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

"http://192.168.0.11:40511/button-info"

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

"http://192.168.0.11:40512/button-info"

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.

17 comments:

  1. Can you control more than 1 device with a single USB-UIRT? What additional hardware did you get to accomplish this?

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  2. when can we get a how-to- tutorial step-by-step for our own use? also what the bare minimum hardware needed? I know you mentioned Centon's card. I have one on the way. thanks

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  3. Hey guys, happy to share all the source code for the web app and a how-to in a few days.

    It is really very simple and I'm happy to share.

    @Scott - sure, the USB-UIRT actually is controlling power and input settings on all 4 TVs (1 sony, 3 ViewSonics), 3 Linksys Extenders, the Xbox 260, and my Sony receiver.

    It also controls the volume on the receiver.

    The USB-UIRT is being driven by a plugin in Girder, and Girder can control pretty much everything I can think of in a home.

    X10 / Insteon / Crestron modules, IR devices, RF devices, PCs, etc.

    I have the USB-UIRT and the Girder server running off my HTPC in my office.

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  4. Looks great. Would love to take a look at the source when available.

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  5. Same here...let me know when the source is up. I have used vmccontroller before, great little app

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  6. How are you splitting the IR emitter coming off of the USB UIRT to control so many devices? Is there some kind of 10 emitter / 1 plug thing you can purchase?

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  7. @Scott, Ah, i see what you're asking - no I actually have line of site from my office (which is behind me in this video) to all the equipment.

    So I'm just using the USB-UIRT's internal zone in Girder - the darned thing is powerful!

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  8. Any idea when you will be posting the source?? thanks

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  9. Please post the source, this awesome.

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  10. Sean,

    Awesome! im dieing to see your source code and whatnot to be able to make something like this for my home setup. Id like to first start with a multi-room setup before taking it to the several TVs in one room like you have. Cannot wait for your how-to. Thanks!

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  11. If I may give add some constructive criticism to this blog.. It looks like a nightmare, if your not a computer wizard you have no chance on this earth to control this contraption. Is this the best the computer world can come up with? You guys are miles and miles away from the average consumer! I could do this same system and have your grandmother operate it!

    Respectfully,

    Rich Hoppe

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  12. Very, very cool stuff. Can't wait to see more details.

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  13. This is Josh from thedigitalmediazone.com I host a Media Center podcast there called Entertainment 2.0. I'd love to talk to you more about your setup. Can you please email me? It's just josh @ the domain name I said earlier (just trying to prevent spam)

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  14. Sean,

    Are you still willing to share the source code and any GML file? I have the exact setup and am in the processing of putting everything together. You can email to toddjay_ @_ comast.net.

    Thanks

    Todd

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  15. Sean,

    Any chance on the code for the web app? I'm thinking of something exactly like this except with two TV's on either side of the main display. Let me know or just email dubzga @ gmail . com

    This is awesome, congrats on a well done project!

    David

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