Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog


Wiring (update 2)

Bill had commented on an older post about wiring and had asked for an update. I had thought I had posted one but couldn't find any when I just looked.

So, basically, at this point, the following is complete:

  • TV is installed in the main room. Wires are cable tied to the cantilever arm and go through a nice-looking plastic grommet in the wall. My options were to buy grommets at Lowe's (surprisingly, they were like $6 each) or simply steal some from some of our furniture (the little holes designed to have wires go into for your computer stuff). I went with the stealing.
  • All speaker wiring is done. I have speakers installed everywhere except the sub-woofer (which I installed in the back center. At some point I want a sub-woofer but the high-cost and low utility (hey, the kids are napping whenever we watch anything!) has delayed my purchase.
  • All wiring for Phase 1 is complete. This is a nice, official way of saying that there will be a phase 2 and we're not there yet. However, for this first phase, we have all audio wiring (to 5.1 speakers) installed, two power outlets (4 plugs) are installed and the cable re-wired and split (in the wall). In addition, all wiring through the wall to the TV is complete. I may change what I have going through the wall to the TV at some later date, but for now, it's everything we need.
  • No more mess in the main room (just the TV on the wall, speakers on the wall, and two floor speakers). Now we have extra room and I'm considering getting a nice leather chair (in black) that matches our surprisingly well-constructed Ikea couch.

Here are the pictures:

New Shelves
New shelves in closet. The small top shelf is just for wiring and equipment. We'll likely use the lower shelf for the printers. There's another shelf below that's outside of the shot. Notice the nice blue paint. It's not fun painting in a closet -- no room.

Top Computer Shelf
Here's the rather cluttered high shelf. It's close to the door and has all the audio/video equipment as well as the phone and two computers. The upper computer is just there temporarily. (I'm not sure exactly what to do with it -- need a computer?). It does have some spare room on the shelf for remotes and DVDs and such.

Top Computer Shelf (no flash)
Here's a shot of the same thing without the flash. This is what it looks like when you open the door. I tied some tube lights into the power plugs on the back of the receiver so that if you're using it, there's a strip of light that goes around the edge of the door frame on the inside. I considered a brighter light, but you don't need to see much and anything too bright is annoying.

New outlets
Here's a cable-filled shot of the new power outlets, the cable outlet and above (a little hard to see) the 5.1 audio outlet 5 stereo and one mono plugs (for the sub-woofer).

img_6205.JPGSpeaker on the rear, left
Here are two shots of the surround speakers. I found the mounting shelves at Lowe's for a pretty good price Looks a lot nicer than having those horrible little plastic arms.

Front view of system
Here's a shot of the front. This shows the TV mounted on the cantilever arm, the center channel (mounted a bit high but tilted appropriately) and the right front speaker (just on the floor). All the equipment is in the closet directly behind the TV. I dislike how I couldn't mount the TV in the center (but the arm does swing over and it's very close). The mind is a funny thing -- voices (played on the center channel) do sound like they're coming directly from the TV even though though they're clearly not.

Binding Posts
Here's a shot of the binding post. Hey, it looks professional! It might look nice to use banana plugs instead of bare wire, but that's too fancy...

Sub-woofer binding post
Here's the unused sub-woofer binding post behind the couch. This is an RCA-type plug so it's a little easier to connect than the screw-on/banana plugs used for the stereo binding posts.

Behind the TV
Here's what behind the TV looks like. You can see the plastic grommet in the wall (which is very functional). The arm itself is attached very solidly to a stud and the cable ties may not be pretty but they're not normally visible, so it's no problem.

I'm considering as part of Phase 2, the following:

  • CAT5, DVI and USB runs throughout the house. Realistically, probably just to the office and the "kitchen office" nook.
  • An upgrade of our main room TV (the in-laws have a bigger one -- it's time to upgrade! hehe...) and moving the upstairs TV to my office (for use with the computer)
  • Dispose of an old inkjet printer, move the newer inkjet to the closet, and get a laser printer also for the closet.
  • I'm considering (just considering) replacing my Linux machine with a dedicated "always-on" 8-core Mac. The brand new Mac Pros are just so darn cool. I could realistically do a 3-drive, RAID 5, 1TB array with the Mac and still have room on the main drive for "non-critical" stuff. I have a 1.5TB array now on 4 drives but the extra 500MB is somewhat unnecessary for redundancy. Down the road, I could upgrade to a 2TB (3x1TB HDs) setup if I needed to expand. The new machines have max RAM capacity at 32GB -- that's simply amazing (and expensive).

Note to scoffers: This does NOT mean I would give up my Linux server -- I would simply virtualize it and run it in all the spare RAM I'd have.

But except for the printers I'm not really thinking this is going to happen anytime really soon. Maybe by the end of the year. Just maybe.


Making Cygwin more handy

I enjoy having Cygwin installed on Windows and often like to use the shell commands (grep, find, etc.). However, it's inconvenient to spawn a new terminal window and slog through the often-complex Windows directory structure. Based off of some websites I found, I now have a way to make this work...

Create a batch script file in your Cygwin /bin folder (for me, this is C:\Cygwin\bin) with the following:

@cd /d %1
@bash --rcfile BASCHRC -i

Create a file called "bashcontext.reg" and save the following text into it:

@="Open Bash shell here"
@="C:\\Cygwin\\bin\\runBash.bat \"%1\""
@="Open Bash shell here"
@="C:\\Cygwin\\bin\\runBash.bat \"%1\""
@="Open Bash shell here"
@="C:\\Cygwin\\bin\\runBash.bat \"%1\""

You can add the registry information by double-clicking the file to run it.

Now on every directory you have a "Open Bash shell here" option that will take you there immediately. Handy!

