Author Topic: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...  (Read 1162 times)

chrispitude

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My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« on: September 13, 2009, 12:36:58 am »
Hi all,

For the last several years, I've been running a WinXP HTPC based on the discontinued Immersive Holo3D card.  I used Girder to tie lighting control into the DVD playback.  Here is a picture of my home theater:

my home theater

The setup does have some quirks (scanning forward/reverse during DVD playback locks it up), plus the Girder lighting and IR control is heavily scripted and I've long since forgotten how all of it works.  I've read impressive things about LinuxMCE so I decided to try installing it on a spare drive today.

Unfortunately, my experience seems to be a study in unsupported hardware:

  • Dolby Digital audio does not play back through my nForce2 onboard SPDIF, although that works fine in WinXP
  • my CM17A (X-10 Firecracker transmitter) does not seem to be supported
  • my StreamZAP USB I/R receiver/remote does not seem to be supported

I tried adding a CM11A on the chance that the CM17A was compatible, but it still doesn't work.  I don't mind upgrading the motherboard to something new to get the audio working, but I'd really like to avoid having to buy a new X10 transmitter (CM11A) and IR receiver (USB-UIRT) if possible.

Before everyone tells me to ditch X10 in favor of ZWave :), I am actually using an X10-based scene controller:

PCS Scene Controller

When it receives simple X10 on/off codes, it will actually fade up to four channels to predefined levels.  In my setup, B1 is "seating" (cans on, sconces on, aisle off), B2 is "movie" (cans/sconces off, aisles 30%), B3 is "pause/intermission" (cans 50%, sconces off, aisles 75%).  It works really, really well, is already wired in the room, and is not practical to replace.

So...  any chances of getting the CM17A or the StreamZAP IR receiver working?

 - Chris (hoping to find a way into the LinuxMCE experience)

chrispitude

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2009, 12:41:23 am »
Also, if anyone is interested in seeing my HTPC:

HTPC

The Radeon card has a Mike Parker driver daughterboard, to drive a 25' 5-BNC connection to the ceiling-mounted BarcoGraphics 808S.  Also note the fanless CPU heatsink, with cereal board cutouts pulling air through it with the case fans.  :)

 - Chris

jimbodude

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2009, 01:06:55 am »
If you have that much invested in your setup, a UIRT really doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me... It is the best supported device, works out of the box, and learns codes very easily.

CM11A is also only $50 online - not really all that bad... I'm not sure what the technical differences are between the CM11 and CM17, but you can look at the CM11A device template to get an idea of what was required to get that working.

I've had similar sound issues.  There is a good chance it is a simple configuration issue.  Try setting the sound card to "manual configuration" or others in the web admin under wizard --> devices --> media directors.

dlewis

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2009, 01:10:49 am »
chrispitude, nice theater... Are you an installer or...?

colinjones

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2009, 06:58:03 am »
for the DD issues start by ensuring that the IEC958 ports are not muted by going to a terminal and typing alsamixer. Scroll to the right as this is usually where the IEC connections are located and use 'M' key to mute/unmute. And in the web admin for that MD ensure that the audio settings are SPDIF Toslink, and AC3/DTS pass-thru is ticked.

chrispitude

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2009, 02:13:07 pm »
Thanks guys, I appreciate the responses.

If you have that much invested in your setup, a UIRT really doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me... It is the best supported device, works out of the box, and learns codes very easily.

CM11A is also only $50 online - not really all that bad... I'm not sure what the technical differences are between the CM11 and CM17, but you can look at the CM11A device template to get an idea of what was required to get that working.

I've had similar sound issues.  There is a good chance it is a simple configuration issue.  Try setting the sound card to "manual configuration" or others in the web admin under wizard --> devices --> media directors.

I know $110 doesn't seem like a lot compared to what I have invested in the room, and it probably wouldn't be except that:

  • it's a lot to spend if I buy these things, try LinuxMCE, and decide to keep my current setup
  • the room was built when I was single - I'm now married, and in considerable debt due to a house exterior renovation project

So unfortunately, right now $110 is a little much to spend for me to just "try it out."  I am hoping perhaps I can get help to get the CM17A working, and perhaps find a USB-UIRT on Ebay for a good price.  Thanks for the advice on the sound configuration - I'll check that out!


chrispitude, nice theater... Are you an installer or...?

