Saturday, January 1, 2011

Windows Media Center Controller for HD Home Sports Bar

Ever since I built the HD Home Sports Bar, I had issues controlling all of the TVs.

The issue was that I was using FiOS HD Tuners to provide a signal to the 3 TVs, and they all shared the same IR codes.

This meant that if I tried to send an IR code to one box, all the boxes would respond.

Verizon released an Android app that allowed you to discretely control each box, but it was very, very slow and almost worthless in the time it took to switch between STBs.

Then Verizon added SimulCrypt to my head-end and it broke my HTPC's ATI OCUR Tuner. So I ordred a Ceton InfiniTV 4 and when it came in, I decided to ditch the $40 a month I was paying Verizon for the STBs and try to recoup some of the $400 I had to spend on the InfiniTV4.

Verizon actually eventually dropped my service cost by $20 a month too, so now I'm paying $60 less a month and actually have a much better set up.

I also lucked out with the InfiniTV 4s, because I didn't know which of the 3 vendors I should purchase the card from, I chose all 3.

They all came in over the past few weeks, and they're still backordered, so I've made > $200 a piece on eBay for the 2 cards I didn't need so I now basically got my Ceton InfiniTV 4 free, and I'm saving $60 a month.

I did drop ~ $80  a piece for the Linksys DMA 2100 extenders that I'm now using to provide a signal to the HD Home Sports Bar TVs, so lets call this whole project an investment of $240 in upgrading my HTPC set up.

The $60 a month savings though is huge; $720 a year saved!

So how do I control everything now?

Check out this video I put together.

I'm utilizing the awesome and under appreciated Vista Media Center TCP / IP Controller project and Girder to completely control my setup from any PC, Mac, Smart Phone, Pad, etc, on my home network.

The TCP / IP control has a Windows 7 beta version that works very well.

Basically, the application runs on your HTPC and then you can send HTTP requests to the application's server and each extender runs the service on a separate port.

For instance, if I wanted to hit the "Info" button on Extender 1, I would send


If I wanted to send it to Extender 2, I would send:


So, knowing how this can work, and not wanting to have to manually keep track of ports and send commands, I wrote a dead simple web application I call Windows Media Center Controller, which basically lets me make a web remote that works flawlessly with all of my extenders for my HTPC.

I can operate each TV independently and never have been happier with my HTPC or my HD Home Sports Bar!

Too bad the Ceton delivery delays pretty much made me miss being able to use this for College Football season, but there are still plenty of good NFL weekends left, and lots of reasons to use the HD Home Sports Bar until next season. :)

Let me know if anyone wants more details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HD Home Sports Bar Survey


I'm considering looking into a manufacture on demand approach for making HD Home Sports Bar available for purchase. This would allow folks to simply order a "some assembly required" and easy to assemble unit that could be put together in around 30 minutes.

Please help me to determine if their is interest and how the product should be designed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

HD Home Sports Bar Google SketchUp Model And Build Walkthrough

I utilized Google SketchUp to design my HD Home Sports Bar and found the process extremely helpful.

First of all, it allowed me to visualize what I wanted to build and to run that by my wife before I got underway in the project. Always, always a GOOD idea.

It also allowed me to plan all the materials I would need ahead of time, and make sure that it would fit with the TVs and cable boxes I was planning to use.

This really came in handy when I went to Home Depot. I live a house where I do not have room for a workshop so I don't have a table saw or anything like that for cutting my own wood.

So, I was pretty much dependent on Home Depot to do my cutting - It only cost $10 for all the cuts I needed and the lumber manager at Home Depot was actually pretty happy that I brought in my plans and diagrammed all the cuts for him.

So - if you have your own tools you can easily do this yourself, but if you don't - any Home Depot should be able to help you out.

I wanted to share this with the world - so please, feel free to head over to the HD Home Sports Bar First Design page. You can download the SketchUp file and see a walkthrough of the build in photographs too.

Introducing the HD Home Sports Bar!

Finally - Watch all the sporting events on TV at once! Like having a Sports Bar in your home, the HD Home Sports Bar allows you to watch multiple games of your favorite sport all at the same time.

The HD Home Sports Bar is designed to be complimentary to your main HDTV, and to do so with a high "wife acceptability factor" or WAF.

This site will provide you with all the details of how I built my HD Home Sports Bar, with a complete build walkthrough and even a Google SketchUp model which you can download to review or even improve on yourself.

I built my HD Home Sports Bar in a day - and the total cost for all the materials and three 19" HDTVs was around $750 - though I was lucky enough to receive the TVs as wedding presents....thank you honey for letting me run the registry for one day. :)

The WAF is high - much better than when I tried the same thing with a mish-mash of old CRT tvs I found off Craigslist and arranged hastily around my main TV. This thing can stay in the living room, or if really necessary, can be easily picked up and moved by one person.

In the future, if there is enough interest, I'd like to offer pre-manufactured units that you could order and quickly assemble like any "some assembly required" furniture that you could buy online or at a local office or home furnishing store. Maybe even complete kits with TVs and all hardware - that'll be up to you and your interest in the project.