Here's a screenshot showing my cluttered context menu:




Over the last few weeks I've been doing some wiring... There are multiple phases of this project.

  1. Install nicer shelving in under-the-stairs closet (wood instead of that horrible white wire mesh stuff). (25% complete)
  2. Get proper power/cable/network/audio wiring into the under-the-stairs closet. (75% complete -- no network yet)
  3. Get "media center" components out of the living room and into the under-the-stairs closet. (100% complete)
  4. Wall-mount the TV and wire audio/video cabling through the wall to the closet. (100% complete)
  5. Wire audio around the room for a 5.1 channel setup. (50% complete)

So far so good... the main shelf for audio/video components and computers was installed and has been painted. I'm waiting on the other shelves until after since they're not needed for any of the other electrical components. I'm waiting on network because I honestly haven't figured out how much of the house I really want to wire. Wireless technology has its limitations but usually it's fine around the house. I'm thinking right now that I'll place a patch panel into the wall with 16-32 ports and only wire a few of them initially. Maybe one or two drops for the kitchen office area (for the wife's computer) and a few upstairs in my office (I like being able to move files onto the server quickly). The kids bedrooms simply don't need them and I don't really take my computer into the bedroom. Now that everything in the main room has been moved to the closet, there's no reason to have any there. If I ever wanted to do something like host a LAN Party (I think I'm too old for that) I could just drag a switch into the main room. The media components are moved in completely (a receiver, a DVD player, a VHS player and two computers). I had an old tape deck that I gave away (never used it and now you can't even buy cassette tapes) and an equalizer (which really wasn't useful since I don't care about tweaking my bass/treble anyway). The computers take up a lot of room and generate probably too much heat. I'll probably downsize the server to a single machine that runs a little cooler and get rid of the "gaming machine" since I really don't use it anymore. The TV is mounted using a cantilever mount.

Once I determine exactly what audio/video I'm running to it, I'll cable-tie everything so that it folds nicely (the arm for the TV is a little like the cable-management arms in server racks so I can tie stuff to it). I've successfully wired the front left and right and center channels. I was originally looking at satellite speakers far up on the wall but decided to instead use floor speakers for the front and a center channel mounted high (almost near the ceiling). It's not really an ideal setup from an audiophile perspective (the center channel should really be lower -- within 2 feet of the tweeters on the floor speakers) but all it really means is that the "sweet" spot for watching movies is a smaller area on the couch instead of the whole room in front of the TV. I have holes in the wall for the surround left and right speakers (back wall rather than side walls -- again not "optimal" but there was no room to mount on the sides). They are mounted at the correct height (about 64"). I'm using single-gang wall plates with gold-plated screw on connectors that can optionally use banana clips. I think it should be adequate. The sub-woofer spot has been selected but not yet cut in the wall. I'm going to place it on the rear wall facing forward from the center. I suppose it doesn't really matter where you place the sub-woofer but this way I should be able to "feel" the bass even better since it's almost directly below the couch. I also need speaker mounts for the surround speakers and the center channel and haven't determined what brand/type to buy. Back in the closet, everything wires to a 5.1 binding post with the same connectors. Something like this (different brand but same look):


Done? Good, now start again.

That's how I feel these days. There's always been "overhead" stuff that I have to do. You have to take showers and dress and clean up after yourself (at least somewhat). You have to spend time getting ready for work and driving to work and reading emails and just doing all the boring monotonous things that no one enjoys but are required.

Well, I've now hit the point where about the time I'm wrapping up all the "overhead" tasks and ready to do something useful I realize I'm out of time. More "overhead" tasks crowd in around me and it's time to brush my teeth and get to bed early so I can wake up early and repeat.

It's terrible.

Granted, I have time to write this blog entry. But you know what? I've sadly actually tried to allocate "overhead" time to write to my blog! I guess I feel as if it's a journal in many ways and so writing in it is part of this complete healthy life.

But this makes me think: maybe it's not that I get nothing but overhead done but rather that I've put far too many tasks into the "overhead" category merely because they repeat frequently. Nowadays, virtually everything I do is scheduled. I schedule my oil changes, how many times we vacuum the house, every odd job and maintenance task is updated on my calendar if I can think of it. My daily status report for work is scheduled (and I receive a horrible email warning me about it every day). If Sarah and I want to have fun, we generally schedule some event weeks in advance and I shuffle some of the chores off of that day in the calendar and reallocate them to make a little extra room.

So maybe it's not about overhead, maybe it's about spontaneity and the realization that precious little can be done on the spur of the moment anymore.

I hate routine. Maybe I should write a program that takes my tasks and in an intelligent way re-arranges them to surprise me without totally destroying any sense of order.

Hmm... that sounds like a program that would probably have to pass the Turing test. I think what I'll do is make an entry in my calendar to write this program. Maybe next Tuesday. That sounds good.


Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo

I stumbled across a website that was talking about the "magical number seven, plus or minus two". The Wikipedia article that I link to has some great stuff. It's really quite fascinating. I myself have found that I am able to really track 8 things at a time. If I'm stressed it seems to drop to 6. I use this quite a bit for making lists. Most lists I wish to make are short (less than 7 items) but I often wish to make them when I'm without a writing device (no PDA, pen and paper, etc.). So what I do is simply think out the list and make sure I firmly remember the number of items. Then, when I need to recall the list, I quickly think of the appropriate number (which is easy to remember) and the items tend to "fall out" of my memory quite easily. I have tried to track multiple lists and can succeed in juggling a few (although it's unnecessary since I rarely have more than one list in my mind at a time).

Sometimes I wish I was autistic (since many of autistic people seem to have this cognitive numeric limit removed). It would be fun to track lists that contained hundreds or thousands of items.

Okay, well maybe not "fun" but useful.

Or I could just get a digital voice recorder.