Rick Glos Life in Portland, Oregon.

Home Network Project

12. December 2009 09:18 by Rick Glos in

Last weekend I spent finishing up some of the wiring in the house for the home network.

When the house was built, we had lines put in for each room which terminated in the basement.  Although the lines were put in, they weren’t physically wired to the jacks in the walls or the basement.  Because both the TV and the bluray player that I bought are network capable, I wanted to hook them up to the internet so that I could perform software updates and use services they provided.  Unlike your old TV, VCR or CD Player, these new devices run on software that gets consistently updated throughout the year giving you additional functionality and features you may not have had before.

So in this simple network diagram, what I need to do is connect the wires in the office, where the Comcast Internet connection comes into the house via the cable modem and router, wire the connection to the wall, connect that to a switch in the basement, and connect the Great Room wall outlet to the basement to yet another switch in the great room.  Confused yet?

Note: Some of you may be thinking, “Wires?  Go wireless dude.”  Sure you could.  Wireless isn’t bad for say, downloading firmware updates, but for serious video streaming, we want bandwidth and wireless isn’t going to cut it when multiple devices stream video in high definition, playing music on another room, or um… gaming.

Remedial Home Network Drawing

I need to go get some tools for this.  Fry’s to the rescue.  There’s one only 20 minutes from the house.

  • Crimper
  • Stripper
  • Punchdown Tool
  • Cat5e Cable (or Cat6)
  • Connectors
  • Cable tester [not required but saved time]
  • Switches (2)
  • Bluray disc to test bluray player [shh… don’t tell my wife]

Instead of buying the tools individually, they had a kit which had the crimper, stripper, and punchdown tools plus some connectors and 75 feet of cable so I bought that.  If you are reading this and looking for a kit, this one on Amazon is basically what you need.  Here's a link for a tester.  I already have the router in my office but needed to get two switches.  One for the basement and one for the great room.  The Planet Earth Bluray disc?  Well that’s required for right?

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So remember I said all the wires from the rooms in the house terminated in the basement?  This is what it looks like.  A bunch of wire ends in the crawl space.

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Luckily at the end of each wire they put a nice note telling where the other end of the wire goes.

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So when connecting the wall plate in the room to the one downstairs you split the wires (there’s 8 of them total, grouped in pairs) and punch them down into the wall plate.  Don’t worry there’s great directions included with the tool kit telling you what color goes where and in what order.  This is both for the wall plate and for making your own Cat cabling to connect the switches to the wall plate and the devices to the switch.  This will save you loads of money over buying pre-made cat cabling.

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To make sure it all worked I did by a tester.  I saved me twice.  First time I connected the wire in the wall to the wall plate I accidentally cut two wires with the wire stripper.  Second time I did the same thing making a cable.  Get one, it’s worth it.

So when checking the connection from the wall plate to the other end, the basement in my case, you plug this doo-dad into the wall plate and use the tester on the other end.

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So down the in basement I used Heidi’s label maker to label the wires a little better after installing the connecters on the other end.

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Here’s what it looks like with the switch.

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In true trailer park fashion, I had to use a long extension cord to power the switch.  I guess I forgot to ask the builder to put a couple of extra outlets in the basement.  Guess that’s a project for another time – electrocuting myself.

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Upstairs behind our awesome (read too small and I need to make something better, yes, yet another project) TV stand here’s the 2nd switch all hooked up.

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The cool part was plugging the TV and Bluray player into the switch.  Now that they are connected to the internet, they came alive with more features and started to update themselves.

Here’s the TV performing an update.

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Once the update was done, it had to ‘reboot’.  Just like a PC.

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There’s a ton of version numbers.

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Looks like there is one specific number though for the software?  Note that this is after the update.

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One interesting thing I see from the License menu is that the TV is running on Linux.

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Ok now the cool stuff.  Once the TV was connected, I was able to link it up to my Amazon account.  Notice how the bandwidth test shows excellent connection information and that I should have no problem viewing HD content.

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I’m not sure exactly what VieraCast is yet, but when you use the button on the remote, you can see the original picture gets minimized in the center and now you can access the weather, youtube, picasa and Amazon video on Demand plus a ‘coming soon’ area.

