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Nowplaying 2012 Showcase

Posted by jwilson56 , 24 February 2010 · 10855 views

Welcome to my showcase blog. Click on any image to enlarge it!!!
To see all the entries for my blog click here
History and block diagram
Real name: John
Cocoontech Chat Room Name: JohnW
Nowplaying is my home automation and whole house music system.
List of equipment
PC's :
3.0 Ghz P4 W/ 1.5 GB Ram automation/music Server running XP, JRMC 11, Girder 5, Netremote Media Bridge and Elk M1EZ8
750GB total storage for 900+ CD's Ripped with APE lossless audio format.
1 - ELO 15" Touchscreen with a dedicated 1.6GHZ system
1 - Nokia 770 touch pad: Running RDP into a server
1 - Advent Windows Tablet
1 - POS Touchscreen PC
1 - Droid 2 Global Smartphone: Running RDP into a server
Hardware User Interfaces:
GUI Interface "Now Playing" for Netremote on the Touchscreens
Automation Hardware:
Elk M1EZ8 with Elk-M1XRF2G wireless receiver and PSC05 X10 interface
Ocelot 16 idependant IR zones
W800 Receiver
Various X10 Modules and Switches
Hobby-boards 1-Wire Master Hub
Other Hardware:
WinXP Pro running SageTV for timeshifting running a 3800+ X2 w/7600GS for HD playback at 1080p
Linksys flashed with Tomato
Trendnet 1GB Hubs
A/V Hardware:
Onkyo TX-SR707 7.1 Home Theater Receiver
5x Technics SA-EX140 200Watt RMS Stereo receivers
Shinybow SB-5548 8X8 Matrix Switcher
Grace Digital Audio Internet Tuner GDI-IRDT200
M-Audio Delta 410 10 Channel Sound Card
Xitel PRO HIFI USB Sound Device used for TOS Output
Samsung 56" DLP HDTV
Polk Monitor 70 Speakers
Various speakers for the auxilary zones like the BIC in-wall speakers
CyberPower Intelligent LCD Series CP1500AVRLCD UPS 1500VA
Girder 5 w/Elk plugin
Netremote 2.0 Pro
JRIVER media center database/player software V11
Some Applications:
6 independent zone touch screen controlled whole house audio system sourced by 900+ CD's and independent tuners
Internet radio stations including Pandora with Grace Digital tuner
Announce all caller id and reminders over independent audio distribution system.
Announce end of washer and dryer cycles
Popup for caller id with monitor wake-up and scrolling caller log
Light control popup panels for touch screens
Weather details page for touch screens
Elk Security Panel control
Vitek EH8 with 5 IR cameras for remote monitoring and motion capture
Well here is a short history as to how my whole house audio has evolved in its design. I originally started with the idea of having a single amp and use LPADS in each room. What I came up with was as cheap and offered much more features and felt it was the best solution for the money long term. The problem with using a single receiver to drive multiple speakers are numerous. First you will have to have a way of impedance matching the speakers to your receiver. I seriously looked at devices like the HACS AB8SS but those cost quite a bit more money and you still will have to have some way of adjusting the volume in each room that you have your speakers in. For that you could use a manual or IR controlled LPAD mounted in the wall. Remember that this LPAD has to dissipate the wattage your driving so plan on it getting HOT. In researching LPADS I have read of many horror stories of people having them melt down in the walls. I also would be faced with all the work of mounting them and running the wires. A decent LPAD can run you $50-$100 each for manual control and double that for IR control.
I had no doubt that the 220 watt RMS receiver I currently had would drive all the speakers so power was not on issue. My original idea back several years ago would share a single 400 disc CD changer over multiple zones so again using a single receiver would work quite well. Again what had a big impact on my decision was the cost of the LPADS that I would need to purchase.
After weighing all those ideas (and trust me I was planning on going that route at first) I decided to take a different approach. First I live in a home that has wet plaster walls and its a real pain to mount anything in the walls so I was not looking forward to LPADS in each room anyways. I also wanted IR control so that I could use a touch screen and Homeseer (now Girder 5) to control it down the road. That meant spending big bucks on the speaker switcher/impedance matcher and all the IR controlled LPADS.
What I came up with ended up costing much less and really being much less work. I decided to purchase a Technics 200 watt stereo receivers for each additional room that I wanted to put a 'zone' in. So keeping my home theater system as the main 'zone' I purchased 4 extra receivers. Each receiver is IR controllable from Girder 5 and can be powered off separately. I centrally located all the receivers in a rack.
Each zone then has its own volume, power, mute, bass & treble controls. Since the wiring came down to running speaker wires from the 4 aux zones to each of the rooms it was much easier as I had no LPADS to buy or install. Each room has its own 200 watts RMS so there is no chance of a melt down. Once I chose the Technics SA-EX140 200Watt RMS Stereo receivers I looked on Ebay and bought 4 at an average cost of $50 each. That is less than the 4 manual LPADS I would have had to buy. All four receivers are close to my home automation server and are totally out of site. No need to have them visible when you can control them remotely with IR control via the touchscreen interface.
