Entertainment

I am going to divide this section into three parts. First we shall cover our computing facilities; secondly, I will cover the entertainment facilities and finally we will examine security.

Computing Facilities

Hardware

Computing

First we believe in quality and I am a firm believer in either doing it properly or not doing it at all - this is a policy I follow in my personal and business life. Therefore, I always build my own computers from components and always use Creative Labs or Logitech Loudspeakers and always use Creative Labs sound cards. My main computer is an Asus motherboad based machine with an Intel quad-core Q9550 processor, 8GB RAM; 2TB of disk storage and a Creative Labs Xi-Fi Titanium sound card powering a Creative Labs G500 sound system. The operating system is Windows 7/64 Ultimate. I use a Dell 30" U3011 monitor which give 2560 x 1600 resolution.

My main laptop is a Lenovo T410 with an i7 CPU and discrete graphics, having 8GB RAM and a blu-ray writer; the operating system is also Windows 7/64 Ultimate. I particularly like the Lenovos as they have biometric fingerprint security.

I also use a 3G Apple iPad2 and an iPhone 4S and these two devices synchronise with with my PCs to maintain a common calendar, address book and phone numbers.

On our 1Gb network, we have an encrypted NAS RAID array with 6 x 3TB drives which store all our blu-rays, DVDs, CDs and other documents. A second smaller NAS with 4 x 2TB drives is used for backup.

If you are wondering why I use so much storage, it is because we have gone paperless. All documents and letters are scanned and then shredded and burnt; I take data security and back-ups very seriously as we do not have paper records to fall back on.

We are connected to the internet with a 24Mb ADSL connection terminating on a Draytek Vigor 2820Vn router with its sophisticated filtering, firewall, logging and bandwidth management. We have a second router connected as a wireless access point that provides additional connectivity coverage.

We have no local printers. All printers are networked HP lasers with our CP4525DN being my latest acquisition.

For laptops, I always use Lenovo "T" series models as they are quite simply the best, and I have numerous other IBM/Lenovo laptops including a fully working IBM Butterfly 701.

Entertainment System

Distributed Audio System

In each room of the bungalow, loudspeakers are hung in the corners of the rooms controlled by a three position toggle switch by the door.

Inside the study, a "Nelson Jones" radio tuner that I built while at Southampton University reading my electronics degree is left switched on 24 hours a day. The tuner is connected to a power amplifier (that I built 30 years ago) controlled by a "black box". Four core telephone cable runs from each room of the house to the black box. If all toggle switches are in the off position, the mains to the power amplifier is off. If one switch is in the middle position, the power amplifier is switched on. When any switch is down, the sound is switched through to the loudspeakers in that room. So, how do you switch both 230 volts and stereo audio signals off and on via low voltage telephone cable?.....e-mail me if you would like to know, but THINK about it first.


Entertainment Server

All my blu-rays, DVDs and CDs have been ripped and stored onto the encrypted 12TB NAS device.

For video, I have separate directories for HD blu-rays and DVDs. For my music, I have a separate directory for each artist. Within each artist's directory I have separate directories for each album CD.

Access to the NAS is password protected and although it is not currently connected directly to the internet, I do plan on doing this sometime to allow an HTTPS connection to it.

Playback is via QNAP NMP-1000P media players which can play video files, and flac and mp3 music files. The Network Media Player (NMP) is smaller than a DVD player, but it is rich in function and can stream YouTube, film trailers and other video from the internet as well as play videos, music and display photos.

For simplicity I use a Harmony 1+ remote that controls all devices.

Main Audio System

In the lounge we have a Sony STRDB925 AV receiver that is capable of delivering 100 watts per channel into each of the left, right, centre and two rear loudspeakers.  The Sony has an excellent DSP which can create superb surround sound effects.  The main loudspeakers are a pair of Cambridge Audio R50s standing 1.5m high. 

TV Distribution

We have VHF and UHF radio aerials in the attic that pass into the lounge and after switching are routed back into the attic where they are fed into a UHF distribution amplifier and then routed back down into all rooms via low loss co-ax cabling. So, for instance in my study my LCD TV, VHF receivers and computer can all receive TV and radio signals.

TV, Blu Ray and DVDs

We are due to receive HD Freeview in 2012, so I'll be doing some cabling and wiring upgrades then.

Security

Telelphone dialler

Just in case anyone has any ideas on stealing any equipment, we have hidden movement sensitive IP cameras taking snapshots of activity that are accessible remotely through the router firewall. On the left is a photo of the X-10 Telephone Interface - a magical device.

The Apple iPhone is a wonderful device which I synchonise with Outlook to maintain my calendar, addresses and phone contacts as well as accessing remotely the cameras on our property.

We are part of the local Neighbourhood Watch group, and I would urge everyone to set up and join similar groups. We have social evenings; we know almost everyone in the road and we all look out for strangers and odd events. Being part of the Community Board means I have contact with our local Safer Neighbourhood Team (Police, PCSOs and ACSOs) who do a superb job here.


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