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Pimping Out a New House

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the geeks-gone-wild dept.

Networking 613

Jason Michael Perry writes "I just got pre-approved to buy some gutted property in New Orleans. A lot of the houses I'm looking at are blank canvases that need new wiring, new walls, new everything. I've always dreamed of a high-tech house that says my name when I walk in the door and now is my chance to get a close as I can with current technology. So I'm looking for ideas to pimp out a newly renovated house with all the best technology. If you had a blank canvas to start with, what would you do? Run CAT-5 or fiber optics? Build a closet for servers and A/V equipment? Build a 7.1 speaker system into the living room walls and ceilings? Install automated lights and intercom (with support for Apple equipment)? How about appliances, the kitchen, and other spots... what cool tech can I use there? My only rules and requirements are support for the four Macs I have in the house, and reasonable support for technology on the fringes."

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Step one (5, Funny)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365315)

Build flood wall/stilts for the house (or more realistically, Flood Insurance).

Re:Step one (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365421)

Add pontoons.

Re:Step one (0)

hrieke (126185) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365441)

Barge bottom- thus the house can float.

Re:Step one (3, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365629)

I think this might be a waist of money. During a flood and hurricane, the boats are usually damaged by debree floating into them first. Then they are washed on shore and into other objects. Imagine 20 floating houses weighing in at around 20 ton each (or more) gently getting momentum from the wind and current and then crashing into another house. Now imagine that other house not being able to move because it is fixed to the foundation and strapped down. It is unbelievable how much energy something that large will have to dissipate in order to stop. Something will give and it will probably be both structures. Break away basement walls and maybe automatic jacks or stilts could work. Something like they have in Holland where the house is basically a boat anchored by huge poles that let ti raise up around 10-15 feet. I doubt you could do something like that with an existing house though.

Re:Step one (4, Informative)

bloosqr (33593) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365519)

Put two things of Cat 6e and a thing of Coax to each room, 6e is not that expensive drag the wires to the wiring room put them on their own rack , put a cheap gigaswitch here, wire your phone service so that you can now just jump each connection so it is either phone or data as you want.. You can now route single/dual data to each room as you want w/ the switch you can afford, Fiber is pointless because its for long haul really (at least in its current version), you need fast switching, which as far as I am aware doesn't exist for fiber. Verizon will bring fiber to your house w/ FIOS but that will switch back to XbaseT to connect to your network... oh you can also put a filesystem here..

btw since you have 4 macs, do the proper file system / networking so they have common logins i.e. each machine sees the same file system and userlogins.. the cool thing is this works w/ ppc and intel macs.. You can even set it so your laptop works the same way w/ very little work (it will resync as you come back to the network).

I've thought about doing the speaker thing.. this is up to you if you can dedicate to a room to such things .. do you want a media room / den? It could be fun :)

Re:Step one (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365627)

...the cool thing is this works w/ ppc and intel macs...

Isn't that less a "cool thing" and more like "no shit, Sherlock"? They're still Macs. So their CPUs are from a different supplier--big deal. Are you surprised to learn NetInfo and LDAP still work between Macs with different graphics cards or hard disks from different manufacturers?

PC-minded folk like you just don't "get it," and you never will. Just GTFO.

I did this at my parent's house (4, Informative)

uler (583670) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365689)

I did the phone/data thing at my parent's house (I couldn't do it in my apartment because I knew I'd be moving out eventually... screw the next tenant) and it's pretty sweet.

I have 12 runs and arranged the terminations in a cabinet in the basement like this: 3 rows of 12. The top panel is for terminating the run to whichever room. The middle panel splits out the middle two wires (pins 4 & 5) and connects them to a 66 block (which is in turn connected to my vonage router) and forwards the remaining wires (pins 1-3, 6-8) to the bottom panel. I also have a 24-port 100Mswitch and a 5-port 1000M switch. The 24-port switch supports vlan and is connected to a linksys WRT54GL which has priority queuing for specific vlans.

This allows me to select the following configurations simply by swapping patch cables:

1. Full ethernet (compatible with 100M or 1000M ethernet): patch from the top panel to one of the switches.
2. Ethernet + phone (compatible with 100M ethernet & 1-line phone CONCURRENTLY ON THE SAME RUN): patch from the top panel to the middle panel, then patch from the matching bottom panel jack to one of the switches. Whether phone or ethernet is used then depends on the device plugged into the jack on the other end of the run.
3. Phone only: Patch from the top panel to the middle panel. No patch connected to the matching bottom panel jack.

One thing about this: You have to be careful when using the mixed ethernet and phone configuration. Some ethernet cards terminate pins 4 and 5 to ground (or somesuch) which is "picked up" in telco wiring. This makes the phone unusable.

An improvement on this system would obviously be to have some sort of asterix box in the wiring cabinet such that each phone or phone+ethernet could be its own extension. This would eliminate the problem mentioned above.

Re:Step one (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365529)

To which I would add: toxic waste cleanup. Most of the pics I saw of the N.O. floods showed residue from flooded oil refineries and chemical plants. Many houses had oil slicks all the way up the sides, I'm sure the insides were equally contaminated, and so is the ground. And you want to live in the middle of a toxic waste disaster area?

