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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Windows Experts Community or the new Green Button forum website???

I’ve been sitting on the fence with regards to what Microsoft have done to our beloved The Green Button forums. Initially before the upgrade happened I was up-beat and optimistic about the planned change, however now its happened and we now have the resulting Windows Experts Community site, my enthusiasm is dwindling some what. They haven’t even given us a Green Button banner or logo as a token of who and what this community was. Now we have yet another bland Microsoft forum site that is still difficult to navigate.

Well there maybe hope if you are feeling a little lost and home sick? A new forum site has been created by some of the members off the old TGB at if you go and take a look it’s pretty much just like the original TGB site as far as layout and feel is concerned.

I contacted the software developer of My Channel Logos regarding a separate matter and was invited to join the new site, others had also mentioned it to me as well. The contact at My Channel Logos turned out to be one of the creators of the new forum site, makryger. Also the other admins and moderators are names you will have probably noticed on the original Green Button site: holidayboy, stonethecrows and StumpyBloke.

Well I’ve signed up and joined, there are currently only 150 members but it does feel like the old Green Button already, if not a little quieter. I’m not sure if I will stick around or not? Not sure what to do to be honest.

I’d like to know your thoughts on the subject and how you feel about what Microsoft have done with the original forums and if you might be tempted to join ?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Stuart’s A/V install project–Part 5

Hello and welcome to part 5 of my A/V install project, I’ve got some new photos to show today, of the finished master bedroom and the installation in the children’s bedroom. Also the install speakers in the kitchen and the Windows Home Server plus network kit in the cupboard.

Master Bedroom Completed

Cables and connectors behind the bedroom chest of drawers

View as you walk into the master bedroom

37 Inch Samsung LCD TV, Cambridge Audio Azur 350A Amp, XBOX 360 Slim.

XBOX 360 Media Center Extender – My Movies 4

Children’s Bedroom – Install

This room was really an after thought, I didn’t plan initially to do anything in this room, however I decided to wall mount the little 19” Samsung LCD TV I brought back with me from Bangkok and buy a Linksys DMA 2100 Media Center Extender for the children.

This meant I had to purchase additional AV wall plates for this room and a TV bracket. As the TV is so small I had to position the AV brush face plate, network points and electric socket closer together so they would all still be hidden behind the TV. At a later date when money allows I plan to put in a larger 26” TV in this room.

As there was going to be less cables in the wall channel in this room, I used smaller trunking, 50mm x 25mm in the other rooms I used wider 100mm trunking in the walls.

I had to lift the floorboards in order to run the CAT5e network cable in to the room from the cupboard under the stairs, I also ran one Coax cable from the back of the TV, down the channel, under the floor and up in to the loft via the airing cupboard that is in this room.

Wall plastering

Just four AV wall plates at the bottom of the wall: HDMI, Component, Composite and 2X CAT5e in a single face plate.

I broke and snapped the skirting boards taking them off, they were well mounted with lots of nails, I had to buy new skirting boards and fit them for the finish.

That’s me, at that point - thinking I’ve still got allot of work ahead!

Not sure about the Green but hey I didn’t pick it. It actually looks OK now the room is finished just the one wall in dark green and the other 3 in a much lighter green colour. Here you can see the wall plates connected and terminated etc.

Cheap TV bracket bought on impulse from Asda, its not great but does the job for a tenner.

TV mounted - as the TV is so small it didn’t look right at the height I was going to mount it at, about 1.5 metres up from the skirting board, so I pushed it up the wall higher still, but the bracket doesn’t tilt down as much as I wanted now all the connectors are connected at the back, I may change the bracket if we get a larger TV for the children’s room.

I bought this TV in Bangkok and it only supports analogue channels 1-5, it does not pickup digital Freeview which I thought it might have.

Don’t paint your walls to soon after plastering, I rushed one wall in my bedroom as the carpet fitters were coming the next day and bits of plaster were coming off in the paint roller. You need to wait a good 3 days to be on the safe side.

Cupboard under the stairs

Here you can see my home made 6TB Windows Home Server in the cupboard under the stairs. I need to tidy the cables up, as I just threw everything in to get the network up and running, I had a 37Mbps BT Infinity fibre Internet connection installed at the beginning of the week as well! The BT Home Hub3 and the new VDSL modem are now located in here but you can’t see them on these photos.

The BT engineer was very good, he fitted a new larger BT master socket in the living room where the telephone is located and even used my existing CAT5e network cable I had put in place, from the master socket that then went under the living room floor and into the cupboard under the stairs, to extend - so I could have the new VDSL modem in the cupboard with the rest of the network kit and not in the living room on display.

Currently I am just using a small 8 Port HP ProCurve Gigabit switch which you can see sat on the PC. The Linksys ADSL router you can see has been replaced with the new BT kit.

