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Thread: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Evening guys,

    As a few may have noticed, I've been in the process of buying bits to make some fairly substantial changes to the way my (parents') house is wired up for technology and digital media. So, I thought it might be a bit fun to share the changes made, get some input from the community to help me avoid the invariable numpty mistakes, and generally track the progress made - hopefully to a seamless media home. Well, that is the plan, anyway!


    So, what actually prompted all this?

    I finished uni, and with house prices as they are in the Southeast, no likely way for me to afford to live as I'd like without major financial pain. So, the parents being as generous as they are, let me move back in. So, given technology is their weak point (thought they are improving) I thought I'd use my strengths to help out in that regard. Oh, and if I happened to also get a few bits sorted for me at the same time, win win I feel!

    Changes afoot...

    Moving home, it became painfully apparent that the wonderful BT HomeHub and the 8mb they were being massively overcharged for wasn't likely to be the best starting point for a streaming media and connected home network. They were also paying massive amounts for the phonecalls they were using, because in the words of the BT Customer Services Operator "we haven't done that plan for years". Promptly changed the call pack (though stayed with BT) & switched them over to BeThere internet - nigh on 24mb and 2/3rds of the price of BT and a massive reduction in their call costs. Changeover date came along, plugged it all in, and though the Thomson Speedtouch router that BeThere supplies is rather slow and not particularly brilliant, we were up and running! Quick win number one

    Wireless, convenient but not the solution

    It was also at this point that I quickly realised wireless probably wasn't the way forwards. Firstly the Router is in the downstairs study, so not a great start for wireless coverage, and secondly the throughput of wireless is unlikely to manage with the Media plans I've got. So time to consider alternatives.
    Homeplugs - initially the easiest and hassle free of options, but ultimately cost & speed ruled them out (too much for the GbE ones which aren't really GbE...)

    At this point I decided the best bet was likely to be Cat5E/6 cabling, and the requisite fixings. On the plus side I've done it before, it is proven and easily upgraded. So I began to plan my network - more on that later.

    Digital Home?

    The Digital Media side of things also had a second side to it. Not only was I determined to change the networking side of things, but also the media part - so this includes the Aerial system (which, tbh, is rather shonky) and the Sky services we've got. Oh, and perhaps the ability to distribute the Sky around the house to the various TVs we want to watch it on. So, having had a fairly comprehensive SkyHD Package at uni, they were keen to keep me, and an acceptable deal to move me home may have been struck! - I'll stick those details in a little later However it is not only the distribution of the digital media I'm going to catalogue - it will also cover the devices bought/built to effect that - so a little bit later I'll go through the details on my WHS build, HTPC and other developments.

    Oh goody...DIY

    The final element to this all is the redecoration and electrical works I've planned - some of which are happening soonish, but others will be done as other rooms are redecorated - not sure on those yet. Lighting changes, IR Dimmers, other cool (to me at least!) bits - and maybe a floating TV on the wall.

    Well, at least there is the intro done - next stop some pics & thoughts on the kit, room plans, cabling, ports etc

    Oh, and may add a to do list to this post so I can track what I've actually achieved!

    With Thanks to:

    Funkstar for title inspiration
    0iD for the Hardware @ the centre of my WHS
    Zak for being a legend
    Abit Sean for helping me source identical SATA leads to satisfy my OCD (WHS expandability)
    Last edited by dave87; 16-10-2010 at 01:26 PM.

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Network Structure

    Wireless has been ruled out for the main bulk of the network - but will still be there for occasional use. So, Cat5E/6...

    The network is being designed to cope with the modern, media diverse household - so I want it to be as simple as possible to integrate any technology of choice into. This lead me to the idea of structured cabling - basically running far too much Cat5E and then having room for expansion. It also means that I can run other things over the Cat5E without resorting to shoving the data over 1 or 2 cables because I only ran 3 or 4.