Re:Step one (3, Informative)

Flashbck (739237) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365707)

Being a resident of New Orleans, I'm curious where you saw these houses with toxic waste on them. All of the flooded houses have a scum line but that is more from normal dirt and grime that exists in any city. The real concern that a buyer needs to consider is mold contamination in the house. The mold is the real toxic danger, which is why many companies have sprung up that treat the mold problem.

Many outsiders who only watch the news have no idea what things are like down here. Midcity is coming back just fine and people are starting to renovate and rebuild in the Lakefront area. The only areas that remain uninhabited for the most part are around the lower ninth ward, which was a run down area to start with, and the other immediate areas near the major flood wall breaches.

Re:Step one (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365553)

"I just got pre-approved to buy some gutted property in New Orleans"

Bleach. LOTS of bleach. You'll have to tear down all the internal walls to the bare wood and kill off all the mold and mildew that took root. Otherwise, you and your loved ones will be sick as dogs.

You really don't want to buy that property. Invest your time, energy and money into something safer, like swamp-land in Florida. At least you can make some money selling "mother-in-law tourist packages" if you have enough 'gators on it, and they don't mind a steady diet of old people.

Re:Step one (3, Insightful)

Fox_1 (128616) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365555)

Seriously though, if I was building or renoing a house now I would look first to making it self sustainable as much as possible, and of course tough enough to survive a variety of conditions. Before I install the CAT5 and LCD's I install:
- Solar Panels, home generator, - the goal is that I can supply my own power/ lower my power costs
- UV Water purification system - or something suitably expensive that can clean incoming water to my home - be it from municipal pipes or the river that has become my street.
- depending on climate and region - whatever architectural modifications I can make to make controlling the temperature within the home easy and cheap - that could be insulation, or really good shutters or ?
- a cache of weapons - in case of looters - kidding

Re:Step two (2, Insightful)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365609)

I speak as an expert on this, if the house was sitting in flood water then its probably useless. saturated wood loses its trueness and is susceptible to dry rot. your looking at warped walls which are a pain in the but to finish. I suggest if the house has a second story you put all of your new hi fi equipment up there as it's usually no good sitting in ten feet of water.

Re:Step two (2, Interesting)

dattaway (3088) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365657)

Know what you mean about water damaged wood. I'm amazed houses and businesses with lots of wood composite chip board survive the rain until they are completed. I see construction sites with that stuff warping before its even installed.

Another thing that would worry me about buying a house in NO... Are the title deeds REALLY clear? They won't have any claims made on them in the future from former lost residents trying to come back? I see a movie in the making...

Re:Step one (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365615)

Get some fancy face recognition software and camera and place at the entrance, get photos of everyone you know and have the system greet everyone by name. If you're really faithful in the technology, have it automatically unlock the door for those you want in as well, that would propably ruin your insurance though.

Get a cool vacuuming-bot, place a plate with whiskey and glasses on it. I don't know, but one of the bots out there propably has a remote that allows you to call on it. You should also get a lawnmower-bot for the yard.

Re: Step one (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365617)

Build flood wall/stilts for the house (or more realistically, Flood Insurance).
I wonder if he meant to write "pumping out" instead of "pimping out".

Networking? Cat-5e (4, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365327)

I'd do the networking all as Cat5-e with Gigabit Ethernet...

Its a lot of bandwidth, cheap, and a universal lingua-franca.

I'd also have 802.11whosiwutzit access points, and more specifically cubbies with power so you can upgrade the access points.

Also, don't just string cable, string CONDUIT so you can upgrade the networking should you ever need to.

Re:Networking? Cat-5e (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365401)

Um, why not Cat6, which is the current EIA/TIA 568A standard? (Cat 5e used
to be the highest quality standards.) And don't forget cat7, still in
draft amendment to 586A.

Re:Networking? Cat-5e (5, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365461)

My understanding is that at this point cat6 or cat7 is just overpriced hype with no practical use at the time. I'm not sure anything requires it to function properly.

When talking Tech and all, it isn't a real good idea to stock up on unneeded supplies for future use. The industry ends up going other directions to often. Imagine if you stocked up on a bunch of sdram because you thought your wouldn't need to buy memory again. Imagine if you purchased the top of the line P4 in 1999 thinking you would never need a new computer. If you have the money to waist or a need for the stuff, go for it. If your thinking of the future, keeping your options open is more important then top of the line.

Re:Networking? Cat-5e (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365531)

Um, why not Cat6, which is the current EIA/TIA 568A standard?
5e is substantially cheaper, without being substantially lower performing.

Re:Networking? Cat-5e (1)

thumb1 (192727) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365511)

You are right. Conduit is key. There is no way you can realistically future-proof you're wiring.

You can, however, make paths so that when you decide you need cat"x", coax, speaker wire, fiber, or whatever, you can run it without getting out a saw, spackle, and a putty knife.

If you are on this site, you'd rather run cable than patch drywall, eh?


