One Network to Rule Them All

Posted By: Team XBMC on Sep 24, 2011 in Site News

Let’s talk about brilliant user Jon from Florida. Jon has two things going for him. First of all, he started using XBMC back in the glory days when “XBMC” wasn’t a recursive name for XBMC Media Center. Second, he doesn’t do things half way. When he decided to install XBMC into his home, he decided to install XBMC into his entire home. It is running through his walls. It has wrapped its adamantium tendrils around the thick bones of Jon’s Ft. Lauderdale house, and it is going to do its very best never to let go.

Network Switch and Drobo

Network Switch and Drobo

The Brains of the Operation

Less poetically, Jon has fully wired his home with Cat5 ethernet, installing four ethernet drops in every room in the house. All of this ethernet ends up attached to a switch in a tucked away closet, as you can see in the picture to the right.

On the other end of this switch is Jon’s server, a 5 drive Drobo, holding five 2 terabyte harddrives, for a total storage of about 9 terabytes of space. This Drobo provides all the storage Jon needs for the setup of his entire home. Speaking of which…

Whole Home Audio

As I said, Jon’s home is fully immersed in XBMC goodness. To accomplish this, Jon has installed ceiling speakers throughout the house. He’s also run wiring from every ceiling speaker and the surround sound systems in both the living room and the family room.

Bringing all of these speakers together is an HP Slate, running Windows 7 with a shell modification that’s allowed Jon to boot directly into XBMC. This slate has been installed directly into the wall of Jon’s hallway.

The HP Slate, running XBMC

The HP Slate, running XBMC

As you can see, Jon pulled out all the stops to make this Slate look slick. The Slate itself is affixed to the wall with two brackets. The custom brush metal frame mounts flush to the wall, just covering the the edge of the Slate. To make the Slate easily accessible, the frame is mounted using simple velcro.

the HP Slate, pulled out from the wall

the HP Slate, pulled out from the wall

A closer view of the Slate in action

A closer view of the Slate in action

The HP Slate is, once again, running Windows 7, and is, further, being powered by a custom touch skin; however, Jon and his family are much more likely to control the system using XBMC Commander on their iPhones.

All of the wires from the Slate run from the touch computer to the top of a kitchen cabinet, where a usb hub connects the Slate to a powerful soundcard, which then connects to all of the speaker systems around the house. An X-10 CM unit is also attached to provide computer control to Jon’s home automated lights and other power accessories.

Jon's wires... Raise your hand if you can see them

Jon's wires… Raise your hand if you can see them!

A Lovely Living Room

From the hallway, we turn to the Living Room. This is a fairly simple affair. Comfy L shaped couch. 42″ Sony LCD TV. Sony surround system. And, for HTPC, the Lenovo Idea Center, running – once again – a modified Windows 7.

One Classy Living Room

One Classy Living Room

One of the key factors in Jon’s decision to go with Windows 7 (and a full HTPC, over something like the Apple TV 2) was its ability to perform other tasks. For example, as you may notice, there’s a webcam on the entertainment unit that Jon uses for Skype sessions.

Family Fun Room

Moving on from the Living room, we turn to the Family room. Here, once again, is a Lenovo Idea Center and 42″ Sony TV. However, this room greatly differs from the living room, in that it is intended for the use of Jon’s 4 year old and 8 year old. To that effect, Jon has limited XBMC in this room to kid-safe content only.

Scooby Scooby Doo, I see you!

Scooby Scooby Doo, I see you!

To make it easier for his kids to control this content (and also to provide his children with kid appropriate edu-tainment software), Jon has installed a HP TouchSmart PC in the corner of the room. That computer is running the XBMC Web Interface for easy movie browsing.

The HP TouchSmart

The HP TouchSmart… when I was a kid, I had a 486 sx25. Not exactly equivalent, I guess.

The Bedrooms

And, finally, we turn to the bedrooms. Each bedroom includes a 32″ Sony LCD with an Apple TV 2 attached via velcro. Naturally, all the wiring is hidden in the wall.

Why yes, that IS an Apple TV 2! Thank you for noticing!

Why yes, that IS an Apple TV 2! Thank you for noticing!

And there we have the home of Jon from Florida. The next time (i.e. the first time) somebody pays for me to go on a cruise, I think I’m going to have to stop by for a visit… a visit that may last several weeks. Be prepared Jon!

Thanks for reading everybody! Now, if you keep sending in your info and pics to natethomas AT xbmc DOT org, I’ll see if we can’t start pumping these out a little more regularly.

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Discussion - 63 Comments

  • mo Sep 24, 2011 

    Holy crap I’ve never drooled so much in my life! Love the use of the HP Slate!

  • bwil Sep 24, 2011 

    WOW! This is by far the coolest feature friday yet, and is something i look forward to doing when i finally buy my own home.

