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The new status symbol

By enterfornone in MLP
Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 05:37:28 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

"Forget your stock portfolio, your mansion and the Porsche." According to this article the new status symbol of the dot com rich is "your Head End -- the control room housing those floor-to-ceiling banks of servers, routers, computers and other requisite gadgets for the ultimate wired home. The bigger your Head End, the more whiz-bang your villa. And if you're a high-tech mogul who craves living on the bleeding edge, you want the Mother of All Head Ends."

OK, so wired homes are nothing new. But here's the bit that interested me.
"Although several computer and networking technology companies are introducing home networking devices, most industry experts predict it will take two to five years before practical, inexpensive and dependable off-the-shelf networking systems are available for the masses."

I have a home network. So do most "geeks" I know. Mine runs off a 5 port 10mbit hub that cost less than $100 (AUD). So what are you looking at to take the average geeks home network and turn it into something that will let you control your lights and stereo. I can't see it needing the millions of dollars and rooms full of routers that these guys seem to require.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


My home network is...
o One PC 13%
o Two PCs and a crossover cable 12%
o A few PCs and a hub 46%
o A few PCs and a switch 12%
o A crapload of PCs, routers and switches etc. 14%

Votes: 125
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o this article
o Also by enterfornone

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The new status symbol | 16 comments (16 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
My "Head End" (whatever) (2.28 / 7) (#1)
by pope nihil on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:52:28 PM EST

My home currently has 6 PCs connected on the network. In my bedroom I have a PC and a Mac. They are connected through a 10/100 switch which is connected to my 100BT hub in the office. Also in the office is my cable modem, my firewall, and my mom's computer. My dad has a computer in my parent's bedroom, and my brother has one in his bedroom.

I voted.

This is overkill... (3.60 / 5) (#2)
by Speare on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:34:30 AM EST

The people who do this for their homes are doing it for the machismo, not the actual usefulness of it. It's the millionaire's version of chrome pipes and superchargers on a teenager's Chevy. It's just for show.

For instance, that guy pictured in front of his basement control room: sixteen phone lines, the caption says. Why? The only reason fifty rooms needs sixteen phone lines is if he's actually a boarding house for conference attendees, or he's running some kind of phone business. Medium data pipes are best served with cable or dsl, and heavy pipes are done with T1 trunks or bigger.

Maybe I'm guilty of this: When I got a cash windfall, I owned a $45,000 Silicon Graphics workstation, mostly for useless tinkering. It was neat, and when I was done playing, I turned that used workstation into a used Japanese sportscar.

Nowadays, I have cheap stuff. A Pii server and a Piii workstation through a cheap Belkin hub. I have a Piii laptop in another room and am waiting for one of those Linksys wireless hubs to arrive to make part of the LAN wireless. If I own something, I put it to useful work, and I don't buy more than I will really use. For home automation, I have X10 lights all over, and the laptop has a firecracker dongle to control them.

If I really wanted to impress geek visitors, I'd still go out to get a mondo big screen. Kids, non-geek spouses, and the geeks you invite all can be impressed with a couple hours of social entertainment. That is, of course, if conspicuous consumption is important to you.

[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
Media for sale anyone? (4.80 / 5) (#6)
by rusty on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 01:27:27 AM EST

For instance, that guy pictured in front of his basement control room...

...is CEO of Escient Technologies. Gee, look what they do. They sell all that shit. Of course they installed it in his house, so that he can invite reporters over and gush about his huge, throbbing "Head End".

Is it me, or does that sound like a term the companies involved made up to sound hip and high-tech and sexy? I've never heard it used anywhere else, and how godawful embarrasing would it be to try to talk about your "Head End" at a party?

Why, yes, Scott is still having some trouble with his Head End. No, it just doesn't always seem to come up properly. Well, we'll be having a guy over to look at it next week...

