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Quest for a practical geek house

By mystic in Technology
Sat Jun 02, 2001 at 08:35:11 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I had been living in a hostel for 4 years and when I shifted out, into a separate house (rented, of course). I wanted to do wonders with it. I wanted to set up the house as a geek house, with cool scripts controlling cool gadgets. But then the practical aspects came into play. I had just got a job, with no cash and not much time in my hands.

Times have changed. I have a bit of money with me (whatever is left after buying books and CDs). I have enough time too, to hack on anything interesting. So my dream house is back, nagging me, asking me to give it a shape.

At this juncture, I turn to my ever resourceful K5 friends to help me shape my house.

To be frank, I am not sure what I want. Well that can be a problem or a good thing. I am open to suggestions on all kind of things that can be done to my house. What have you done in your house. Have you connected your Hi-Fi to your brain to change songs according to your mood? Great! Been controlling the air conditioning set's settings using input from your body temperature sensors? Excellent! Tell me how you did it. As long as it won't cost me a fortune, or burn the house or kill me while trying, I am game for it.

Salon's recent article - "Geek House" is good. Any more such articles that might be useful? Personally I don't find the idea of having a cam watching over me very pleasant. But someone in K5's audience will be interested and if you can help that one guy, why not. So let your suggestions pour forth!


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


Related Links
o Salon
o "Geek House"
o Also by mystic

Display: Sort:
Quest for a practical geek house | 71 comments (54 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
Easy & Cheap (3.50 / 6) (#1)
by DeadBaby on Fri May 25, 2001 at 11:10:01 PM EST

The most practical way to go about this IMO is:

1) Get a big ass file server. The storage will be the worst part, any old machine should do just fine.

2) You need a video card with TV out near your TV. That'll give you divx/DVD support and more. Also you can control your mp3 playback via your TV with a remote control keyboard/mouse. Big jukebox for audio and video.

3) There are computer controlled power strips; they're probably the best way to go.

Of course, if you're using Linux the chances of having support for TV-OUT or any sort of software controlled power strip is almost null.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
Good stuff (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by fluffy grue on Sat May 26, 2001 at 01:48:07 AM EST

1. Of course, you can get 80GB drives pretty cheap now.

2. I believe ATIs' TV outputs are supported under XFree 4. Or you could always hack a TiVo (which I'm sure is violating the GPL - I mean, I'm sure they have their own funky in-kernel hardware drivers and filesystem, yaknow?)

3. X10 is supported quite well under Linux, and thare are X10-compatible power strips.

Ancillary point: XMMS supports IRDA control (has for quite some time, in fact).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

TiVo and GPL (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by adx on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 11:39:24 AM EST

You can actually get all the source to make the TiVo GPL compliant at http://www.tivo.com/linux. Remember the TiVo uses an embedded PowerPC chip so I don't realy know how much of this is relevant to an x86 machine. Also, they probably use a bunch of kernel modules or other user-land applications that they've written and don't have to release under the GPL.

[ Parent ]
Ah, cool (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by fluffy grue on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 01:58:21 PM EST

Nice to see that they have, in fact, released their kernel patches. I just realized, btw, that they don't necessarily need to use a kernel module for their filesystem - since all the software runs as root, they can just use direct partition access.

And yeah, I wouldn't expect their applications to be GPLed.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

One side addition, keyboard... (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by phunbalanced on Sat May 26, 2001 at 02:40:22 PM EST

I took this a step fartther, with regards to the wireless control. Get a really nice "learning" remote. I got the Sony, RM-AV2100. It has a large touch sensitive lcd on top, which you can add and remove buttons from, and I believe it can control up to 16 devices, probably more.

Anyway, back to the orignal point, so then you go out and buy a cheap Infrared keyboard. Setup some software on the linux box, to work off of certain keystrokes, "teach" those keystrokes to the remote. ie if "Play" is "x" on your keyboard, and your mp3 and dvd software, then teach the "x" key to your remote as the "|>" key. :) VERY Handy.

[ Parent ]

Heh (3.50 / 2) (#58)
by DJBongHit on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 03:21:23 PM EST

I took this a step fartther, with regards to the wireless control. Get a really nice "learning" remote. I got the Sony, RM-AV2100. It has a large touch sensitive lcd on top, which you can add and remove buttons from, and I believe it can control up to 16 devices, probably more.

