Hello. My name is Jon Decker, I'm 32 years old and I live in north-eastern Ohio, USA. I have a wife and 3 kids, and we live off of a middle-class salary.
For the past couple of years, I have followed Pluto development. I forget how I found out about Pluto - probably just some random search. I had tried a few times in the past to get Pluto to work, but didn't get too far. (mostly hardware incompatibilities as I had a ATI graphics card at the time). I then saw that LinuxMCE forked off of pluto, so that got me interested enough again to give it a try. My first attempt was in January of 2008 by installing LinuxMCE on an old junked computer. At first, I couldn't get much of anything to work, and finding answers wasn't all that easy for some new. As I started reading more, asking more questions and learning more, I decided to do a full setup and so I purchased some new equipment - this time doing research on what worked well. With the exception of one major crash that erased all of my 2TB of data in June of 2008 (not to worry, it was a mistake that I made), I have been up and running happily ever since. As of the time of this writing, everything is installed again and most of my media is burnt back onto the core. I took this as a learning experience, and took advantage of it by doing a fresh install and video recording most of it (which I hope to edit and post here someday)
My current Setup is as follows:
- 1 Core/Hybrid with internal software RAID
I bought this 4U rackmount case from Ebay for about $70, shipped. Its really not a bad case for the money. It has a removable internal 6-drive rack that I really like. Since my core/hybrid will be hidden in a closet, I didn't see the need for a "pretty" case. One bad thing, the rackmount holes didn't line up with my rack for some reason. Nothing a drill bit didn't fix.
- 4x Datalux iPix 15" industrial touchscreen computers as orbiters
This was my luckiest buy! I got these from a hospital that closed down for about $800 at auction. Thats only $200 each! They are a full computer running WindowsXP, 15" touch screen, 20GB HDD, 256MB RAM and a 1.8GHZ CeleronM processor. My only complaint is the color - I want to take the cases apart and have them painted black sometime. Another mention on these, the case is made out of solid aluminum that is at least 3/16" thick. Very heavy, solid units. I am running 3 wirelessly with PCMCIA cards and 1 wired to my gigabit network. The one in the Living Room is mounted on the wall, the ones in the 3 bedrooms are all mounted in the night stands next to the beds at about a 45 degree angle.
- 4x RC-6 generic Windows Media Remotes
When I bought my PVR-500, this is the remote that came with it. Its fairly small, simple, and comfortable to hold. I found a guy on ebay selling these for $9.00 each brand new (with Gateway branding on the bottom) so I got 3 more from him. I now have a total of 4 of these - 1 for each room with a MD. I must say for a $9 remote, it does all I could ask for.
- 3 "Generic PC" MD's
<Pictures coming soon>
My installation serves my Living Room/Theatre Room (Core/Hybrid), my bedroom, and 2 children's bedrooms. There is a 15" touchscreen orbiter mounted in each of the rooms.
I have an extensive X10 setup in my house that was in place before LMCE. Every light switch in my home is X10 compatible along with almost every outlet, and many of my apploances have internal "hard-wired" x-10 modules in them. Although X10 isn't the best automation solution around (though they are reliable and cheap), I decided to integrate them with my LMCE installation. X10 integration was broken at the time, and with me having so much riding on my X10 setup, that is where I decided to get into developing. Within 3 weeks and with some help from some great people, all of my X10 devices were working and much of the CM11A (X10) source code was rewritten.
- 4U Rackmount server case with internal 6-drive cage
- 650W Logisys 80Plus certified power supply
- Asus M2NPV-VM motherboard
- 2GB RAM
- 2x DVD drives
- Integrated NVidia 6150 graphics card
- AMD BE2400 low wattage dual-core processor
- 1x500GB system drive for LMCE OS and LiveTV recording
- 3x1TB software RAID media storage drives
- Hauppauge PVR-500 dual capture card
- CM11A x10 interface
- W800RF32 X10 wireless receiver with external antenna
- Bluetooth Dongle
My core is hidden away in a closet, and serves the TV in the livingroom as a Hybrid MD. The closet is off of the bedroom, and it shares a common wall with my living room. All I had to do was cut a hole through the wall, and give it a clean look by affixing a PVC pipe through the hole (which comes out behind my TV in the living room.
I've had very few problems with this core regarding compatibility. It normally runs right along for weeks at a time between reboots. This core is big and heavy and loud (I keep all of the case fans on all of the time to keep all of those drives nice and cool) - however, with the closet door closed you can't hear it and wouldn't even know it is there. (Though the closet gets very warm!)
The USBUIRT is mounted in my livingroom (which is just on the other side of the closet)and controls my Vizio VW37L LCD tv, a Panasonic Receiver, a Screenplay 4805 DLP Projector, a motorized ceiling-mount projector screen and an NFusion Nova F2A receiver. IR transmission has always been extremely reliable, but a lot of that has to do with good placement of the USBUIRT.
Every one of my systems hooks to a TV over a standard VGA port. I found that using component ports produced horrible overscans on every different TV I tried, and using regular SVideo and Composite didn't give me the fidelity I needed. I am very happy with the choice, and prefer to use VGA as my connection method for video devices.