  • Hund Sep 24, 2011 

    I like that all the wiring is hidden in the wall. :) But I dont like the 90s colors on the wall.

  • Alien Scott Sep 24, 2011 

    Great work. Movie of the installation who’d be great.

  • Branimir Sep 24, 2011 

    Me wants more articles like this!

  • Me Sep 24, 2011 

    Wow. Just wow.

  • David Jack Sep 24, 2011 

    I agree. I really want to do this as well when I have a big enough house. Most impressive Friday article ever.

  • Paul Lagerwerf Sep 24, 2011 

    That’s a very cool setup! I am *very* interested in the custom toutch skin, can it be published somewhere?

  • ilDotore Sep 24, 2011 

    I love this kind of articles. Thank you!

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @mo I initially planned on framing and embedding an iPad but it didn’t have all of the capabilities I needed, for example the X-10 control. The HP Slate has USB out which allows me to plug the CM13a into it and control the X-10 too.

  • Hermes Sep 24, 2011 

    This is really awesome!!!

  • muRte Sep 24, 2011 

    Fabulous work! I’ll be inspired by this superb network!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Craig Sep 24, 2011 

    Amazing! I’d be interested to know how he has full control over the separate rooms with the speaker setup.

  • Romulus Sep 24, 2011 

    Yup! We got a winner. Love the mounted Slate. Very clean looking.

  • Anthony Sep 24, 2011 

    Very nice setup! Is there anything like XBMC Commander being developed for Honeycomb? That would be awesome!

  • eluminx Sep 24, 2011 

    That is a very impressive set up. I’ve thinking of doing something similar for a long time, it’s actually nice to see it in action. Great setup dude, hopefully i can begin to start my project soon.

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @eluminx it’s very rewarding to see the end-result and a load of fun doing it. The best advice I can give is don’t rush things, take your time and plan. When I put the slate into the wall for example, I spent most of the time routing the cables with was quite boring but worth the effort.

    Happy to offer advice to anyone trying to do the same.

    My Twitter handle is @b69ca

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @Hund while white is certain a modern color for paint on the walls, it doesn’t fair well when you have children with mucky hands :)

  • Robbie Sep 24, 2011 

    Nice setup. Working on something similar myself.

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @Paul Lagerwerf there are various touch skins available and being worked on – none of them perfect just yet hence my use of XBMC Commander for most tasks…

    Joggler is one such skin.

    Also – if you look at the XBMC roadmap (http://trac.xbmc.org/roadmap) you will see that v11 and v12 have some enhancements for touch so i’m looking forward to seeing what the releases bring.

    Cheers,
    Jon

    twitter: @b69ca

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @Craig When I initially set up the system, I pumped the same audio to all rooms and allowed the volume to be controlled by the surround sound in each room – however I wanted different audio in different rooms.

    What I do is run 3 instances of XBMC on the device (running as services as different user accounts) with each one pumping output to a different sound card (I have 3 USB sound cards attached to the slate). This allows me to control audio to different rooms from XBMC commander and still have a XBMC interface for the main (hall) audio.

    Does this make sense?

    Cheers,
    Jon

    Twitter: @b69ca

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @Anthony if you change the web interface on the XBMC system (through add-ons) to something else you don’t necessarily need XBMC commander and will be able to control them from any device.

    XBMC Commander is by far an awesome app though, even with the web interface…

    Cheers,
    Jon

    Twitter: @b69ca

  • Marten Sep 24, 2011 

    Great work, look awesome.

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @Romulus thanks… The hardest part of that installation was the frame – I had to get one custom made due to the slate not being of standard picture frame size. The local framing shop had one done for me for around $60 which just put the perfect finish on it…

    Cheers,
    Jon

    @b69ca

  • Petersen Sep 24, 2011 

    Love the network setup very neat and tidy.
    Thanks for sharing Jon.

  • ray Sep 24, 2011 

    jon, come on, you should do a home video showcasing your setup instead of just images. It will be nice to see that HP slate at work and how you can play music. movies and stuff all the place.

  • TjaLfE Sep 24, 2011 

    So how is this Windows 7 Modified??? and is there any tutorials on how to modify it?

  • Jon Sep 24, 2011 

    @TjaLfE the os itself is not modified (as in the binaries) but various registry tweaks and stuff to make the device auto-login, start XBMC instead of explorer and wait on XBMC to finish before doing a successful logoff.

    Its a little more involved that i’m making out here so I will put a tutorial together and post it for people – makes for a nice HTPC system once complete.

    I also replaced the boot and login screen too so it really looks like a set-top box type system.

    Cheers,
    Jon

    Twitter: @b69ca

  • ICA Sep 24, 2011 

    Excellent work.