    This is especially true if I go down the route of streaming HDMI over Cat5 - as 1080p takes two runs on its own with Balun type devices. The other thing is phone services - they can be run at a moment's notice over the Cat5 cabling with simple adapters - so flexibility and expandability seem to be the most readily achieved going down this route. Add to this the reliability and throughput potential, it seemed a no brainer - especially as the 'Just WorksTM' approach seems to win favours with the parents, and it is after all their house.... The added bonus of Cat5E is I've worked with it before - so hopefully know what I'm doing. Well, that is the plan....

    Network Plan

    Node 0 - aka the Upstairs Hall Cupboard


    Centre of the Home Network & home to the switches, and the end point for all of the Cat5E runs. Currently housing:

    3com 2250 Baseline 50 port 10/100 Layer 2 Managed Switch with 2xGbE uplinks
    Linksys SRW2024 Liveview & PoE 24 port Layer 2 Managed GbE Switch
    48 Port Patch Panel
    Custom Rack Mount

    Bedroom 1

    Likely to be 4xCat5e, 2xCoax. Not sure, probably to be done when room is redecorated.

    Bedroom 2


    This being my room will get a fair bit of kit installed in it, so it makes sense to overspec the connectivity:
    2xCoax
    10xCat5E
    2x SkyHD feeds
    New Electrical points & Speaker wires run for 5.1

    Bedrooms 3 & 4


    More than likely just getting aerial points installed, but if I've got time/inclination it may be worth running Cat5E at the same time.

    Bedroom 5


    This is going to be my Study, so this will get the other half of the kit not installed in my Bedroom - i.e. most of the back end stuff - WHS, Desktop PC etc. Again, makes sense to overspec on connectivity rather than regret it later:
    8xCat5E
    2xCoax
    New Electrical Sockets

    Study

    Where the router is going to remain, so 4xCat5E (1 up and 3 down) and a telephone feed to Node0.

    Lounge

    4xCat5E
    2xCoax
    2xSkyHD (already in place)

    Kitchen

    More than likely to be done when we redecorate the kitchen, but I've planned on being able to run a Coax feed (i.e. purchased an amplifier with sufficient sockets to do so) when we do.

    Others

    There will probably be additions & changes in the pipeline, but hey, that's half the fun!
    Last edited by dave87; 15-10-2010 at 10:52 PM.

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Network Install

    Well, onto some pictures (clickable if you'd like them bigger):

    The area above Node 0:



    Now with added hole & cable clips to manage Cat5E runs (this runs from Node 0 to my Study):







    (SkyHD run temporarily resting above the cable clips until it gets rerouted to the right room)



    Then run a single cable to work out required length:



    & then measure out the required number of cables to the legth calculated:









    Ah, I seem to have created a mess. Nevermind, a few cable ties later - normality is restored:



    And installed:









    Has since been tidied so that the (excess) cable is in the right place and the insulation tucked back in. Oh, and it seems to be a foible of the camera, but that insulation is actually clean unlike it appears in the photo - just a wierd effect from the camera flash at a guess!
    Last edited by dave87; 15-10-2010 at 11:32 PM.

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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Node 0 & the Custom Rack Cabinet

    So what happens when you take some Rack Strip, MDF & some decent sized strips of sawn wood, my Grandad and an afternoon. Oh, and throw in some vague and not very helpful instructions about what I wanted?

    Yup, you guessed it. A built like a brick outhouse rack cabinet that fits exactly where I want it. The debt of favours owed to my Grandad knows no bounds



    As the rack is going to be used in a home environment, and noise is a concern, we also mounted the rack strip on rubber mounts to help eliminate any vibration there might be:



    Installed some power at this point:



    About ready for the installation of some equipment I think - so a test fitting was in order. Kit installed from top to bottom:

    48 Port Patch Panel
    3com 2250 50 Port Layer 2 Managed Switch with 2GbE Uplinks
    Linksys SRW2024P 24 Port Layer 2 Managed Switch with PoE



    and the back...