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There’s a nice list of video’s to rent.

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The bluray player had a similar software update.

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Download in progress…

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Since the bluray player is connected to the internet, you can access Vudu (like Hulu?), youtube and my Netflix account.

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Since I’m already a member of Netflix, I just need to authorize the device to connect to my account.

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Then finally the Netflix instant watch queue is now available on the bluray player.

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I’ve yet to stream any video watching but I did watch some of the Planet Earth stuff and that was jaw dropping.

Heidi has setup a house warming e-vite invitation thing.  She’s setup to do it on Saturday January 9th, 2010.  In true procrastination fashion, I’ve yet to add anyone to the email list.  But when you come over, I can show you this stuff in person.  If you’re into that.

HDTV – Panasonic TC P58V10

6. December 2009 08:52 by Rick Glos in

We finally jumped on the High Definition bandwagon.  I’ve been wanting a HDTV for like 4 years but with building the new home and/or living in smaller spaces there always seemed like a different priority or reason not to do it.  So since I just turned 38, I decided a little birthday combination Christmas gift to myself was a nice TV.

We’ve had a 33 inch tube TV for the last 4 years.  When the cable guy came to the new home to drop the cable line he actually made fun of my TV.  Something along the lines of, “you have like 4 computers and this home network and then you have this old tv!”

After some diligent research I decided to go for a Plasma TV.  From the reviews I read on CNET and the avforums website, plasma is still the way to go for movies and sports.  Something about the overall image quality is better – technically it’s the 1080p/24Hz output that allows the TV to play at 96Hz so that blu-rays are in their original format and eliminates flicker mode.  Modern plasma’s also have lower power consumption, much like their LCD brethren, as well as low chance of burn-in or image retention.

Panasonic plasma HDTV’s in particular are now seen as the leader excellent plasma HDTV’s.  Especially their V10 series (not the G10) which come in 50, 54, 58 and 65 inch models.  It seemed to me that the price really jumped when you went from 58 to 65 so I decided to go for 58.  The reviews on Amazon and CNET were really key factors in making me feel comfortable with the purchase.

Price was comparable so I actually purchased the TV from Best Buy (and their Magnolia Home Theater) though because I wanted someone local to be able to contact if something went wrong with the TV.  I also paid the extra cash (almost $400) for the insurance for 4 years.  If anything goes wrong with the TV, they will come out and service it, if they can’t fix it, they replace your TV with the same model and if they no longer carry that model you get a newer TV as an upgrade.  Seemed like a smart thing for a $2700 investment in a TV (though we did get a 10% discount just by asking at the register and bringing it to $2,429.98).  One additional nice thing about living in Oregon is lack of sales tax, very nice for large purchases like this.

Here’s some shots of it – try not to laugh at the silly TV stand that’s way too small and has the TV hanging 30 inches over each edge – that’s yet another project in the new house.

Next to the fireplace to give you some idea where we put it and size.

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Heidi watching Rudolf in standard def (guess they didn’t think about high def in 1964)

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Another shot from upstairs while the snow monster appears.

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Later on during the week we watching some football in 1080i (I guess that is the best signal you can get from the Comcast HD DVR).

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When you live in a house with a girl born in Eugene you are forced to watch the ‘Civil War’ football games between the two state colleges.  It’s serious business and was the leading story on the news for the day.

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After 1 week of use so far I’m quite please with the TV.  I’ve learned alot, like you can’t use the coax from the Comcast HD DVR because that only sends 480p output – you have to use a HDMI cable.  I do like the HDMI cables that combine both video and audio because it makes for alot less cables.  I did purchase a couple HDMI cables ($10 ea) off Amazon as well and I think I saved quite abit compared to purchasing them in Best Buy.

I did also purchase the LG BD 390 Network Blu-Ray player but I’ve yet to watch anything on it.  I did consider a PS3 but since I’m not a console gamer, I decided on the LG for it’s ability to network, play Netflix, and high quality.

Next project is to finish up the wiring so that I can connect the TV and Blu-Ray to the network.