X10 Community Forum

Entertainment => Entertainment General => Topic started by: HA Dave on January 16, 2015, 11:57:59 PM

Title: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 16, 2015, 11:57:59 PM
OK... to be honest I am posting partly because I am a little nostalgic for the threads... like the old days. But also because I found/bought something that I found helpful.

Like many of us I was early into creating a home theater. Whereas HDMI and HD standards seem like they've always been here. A decade ago most of what is standard with HD today was still a little up in the air. I have been wondering what to do to upgrade my home theater to HD. My projector is capable of HD but only has a VGA input. I used a component adapter cable to get component signals from the DVD player to the projector.

After doing a little searching on Amazon I found several devices that will convert and scale an HDMI to component and/or VGA. I'd seen them before... but the prices are now greatly lowered. For less than a $50 converter... I was able to switch to a BlueRay player with a 1080i image. DVD's are slightly improved too. I know... I could have done the same thing using a computer configured for entertainment.

Now.... will I buy pricey Blue Ray movies? Well sure... some! And I will still enjoy a fairly sizable DVD collection too.

But... I've been playing around with an Roku (https://www.roku.com/) and I am thinking I will stream content. I can "join" [pronounced: pay monthly fees] Netflix (https://www.netflix.com/us/) and/or other "content providers". And the service will also be available on my TV/laptop/tablet/and phone (as I understand it). And I can stopped adding more DVD shelves.

Some day my projector will fail and I will once again have choices to make. But for now this should bring me pretty much up-to-date. Then... on to my automation setup! (I thinking an electromagnetic Sensor Wand buried next to my driveway).
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: Tuicemen on January 17, 2015, 09:17:31 AM
I've streamed movies a few times and not always with a friendly experience.
It is sad days of DVD rentals are quickly coming to an end.
I still prefer watching a movie from a DVD then streaming. ::) :'
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 17, 2015, 10:14:10 AM
I've streamed movies a few times and not always with a friendly experience.
Then you ain't doing it right.  B:(

Streaming via a Smart TV or using many of the external devices (e.g. Roku) with services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. is smooth and seamless (aside from Amazon's neolithic GUI) although trying it with an underpowered miniPC is more problematic. I haven't tried things like Roku via a composite interface but suspect it might be less than optimal.

I've found getting DVDs to display properly on a recent flatscreen to be far more of a headache than streaming.

Yesterday, I received a Lenova Q190 with Windows 8.1 that I plan to try with one of the HDMI inputs on my Vizio 50" Smart TV. I opted for a $200 model that has an internal 500GB HDD in case I decide it would be better employed as a desktop PC, but there are other less costly, similar PCs w/o the HDD available. 

I'll post here as things progress.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dave w on January 17, 2015, 10:21:39 AM
Dave,
Did the new Lenovo come with a program called "Voxox" installed on drive?
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: JeffVolp on January 17, 2015, 10:27:50 AM
It is sad days of DVD rentals are quickly coming to an end.
I still prefer watching a movie from a DVD then streaming. ::) :'

Ditto.  Years ago we often stopped by Hollywood Video both for rentals and to pick up used copies of our favorites.  Recently we "joined" Netflix - just the DVD rental, not streaming.  I understand they are downplaying that option, so it is anyone's guess how long it will remain available.  But it gives us two movies a week at $10 per month.  Then I use eBay to pick up copies of the ones we would like to add to our DVD library.

Dave, our Oppo DVD/BD player works flawlessly.  It even plays most heavily scratched Netflix discs without a problem.  And HD on the projector is perfect.

Jeff
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: Tuicemen on January 17, 2015, 10:45:49 AM
I've streamed movies a few times and not always with a friendly experience.
Then you ain't doing it right.  B:(

The issue 95% of the time the device streaming wasn't the issue.
It was my ISP.
Even in the city my service goes down periodically, usually right when the good part starts B:(
Even though I have a cable connection in the city my DSL connection at the cottage is far more reliable.
I still stream but prefer the hard copies like Jeff.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 17, 2015, 11:25:43 AM
Did the new Lenovo come with a program called "Voxox" installed on drive?
Dunno - haven't powered it up yet. But, from what I see on the web, their deal only covers laptops.

I have encountered one complication. The Lenova docs (rather sparse) say to reset the TV refresh rate to 60Hz to avoid damaging the TV. While I suspect they are being overly cautious, there is no apparent way to adjust my TV's 120Hz refresh rate. I think I'll test things using a flatscreen monitor until I check with Vizio.  :-\
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 17, 2015, 04:31:00 PM
Although we have more than a thousand DVD's... I think they're pretty much obsolete. I know they still sell (and rent) them but those days are slipping by fast. I really like and have enjoyed the "Disc" DVD/BR (now) format... and I will miss it a lot more than I ever missed the audio cassette.

I've done some streaming. That is one of the reasons it was imperative for me to use HDMI. I was glad I was able to keep using my old projector and save a few hundred bucks... being on a fixed income and all. But sooner or later everything fails.

For me... it just feels really good to be doing SOMTHING with my HA setup!