Control, you must have control! (3, Insightful)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365517)

The wiring part should be easy. You can go with conduit and pull anything in the future, or probably be safe with a lot of cat5e and coax. But the hard part is knowing what to do with your network. CentraLite [centralite.com] has some nice stuff, LCD touch-screens let you control all your lights, HVAC, and virtually anything else you might hook up to the system. You can even have cameras, and view the video on any of the control panels in the house.
The 7.1 speakers in your AV room is good, you can get nice in-wall speakers, which makes things look cleaner. Also consider some additional in wall speakers all over the house, you can pipe music all over for parties. If you have a hottub or deck outdoors, a couple of outdoor speakers are virtually a requirement. Again, with the proper control, you can adjust audio source and volume for any zone from any panel in the house.
As long as you're wiring, also remember that you need power for stuff. Don't skimp on electrical outlets. In fact, consider running a couple of separate circuits all over the house, with a UPS in the basement.
Consider an intercom instead of shouting up the stairs at the kids.
Finally, make sure you don't get too carried away. Some day you'll sell the house, if the neighborhood isn't affluent enough or attacks the wrong kind of buyers to appreciate all the wizz-bang technology, it's a waste. My boss did much of what I described to his summer-house on a lake. But most of the people who moved there were retired folks. The couple that bought the place were totally baffled by virtually everything in the house.

Re:Networking? Cat-5e (1)

fahrvergnugen (228539) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365559)

Seconding the conduit. If you can afford it, run multiple fiber lines and put cat5 transceivers on the end. If you aren't made out of money, do a superbundle, 4 cat5e's and 2 RG6 coax runs to each plate. Team 4 Gigabit NICs and you'll have more bandwidth than your systems can actually move across the internal bus for years, and you can always pair them off into separate networks back at the punchdown if you need to split into voice / data / homeauto / etc.

In-wall speakers can be very nice if you do them correctly, but they can also sound like poop if you aren't careful. There are also in-wall subs. If you do a home theater room, look into soundproofing it under the drywall. It's possible to do a very discreet home theater setup that doesn't look like it's TV oriented until it's time to watch TV, just by having art on the walls and a ceiling-mounted retractable screen w/ a front projector discreetly mounted on the ceiling.

'course none of this matters, because whatever you build is just going to be destroyed again in the next flood anyway.

Re:Networking? Cat-5e (1)

knipknap (769880) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365561)

I'd do the networking all as Cat5-e with Gigabit Ethernet...
This is just so wrong. It does not really matter which cable you choose, it will probably be irrelevant in 10 years, if not sooner. But put in cable channel with lots of outlets everywhere, you'll still be happy in 30 years. In other words, try to use generic solutions wherever applicable.


Re:Networking? Cat-5e (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365593)

I'd do the networking all as Cat5-e with Gigabit Ethernet...

I've cooled on that idea quite a bit over the years, network jacks in every room is so 90s / dot bombish. I'd vote for running conduit to all room but only install boxes/jacks in very very select locations. For example the bedroom/den/loft serving as the serious home office and the garage (attic in NO?) with the noisy servers, let the rest of the house with the more consumer needs just go wireless. If things change, or there is a new owner, the conduit behind the wall provides a lot of flexibility, a selling point.

STRING that conduit! (4, Insightful)

The Monster (227884) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365647)

Also, don't just string cable, string CONDUIT so you can upgrade the networking should you ever need to.
Literally 'string' it. That is to say pull a line of string in the conduit along with whatever cables, so that you don't have to push a fish tape through a conduit that already has cables in it; you always pull whatever wires you're pulling, plus another string for next time. A friend who has pulled a lot of cable taught me that a long time ago.

You can use cheap PVC stuff instead of the expensive rigid metal variety, so that you can afford to use larger-sized conduit (although the latter provides some nice shielding if it's properly grounded); and use gentle, sweeping curves instead of tight corners, but make sure that if the signal conduits are parallel to any power, they're several feet apart, to avoid inducing a current in your Ethernet. Since standard AC wiring puts outlets near the floor, and light switches are 3-4 feet from the floor, that means running the signal cables more like 6 feet from the floor, and dropping down to the outlets you wish to install.

Since the cost of pulling cable is generally a lot more than the cable itself, do yourself a favor and put in the Cat6, even though you don't think you need it yet. A centrally-located wiring/server closet isn't a bad idea, provided that you give it good ventilation. Use the upper part of the closet for the electronic gear and patch panel, middle for your AC distribution breakers (if any) and UPS to power the server and network switch, router, etc., and the lower part for storage of things that won't die if they get wet.

One word... (4, Insightful)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365329)

Since you're trying to future-proof the place, I have one word for you:


If that's not practical, try to have a few key walls with hidden corridors in them so you can run conduit or whatever you might need in the future.

Two words... (2, Informative)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365357)

smurf tubing

(cheap plastic conduit)

run "intertubes" (4, Informative)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365437)

Yeah, second that. Run some cheap 1" id tubing from your central computer closet, to the same places you run your cat-5. Leave pullcords in each tube. When the next big thing comes along, you have an easy job of rewiring.

Perhaps giant remote-deployable pontoons? (4, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365331)

And definitely a watertight room for all the fancy toys you plan to buy.