Ahh, so you finally did something cool with that psycho huge-ass remote? I was wondering when you were gonna do that :)


GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
x10 (4.57 / 7) (#2)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 11:12:20 PM EST

If you want to control your house, x10 is the way to go. Their both cheap and inexpensive, meaning they break a lot, but are priced accordingly. Modules can be purchased at Radio Shack and from x10.com. If you choose the latter, give them a junk email because it will be the target of an unbelievable onslaught of commercial junkage.

I don't do a whole lot with x10. We've got a couple overhead lights and a space heater attached to them (for my wife who is disabled). They are easy to install and very easy to attach to the computer. x10.com has free Windows software. Plenty of free software to control them is available on Linux.

When the local GLUG brought in Larry Wall to give his Camel Lot 6 speech, he mentioned some of the nifty things he does with x10 and Perl. If Larry is into x10, it must be geek.

x10 is neato (none / 0) (#24)
by ODiV on Sat May 26, 2001 at 01:00:20 PM EST

I like x10 as well. Their mailing list is really bothersome though. Every day they're having THE BEST DEAL EVER!!! It gets annoying really fast, and if I didn't like their products so much, that alone would've turned me off.

I've looked, but I can't find a third party interface for windows machines. Anyone have any luck in that dept?

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
Third party interface? (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by Anonymous 242 on Sat May 26, 2001 at 01:40:49 PM EST

Do you mean that you don't like the x10 Windows Software?

Also, what I like is that many of their modules can be found at Radio Shack. I get no spam from the Shack. Of course I do give them the wrong name and address...

[ Parent ]

Third Party... (none / 0) (#29)
by ODiV on Sat May 26, 2001 at 07:46:12 PM EST

Yeah. I hate the X10 software. I was reading about some of the cool Linux software (including a web interface) and was getting jealous. I don't even need something that complicated, but their software is unacceptable. Something that would let me use the keyboard or even run in the background and let me use ctrl-whatever would be much more preferable. Know anything like that?

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
Try this (none / 0) (#31)
by Anonymous 242 on Sat May 26, 2001 at 11:44:23 PM EST

X10 Software Page

Also, there is an x10 category at simtel (or whatever its called this day and age) that might be worth checking out.

[ Parent ]

Controlling X-10 (none / 0) (#30)
by localroger on Sat May 26, 2001 at 09:36:54 PM EST

While I've found no way to do the RF interface, the Basic Stamp II (available from these folks) has commands that can control X-10 through an interface kit Parallax sells. You would have to write a StampBasic program to receive commands from the parallel port (oh you said windoze make that the serial port) and convert to X-10, but that should give you a direct interface so you can issue X-10 commands from windoze without using their annoying software.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

That's not X-10 (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by noahm on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 05:41:58 PM EST

The annoying mailing list (and equally annoying web site) at x10.com is by no means the "official" or only X-10 source. X-10 is a specific protocol and is not proprietary to a single company. It is unfortunate that such an annoying company wound up with the x10.com domain.

I remember an article in RUN magazine from the mid 80's talking about how you could turn your old Commodore VIC-20 into an X-10 control center ('cause of course you've upgraded to a C64 or 128!). It would be nice to get whatever software/hardware is needed for my C-64 to talk to the X-10 stuff. I like the idea of having a dedicated control center.


[ Parent ]

X-10 sources & comments (none / 0) (#33)
by cei on Sun May 27, 2001 at 04:20:31 AM EST

[They're] both cheap and inexpensive, meaning they break a lot, but are priced accordingly.
Yeah, I have a handful of modules and have run into reliability issues with them. My timer doesn't always turn off the lamps appropriately, and I had a keypad just stop on me. Otherwise, I'm fairly happy with my setup... lamp & socket controllers, macros sent from my Mac, RF to dim the lights behind my home theater, etc.

Picked up all my hardware at smarthome.com, if that's any help.

[ Parent ]

What I would like... (3.80 / 5) (#4)
by slick willie on Fri May 25, 2001 at 11:20:54 PM EST

I always thought it would be cool to add some type of connectivity to light switches, outlets, and so forth. Have a server poll them once a second for status. 0=off, 1=on. A set of scripts would build a web page that you could view that had a table of all the appliances in your house, along with their status.
  • Coffee Maker On
  • Yard Light On
  • Iron Off
  • Stove Off
Of course, it would have a button to change the status. Coffee Maker's on? Click. Now it's off.