Now.... home theater remotes. I've been using a Logitech remote for nearly a decade and it works great. But for the upstairs TV I have a device and an app on my iPhone. I am thinking tablet control of the theater. I did that on a theater I built for a friend. It is nice to have a HA project again!
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dave w on January 17, 2015, 06:22:12 PM
Dunno - haven't powered it up yet. But, from what I see on the web, their deal only covers laptops.
there is no apparent way to adjust my TV's 120Hz refresh rate. I think I'll test things using a flatscreen monitor until I check with Vizio.  :-\
Would that be automatic? I think they are being overly cautious also. What if you connected a VCR to the composit inputs of the TV, wouldn't that analog signal always be 60Hz? (actually 59 point something) ? Or is the preceived problem if you squirt NTSC into the HDMI?  
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 17, 2015, 09:05:31 PM
Would that be automatic? I think they are being overly cautious also. What if you connected a VCR to the composit inputs of the TV, wouldn't that analog signal always be 60Hz? (actually 59 point something) ? Or is the preceived problem if you squirt NTSC into the HDMI?  
My Lenovo Q190 PC, in addition to USB mouse & KB plus "vivid Full HD graphics", has...
and I think the docs are implying that it's safe to use VGA but iffy for HDMI. However, it's unlikely they'll have much of a market w/o HDMI support. I also suspect the refresh rate is automatic but will email Vizio Support and ask for their input.
EDIT: I have submitted the question to Vizio Support and am awaiting their response.

The User Guide says...
Quote
Set the refresh rate of your TV or monitor to less than 60Hz to avoid damage to your TV or monitor.
...
Lenovo recommends connecting the computer to a monitor using the VGA or HDMI video connector.

It is possible to connect the computer to a TV using the VGA or HDMI video connector, but Lenovo is unable to guarantee that this will work effectively.

Some models have Blu-Ray but I'm not sure all those, like mine, with the add-on optical drive can support a Blu-Ray drive. Upon further review it appears that there are optional add-on optical drives as well as add-on Blu-Ray players.

Here's a link to the original specs...
http://shop.lenovo.com/ISS_Static/WW/wci/products/us/desktop/ideacentre/q-series/q190/q190-datasheet.pdf (http://shop.lenovo.com/ISS_Static/WW/wci/products/us/desktop/ideacentre/q-series/q190/q190-datasheet.pdf)

There is a "Compact wireless multimedia remote with a built-in mini-keyboard and mouse" but I plan to use a wireless KB with touchpad - Logitech K400 ($20).

And, I did not intend to hijack HA Dave's thread - mayhaps one of the gatekeepers can move the Lenovo related posts to a new thread.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 18, 2015, 11:53:45 PM
I did not intend to hijack HA Dave's thread - mayhaps one of the gatekeepers can move the Lenovo related posts to a new thread.

Don't worry about it! I see no hi-jack here. This is all the same stuff: Home Theater. There are lots of different ways to skin a cat... although I've always preferred my cats to keep their skin on.

Home entertainment is a big part of HA. And.... thank God isn't dependent so much on some of the confusion and frustration going on with X10 and the other flavors of automation lighting products right now.

I am thrilled with being HD with the theater now. And the BR player does seem to do a better UP-verting job with DVD's as well. The amount of online content available for free, fee, and/or by subscription is staggering. I noticed the movie "the Interview" is available almost everywhere in the online content world (for $5.99).... and I wonder if that may be the future. Or... will online only content be more like "flying cars".

I am having difficulty setting up "mirroring". Mirroring is when the Blue Ray Player also plays the video on a home [WiFi] network.... and can then be viewed on mobile phones and/or tablets. OR... pictures and home video on a phone and/or tablet can be displayed on the Home Theater screen. But iPhones prefer to only use the apple TV (apple play) product/format... and of course our phones are apple.

So... I guess there goes facetime with the grandkids on the big screen. Of course there is a solution to that too... by using an "apple TV" [play] content device and a new audio system that would provide me with more HDMI "in" ports. So many choices.... and so many ways to remove a cats skin (and money from a wallet).

I have an android tablet too though... and still working on the setup.

 
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 19, 2015, 11:27:03 AM
I altered the settings in my old Logitech 628 Home Theater Remote. I bought the remote from a warehouse club back in '06 and have always liked the one button "watch a movie" feature. It still works great!

I dug out the remotes box which had it's USB cable, and sheet with password and device model list (3rd DVD/BR player in 8 years). I booted up the old XP desktop then plugged in the remote (via USB) and automatically IE 7 opened and logged me into the Logitech Site. In mere minutes (less than 100-120) I was back to one button pressing... projector turning on, Audio on, X10 light dimming, and movie playing. Not as simple maybe as it sounds... but still very simplified.

FYI: The remote provides IR only and I use an IR543(?) and two Powermids to control the X10 and move the IR to the remotely placed A/V equipment.

Actually at this point... I could walk away from the project and be whole in function with greatly added features.. like High-Definition and available on-line content. But I've never been one to let well enough alone. I feel compelled to see that mirroring function.

I do need to restore the lost function of the bathroom TV. I had previously used the composite port of the DVD player to grab a simple video which I converted to channel 3 and ran to the bath room simple 12" TV using coax. Now... I will likely convert the projectors VGA out to video- then channel 3. 

So far theater to HD upgrade cost:
HDMI to VGA converter device $45
Blue Ray player $84
Short HDMI cable $15
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dave w on January 19, 2015, 05:20:23 PM
EDIT: I have submitted the question to Vizio Support and am awaiting their response.
Nice unit, at good price. Would be interested in hearing what Vizio says. I want to dedicate a desktop to a home theater setup, but hate Windows 8.1 so may buy used or build.

