Building a New System


New Member
So, I've been doing months of research in preparation of setting up my house with a theatre and with home automation. I've figured a lot out, but I still have some holes in my knowledge of what I should get, and how I should make it work.

Let's start with what I want to do. I am going to start with just controlling my home theatre equipment, the lights in the theatre, and two sets of drapes. As I can, I plan to move to complete home automation and security. I'm mainly stuck moving forward until I can figure out how to wire the house myself, or decide to pay someone to do it.

The hardware that I will be controlling will be a Mitsubishi HD1000U projector (unless I can talk myself into dropping the extra coin for an Optima HD80), an Onkyo 705, and a Toshiba XA2 HD-DVD player. So far, no problems as they all have a RS-232 port. I'm also a big time gamer and will have about 8 systems routing through a Mac Mini to do the deinterlacing via a EyeTV Hybrid, and would also be a music server. I haven't decided which lighting system to use, but it will probably be ZWave, but UPB and Insteon haven't been ruled out. The house is also wired for music using an A-Bus system.

So my first question, what would be the best way to control everything? I've got it down to a couple of options as follow.

Option 1

Use a RF remote that has an IR repeater in the room with the equipment, and can interface with ZWave, like a Harmony.

Pro's-It's cheap, and will do what I need.

Con's-I don't want to rely on all that IR reaching all the equipment as needed. Not a whole lot of room for expandability.

What I need to know-Actually, I think I have this one under control​

Option 2

Buy a URC MSC-400 and a MX-900 remote and wire it to everything.

Pro's-Has 6 RS-232 ports for my equipment, 6 IR ports for anything I might buy without a RS-232 port. Can act as a USB keyboard to control the mac mini. Reliability in making sure all the commands get to the equipment. Has cool video detection sensors that could detect when a video game system comes on, and fire everything up before I even get to the couch.

Con's-Expensive, 800 for the MSC-400 and another 400 for each remote I add. As far as I can tell, no way to control the lights. Not real useful for any other home automation or security functions. Only has 1 way RS-232 communication. The video detection devices use RS-232 ports reaching the max quickly. Limited to what remotes I can go with.

What I need to know-I haven't found a way, but is there a way to control ZWave with my mac? That could possibly eliminate the problem.​

Option 3

Install a virtual machine on the Mac, install home automation software on it (probably Girder), hook up a USB to serial converter, and the USB-UIRT that I already own, and get a remote to control it.

Pro's-Utilizes the hardware I already own and will be using anyhow. Allows for expandability.

Con's-Lot's of compatibility issues to worry about. Parallels will only use four serial ports. No way to add expansion cards, have to rely on USB only.

What I need to know-Is this even possible? It looks like it from what I can tell, parallels will even support hardware that the mac won't. I see people have used virtual machines for server side software, but I haven't seen anyone do it for direct control. Also, VMWare fusion is also an option, but I can't find any information about how many serial ports it will allow you to use.​

Option 4

Build a dedicated Windows PC and have it control everything.

Pro's-It's future proof, can have as many serial ports as I want, can install cards, will work with whatever software I chose. Can easily interface it to the Elk when I buy one.

Con's-It's another PC added to the mix. Not sure how it would control the mac (probably IR).Would have to do some research on what would work best. Some added cost. It would having me use my mac mini for absolutely nothing except as a deinterlacer and scaler.

What I need to know-Best specs (another thread for that). Is there anyway to add those cool video detectors to the system?
So anyhow, controlling is the biggest issue, and I just need a couple of pointers on what would probably be the best way to go. I imagine it will be best just to build another PC, but I hate the idea of then having the mac there being underutilized. I love the quality I get from the Eye TV, and was always unhappy with the quality I got from Dscaler, so I plan to keep using it.

So before I end this long thread I have a couple of misc. questions to ask.

1. When it comes to music for my house I know that A-bus is lacking, and I would like to replace it. The two big ones seem to be Russound and Nuvo. Both of these seem like excellent products to replace the A-bus with, but I have two issues. It doesn't look like either of them accept digital audio. I only ask because my reciever won't convert the digital audio to analogue for zone two. Makes it hard to route DVD sound or the sound coming from the mac. which will be digital.

Also, do either of them have a local input override like the A-bus? I think that it's a cool feature, as if my roommate wants to hook up a DVD player, X-Box, or whatever and listen to it in his room, he can with the A-bus, but not with the other two.

2. For drape control, both Somfy and BTX seem to have products that work well, with Somfy even being supported by CQC. The problem is, I can't seem to figure out where to buy them. Neither sells them from their website, nor have I been able to find another web site that has them for sale.

While we are on the subject, does anyone know where I can find some 108" black drapes? I have searched everywhere locally that I can think of, and the internet hasn't helped at all.

3. I'm also looking for an AV switch box that has 6 inputs and has autoswitching.

I think I'm good for now, thanks in advance for any help that you can give,



Active Member
What do you find lacking about your A-BUS system? Is it the multi-source/multi-zone issue (newer A-BUS supports this), a sound-quality issue, or a loudness issue? Does your house have speaker wire to the existing A-BUS wallpads?

Do you need audio integration with an ELK? If not, HTD has a pretty nice system.


Active Member
OK, here goes...

1. Russound or Nuvo can be "fed" via the analog output of the DVD while it simultaneously spits digital to the A/V rcvr. The Mac may be a problem. Does it have analog and digital outputs? Are they both "hot"? You may need a DAC in line for the mac to be integrated. Russound does have local zone rollovedr amp. The RS235LS. this will allow for local source.

2. Worthington distribution.

3. Call Convergent Living at 303-477-7757.


New Member
Politics123-I want to be able to integrate and have a little bit more control. This might sound lazy, but I don't want to get up and walk to the wall everytime I want to change volume or turn off a room.

AnthonyZ-Thanks for the suggestions, will definitely check them out.



Active Member
understood. Note that generally, the driving factor behind home automation is some sort of deep-rooted laziness. eg: In HA culture, it's much "easier" to write software, buy hardware, etc to water the lawn every day other than it is to simply wake up and do it. :(

You can make A-BUS support laziness, but its a bit more work. My harmony speaks A-BUS, so I never have to get up to change the volume. Also, you can use an IR distribution system that also speaks A-BUS to control volume (or output) in other rooms than you're in. However, you'll never get good feedback (besides the sound), nor get a "trigger" upon which to base automation when you turn a zone on.