Welcome to Home Automoton

Want in on the ground floor? This is probably the article you should start with.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Page launch, and the current setup.

I've been finding myself enjoying playing with this type of tech lately, and a lot of it can be pretty overwhelming if you're not sure what you're doing. I also wanted to kind of 'give back', and help other people pull off what we're currently enjoying.

Our goal was to eliminate as much of our monthly home entertainment bill while making the smallest amount of 'content sacrifice' possible. While our setup isn't perfect, it certainly gets the job done, and doesn't leave us missing out on too many 'must haves'. Our current monthly bill for all this sits at $33: $8 for Netflix, and $25 for 1.5Mbps 'Dry Loop' DSL (means no phone service is required).

Our current setup:

- Vizio 42" 120hz TV
- Custom-built Windows XP computer (it's least 5 years old) connected via VGA.
- Terk HDTVa amplified digital antenna
- Logitech Harmony 520 Remote

The computer provides us with access to media sites like Hulu, QuickSilverScreen, and Netflix. The antenna gives us HD access to important live-events like the Olympics, and standard local channels for sports/news/weather/shows we can't catch on Hulu, like American Idol (my wife watches it... not me. Really!)

Everything is controlled with that Logitech Harmony 520 remote. The 520 is an older model, but almost all of the now-discontinued models are widely available on eBay. The cool thing about Harmony remotes is that they are all literally capable of the same stuff, it's just a matter of form factor, screen, rechargeable battery, etc. The one exception is if you want to use RF for some of your equipment, that is only available with the higher-end remotes. As an extra-frugal bonus, Logitech's configuration support is tied to when your user profile is created, not the purchase date of the remote. This means that even buying a used remote will give you 90 days of free phone support from Logitech.

I purchased that $9 remote almost exclusively for its IR Receiver, but the remote also proved useful for 'teaching' the Logitech the proper signals to control our PC.

Our computer currently doesn't support recording but I'm hoping to upgrade it soon so we can run full HD on it, and record shows off of the digital antenna. We could also use a bump in the bandwidth department, if only because it's just about impossible to download anything without causing the TV to begin pausing to rebuffer, even with QoS running on the router.

I would also like to tie the system in to some basic home automation, including light control, door notification (mostly to make sure we don't leave our garage doors open overnight, as we've done quite a bit before). The ability to put cameras on the house to monitor things like cars parked in our driveway over night would be a nice security addition, as well.

Throughout this blog I'll cover how we configured everything above to work together, as well as document the changes and evolution of our setup.

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