Daisy (Our Home Muse)

  My winter project for 2011 was Home Automation. And, like any good hobby, its addicting. Everytime I hear something like, "you know, you could do such and such" or "if I were you, I'd make my house plant a garden and massage my feet," I start thinking of how I could do it. The internet makes a good source of ideas and techniques and a good sink for pouring out my money juice. Sites like CocoonTech.com and Universal Devices give an interested reader any number of ways of solving challenges. So, one day, when wife asked why we couldn't have the house tell us what was happening instead of hearing the stupid monotone X10 chime box ($15), I took the challenge - Game On!. I'm about 50% into it now, but with about twenty times the investment of the stupid (but cheap) X10 module. Introducing - Daisy.

  Click for a Larger Image Daisy consists of four things. First, her voice. She was known as Crystal when given life at the research facilities of AT&T. Next, is the PC that stores and speaks her vocabulary, using EventGhost, pictured on the left. Event Ghost listens to triggers from her Brain and Heart, the ISY-99i. This small automation controller watches for automation events either from Insteon events, IP network events, or internal programmed logic (date, time, or calculated) events. When she has the need to talk, she issues the event from the PC into a whole house audio network, made up of the PC sound card, a multi-channel mixer, and a whole house 25V and 70V amplifier leading to normal as well as 70V transformer equiped speakers.

  Here's the little tiny brain - just like our brain is probably only 15% to 40% of our volume. It has one ethernet network connection to the Insteon automation network (see Tech Stuff). It also has a serial link to an Insteon Power Line Modem (PLM) which communicates all of the ISY-99i's instructions to the Insteon devices. The phone switch is to the right. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Here is a day long project - its an RJ45 based 25v/70v speaker distribution bus. It takes all the striped wires from each RJ45 and ties them to the white bus. The solids from each RJ45 go to the black bus. This creates 12 speaker connections (12 plus and 12 minus bundled conductors) in parallel, which is what is required for 25v/70v distribution to the various speaker transformers. Note one orange connector. This will be for running the 25v/70v speaker from the amp to the bus.

  Before value judging this picture, remember: Form Follows Function. While seemingly messy, its actually pretty tidy and functional. The patch panel for the house jacks are the top four rows (4x24 = 96 jacks). The top three rows are RJ45 Cat5 jacks for the house. Twelve jacks on the bottom row (left side) are connectors leading to the separate patch panel in the Garage Media system. The right side 12 jacks are the 25v/70v distribution connectors. Some PCs (firewalls, servers, and virtual host) and amps are on the rack to the right. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Here is a better look of the audio distribution bus installed in the rack. I don't yet have all the necessary 25v/70v speaker side transformers. So, until then, I have some speakers running in serial (poor form, but it works in a pinch). See? There are two serial adapters - one set is blue and the other white. The tiny single twisted pair, unjacketed wires are conventional telephone distribution as are the red wires (which go to the phone switch).

  Here is the distribution amp. Its a 100w Pyle amp, with both 4/8/16 ohm and 25v/70v outputs. It has three inputs, a mike input and a monitor speaker output. Pretty handy for about $100. The amp below is a Sony AV amp (pre-HDMI) I was using for distribution to only four speakers. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image This thing's pretty funny. When I was first trying to figure out how Daisy would work, I thought I'd pipe the audio directly into the intercom. Advanced planning in 1999 when we were building the house resulted in me having multiple intercom inputs and outputs to this wiring rack. At first I tried to emulate feeding the Daisy line level audio into the intercom feed. To do so, I needed to simulate pushing a button to talk. While figuring out the logic of the buttons, I could various resistances across the three station wires to do different functions. Holding one button with a 3.2K ohm resistor across two leads for three or four seconds would turn the intercom off and on. Pushing it for a half second (same resistance) would change the channels. A 700 ohm resistor would put it in talk mode. But I always got too much 60Hz hum and muddy audio when I tried to feed audio - something about impedance, reactance, voltage, blah, blah, blah. . So I used these relay controllers to just put 3.2K ohm loads across the control leads for various time periods. So now, I can turn the intercom on and off or change the channel from a browser. Not much practical use, which makes it a perfect hobby!

  Finally, her voice. This mouthpiece is in the master bath. I felt I could take a few liberties with the ceiling as I had already punched some holes for the RF cable for the vintage TV, for the heat lamp, and several other lights, fans, and accessories. I like light and noise when I'm studying. Goodbye. Click for a Larger Image

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