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Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

Home Networking

I’m due to post a progress report on the new home. In three weeks we move in, so I’m in the middle of the planning for the electronic components of the house. I decided early on that I was going to wire the house up as if it was an office. That meant I wanted to use hard wire for networking rather than wifi with bridges. Because the home didn’t have cat-5, and I’m not in the mood to pay thousands for putting it in, I decided to use MOCA (Multimedia over Coax) to do the whole house network. However I am getting an estimate on cat-6 runs, so these MOCA routers might be on E-Bay soon! UPDATE: $100 a drop I’m quoted, so yes, will be on e-bay soon.

To do so, I purchased five MI424WR Rev F routers from Actiontec, the same devices used by Verizon for FIOS. I bought them on eBay. Each of them will be at a cable terminus with wifi and coax enabled as bridges, so we’ll have maximum wifi saturation as well as 200mbps wired networking in each room.

Each device has a gigabit switch on it, so in certain rooms DirectTV boxes will be connected, in others, computers. The DirectTV coax will run outside of the house and punch in through the walls where the receivers are, while the main in-wall coax will serve the MOCA.

The first 30 IP’s on my network are mapped to VPN to the office, so I’ll be maintaining the class c in a split configuration to ensure things that shouldn’t route through VPN don’t. ie, the surveillance cameras won’t be directly accessible except through a web interface.

I’m debating doing two different VLAN’s on the Netscreen, to segregate things like the camera traffic from the main house traffic, and AV traffic, but not sure if that’s necessary.

I’ve been ordering equipment in advance of the install from MacHomeStore.com, Amazon.com and Smarthome.com.

Anyhow, here is the networking diagram.
Network diagram2.png

Virtual PBX

In the continuing journey toward our new house, this week I setup our new phone system for the house. I decided to move away from Vonage and go toward a solution that was more flexible and less nickle/dimey than Vonage has been. Not to say we’re even high users of voice lines (we use cell phones), but I wanted to make sure that the house had a good and extensible voice system.

We chose OnSip, mostly based on Fred’s recommendation and those of others I know. I paired it with a SNOM M3 and a Linsys ATA router, the SPA3102.

Setup of OnSip was very easy. Amy and I have our own extensions and I setup a group for our mobile numbers and our extensions. The main lines are in simultaneous ring and the mobile in “hunt group”, so it’ll try us both. Incoming calls go to the internal group, and then during specific hours route to the mobile group before reverting to voicemail.

I also setup extension aliases, so Amy can just dial my work extension to call my office.

The setup of the SNOM M3′s was painless, while the setup of the Linksys was not, mostly because OnSip doesn’t have documentation for it. However, some of their online documentation (which is excellent) had similar configuration help, and those ended up working.

Our new house has the entire phone system wired into a VOIP box currently, so we’ll use the SPA3102 to make sure the whole houses RJ11′s are on the VOIP network. I plan on getting two more SNOM M3′s for the house and a Polycom desk phone for my office, Amy’s office area and possibly a conference pod for the living room.

Moving Tip – Backpack

As we get set to start the move, I was going crazy trying to itemize what needed to get done in every room. We had taken a ton of photos in the new house, and I had started a list, but visually the list and my photos weren’t matching

Backpack (from 37 Signals) ended up being the perfect solution. I can itemize room by room, with pictures and start listing what needs to get done/purchased/redone.

Here’s a small example from the outside.

Screen shot 2010-05-16 at 2.01.40 PM.png

Personal MacMini Home Theater Channel

For the new house I want to be able to have a central repository of videos that we’ve stored, taken or otherwise have, but not put Apple TV’s or MacMini’s on every TV.

Back when people had SD sets and cable, you could use an RF modulator to create your own channels on your cable system. This is used a lot in signage, churches, schools, etc.

To do so with HD you have to use a QAM modulator. They were typically in the many of thousands of dollars, but were how bars and such were able to store DirectTV receivers in a rack and still tune the TV’s into the individual ones.

Enter a consumer grade QAM modulator from Zeevee, called the ZvBox.

At around $1000.00 it isn’t cheap, but its reasonable and would do some interesting things.

The primary thing I want to do with it is hook up a MacMini and use the IRTrans Wifi relayer to let any room control that MacMini with standard IR controls. The other alternative is to use RF keyboards and mice, but the range might be an issue.

The MacMini would run Boxee and let any TV tune into a channel that displayed it. I’d also have options to run a Panic like dashboard for the house, including energy consumption, cameras, etc.

If the cost of the highest end units ends up coming down to reasonable levels, I could also see centralizing the DirectTV receivers in a rack and being able to distribute them to all rooms in the house.

DIY Smarthome

As I posted earlier, Amy and I are going to be moving to a new house this summer in Woodland Hills. We’re moving from a multistory (four in fact) townhouse that we gutted and renovated into a sprawling ranch style house that was recently renovated, albeit not specifically to our taste.

The work we’ll do to the new home in terms of renovation is a subject for Amy’s blog (a hint, it’ll be just some floors and paint right now), but what I’m focused on is the next phase of my DIY Smarthome work.

With the Burbank house, the Smarthome aspects were focused on command/control architectures, all human integrated. Meaning: the lights responded to explicit input, as did any other collective control of the house systems. We had only integrated lighting besides. It lacked any comprehension of the heuristics of our every day living.

With the new home, my goal is to bring a sense of heuristics to the Smarthoe approach. To do so, I need to make the system learn, and respond to set inputs.

Here are the inputs that I’m considering putting in:

iPhone Location

Using some URL hacking of MobileMe to let the system know where Amy and I are in the world, whether I’m at work, home or elsewhere. Amy wisely pointed out that she might leave her phone at home. I view this edge case just that, an edge case and not invalidating the entire precept.

Motion Sensors

The key is to use motion sensors not as a mainline input to any condition, but as a system to help us determine certain conditions.

LED light sensors

These exist for Insteon systems, and can determine if a light is turned on or off. A good example of usage for this is the stereo receivers light, or the DirectTV boxes.

Audio Sensor

There is another sensor that lets you feed in line-level audio and trigger an Insteon signal based on that. You could, theoretically, chain this off a stereo aux output to determine if there is activity in the living room.

Garage Door Sensor

Will sense state changes (open/close).

Door Sensors

Likewise, except on key interior and exterior doors.

Twitter

Just like MobileMe URL hacking, using our latest tweets and their geotags to determine where we are.

 

There are a few others I’m sure, but the goal here is to provide a set of inputs that together can be analyzed to answer two questions: who’s home and where are they.

The idea I have is to feed all these inputs periodically into a back-propagating neural network which is trained to give certain outputs given states of inputs. For instance, we could train it that if I’m home, Amy is not, and the doors are closed and I’m watching TV, the house should turn off all lights but the living room and adjust the thermostat to my liking.

Likewise, if it detects no one is home, the temperature outside is above 90 and the doors are all closed, it’ll keep the thermostat adjusted for the dogs.

Indigo, from Perceptive Automation is apple-scriptable, and I’m not sure if anyone has made a neural-net in AppleScript. However, I have written one in Python so I’ll most likely feed the variables from Indigo out, and periodically (on Cron?) feed its outputs back into Indigo to trigger certain action-groups, which are like macro’s for Insteon and other systems.

Stay tuned for more articles on my DIY Smarthome Project!

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