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Music Media Hardware

Best Options for a Home Entertainment Network? 425

Vultan asks: "Now that I'm finally a proud homeowner, I'm looking to integrate my video, audio, and computer hardware. Specifically, I'd like to be able to listen to Internet radio throughout the house (or at least through my main stereo unit), and transmit video from my computer to my home theater in a separate room. I've done my share of googling, and I'm drowning in options. Wired vs. wireless, RG6 vs. CAT5e, digital vs. analog, line level vs. speaker level (for audio), etc. What kinds of technology do Slashdot readers use or recommend?"
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Best Options for a Home Entertainment Network?

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  • Wired vs Wireless (Score:5, Informative)

    by farnsaw ( 252018 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:06AM (#5908798) Homepage
    If you can, go wired. It has the bandwidth you need for video and with a switch you can handle several servers and clients simultaneously each with it's own 100Mbit connection where with wireless you share bandwidth.
    • Re:Wired vs Wireless (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Potor ( 658520 )
      Yeah, I agree, go wireless. My computer is on the bottom floor, the bulk of my stereo in the attic, and wires running (tastefully) all over the place. My wife doesn't like the wires, but the sound is great. I can listen to the computer, plus any other component of my system (and even my gamecube),in any room. Comes in handy for listening to the Blue Jays games. Just get a good amp and speakers.
      • Re:Wired vs Wireless (Score:3, Interesting)

        by akadruid ( 606405 ) *
        Huh so do you mean wired or wireless?
        Still, you are mostly right (I think). Wired solves more problems than it creates, in the long run, but some degree of DIY skill is involved to get a subtly neat installation.
        I recommend distributing some processing, so that your output systems are not too far from the outputs, e.g. don't run 10 metre cables to your main TV or stereo, instead have a small box hidden away nearby, with a cordless keyboard/mouse, using the TV as a display. This has the advantage of only ne
        • Re:Wired vs Wireless (Score:5, Informative)

          by Jeff Kelly ( 309129 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:13AM (#5908985)
          Still, you are mostly right (I think). Wired solves more problems than it creates, in the long run, but some degree of DIY skill is involved to get a subtly neat installation.

          This mostly depends on the size of the installation and the type of cable used. Also in most countries you have to adhere to certain regulations regarding in-house wiring.

          In germany for example (where I live) it is not allowed to use unshielded cable for in-house-wiring (you may use unshielded cable for connecting your computer to the RJ45 jack but for everything which runs in the wall or covers distances > 10m you'll have to use shielded cable) and since shielded twisted pair is not trivial to install. (Atr least if you have to adhere to emv guidelines) I personally consider using broadband wireless connections.

          I'd certainly prefer wired connections but don't underestimate the complexity involved in in-house-wiring if you have to adhere to emv guidelines and building codes. You also will have to consider the guidelines for deploying shielded cable. (You may only bend shielded cable to a certain degree, you have to pay attention to the transition between in-wall wiring and the wall jacks etc.)

          Regards Jeff (been there done that)

      • by adzoox ( 615327 ) * on Thursday May 08, 2003 @08:10AM (#5909131) Journal
        I would definately be ready for both. While it costs more - you may want to get a certified wiring/network planner to plan out your "technology" - to sort out interference concerns. In your research, I'd be looking that up more than anything else.

        I discovered that I had to unplug my Apple Airport Base Station AND my 802.11 printer adapter ANY time I wanted to use my wireless speakers because they interfered with each other (both on the 2.4Ghz channel) = there was a pop in the audio with 802.11 on

        Also nearby wireless cameras make a difference as do nearby phones. Plan for hardwired phones to be near basestations OR get a different spectrum phone like a 5 Ghz phone

        I have also discovered that Bluetooth interferes with my Logitech mouse working - so it's good to do some small testing just so everything will work everywhere.

        Also, make sure the general area of your "brains and bulk" to your computer is located opposite from your kitchen as it is the area in MOST houses that draws the most amount of electricity and the microwave can cause interference too.

        For internet, I have been personally recommending to my newest customers that they not have a landline phone period and just use a cell as a home phone (there are adapters availible that allow you to use all the phones in a house with a cell phone) - or potentially use a VoIP phone - use eFax for faxes. Get broadband.

    • Re:Wired vs Wireless (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kauttapiste ( 633236 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:21AM (#5908845)
      If you can, go wired..

      Yup, that's the way I'd go. But it's good to have some wireless readiness built into the system too. Put a WLAN-card to your desktop and another one to your laptop and you can share your ADSL/whatever connection with your laptop. Also handy if you want to play your videos (that you've copied to your laptop at work from your workmates) from your laptop.
      And you can surf while you crap!
      • Re:Wired vs Wireless (Score:5, Informative)

        by farnsaw ( 252018 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:27AM (#5908864) Homepage
        I agree for a general system situation. In fact, I have done both. I run my servers by wire (as they don't move around) and my laptops via wireless. Most people don't move their TV and Stereo system around much once they get it setup, so I would recommend wires for those as well. The two biggest advantages of Wires vs Wireless are bandwidth and privacy. By using both in your house, it would allow you to sit on the porch surfing the net at full speed (even those of you with 3 Mb ADSL) while several people in the house are watching movies on the Televisions and listening to streaming audio around the house. If you do everything wireless, you will see a huge slowdown when someone starts to watch a movie and/or several people start steaming audio from your server.
      • I would also recommend running wire wherever you can and using wireless for mobile devices (laptops, PDAs, etc.). However, I disagree with the idea of putting a Wireless card in the desktop.

        I would suggest that you go with a wireless broadband router instead. Most of those that I've seen also include regular wired ports. Plug your wired system into those and use the wireless for mobile devices. That way, you don't need to have your desktop on to use your laptop's connection. Also, it saves all the pee
    • When thinking about the wired vs. wireless, don't forget the health issues: the correlations between cell phone usage (that is, microwave frequency radio near the ear) and inner-ear nerve cancer, and the correlations between ozone exposure and leukemia. Although your direct exposure is bound to be less intense for internet than for a cell phone, you have to consider that 24-hour exposure is going to make that more significant.

      Because of this, I'd suggest wired, LCD monitors, and with good ventilation for
      • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Thursday May 08, 2003 @02:44PM (#5912210) Homepage
        Microwave emissions aren't ionizing radiation like gamma rays, UV, or X-rays. Microwaves do not have a cumulative effect, as opposed to the "bit flipping" that higher-energy electromagnetic radiation causes in your DNA.

        Microwaves have only ONE path to bodily damage - Heating via RF absorption at the molecular level. For microwaves to do damage, the power level has to be high. (Microwave ovens are usually 500 watts and above, most modern ones are around a kilowatt.)

        Most WLAN cards are 25 mW. Higher-end ones (Ciscos, for example) are 100. There are a very small number of 200 mW cards.