You could also place webcams around the house for security purposes, so you could check on things from afar.

That's just some of the thoughts that I have had. I don't have the foggiest idea of how to implement such a scheme, but I imagine that it wouldn't be all that difficult if a guy had a soldering iron some microcontrollers and some free time.

"...there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."
--Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address

Dunno about the coffee maker (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 11:26:48 PM EST

But the rest of that you can do with x10

[ Parent ]
Just on/off status? (5.00 / 4) (#10)
by Burrito Supreme Dictator on Sat May 26, 2001 at 01:27:29 AM EST

I always thought it would be cool to add some type of connectivity to light switches, outlets, and so forth. Have a server poll them once a second for status. 0=off, 1=on. A set of scripts would build a web page that you could view that had a table of all the appliances in your house, along with their status.

That's a good start, but does it really convey enough information? How 'bout a readout that says:

  • Coffeemaker: Percolation Optimal
  • Toaster: Poptarts slightly singed
  • Iron: Burning through shirt, 23% complete
  • Baby monitor: Crying, 40dB. Deploying pacifier launcher.
  • Stove: You're somehow managing to burn Ramen. 40% complete.
  • Yard light: Increasing energy bill 5%
  • Bed: Pressure sensors indicate that your wife and an 80 kg mailman are severely agitating the bedsprings. Perhaps you're spending too much time at your computer?

-- This space devoted to wasting your bandwidth. (A token gesture, to be sure, in these days of high-speed connections. But it's the thought that counts, right?) --
[ Parent ]
40db? (2.66 / 3) (#18)
by Ludwig on Sat May 26, 2001 at 09:00:23 AM EST

That's one quiet baby!

[ Parent ]
Ummm.... (none / 0) (#35)
by Burrito Supreme Dictator on Sun May 27, 2001 at 10:01:00 PM EST

Buggy sound drivers, honest! ;)

-- This space devoted to wasting your bandwidth. (A token gesture, to be sure, in these days of high-speed connections. But it's the thought that counts, right?) --
[ Parent ]
Brave little toaster. (4.71 / 7) (#9)
by John Milton on Sat May 26, 2001 at 12:19:39 AM EST

This reminds me of one of those strange ideas I had a while back. The "Hack a Toaster Project." Build the worlds only web server in a toaster. Then place either linux or bsd on it, and let some of the best security experts in the world secure it. Setup a web page on it, and announce a prize to the first person who hacks it to pop up. It would make a great advertising gimmick especially if you had some web cams on it. Have the web page report the status of the toaster, recorded attacks, and bread status. ;)

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Hacking.... (4.00 / 2) (#48)
by Elkor on Thu May 31, 2001 at 12:20:18 PM EST

Would it count as a successful hack if you hacked the video stream to replace it with the -image- of the toaster popping up?

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Advertising (4.50 / 2) (#55)
by fluffy grue on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 01:48:30 PM EST

Brings a whole new meaning to the term "pop-up advertising," huh.

Now, if you could make a toaster with a number of switchable coils inside (setup like a passive-matrix LCD panel), you could write messages on it before popping it up. "All your toast are belong to us" or whatever.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

my place (4.90 / 11) (#11)
by dr k on Sat May 26, 2001 at 01:41:08 AM EST

In my apartment I have a number of cool, "geeky" things. First of all, in each room I have wired up a number of outlets, which can be used to supply power to just about anything with a power cord. Some of the outlets can even be controlled by a switch mounted on the wall. (The place where my former roommate lives, he has a hallway with switches next to both doors, so he can turn on or off the lights no matter which end of the hall he is on!) You may have to talk to a power utility if you want something like this.

Also, I guess the guy who lived here before me was pretty cool, because when I moved in there was already hot and cold water taps in the both the kitchen and the bathroom. I take a hot shower all the time, it is nice.

I got the usual stuff too, like phone jacks and a gas stove. But the best thing is my music system. It is in my bedroom, and I have it set up where if I turn it up just enough, I can fully hear the music if I'm standing at my front door! Today's Tom Sawyer!
Destroy all trusted users!

beautiful. (3.66 / 3) (#14)
by agharta on Sat May 26, 2001 at 03:04:22 AM EST

a beautiful response to this ill written and ill thought out essay.