HA Dave - do you have some of your 1000 DVD movies on hard drive, or just play from the DVDs?
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 19, 2015, 07:55:53 PM
Nice unit, at good price. Would be interested in hearing what Vizio says. I want to dedicate a desktop to a home theater setup, but hate Windows 8.1 so may buy used or build.
The reviews I saw on the Lenovo Q190 rated it highly as a desktop PC or HTPC although most said there are better choices for gaming. I have no interest in gaming so think it will meet my needs. With a Windows 7 style Start Menu, I find Windows 8.1 OK on a recently purchased laptop so do not anticipate any issues with it on my HTPC. See...
http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/ (http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/)

My web research on HDTV Refresh Rates supports our supposition that it is automatic...
but I'll still give Vizio Support a day or two to reply before risking my 50" flatscreen. And I'll post their input here if/when they reply.
EDIT: A few moments after my post, I heard back from Alexia at Vizio. Unfortunately, Alexia was no help, writing, "This would be within the device connecting the the TV, as there is not a setting for this within the TV menu." So, I guess I'll smoke test everything maņana.

My internet feed is ADSL and not very fast but I've only experienced a few problems while streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime. I'm hoping the Q190 will offer a way to add ESPN/ESPN2 via Sling TV once that is introduced.

I do not have a large library of DVDs nor any Blu-Rays so my needs differ from Jeff and HA Dave. (I did have a large collection of Dr. Who episodes I recorded over several years on VHS but gave them to grandkids.) The few remaining tapes and a few DVDs, I can already handle with a Toshiba VHS Player + DVD R/W unit connected via HDMI. So, my needs are almost totally related to streaming but I would also like to be able to surf the web from the comfort of my recliner.
  
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 19, 2015, 08:38:57 PM
HA Dave - do you have some of your 1000 DVD movies on hard drive, or just play from the DVDs?

I've never used the PC or HD storage (for movies). The theater was completely vintage 2006. I had upgraded/modernized and/or repaired this and that... but basically it's an old fashion DVD and projector Home Theater.

......I do not have a large library of DVDs nor any Blu-Rays so my needs differ from Jeff and HA Dave. ............... my needs are almost totally related to streaming but I would also like to be able to surf the web from the comfort of my recliner.

My beginnings with the DVD collection predates the theater. And at some point... hundreds of VHS tapes that were given away or otherwise donated. Hard copy media.... is way old fashion. I wouldn't recommend it. On line [streaming] media is at least the current way to watch movies. I have played with an Roku device on my TV. And the loaded apps and options for on-line content through the [Sony] Blue Ray player I just installed are huge.

The Blue Ray player will also browse and or surf the Internet (all built in to the player). Although... without a keyboard it isn't anything I would recommend. Using the HDMI from a PC or laptop to the theater with a long range keyboard/mouse would be the way to go. OR... maybe using the mirroring and a phone ...not that I'd know yet.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: toasterking on January 19, 2015, 11:47:24 PM
Which standard are you trying to use for mirroring anyway, Dave? It seems to me that we are in the midst of a format war and no one is really winning yet. My 2-year-old ultrabook convertible has Intel WiDi, my new BlackBerry has Miracast, and iOS uses Airplay. We have one of each of these devices and nothing to pair them with for wireless display!
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 20, 2015, 10:21:14 AM
Which standard are you trying to use for mirroring anyway, Dave? It seems to me that we are in the midst of a format war and no one is really winning yet. My 2-year-old ultrabook convertible has Intel WiDi, my new BlackBerry has Miracast, and iOS uses Airplay. We have one of each of these devices and nothing to pair them with for wireless display!

Thank you for asking! To be honest... I know nothing about mirroring yet.

I was looking at the Blue Ray players at Best Buy and the sales rep recommended the Sony BDP-S3200. Partly because it had all the features I was looking for (WiFi connectivity and on-line streaming from numerous content providers) AND... it has "screen mirroring" which the sales guy had seen at friends house and was very impressed by. Probably not my best purchase.  

I am really impressed with the appearance of the BR movies and the now better resolution of my old DVD's too. It is nice to have all the extra/added free content from providers like Crackle... and I will likely subscribe to a provider like Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix.

With the theater up and running I started researching the mirroring setup. I quickly discovered my iPhone [airplay] wasn't compatible with the Sony format. So... so much for sharing phone pictures on the BIG screen. I have an old android tablet that may or may not work. I don't know if apps on my 8.1 windows laptop will be compatible or not.

Do you have any insight? Suggested Sites for research?  

The player wasn't real pricey. I didn't pay more than I had planned anyway. I don't know if I could have purchased a better player for my needs. If I end-up not using the mirroring... oh well. But I would like to see that work!

I was thinking.... always a risky endeavor.... that if I replaced the old audio receiver that I now by-pass with the HDMI (and use a digital input cable) with a new model that has several HDMI inputs (I've already found one). I could then buy and connect an Apple Play device and connect that to the theater.... and be able to throw those iPhone snapshots up on the screen through the Apple TV Device. Plus... we could Facetime with the grandkids on the big screen as well (very Jetson's-like).

But... being married I'd need a better cover story than the truth provides.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 20, 2015, 12:16:32 PM
Sniff, sniff...     hmmm, I neither smell nor see any smoke...     my wireless KB/Trackpad worked at boot...     I do see the Windows 8.1 Start screen on my 50" Vizio TV.  :)

Now I have a chicken/egg problem. I need to connect to my hidden, MAC ADDR filtered WiFi but I don't know how to access the command line under the Windows 8.1 Start screen. From a Start Menu I can access the command line and query the OS for its MAC addresses (both wired and wireless). But, I need to connect to the Internet to install the Start8 Start Menu. My older router logged all attempts to connect so I could get the MAC ADDR that way but my new router only logs successful connections. I'll have to turn off MAC ADDR filtering, connect , get the MAC ADDR, then enter it and again enable MAC ADDR filtering. Or it might be simpler to string a CAT5 cable to make a wired connection then install Start8 and get the WiFi MAC ADDR.
EDIT: I managed to find the command line under the Windows 8.1 Start screen and got the MAC ADDR. I am now connected to my network and the Internet and have installed the Start8 trial version. Once I get it going and kill the pre-installed Symantec McAfee app which is interfering at every step, I should be able to begin evaluating things.  