        Needless to say, these power levels are NOT enough to cause any significant heating, even if you're exposed to it 24/7. You're more likely to burn yourself via heat conduction from a laptop computer than you are to have any heat-related injuries from a WLAN card or cell phone. MAYBE if you touch the circuit traces of the PCB antenna directly with your fingers you MIGHT get a mild RF burn on the surface of your skin (This would require opening up the card), but thanks to the inverse square law, that's the worst thing that can happen.

        I'll reiterate this again - I work for a company that develops transmitters for cell towers. On a regular basis, we're exposed to RF levels higher than even a habitual cellphone user. (Amps with covers off tend to leak a lot - Never measured the exact amount, but it's enough to register on other equipment in the same room while a transmitting cell phone will not.) Some of my coworkers have been in the industry for two decades and not a single person anyone knows has ever had any RF-related health problems except for the occasional RF burn from accidentally touching a live trace carrying 45 watts of power. A cup of coffee can hurt you more.
  • Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Napoleon The Pig ( 228548 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:07AM (#5908804)
    Well one would think you could run just a standard TV out to get the video, and run your soundcard through your stereo amp to get the audio. Most likely your best bet would be to keep it all wired since speed would be limited via wireless. Those are just a few of my thoughts, but what do I know, I'm just a silly college student. Good luck.

  • Audio: SliMP3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:08AM (#5908806) Homepage
    I bought a SliMP3 myself when I bought my own home, and I really like it. It's basically a dumb terminal powered by a perl daemon running on my file server. It has great sound quality and a good display. I'm not quite finished building everything yet ( my plans include remotely switchable lighting and video to my tv ), but one big advantage of the SliMP3 is that I can hack the daemon code myself -- so I can use the remote of the SliMP3 to control other applications, e.g. a video stream from my computer and the lighting.
    • Re:Audio: SliMP3 (Score:4, Informative)

      by drunkahol ( 143049 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @08:22AM (#5909169)
      Yeah - the SLIMP3 device is indeed interesting. In fact I bought one for my brother as a wedding present so I could use him as a testing ground before buying one for myself.

      The major issue I have with the device is that it will only play standard MP3 files. Files of any other format (FLAC, Ogg, WAV etc) have to be converted to RAW and then into MP3 on the fly before being streamed to the device. MP3Pro of course is the biggest looser since it contains a very low quality MP3 track which the device plays . This produces VERY low quality output.

      Is there a device anywhere that allows native playing of other formats? i.e. a device that you can upload different codecs to depending on your music library?

      A for the cabling, I'm currently installing Cat6 cables around my new house and will have a wireless network for laptops so I can browse in the garden (I'll have an RJ45 in the toilet for best access whilst I'm crapping - as someone earlier mentioned!)

  • My Thomson VS530C works great for transmitting video and audio from my computer to my TV set via WLAN.
  • Divide and conquer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jocks ( 56885 )
    I have gone for a different approach. Instead of one, single point of failure, I have several separate devices around the house. The downside is that I cannot listen to internet radio throught my home, but should my computer die my television will work and my wife can listen to whatever she likes on the stereo.

    Its also cheaper as I don't have to fork out for "new" technology. If I was you I'd be saving my money for the coming recession....;-)
    • by Skater ( 41976 )
      Or save money for the coming repair bills, such as broken down dishwashers, furnaces, etc. The joys of ownership. :)

  • Keep it simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squaretorus ( 459130 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:11AM (#5908814) Homepage Journal
    I have an old laptop 1GHz PIII running on my stack of Amp / CD / VCR etc... feeding into both the amp direct and the VCR. It works just fine.

    To listen to internet radio or MP3s in my kitchen I open a couple of doors and turn up the volume. Wireless technology at its best.
  • by njan ( 606186 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:12AM (#5908815) Homepage
    For a very long time, I debated a similar issue, and what I've found easiest to do is simply to stick a machine next to each 'media outlet' which exists in my house. My television has a displayless (asides from the tv) machine with an svideo output card, and my hifi has an old toshiba laptop plugged into it (120MHz machine). For times when I want really excellent sound, I have a second hifi which tends to get plugged into a soundblaster live - but for the majority of the time, soundblaster sound from the laptop suffices.

    This is what I find simplest, since as I have the house networked, adding nodes - or controlling them - is childs play. I can happily even sit on the sofa and remote control the computer via the TV, which will happily play videos off my desktop which have recently been downloaded, for instance. I would guess that Wirelessly networking this would be more convenient, and specifically wiring each device would be a little higher class (ie. sending gold signal wiring to amplifiers &c), but in general I've found the networking approach to be the most flexible (and I've done a fair amount of work as a sound engineer, so I speak from a little experience).

    As far as internet radio in every room goes, you might be simpler wiring up lots of speakers - I would guess it depends on your house size. I'd just plug my one of my laptops into the room in question and solve the problem that way, but that's just me. ;)

    Cat5e is a wonderful thing. :)
    • For times when I want really excellent sound, I have a second hifi which tends to get plugged into a soundblaster live - but for the majority of the time, soundblaster sound from the laptop suffices.

      Yeah, and when you want music instead of just "sound" get something like the Digital Audio Labs card (http://www.digitalaudio.com/ [digitalaudio.com]) or one of M Audios board (http://www.midiman.net/products/consumer/index.ph p [midiman.net])

      • Actually, most professional engineers I know use SB live cards or equivalent for travelling setups; but if you really want to nitpick, you'd be far better off getting an aardvark board (http://www.aardvarkaudio.com/aasd-v1/products/249 6-main.html) or something from sonorus (http://www.sonorus.com/). Then again, re-mortgaging my house for some digidesign (http://www.digidesign.com/) kit would always be nice...
  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:14AM (#5908825) Homepage
    I've been planning the same for some time. Currently I'm aiming for wireless. The reasons?
    • The speed is OK with the latest generation
    • No wires
    • Moving things around won't become an issue
    • Upgrading won't require new wires

    The main issue with wireless is speed... it's not terribly good, but enough to stream DivX (disclaimer, haven't tested, only done the math.) If you're planning to move several gigabytes from machine to machine in a hurry you might want wires instead.

    Security is also a weak link with wireless, but that depends on your location as well. Encryption is always extra overhead, which is a bummer.