[ Parent ]
ALL the time? (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by kaemaril on Sat May 26, 2001 at 06:03:19 AM EST

Goodness, you must be as wrinkled as a prune :)

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

[ Parent ]
wrinkles (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by dr k on Sun May 27, 2001 at 03:47:11 PM EST

That is why I always stock an ample supply of skin lotion in the bathroom.
Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]
Willikers... mine doesn't have ANY of that. (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by beergut on Wed May 30, 2001 at 11:42:05 PM EST


I bought a house in a bad neighborhood, with full knowledge that it needed a complete rehab. So far, I have installed a new water service, a new electric service, a new gas service, new doors, a few new windows, and insulation.

Now, I have to get all the services distributed properly throughout the house. A new 200-AMP breaker panel does little good when you only have two receptacles and a light attached to it. New water service does little good when you only have a makeshift spigot in the basement. New gas service I had installed (poorly... grr...) by the local gas monopoly at an exorbitant rate. It was cold, you see, and I wanted heat NOW rather than futzing around with it after work and on weekends.

I have plumbing nearly to my kitchen sink now, though, so things are looking up there. I'll be taking delivery of a tankless electric water heater soon to provide (somewhat limited) hot water when I plumb that in. I have a neat-o tankless natural gas water heater, but I have to buy $1200 worth of chimney cleaning and lining before I can use it.

I want geeks to move into the 'hood. One is moving next door to me in about three weeks, so that's good. We'll probably split costs on bandwidth and run a network.

My house cost $4,500.00. There are lots of houses in that price range in my neighborhood. I may sell mine soon, and get a new start on one down the block or something. Jacuzzi tub, water heater, improvements, and all other stored supplies included, for the rip-roaring price of $8,500.00.

Anyone interested? ;-)

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Where? (none / 0) (#68)
by labradore on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:18:42 PM EST

Oh where do you live?

[ Parent ]
St. Louis, MO... (none / 0) (#71)
by beergut on Sat Jun 16, 2001 at 12:43:50 AM EST

The house is in North St. Louis. It was a German/Dutch neighborhood when it was built, and was subsequently ravaged by the government with its section 8 program.

The people in the neighborhood are increasingly hostile toward section 8 and renters, and the neighborhood is cleaning its act up quite nicely.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

/. link: Constructing A Geek House (4.12 / 8) (#13)
by xdc on Sat May 26, 2001 at 02:10:45 AM EST

You might be interested in "Constructing A Geek House", a discussion that happened on /. last September.

The need dictates the solution (4.40 / 5) (#20)
by Tezcatlipoca on Sat May 26, 2001 at 10:09:09 AM EST

Not the other way around. If you have no idea what you want then you should not waste your money and most importantly time.

In my house we have 5 computers so we are making a network, one old PC running Smoothwall Firewall for connection to the Internet, then we can share a printer, connect our laptos to read email or read it from the desktops.

I want proper audio for my PC and I have an amplifier left, new speakers and voila, new MP3 sound system.

I got a 100 old year piano, with candleholders and a bit chopped off by a bomb during WWII. Now that is cool, better that a funky Technics or Yamaha electronic piano.

So what do you need? And what is "geek" for you?

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
Some ideas I'm fleshing out (3.75 / 4) (#36)
by Miniluv on Sun May 27, 2001 at 11:48:06 PM EST

Being in the situation where now is the perfect time for me to lay out my basic plans, before confronted with the impending reality of home ownership and needing to figure things out fast if I'm lucky enough to buy new construction, I'm currently laying the groundwork for what I want in a "wired" house.

First I've already decided to build a dedicated server closet, probably with a real racking system with proper climate control and so forth. While rackmount cases are more expensive, they're far more efficient for space and there's a lot of gear available in small form factor rackmount cases. This will also make wiring for the network easier, especially for the "server segment" portion. It will allow me to physically segregate my DMZ machines, that is to say all workstations plus the external firewall and public servers, onto a separate physical network. I'm thinking I might splurge and go with GigE cross over from the DMZ to the private server net so my file server will have plenty of bandwidth, and so forth.