Things will need to wait a couple of days as I have a medical appointment tomorrow and I'd rather have nothing pending when I start the project.

But, so far, all systems are GO and I'm very pleased with this new setup. It looks like it will do exactly what I expected of it.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 20, 2015, 01:00:08 PM
Do you have any insight? Suggested Sites for research?  
http://www.wirelessdisplay.com/index.html (http://www.wirelessdisplay.com/index.html)
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dave w on January 20, 2015, 09:07:01 PM
So, I guess I'll smoke test everything ...
Yes, I use that Las Vegas time saving method also.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 20, 2015, 09:54:54 PM
Sniff, sniff...     hmmm, I neither smell nor see any smoke...     my wireless KB/Trackpad worked at boot...     I do see the Windows 8.1 Start screen on my 50" Vizio TV.  :).............. so far, all systems are GO and I'm very pleased with this new setup. It looks like it will do exactly what I expected of it.

YEA!!!! I always love it when a plan comes together.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: toasterking on January 20, 2015, 10:12:32 PM
Do you have any insight?

I was just curious to see how you were planning to go about it.  Actually, I haven't done a lot of research myself because my ultrabook and my BlackBerry both have Micro HDMI connectors and it's very easy to just plug in the cable and start a video playing, whichever device it happens to be on.  We can supposedly do that on the iOS devices, also, with the appropriate "Digital AV Adapter," though we haven't bought or tried that.  I just find it kind of comical that we have several devices capable of sending video wirelessly, yet each is locked to a different proprietary protocol to do it.  My mother has a JVC TV that can receive video wirelessly using yet another protocol (I don't recall the name at the moment) which is incompatible with all three.  For this to work for the consumer, he/she would have to settle on one wireless video standard and then use that standard as the primary deciding factor when purchasing all their products!  Even choosing to buy all of one's products from the same manufacturer usually isn't possible except in the case of an unusual company like Samsung, which makes TVs, laptops, Android tablets, Android phones, and even Windows Phones.

Since I have HDMI ports on everything, I have assumed that if I really want to settle on one of those standards and start using it, they're all open to me so long as I can find compatible dongles for both the sending and receiving devices.  It doesn't beat the convenience of having the functionality built into the handheld devices, but I figure that if we're watching something on TV, we won't be going far with those devices anyway, so what's one more thing to set on the table?  (But iPhone 5s --> Lightning Digital AV Adapter --> HDMI adapter cable --> Miracast dongle -- that's a bit much!)  I'm not seeing a lot of dongles available for sending of video, though; mostly just for receiving.  That means I'd need a receiving dongle for each protocol and a separate port HDMI port on my TV (or an expensive switcher) to accommodate each of them, or a lot of device swapping which means I have to get up and plug something in anyway.  Hardly worth it!  I think I'll just wait this one out.

I expect that which standard wins will be determined by economics and its backing companies' strength in advertising to consumers and promoting to manufacturers.  As it is, the situation is still not nearly as bad as it was in the early 80s where we'd take our movie on Betamax to a friend's house to watch, only to find out that they only have a LaserDisc machine.  In that race, VHS won and gained ubiquity because of economics and a longer recording time, but certainly not because it was technically superior.

I'm aware that I'm getting a little off-topic here, so that's probably enough rambling!
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 21, 2015, 06:23:15 AM
So, I guess I'll smoke test everything ...
Yes, I use that Las Vegas time saving method also.
Normally, I only read the documentation upon seeing smoke. -:)
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dave w on January 21, 2015, 08:29:33 PM
 rofl
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 22, 2015, 10:22:57 AM
After getting rid of the McAfee software that came pre-installed I am able to test streaming and can report that streaming Amazon Prime via Firefox works just as well as using the Vizio app for Amazon Prime. Actually, the Firefox route provides a much easier to navigate user interface and I can detect no loss of quality in 1080P video or the audio.

I'll try to report more later - yesterday's activity left me exhausted so I'm going to kickback and watch a few episodes of Justified before digging deeper into the Q190 configuration.

I would have saved $50 had I waited a few days.
http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/desktops/lenovo/q-series/q190/ (http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/desktops/lenovo/q-series/q190/)
For one day only it was $150.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 22, 2015, 11:38:19 AM
I was just curious to see how you were planning to go about it........ because my ultrabook and my BlackBerry both have Micro HDMI connectors and it's very easy to just plug in the cable and start a video playing, whichever device it happens to be on.  We can supposedly do that on the iOS devices, also, with the appropriate "Digital AV Adapter," though we haven't bought or tried that.  I just find it kind of comical that we have several devices capable of sending video wirelessly, yet each is locked to a different proprietary protocol to do it.

I wouldn't really need "several devices" I'd just have to commit to only ONE... and stick with it. My wife is elderly (which works out well as so am I) and those old women DO like their iphones. So an Apple TV device.... and I am golden. But... the best way to use the iPhone to the bigger screen would be with Facetime (with the grandkids).... and I think the upstairs 50 inch would be best for that.

Currently.... I just ordered an HDMI "splitter" (actually amplifies and duplicates). I also ordered a converter that reduces the HDMI 1080p down to an analog 480 in a RCA video composite format. Which... I hope to convert to channel 3. This allows me to simulcast my theater movies into a near-by bath room. I know... a lot of work for a little wow factor of having the movie play in the bathroom but its been a feature [of the theater] for years.