Don't get me wrong-- I voted for this, entusiastically. It always puts a huge smile on my face to watch the ultra-rich make fools of themselves. :-)

Eat the Rich.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

head end (3.75 / 4) (#8)
by enterfornone on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 02:33:17 AM EST

In both ISPs I've worked for, Head End basically means to cable Internet the same as POP in the dial up world. Place where the cable from the street meets the routers and stuff.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Ahh (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by rusty on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 05:21:20 AM EST

So, it's another repurposing of functional language for marketing purposes, then basically? Thanks for the info.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
The press said it, it must be true! (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by Potsy on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 05:09:38 AM EST

Heh. I like seeing the press make fools out of themselves, too. One or two jerks tell them "Head End" is the new term all the really hip, "with it" people are using, and they buy it.

Reminds me of a New York Times editorial from June of this year, which made all sorts of ridiculous claims about trendy jargon geeks supposedly use. The stupidest one was that geeks refer to sex as "client/server action"! Sheesh. I've personally never heard anyone use any of the phrases listed in that article in ordinary conversation. Salon printed an interesting response, written by ESR.

P.S. I know the aforementioned NYTimes article showed up on /. at some point, but I'll be damned if I can find it. Slashdot's search capabilities suck. Anyone have a link?

[ Parent ]

My 'mondo wired house' (3.50 / 8) (#3)
by fluffy grue on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:44:47 AM EST

Entertainment room: 80"-diagonal front-projection video system (homebrew setup, $350 using parts from eBay), full 5.1-channel dolby digital sound (receiver = $200 from eBay thanks to a guy who needed to pay his lawyer after an ugly divorce, speakers = $230 total - $100 pair of fronts from a new year's sale a few years ago, $100 for the rear and center from a clearance sale, $30 total to build my own subwoofer mostly from spare (free) parts), DVD player (Sony DVP-S550, $400, only expensive part of my system, purchased when I was making pseudo-egregrious amounts of money at a startup company).

Network: an old 486/100 I've had since 1995 (the first computer which I can truely call "mine", still running strong) as a firewall, a $35 hub, and a buttload of other systems (mostly my roommate's). There's an ultra-cyber look to all of it (i.e. cat5 cables strewn along the baseboards, because the house is a rental and I don't want to drill holes in the walls).

Automation and glitz: My lights turn on and off as I enter and leave rooms (it's called a "light switch"), I am always treated to varying scents (I have a proprietary, custom-built aroma pump known as "dirty dishes"), and my morning shower is an interactive experience (a high-tech piece-of-shit electric water heater). Additionally, each room has a custom-tailored musical experience for whoever is in it (my roommate and I both have our respective MP3 collections on infinite shuffle play, leading to ultra-high-tech "cones of sound" which saturate our respective territories).

Wow, my house is so "mondo" - or "31337" as true insiders call it!
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

lack of a good subject line... (3.50 / 4) (#4)
by b1nd0x on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:46:04 AM EST

Well certainly hooking up a home network of PCs (in the personal computer sense, i.e. whatever OS, architechture is not a job that requires said millions and large groups of routers. However, setting up a home network to interface with your home still seems to me a formiadable job.

First, the simple stuff, like lights. I don't know much about the ethernet protocol, but i'm assuming it would be easiest to hack something together that controlled the lights with a fluctuation in simple voltage, i.e. a relay. Still, you have a wire per light to run, presumably.

but that of course immediately leads to the question: "but what about dimmers." For that, perhaps another Ethernet/usual electrical circuits kludge would do, i.e. have the light brighten quicker the pulse to the switch. As a goal you of course want as much computer as possible to be done on the "server," not at the aparati, but still, e.g. hacking the networking to pulse an IR LED to interface your stereo through the remote receiver instead of having a proper node of the network with some computation done at the stereo.

But the heating system! I'm guessing servos of some sort but this would definitely require a bit more EE than the stuff already discussed, not to mention all the different things that would need to be controlled in order to effect the desired change...a plug into the thermostat would be the simplest, and least needing of motors etc., but if you want full room by room control you either get an expensive heating system or build expensive (i'm guestimating) interfaces thereto.

And of course controlling the system itself...i'm assuming a PDA with a self-written program communicating via IR. The program's the easy part, you still need IR receivers in every room running back to your computer.

