What?Household video distribution network
When?Winter 2002 (but to be revised shortly)
Why?We had video. It needed distributing.
How?The aim was to have the ouput of our TiVo available wherever we might want to watch TV, and be able to control it from wherever that might be. As this was a series 1 TiVo, streaming content off it's hard disk over the house network was not an option (and yes, I tried TyStream, without too much luck). As we rent our current property, it wasn't feasible to re-wire the house and route a video feed to every room, but we were able to piggy-back a couple of video feeds along the back of the network wiring the landlord allowed us to install. This routed the signals from the TiVo in the living room round to the morning room, and also upstairs to the computer room.
The video feed running upstairs terminated at Gina's PC (conveniently equipped with a Hauppage video capture card). This allowed us to have the TV running on her second monitor without interfering too much with her work. Control was achieved through the TiVoWeb interface, and as the TiVo did have a TurboNet adapter fitted, this was quite responsive.
Downstairs, the signal ended up at a 14" Sony portable (which I really must return to its rightful owners at some point...). Of course, powering up a PC in order to change channels would have been a bit silly, so we needed a better way. Fortunately, the TV is not too far from the IRTrans transceiver in the dining room, which could recognise consumer IR signals. From here, it was fairly straightforwards to configure LIRC to make a request on the TiVo's Web interface such that if you pressed a button on the TiVo remote whilst in the morning room/dining room area, it performed the same action on the TiVo via the Web interface. We also tweaked it to allow all the TiVo functions to be mapped to a spare Sony remote we had laying around, to save ferrying the TiVo remote from room to room.
Apart from the fact that the TiVo's "home" button proved almost impossible to learn, this setup worked well. The video quality was very good (despite being pumped unbalanced down Cat5e cable), perhaps due to the disitrbution amplifier we hooked up next to the TiVo.
Of course, in April 2004, the TiVo died.
We currently have a MythTV box taking it's place, and that's distributing video in the same way (though we can no longer control it from the morning room - the MythTV Web interface works in a slightly different way to the TiVo one). However, MythTV is much, much more open than TiVo, and supports multiple playback devices as well as network video streaming. This opens up a number of distinct possibilities.
- We can now get TV output in the dining room if I just configure the master server to act as a MythTV front-end (the monitor for this machine is otherwise rarely used)
- If I can get WinMyth to work, video can be streamed over the network to any of the machines in the computer room, obviating the need for the dedicated video feed.
- If we buy an XBox, install Linux on it and configure it as a MythTV front-end, we can put it under the morning room TV and play back pre-recorded shows independently of what's showing on the main screen, which the current setup does not allow. We may even be able to play Halo on it :-)
- Using either a bootable MythTV distribution or WinMyth, it should be possible to convince the laptop to be a MythTV front-end, as well. Using the wireless network, this finally gives us the holy grail of being able to watch whatever we want, wherever we want - even sitting in the garden. Nice!