Re:Perhaps giant remote-deployable pontoons? (1, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365369)

Hey, come on, mods. It's only trolling if I don't actually believe it. I would seriously invest in waterproofing if I intended to automate a house in a flood zone to protect my investment, and my use of the term "fancy toys" is not intended as derogatory. I enjoy my own fancy toys.

Re:Perhaps giant remote-deployable pontoons? (3, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365569)

Heh, you just hit someone with a sore spot for the situation. Other mods and meta will take care of it.

But on a serious note, something more important then waterproofing might be security. There are still a lot of people without down there. And stocking a home like a future model space ship or something will create jealousy and resentment. Not to mention when someone still can't find a job and decides your million dollar equipment investment looks more appealing at a pawnshop for $25 bucks to feed or clothe the family another couple days, your going to end up missing some equipment.

And on an Insurance note, IUF you do this, have it professionally installed. I know it will cost more but the insurance payback from damage will cover the costs of redoing it better. I installed a computer in my friends car and she had it stolen. Her insurance wouldn't cover it but would cover the radio. Something about it being personal property and not a part of the car. I typed up an invoice for her and shows it had been installed like the radio and was part of the vehicle now and they decided to cover it. Of course we were only going after replacement parts costs, I didn't charge any installation labor or anything on the invoice. I just showed it was installed and integrated into the car instead of siting on the back seat as if she came from the store with it.

It is something I think your insurance agent should be discussing before it is done. Even a qualified friend who is willing to goto court and say "we did that and it costs us this" should be enough to have it considered professionally installed.

Pimp it out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365335)

Run CAT-5 or fiber optics? Build a closet for servers and A/V equipment? Build a 7.1 speaker system into the living room walls and ceilings? Install automated lights and intercom (with support for Apple equipment)?


Think about energy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365343)

State of the art insulation.

Heat exchangers instead of air conditioners.


I suggest... (5, Funny)

Chineseyes (691744) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365347)

Demolish the property and stick a nice sized Yacht on top of supports right where the house used to be.

Re:I suggest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365413)

.... name it Noahs Ark and consider some livestock

Whatever you do... (2, Insightful)

vorpal22 (114901) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365349)

...make sure all the technology you install is fully and easily upgradeable. If you're going to be spending some years to come in this house, you don't want to be saddled with obsolete equipment because of oversight in the construction.

Re:Whatever you do... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365423)

Sounds like he has this covered, the next flood will take care of removing obsolete technology.

Re:Whatever you do... (-1, Troll)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365497)

Sounds like he has this covered, the next flood will take care of removing obsolete technology.

s/next flood/niggers/

CAT5e (4, Informative)

HoosierPeschke (887362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365361)

I would (and have for both houses I have owned) install CAT5e. It's cheap, you can install it yourself, and all the computerized crap you'll need (or want) will have NICs.

Also keep in mind that you might not want to live in that house forever so whatever crazy crap you put in there might be a turn off for a prospective buyer. In that aspect, make sure you document and have layouts of all your excess cabling (network, cable, telephone, speaker cord, etc...).

document! (4, Insightful)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365491)

I second the point on documentation. I've been in a couple houses where there is a wall full of RCA/Ethernet/phono/etc outlets and built in speakers all through the house but the owners had no idea what connects where or how to use any of it. Thousands of dollars of wiring and technology that is totally useless to the current owners. I had to DJ a gig at a mansion that was decked out with this sort of equipment and had a closet full of connectors and knobs but the owners had absolutely no clue what went where or what controlled what. I played with it for over an hour and couldn't make anything work, so I wound up setting up separate speakers in one room only; it worked fine of course but it would have been great to use the built in system. They had a ton of ethernet connectors in there too; I imagine there was cat-5 throughout the house but again they had no idea what to plug in where so it was useless. Besides, even if you never sell, it's a good idea to document everything in case you forget what goes where.

call bill gates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365371)

and ask him for the plans to his house

apple as HTPC? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365377)

Don't bother, it can't do 1080p/24. Do you want HD movies at non native fps? Thought so.

Cat6 with a 1gbps switch is faster than hard-drives can pump the data, I recently did my house in it. Use conduit if you can, because it'll allow simpler installation of even better networking in 10 years.

Hardwiring is usually silly (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365383)

Soo many wannabe geeks try to hardwire their homes with cat5; that's a waste of money considering Wireless N is faster than most cabling methods. So avoid the computer networking wires, IMHO. You would be better to wire for high def between your rooms, but even then a lot of great solutions for wireless highdef exist.

I recommend doing some research on smart homes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_Home [wikipedia.org]


Re:Hardwiring is usually silly (4, Informative)

Helix150 (177049) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365509)

No, Cat5 isn't a waste of money. Wireless N may have 137mbps or whatever but it is a shared medium- you only have one wireless channel for your network to run on (unless you turn your RF power down and split up into cells). So assuming 1 AP for your house, ALL your devices have 137mbit to play with. That's like running gb ethernet into a HUB- data between machine a and b, will slow down transfer between C and D.

An example might be if you have a central mythtv box, and several TVs. If you stream from the box to one TV, that may not use up all 137mbit, but add a second stream and you might.

So yes, run Cat5.