Nope, just your average homeowner.  I've always read about those crazy home theaters on AVS Forum, and when I had this house built in 1999 I set aside a 15'x25' unfinished room for a movie room.  You can see from the dates in the pictures that it took me many years to finish.  Some stuff I hired out (framing, drywall, carpet) and some stuff I did (cabinetry, wiring, painting and wall fabric, projector install).  The BarcoGraphics 808S was decent a decade ago, but now it's just a big, heavy, loud dinosaur which needs converged every time it sees a new video mode.  I'd love to replace it with a modern-day digital, but that's not in the budget at the moment.


for the DD issues start by ensuring that the IEC958 ports are not muted by going to a terminal and typing alsamixer. Scroll to the right as this is usually where the IEC connections are located and use 'M' key to mute/unmute. And in the web admin for that MD ensure that the audio settings are SPDIF Toslink, and AC3/DTS pass-thru is ticked.

This advice is also very much appreciated.  I'll see if I can get down there today and play with this.  Under WinXP, I was able to play DD and DTS DVDs, but I was not ever able to get 44.1kHz bit-perfect output from this motherboard.  So, I do already know that the audio on this old nForce2 motherboard is somewhat picky...

 - Chris

colinjones

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2009, 02:55:28 pm »
Just a point on your last comment.... you won't ever be able to get "bit-perfect" output at 44.1kHz through your SPDIF connector. SPDIF/Toslink is fixed 48kHz only on most amps.... when you get this working, it will be because ALSA is doing a resampling of the 44.1kHz bit stream and upconverting it to 48kHz so that the SPDIF connection can handle it. Same for mp3s whatever they are at. Only native 48kHz material will pass thru untouched.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2009, 02:57:11 pm by colinjones »

chrispitude

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2009, 03:17:56 pm »
Just a point on your last comment.... you won't ever be able to get "bit-perfect" output at 44.1kHz through your SPDIF connector. SPDIF/Toslink is fixed 48kHz only on most amps.... when you get this working, it will be because ALSA is doing a resampling of the 44.1kHz bit stream and upconverting it to 48kHz so that the SPDIF connection can handle it. Same for mp3s whatever they are at. Only native 48kHz material will pass thru untouched.

Hi Colin,

I'm not sure I follow where this limitation comes in - are you describing a linux/ALSA limitation or a preamp limitation?  A borrowed Mac mini has no issues whatsoever playing bit-perfect 44.1kHz output to my Lexicon (which shows the bitrate on its front display).  It also passes through some test DTS WAV files (see here), so I know the Lexicon pre-amp handles 44.1kHz just fine.

Regarding linux, I have seen threads which describe 44.1kHz bit-perfect output from linux:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/archive/index.php/t-811008.html

http://www.xbmc.org/forum/showthread.php?t=36488

http://rednerd.com/2009/02/06/bit-perfect-audio-with-linux-and-mpd/

On that last link, I see a way to check for 44.1kHz output with the speaker-test command.  I'll have to check that out today!  Unfortunately I'm suspecting that my nForce2 chipset does not support bit-perfect output - it seems to only support 48kHz, which is one of the motivations to update to a recent CPU/motherboard.

 - Chris

chrispitude

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2009, 01:43:57 am »
Hi again all,

So I made some small progress today...  I installed a command line program called "heyu":

  http://www.heyu.org/

and was able to control my lights with it by executing simple commands:

Code: [Select]
% heyu fon B1
% heyu fon B2
% heyu fon B3

So, that tells me that linux is capable of talking to the serial port and getting the job done.  I also see from the LMCE forum archives that someone did get the CM17A X10 transmitter working with a generic serial device and some effort:

    X-10 firecraker (CM17A) adapters

So, who can I bribe to get official support of the CM17A in LinuxMCE 8.10?  I figure I'd rather pay someone $50 to add built-in support into the tree, rather than $50 on a CM11A.  Any takers?  :)

 - Chris

fastie81

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Re: My first install - a study in unsupported hardware...
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2009, 04:30:44 am »
Hi chrispitude

Nice setup

For your  SPDIF setup, I had the same problem.. but I can't tell you why there is a problem but I got mine fixed byt going into LMCE Admin
Got to you media director and change your SPDIF to manual. then save it. Make sure that SPDIF is not muted in alsamixer and test it..
I had now DD on DVD, but this change fixed it..
Chris