Wiring Considerations

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This page was written by Pluto and imported with their permission when LinuxMCE branched off in February, 2007. In general any information should apply to LinuxMCE. However, this page should be edited to reflect changes to LinuxMCE and remove old references to Pluto.

Wiring is often the biggest hurdle in any whole house system because most such products use their own, proprietary wiring. That means tearing open walls to run their special cabling, which is often very thick and difficult to manage. With LinuxMCE, on the other hand, everything is IP based. That means it plugs into an Ethernet network (the same network that powers the Internet and virtually all office and home networks). An Ethernet network runs on Cat5 (or cat5e/cat6) cable. This cable is commonly installed in homes already, since it is used for most phone systems as well as a home network. If your home does not already have cat 5 cabling, cat 5 is definitely one of the smaller, easier wires to run. What's more, because home networks are so desirable for internet access and file/printer sharing, installing cat5 cabling in a house is well worth the cost and will increase the resale value, even without a LinuxMCE system. This is another advantage of LinuxMCE's use of the industry standard cable. The cable by itself, even without the LinuxMCE system, is very useful to have. When you have an Ethernet/cat5 jack, you can not only plug in LinuxMCE equipment, you can plug in any personal computer, a printer, or a wide variety of other IP based devices.

So the only wiring requirement is that you have Ethernet (cat5) going to every location where you want to either put a piece of LinuxMCE equipment (a Media Director, a LinuxMCE Phone, etc.) or any third party device that you want LinuxMCE to control (your lighting control system, alarm panel, pool controls, surveillance cameras, etc.). All LinuxMCE devices will plug directly into the jack. And there are 3 primary ways that LinuxMCE will control your existing, non-LinuxMCE equipment:

Ethernet (aka IP based) -- this is the best, and most flexible way to control equipment. This means the device already uses the same system LinuxMCE uses, and you can plug it into any jack. Chances are the LinuxMCE core will be able to configure it automatically and there will be nothing for you to do.

RS232 -- common with non-a/v equipment (lighting systems, pool controls, etc), and some high-end a/v equipment. If your a/v equipment has an RS232 port, this is definitely preferable over Infrared.

Infrared -- most common with a/v equipment, it sends infrared codes just like a remote control. If you are going to be buying new a/v equipment, try to get devices that have an RS232 port. You will find that RS232 is much faster and more reliable. If you decide to buy a device that does not have RS232 and will use Infrared to control it, be sure to only buy a/v equipment that supports discrete codes. If you buy a/v equipment that does not support discrete codes, LinuxMCE will still control it, and control it better than your typical home automation system, however you will find the devices will be slow to respond, and may not be as reliable.

Even for the Infrared and RS232 devices, they will still ultimately plug into the Ethernet jack. There will just be a device that sits in between them and the Ethernet network. In the case of infrared, that devices is an interface module. You plug the interface module into the Ethernet network, and little i/r emitters into the interface module. The i/r emitters send infrared codes just like your remote control. In the case of RS232 devices, you can plug them either into an interface module, or into the core, or into any of your LinuxMCE Media Directors.

 Can LinuxMCE run wireless?
What if my home doesn't have cat 5?
What is proper cat5 cabling?