Also conduit runs to everywhere (leave the pull string in) and cubbyholes for APs are great ideas. That will future proof almost anything- and if you add something with the conduit, pull both the cable and another pullstring so you can keep adding stuff.

Re:Hardwiring is usually silly (2, Insightful)

hottoh (540941) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365599)

Soo many wannabe geeks try to hardwire their homes with cat5; that's a waste of money considering Wireless N is faster than most cabling methods.

I am a geek and am very happy I have hard wired this place. Wireless is a shared medium, and much easier to snoop than hard wire.

Expensive? Have you priced a 100" box of CAT5E?

Wireless has its place, as does wired.

CAT5E/6 for phone and network, RG6 for cable TV. As others have said he will sell the place one day. Most people will be excited they can plug a phone or TV where they please.

Polarizing windows. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365385)

I have no idea if they exist yet, but after I saw them in Blade Runner as a kid I always dreamed of being able to dim and outright black out my windows with the push of a button.

Re:Polarizing windows. (1)

16384 (21672) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365433)

The tecnology to do that exists, but I don't know if it is available comercially.

Re:Polarizing windows. (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365487)

I think it is available, but expensive.

We put in "PowerRise" shades by Hunter Douglas. Motorized shades controlled by simple IR, about $200 for a normal window. Pretty slick when our four big den windows open or close. "Lower the blast shields..."

They run on a bunch of AAs, but last a good long time usually. To do over, I would have run some sort of electrical and control wire so that I could run them off a transformer and a wall switch, but it is ok like this.

Re:Polarizing windows. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365513)

Versions of it are available commercially. Frosting of glass at the touch of a button has been working its way into the odd high end house these days. It is just basically an LCD panel without the backlight or all the hassle of tft and pixel sizing.

Re:Polarizing windows. (3, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365489)

I have no idea if they exist yet, but after I saw them in Blade Runner as a kid I always dreamed of being able to dim and outright black out my windows with the push of a button.

Took me a long time to find thanks to Microsoft, but here you go http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/Windo ws/switchable-glazing-windows [toolbase.org]

http://www.sage-ec.com/ [sage-ec.com] makes them and links to a number of places like http://macdonaldsystems.com/glazing.htm [macdonaldsystems.com] that sells them.

Re: Polarizing windows. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365639)

I have no idea if they exist yet, but after I saw them in Blade Runner as a kid I always dreamed of being able to dim and outright black out my windows with the push of a button.
Or you could get fancy and mount a bar over the top, with a thick cloth that you can slide out on the bar to black out the window.

Use the right network architecture. (4, Interesting)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365391)

Start off with the basics. The data network and the home automation network should be separate. Data should be old school for any slashdotter, but home automation is where you can really do something impressive. And for that, I would recommend that you look into CAN or Controller Area Networks. This is the primary system used by the automotive industry to make cars "smarter".

The reason CAN is so special is that it drives decision making into the network level. It's like taking Sun's motto of "the Network is the Computer" and applying it to large scale automation tasks. Most people try and go the easy way by using the off the shelf crap that is out there but the truth is that home automation has hardly begun because the real power tools are being largely ignored by the less than technically courageous types that typically do home automation.

Low Tech Approach Is Better (4, Insightful)

aldheorte (162967) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365399)

I suggest a change in perspective. A good piece of technology is one that doesn't intrude on your life and doesn't have to be maintained. If you start adding all kinds of technical gizmos and gadgets to your house, you will become a slave to maintaining them. Home automation technology just is not to the point yet where you can install and forget. It's constant tweaks and upgrades, failed components, trying to figure out odd configuration files, languages, and protocols to get things to work correctly and with each other. At the end of the day you will spend far more time maintaining it than it will ever give you in improved lifestyle or productivity. Focus the your technical research on the low tech items that will make your house easy to live in, like good electrical wiring, good plumbing, good toiliets, sinks, and energy efficient appliances. You've got hundreds of hours of research to do on that front before you should even think about Star Trek style housing.

at least 2T hard drive (1)

zaax (637433) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365405)

One thing I would have a a massive hard drive on the server so I could watch or listen to any film I have in any room. Of course you would have the RIAA knocking on your door as you have circumvented their anti-user software. Also thin hardware - no hard drive, but plenty of memory

Re:at least 2T hard drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365589)

A Sparc box running OpenSolaris with ZFS would be perfect.

Hmmmm. (4, Funny)

m0nkyman (7101) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365407)

Don't forget that the basement will need a pool with sharks. With freaking laser beams on their heads...

Oh, sorry. You're pimpng your house, not building an evil lair. Never mind. Big hat with a feather should do.

Western Union URGENT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365439)

Market crashing STOP Do not buy STOP You are the greater fool STOP

Network Rack Quick Disconnect (0)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365471)

Rack everything then figure out a way to disconnect that rack in a hurry. The next time New Orleans gets hit by a big one you can be out of there in a hurry with your data and porn collection intact. The last thing you want is to be still cutting through cables when your knees are under water.

Ed Almos

LED Lighting System (1)

fred911 (83970) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365475)

Computer controlled change the colour to the mood you have, save power and heat.

A start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365481)

You could start by not saying "pimp out". What are you, a nerd or a gangsta?

