Home Technology

  My day job involves Information Technology. Lots of people in this industry cause it pays good and its a transportable skill. Having demonstrated minimal transportation of the skills and, as this site attests, questionable pay, it is clear I have a different motivation. I prefer IT because I'm lazy, but curious. I do IT because I want to solve real world problems. It is not a hobby (just go to the Projects page if you want to see my hobbies). In this case, the problem is complete, unbarred access to audio and video media from any source along with always-on, bi-directional information access. It is based on a fully structured wired house, with over 90 home-runned Cat5e runs throughout the house and garage. The Cat5e wiring provides at least three RJ45 connections and one F-Type coax cable for each wall outlet. This lets me have any three of seven separate data services running to the same wiring outlet. And each room has a minimum of two of these outlets (though normally three and often four) for at least six Cat5 drops and two coax drops per room. The services can include 1) raw internet, 2) DMZ, 3) internal network, 4) direct telephone, 5) PBX switched telephone, 6) intercom, or 7) distributed 70v audio.

  This is the data network. The DSL from the internet goes to firewall which provides a protected DMZ for network based appliances. This way, all the network enabled amps, DVRs, blu-rays, refrigerators, etc. have a place to live. It lets third party vendors get to them for updates (or snooping) without getting to me. The DMZ, the core of which is provided by a 24 port 100Mbps switch, provides a place for wireless for family and friends to connect their screens. The internal network, based on 1000Mbps 24 port switch, is separated by another, but different firewall. It connects our internal PCs and servers. It has its own wireless as well. Most machines work as TVPCs, running the Sage TV network client to view TV shows from Sage Digital Video Recorder server (PC1). PCs can also access video from intenet services (Hulu.com). There are five that run iTunes and access my common music library from Server (FS1). Generally, these machines are connected to an amplifier or AV system to allow Radio Paradise wherever I am. The structured wiring extends into the Garage, giving me access to all data, media, and other services. This is all made possible by the fantastically forward looking visionary who personally wired the house with so many drops.

  This is the main TV Room setup. It provides Satellite TV/DVR (much less capable than Sage), Blu-Ray, and a network PC (for music, Sage, web, email and anything else a PC can do). I did this drawing because it gets confusing to keep track of what inputs go to what device and which work when others are working. For example, I create internal analog cable channels, distributed by the Cable Network (black) to all other conventional TV's around the house (see next slide). The modulators require composite video and analog stereo audio signals, which must be available regardless of source. The Intercom requires the same analog audio. Since only a non-active source on the AVR can output video/audio when others are playing, I use the VCR output to feed the modulator and intercom. This allows anything playing in the TV Room (blu ray, satellite, computer) to be seen on any TV in the house or heard over the intercom.

Update Mar 2010: TVPC (PC2) was updated with a Core 2 Duo E7500, ATI HD 5000 PCIe video and Windows 7 to enable it to play HD H.264 Sage DVR recordings from the new HD-PVR.

  TV service is comprised of Satellite TV (DirecTV) along with its (weak but improving) DVR functionality, a Sage Network DVR system, several PCs used to deliver TV (Home Theater PCs - HTPCs), and an internal cable distribution system. The satellite runs three DTV receivers. All DTV receivers can display DTV DVR output via the DMZ network. The Sage Network DVR system takes Satellite output from one DTV receiver, the channel of which is controlled by the Sage Server. Sage provides a Tivo-like interface that we control with wireless mice for the HTPCs connected to various TVs. A March 2010 update added an Hauppauge HD-PVR to the Sage Server PC to enable capture of HD programming. The HD-PVR takes analog HD 1080i video and digital audio output from the DTV receiver and decodes it to the Sage server in the Mancave. The resulting H.264 encoded files are streamed around the internal network to the HTPCs. As a bonus, the same Mancave DTV also feeds the kitchen HD TV via HDMI over Cat5 extenders (Sep 2011). That DTV is controlled by an RF DirecTV remote. The DTV receiver in the TV Room is also the DVR, connecting to the Denon AVR above. An analog feed is taken from the AVR and modulated to create a Cable TV channel which is distributed to digitally-challenged PCs located elsewhere.

  In November 2010, I decided I needed to put some Home Automation into the house. The main purpose was to see the status of the garage doors. I bought some Insteon stuff to allow use of existing power lines to manage AC devices and appliances. With that experiment done over the Holiday Break of 2010, I decided to expand the project - since it was still cold. I moved on to lighting and control of various devices around the house. I also found I could add surveillance and security monitoring. It is integrated into our other security system with separate integrations to an external network segment. I can control most of the integrated parts via PCs and handhelds from around the house. I've created some limited control over the Internet, though minimally, so as not to expose security sensitive devices over the network. In December 2011, I started experimenting with voice announcements which gave birth to Daisy. In January 2012, this experiment was put into production using a separate whole house distributed audio system using 25v/70v distribution amps and speakers.

  I thought I needed to elaborate on Daisy's involvement with the whole Home Automation thing. This diagram shows how the Universal Devices ISY-99i controller is used to control non-Insteon services around the house. The ISY-99i does A LOT MORE than just Insteon. It has a very powerful event processing and logic capability. Based on commands coming from either web requests or Insteon events, the ISY generates network based controls to any number of devices. I control a PC in the garage which plays iTunes at the touch of a button. It also controls camera behavior based on security modes and various sensors. It also generates all the voice announcements, greetings, comments, soliloquies, and warnings based on events processed by the ISY-99i. It is well worth the money when you want to add some web based controls to your basic Insteon world..

  The intercom is a Nutone 3303 base unit with several remote stations throughout the house, in the garage, and outside. The intercom tunes the radio (NPR mostly). For better utility, it has inputs from my general purpose PC (PC3) and from the TV Room AVR (and PC2) system so anything playing on the TV Room system can be heard around the house. The output of the intercom is sent to PC7 in the mancave, which provides a second whole house audio system to distribute the Intercom as well as Daisy voice announcement services. The intercom can be controlled via the Insteon Home Automation network as well.