    But personally I'd rather have a slow flexible system than a fast system I can't change because I've installed the RC45 jacks in the wrong places.
  • Cat5 (Score:5, Informative)

    by cscx ( 541332 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:15AM (#5908828) Homepage
    Run CAT5 all over the place... in addition to Ethernet, CAT5 has an impedance of ~ 100 ohms which makes it perfect for both balanced analog audio signals and digital AES/EBU if you want to do that. You want to go balanced if you're doing long cable runs otherwise you could pick up hum.
    • Re:Cat5 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SL33Z3 ( 104748 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:43AM (#5908910)
      With all the talk about wireless, this post would almost seem archaic to some. However, I wanted to pointed out that this is probably your best option if you can do it. it requires quite a bit of work in breaking up drywall in spots to run your cable, then patching it up. However it works well. CAT5 doesn't fall prey radio interference. With my wireless network, I've had some interferenece when using my 2.4 Ghz telephones. CAT5 doesnt' have this problem. I might also recommend if you make this investment in CAT5 , go plenum. It will keep intereference down from power cords and light fixtures that would impede plain ole CAT5. It costs more, but definitely worth it. I have a 2500 SF house I'm building and a single box of 1000FT wired EVERY room in my home, sometimes two or three runs to each room. I ran each cable from a spot in the garage (for God's sake, don't run them next to your power box). I then built a patch panel into the wall bought a media cabinet from Blackbox.com (expensive, so look at others such as "Leviton" or their newly aquired company "OnQ" ). You can place your modem, router etc in there.

      Of course, this all only takes care of your networking needs in the home. Check out avsforum.com to get help with everything from running cable, to selecting the right equipment for you.
      • Re:Cat5 (Score:5, Informative)

        by delong ( 125205 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:07AM (#5908966)
        if you make this investment in CAT5 , go plenum.

        Not to mention adhering to cabling standards and building codes...

        "Plenum" cable is just that, cable designed for installation in the building "plenum" - the space between the ceiling and floor. It's teflon coated so when your pad goes up in flames, it doesn't produce poisonous gas and kill you before you can get out. It's mandated by cabling standards and by law in many places.

        • Re:Cat5 (Score:4, Informative)

          by djweis ( 4792 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:21AM (#5909002) Homepage
          Plenum cable is needed if the space between the ceiling and floor is an air return for that floor. Your house does not have an air return plenum ceiling.

          To the parent poster, you must have wired differently than me. I wired my 2000 square foot house and put in just under 1 mile of cable with 2 outlets of 2xRG6 and 2xCat5 in each bedroom, three in the family room, and one in the kitchen and one in the dining room. There was another thousand feet of audio cable in the ceilings.
          • I have four bedrooms. Each have 1xCat5 & 2xRG6 cables. I only needed to run one cat5 since my builder already ran cat5 for my phone (it's becoming fairly standard for builders to use cat5 instead of cat3 for phone lines). The exception to the bedrooms was that I ran two to the master bedroom.
            Downstairs, I ran 3xCat5 to the great room, 1xCat5 to the kitchen and formal living room -- nothing in the dining room. I ran 2xRG6 to the great room, and then from each of those drops I ran a racetrack through t
      • by Martin Spamer ( 244245 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:23AM (#5909005) Homepage Journal

        My home is an old-style brick house with chimneys, since it's modernised with gas powered heating, i dont use the flues. Since there is a unused fire place in the middle of every room in the house and the flues make great cable ducts, fairly short, wide and easy to use.

        My switch is in a cuboard in the loft with easy access to the converged flues.

        Also opened out the fireplaces make great recess for equipment.

      • Re:Cat5 (Score:4, Funny)

        by PerlGuru ( 115222 ) * <michael@thegrebs.com> on Thursday May 08, 2003 @08:19AM (#5909154) Homepage
        However it works well. CAT5 doesn't fall prey radio interference. With my wireless network, I've had some interferenece when using my 2.4 Ghz telephones.
        Let me just point out that you are missing a wonderful oportunity. "Honey, I'm sorry but we really must get that new featureful 5.6ghz (or is it 5.8ghz) multi handset cordless phone system if you want to continue to play the sims on the laptop and talk on the phone." Took a bit of convincing but it worked for me! =)
      • Re:Cat5 (Score:3, Informative)

        by Casca ( 4032 )
        I might also recommend if you make this investment in CAT5 , go plenum. It will keep intereference down from power cords and light fixtures that would impede plain ole CAT5.

        This is not true. Plenum cable does not differ from non plenum rated CAT5 cable in terms of how well it deals with EMI, it only means that it doesn't give off noxious fumes when it burns. If you want cable specially shielded to deal with EMI you might try something like this [blackbox.com]. No, I don't work for blackbox.

        I agree with the part about c
    • Re:Cat5 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by martin ( 1336 )
      hmm cat5 gives alsorts of issues with analogue (audio) signal balancing. Sure you run unbalanced but it's not worth it. (Check the AES standards). Every studio I know of still runs analogue over 10baseT for this reason.

      Of course if you run the signal in digital format the problem of signal balancing goes away, but the problem of a decent a/d converter does crop up. Most of todays sub $150 are OK, but not up to the standards of a decent home hi-fi (>$1000).

      • What a studio runs is largely irrelevant to the home. The studio needs perfection - the home doesn't. My living room isn't a sound-insulated anechoic chamber: there are plenty of other sounds coming from outside (maybe the washing machine is running, possibly a bus goes by outside) - and with that, I'm probably not going to notice any artifacts a not-quite-optimum piece of cable puts in.
  • My approach was that I used a fanless Via MB from Mini-ITX [mini-itx.com] which has Tv-OUT. Using that + NFS + Wireless gave me a nice player. However I will admit I haven't got round to installing a remote control..

    It make a nice talking point though

    • Re:My approach (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sherloqq ( 577391 )
      I would second a fanless mobo. Cheaper than a laptop (even an old one), you could build one inside an older VCR enclosure (prolly even fit a power supply in there), stick a cdrom / dvd drive in there (though I'm not sure how good a playback you'd get... then again, if my K6-2/300 can do it, I'd hope these things can, too). This gives you several bonuses:

      - equipment appears to be part of the entertainment center
      - wireless means good enough mp3 / internet radio streaming and not being tethered to one place
  • by Sean Johnson ( 66456 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:19AM (#5908839)
    If you are concerned about security, you might consider that even if you have WEP enabled with wireless, CAT5 will always be more resilient to eavsdropping on your network streams; simply because it hard to hack into CAT5 physically. Also, as another poster postulated, you have a dedicated 100mb throughput for each device or computer hooked into the LAN. With wireless, it's shared. CAT5 rocks for bandwidth! I can stream straight .VOB (DVD) files from my host computer to the living room computer and it plays just as if it were from a set-top, stand-alone DVD player; no skips or nothing. So you could have video playing over the LAN for one device in one room, and have plenty of bandwidth to spare for a couple of other devices in other rooms. Ultimately I guess it's how you plan to use it that determines the best implementation to use.
  • use davedina project (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:20AM (#5908842)
    I can't stress enough how i h@te the name of their program. I never can remember it when most needed and I always have to search irc logs for it.

    besides that I've seen a demo on FOSDEM in Belgium and it is all you want : tv, dvd, mp3, mpeg/avi/..., photo gallery, ... the works. Even server capacities, XML tv program retreivel, ...

    it is modular and you can choose form programs you want to play your mediums with.