I recently had the opportunity to do so. (4, Interesting)

FoxNSox (998422) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365485)

I recently had the opportunity to do so. What I did was, I ran cat5e throughout the house. Instead of using cat3 for the telephones, I just put the phones on the unused pair of the cat5. This allowed me to have ethernet at every phone outlet, just having to install an RJ45 Jack. I ran all of the wires to a large switch, and the phone to the phone box. I didn't get around to it, but essentially I could have set a computer up as a router/home control system. You could theoretically have ethernet-aware appliances, speakers, etc. You would control those from your home control system.

some other ideas... (5, Insightful)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365493)

Invariably if you ask a geek crowd what sorts of custom modifications they would employ for a new house, you get some really mundane solutions, like "Well I'd run cat 7 copper everywhere", or "wifi every floor", et cetera. These are all things you could learn in any 60 second trip to a Radio Shack.

Instead of considering what sorts of technology might create an interesting environment, focus on what you want the house to do. Will you have lots of local friends? Think of the things people do at home. Sleep, relaxing, and entertaining. Try to use available tools to facilitate these activities. Simply filling a new house as a tank to store electronics is pretty boring, and probably a waste of cash, too. Intercoms? Server racks in closets? These are well and good if you're trying to run an ISP or a galaxy class starship, but ditch them otherwise. And don't buy any 400 dollar kitchen-aid appliances just because they "look good on the kitchen counter".

Back to the local friends thing-- Set things up so you can watch some movies, sit people down, and have a nice comfortable flow between the living room and the kitchen. Entertaining friends is 50% food, 50% chat. If you still have the ability to control the layout of the kitchen, do it such that you can prepare food in front of your visitors. This lends incredibly to socializing. It reduces the rush to finish, perhaps even extending the process moreso. The best kitchens I can think of have a center island with plenty of chairs and a nice work area for the host to do all the focused work. Toss all the ranges and ovens on a back wall because they are rarely visited. I know that's not really in line with your question, but I'd personally like to hear someone reply to this particular thought with improvements as it's personally interesting to me.

In the living room, most of your guests won't care if you have the 8 thousand or 15 thousand dollar 7.1 surround. Just drop a reasonable amount of cash on yesterday's receiver, dvd players, and speakers, and get a screen just big enough that everyone can get a good look at. Best Buy and friends wouldn't have you believe that after three beers, you won't be able to tell that the 1500 you spent is roughly enjoyable (I didn't say comparable) to the rest of their stock.

If you just sit back and think things through, maybe you'll decide that some must-have item on your list doesn't actually make a lot of sense, and you'll save some cash... or find something else just as silly, but will get more use.

build it at least 20 ft above sea level..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365505)

not below it. sea levels are going to rise anyway. your high tech house will become a swimming pool in 5-10 years..try pimping it with a snorkel and pressure resistant blast doors/walls if you cant do that.

PVC Pipe! (1)

imadork (226897) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365521)

Instead of worrying what type of cable to run in the walls, run PVC pipe from every room down to a room in the basement. As standards change, it will make it a lot easier to re-run new cable to a central point.

You'll also be able to tell people you get your Internet "through a series of tubes" with a straight face!

PVC conduits - Toxic fumes (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365691)

Instead of worrying what type of cable to run in the walls, run PVC pipe from every room down to a room in the basement. As standards change, it will make it a lot easier to re-run new cable to a central point.

Be very careful when buying plastic conduits. The stuff suitable for in home conduits is not necessarily what you will find in the gardening section for your lawn sprinklers. Some PVC pipes, glues, etc will emit some pretty nasty stuff when burning. Check your local building codes.

To state the obvious, (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365547)

I'm looking for ideas to pimp out a newly renovated house with all the best technology.
Start with a red bulb for the porch light.

Conduits (1)

waterford0069 (580760) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365557)

Tech will change over the coming years.
Run conduits through the building so that you can more easily upgrade the cabling as required. It's easier than trying to fish a new line when the tech changes.

Big ole UPS (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365571)

If you are really gonna pimp your pad /. style might I recommend a significant UPS system at the heart of things.

Just a thought.


If I were in your shoes (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365577)

I'd add Cat5e drop points to every room in the house and outfit a closet to be a server room. I'd set up an Asterisk [asterisknow.org] server so that could have my own VoIP PBX, complete with voicemail and call forwarding to my cell. I might also add a wireless access point for folks with laptops. Finally, I'd round out with a *BSD file server and maybe an install of MythTV [mythtv.org] for DV recording and burning. But this would be the ultimate geek house.

HTPC (3, Informative)

gatzke (2977) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365579)

We just put in a HDTV and stereo system. This was a real problem in our existing construction, since we had to run about 25 cables of various sorts.

Instead of putting components in a closet, we used a TV shelf in an unused corner. Helps keep kids out of it, uses the space, and swivels for access.

We wired for 7.1 sound, so that is 8 new wires. We used orb speakers, they are small and nice. We also ran wires to the kitchen and deck. I have heard some amps support dual subs, but we only ran one RCA.

I ran a 35 ft HDMI and component and some composite just to be sure, since the TV is difficult to mount / dismount. HDMI / HDCP stinks, we have to power cycle the amp/box occasionally when it gets screwed up. Grrr.