  • Gopinath Sep 25, 2011 

    Hi Jon,
    Amazing work, very impressive and inspiring. I am [have been] planning for such a complete auto-tainment system for my home too and your work is a great motivation. The best feature friday coverage by far. I can imagine the amount of hard work involved in hiding the wires and making the system kid safe too. Would love a complete video/picture detail of the setup and a list of parts. Thank you, Jon.

    Congrats.

    Gopi

  • Anonymous Sep 25, 2011 

    @Jon

    Can’t wait for the tutorial

  • Mauricio Sep 25, 2011 

    If all walls were made of “Dry Wall” it would be lot easier…

  • verboze Sep 25, 2011 

    Jon, can I hire you as a contractor to do my home? XD. Seriously, AMAZING install! I am drooling, and cannot wait to embark on a similar project myself.

  • JermZone Sep 25, 2011 

    Wow, I love this setup! Great work! I JUST purchased a home and have been thinking how I want to wire everything. This article is perfect!

    I have also been using x10 and have always wanted x10 and xbmc to play nicely together. Does your HP slate interface with the custom touch skin give you direct access to your x10? or do you have to use another interface on it for the x10 control?

    I also use my iphone to control xbmc and x10. I love the multiple audio cards/ xbmc instances idea. Which usb audio card do you use / recommend? I’m assuming on your phone you just switch connections to different rooms to play audio etc?

    Again, Great setup, thanks for sharing!

  • mike Sep 25, 2011 

    @Jon

    so you powered the speakers in each room with surround sound system in that room. What did you use ?

    I am working on something like this but using touch screen computers build in to each room and use a class D mini amp to power the speakers in each bedroom. The computer sound out put will go to the mini amp.

  • Jon Sep 26, 2011 

    @mike each room has a Sony surround sound system. Basically I take the line out of the sound card into the surround sound. I do intend to change this to some switch sized amps and volume control units which are pretty cool.

  • Philip Sep 26, 2011 

    This looks amazing! I have a pedestrian question about the whole set up. Is it complicated to modify Windows 7 to boot directly into XBMC? I use Windows 7 as well but have XBMC running in the start-up which creates all sorts of problems. Also, coming in and out of standby (because I use an IR remote) is a bit of a pain as well and often slow.

    Cheers!

  • NeS Sep 26, 2011 

    The hardware is indeed awesome yet subtle, a perfect blend of power and usability.
    But I’m wondering if this setup uses the xbmc MySQL shared server database? I guess an update on 9TB must take a long time?

  • Jon Sep 26, 2011 

    @Philip no although i’m travelling at the moment so don’t have a whole load of time to document. I will create a how-to towards the end of this week and post a link to it here – check back on Friday or over the weekend.

  • Jon Sep 26, 2011 

    @NeS no, not using MySQL as i’ve found its a little unreliable so as of yet, each XBMC device maintains its own library. I do have the libraries auto-update on each boot, and schedule all devices to reboot at 4AM each morning so they get at least 1 reboot a day.

  • Dave Sep 26, 2011 

    Wayne and Garth would say “we’re not worthy!!!”

  • Joel Sep 26, 2011 

    Does the Lenovo idea center handle 1080p ok when streamed across that cat5 network?

  • Dave Sep 27, 2011 

    Is XBMC on the Apple TV 2 Stable for your needs? I found that it crashed alot on the first gen Apple TV

  • electriccheese Sep 28, 2011 

    Finally a Friday feature that’s worthy of being on the front page, this is amazing!

  • Brent Sep 28, 2011 

    @Jon – wonderful setup and as others have posted, it is very inspirational. While I have been refining my XBMC setup over the years, you have given me the inspiration to share it with the world. I will begin documenting my install and hopefully have it posted here some day. I am curious about your ATV2 in the bedroom – does it work reliably for you? I can watch most DVDs without issue, but I am unable to watch 1080p content at all, and get some weird artifacts while moving through the XBMC menus. I am running a nightly build, and realize that these are not stable and will have bugs, just wondering if you have a better experience. Looking forward to the XBMC optimized for Win7 tutorial!

  • SophT Sep 28, 2011 

    @TjaLfE

    You can just use Instant Sheller (http://www.gameex.net/Community/InstantShellerandshellingguide.aspx) to do all of that for you. I would make this suggestion though: make sure you have a secondary admin account that isn’t the auto-login account and when you run the sheller do it for “this user only” not “all users”

  • r0tt3n Sep 28, 2011 

    Jon – How did you get multiple xbmc instances to share the same downloaded content? Are they all indexing the same files independently, or are they all connecting to the same database, so that watching a show in one location updates the watched flag for all instances? This is something I haven’t been able to figure out – how to have multiple xbmc instances play together like they’re really just extenders connected to the same media server. I’ve read tutorials about how to do this with plex media server as the backend, and xbmc as front-end clients. Would love to know what you’re doing here.