So even with a small house you're talking about a lot of wires, though perhaps, with ingenuity, you will barely need any true nodes to the network at the execution end (i.e. a jerryrigged ethernet card to run your toaster).


The true geek status symbols are (4.37 / 8) (#5)
by bgalehouse on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 01:22:35 AM EST

What you produce, not what you consume. The 'truest' techie I met at college had a 486 when everbody else had p2s. But he had the coolest little svgalib mini-demos that he ran on it, and the beginning of a rendering engine (didn't have the feature set of mesa, but within it's feature set it was like 10 times faster). And a walking robot - built out of model airplane servos.

And then there was the guy who built a bunch of speakers for his room - easily the loudest setup I have ever encountered, the subwoofer looked like a hot water heater.

I kind like my setup. (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by Wiglaf on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 01:33:30 AM EST

I am in college and live with my girlfriend. Couldn't find a one bedroom with enough space so we rented a 2 bedroom. The 2nd bedroom became my programming den as well as my "head end". Of course I can dream of having a room with alot more gadgetry. But my cable modem and router setup give me a bit of bragging rights. Anyone have some more relevent info on ways to get more home stuff to be computer controlled.

Paul: I DOMINATE you to throw rock on our next physical challenge.
Trevor: You can't do that! Do you really think Vampires go around playing rock paper sissors to decide who gets to overpower one another?
X10 (4.50 / 2) (#14)
by Speare on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 11:25:54 AM EST

For cheap home automation stuff, check out X10. [No, I'm not a company shill. :) ] This stuff has been around for twenty years or so.

www.x10.com is the homepage. Be wary of giving your email address, they have a marketing department of retrained used car salesmen. Forget the video cameras and go to their home automation stuff. If you avoid the home office, you can still piece together most of what you want from Radio Shack's X10-compatible components.

Replace a wall switch or wall outlet with an X10 unit, which has any one of 256 addresses. Plug in a radio transceiver. Now, radio signals to the transceiver are converted to line noise on your house electrical wiring. The protocol supports on/off and simplistic dimming.

Without computer control, you can address about 16 units. With computers, controlling or automating all 256 is easy with a cheap serialport-to-radio dongle.

There are security apparatus (receive notice that a window or door has opened), proximity wall switches that turn lights on when you enter, and lame thermostat adjusters (they heat the wall just below your thermostat to fake it out). They have radio emitting keychains that can address two units for front doors or such, alarm clocks that automate a couple units without computers, and phone-to-X10 setups so you can call up that hunting cabin to warm it up ahead of time.

Homebrew groups have seized on the protocol to make even more gadgets. (If you know what a Parallax BASIC Stamp is, there are X10 protocol commands built into those.) Even CPAN has a couple Perl modules to help you out.

[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
[ Parent ]
ObPollOptionsWhining (2.25 / 4) (#9)
by Delirium on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 02:41:25 AM EST

My setup is "a few PCs with no hub" (10Base2 coax ethernet).

My home network is... (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 08:39:01 AM EST

Two PC's and a stack of floppy disks... :)
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Nail gun to hang pictures (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by reshippie on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 09:35:02 AM EST

Or something similarly overkill.

These people are proof that too much money is a bad thing. They don't know what to do with it all!

Why do you want you entire house networked? I'd love to see a virus that flashes all of the lights in Morse Code or something.

The only thing computerized in my house is the heat(and well, the computers :), it can be set for each day of the week, and when the temp should go up and down. I have no idea what kind of a processor it has, but I do know that it runs on a 9V battery, and has been for a few years.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

Poll (2.25 / 4) (#15)
by fvw on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 11:32:46 AM EST

HUB? There's only one true way, and it's name is BNC. (It's also occasionally called 'way too many collisions', but lets forget about that for now...)

The Ultimate Geek Status Symbol (none / 0) (#16)
by Circumference on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 05:41:58 PM EST

The ultimate geek status symbol has to be your personal Beowulf cluster. Sadly, all I have at the moment is a bunch of PCs connected by a switch. :-(

The new status symbol | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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