Order your cables online, there are many cheap places with nice cables. Maybe I should have run two HDMI, but I assumed I could always get a switching amp.

Having the wires hidden is really nice and clean, not a jumble of HT mess. The Wiimotes hang around and a couple of DVD cases usually, but that is not too much clutter.

Cable, new power, Ethernet. Nice wall outlets where needed.

And we left pull ropes in case we need to run more cable in the future.

Whatever they pay guys to run cable in existing construction, it is not enough.

And we used a shelf in an existing closet to hide the cable modem, VOIP, and router. Just cut a hole for the wired ETH and run some power into the closet.

Automation from Pluto and more? (2, Informative)

TheCow (191714) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365583)

One system that I have looked at is PlutoHome http://plutohome.com/index.php [plutohome.com]

They can in some circumstances integrate just about everything you want for automation, Phone (Asterisk), Lighting (Insteon, X10 and others), Security, HVAC (I think), and presence based services (Music, phone calls, video follows you from room to room), TV, DVD jukebox, etc.

And if you want to install it yourself you can, or you can have it professionally installed.

For the infrastructure, go for Cat5e, and Wireless A/B/G. Fiber is overkill and doesn't appear to be coming to a desktop as a standard install anytime soon.

Conduit as others have mentioned is also a great idea... How many HD connectors have there been in the last 3 years? How about the next 10? Put in generous counduits between your video devices (TVs, Projectors, etc) and your server room/closets. (3 inch should be good)

Multi Zoned Heating/Cooling System. (If you are looking for do it yourself, Pluto has some built in, and DIY Zoning http://diy-zoning.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Depending on Cell phone converage, possibly integrate a Cell repeater in the house.

Plan for also quite a bit of COAX for satelite or Cable. 2 COAX or more per data drop, remember you can use good COAX for your Component, or digital COAX audio also.

Zoned in wall speakers with room based controls (Like A-bus or similar). For the actual home theater system I would stay away from the in wall speakers, stick to good floor standing or wall mountable speakers. For Speaker Wire check out this site before you drop major dolars on "Premium" speaker wire http://www.roger-russell.com/wire.htm [roger-russell.com] .

Plan for Sound deadening your rooms. (http://www.soundproofing.org/index.html [soundproofing.org] or http://www.soundisolationcompany.com/ [soundisola...ompany.com]

Also consider running Data cabling where you might not think to, Washing machine, Dryer, Fridge, Stove, Microwave, Freezers. At least you can use this data cabling for alarm circuits to monitor temperatures inside your freezer and fridge to check for temperatures out a range (It sucks to come home to an upright freezer that the door didn't close and it is 95 degrees out... Say goodbuy to your Frozen Elk and Deer...) Also Aquariums for temperature and other sensors that you can feed back into your central HVAC/Security systems. Temperature sensors all over the place (check out the aforementioned DIY Zoning site)

Outlets outside under your eaves for Christmas lights.

And the list goes on.

Good luck and I hope you have some deep pockets... :)

If I had no budget restrictions (1)

NorthWestFLNative (973147) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365591)

I'd start with wiring the house for a security system. Unless the house is overly large I wouldn't bother with putting in an intercom system (that is unless you want to pipe your music to all rooms of the house at once). In wall or ceiling speakers are a must for the living/great room. Then I'd move on to wiring for a home automation system that would run the lights, monitor the security system, control the temperature. The main thing I'd do though being in a hurricane prone location would be to install roll down shutters and have the control system centrally located with the home automation.

Build a small network room with both phone and cable jacks. You could also put the circuit breaker box in this room. Put all phone wiring in there along with Cable/DSL modem, router, etc. If you put this room in the right location (i.e. just behind wherever you plan to put your living room entertainment center) then you could also use this room to get easy access to the wiring of all your A/V components. If you don't put this room there, you still want to consider building in easy access to the back of the entertainment center.

If the house is more than one story, consider a centralized vacuum system.

I'm not sure I'd put many computerized gadgets into the kitchen, except for the home automation of lights and phone. If you're much of a cook spend your kitchen money on a convection oven a good refrigerator, and a high quality stove (if you want high tech you could go with an induction stove). Consider an under sink hot water heater for instant hot water from the tap. Don't forget a good water filtration system (possibly for the whole house and not just the kitchen).

Pneumatic Tubes (5, Interesting)

justfred (63412) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365601)

Since the house has been gutted, you can install an entire system of pneumatic tubes, one to each room. Send a sandwich from the kitchen to the garage; send your laundry directly to the laundry room.

Electric trains running from room to room along the crown moulding, and through tunnels in the walls.

Lift-off computer room floor in the living room.

Underfloor fishtanks.

Where to start... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365619)

If you're planning on wiring your home, start from the basement, under the stairs. In most normal sized houses, you can route every cable from there. Don't forget to double everything: two Cat6, two RG6, two everything else in every room if not more. You won't regret it even if you don't use the extra wires in the end.

I have my little data center under the stairs and it's a fun little thing to have. And because TV and phone are also distributed there, it makes life easier when you want to have a media server that records TV shows. And because it's in the basement, it's never hot or warm.

moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365631)

Pimp it out modestly, and use the saved money to help those around you who are less fortunate.

