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  • Looking At Home Automation

    I'm looking into writing a front end for a home automation system and am looking for your opinions on my approach. I'll be buying a house next year and would like to know what the higher powers think before ripping out all the gyprock to run wires!

    So I've got the home theatre, surround sound, projector, game systems all that stuff and everything is set up for all digital video/sound. What I want to do is to run speakers in every room of the house so when I move between rooms the music is playing everywhere. Will your average Sony home theatre amplifier accomodate this? I see mine has a few extra speaker inputs and a setup for speakers A and speakers B and you can turn A and B on/off independently but I'm thinking this won't provide all the inputs I need to put a speaker in the ceiling of every room. Would I need a special amplifier or multiple? This one is 6.1 channel, 700 watts or so.

    I also want a screen fixed to the wall that will show a picture slideshow like many picture frames do now. Only I want it hooked to the computer so that when a guest touches it during a party, the pictures go away and they have a RoadRunner type interface where they can scroll through all my songs and choose one like a jukebox. Then the main music is now the song they chose from the list and guests can change it all night at will on this screen on the wall. I'm thinking a screen from a busted laptop (roommate has a broken Dell) and a cheapo touchscreen overlay from Ebay. Issues? This will require a long *** VGA cable and USB cable in the walls from the computer. I'd like a wireless screen for this but don't want to think what that will cost.

    I also want the screen to have access to a camera monitoring system so I can see the driveway, public rooms, backyard, and also an interface where I can turn on lights/appliances in each room. Fusion Brain? X10?

    Thoughts? It'll likely be run off an Ubuntu box I'm using as my main desktop right now and I'll probably throw Apache on it for serving web requests. I'll also be able to go to the screen, choose a movie, touch the curtain option to close the curtains and dim the lights for theatre mode, then go back to the couch for the awesomeness that is the movie I chose.
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  • #2
    I really don't know anything of value but I'll bump it for bad assed-ness.
    I have heard some good things about the touchscreen kits but unless you have a screen you want to use, I've heard it's better to save up the coin and get an actual touchscreen.

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    • #3
      I like the idea... and I believe I've stumbled across a company that actually mass-produces/installs these kinds of systems. It's a system that controls basically the entire house. Locks doors, is a thermostat, controls lights, music, etc. I don't know the name of it but it looked pretty cool.

      As far as doing it yourself - I think it's very doable but a Fusion Brain is 100% required to close curtains, control lights and things like that. I believe if your receiver for the home theater system has enough speaker outs then you can have speakers in every room.

      I think there's been some good deals posted here a about large touchscreens from Sharp.. keep an eye open for for them.

      VGA cables can go a pretty long distance without losing signal. I'd imagine you won't have a problem with that. VGA cables are really not that expensive as long as you buy them from the right place (cablesforless.com, cablestogo.com). As for USB, you can only go a certain length before the signal drops and power needs to be introduced in order to boost the signal over long lengths. That's pretty easy as well.

      Can't wait to see the progress!
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      • #4
        Originally posted by RyanB95 View Post
        I like the idea... and I believe I've stumbled across a company that actually mass-produces/installs these kinds of systems. It's a system that controls basically the entire house. Locks doors, is a thermostat, controls lights, music, etc. I don't know the name of it but it looked pretty cool.

        As far as doing it yourself - I think it's very doable but a Fusion Brain is 100% required to close curtains, control lights and things like that. I believe if your receiver for the home theater system has enough speaker outs then you can have speakers in every room.

        I think there's been some good deals posted here a about large touchscreens from Sharp.. keep an eye open for for them.

        VGA cables can go a pretty long distance without losing signal. I'd imagine you won't have a problem with that. VGA cables are really not that expensive as long as you buy them from the right place (cablesforless.com, cablestogo.com). As for USB, you can only go a certain length before the signal drops and power needs to be introduced in order to boost the signal over long lengths. That's pretty easy as well.

        Can't wait to see the progress!
        Yup a Fusion Brain is a good idea, but I have a sort of bias on these things .

        I read you are getting into .NET and you want your own interface, so the programming should be pretty easy for you. All of our software is open source and in .NET.

        And for USB, you can get active extenders, but they wont go forever. USB has a built in timeout. So if data isnt received back in X uS, then it assumes data is lost, and USB wont work. So active extensions will work to point, then no more because of the latency. But the actual control wires (like the relay triggers) are analogue and can go forever (if you keep boosting it for very very long runs).
        Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
        1.9in x 2.9in -- 47mm x 73mm
        30 Digital Outputs -- Directly drive a relay
        15 Analogue Inputs -- Read sensors like temperature, light, distance, acceleration, and more
        Buy now in the MP3Car.com Store

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        • #5
          Start researching SMARTHOME and X-10.