I might be able to exploit this TV channel feature to present the theater image to the upstairs TV as well. Years ago... I had accomplished something similar using X10's video sender/receiver units. There are such units that use HDMI 1080 quality video now.

Since I have HDMI ports on everything, I have assumed that if I really want to settle on one of those standards and start using it, they're all open to me so long as I can find compatible dongles for both the sending and receiving devices. ................................. That means I'd need a receiving dongle for each protocol and a separate port HDMI port on my TV (or an expensive switcher) to accommodate each of them, or a lot of device swapping which means I have to get up and plug something in anyway.  Hardly worth it!  I think I'll just wait this one out.

Yep... HDMI has become to A/V what USB was/is to PC connectivity. I Have found an audio receiver/selector that has four [4] HDMI pass thur's. That could solve a lot of hardwire connectivity problems right there.

I have used the YouTube app which allows me to play YouTube videos on the big screen! Pretty slick... but has nothing to do with phone/tablet/PC connectivity. The device [BR player/dongle] app assigns a temporary "key or code" that is then entered at a specified Site... using whatever browser you select (phone/tablet/PC). This allows the Site to then feed the device with the YouTube you then select.

Pretty cool. And that would be a great way for me to show-off my favorite or latest Youtube created video (http://youtu.be/E8--yl9KmPs). Or... display a cycling video for me to watch while on my bicycle trainer (http://youtu.be/Nd-nlXrklFw?list=FLwSIYbHjKdHux-_Rimhs2hg) (I actually do that).   

Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 24, 2015, 01:04:31 PM
Now that I've had a little time, I've installed all the Windows 8.1 updates and looked at the Q190 configuration.

The Q190 recognized my TV on its HDMI port and configured things for 1920x1080. I found the Q190 WiFi MAC ADDR and connected to my router using instructions I found at...
http://pcsupport.about.com/od/windows-8/a/command-prompt-windows-8.htm (http://pcsupport.about.com/od/windows-8/a/command-prompt-windows-8.htm)

At the command prompt entering ipconfig /all will display a page or two of configuration data. You may need to scroll to find the WiFi adapter MAC ADDR.

Once connected to my router via WiFi, I downloaded and installed Start8 which gives me a Windows 7 style Start menu and screen.

I uninstalled McAfee Internet Security, activated Windows Defender and installed Avast antivirus.

Recent tests of my ADSL speed  show  ~8.5 Mbps - with 10Mbps recommended for HD my setup would appear to be somewhat marginal. Although, Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for HD. https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306 (https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306)
http://testinternetspeed.org/ (http://testinternetspeed.org/)

I see a maximum 5 bars on WiFi connection (same as Smart TV).

I found this article that explains some of the issues.
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/tech-tips-and-tricks/dave-taylor-hdmi-article.html (http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/tech-tips-and-tricks/dave-taylor-hdmi-article.html)

I have both a $20 Logitech K400 wireless KB/Touchpad and a $23 Microsoft All-In-One Media Keyboard (N9Z-00001). I prefer the latter but both work well.

My Vizio TV has Vizio Apps for Amazon, Netflix, Crackle, Hulu and a few others. I have tested streaming Amazon & Netflix via Firefox and both seem to work about as well as  using the built-in Vizio Apps. I have seen a couple of brief interruptions but that also occurs occasionally with feeding the TV directly via WiFi. I do prefer the online user interfaces which are easier to navigate than the Vizio Apps.

I will likely try ESPN via Sling TV once baseball season rolls around. http://www.sling.com/ (http://www.sling.com/)

EDIT: I need to investigate further but think the video interruptions may be are related to the Windows Sleep function. A swipe of the Touchpad seems to cure them. No more interruptions after resetting Power options to sleep after 1 hour inactivity.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 25, 2015, 12:18:29 AM
That sounds like a nice setup dhouston.

Back in the days of windows 95.... I spent a huge amount of money trying to video chat (with my now wife) with a latest-greatest Pentium processor PC (I built myself from parts I bought at a computer show), a new Dcam (nearly as big as a brick), and a HUGE new 32" TV. It was fun but video-chat could barely be done using the computer and dial-up back then.

I've often thought of running my Home Theater using a laptop. But the projector is intimidating enough for the wife... so I stayed pretty old school. Which is now HD and working great (even the bathroom TV).

But your details makes me think I should consider connecting my normal laptop to the TV. It would be much easier to only have a (wireless) keyboard on my lap than a laptop with a powered cooling pad under it. AND... a wireless keyboard would be much easier to store or set aside than the laptop. I might try the setup with my (old) Vista laptop. I could let it run 24/7 and run my Home Automation on it too (fingers crossed).

I too have been looking at "content providers" I think Hulu looks like my best choice... for me because it looks like they have all the old StarTrek shows. $8 a month.

You've sure given me (and others too I'd guess) a lot of ideas to mull over. THANKS!
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 25, 2015, 07:13:19 AM
My latest laptop has an HDMI port and I considered using it but decided it was too bulky, used more power and was, overall, less convenient. Another factor is that my TV is about 15' from my recliner (beyond optimal range http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimum_HDTV_viewing_distance#Manufacturers.27_recommendations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimum_HDTV_viewing_distance#Manufacturers.27_recommendations)) and, at that distance, browsing the web is not ideal as small print is harder to see than even on print contracts. I had seen that earlier when I tried a miniPC running Android. So, I decided to keep the laptop beside my recliner, powered down, except for times when I need more serious and up-close browsing power. On the Q190 I'll probably have Firefox tabs for Google News, Amazon Prime, Netflix, local weather and Sling TV - switching between them as needed/desired.