    Just a shame it all had to come out to get it into the cupboard:



    Now to wire it all in
    Last edited by dave87; 15-10-2010 at 11:47 PM.

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    dirky (16-10-2010)

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    So the machine that is going to be at the heart of the new home network - my Windows Home Server:

    Core2Duo E6600 @ Stock
    Hefty Cooler - 0iD knows the model details
    4x1Gb PC8500 XMS2 Memory
    Abit AB9 Quad GT - with uGuru Clock (what a brilliant piece of kit!)
    Seasonic S12 430W PSU
    Sharkoon case
    GeForce 4 for display duties
    Akasa Paxmate Sound deadening
    Temporary DVD drive - will be gone once I decide on final setup of OS etc.

    Drives at the moment are a Maxtor 160gb and 300gb just to build up and allow me to have a quick experiment with Server 2008 R2 (thanks Dreamspark!)

    So, without further ado, what you have been waiting for - photos:

    The whole machine:





    The uGuru Clock:



    The innards:



    Seasonic Power - a similar one serves me well in my main machine - brilliant PSUs:



    A monolith of a heatsink and the decent RAM can be seen in this shot, with the Paxmate in the background helping to keep sound to a minimum - probably overkill, but should keep things nice & quiet, quick and reliable



    A quick shot of the hard drives/bottom of the machine, showing the sound deading, my attempts to keep cabling under control and the soon to be replaced hard drives. Oh, and not to forget, the awesome GeForce 4 GPU that sits at the heart of this beast :



    A shot of the rest of the cables, looks messy but hides them nicely out of the way without the need for chassis mods:



    The back - pretty stock, single 120mm fan providing air movement:



    Again, sound deadening to keep noise under control:



    And the only slight hiccup of the build. You know that huuge cooler? Well the side panel has a fan on it. d'oh, not enough space inside for both. Think I'm going to have to run without the fan on the side panel





    It is currently waiting for me to install a black DVD Drive (OCD is such a terrible thing!), and when WHS Vail makes its way out of beta, order that and 2x2TB drives to get the ball rolling. I'm also liking the look of the ICyDock SATA backplanes as changing/installing drives at the moment is rather a convoluted affair due to the cable management and relatively tight spaces. However they are fairly pricey, so we shall see...
    Last edited by dave87; 15-10-2010 at 11:57 PM.

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Home Theatre PC

    After deciding that I was going to have a home network capable of streaming all types of media around the house, it made sense to start thinking about the devices connected at the end of that network which will actually be doing the work. So the logical next step after a WHS was to build myself a Home Theatre PC

    I began to think about what I wanted from a HTPC, and a few attributes came to mind:

    Ease of Use
    Flexibility
    Power
    Quiet
    Elegant.

    Right, so some attributes that don't necessarily lend themselves together - i.e. Power & Quiet - Flexibility & Elegant (lets face it, some of the most elegant solutions to media are also the most closed - eg Sonos) - but I was determined to try and tick all of the boxes.

    Case

    I had a look at the various chassis around for housing the HTPC itself. Huge range of price, size, features, quality - some were easily discounted (too big, too expensive etc) others less easily s. Eventually decided that the Antec Fusion HTPC style case was one I rather liked, especially with the integrated VFD. Bit of searching later, I had one at an acceptable price, and to boot it came with a 430w PSU which should be plenty for a quiet media centre

    Intel or AMD?

    Then it came to the power side of things - what chip was going to be at the heart of the machine? My gut instinct was to go to Intel and put a Q6600 in the machine with suitable RAM & Graphics to cope with whatever I can throw at it. However having had a look around, some of the motherboards better suited to HTPC construction were AM2 based. Few wise words from a trusted friend and it was decided - AMD here I come. With a Phenom X4 and a suitable motherboard chosen, I headed off in search of a few other bits - more on those later.

    Quiet

    Ooops. Quad Core. Graphics card. Small Case. Quiet.....hmmm perhaps not.