Cambridge Audio A1 MK3 Amp is also located in the same cupboard and drives the wall mounted speakers in the kitchen via the audio out of the WHS PC. I am using Squeezebox Server software installed on the WHS and the iPeng iOS app on my iPod Touch to select and play the music. I have also installed SqueezeSlave on my Windows 7 Media Center PC in the living room and use the SqueezePlay built in to iPeng on another iPod Touch in the masterbed room. This gives me a 3 zone audio setup that can play different music in each room or the same music in all rooms playing in sync. Although sometimes its not always exactly in sync I need to tweak the settings in Squeezebox Server. Ideally I’d like to purchase some hardware Squeezebox players.

Speaker binding posts positioned underneath the amp and connect to the kitchen speakers. BT data socket for VDSL modem located to the left and 24 port patch panel below.

Eon Intelliplug to turn on the Cambridge Audio amp when the WHS wakes from S3 sleep

New Cambridge Audio Pro NFM10 install speakers, I bought for my kitchen. I don’t think you can buy this particular model anymore, these were a pair of new old stock I bought cheap off eBay. These speakers sound totally amazing with the Cambridge Audio A1 MK3 Amplifier and fill the kitchen and outside patio / decking area in the back garden.


NFM10 speakers mounted above kitchen cabinets, this was much easier than trying to install ceiling speakers in here.

Well that’s it for part 5, I think part 6 will be the last one. I have some more photos of the children’s bedroom and living room that are now finished and completed.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Stuart’s A/V install project–Part 4

Hello welcome back to part 4 of my AV install project. As of today my system is mainly all installed tested and working. I have no Internet connection in our new house until the 15th of June which is a bit of a pain as I cannot re-program my Harmony remote controls until then, also another problem I have and I don’t understand why this is a limitation of Media Center on the XBOX 360? Is that I cannot play AVI files in My Movies, it comes up with an XBOX dashboard message saying I need to download a media codec to play the file. I’ve obviously already downloaded this and its just not working because I am not signed in to XBOX Live. Seems stupid to me. I am however able to play DVD rips in VIDEO_TS folders via My Movies with its in-built transcoder however.

I still need to buy a Linksys DMA extender for the kids bedroom and some Denon speakers to match the Denon amp I have for this room. I also have an issue with the Component video wiring in the living room, I get ghosted text in the XBOX UI. I don’t have this problem with the XBOX upstairs on Component so something is not quite right. Also I am not happy with the TV bracket for the kids small 19” Samsung TV and I might change it for another type. Other than that everything has gone well and worked out exactly as I’d planned.

Master Bedroom

I used the exact same wall mount bracket as downstairs. I have to say for the money about 37 pounds these are really good brackets and I am very happy with them.

Below you can see the AV wall plates in the master bedroom. The speaker one is a little close to the power socket but I had to squeeze it in between that and the channel in the wall to the left of it.

I was a little worried about the HDMI wall plates they were cheap ones from Farnell CPC and had no mention of HDMI 1.4. I put in the walls HDMI 1.4 cables also bought cheaply from CPC. I’ve now tested the HDMI wall plates and they all work with my XBOX 360 OK. I might have a problem in the future if I introduce HDMI 1.4 kit like a 3D TV etc but as I have no new equipment that will actually use HDMI 1.4 its not a problem currently.

There is 1x HDMI, 1X Composite, 1X Component, 1X TV RCA Audio Out, 1X iPod Dock RCA. The speaker binding posts – the left pair are for the two bedroom ceiling speakers and the right pair of binding posts will be for the single stereo speaker in the bathroom. You can also see a pair of network points and an old NTL cable socket. The ceiling speakers are better than I said in the last post, now I have the correct amp installed in the bedroom they sound much better and quite bassy if you want them.

AV cables exiting the brushed faceplate, I used that plastic cable tidy stuff to keep all the cables neatly together. Two more network points behind the TV for future use and one double power socket.

I had to solder on every single RCA connector which was allot of connectors overall. Not too difficult and I was even using a dodgy old soldering iron with a broken tip.

Here you can see the AV connectors which I labelled up so I don’t get them mixed up.

Back of the TV which is a 37” Samsung LCD.

TV flush to the wall, I wanted the TV mounted in the corner out of the way, as on this wall the door in to the bedroom is just to the right of this picture.

TV pulled out away from the wall.

XBOX 360 hooked up for the first time.

I’m yet to put in our chest of drawers which will sit under the TV and I will have the XBOX and amp sat on top, not sure if the wife will be happy about that, her gear will have to go in the bathroom, how’s that for WAF.

Cambridge Audio Azur 350A and XBOX 360 slim.

