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- Posted on
July 11, 2006, 9:50 pm
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I'm VERY new to the whole home automation field. For the moment, I am
just looking at using wall panels to connect to a central PC and play
MP3's in any wired room.
Can someone point me to some systems that make this possible.
Eventually, I would like to scale up to use the wall panels to control
playback of video, but that is a project for another day.
3 main options:
1) Something like a Russound system with keypads, and J Rivers Media Center
on your PC, with the PC connected to the Russound over serial
2) One of those pre-rolled systems, i think squeezebox/slingbox do something
like this but i'm not sure.
Neither of those 2 will scale to video, though, so there's:
3) a software-based solution where you use the Russound as above, but rather
than keypads use something like a Fujitsu 3400 tablet PC ($160 on eBay) that
you wallmount to control playback throughout the house.
My 3400 wallmounted:
My Interfaces: http://www.charmedquark.com/vb_forum/showthread.php?t=1429
An older version of my architecture:
Note: I am a mere end-user with no financial stake in any products that I
My Personal Website w/my Home Automation PC:
http://www.myhomeautomationpc.com , last updated 4/11
My Home Automation Blog: http://homeautomation.wordpress.com /
Your questions are very common and speak to a continuing problem with
AV/Home Control issues.
"How cheap can I get in? Can I get in cheap and later upgrade?"
There are a variety of ways to go about distributing your PC audio
playback throughout your home.
Elan makes some great stuff. The Russound solution is also good.
Systems like that are somewhat 'closed' in that they don't allow for
much customization and upgrading.
The question is how far do you want to take this? I find that most
people don't have any idea of the level of control you can have. Also,
some people want to control too much and the system gets impracticle
and expesive fast.
what I'd do is sit down and brainstorm about the things you wish to
control and write them down. Then look around and see what systems
will do or can expand to do what you want.
As with all things AV, it's only a matter of money. My clients
routinely spend aver $300K to autoamate their homes. (I'm an AMX
programmer and AV designer) They control things like
lighting,security,HVAC,whole-house A/V distribution systems,Pool/hot
tub controls,Gate and door locks, IP networking, computers, etc...
Here's an example of what they do with all this. One client uses the
system as an alarm clock. (they have 7" color touch panels in every
room) She sets the time on the 'virtual alarm clock' on the panel at
night. The house climate controls adjust the room temperatures based
upon the time of year, weather conditions and customer personal tastes
about 20 minutes before wake up time. at wake up time, the lighitng in
the room begins a slow fade up over 5 minutes, the audio system comes
on quietly with some classical music. Once they get out of bed and
turn on the bathroom lights, the system then automatically switches to
the radio station and their bedroom TV switches on CNN.
Is this silly? I dunno. My personal system does similar things but
I'm not so interested in having it turn on my radio or TV.
You don't have to get that nutty with control, nor spend that much.
Most folks just want to distribute some audio or video around the
house. Just be honest with yourself and your needs and pick a system
that will go to that point.
The Russound system looks like what I am looking for. At least the
wall panels are perfect. I like the look and they are in my price
range (I was thinking $100 - $200 each). The only problem I see is
that from what I have read (if someone knows differently, please
correct me) those wall panels only work with Russound media servers.
What I'm looking for is to be able to use those wall panels or a
similar type with any Windows PC. I'm assuming that for a system like
this to work via any Windows PC I would need at least a special type of
expansion card and some software, but I would prefer that to buying a
At the same time, you've given me quite a lot to think about. What are
my ultimate goals of this system? Ultimatelty, years down the road I
might look at a system that allows me to receive video from different
sources in each room, as well as environmental and security controls,
but for the short term, the distribution of MP3's, radio, possibly XM,
in each room is project enough.
Thanks again for the help!
Oxmoor is a company who for years has put audio into big places, like
Then make a whole house audio system, called the ZON system. Pronounced
Read all about it... The wiring couldn't be simpler.
As many as 8 input modules, in addition to their router's own input -
allow for 9 different sources. Analog, or digital (coax or optical.)
The system is not inexpensive, and out of the price range of most...
Now, that said...
Don't buy today!
They're coming out with two new systems aimed at lower price points.
I'm expecting them to announce one of them in the next couple of weeks.
The other is probably close behind...
To give you an idea: The ZON system (at MSRP) costs about $1k per room.
They've priced the new systems at $500/per room, and $250/room...
I have no idea what this'll look like, but I expect excellent quality.
The ZON's sound quality is higher than that of the Russound, from the
reviews I have read. I have not listened to them both.
After the first of the year they can get back to the ZON system's
developments, etc. Always making improvements...
I am impressed at the quality of the ZON products. All very well
engineered. Much thought went into this stuff. They spent years
developing it prior to it's release. And that was years ago.
And on a separate note...
Have you seen Rudeo?
Rudeo is software for a PDA to control your media center, or Windows
It can also control external UPnP client boxes... Wireless Media Players...
These could be input sources for any whole-house audio system.
I really like Rudeo on my wireless PDA. I've even run it on multiple
PDAs at the same time. I could hit pause - my buddy hits play... I
adjust the volume - they skip to the next track, etc.
All in real time, and very responsive!
I haven't tried the IR remote functionality... yet.
I sincerely hope this helps open your eyes further to the possibilities.
Eyes wide open, now wait to go shopping! Half-a month isn't long to
wait, just in case the new Oxmoor stuff is cool!
Products like ours are pretty much what it sounds like you are looking for.
We can provide the front end for your on-disc or changer based media, and
provide multiple zones of audio from the PC, which you can either hard wire
to specific zones or run into a matrix switcher to allow selection of which
zone you want to pipe were, and we provide control over all the hardware and
provide the touch screen interfaces to control it all. Now product is really
oriented towards pros, so it's not an end user out of the box solution. It
requires you to put in some elbow grease or hire someone to do it. But in
return you get the flexibility to create a solution along the lines you
Plenty of our customers do this kind of scenarios. Put a 4 channel M-Audio
card in the box, each of which looks like a separate audio device, and you
can play audio from disc out each channel. Provide a touch screen in each
zone and you can browse the database and select what you want to hear. It
makes even more sense if you then branch out and use the automaition
features of the product, since you are then getting more bang for the buck.
Here are some sample interfaces to show what kind of stuff you can do:
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems
Yep, CQC and the Fujitsu 3400 is what I use for exactly the reason Steve
mentions - no desire to use their keypads as they ONLY work with Russound
media servers [which are $3500]. With a 3400 and CQC, I can control anything
I want. MP3/radio/XM is easy, you'll be done with that quickly if you've
already got all the equipment.
With the 3400, it's a full PC [$160 gets you a 10" P3-400 touchscreen]. That
means no special card needed, just the CQC software for fully distributed,
networkable HA & HT control.
I can also use my Cingular wifi PDA with the CQC DotNetViewer, but honestly
I just use that for when i'm not at home to check on the security/HVAC/help
inlaws turn a-v on&off if they're having issues.
yeah, i've pseusdo-drooled over those RADI/O's for a while now. They're nice
and clean, but it's just too dang small. Here's my PPC interfaces, which are
240x320 for a 4.25"x2.83" screen. The RADI/O are even smaller (160x240 and
2.7" portrait), even 2 of them would be ludicrous not to mention the
inherent browsing issues keeping them in sync. I only use them on the
Cingular phone when i'm out of the house. I cannot imagine being forced to
using something that tiny on a regular basis.
PPC screens: http://www.charmedquark.com/vb_forum/showthread.php?t=2005
But, I think I read on cocoontech that they're going to research 7" models
once they've got the new 12" UTMA stuff stable, perhaps then.
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