Now with separate receivers it opened up a few options. Each zone had its own tuner so that was a bonus. When I first did this I shared a 400 Disc CD changer for all zones. I have since went to a hard drive solution that enabled me to really indulge by having 5 distinct zones. Using the M-Audio 410 PCI Sound Cards that has 10 channels I am able to have a multizone setup with audiophile specifications. I use the built in sound card for my TTS voices and everything works well together. All the receivers are controlled via my 'Now Playing' GUI interface done using Netremote/JRMC/Girder 5/Ocelot. I use the SECU-16IR module for IR control as it has independent IR zones. The IR zones need to be independent due to the fact that I am using the same receiver for all the auxiliary 'zones'.
Every day I sit down at my PC in the den and use my Now Playing GUI front end I have access to over 900+ CD's,
internet radio stations, and 10 preset FM local stations. My wife can play what she likes in the living room,
bedroom or kitchen and I play what I like. With 1500 Watts RMS available I have no worries about heat or clipping
the amplifiers and destroying the speakers. I also have to say it all sounds quite nice.
I originally used Homeseer but have since migrated to Girder 5 as the home automation solution. I find it more stable and integrates better with Netremote.
I also have added an Elk to my setup and use the Elk plugin for Girder 5.
The system design has recently been upgraded with a 8X8 matrix switcher that is controlled via RS-232. This means any of my audio sources can be played to any of the six zones as well as a couple wireless headphones throughout the house. Any number of these zones can be hardware synced.
I recently upgraded my Sony ES to an Onkyo TX-SR707 receiver for my new LG BD-370 Blu Ray player to get the 7.1 lossless audio formats off Blu Ray discs. I am impressed with it. It has been integrated into the Now Playing project nicely.
Update 2011
With the help of Electron I now have a way to grab images from any of of my Vitek cameras. So now I can do quick snapshots in Now Playing.
I now have my front porch and patio cameras image snapshots from my Vitek being text messaged to my Droid 2 phone when motion is detected. Hoping I don't get too many false triggers. This unlimited text messaging is paying off.
Block Diagram
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Nowplaying Skin Intro and Mainscreen
I have always loved listening to music and started my record collection (those black vinyl things) when I was fairly young. I jumped into CD's pretty early on and have collected over 900 discs. When I first started down this path I was always frustrated as it seemed that my music library was under utilized. After all having hundreds of CD on racks around the house made finding and selecting a CD time consuming at the very least. Purchasing a 400 CD changer was a step in the right direction. I quickly placed 400 of my favorite CD's into it and with the Sony advanced remote that came with it, I now had some of my library at my finger tips.
I then purchased a Slink-e interface that connected the changer to a PC and with the development of larger hard drives (a whopping huge 300MB) I was able to rip the remaining CD library to disc and merge it with the changers application called CDJ which acted like the database and mp3 player.
Over the years I have always wanted a touchscreen interface. I started playing with my first design when I purchased an Audrey. It was HTML based and it worked somewhat. This first Nowplaying project interfaced with CDJ to allow remote access and control from my desktop and small touchscreens around the house. What I really wanted was a dedicated client side interface. My next stab at this type of interface was actually written in Labview and looked quite nice for its day.
I came across an application called Netremote. It was based off the Pronto system but ran on Windows 32 and Windows Mobile operating systems. I was immediately hooked on it as it was extremely flexible and ran well on slower touchscreens. Editing skins was pretty difficult using a program called Tonto. However Netremote has since matured over the years and now has a very nice GUI designer application. Also the the company merged with the developer of Girder and a tight integration between the two applications developed. Girder has matured and with the latest version it has become a powerful home automation application. I have since migrated from Homeseer to Girder 5 and redesigned Nowplaying to take advantage of all the new features now available.
Many of you have seen the screen shots over the years of my Nowplaying skins. I have recently spent time tweaking the latest version and will post some of the newest screen shots here.
Now Playing has six independent zones and from this screen you can control the Shinybow Matrix Switcher and choose which source is played in any zone. This includes 5 JRMC zones from the CD library as well as the Grace Internet Radio tuner.
This is the Shinybow Matrix Switch control screen where you select which sources go to which receivers. Also the power and volume are controlled from this screen for the receivers as well as for the matrix and Grace tuner.
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The Mainscreen toggles between the JRMC view and control screen or the Grace Internet Radio tuner control screen as shown in the two screenshots below.
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Album Browser
Below is my album browser screen. With Netremote you can create GAC's which originated as 'Grab Album Covers' but has since been greatly embellished. You can think of it as a graphical for-next loop display. With it you can organize objects to view. I have posted these type of screen shots in the past but realized I have never explained their functionality.