- MD is an old nasty computer I got for free
- P4 1.5ghz
- 512MB RAM
- Nvidia 5200 graphics card (PCI)
- DVD drive
- No hard drive (diskless)
- Motherboard: ???? (i'll check and add it late)
- Esoniq 16 bit sound card (model #?) Very loud sound card!
- Bluetooth Dongle
This has ben a GREAT performing MD. It never crashes, has no trouble handling HD video (tested to 720p). It is pretty quiet, and can be turned on and off at the command of LMCE with no problem.
This MD is hooked to a Magnavox 32" LCD tv. I would not recommend this TV to anybody!!! It is coming down next month and being replaced with either a 32" or a 37" vizio. This TV has a horrible problem of resetting the screen settings every time the power is cycled, so each time it turns on I have to dial it in. This TV is the only device in this room at this time that is controlled via the USBUIRT.
Child's bedroom #1
- MD was the existing old computer in that room
- Dell Dimension B2400?? (the cheapest computer Dell sold at that time ($299 with monitor))
- P4 2.4 ghz
- 512 MB RAM
- 80 GB HD (used for media storage)
- DVD drive
- NVidia geforce 5600
Call my kids spoiled, but I have always let them go to bed with a movie. It used to take half an hour to get them to bed because of picking out a DVD etc... Now, when it is time to go to bed, they just use their touch screen, pick out a movie, and hit a "Bed Time" scenario button that turns their light off, turns a night light on and sets the sleep timer on the TV for 90 minutes. Now, getting them to bed is easy as ever!
This MD is hooked up to a 32" Vizio. There is no USBUIRT in this room yet, but will be soon.
This MD has also been a very solid performer. I haven't looked into it yet, but the core can't power this MD On remotely (which isn't a huge problem really).
In both children's rooms, i bought computer desks that sat a little higher than normal, and mounted the TV's on the wall just above the desks. This setup allows the TV to be used for watching movies from their bed, or as 32" monitors for their computing needs. This was another factor for deciding to go with VGA connections to the TV.
Child's Bedroom #2
- MD was an existing old computer that we had gotten for free
- Gateway (model#?)
- 256 MB RAM
- P4 1.7 Ghz
- 80GB internal HDD for media storage
- NVidia Gaforce 5200 (128MB)
- DVD drive
Again, an old computer that someone was going to junk, so I took it. This one, even though it has very little RAM, still runs amazingly well. It never stutters or glitches or crashes. This one also will power on remotely from the core. This MD is also hooked to a 32" Vizio. There is no USBUIRT on this MD yet either, but I will be adding one soon.
My Favorite Things About LMCE
The only thing I haven't bothered with yet in LMCE is the telecom features. (I do hope to get it integrated some day though) There isn't a feature that I don't like! Its great being able to get my media anywhere in the house. It great having the user interfaces for the various equipment all looking and working the same. The home automation is absolutely amazing. There is nothing quite like hitting a button and having the lights dim, the TV come on and watching a movie. Or shutting off the upstairs air conditioner from my bedroom downstairs. Or having my outside lights come on and off automatically at sunrise and sunset. Or having my hallway lights come on automatically at night when the kids get up to use the bathroom. You get the point - I'm a home automation junkie! Its really amazing what this system can do.
Problems I Have Had
- Blank screen on installing LinuxMCE for the first time. Solution: I learned that by default the video goes out the VGA port. If using other ports, use the keyboard #'s 1-5 to select different output until you can see the video.
- Horrible overscan while using component output. Solution: used VGA
- X10 devices didn't work. Solution: Got busy and fixed the code
- Core is unstable and requires daily reboots. Solution: Switched from 64 bit to 32 bit and all has been great.
- Not all MD's will turn on remotely from core. Solution: (none yet)
- MythTV pauses and skips from time to time. Solution: (None yet)
- MythTV crashes MD's and Core. I'm still getting this from time to time under 0710 32-bit. Solution: (None Yet)
- Toggle Power for my TV's get out of sync. Solution: Education - I learned that when you do a quick reload router you should turn your toggl-power devices off. Also, the power screen on UI1 has power on/off that isn't managed.
- Toggle Input does funky things. This has been confirmed by other users as well. Solution: I have identified some bugs and am currently working on fixing the problem. The short term solution for me was to erase my Input Select IR code from my device template, as I only use the 1 input on my tv.
- My RAID device (internal software raid in the Core) disappeared and was listed in the web admin as "Removed". I'm not sure why this happened, but eventually I went to the web admin and hit a button labled "Create Raid Array" thinking that it would recreate my RAID device in LMCE. What it actually ended up doing was reformatting it. Doh! Solution: Learn from my mistakes. Filed a bug report that a user should be warned with confirmation before reformatting any drive. Also submitted feature request for better RAID diagnostic tools.
- Major rewrite of CM11A code (x10 interface)
- Lighting Plugin/Climate plugin improvements and contributions
- Added user-definable infrared repeat parameters for A/V devices
- Small web admin tweaks/fixes
- Infrared ToggleInput bugs (AVMessagetranslation.cpp) --in progress
- fix and redesign of Playlist editor in web admin --in progress
- W800RF32 X10 wireless receiver driver --in progress
- fixed a few bad device templates
- Tons of bug reports filed in Mantis
- Various wiki pages