    The dvd player has fully support for the remote control (what it also supports :-)) VERY nice.

    it also has server thingies. You can connect clients to it to setup in several other rooms.

    When my house is more ready I'll use it!


    is tha site!
  • by mark2003 ( 632879 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:24AM (#5908856)
    I'm always a bit sceptical about these ideas and maybe I'm a luddite in this respect. I've always gone for speakers, amps etc. that will give the best sound quality, why I would then want to use an source, such as MP3, that would sound the same on a £50 stereo is beyond me.

    Likewise with internet radio, fine for voice, but when it comes to music I would rather listen to an FM radio station with decent sound quality.

    Likewise using Cat 5 cables or, even worse, WiFi, for linking parts of the sound system seems pointless. Most speaker, cable and amp manufacturers spend a fortune on R&D to develop their products to produce the best quality sound by reducing interference etc. Using cheap (compared to HiFi) R5 cabling or WiFi would negate any of these benefits.
    • by njan ( 606186 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:41AM (#5908903) Homepage
      Whether or not MP3 reduces the sound quality of any given source (which obviously it does), you can tell the difference between a production quality set of technics speakers and the 5watt multimedia speakers that shipped with an mmx-era tiny: in just the same way that a decent car will still handle well on a poor quality road, decent hardware will make the most of whatever sound you feed it.

      With a few exceptions - notably headphones - this isn't the case. There are certain lines of sennheiser headphones, for instance, which sound dreadful when fed a 64kbps mp3 of classical music; however, even on a 160kbps mp3 feed, my pair of Sennheiser HD500s sound positively wonderful, especially when the music has as few channels as possible. This difference in headphones is mostly due to the fact that headphones aren't designed to playback recordings made for speakers - which your body naturally perceives accoustically due to the multiple, far-distanced soundsources and diffuse reflections off environment and shoulders. Even the most expensive headphones still find it extremely hard to compensate for this; the best solution is to use a binaural recording, made generally by a set of microphones embedded in a plastic or polystyrene fake head, such that playback sounds as realistic as possible.

      In short, hardware DOES make a difference - even to a 128kbit mp3 feed. But what would sound bad on good hardware at that bitrate would sound bad on any set of speakers - and if you're really after audiophile sound quality, you won't be feeding a set of expensive speakers with a low-rate mp3 file.

      Remember also that most recordings are now made digitally - it's extremely easy to get hold of even mp3 recordings of extremely high quality (256kbit mp3 files are practically indistinguishable from cds to the lay person's ear; with ogg vorbis, the compression artefacts drop vastly in occurance and this applies to an even greater degree)....
    • Most speaker, cable and amp manufacturers spend a fortune on R&D to develop their products to produce the best quality sound by reducing interference etc. Using cheap (compared to HiFi) R5 cabling or WiFi would negate any of these benefits.

      What interference? I don't think a digital signal can suffer from interference like analog signals do.

      • What interference?

        I think he's talking about wifi interference (which would cause skips and/or drop the feed altogether). Cheap cables are less immune to radio interference, and remember that when they're connecting your speakers to your amp, or your tv to your video source, the signal is analog by then.
      • What interference? I don't think a digital signal can suffer from interference like analog signals do.

        Yes it can, it just takes more interference for it to actually happen. A "digital" connection is still really analog. It's not like there are ones and zeros traveling do the cable, what's being communicated are voltages. These voltages are treated as ones or zeros depending on where they fall in realation to certain cutoffs..
    • What audiophiles realize is that equipment makes a huge difference in sound quality. What they don't realize is that people's audible memory (memory for the quality of the sound) is about as bad as our memory can be. If you go to an audio shop, they usually 'switches' that let you listen to different gear, instantly. You're listening to one receiver, then 'switch, you're music is coming through a different one, in about one second. Then you can hear the differences. However, if you drive 5 minutes to s
    • why I would then want to use an source, such as MP3, that would sound the same on a £50 stereo

      While MP3 does contain less information than the CD it was encoded from, I very much doubt you will hear any difference between a well-encoded high-bitrate (256-320 kb/s) MP3 and a CD, even on a £5000 stereo. I can't, and neither can my friends, even on their £5000 stereos.

      Although most downloaded MP3s (or worse, internet radio stations) are crappy, quality rips of your own CD collection can s

  • My system (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:24AM (#5908857)
    It isn't perfect, but here's a quick list:

    - Kenwood THX Receiver ($400)
    - Infinity 5.1 Surround Speakers (no they aren't dipole)
    - Toshiba 3109 DVD player (older)
    - Toshiba 50H81 16:9 HDTV-ready
    - Digital cable with 5.1 dolby
    - Mistubishi SVHS VCR with SVideo in/out

    Conversion Computer (upstairs):
    - Athlon 2000+, 512MB Ram, 4x80GB drives (manually mirrored with rsync weekly)
    - ATI Wonder TV
    - 100baseT network
    - Mitsubishi SVHS VCR for Playback/Recording
    - RH9.0 Linux
    - MEncoder, vobcopy, mplayer, Freevo and custom scripts for conversion from analog and DVD to DivX 5.0x
    Here's where to get the software: http://www.mplayerhq.hu/homepage/design6/news.html
    htt p://freevo.sourceforge.net/

    - mod_mp3 for streaming audio files
    - Apache web server for Streaming video inside the house

    Playback Computer (near TV):
    - Compaq Armada E500 (900MHz, 256MB Ram, composite video out, stereo audio out)
    - DLink 802.11a PCMCIA adapter (in turbo mode I see 72Mbps)
    - VLC is used to stream the video from the server upstairs

    Plug the laptop into the AUX input for the Receiver and use the Toshiba's aspect ratio and zoom controls to fill the screen completely.

    Works best with DVD conversions. I've converted some favorite VCR tapes too and lots of home videos from 20-30 years ago. There's nothing like being able to have family over and laugh at them as kids going down a slide and landing on their butts at the bottom or seeing Mom in kat-eye glasses.
    Also works great with WinAMP for MP3 and other audio format playback. If WinAMP's video would stream, I wouldn't need VLC

    It isn't a perfect setup. It needs a remote control, a cleaner look downstairs, but for watching a full length movie, it is great - no more switching DVDs or hunting for the DVD . They are all safely away in a closet.

    There are lots of other choices for the Linux software, but for one reason or another, they wouldn't work on my system. Mostly due to dependencies. RPM sucks!

    Could I be first?
    • Ok ... you have a setup very similar to mine. However I found a flaw (unfortunately in the very first piece of equipment) the Kenwood THX reciever (the model i have is the VR-6070). As far as audio quality goes, it is wonderful. In fact everything is perfect. But I CANNOT get any other Remote Controls to work with it. I have tried 4 different learning remotes, with no luck.