The screens main section will display information such as 'albums', 'artist/album', 'genres' and 'playlist'. There is a scroll bar on the right to access the entire list. Any 'view scheme' you want to design in JRMC can be sorted and displayed in this 'GAC'. The buttons along the top will go fetch the information asked for from JRMC and display it. The keypad on the left side allows you to quickly jump to the letter/number of the currently displayed list. There is a 'Search' function as well that will display any results in the 'GAC'. There is a small 'icon' that looks like a man near the top left of the 'GAC'. When this is clicked all the CD's from the artist that is currently being playing are displayed in the 'GAC'.
With any of the returned information displayed in these 'GAC' you can 'drill' down into the data. For instance if you click on one of the albums listed in the list it will switch to display the individual tracks on that album. The same goes if the list is displaying the 'artists'. It will drill down showing all CD's by that artist. There is a small button that appears above the scroll bar that will let you return to the parent list. At the right of each entry in the list being displayed there is a small > and >+ symbol. Clicking the > symbol will tell JRMC to play that track/album/playlist (and all child content). Clicking the >+ will add that item to the currently playing playlist.
As this interface is designed to be used with touchscreens there is an onscreen keyboard that can be brought up to provide the means to enter the search text.
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Here is the network configuration showing the client/server relationship of Nowplaying
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Nowplaying Security and Lighting Control
Below is my Security and Lighting control panel. I can control the lights and arm/disarm the Elk security system. Also from this screen I can view the status of several things including:
Every light in my house
Doors and Windows security status
Audio amplifier power status for each zone (true power status through hardware detection) *
Motion detector status *
Humidity levels
Temperatures from 1-wire as well as Elk keypad
Garage door status
Washing Machine Status *
Dryer Status *
LED indicator for phone hook status
LED indicator if there has been a phone call *
* Animated GIF files used
Another feature added with high WAF (wife acceptance factor) is my phone on/off hook status done using the Elk. The music gets paused by an incoming call via the CallerID handler but now when the phone gets hung up the music will resume.
Also there is a phone line in use icon to see if the phone is being used.
Well at the request of my wife I wrote an Elk routine that makes it possible to pause the music in all zones by picking up the phone and hitting the flash button once. When the phone is hung up the music will resume.
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Nowplaying displays the current weather conditions at the top right of the most screens. It also has a more detailed weather screen that also displays the 5 day forecast and moonphases.
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You can also display several animated radar images by selecting the buttons along the left and right sides.
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Tuner Control
Well one advantage to using inexpensive receivers for the multiple zones is that each one has its own tuner. So I have all 6 receivers programmed to 10 presets that can be selected from Nowplaying.
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Caller ID Database Updater
Here is my new Caller ID Database Updater. When a new call comes in that is not in the database I can use this popup screen to add it with a new name, number and text to speech announcement.
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Nowplaying Hardware
I decided to take a couple pictures of my hardware setup for Now Playing. This picture shows my 2 PC's as well as my Vitek DVR. The far left one is for my HTPC running SAGETV. The right one is my new Now Playing server running Girder 5, JRMC and hosting over 1000 CD's ripped using APE lossless format. Below them are the receivers used for the five auxiliary zones. My main Onkyo receiver is located in my home theater stand to have HDMI pass through for the Bluray audio formats. Also to the right of the Dell is my Cyberpower UPS.
Above the receivers are the Grace Digital Audio Tuner and Shinybox 8X8 Matrix Switcher
Also shown is the Elk, Edgeport USB and the Netcaller ID boxes.
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The backside shows my Ocelot, SECU-16, SECU-16I and SECU-16IR along with my 1 wire interface
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This box hooks up to me SECU-16 and has 6 opto-coupled inputs that will monitor the power status for all six receivers for my whole house audio system. Instead of using current sensors I decided a few months back to use some very cheap wall-warts I found and plug each into the switched outlet of each receiver. This came out to be a cheap as well as functionally neat way of handling it. Also in the box are 4 10AMP mini relays that will be used for such things as my Ocelot watchdog that will monitor my servers.
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The finished box mounted. The small switch on top is a watchdog override.