          If you thought CarComputers were a never-ending, expensive hobby, get ready to be blown away! Smarthome covers everything from AV distribution to automation of everything that can be plugged into your home electrical system to security systems. But it ain't cheap. I haven't lookd into the latest technology for a few years since I sold my last house, but I believe everything you've listed so far can be accomplished through them. I don't know how seamless the organization of it would be but like I said its all there.
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          • #7
            Thanks guys, I've already been all over the Smarthome and X10 websites a year ago preparing myself for this. And there's a guy at my work who wired his house up for X10 back in 1998 and still has most of the hardware he's going to sell me for cheap. I'll play with that and see what I come up with. But I don't think it'll be very expensive because I can do the software myself. Instead of buying a X10 camera setup for $100, I pay $10 for a webcam and write some .NET to incorporate it into a front end.....done. I can even do motion detection by using checksum values. So it'll end up being pretty cheap.
            Ampie Case
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            • #8
              Is there any reason you wouldn't go with an already existing system? I've got control4 gear in my place. They have wireless speaker points that you can put audio everywhere without having to run wires, wireless touchscreens, thermostats wireless lights/dimmers and a bunch of other cool stuff. The interface is pretty similar to what you would see in a carPC frontend. They even have an interface for rhapsody.

              The one downfall I have experienced with them is that it doesn't really tailor to the hacker community. The "dealer" that installs it will have ultimate control of the programming of the system.

              So if you really want to tinker (and have the time for it) then maybe grabbing a bunch of fusion brains and wiring up your house is the best solution for you...

              just my 2 cents
              Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
              Current author of Automotive Message Broker (AMB).
              Works on Tizen IVI. Does not represent anyone or anything but himself.

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              • #9
                Don't reinvent the wheel.

                http://www.cocoontech.com/

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                • #11
                  Touché

                  Likewise, there is no point in putting one of those stone circles on your Honda when pneumatic tires are available.

                  Home automation isn't new, and there is a ton of hardware and software specifically designed for it. Cocoontech is a great source of information just like mp3car is.

                  To answer your amplifier question, typically, A is designed for surround sound, and b is for multi room. Either one will work fine by them selves, but you typically can't run surround sound and multi room at the same time.

                  LINUX MCE is based on Ubuntu and will do what you are looking for.

                  Watch your pocketbook, and after you get in to it, you wonder why you ever thought you would have to "go to the screen.... then go back to the couch."

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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by txspazz View Post
                    Touché

                    Likewise, there is no point in putting one of those stone circles on your Honda when pneumatic tires are available.

                    Home automation isn't new, and there is a ton of hardware and software specifically designed for it. Cocoontech is a great source of information just like mp3car is.

                    To answer your amplifier question, typically, A is designed for surround sound, and b is for multi room. Either one will work fine by them selves, but you typically can't run surround sound and multi room at the same time.

                    LINUX MCE is based on Ubuntu and will do what you are looking for.

                    Watch your pocketbook, and after you get in to it, you wonder why you ever thought you would have to "go to the screen.... then go back to the couch."
                    Okay so if B is multiroom, can I only run the number of speakers there are enough jacks for? Or is there some way to add lots of low wattage ceiling speakers?

                    And I won't have to go to the screen forever, that's mostly for guests to pick songs during a party and a cool slideshow screensaver when not in use so it looks just like a picture frame on the wall. Eventually it'll be a screen sitting on the coffee table and also bluetooth linked to an application on my Blackberry or iTouch.

                    A lot of people say there's hardware/software already out there for this.....is it open source? Can I change it? If not then there's your answer. I could buy Streetdeck but I want RoadRunner because it's open source.
                    Ampie Case
                    2.5" Hard Drive 80GB Samsung 5400RPM
                    256 MB DDR2 PC5400
                    Xenarc 700TSV - VGA Monitor
                    Intel D945GCLF Motherboard
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                    • #13
                      1) it all depends on the impedance your amp can handle and the impedance of the speakers.

                      3) Is it open source? some is. Can you change it? most of it.

                      If your going to go all in with a project like this it's best to start with the hardware that will control the rest of the hardware.

                      This is typically a control panel like an ELK M1 . It's a fusion brain on steroids. It has inputs and outputs and can run without a PC. Out of the box it can handle security and automation including your X10 and easily integrates with anything else you want to do.

                      Are there other ways to do it, sure there are. Use a simple control board like a fusion brain and use it to turn things on and off.... before you know it you'll have a stack of fusion brains hooked up to a PC wishing you had just started out with a controller installed out of the way in a utility closet.

                      Anyway..... you asked for opinions.

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                      • #14
                        Originally posted by Enforcer View Post
                        Why not, I think we have come along way from those stone circles.
                        Have we? reallly?

                        Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
                        Current author of Automotive Message Broker (AMB).
                        Works on Tizen IVI. Does not represent anyone or anything but himself.

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                        • #15
                          Missed the last few posts in this thread, keep the opinions coming.
                          I was looking at the Harmony 1000 today, it's a wireless touchscreen that controls lots of other hardware like DVD player and television. I think it'll actually control some computer functions as well, but I don't want the proprietary software. So I'm still looking for a wireless screen that I can run custom software on if it's out there. Otherwise it'll just be wired for now and I'll just have to wait until I write a Blackberry application to control it completely wirelessly.

                          I'm also wondering which media centre software is out there......is LinuxICE any good? I have Ubuntu on the media computer and that's the way I'd like to keep it.
                          Ampie Case
                          2.5" Hard Drive 80GB Samsung 5400RPM
                          256 MB DDR2 PC5400
                          Xenarc 700TSV - VGA Monitor
                          Intel D945GCLF Motherboard
                          M2-ATX-HV

                          2005 Honda Civic

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