For my setup, the 500GB HDD is superfluous but I might decide to use the Q190 as a desktop PC with a regular monitor. There are other, similar PCs w/o the HDD but most come w/o an operating system. And, while I strongly dislike the Windows 8/8.1 user interface, I knew from my laptop experience that Start8 gives a Windows 7 style UI.  I don't need a DVD R/W drive nor Blu-ray player but both are add-on options. The numerous USB ports would allow for connecting a CM15A, CM11A (with USB/Serial adapter), etc. making the Q190 the main HA interface. I don't know whether Windows Speech is ready for primetime but it might be useful in place of a mouse/touchpad or as an HA interface (with appropriate software).

One highly desirable feature would be an API for my Vizio Smart TV to allow me integrate things even more. AFAIK, there is no such API but I expect them to start appearing given the Internet of Things thing. There is an optional Lenovo handheld remote w/KB that works with certain TVs providing better integration. It might be worth investigation. A learning remote would be even better.

I have a Toshiba DVR620KU DVD R/W VCR R/W but it does not upconvert. I have to use the various adjustments available on my TV but they are all less than optimal. I find it sadly disconcerting to see a young Alyssa Milano looking as wide as she is tall. I had a DVD player which did a decent job of upconverting. If the Lenova DVD add-on upconverts (unknown) it might be worthwhile for those with large libraries of DVDs.

This is probably the simplest HTPC/HAPC route for those averse to tinkering with hardware.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 25, 2015, 09:01:17 AM
At one time... I had my own Web Site but that got too complex (and a little expensive). I had, had pictures of my Home Theater setup there as well as some other projects. Those were the days.

I took a Panoramic image of my theater this morning. It gives a decent idea of the setup.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 25, 2015, 09:20:30 AM
Here is the "bathroom TV" (just off the theater) showing the Blue Ray setup screen. It was originally intended to be a little bit of a wow factor that I had setup using X10 (radioshack) video sender/receivers (back then... I also simulcast movies to a "smoking area"). Now the image is down-verted from HDMI to composite video, then converted to channel 3 and delivered to the TV via it's coax cable. 

Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 26, 2015, 08:34:59 AM
At one time... I had my own Web Site but that got too complex (and a little expensive). I had, had pictures of my Home Theater setup there as well as some other projects.
HostMonster usually offers very attractive monthly rates for the first year.
http://www.hostmonster.com/?lo=1 (http://www.hostmonster.com/?lo=1)

The home theater is impressive. I sold my last house 35 years ago when I became totally disabled so I've never considered anything similar. One of my sons does have a projector but his setup is more mundane.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 26, 2015, 10:16:28 AM
The home theater is impressive. I sold my last house 35 years ago when I became totally disabled so I've never considered anything similar. One of my sons does have a projector but his setup is more mundane.

Thanks The finished basement came with the home. It was a great space for children to play... but our kids are grown. In 2006 we saw a friends home theater and decided to use the extra space for that. If I was building a new Home Theater today.... I don't think I would do it the same way at all.

But the grand kids love the space when they visit. And when it's too cold (like now) or hot outside the wife and I have a place to escape to. It was the theater that got me into X10. Starting the movie... then getting back up to turn off the lights was a hassle and seemed like a distraction. My Internet search for a solution... brought me here.

I tried the "(Sony) TV Sideview" on my iPhone the other day. I am still attempting the "mirroring". I think a (more-or-less) dedicated tablet might work best at that task.... and my old [ice cream sandwich] X10 era D-Pad... might be too old. I like the function where the app sees what is playing on the Blue Ray player and accesses all the movie and cast info.

I think there will always be some collecting of movies... I think. But the wife and I are ready to move into streaming the movies we watch.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on January 31, 2015, 08:50:31 AM
After about 10 days experience and some refining of my setup I can give the Lenovo Q190 an unqualified thumbs up as an HTPC.

It's running Windows 8.1 with a Start8 Windows 7 style Start button/menu. It's a fairly powerful PC so should work well for Windows based Home Automation applications. It has 6 USB ports so can connect to peripherals. There are optional add-on DVD R/W or Blu-ray player drives. The fan is inaudible unless you are within a few inches. I doubt I'll ever need the 500GB HDD but others may find it useful. I believe it's eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10. I'm not certain that it can be downgraded to Windows 7 but it included MS Office so think that means it's a business PC which does allow for downgrading (with a W7 DVD).

I have Firefox running with tabs for Google News, Amazon, Netflix, Crackle, Google Calendar, this forum and local weather, switching seamlessly between them. The user interfaces for Amazon Prime and Netflix are easier to navigate than the Vizio Apps that came with my Smart TV. I did find I needed to be closer to read prompts, etc. so have rearranged the furniture accordingly.

I'm using an MS wireless USB KB/Touchpad. I have disabled the swipes, etc. so the touchpad now only supports moving the mouse cursor and right/left mouse buttons. I'm not sure it works the same way for other interfaces but, for Amazon, the KB spacebar pauses the video and the L/R arrow keys are equivalent to FF & RW. I would like a larger mouse cursor but that's not an option with my setup.

It connects to my network via WiFi and can see a 1TB HDD attached to my router via USB.
 
It would be very handy if the KB incorporated a learning IR remote in order to eliminate the TV remote.

I did not need this as I have Amazon, Netflix & Crackle Vizio Apps but, with new streaming sources popping up daily, it should provide some future proofing. And, it has made the laptop I kept beside my recliner superfluous.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 31, 2015, 10:57:14 AM
............. It would be very handy if the KB incorporated a learning IR remote in order to eliminate the TV remote.