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I have finished building up my ELO 15" touchscreen case that will go on a new bookcase we purchased for the living room. It was design to sit on the shelf and resemble a fish tank and will be running the Serene Screen-saver when not being used with Now Playing 2009.
There is a button on the Now Playing skin that will tell Girder to place the PC used for the ELO into standby using the 'psshutdown.exe' command. I could have done it all locally only but I also wanted to be able to suspend via Girder with scheduled events or an email to Girder. I have the ELO touchscreen system setup to Wake on Mouse so a simple touch to the ELO screen will wake it up.
Here are a couple snapshots before I moved it to the bookcase. The frame is made with wood and for the finish I used a 'hammered look' spray paint.
It has passed the WAF test.....
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Fish tank without the smell or mess...hehehe
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Nowplaying Google Calendar
I have been working on getting Google Calendar as part of Nowplaying. The first step was to get a 'view' of my calendar in a popup panel. The next phase will be to add events. For now I found a cool application called GCALDaemon that will let you sync Rainlendar to your Google Calendar. Anything I add to Rainlender will automatically show up on Google Calendar and the Nowplaying view.
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Interactive Weather Radar
Thanks to some posts on the forum and Jonathan on the CQC forum for figuring out the flash object link I spent 15 minutes and added it to Nowplaying. Works very well.
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I finished installing WinXP Pro Sp3 on the "All in one touchscreen computer. Used POS systems" I received from Dumetre and have to say I am quite impressed with its performance. It runs my Now Playing skin very snappy. Below is a picture of it with the Now Playing skin running. I used Flash 10.1 and the Interactive Radar works fine. This is all before I have tweaked XP.
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So now I have Now Playing running from my Advent PC as well as my Nokia 770
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New toys for Now Playing project
I have upgraded my home theater system with a LG BD-370 Blu Ray player and an Onkyo TX-SR707 receiver. I also have upgraded my network to GiGe as well as adding a second Silcondust HDHR for my SageTV server.
I have to say I am quite impressed with the new Audyssey PLIIz Front High or DSX Wide sound fields as well as the Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master audio on the BD discs. Of coarse some of the new movies have quite impressive picture quality. That can range from 'oh geez that looks a bit better than DVD' to 'WOW that looks incredible'. All depends on the movie.
As for the Onkyo all I can say I am in love with this receiver. The quality of its Burr-Brown audio DACs are apparent as well as the video quality of the Faroudja DCDi Cinema chipset to upscale to 1080p.
Some more info:
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Upgraded speakers for HT
I recently upgraded some of my speakers for my home theater setup. I added some Polk Audio OMW3's to use for the Audyssey DSX Wide sound field as well as replacing my aging rear surrounds. Nice sound quality from a fairly small speaker. I also upgraded my aging center channel speaker with a Polk Audio CS10 Black Center Speaker and Polk Monitor 70's Series II for the front speakers.
Playing a Bluray concert like David Gilmour: Remember That Night - Live At The Royal Albert Hall is just plain awesome with the Audyssey DSX Wide sound field in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound.
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Well I did some research as to what was a decent RDP app for my Droid 2 Global. I finally decided to give this one a try.
I then went into Netremote Designer and re-sized my Nokia 770 skin to the Droids 854X480 resolution and told it to automatically resize all the graphics. I was eager to test this out on my Droid. I have to say I am more than pleased with the result. The Now Playing skin AS-IS runs great. I can now create a more custom Android style skin to use. Still playing with some ideas on paper for a Portrait version. But for now this works.
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I have mounted my Advent PC in the kitchen.
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Here is one of my Now Playing Droid skin screen shots
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To see all the Droid skin screen shots click here
I have mounted my Advent PC in the kitchen and created a skin to fit its own resolution. I am really happy how well it goes in and out of sleep mode. Netremote runs very well on it and overall I am impressed with this little PC.
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UPnP for Grace Tuner support
I have now converted everything over to UPnP calls for the Grace Digital Tuner. So no more IR to control it. Wow what a difference it makes. So much faster and more reliable. It took some head scratching to figure out the commands for the menu actions but in the end they are pretty easy when you figure out which of the commands you need (which then gives you more information for the next command) and in what order.
I now have all the Presets, Power On/Off, Power Status, Skip Pandora Track, and Thumbs Up and Down working now with UPnP calls and of coarse the Metadata for title, artist, album and URL link for album cover.
I have finished updating all my skins for Pandora. This one runs on my Advent in my kitchen.

