Networked Video and Multi-room Music Systems – Which Solutions Hit the Right Note? Part 1 of 2

Seeing as Laura and I are completely renovating our house, including the electronics, now is also a good time to consider what media we consume and how we plan to do it.

Currently we don’t have a TV, as in many ways we find most of the content a waste of time, every now and then we might watch some interesting documentaries or the latest food show on 4od using our computer, but that’s about it. I guess we mainly use our laptop for watching movies, which means that at the moment we are not getting the full effect, as the sound quality is not amazing and the screen pretty small…In the long run I expect that we will want to watch films in our front room, as the new rear space is geared far more towards eating, listening to music and watching the fire (when we find one we like).

Music is important to both of us too, it keeps us company while we travel and forms a fundamental part to our lives. We want to be able to listen to it anywhere in the house. Currently we have a budget setup, we plug our iPod into our Logitech portable dock, open the BBC Radio App and stream Radio 6 via our Wi-Fi router. Bearing the above in mind, and the potential requirements of owners after us, or those we rent this property too, how should we wire things up?  We asked:

The Cable Guy

The Cable Guy - Dave "Custom" Brown

The Cable Guy – Dave “Custom” Brown

This next bit is not a random aside to the 1996 comedy staring Jim Carey, no sir! It’s the first mention of my Brother on the Our Eco House blog. Hi Dave you’re (kinda) world famous! Every self builder / renovator should try to get as much support and advice from friends and family as possible – even if you take none of it, you feel better after discussing your challenges and concerns. Back to Dave – he’s our IT whiz, day to day he does all sorts of business network installations, from small offices up to football stadiums. He’s there so you don’t pull your hair out when the computer says no.

Having mentioned our plans to him, he said that if we can afford it we should run cat 6 Ethernet cables throughout the house and terminate it in a patching panel much like you may be used to seeing in your company server room. You then connect this to something like a Cisco 16 port gigabit switch, which in turn connects to your cable / broadband / fibre modem.

Home Network Cabinet - Not Good

If Dave doesn’t help, our network cabinet will probably look like this

Home Network Cabinet - The Right Way

The Cable Guy Effect

Why do we need cable connections, what about Wi-Fi? I think the main point is that Wi-Fi works most of the time. But if you have multiple devices streaming multiple things at once, such as HD 3D movies, Wi-Fi sometimes seems to freezes up, if other devices cause interference and therefore data packet loss, things stop working!  Network cables can also be used for controlling lighting systems and other items within the “Internet of things”. You may not be convinced about this idea, but we think that the cost of installing the cabling and wall sockets now is going to be minimal compared to the cost of adding it later if we find things don’t work.  Remember our house is a terrace, so there will probably be plenty of other devices trying to use the same radio frequency as us…

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