In the rack will be a RAID-x server with lots of storage, for both mp3s and regular files and porn and so forth, and at least two 100Meg NICs or one GigE NIC. I've not yet decided if I'm going to simply stripe, or stripe with parity, though I think Raid5 is the most likely option.

Next in the rack will be a smaller (processor and RAM and storage wise) machine running *nix with X11 and a nifty soundcard. This will be my mp3 jukebox and it will be attached to a receiver also mounted in the rack to which my speakers throughout the house are attached. I specifically mention *nix and X11 because then I can use remote X displays to control XMMS or whatever other mp3 software I choose to run from any machine in the house. Much simpler than attempting to configure some form of web or other protocol based control software.

The centerpiece of the rack will be an X display server. My intent is to buy commodity thin clients and place them throughout the house that are netbootable and will connect to the X server for all their needs. Since having the ability to control the house from any individual room, along with surfing the web and checking email, is a priority this is probably the best price to performance ratio I could find.

I've just started looking into the stuff that x10 makes available, and it looks like it could compliment my existing plans very well.

Applied Solipsism worked for me.

ideas (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by brandonne on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 02:12:04 PM EST

I had thought about using RAID, then I actually bought an older array and started running it. My heating bill went down, but my electricity bill went up considerably. Considering how large and fast hard drives are these days, I wonder if RAID is really needed, my current solution is an older laptop, with a PCMCIA scsi card attached to a single external drive. Once a week I attach a second drive, update the mirror, then turn it off. Using a laptop has the advantage of a built in UPS. I picked up a Dell LM 166 for $50 because it had a broken display.

As for commodity thinware clients. I haven't found any cheap ones yet. The biggest cost is the display, I don't want a bunch of CRT's littered around my house. My current idea is to buy some older laptops off ebay and hack them by removing the keyboard, turning the display around and increasing the cooling. then putting a touch screen over it. Install a console based browser, and write all the apps in PHP or perl. Maybe use a fitali one finger keyboard.

[ Parent ]

some thoughts (3.66 / 3) (#37)
by Arkady on Mon May 28, 2001 at 02:38:36 PM EST

Well, the first thing you should do is register the domain name "house.geek" with The OpenNIC ;-)

Probably the best geek house bits running at my place (which, incidentally, will be available on the OpenNIC domain "fortress.geek" ;-), other than the X10 system, are the game servers. One of the housemates built his UT server on a clear piece of plexiglass and mounted it in front of a window. Very nifty. My NetHack game server is built as a mobile, with each componant seperately suspended from the living room ceiling. These sorts of rigs definitely give the house the necessary geeky feel.

This doesn't include, of course, the two thousand feet of cat5 which make up the house network and are draped artistically around the walls and ceiling ... ;-)



Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Do you have pics? (none / 0) (#64)
by yogger on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 04:54:22 PM EST

I'm real curious able the PC mobile, I'd love to see some pics of it.

The is only a test .sig
If it were a real .sig it would contain useful and/or funny information
[ Parent ]
Useful stuff (4.25 / 4) (#38)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 29, 2001 at 01:21:52 AM EST

For starters, I was browsing AllElectronics today and I noticed that they have some decent-looking covert pinhole surveilance cameras for around $50 each. This got me thinking.

Have a closed circuit TV loop through the house which has a bunch of these cameras switched to it. Perhaps have them all go through one of those split-screen things or a switcher which flips through all the available cameras in an orderly manner (and that wouldn't be hard to build), and then if something interesting happens - a signifigant amount of motion, an intrusion sensor being tripped, the doorbell being rung, etc. - that image goes fullscreen for, say, 15 seconds. So if you're watching TV and the doorbell rings, just pause your TiVo (which are really cheap now - you can get them at half.com for under $220 for the 30-hour model) and flip to the closed circuit broadcast. Ah, it's your friend Ray, returning your Fight Club DVD.

So then you go to your nearest terminal, bring up your inventory control application, and swipe the UPC with your CueCat. Then you notice something in your database, and can ask, "Hey Ray... when are you going to return my Powerpuff Girls soundtrack? You've had it for nine days, four hours, and 26 minutes now."