The Cambridge Audio Azur 350A is a lovely entry level amp but I should have bought an older Azur 540A. The 350A has a remote control but it has no standby mode so you cannot turn the amp on and off with the remote which is a major draw back. I will have to use one of those Inteli-Plugs I wrote about previously.

In the picture above you can see the two RCA cables from the wall, the back of these connect to another RCA wall plate at the opposite side of the room where my iPod dock sits next to the bed.

XBOX 360 4GB Slim, I put in the hard drive out of my old white XBOX which died so I have much more than 4GB storage now.

Video Games sound amazing via the ceiling speakers!

This is the opposite side of the bedroom to the amp, where my iPod dock will sit on the bedside table. That adapter plug thing you can see is a Z-Wave HomePro lamp module so I can control the bedside lamps via mControl and my iPod touch and also in the Media Center UI.

I’m using my trusty old Logitech Harmony 555 universal remote for this room.

In part 5 - I have some newer pictures of the living room, today I wired up the 5.1 surround sound speakers which sound great, the neighbours are gonna love me! I also have some pictures of the children’s bedroom and their TV install, see you then.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Stuart’s A/V install project–Part 3

Hello welcome to part 3 of my AV install project. I’ve got some more photos of upstairs to show today. In my bedroom I am wall mounting my old 37” Samsung LCD TV. This was an early model that cost me 800 quid at the time and its only 720P not 1080P. I managed to convince the wife we should have a new TV for the living room, she agreed but only if we could have one of the new ultra slim LED models, more about that later. I plan to put my XBOX 360 in the bedroom also as I like playing video games in there and the rest of the family can still watch TV in the living room. We will have the Nintendo WII in the living room as its more family orientated anyways.

I wanted ceiling speakers in the bedroom, I would have gone for Nile Audio or Quest ceiling speakers as I have used both previously on installs and can recommend them, but too much for my small budget. So I had to find something cheaper but still with “decent” specs. Another good choice would have been Polk or Kef speakers but again out of my budget. After some research online and on eBay I found some speakers by Adastra. I’d never heard of them before but they had quite low frequency response which cheap speakers don’t normally have. The ones I bought at trade price were model 952.534UK 6.25 inch diameter. The frequency response was lowish at 45Hz. Lower frequency response gives you a more bassy sound.

I’ve got the speakers installed and had a quick test, they sound reasonable for the money but not fantastic but I guess you get what you pay for, but for the price, which was cheap I am happy. I also plan to later add a single stereo ceiling speaker in the bathroom I’ve already cabled for it, the model is a 952.537UK and drive this speaker from the Speaker B option on the amp in the bedroom.

Master Bedroom Ceiling Speakers

I had a problem with the speaker cables I used a 5.1 speaker wall plate and just took out the center speaker binding posts, leaving me with two pairs of binding posts, this wall plate is at the bottom of the wall in the corner near the window. I had to get speaker cable from there up in to the loft some how. The wall the speaker plate is on is solid brick, instead I planned to go under the floor and to an adjacent stud partition wall and up inside this stud partition wall. I measured and drilled a hole in the loft down in to the stud wall and at the bottom I cut out a single gang socket hole, using the fishing reel I was unable to get the metal rod up or down the full length of the wall as there were wooden studs going horizontally as well as vertically. My plaster was in the room plastering the block wall as I was trying to route these cables, I said can you patch a small channel in this plasterboard? He said sure, I then got the axle grinder and put a small channel right the way up and chiselled out the horizontal wooden studs to get the cable past them. A bit drastic but it was the only easy way I could see of getting the cable up in loft and I wasn’t going to use surface trunking in the room!

Small channel in the stud partition wall for speaker cables going up in to the loft.

TV wall mount in the master bedroom

This is very similar to what I did downstairs, just no TOSLINK optical but an RCA audio wall plate instead for TV audio out. I also added an RCA wall plate (Red / White audio) at the other side of the room where my bedside cabinet will be, so the iPod dock there can connect to the amp at the other side of the room which will be under the wall mounted TV on a chest of drawers. I ran two Kelsey UNI-1 cables under the floorboards between to the two RCA wall plates at opposite sides of the room.

The photo below is back in the living room, the day I got our new LG 42inch LED TV. The model is 42LE4500 and its pretty much the cheapest 42 inch LED TV you can buy right now. Personally I would have gone for a fatter LCD with more features like Internet TV but my wife insisted we should have a ultra slim LED one and this was the only more in my budget range.

Ignore the amp you can see, that is a Cambridge Audio A1 MK3 amp that is going in the cupboard under the stairs to drive the kitchen speakers from the WHS audio out which will also live in the cupboard. The TV bench is a rather nice Alphason APP1000 unit I bought off eBay for about 75 pounds, my HTPC, AVR and Nintendo WII will live in there.

Well I think that’s it for part 3, more soon in part 4, please leave your comments if you have any questions.