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I spent today working on a way to mute my Grace Digital Internet Tuner when a phone call comes in. It seems that the tuner's hardware design will only let you use the UPnP 'volume' and 'mute' commands with the headphone jack. The TOSlink or RCA high quality outputs are not effected. Since the tuner connects into the Shinybow 8X8 Matrix switcher it was not as easy as muting a receiver as it could be switched to any of the six zones. So I decided to change the Shinybow plugin to create a pseudo 'mute'. When a call comes in, any of the Matrix switcher inputs that are set to the Grace Tuner are change to input eight which is not used. When the phone is hung up the reverse happens and whatever input is set to input eight is switched back to the Grace Tuner's input. The other five sources that come from JRMC are handled through a win.SendMessage command being sent to JRMC to pause the track being played.

On a side note I finally tracked down a problem with my TTS sound. This new ASUS MB comes with an EPU-4 application that is suppose to reduce power consumption. The problem was it also killed the sound after a period of no console activity. I deactivated it and so far things are working great.

Awesome blog John. I have always been interested in your setup.
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Hi John,

Looking awesome!
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Very nice John!
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Is your template download-able?
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You can download a generic version of Now Playing.

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If you don't mind my asking, what are you using to control the lights? Insteon, Z-wave? Love the set-up and plan on using your break down as an inspiration to start my own automation system.
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Thanks.... one of the reasons I do this blog is to help others that are starting down the home automation path.

I am using X-10 still... it works for me and if I move I will no doubt use Zwave or whatever is the better at the time.
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Great blog!  One question about the whole-house audio.  Are you outputting digital to the Onkyo and analog to the rest of the zones?  Or are you just using analog when using "All Zones"?  I haven't found a soundcard that will output digital and analog at the same time.



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I am using Optical for the main receiver. The Xitel HIFI Pro will do both at the same time.

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