Saturday, August 02, 2008

Everything Breaks at Once

It seems that when one thing breaks, everything breaks. Ceiling starts leaking, TV loses convergence, power supply on computer goes out, server's UPS battery dies, the lithium battery pack for a portable DVD player starts to swell and explode, iPod ends up in the toilet, phone LCD cracks. It's partly because I'm over-tired and accidentally breaking crap, but it also appears that entropy has hit my living room en force.

I re-caulked the upstairs shower, replaced the TV, dug a new power supply out of the closet and got a new iPod. However - I've been busy with other stuff, so I haven't swapped the PSU in the workstation yet and I haven't completely re-installed all the home theater stuff, including MythTV box. And since I've already reduced every other electrical doodad in my house to its bare components, I might as well strip apart the Myth box and update it as well.

I have a pcHDTV card, now sitting dormant in the aforementioned workstation with a fried PSU. I'm thinking of ripping it out of the workstation and placing it into the MythTV Mini-ITX box. There's only room for one PCI card... so I'll have to remove the old Hauppauge cable TV tuner. Yet the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 is also the IrDA receiver for my remote control - so replacing the tuner card would mean losing the DVR's infrared receiver.

I started looking around for alternatives and found a whole slew of Linux-ready solutions. An easy solution that I didn't think of at first was using a generic HID Windows Media Center remote, since it just pretends to be a USB keyboard. Re-map the keycodes and you're pretty much ready to go... assuming you're willing to re-map a universal remote and the Myth keyboard bindings to accommodate the case-sensitivity.

One could also use the receiver from a SnapStream Firefly Mini - they appear to be well supported by MythTV and would be a nice out-of-the-box alternative, given that everything is ready to go. Hopefully the reports of limited range wouldn't be a problem given my spartan living room setup.

Of course, like every self-respecting home theater geek, I already have a programmable universal remote that controls my whole setup. I don't need the additional remote that the previous two solutions bring, so it seems unnecessary. The first thing I would do is throw away the packaged remote, re-program my Harmony 670 and just use the new IR receiver. So it probably makes sense to just buy the receiver if at all possible.

There is a fairly flexible Linux-happy USB infrared receiver/transmitter that is supported by recent versions of lirc and MythTV, but it might be more hardware than I need.

IguanaWorks makes some powerful receivers and transmitters as well, in both serial and USB flavors. Considering serial access is considered the "legit" way for IrDA access, it seems like the cleanest way to go. They are evidently fairly powerful and receptive, but I would still need to get an extension USB cable to rope around to the front of the MythTV box.

Another cottage shop sells a RS232 LIRC receiver built into a DB9 backshell. It's much cheaper and much lower profile and designed to work with lirc natively. The most simple solution to the problem it seems.

I'll probably wander around the local electronics shops looking for a Firefly Mini or MCE remote. If I can't find one this week I might put in an order for a serial port receiver. Never figured I'd use a 9-pin serial port again, that's for sure.

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