Monday, November 19, 2007

More On The Future

"You have some options. Personally I've avoid having to switch inputs on a display and just have everything streamed. This would also allow for centralized DVR functionality. It also removes the requirement for a tuner in the display.

You might want to check out the open source project MisterHouse ( This is really geared towards home automation and not media distribution, but interesting none the less.

I think what you should really look at is MythTV ( You setup a MythTV backend to handle tuners, recording, etc. while multiple fontends can then access the content. There are also many available modules to check the weather, email, surf the web, play video games, and much more. It's also possible to netboot the frontend software ( so that you can easily manage deployed software to all your displays. Just think, running one CAT6 gigbait wire to each room, rather than CAT5 and coax.

Above is exactly the type of response I was hoping for. This was a comment left yesterday after my disjointed description of what I hope to achieve in the way of telecom for the house. I don’t think anything here actually achieves my goals, but then, they may not be achievable at this point.

I haven’t actually had the time to look at the different links, but it is a great start and I wanted to thank Rwohleb for taking the time to post the comment. You can be sure I’m going to be investigating all of this over the next few months.

The real issue that may be a stumbling block is the issue of the cabling I have in place. I must work with what I have. It is hard to believe that CATV is outdated, but that is just the nature of the industry. Four years ago I pulled 2 CATV and 2 Coaxial cables from under the house, up through 3 floors, and in to the attic. It is there, and it is going to stay there, and I’m going to use it. If I took the time to rip it all out and pull in CAT6 cable, by the time I got the whole system up and running, there would be CAT7 cable available.

As I write, I writing on a 6 year old lap top that has not had new software installed in years. I’m not an early adopter. I don’t play the hardware/software upgrade two-step. This goes back to my original post yesterday about wanting simple to use stuff. I don’t want to tinker with it and tweak it and then need to worry about replacing it in a few years. I just want to use it. keep it simple.

After I wrote my blog entry yesterday I started to think about all of the old and new technology in the house. The old stuff is simple to use and instantaneous. Flip a switch and the light comes. Pick up a phone receiver and the dial tone is buzzing away before you can get it to your ear. You turn on a TV and the sound and picture come up in a second at most.

My new DVD player/recorder takes a good 20 seconds to boot-up. With an old VCR you could go from power-down to be recording a tape in 10 or 15 seconds. The DVD needs to be formatted first. If I wanted to quickly start recording a DVD it would take a good 2 to 3 minutes from the time I turn on the unit until I can actually start recording.

Computers are even worse. Think of the wasted hours we’ve all spent staring at an hour glass on the screen. It’s true, they save a lot of time in that once they get going they can do some things really, really fast, but it really needs to get better. And it’s changing all of the time. The last time I replaced my TV I did it because the old one broke not because the technology was out-dated. It must get simpler and faster if I’m expected to integrate it in to my life.

In the idea above, the central idea is to have several tuners connected to a network and then stream the signal to monitors. It sounds good – hell, it sounds great – but is the technology there, and if it is, is it affordable and easy to use. If 3 people turn on TVs watching different channels, and other is playing a game, and yet another is listing to music, could the network keep up? Could you imagine getting and hour glass in the middle of a TV show.

This was why in my dream set-up the TV signal still comes in the old fashioned way. I wouldn’t want to build a whole-house system only to find out that it falls so short of the mark that only a few of the aspects of it are really usable.

Who knows where this will end up. There are a lot of options out there.


Nick said...

I can't comment on "ease of use". But I believe that the Microsoft PVR solution ("Windows Media Center"), includes the ability to distribute TV and games to remote TVs/Monitors via your home network (even wirelessly). Wikipedia makes a good attempt to explain the technology:

Anonymous said...


Love what you're doing with the house!

Have you considered listing it in the Home Name Registry?

The website is


Greg said...


Ahhhh! MicroSoft!

Seriously, I will check that out. I'm afraid to admit it, but they will probably be one of the first to get a working, usable system. Most likely because they will buy a company that has a working, usable system, but still...

Mike said...

Sorry for the late comment, but better late than never ;)

You asked three questions:
1. Is the technology there? Yes
3. Easy to use? Yes

2. Affordable? Depends on your definition of affordable.

The technology to do this has been around for the past decade and is moving down into the regular user domain at a steady pace. Personally, I'd consult with a good local hometheater consultant (not Best Buy, Circuit City, etc..) and talk to them about this. There are a lot of products on the market that can accomodate this, it's all about how much you're willing to spend. That's why consulting a professional about this would be highly recommended.

Here's a quick link to a DVD and Music Manager system that comes close to about half of what you want:

Also, if you're willing to compromise on audio and video quality, Microsoft is the way to go.

Greg said...


Thanks for the follow up. There's no need to worry about me going to Best Buy or Circuit City because we don't have anything like that around here. The only place in town that does Home Theater sort of stuff is so expensive, I wouldn't even consider going to them.

Yes, if I wanted to fill my house with plasma TVs (that is all they sell) and a home theater system, and I had $10,000 to blow on the system, that would be the way to go.

Home theater is not what I'm going for, though.

1. Is the technology there? Yes
3. Easy to use? Yes

I guess, you're right when you say the technology is there and easy to use, but as you pointed out....

Affordable? Depends on your definition of affordable

I could say the same of Ease of Use and the Technology Being there. Your last sentence seems to say that the technology is not there yet. You say that Microsoft is my best bet, but it doesn't work all that well.

I mean, if you have the time and money, yes, you can get anything you want. I saw a guy on 60 Minutes the other night control a 200 Million Dollar Yatch by pushing a few buttons and using touch pads. The technology is there for that, but most of us will never see it.

I realize that what I want most likely won't be what I get. I could come up with the funds to hire out to professionals to do this, but frankly, I don't want to. I don't really want some This Old House inspired Home Theater/Home Automation System that controls 8 speakers and a 48-inch plasma screen in the parlor while at the same time sets my "lighting Package" for theater viewing.