      Is there any way you have found to control the Reciever either via, Learning remote, or maybe even better yet, via a PC based remot
      • Oh yeah, one other important note. The VR-6070 also has an alternate RF input, but I am sure no way I could get that to work.

        Also, what are those plugs labeled "IR" on the back of my Reciever/Cable Box/etc ... is there a way to plug those into my computer directly? or use that as a way to control the kenwood

  • by ItsIllak ( 95786 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:26AM (#5908862) Homepage
    The core parts of this are:

    1) A computer with an infrared/RF input device.
    2) An A/V tuner + amp + display device in each location as required
    3) Loadsa co-ax cable.
    4) a bank of modulators/demodulators.

    Now, get each input device, (computer, sat box, cd player etc) to modulate itself onto a different channel of a single co-ax that does a loop around the house (or star network, depending on layout). They can do this from any point on the wire and broadcast it back onto it without problems.

    Connect up each of the A/V decoders/demodulators/displays etc, complete with a "magic eye" that can modulate the remote signal back down the same wire, back to each device that has a decoder/re-diffuser.

    The advantage is that you've got a single bit of wire going everywhere that has everything on it.

    The disadvantage is that the quality can be lacking, but that's ALL down to the modulator/demodulator pairs you use.

    You can then even talk to your computer via IR/RF now, which means that this can be extended into an X10 system to control lights (or anything else really).

    Another advantage is that you can watch anything in any room similtaniously.
    • The disadvantage is that the quality can be lacking, but that's ALL down to the modulator/demodulator pairs you use.

      Quality will not be "lacking" it will be *awful*. You will never get acceptable (to me) quality from modulated co-ax. Composite is ugly, Svideo is OK, RGB/Component is great.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:28AM (#5908865)
    I had the same dilema.

    What I do is quite simple.

    The internet come into the office room (my wife and I share 7 different PCs + one for the children.) Apart from a KVM for my cluster each PC has VNC installed so that I can, for example, switch off the childs PC remotely - which saves a screaming match at bathtime. There is a WIFI access point which means we can use laptops throughout the house and part of the garden (this does include the hammock).

    My designated "media" PC has a 2.4Gig AV transmitter which are fairly common is consumer electronic places now. I have multiple recievers around the house - 1 for bedroom TV/Stereo, one for dining room stereo, one for TV room TV/stereo etc. The only place I miss this is the shower.

    The TV room system also has a transmitter (on a different channel) so the cable can be watched on any of the other TVs in the house (all watch the same thing at the same time). To switch from watching cable to listening to the stuff from the computer is a simple matter of flicking a switch on the reciever.

    The only thing to watch is that you set up the channels on the wifi and tv transmitters so that you don't get interference from each other.

    It could be better but it works a treat here. And importantly my wife can still work out how to switch things on and off ("1 TV, 1 cable box, 1 VCR, 1 DVD player, 1 Stereo - just to watch TV! You have got to be kidding."). The trick is to leave everything on and just switch screens off.
  • AVSForum (Score:5, Informative)

    by SL33Z3 ( 104748 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:36AM (#5908891)
    One of the best sites around for this sort of information is http://www.avsforum.com/

    Do your research in their FAQs and then post any questions you have to the board. The site is ass-ugly, but it's great information!
  • Ground Loops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ViXX0r ( 188100 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:37AM (#5908892) Homepage
    One thing I can't stress enough is to be wary of ground loops when connecting any number of audio/video components together. If there's more than one path to ground throughout your entire connection of equipment it's extremely likely you will hear a 60Hz (50Hz in europe) hum in the background of all your music. I just managed to track down and stop mine the other day.

    Connecting a computer and a home stereo receiver is probably the most common cause of this effect.

    Fortunately, you can get ground loop isolators pretty cheap for line-level, and cable tv applications... of course, if you choose wireless this is a moot point.
    • Re:Ground Loops (Score:4, Informative)

      by sbryant ( 93075 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:51AM (#5909074)

      Simply connecting things together wil not necessarily cause a ground loop problem, but connecting devices on different power loops probably will. Houses will generally have different loops for different floors (each with its own fuse), and quite possibly different loops for different rooms on the same floor.

      If you do any PA work outside, you'll realise how easy it is to get a ground loop - it can literally be quite shocking! Although we had a generator, we would wire earth to a foot long copper spike, which was hammered into the ground behind the stage.

      Another thing I've found: check your power cables, especially the connections inside the plugs, as these can come loose with time.

      -- Steve

      • Re:Ground Loops (Score:2, Informative)

        by ViXX0r ( 188100 )
        My loop was caused by having my computer (in another room - same floor) connected to my receiver through the cable tv (split between my digital cable box, and my tv-card). Putting a VERY simple isolator (made from two opposite 75-300Ohm adapters connected together) was all it took to break the ground between them. It removed the hum from my sound, hoirzontal bars from my picture and lowered the overall noise floor of my system.

        It's possible to get ground loops even from outlets on the same circuit if the g
  • by Woodmeister ( 7487 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nosaj.drofdoow]> on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:37AM (#5908893)
    If you're looking to distribute audio from your PC to any other stereo in your home, may I suggest a low-power stereo FM transmitter from Ramsey Electronics, JDR, etc. If you're not completely worried about HiFi quality (which I assume you may not be, especially if you have scads of 128kbps MP3's) you get the benefits of wireless without needing any special hardware on the receiving end. All you need is an FM radio! This can be especially useful for those BBQ parties on the deck or when you are working in the yard. Just grab a portable boom-box and you're ready to go.
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:41AM (#5908902) Homepage Journal
    Married or single? That could be a determining factor. 9 out of 10 wives will prefer wireless...
    • Don't tell her! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by siskbc ( 598067 )
      Married or single? That could be a determining factor. 9 out of 10 wives will prefer wireless...

      9 out of 10 wives don't know wtf wireless IS. Don't give her the option.

      Also, if you do a better job of hiding the wires, she won't complain too much. Then, she'll only complain that you ripped up all the drywall in the house. ;)

  • simple solution... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2003 @06:44AM (#5908914)
    #1 run cat 5 everywhere.. it's easy to do.
    #2 buy a turtle beach audiotron. in fact get 2 they are the ONLY choice that is worth a damn.

    #3, wire the house for room speakers, and get a whole house audio distribution/amp system. FAST is a really good brand and expensive, otherweise buy good quality 2 way ceiling speakers and a volume control for each room for the low end/low cost.

    you can spend from $1500.00 to $95,000.00 on this "project" it depends on what you want and how much bleeding from your wallet you can handle.
  • Wired is the way to go, I have both 100Mbit Cat 5 and wireless and have experimented with both. I built a PC for the TV and use a wireless KB with a joystick style mouse you operate with your thumb.
    My favorite thing is to slideshow pictures when we have friends over. I have a Gforce 4 MX card and it does the job since 640X480 is the best resolution for my 32" JVC. Also streaming mp3's with the visual plugins works well.
    I tried 802.11b and the streaming was less than perfect, I say bite the bullet and
  • No matter what anybody here says, putting together a home-brewed media center may be rewarding personally, but in the long run is a pain in the ass. You may do well with a MS XP Media Center PC, or something like a Digeo Media Center.

