.us/i/smarthome2.jpg/)