    Few things I found to be important - 120mm fans in the Antec case - the included fans probably aren't brilliant but at least they are the right size - it was genuinely surprising to see so many HTPC chassis coming with 80 or 92mm fans instead of 120mm.

    Sound deadening - Akasa Paxmate. I've used this on all the builds I've put together (including my WHS) and it does seem to make a difference. The other thing is that even the better built cases seem to have cheap looking edges at some point in them - layer of sound absorbing matt later and it is nicely hidden.

    Rubber mounts - the hard drives in the Antec are pretty open to stop them getting too hot in an enclosed environment. All well and good, but that means any noise they do make escapes that much easier. Thankfully Antec have designed the mounts to be rubber and therefore stop any irritating vibrations. The real silence freak could go SSD here, but cost/performance/noise benefit really didn't fit for me, and if you've already got a 500gb Hard Drive ready for it, then it is just more expense

    So, after deciding on the kit list, an order was duly placed and the following arrived rather quickly:



    I may have also included a BluRay drive on the order for good measure - but that didn't go as smoothly as planned (err, I missed it off - Many Thanks to the guys @ Scan for their help on that one).


    So on to the build (and less of my ramblings, more photos!):



    The innards as they shipped - it became increasingly apparent that careful cable management was going to be essential to making this build work. So with that the removable bits were removed:





    Still quite a few wires left, but easier to deal with now the PSU was out of the way. I also found it was simple changes that made the biggest difference - i.e. a bit of thought when installing the fans meant the cables could be hidden underneath the body of the fan, and be completely out of sight and airflow. It also meant they ran in the same way (previously they were hanging loose), and could be routed more readily.



    You can also see the start of the sound deadening installed - that was probably the most time consuming section of the build. Mainly because I'm majorly fussy over how it looks, so everything was measured, checked, and remeasured before cutting, but also because the things that had to still work after the sound deadening had been installed. Vaguely important things like motherboard standoffs, fans, removable drive trays, those sort of things





    Unfortunatley my photos of the sound deadening install are non-existant, but I think I did a good job - the above shows some of the bits installed - honest. After that was done, time to get on installing the hardware:



    The only gripes I have so far with the Antec PSU is it uses an 80mm fan - though given its positioning, that is possibly a smart move, and the fact the cables aren't braided - cable management was a little interesting (as you can guess from the mass of cables eminating from it in the above photo!)....


    ....which I think I managed:






    I had planned to take more photos but I may have got a bit involved in the build and, er, forgotten

    However the above photos show pretty much everything of importance - from the rather brilliant Scythe heatsink, to the HD4830 graphics card I installed.

    Only thing I had left to do was put the sound deadening on the top panel and shut the HTPC - which I also may have forgotten to take photos of, but will get the camera charged and some duly taken
    Last edited by dave87; 16-10-2010 at 05:48 PM.

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    Senior Member r_j_k_p's Avatar
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    looking forward to seeing the before and after pics!
    Dentist, and general teeth lover.

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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Looks a fantastic project!The build log is off to a good start too!

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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Nice one, subscribed. Just doing a similar thing in our new house. Run the cables already, managed to use some old pipes for conduit which was a result. Rest is running through the loft. Great idea with the rubber grommits for the DIY rack. I will need to make one of these too, probably next week. Not sure how I will mount mine though.

    Cheers

  12. #10
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Thanks guys, I will make an admission that this is me finally writing up what I've been doing for the last couple of months, so if progress slows, don't shoot! I've also just added some bits about the HTPC I treated myself to

    Dirky - you are more than welcome to give me a shout if you have any hiccups - I can't guarantee I'll be able to answer them, but I'm sure I know a man that does! I have run the kit I've got in there, and it is fairly noisy (I think I may have chosen enterprise level kit not remembering the amount of noise it makes) - I'm hoping being in a cupboard plus the antivibration mounts should eliminate the most troublesome noises. Fingers crossed, anyway

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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    I always like reading these build logs, this time with added DIY and cable routing and no shortage of media either

    Full marks, i look forward to the rest of it
    Kalniel: "Nice review Tarinder - would it be possible to get a picture of the case when the components are installed (with the side off obviously)?"
    CAT-THE-FIFTH: "The Antec 300 is a case which has an understated and clean appearance which many people like. Not everyone is into e-peen looking computers which look like a cross between the imagination of a hyperactive 10 year old and a Frog."
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    for all intents it seems to be the same card minus some gays name on it and a shielded cover ? with OEM added to it - GoNz0.