Unwise (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365637)

You want to rebuild a house in an city built below sea level on the coast in a hurricane prone region. Where the city is protected by levees maintained by corrupt politicians and backed up by incompetent federal bureaucrats. And your biggest concern is which electronic gadgets to buy?

Theft Protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365641)

New Orleans is big on crime. I have been recently trying to rebuild a house that I had gutted, and I have had reports from my neighbors about people trying to hop over my newly-made 9-ft fence and bust in through iron-barred windows. If you put tech in your house at all, be 100% sure to theft-proof the place, or you might find every single speck of stuff missing the next morning.

extra cooling ftw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365649)

Those refridgerator drawers are a must for the kitchen =)

Wiring is a serious issue in older homes there (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365661)

I talked to a colleague a few years ago before Katrina who did electrical work for some older buildings. Alot of wire insullation is not even rubber based but rather cotton based. Spill water on it and you have a major short circuit and a fire.

At this point I wonder if it would be cheaper to buy a new home built from scratch?

New Orleans also has a problem with invasive African termites that devour older homes much quicker than American ones. Older homes use alot more wood for things like floor boards compared to newer ones which use plywood mixed with polymer boards for flooring.

A/V Distribution System (1)

Brigade (974884) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365665)

I've bought toys from http://www.audioauthority.com/ [audioauthority.com] , and if you have the cash to spend, I'd invest in a AVAtrix Whole-House Routing System (about $4000), which is an A/V matrix distribution system.

It doesn't support HDMI, but for sending/controlling HD Component (or DVI) from up to 6 locations, and signal distro over a pair of Cat5s, it's really tough to beat. I've been planning for years on setting a system like this up in a house so I could watch/play any component on any display in the house.

Wiring (3, Informative)

dissy (172727) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365667)

The primary focus should not be wiring. You should be installing 3-5" plastic conduits in the walls, that run between all rooms and a central location such as attic, basement, or a wiring closet.
With the wiring closet method, you might end up with more than one (IE a closet on each floor) in which case youll also want to run conduit between the closets, and possibly between there and the attic/basement.

This way you can pull cheap cat5e now, and later easily upgrade to cat6 or fiber, as well as run low grade cat5 for simple wiring purposes (IE phone, security, alarm, or any electronics you want to wire up together or to a computer.)

This not only lets you upgrade as needed, but you don't have to waste money on fiber you won't use just yet, or worry that whatever you ran won't be compatible later. You just run what you need when you need it, as you need it.

Another thing to keep in mind, do NOT run electricity/power lines in the conduits! Not to mention it wont meet electrical codes, but will cause interfearance with data/signal cables. So you'll want to do/have-done the power lines seperate, and lots of them.
Even if the house is only rated for a set amount of amperage from the mains, and youre limited in circuits in the breakerbox, it's still a good idea to run extra wiring to plug outlets in the wall and simply leave the lines unused by the breaker box.
This way if you ever move your server room/closet, you can disconnect and reconnect outlets as needed when the time comes.

HAI (1)

OpinionatedLuc (938059) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365677)

HAI, which is fittingly a New Orleans based manufacturer of home automation products is the way to go if you want a cost effective automated home. It employs UPB technology, which is basically an improved version of X10, a carrier wave based protocol that can minimize the need for excessive rewiring. The main thing is that you have a neutral at the switch. Their system integrates security, lighting control, heat, etc.. The system is very flexible, and can be programmed with a laptop very easily; without a laptop it takes a bit more time. They have touchscreens, thermostats, dimmers, relays etc..and if you want fancy looking devices you can integrate an HAI system with a higher end system to yield roughly the same capabilities. Check out their website http://homeauto.com/ [homeauto.com]

Cooling! (2, Insightful)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365681)

As a guy with several overclocked PCs running various distributed computing projects [wikipedia.org] 24/7, the rooms get hot. I'd want a way to vent PC heat with some conduit without having to run it out a window. I'd also want some pipe fittings in key rooms so I could operate watercooling outside and pipe it into the house seamlessly (to save noise from fans and truly remove the heat from the inside). And of course there is solar power. Don't have to buy now, but at least make allowances for it now.

Kitchen Appliance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19365701)

It's been a couple of years since I saw it, but I think the company still exists out there, you'd have to do a search on the internet. Basically, it's a flash-bake oven based off IR/UV lamps (the same lamps they use to 'cook' integrated circuits). It can flash-bake a pizza (or any other thin food) faster than a microwave, and it's hot and browned, not just heated like a microwave. The last I saw they were going for about 5K apiece, but should be cheaper by now if they are still available.

Why wire it up at all? (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#19365705)

Just wifi it all up really good (multi-channels) and use that wifi blocking paint on the outside to keep others out.
That way when it floods again you can grab it up and take it with you. And once you establish the workability of it you can use your home as a working example of your new internal wifi home technology business.

As technology advances things get smaller, faster and able to store more information in that small and faster.

That's what you can count on for the future, and not the need for more wiring as some have suggested you to conduit for upgrade possibility.
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