I did not need this as I have Amazon, Netflix & Crackle Vizio Apps but, with new streaming sources popping up daily, it should provide some future proofing. And, it has made the laptop I kept beside my recliner superfluous.

My upstairs TV is dumb (as in not smart) I've been using an IR device with an app (http://www.expansys-usa.com/gear4-unity-remote-for-ipod-iphone-ipad-216842/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=base&mkwid=svHjLhmZB&kword=adwords_productfeed&gclid=Cj0KEQiAl7KmBRDW6s-Xi_uT9OgBEiQAZdbbScC7GOrnWkHqCuih75w9hZEC3VBGbiDqco6NjT1E9Z0aAj118P8HAQ) on my iphone to control the TV and cable box (although not a perfect solution). I am also running the Roku app on both the iphone and an android tablet. I also use both my tablet (old D pad android) and my phone to view my security cameras.

So many many options! I wonder if the best "future proof" might not be the idea of adding an antenna you posted earlier.

I can see my laptop being replaced with a tablet soon. I wanted to look something up quick the other day and my laptop was off. But my phone lay there on the end stand... so I just asked Siri. It's really all about processor speed. I run the Melloware (http://melloware.com/x10commander/) X10 commander to control my X10 with my iphone (it also requires a server PC). I CAN"T WAIT for X10 or SOME ONE to offer an Internet device that will replace the server PC's OR maybe let me use a tablet (as a server) to control my home.

I can see having a tablet by my chair for surfing, shopping, reading, forums..... and even Facetime calls with the grandkids. I've already switched to laptops as server PC's for the HA control.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: Tuicemen on January 31, 2015, 11:24:54 AM
I CAN"T WAIT for X10 or SOME ONE to offer an Internet device that will replace the server PC's OR maybe let me use a tablet (as a server) to control my home.
You might want to look at Home Genie (http://www.homegenie.it/) I have it running on an Android mini PC.
If you could install Linux or Windows to your tablet, a tablet as a server is totally possible, however you'd need a x10 interface hooked to it.

I've been playing with B4J (a cross platform development tool) and creating a server program.
Currently what I have runs on a windows PC and talks to PCC for home control and other tasks.
However others have used the tool and wrote a server for a RasberryPie which controls their Home via X10.
 
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on January 31, 2015, 06:24:10 PM
.... You might want to look at Home Genie (http://www.homegenie.it/) I have it running on an Android mini PC.
If you could install Linux or Windows to your tablet, a tablet as a server is totally possible, however you'd need a x10 interface hooked to it.

That little CM19 firecracker that looks like a PV mouse should work. That is what I use with the melloware (on the mini netbook-like) PC. Someone ought to built the Banana Pi computer boards loaded with software, drivers, and a dongle (and maybe the firecracker). With an HDMI out port... it could be hung behind a TV and the TV could be the monitor when needed.

Maybe somebody could solder them up in Urbana, Illinois... and call them HAL... or start the a company and name it Cyberdyne? Or pair the Pi computer board with a google tablet so the device could be voice controlled.... and maybe made to talk.

I know we're close to some really hi-tech lifestyles/devices. I think we're transforming from the golden age of Home Automation to the golden age of personal technologies. I do more and more stuff with my phone all the time. And I really want to do more.

Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on February 02, 2015, 09:41:45 AM
The latest slice of Pi (Raspberry Pi 2 B) will support Windows 10.
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31088908 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31088908)
 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/02/windows_10_raspberry_pi_2_eben_upton_interview/ (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/02/windows_10_raspberry_pi_2_eben_upton_interview/)
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: Tuicemen on February 02, 2015, 04:46:11 PM
The latest slice of Pi (Raspberry Pi 2 B) will support Windows 10.
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31088908 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31088908)
 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/02/windows_10_raspberry_pi_2_eben_upton_interview/ (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/02/windows_10_raspberry_pi_2_eben_upton_interview/)
Looks like Microsoft has a new plan.
With them giving away Windows 10 to anyone running win 7 or 8 in the first year of release and now this!
I do like the look of Windows 10 but it kept my Windows 7 settings as I didn't do a clean install.
So I don't have a true picture of the OS. It does run better then Windows 8 on my HP Thin client.
Neither was/is an embedded OS.
I tested it streaming the other day using Crackle and was impressed.
10 may bring new life into some old laptops and mini PCs I have laying around.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on February 02, 2015, 10:10:20 PM
With them giving away Windows 10 to anyone running win 7 or 8 in the first year of release and now this!
I do like the look of Windows 10 ........ It does run better then Windows 8 on my HP Thin client.
...... I tested it streaming the other day using Crackle and was impressed.
10 may bring new life into some old laptops and mini PCs I have laying around.

Is 10 available now?
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on February 03, 2015, 06:30:17 AM
Is 10 available now?
It has been available to developers for awhile, now.

Apparently, the Pi version will be somewhat stripped down and bare bones.
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/raspberry-pi-computer-gains-more-horsepower/?ref=technology (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/raspberry-pi-computer-gains-more-horsepower/?ref=technology)
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: Tuicemen on February 03, 2015, 07:29:37 AM

Is 10 available now?

It is a Prerelease, as Dave said it is intended for developers, but anyone can get it from Microsoft.
Apparently, the Pi version will be somewhat stripped down and bare bones.
Yes it most likely will be like embedded systems made for Thin clients.