Then you hear something like rocks hitting your back door. You turn back to the TV, and see a bunch of teenagers trying to break your rear window. You run towards them and they leave. You didn't get a positive ID, but that's okay - they're recorded on your monitoring system's harddrive, and you can print the pictures out and give copies to the police and your neighbors, who can then positively ID them as your neighbor's babysitter's punk friends. The cracks they put in your window will not go unpunished.

I would personally never train one of those cameras on the inside of my house. Every entryway should have one, but once they got inside there wouldn't be much point in trying to ID them, since any ID you could get you'd have gotten by merit of having IR motion-sensing lights by each camera.

And of course, all of this would be web-accessible, with plenty of the stuff regularly backed up to an offsite location so that, should something catastrophic happen to the monitoring system itself, there'll still be records available elsewhere. And everything could be logged - every time a security light turns on or off, every time a certain movement threshold has happened on a camera (with accompanying picture, and once a day, loose pictures would be archived into a time-lapse MPEG movie), graphs indicating overall camera etc. activity, and so forth. It'd be pretty damn good home security while also adding convenience (i.e. not having to answer the door to Jehova's Witnesses).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Doorbell.... (none / 0) (#47)
by Elkor on Thu May 31, 2001 at 12:12:54 PM EST

And include an over-ride to turn your door bell off for a few minutes so you don't have to -listen- to the Witnesses ringing your bell.

Or whatever other pest is bothering you.

And don't forget to monitor the windows. Cameras at the corners to monitor an entire side should be ok, depending on how large the house is.

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Even better (none / 0) (#49)
by retinaburn on Thu May 31, 2001 at 03:14:26 PM EST

replace the button with a metal one, your remote switch flips on the JUICE :)

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
Or just... (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Wah on Sat Jun 02, 2001 at 02:46:49 AM EST

...copy this guy.
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]
Yeesh (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by fluffy grue on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 01:50:52 PM EST

That's just scary.

I can see monitoring the temperature throughout the house, but the rest is just... disturbing. I don't think I'd want people to know when I have my private thinking time.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

just thank your favorite deity (none / 0) (#65)
by Wah on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 07:33:41 PM EST

that he isn't taking picture of the various things that might affect the temperature of the above linked phenomenon and he isn't taking the measurement by hand. Actually, in all honesty, I was thinking of adding a section to my web page of a web cam that took a picture every time I had a bowel movement. Do you think people would come see it? ;)
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]
Fat Pipes! (4.50 / 4) (#40)
by error 404 on Tue May 29, 2001 at 11:21:34 AM EST

No, I mean that literaly. As in tubes. Round steel bars with a hole in the middle the long way. Get the fattest conduits the building code will allow, and get them all over the place.

You don't know what kind of cable you are going to want 5-10 years from now. With good conduit and a fish tape, you can thread whatever it is without ripping out drywall.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

A laundry list (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by inert_mass on Tue May 29, 2001 at 12:25:02 PM EST

-1)attach a computer with tv in/out to your television (the Sony Vega works well)
this gives you a nice platform for gaming (not the best resolution, but BIG), and you can tape anything you want, and have nice post-recording editing).
-2)Since a lot of people have their stereos right next to their television, attach the same computer to your stereo.
Again, you get all the power of a standard component stereo (assuming you have such) with the flexibility of online media. What more could you as for? (Just wait, I'll tell you)
-3)Wireless. Lots and lots of wireless. This is kind of pricey, but, if you can install Airport Hubs (or their PC equivalent) you will be saved a lot of headaches. They work perfectly with DHCP (assuming you can get that running on a server) and are just as fast as cat5.
-4)This is the icing on the cake: Your own FM station.
It isn't really that hard to build an FM transceiver (an electrical engineer friend did it, and I think I could reproduce it). That way, the whole block can tune in to your good taste.
<disclaimer>Micro-transceivers like the one I just discribed are currently illegal. The FCC will not look kindly on you actually USING their EM spectrum (it is theirs by US law) without telling them/paying them. Check into it if you actually want to build a micro-transceiver.</disclaimer>

"This is the end..."
A note about airport. (none / 0) (#52)
by mindstrm on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 05:38:59 AM EST

Airport hubs are nice, but they aren't even close to the speeds achievable over everyeday Cat5.

802.11b stuff tops out around 7Mbps (yes, they call them 11Mbps devices, because the radio channel is 11Mbps wide.... but you only get about 7Mbps throughput between two hosts if you use it).