    That said, wired is a lot easier and cheaper than wireless, and more reliable.

    The most important things to have are Surround sound (5.1, 6.1, or 7.1) and a TV with oodles of inputs. A Philips stremium is good for internet radio.

    • In my opinion, I wouldn't agree with you.

      For the "average consumer" yes perhaps, but for someone with knowledge in hardware/software technologies, I have my own home-built entertainment network which does exactly what *I* want, will be easily upgradable in the future, and can be as large or as small as I wish it to be.

      And the best thing is, it's not a pain in the ass. I don't have to open up a terminal except when I'm upgrading the system - it just works.


  • Seriously, why a one solution fits all. The best approach I find is consider the task.

    In my office I have my own TV. Sounds cheap, but it works nonetheless.

    Most likely you will want to create a theater room. Use that money that you were cheap with in the office to buy a big projection screen with a decent stereo sound system. NOTHING beats watching Fight Club with surrond sound on a 8 x 8 screen.

    Sure there might not be a connected TV system, or stereo, but there are multiple people in my family who e
  • Just in case anyone reading is in this situation:

    I bought a new build house, and the first time I saw it, they hadn't yet fixed the stud plasterboard to the interior walls.

    I should have taken that opportunity to flood the place with Cat 5, but I didn't.

    Next time, eh...
  • Conduit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:12AM (#5908981) Homepage Journal
    If you decide to go wired, run conduit instead of wires everywhere, that way, if you decide to change your solution in later years you don't have to rip the walls up and replaster, just run new/more wires or fiber-optic cable down the conduit. {I'd like to take the credit for this idea, but I saw it in a previous Slashdot article as I was Etherneting my house)

  • KISS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zloppy303 ( 411053 )
    Is say Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).
    Internet Radio(with the same music in each room): put a stereo amplifier in each room, and interconnect them via the "tape" i/o. No need to stream anything and you can choose the volume for each room individually.

    Video: Put a thin client (x-terminal) in your Home Theatre, 2 reasons: Low Noise and Low Noise ;) Only problem: sound also gets to the other rooms(interconnected amplifiers) so you might want to use a separate soundcard with videoplayback.(for true 5.1 sound you
  • by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:17AM (#5908993) Homepage
    Your spouse will hate wires if you have one. Work out where your cable runs should be and make sure they are invisible. Or go wireless.

    Projectors are now at a sensible price, starting at about 900gbp for an Epson EMP-30. I use one of these and it's fine. My girlfriend and I love the way the TV and everything disappear when not in use, meaning the house centres naturally around the fireplace as if it were 1940 again!

    Projectors also work really well with a KVM switch. Put the monitor output into the 'Computer' input and the sound into a hi-fi, add a wireless keyboard and you are laughing, whether you have ten PCs or two.

    If you are expecting lots of different audio channels: PC, TV(etc), CD, not to mention the old favourites like radio, then get a separate pre-amp with /lots/ of channels and a good amp. I didn't do this and I now find myself swapping cables, which is irritating. I will be buying a good pre-amp soon!

  • by Toodles ( 60042 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:21AM (#5909001) Homepage
    For the connections in the house, go with a wired setup whenever possible, and make sure you have conduit to run whatever the cable du jour will be in the future. One or two access points plugged in outta sight wouldn't hurt either.

    Now for the fun part, actually USING that bandwidth. I hate M$ to, but the best way to play whatever you need at any location is with a modded Xbox and Xbox Media Player Website [xboxmediaplayer.de]. This spliffy piece of software can play just about any media format you can think of, from VOB, DivX, Mp3, Ogg, and many many more obscure formats. It can play them from the harddrive, dvd drive, or over the network with SMB (Windows) shares, Shoutcast for your internet radio, and tons of other options. Divx plays just fine over a 10mbit connection, so switched 100mbit aught to be a dream. Here [techtv.com] is a review of XBMP on TechTV with videos of it in action. Picture slideshows, playlists, this piece of software just keeps getting better and better. Fully controllable with a standard controller or the DVD remote you can purchase separately. (I recommend the Logitech RF wireless controller if you can justify the extra money. Solid contruction, flawless performance.) Its all about the wireless, baby.

    Even better, no expensive modchip or chip installation required. Some people [slashdot.org] figured out how to run code without a chip, and some others figured out how to flash a BIOS on the Xbox with this technique. No chips, just shorting two easy points on the motherboard. Check on the #xbins channel of Efnet for information; look for the 007 agent under fire package with raincoat. You'll need a friend with a modded Xbox to get the savegame on a memory card, but once done, Xbox is a cinch to crack.

    As a perk, you could even get a few room-to-room Halo/Unreal/RTCW/Doom 3 games going on.

  • by whirlycott ( 54326 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:22AM (#5909004)
    I bought an Audiotron recently and hooked it up via a Linksys wireless bridge to my network. All of my mp3 files reside on my linux server and are accessed via samba. I use iTunes on my Powerbook to rip my CD collection and manage the mp3 files.

    I've had it probably for a month and it's been great. The unit is stable and the wireless network is great. I don't notice any performance problems with the wireless, despite what others are saying about it.

    Originally, I wanted to hardware the unit thinking that it would be a problem, but running cable is such a hassle in my house and I figured I would just try out the wireless option. Since it works, I'm happy. Music never skips or pauses or whatever.

    I've saved a huge amount of space in the living room where all the CDs used to be and have also really reduced the visual clutter.

    I also looked at the slimp3 player that someone else mentioned, but decided I wanted something "appliance-like" that wouldn't have me digging through perl server code in the middle of a party when I want to be listening to music. The other reason is that the Audiotron supports streaming Windows Media which I use to listen to a radio station in France and this was a must-have for me.

    Fyi, if you go with the Audiotron, you should check out my Whirlycott Audiotron TOC Generator [whirlycott.com] which builds table of contents files for the Audiotron to read. This makes scanning your MP3 collection a task that takes just a few seconds (I have around 5000 files) versus 10 minutes.
  • In my home entertainment system, at least...

    The home entertainment system consists of:

    Sony TV
    Pioneer 5.1 Digital Reciever
    Cambridge Soundworks speakers (MC300's, Surround IV's, etc)
    Toshiba DVD player
    Sony CD Player
    TurtleBeach AudioTron (MP3/Internet Radio)
    Nintendo GameCube

    The last three items are wired to the Router/Gateway/Wireless Access Point/Cable Modem. Upstairs are all the computers (3, not including free roaming laptop) hooked up to a 10/100 switch and a wireless bridge to communicate with t
  • by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:26AM (#5909015) Homepage Journal
    www.adventaudio.co m

    Looked for some way to get cable signal to my computer without putting a hole in the wall. And how to get computer signals downstairs to the TV.