I haven't tested the Voice recognition interface in 10 but reviews look interesting kind of a Siri for Windows.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on February 03, 2015, 09:47:59 AM
The new Pi is faster, with more memory and with 4 USB ports. It's reported to do well when streaming and it should be easy to add WiFi and a wireless KB. Had I known it was coming and Windows 10 was planned for it, I might have waited rather than going ahead with the Lenovo Q190. Speculation is that the Pi version of Win10 will be aimed at IoT support. Hopefully, it will recognize WiFi & KB dongles as readily as earlier Windows versions.

I've read that Microsoft is doing a good job on security for Win10 so it may prove to be the best interface for integration of disparate thingies.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on February 18, 2015, 08:50:46 AM
I am having difficulty setting up "mirroring". Mirroring is when the Blue Ray Player also plays the video on a home [WiFi] network.... and can then be viewed on mobile phones and/or tablets. OR... pictures and home video on a phone and/or tablet can be displayed on the Home Theater screen. But iPhones prefer to only use the apple TV (apple play) product/format... and of course our phones are apple. 
I have no need for mirroring so haven't researched it. However, the user manual for my current router (Netgear R6250 Smart WiFi Router) has sections detailing how to set up a WiFi Bridge and a Wireless Distribution System. Both require two (or more?) routers and, again, as I have no need I haven't researched either beyond a cursory stab to satisfy my idle curiosity but these might have application for a setup such as yours or be of interest to others contemplating future enhancements to their setups. One note - 5GHz allows for lots of streaming.

WiFi Bridge...
http://lifehacker.com/368094/wire-your-living-room-over-wi-fi-with-a-bridge (http://lifehacker.com/368094/wire-your-living-room-over-wi-fi-with-a-bridge)

Wireless Distribution System...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Distribution_System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Distribution_System)
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on February 18, 2015, 11:34:35 PM
.. I have no need for mirroring so haven't researched it.

The need for mirroring may be limited... or even non-existent. But I like the idea of having some of it's uses available.

Like taking some pictures or video during a party and displaying it on the TV.... in almost real time.

Like taking the movie or pay for view (showing on the TV) with you (and not having to pause things) if you have to leave the "party area"

Showing yesterdays home movie or last weeks vacation pictures to friends (who are too polite to walk away) on the big screen.

Putting a Web Site (from a tablet) on a big TV screen instead of cramming together to see the display.

Admittedly... not something needed every day week month... but if the capability is built-in to devices we already own anyway I want to be able to harvest the technology (if I can).
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on February 20, 2015, 02:46:53 PM
Lenovo Q190: Good news/Bad news

Good news: It does not have the Silverfish malware.

Bad news: Walking across my carpet builds up static electricity this time of year. I've been getting nipped every time I power up the Q190. Today, it zapped the power LED but there were no further symptoms. Hopefully, it will do no further damage.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dave w on February 20, 2015, 05:59:13 PM
Time to crank up that humidifier.
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on February 21, 2015, 10:44:05 AM
Time to crank up that humidifier.

We have one running here. Seems like February is always the lotion and humidifier season.   
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: dhouston on February 21, 2015, 02:42:38 PM
And I can even get a WiFi-enabled WeMo Whole Home Humidifier to go with my WeMo Crockpot.  rofl
http://www.amazon.com/Holmes-Smart-Wifi-Enabled-Humidifier-HCM3888C-AMZ/dp/B00KL770Z0/ref=sr_1_61?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1424547285&sr=1-61&keywords=humidifier (http://www.amazon.com/Holmes-Smart-Wifi-Enabled-Humidifier-HCM3888C-AMZ/dp/B00KL770Z0/ref=sr_1_61?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1424547285&sr=1-61&keywords=humidifier)
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: Traverso on August 20, 2018, 10:09:37 AM
Did anyone set up their home theater recently? What brand are people going with these days?
Title: Re: Home Theater Upgrade
Post by: HA Dave on August 20, 2018, 10:52:02 AM
Did anyone set up their home theater recently? What brand are people going with these days?

Wow talk about a revived old thread. This is originally from 2015 I believe. Fortunately.... I regularly upgrade. I do not believe these technologies stand still long enough to be left alone for long. My Home Automation and my Home Theater are like moving targets.

I am a cyclist.... and while out riding one day stopped at a yard sale that interested me and found a nice (recent) HDMI switching amp for nearly nothing. That's all it took to get me started. I Had been wanting to upgrade. But... honestly I was seriously considering a 75" led Smart TV. But the wife likes the screen.... and my feeling were mixed. So accepting that this would NOT be my last Home Theater setup... I proceeded.

My speakers were fine with the new amp... so I moved onward.

After much research locally and on-line.... I ordered a new optimia projector. It has a better throw and can do a larger screen (than my OLD infocus) and 3200 ANSI Lumens (instead of the old 2000). The extra brightness is very noticeable. I did the math and was sure of what I could do. But I ordered the projector and waited for it's arriveal and testing before I proceeded.

After a little testing I ordered a $15 genaric mount for the projector and a 110 inch fixed screen. (I'd constructed a theater for someone else with a fixed screen... and knew I liked them). I bought a delux screen but I am sure showtime would be just as nice.

Total install time was just a few hours... less than a full day.

I have a 1080p setup. I know there are some 4K stuff available. But in my case I think another upgrade in a couple more years will be more to my liking than trying to buy tomorrows tech today.... I could be wrong.

I can (and do) play Blue Ray media but mostly now I am streaming movies using the streaming abilities of the BR player. To prevent any buffering.... I ran CAT6 to the player/streaming device. I also have a 2nd streaming device (a WiFi only Roku) that streams cable TV content from my cable provider (the Roku is actually shared with my man-cave TV).