100BaseT has overhead as well, but not nearly as high a proportion (inter-frame gap, small headers) so you end up topping out around 98Mbps...

[ Parent ]
overhead (none / 0) (#59)
by tzanger on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 04:59:03 PM EST

802.11b stuff tops out around 7Mbps (yes, they call them 11Mbps devices, because the radio channel is 11Mbps wide.... but you only get about 7Mbps throughput between two hosts if you use it).

Do you have any benchmarks? I run 802.11b and my data rates are *very* close to 10bT. Remember that 10bT has overhead as well. I don't have the frame formats in front of me but I'd wager that they are very similar in size.

I'm currently experiencing a problem with my home firewall (was a 80386DX33, now a P90 with VT83C469 ISA-PCMCIA bridge) in which the bridge stops responding under heavy load. I have to remove the PCMICA card (Orinoco Wavelan gold) and reinsert it in order to get traffic flowing again, which is a pain in the ass when you're in the bathtub. :-(

The firewall just doesn't see the traffic when this occurs. (i.e. I can't ping the firewall or get any traffic across.) The firewall at work (P90 with a PCI-PCMCIA bridge, not sure of the chipset) doesn't have this trouble so I am suspecting either the bridge or the drivers for the bridge. If I wasn't experiencing this problem I'd give you some hot fresh benchmarks but so far no luck in the diagnosis. :-(

[ Parent ]
Hmm. (none / 0) (#70)
by mindstrm on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 12:48:25 PM EST

They are similar in format; the main differences are due to the unique properties of wireless.

The chief piece of overhead when dealing with only 2 peers is the mandatory inter-frame gap. In 10Base, its 9.6 uS, or 96 bit-times.

In wireless, you cannot do collision detection, there are added protocol levels for dealing with hidden stations, and the iter-frame gaps need to be larger to account for maximum rtt of a signal (because you can't do collision detection).

[ Parent ]
It must be said: (2.00 / 1) (#45)
by orestes on Wed May 30, 2001 at 07:13:27 PM EST

...just wait till you have a significant other living with you.

Already do? Then I applaud you, sir.

[ You Sad Bastard ]
One word: Conduit (4.40 / 5) (#51)
by Paul Johnson on Sat Jun 02, 2001 at 06:06:56 AM EST

Conduit is your friend. Whenever you redecorate a room, take the time to hack out channels in the plaster and put a ring or two of conduit around the room. That way you can rewire indefinitely.

Given that its going to be a geek house you will want lots of conduit. Obviously at the moment you are going to want Cat5 Ethernet cable everywhere, but you probably also want a UHF video distribution system so you can watch the satellite or cable TV from the bedroom or whatever. Then add the surround sound system attached to the home cinema and you may find that 1 inch conduit isn't enough. Allow for future expansion.

You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

more than just conduit (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by orthox on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 02:24:20 PM EST

If you do lay conduit, make sure to run a few lengths of string through the conduit as you're installing it. Fishing line may work too. The point is that when you do finally want to run some cable through the conduit you tie the end of the cable to the string, go to the other end of the conduit and just pull the string out, draggind the cable through. It makes installing cable much easier. This can also be done with existing wire if you have it already installed. Just tie the new wire and/or a few lengths of string to the old cable and pull it through.

[ Parent ]
If you're renting, be careful! (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by Builder on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 01:00:34 PM EST

If you're renting, be careful what you lay where. Any changes to the building will probably be prohibited by your lease. I had to get special permission to have a satellite dish installed, and permission to drape a cable up the stairs (not even fixed to the building) to get ethernet upstairs was turned down.

Be nice to your daemons
Cat 5E & Conduit (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by Mantrid on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 08:45:13 AM EST

Hmmm wonder if it's too late for me to get some conduit done. I'm currently building a house (well actually having a house built hehe). It'll be wired with CAT5E cable in all the rooms (except for the dining/living room which isn't even getting phone). Maybe I should've went with some conduit too, ah well at least I'll have wall plates and a patch panel.

I'm also going to prewire the rec room for the rear surround speakers (and possible the front two as well).

This will be much nicer than my apartment which has cable all over. Items currently in my living room:

43" Sony Projection TV (sorry forgot the model, damn sharp though...not a Vega)

27" RCA TV...this is the 'old' TV it is in the corner beside the Sony...in the house it will be in the family room near the kitchen, but now it makes a damn fine 'PIP' hee hee.