    Not gonna be able to move the cable TV signal wirelessly. The line level signals are possible though.

    Run CAT5 or CAT5e, either will do fine. Forget wireless for the computers. I have that network too, and its bandwidth is certainly more than enough to watch streaming programs, but it sucks when you want to move around said files in whole. Plus lots of things can degrade the signal. Suffice it to say wireless does not like to go vertical, it does, but it looses a lot of power.

    Now that you have run the proper flavor of CAT5 (www.dalco.com), you are going to need a computer right next to your stereo. As for running audio video signals this is the preferred order of formats

    1. digital
    2. high voltage
    3. lower voltage

    This means that running speaker wire is your last resort, run line level if u can, and of course digital is WAAAAY better. The higher the voltage, the less your signal will degrade on long runs, this is why the voltage the power companies send out is SO high for the long runs, but stepped down when it comes into your house.

    I ended up giving up the computer audio thru the stereo because of my house setup, maybe next time though. Currently I use Advent's wireless speakers. They work on 800MHz and dont interfere with my 802.11 network. Plus I have headphones for them as well. But they do pick up quite a bit of the occasional statis. Works best for stationary speakers, the headphones I have when I cut the grass do not work nearly as well. But they work. Also check out the products of www.amphony.com. Note though that this is the same frequency as 802.11 wireless network and the 2.4 GHz phones as well. You wont really *hear* any interference I don't think because they are digital I believe, but you will just get smaller bandwidth when the phone / speakers are running. In my Advent's 800MHz speaks, I occasionally hear the neighbors on the telephone because they are not digital. Thisis basically a wireless way of sending a line level signal thru the house. I also have a receiver I can put on my stereo if I want to send signals to the stereo from the computer. Though anyone in their right minds would prefer the SPDIF, and it will not go across the wireless I assume, havent tried.

  • by Levendis47 ( 90899 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:38AM (#5909033) Homepage
    I'll let all the other trolls duke it out over wired vs. wireless. My only comment there being that if you can afford 54Mbit wireless for the data and 900mhz/2.4Ghz "rabbit-ear" relays for the audio, it'll save you a lot of headache w/r/t running wiring, breakout boxes and having a central cabling hub. If you do go wireless, remember that 2.4GHZ cordless phones and certain microwave ovens will toast your band width when in use. I'm using a 5.4Ghz cordless system in a 54Mbit 2.4GHz wireless field and have seen little to no cross-over interference.

    What I'd recommend from an system infrastructure standpoint is to consider the Mini-ITX form factor for building "media nodes". The nice thing is that for less than $500US you can build a complete mini-itx system with 120GB+ of storage capable of 5.1 audio (via optical out) and s-video out. For a bare audio server with no optical drive you can even get that price closer to $300US. The core idea here being that you can start small and expand your system just by adding new nodes with specific functions.

    e.g. Make a single audio server node first, once you're done with that you can inexpensively add another box to the system that supports video file serving and sits under your TV and can play directly onto such. Etc, etc for adding digital player nodes elsewhere... I'm pricing a mini-itx system for about $250 with an old 6gb HD and 128mb of RAM that can serve as a streaming video/audio node for the TV in my bedroom. The idea is to also make some nice simple, large-text rendering web interfaces for managing all of this from a central machine anywhere in the house.

    For more info on mini-itx: http://www.mini-itx.com

    ATI's Remote Wonder wireless remote control is pretty nice too. X-10 makes a similar model that can also be integrated to control their digital-home power/audio/video transmitters and switchs.

    All and all, have fun with it and think more task-oriented about how you want to use the technology that's so readily available.

  • by Glyndwr ( 217857 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:43AM (#5909047) Homepage Journal
    Our household LAN has various components, like a file server, an Xbox for DivX and mp3 playback through the 5.1 surround sound system, and a half-dozen PCs (shared house). We needed both wired (for speed; e.g., file server to LAN or Xbox to file server) and wireless (for laptop flexibility) so we installed both. I can use my iBook with a little micro hifi in the kitchen to stream mp3 wirelessly, as the layout of the house made wiring the kitchen a pricey prospect; meanwhile, I still get to shove gigabytes of data on and off the file server pretty quickly from any of the wired desktop machines.

    I think the best answer depends on the layout of your house, but with wired being so cheap, I would suggest using wires were you need them and they can be easily run, and wireless wherever wires cannot reach.

    As for getting music to each room, I'm leaning towards the view many other posters have suggested: round up some classic Pentium desktops and use them as streaming nodes. It's not fantastically elegant but at least it's cheap and flexibile.
  • My own HE concept (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kosi ( 589267 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:54AM (#5909088)
    To be completely wireless you'd have to wait at least for the 100 MBit WLANs, and then you'd still have to share them between all nodes. So better put Cat5e (to be ready for Gigabit) in your house, connect them to a 100 Mbit switch, optionally add a wireless AP (for notebooks or else).

    For watching all kind of video (yet except .rm and .mov :-) on my TV and listening to MP3s in the living room I bought a modded Xbox and stream the audio and video files from my server (with RelaX). This way I can add "radio appliances" everywhere there's access to the network.

    To record moves or shows from TV, put a DVB card in a PC for having the best quality.
  • Wired vs. Wireless? (Score:5, Informative)

    by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @07:56AM (#5909094)
    Come on that's like a joke.

    I have wifi in my apt and I use it, but there's no way in hell I would ever think about making my AV setup wireless using current technology.

    Do you have any idea how the reliability of a wire compares to that of a WLAN? There's a reason every PC doesn't ship with a wireless keyboard, and it's not cost...

    It's reliability. My keyboard sits in the same place all day and so does my computer. If I never move them or unplug them, I could basically expect that connection to outlast the keyboard. No batteries to mess with, no interference (unless you have some seriously illegal RF equipment), complete immunity from casual snoping.

    Guess what? My TV sits in the same place all day too. Besides, show me one piece of wireless eqipment that transmits video as well as a set of 75ohm component video cables.

    Go with wires. For everything. Use wifi for your laptop.

    The real decision is what wires to run.

    As far as:
    RG6 vs. CAT5e, digital vs. analog, line level vs. speaker level (for audio)

    Run all of them. You need coax for video, cat5e for networking, digital (AES/EBU whatever) for long distance audio transmission, and speaker cable for your speakers. Run extra. Especially cat5. Consider running fiber too. You can get 1 cable that has everything I just mentioned inside it and run that.

    I think the best suggestion I can make is to buy pro-audio gear. It's designed to work well with long distance interconnects (everything is typically balanced).