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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Looking good Dave, will be watching.

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    handscombmp
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Sounds excellent.

    Similar kind of set up to what I've recently had installed. It makes a huge difference having Ethernet runs, instead of wireless doesn't it

    What software did you stick on the HTPC then.
    I recommend Media Portal. It can be a pain to set up but once you've done it and chosen a skin you like that's it. It's great.

    My only problem is i can't view the photos
    I assume you've got them hosted on your own website but my browser just says 'connecting to..." in the bottom corner. When i type the web address in it doesn't load.

  16. #14
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    • dave87's system
      • Motherboard:
      • Asus
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      • i5 3470k under Corsair H80 WC
      • Memory:
      • 8gb DDR3
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      • 240gb SSD + 120gb SSD
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      • Windows 10 Pro
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      • 2x Dell S2309W (1920x1080)
      • Internet:
      • BT Infinity Option 2

    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    Handscombmp - not sure what is going wrong there.

    Can you do a tracert to the site its hosted on? If it shows anything stick it in a PM to me.

    I've checked the anti-hotlinking settings on my site, and they appear to be in order and should allow direct access to the image? The only thing I can think of is the address is case sensitive - so .jpg isn't the same as .JPG.


    As to the software, I have absolutely no idea. Never used Media Portal - is there an idiots guide somewhere?

  17. #15
    Actuary & Gamer
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    • Champman99's system
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    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    This is more or less exactly my situation. Just finished uni and I have managed to find a job although it's not that close to home (London-ish), but renting near to work will eat up pretty much all of my paycheck. I can handle the commute (what are laptops for if not the train!) so I am back at home.

    I will hopefully learn some stuff from your project. My current setup is just a mess pretty much. The broadband comes into the Sky broadband router in the hall. One wire runs around the edge of the hall and then around the living room to a switch behind the TV which runs Xbox 360, Blu-ray player, ocassionally a laptop if i want iplayer, the Sky+HD box, for true anytime (though i'm not sure if that has even started yet) and a Slingbox which I completely love, just a shame that theres no HDCP version.

    Another wire was installed by my mums friend to my spec from the hall under the carpet and through walls to one socket in the hall, and one socket in my study which is in an extension and is miles away from the broadband point. In the study there is an 8 point switch, and this is where the server and my main PC is at the moment. I want to transition the server to WHS Vail when it comes out, but atm its just running Windows 7 with FolderClone handling the redundancy I hope Drive Extender will take on.

    I would love to have a neater more organized network with the server hidden away and more futureproofing! What you have installed looks awesome.

  18. #16
    handscombmp
    Guest

    Re: dave87's Home Media & Digital Lifestyle - WIP!

    dave87 - No idea whats going on as a tracert is fine.
    I can only assume it my ISP as i connected to a vpn and i could see the pics fine. Oh well.

    Looks very good by the way.


    As for Mediaportal they have a wiki page which should give you enough info to get started. Most other stuff can be found in the forums although your best bet is to play around with it.
    If you get the codecs configured right it will play nearly anything.

    I've got mine set up using the Shark007 codecs and i've backed up my Blu rays and Dvd's to MKV. They all play fine.
    The plugins which i find the best are Moving Pictures (for movies) and MP-TV Series (for TV shows obviously) with the black glass nova skin.

    If you want i could take some screenshots of mine.
    I've disable pretty much everything else on the home page so i just have TV shows and Movies but you could add Music, pictures etc.

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