Sony Playstation 2 (which I use for DVD)

5.1 Dolby Surround Sound system (with sub...my neighbours probably hate U571!)

Sega Dreamcast

My new laptop (when I'm there of course)

My Roomates P3-700 computer (with TV tuner...between this and two TVs (lol both with PIP no less) we can watch lots of programs at once...if only there was something on!)

My old P3-450 computer

Cable Modem/Hub/Router

I think my roommate and I are going to get cancer or something if it stays like this much longer!

I was just going to sell my P3-450...but that TV tuner card sounds like a better idea! Anyways the living room in my apartment is pretty ridiculous...can't wait to get in the house so all the tech madness is spread out and hidden better ;)

PS2 sucks as a DVD player (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by coffee17 on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 01:48:20 PM EST

Since you seem to have an otherwise nice setup, might I recommend that if you commonly play DVD's to get something better than a PS2. I was just comparing my PS2 to my crappy DVD player. It's a Sharp, don't remember the model number, but I got it for $200 last July, which kinda says that it's an el cheapo model. It doesn't really have any features beyond the standard with one exception, that being that it can zoom in (I.E. if I want full screen but the DVD doesn't have pan 'n scan hints, I can just zoom in a bit). I must say that I love this feature, however it has become apparent that not everyone would like this option.

Anyways, I was comparing video quality, and even tho both the DVD and PS2 were using SVIDEO connection, the DVD seemed much clearer, and the gama correction is great on films like fight club. Perhaps the PS2 has gama correction, and I didn't notice it. However, one thing the PS2 has on my crap DVD player is that it skips less. I'll probably be getting a new DVD player in a few months because of this sadly... Even the DVD's which are mine, as opposed to rentals, and I've kept them in great condition, no scratches my DVD player will skip a little, while the PS2 only tends to skip on pretty badly scratched rentals. Either way, as I can rip all the data correctly off of such DVD's, it would appear a combination of crappy reader with not enough buffers in the system which leave it skipping, which hopefully a bit higher end model will fix.

summary, zoom and gama correction are necessities in my book, and unless the PS2 implements these I won't be replacing a DVD player with a PS2. However, it would have been pretty spiffy to have PS2 before getting a DVD player, but for any serious geek, you need either a decent DVD player, or you need to get a video card with SVIDEO out (which I will hopefully do instead of getting a 2nd DVD player), as not only will you be able to watch DVD's, but also DIVX on a nice big screen (hmmm, 17in monitor or 36in screen... tough question... or not). ... pity that the matrox G450 doesn't yet have linux support for TV out and it seems the 400's are out of stock.


[ Parent ]

re; PS2 DVD (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by Mantrid on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 01:58:22 PM EST

Works great for me, have it hooked up with Component video and the fibre optic surround sound hookup. I actually got rid of my old DVD player; mind you it was pretty old (like a 1st gen unit). I can't see buying a separate DVD player anytime soon, I'm pretty happy with the PS2. I'll have an XBOX before too long too hehe, and my laptop plays DVDs...guess they're becoming as common as CDs are!

I have noticed some artifacts using PS2...but my screen is currently too big for the room...once I'm in and settled I'll have to see...buying equipment is like drugs!

[ Parent ]

HA hardware and software (for Unix and look alike) (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by ncherry on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:03:22 AM EST

I've had my site running for a couple of years but I've collected various bits and peices of software for Unix/Linux. I'm currently working on putting together a system for the Embedded Linux Contest. Here's my home page link: Linux Home Automation.

The most recent code is a PHP page to generate a table of X10 device links. It calls HomeDaemon-dump which returns the state each of the 256 devices. I use CSS to fill in color etal and I use JavaScript to popup tools tips (from the MySQL database) to add descriptions. It's not perfect and it's really meant for LAN use (the generated page is ~79KB in size). It's a little better than the standard table of links pages that I see (but not much more).

I still have a lot more stuff to work on such as a php page for my HCS II (hard wire/RS485/X10 devices) and my Ocelot controllers.

Linux Home Automation Neil Cherry ncherry@home.net

Quest for a practical geek house | 71 comments (54 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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