It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child to have a projector screen. Turns it out its not that hard or expensive, it just takes time and careful planning. The project has been complete for almost a year now but I hadn’t gotten around to creating a write-up until recently.
See the whole story, Hidden Projector Screen writeup, on my house blog.
Its always been my dream to have an automated house and the first step is hardwired Ethernet. Whether you are going to be running video over Ethernet, VoIP, or just the good old Internet you really just cant beat copper. Although wireless has come a long way since 802.11b it will just never keep up. Besides the fact that copper performs flawlessly and extremely fast, there are no reliability issues that you inevitably run into while using on WiFi. If anyone out there reading has found a perfect WiFi Access Point that can run at gigabit speeds for hours at a time with 5 – 10 devices on it please let me know. It would have saved me a lot of trouble!
For the full writeup with tons of pictures please see my post Wiring For High Speed Ethernet on San Fran Vic.
For years I have been trying to create a Media Center to attach my TV. I’ve tried Windows Media Center years ago, Myth TV on Linux, and everything in between. Nothing was simple, cheap, and easy to setup. I have friends who have tried those off the shelf media boxes like the ones from Netgear and the likes, but those have their pitfalls too. I wanted something open source, truly hackable, and preferably something Unix/Linux based. Thats why I turned to the Apple TV.
For my use case, I did not care about disk storage. I am using my Apple TV’s as terminals or endpoints to play media from storage somewhere else on the network. This allowed me to buy the cheap version of the Apple TV with a 40 GB drive for about $220. Not only that, there is a Toslink (optical) out that I will be attaching to a DAC and set of vintage tubes for crisp beautiful sound. For that kinda money, its pretty hard to beat the Apple TV.
Once in my possession, I immediately hacked it to expand its functionality. Without it, the Apple TV is actually pretty restricted and an overall weak product; however, Boxee helps make it all better. Boxee allows you to watch all those formats that iTunes does not support, like DivX, etc. Not only that, it allows you watch Hulu as well as other online video services.
Hacking your Apple TV and Installing Boxee
There’s actually nothing to do really and I would barely consider it hacking. A few folks out there have made it quite easy. In a nutshell, all you need to do is create a ‘patchstick’ on your PC using a thumb drive you have laying around. You insert it into your Apple TV’s USB drive, restart it, and voila! It installs itself and you’re all set. You can get the USB Patch Stick creator from the Google code repository.
Being a long time geek and open source advocate I’ve finally decided to start an open source project for home automation. I’ve always dreamt of being able to wake up to my curtains opening and my heat turning on rather than the usual “beep! beep! beep!” that beckons me to work each day. How about checking on the house when I’m away or open the front door while I’m in the back of the house. The possibilities are endless and my ideas are just beginning to flow.
The project is called Open Automator and it can be found on Source Forge’s site. Its still a very basic framework but its coming along well. It works using the Insteon protocol that communicates over the power lines in your house. Its very similar to the X10 of yesteryear but with updated speed, reliability, and redundancy. It costs a little bit more but it will be well worth it. These devices can be found all over the internet from sites like smarthome.com.
This first rendition will be geared toward the iPhone and Simple Home Net’s EZServe which communicates via an XML socket connection. That being said, I will be making this application very flexible allowing for many different types of implementations, not just Insteon either. The application is Java based with Maven being used for building and dependency management. This will be coupled with Spring and Hibernate to manage database and model view support. The final product will have Jetty and some sort of SQL engine rolled in to make the application extremely portable and platform agnostic.
I will be writing a lot more about this project in the months to come as well as recording some online videos about how it works and how to set it up. I would like to make this product as simple as possible so its usable by the masses. Just because its open source doesnt mean its going to be complicated. If you are interesting in being a developer please let me know.