    Bonus question: are you tuning live tv with any of these? I’m assuming no, since that’s on the roadmap for v11, but I’m just curious what you’re doing for live sports. The way I’m solving this is that I have a windows 7 box connected to a 70″ sharp lcd, with a hauppauge colossus 1080p tv tuner in it, tuning and controling my directv hd set top box. Then, to get back and forth between windows 7 media center and xbmc, I’ve installed the “windows 7/xbmc integration” application. That’s really just a small program that puts a menu item in the windows 7 media center interface that lets you start xbmc. When you do that, it closes windows 7 media center, and opens xbmc full screen. Then, when you close xbmc, it auto-re-starts windows 7 media center again. Finally, I use a windows media center remote to control all of this (although many buttons on xbmc require the keyboard, much to my dismay). Anyways, curious what you’re doing to tune things like live tv and sports, etc.

    Great job – this is truly a beautiful set-up.

  • Pipedream Sep 28, 2011 

    Good work jon, it looks like a lot of effort has gone into this to get it just right for you, well done!

    I’m interested in your multi room audio as well. This is something I’ve been thinking about with xbmc for some time. But I’m wondering how you’ve gone with syncing the same audio through all zones? Ie, somtimes you may want different songs in different rooms, but sometimes youll want to pump the same song through the whole house?
    The inability to easily control this w xbmc has kept me on a sonos system. But it would be great to get this out of xbmc so we could all afford a few more zones!

  • Mitch Sep 28, 2011 

    @Jon Have you considered running the addon and runs the library update instead of rebooting all the devices?

  • Mitch Sep 28, 2011 

    I meant to say ‘that automatically runs the library update’ >.<

  • Matt Lucas Sep 28, 2011 

    Absolutely incredible!! Love the HP Slate use. Great Article also

  • Jon Sep 29, 2011 

    @Joel yeah, the device is superb! The devices have wired and wireless network and providing you go for the wired connection, you have no problem. They’re 100MB NICs so more than enough bandwidth to them, and given the Drobo has a GB connection is can serve multiple boxes without issue. I strongly recommend the Lenovo as a HTPC…

    Cheers,
    Jon
    twitter: @b69ca

  • Jon Sep 29, 2011 

    @Dave I does crash but not that often for me. When I try the nightly builds I find I get more functionality (e.g. MKV files work better) but I get less stability – that is however to be expected.

    I guess with the ATV, I would expect the next release (in a few months) to be much more stable – that’s one of the problems with “hacking” hardware, you don’t have full access to the device…

  • Jon Sep 29, 2011 

    @Mitch I haven’t, do you have any experience to share?

  • Michka Sep 29, 2011 

    @Jon
    Will you post the Windows 7 editing tutorial on the forum? (What’s your forum username so I can follow your posts)

  • Jon Sep 30, 2011 

    @Michka i’m going to send it to Nate who will attach it to the main post here. I’m back from travels now so will pull this together this weekend…

  • Kevin Epstein Sep 30, 2011 

    @Jon — brilliant. I set up my system far less elegantly (Drobo FS – gave it a static IP – attached directly to Cisco/Linksys 610n router), put XBMC on my PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV, set them up as SMB:// connection directly.

    (I’d fooled around with FUPPES installed on the Drobo, and Firefly for iTunes integration, but ended up going straight SMB for throughput)

    Disclaimer / shameless pitch: I’m VP Marketing at Drobo… and would point out that there’s a mail-in rebate at most etailers like Amazon, or you can use coupon code DROBOXBMC at http://www.drobostore.com

    Thanks to the XBMC community for making me a hero with my kids. Drobo + XMBC = happier family!

    Any questions, I’m at kevin(underscore)epstein(at)drobo(dot)com

  • Mitch Oct 01, 2011 

    @Jon
    I haven’t used it extensively but it the little bit I’ve used has been pretty successful.

  • r0tt3n Oct 02, 2011 

    @Jon
    Any thoughts on my previous question at the end of page 1?

    Again, stunning work.

  • Eric Oct 03, 2011 

    Hello, what type of switch are you using?

  • Kris Oct 03, 2011 

    Surely if it was One Network to Rule Them All, it would be…a ring network. Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh!

  • Adrian Oct 03, 2011 

    Hello,
    How does high bitrate 1080p movies run across a, im guessing, 1gb lan network?

  • Jon Oct 05, 2011 

    Hi all…

    I’ve been crazy busy with work this week so haven’t had chance to complete the tutorial – will look to finish this by the end of the week.

    Also – I will answer all of the questions that i’ve not answered later…

    Thanks
    Jon

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