    For video, get decent coax (well shielded) and possibly a decent amplifier as well.
  • CAT5 (Score:2, Informative)

    by z80 ( 103328 )
    I went with CAT5 in every room in my house. Two ports in every room which enables me to do both ethernet and phone easily through a patch panel.

    It's really hard work unless you are taking down walls anyway or just have easy access and/or the right tools to do the job but it's worth it.
  • We're about to build a house, and I'm planning on running inside-the-wall Ethernet / coax myself before the drywall goes on. Is there a guide / book / FM I can R out there that concentrates on this, particularly w/r/t what the NEC (the U.S. Nat'l Electrical Code) rules are, written so that a non-electrician can understand them? I realize the NEC is susceptible to modification by local ordinance, IANAL, etc., but having a clear explanation of what the base code is would be extremely helpful.

    Remainder of m
  • Use the network adapter and this $50 piece of software...

    PS2 Divx/MP3 Player [thinkgeek.com]

    Very cool, just run the media from it's existing location, no need to replicate.
  • by Amos Moses ( 671828 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @08:29AM (#5909211)
    Here is an idea that worked for me. Put in moldings. Crown molding that goes around the room close to the cieling, and baseboard molding that goes around the base of a room. You can get it in literally 100's of styles to fit your home/budjet, and used correctly adds really well to the asthetics of a home. You can then run wires along the top of the Crown molding, and pick some that leaves a gap along the foot of the wall, and you can run wires behind it. I let my wife pick out the styles she liked best within the price, and phisical contraints, and she was thrilled. hope this helps those of you who want the CAT 5, but also have wives.
  • All the europeans out there might want to check out VDR [cadsoft.de]. Its a great piece of software that works for DVB broadcasts.

    Other than that I'd say CAT5 and SPDIF digital everywhere. Wireless is fine for stuff that moves, but you ain't going to move your home theater setup around the house, are you?

  • by SkreamNet ( 610802 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @09:05AM (#5909392) Homepage
    I ran a 6-in-one cable in my house which is two cat5e, two coax, and two fiber optic bundled into one cable. The super fat stiff cable is also really eash to push up through wall cavities, but it could be difficult to fish through tight corners though. I highly recommend this stuff as it makes it really easy to get connectivity anywhere, and lots of it. A 500ft role did my 2800sqft house to a central wiring closet in the basement just fine. The jacks are a 6 in one faceplate that you snap the different connectors into.
  • Wiring for your Home (Score:5, Informative)

    by tres3 ( 594716 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @09:15AM (#5909444) Homepage
    The first suggestion that I have is NOT to let an electrician install the wiriing unless you KNOW that they are capable of doing it right. I had to set up a business (an ISP) with a network that was really elaborate. It even had a central UPS with outlets in every room that were connected to the central UPS so those outlets wouldn't loose power when the city's power grid failed. During the installation I walked in and was appalled at what I saw: the cat5 wire was laying on the ground with crap piled on top of it, it had nicks in it from being pulled through aluminum 2x4s, and was generally screwed. We had to redo it all the network stuff! From an electricians point of view if it carries a current then it works. This could not be farther from the truth. If a cat5 wire is bent with a radius of less than one inch or if it is pulled with a force that exceeds 25 lbs it is no longer cat5. It will carry current but the twists in the wire will be f*cked up and it won't be able to transmit data at its rated speed. I strongly suggest that you either pull the cable yourself or get someone that KNOWS what they are doing. Catagory 5 wiring cannot be within four feet of a flourscent light, it can't drop more than two flooors without a stress relieving loop, etc.. There is a LOT to know.

    What I would do, since wire is cheap relatively speaking, is pull everything that you think that you might need. I would pull a coaxial, two cat5e, and a phone line (cat2) into all of the places in question and then leave what you are not going to use in the walls for later. Perhaps even a piece of fiber (single mode) There are some companies that have wire bundles where all of the above mentioned wire is in a single bundle so that you only need to pull one wire (albeit a large one). I would also pull a few pieces of heavy nylon cord for use later. These help when you need an additional run. Simply tape the new wire (fiber?) to the nylon and pull the nylon cord out, thereby pulling the new wire into place. You may want to pull a replacement piece of nylon cord with it for the next time.

    Remember that you must be as gentle as possible with the wire so as not to pull the twists out of copper wire or shatter the glass in a piece of fiber as you run it through the walls. The last thing that I would strongly suggest doing is testing the cable after you have pulled it. I'm not talking about one of those $45 boxes with lights that your nearest Fried Electronics (Fry's Electronics - I used to work there and most of the sales people don't know shit about this stuff) will try to sell you. I'm talking about a $5-8k tester from Fluke, Wavelan, etc. that can tell you what the wire is actually transmitting. You should be able to find someplace to rent one for the day or perhaps your lucky enough to have a friend in the business. Or you could pull one of the tricks that Fry's customers do all of the time: buy yourself the tester and then return it within the 30 day return policy that they offer.

    Once you have run all of the wires that you may need for the next 10-20 years then you will be free to hook whatever you want to the ends of it. There was a slashdot discussion on the merits of a Linux multi-media server that you may want to search for as well. First get the infrastructure (wires) installed and then your options are wide open.

    Good luck. Tres

  • QCast Tuner (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Thursday May 08, 2003 @12:31PM (#5911029)
    I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone mention this. I picked one up after it was mentioned in /. a while ago, and I couldn't be happier. The client runs on a PS2, which means you can use the PS2 to feed Optical Digital out and Component Video Out to any television. The server supports multiple connections, and a PS2 plus the little remote piece won't run you more then $230 or so. $50 for the QCast software. Plus, if you want another client box you just buy another PS2, and the kids'll probably thank you for that (assuming they exist).

    For those who didn't catch the little article, QCast supports MP3, OGG Vorbis, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and the various flavors of DiVX (3.11, 4, and 5), as well a JPEG and PNG photos for slideshow playback.

    I had been looking into building an HT Computer (I really just wanted streaming playback of the above list, not something for on-the-fly HD scaling or anything like that). For something that wasn't going to overpower my audio with fan noise, would playback any of those formats without any assistance (sorry Via Epia), and would fit in a case exactly 17" wide so that width would match the rest of the equipment, I was looking at something significantly more expensive than $230. It connects to a file server with a 4x80GB drive setup (drives ran me a sweet $50 each).

    I use a ReplayTV for PVR functionality. It connects via ethernet, and there are third party programs available that allow you to connect and "download" one of the shows from it (although it only use 10BaseT). It would be somewhat trivial to have a cron job set to run the program, pipe the file to a DiVX encoder of your choice, and save it on a centralized box.

    Oh, yeah, use CAT5. RG6 for the actual video source, but if you're trying to move PVR-ed video around, CAT5. I'd make sure to run all CAT5e or CAT6 so that I could make the jump to gigabit ethernet when the switches stop costing more than some of my computers.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer