Archive for October, 2013

Adventures in HA – House plans

Posted: October 31, 2013 in HA, Rants
Tags: ,

One of the annoying things about playing with HA software is the room plan. Nearly every platform shows a view of some kind where there’s a splendid, full colour, detailed floor plan showing exactly where EVERY fixture and fitting is.


All my attempts fall flat on their faces because I haven’t got the exact dimensions, or time to measure and then manually enter EVERY dimension in some random piece of software. The software also seems to be too simplistic (and won’t let me have non-rectangular rooms) or excessively complex (CAD suites) or bloody expensive.

So far I’m having more success with MagicPlan on the iPad. It at least gives me the basic room shapes and reasonably accurate dimensions. So I can use it to generate something to test on the platforms I’m playing with.


XBMC Device Shuffle

Posted: October 8, 2013 in Hardware, Home Media

I’m conflicted over the XBMC player we use in the lounge. Wolf is a small atom based device, low power, a bit noisy with small (~40mm) fans, but capable of playing everything we throw at it. Freya is the most powerful box in the house that due to a) OpenELEC update pain b) laziness c) Live TV hopes ended up in the Antec HTPC case running XBMCbuntu. I don’t need Freya (live TV now handled by my VU player)…. but having a machine that powerful doing nothing offends me 😀

Guess I’ll rebuild it and use it as a desktop….. oh joy Win 7 install from scratch… see you next year.

Right, so I’ve gone back to looking at alternative software to run a simple Z-Wave network at home. After spending the best part of 2 days building, compiling and installing the DomotiGa system on a Raspberry Pi, it’s now time to see what it’s really like to use….

First attempts to actually set it up took place about midnight last friday. While I did manage to get my Weather Underground API key set up and entered (then realised that it wasn’t working in the current release), my Weather Bug key (wait an hour for it to register), geolocation (lat & lon) and Aeon Labs Z-Stick2 sorted. I totally failed to get any of my actual Z-Wave devices to appear in the device list.


Second attempt (monday morning – in the office, but pre-work (honest)) saw me finally finding the Z-Wave Commander page in the tools and getting the 3-in-1 sensor to deliver something. Three values coming back, but no idea what they are. Eventually by a process of elimination I figured the On was the motion sensor, 76.2 was the temperature in fahrenheit and the 62 was the light level. Still not a good start, but some progress. I’ll try again next friday night.

In theory it looks like a reasonable product…. especially given it’s association with Mister House, but I seem to be spending more time building/installing and tweaking than doing: something I really didn’t want to be doing. The web interface isn’t the most user-friendly as well, something I seriously have to consider as it MUST pass WAF if I want this to be a useful whole-house project. I’ll try again this weekend if I get a chance; maybe I’ll have a breakthrough

If a Vera wasn’t so expensive, I’d just buy one… it looks like so much less hassle!

So I ended up buying one of these a while back to have a play with. As a new version Duo2 was due to be released the next day, I got this one cheap from Apart from the slightly clunky interface, and the utter PITA to setup (thank god for the dummies guides found on world-of-satellite’s forums!) it’s really not bad. It’s not a user friendly environment like the Sky box, but given enough time I’m sure you’d get used to it.

Bonus number 1 is that I can now use any of my XBMC boxes to stream live TV from the Vu+ box across the network and view it. Goodbye MythTV back-end on Freya that never started properly!

Bonus number 2, I can use an app on my phone to control and stream content from the box (live and recorded) for viewing.

Bonus number 3, I can move the recordings off the box and store them on my unRAID server for editing or by telling the STB that the unRAID is just another disk, record directly to it.

Bonus number 4, I have plugged in a Hauppage Nova-T USB stick – basically a PC DVB-T tuner – into the box and can use it as a third tuner.

Downside 1 (and it’s huge!) I only have a single pair of satellite feeds into my lounge, so if I want FreeSat/Sky on the box, I need to disconnect my actual Sky box from the dish and connect the Vu.

Downside 2, it’s slow. The channel change is not the fastest thing I’ve ever seen. I understand why people in the W-o-S forums were encouraging people to wait for the new box with it’s massively increased RAM/CPU specs. Still as a secondary STB,it’s more than fine.

This has raised an interesting possibility for my next BIG project… a new satellite distribution system…. and the parts are coming together quite nicely 😀


Posted: October 3, 2013 in Hacking and playing, Watching
Tags: ,

So as a big XBMC fan (never would have guessed would you?) I originally planned to use my Raspberry Pi as a simple set top box in the playroom for the kids. Give them the ability to watch My Little Pony and assorted Disney films away from the main lounge. This never happened mainly because I never bought the TV.

Still with a new TV in the main bedroom, I’ve now got the Pi attached to the back of the set and running Raspbmc. Works very nicely, the box is out of sight and as the TV is on a remote controlled power switch, it gets turned on when the TV goes on. It does mean that Raspbmc starts even if it’s not needed, but small price to pay. As all the media is centralised via MySQL, I can always rebuild if it all goes south. The TV doesn’t support CEC, so I’ve still got the old faithful MS IR Blaster box peaking out from the bottom of the TV, but thats all you can see.

As a bonus, it can also see the Vu+ Duo STB downstairs, so FreeSat is now available up in the bedroom. Bit clunky, but it works!

As it’s an old model B (256M) I run the quartz skin to keep the UI overhead down. It’s also not overclocked, but I guess that if it goes slooow I can always hit the option. Very happy with it…

I still may amuse myself and try OpenELEC on a different SD card and see how that behaves…. there’s an Android STB sitting in a cupboard at work as well… always tinkering, never happy.