New amplifiers


Last month, as per my schedule of purchases, I bought 2 more amplifiers. These will serve zones 2 (dining room) and 4 (master bedroom). I ordered them from the same place as the first, despite having a rather unpleasant experience with the trader on eBay thanks to their appauling checkout/payment system and problems with their UK bank account (they are based in Germany).


The first amplifier, for zone 1 (living room), is silver. I was a bit surprised to find that the 2 that I received were in black. I was hoping to get my rack looking tidy by keeping the same look throughout the cabinet. Black goes better with this scheme, but the silver one stands out now. To balance it out I’m hoping to get a silver one next. A note of appology was included with the amps, which includes a 5 euro discount on the next order. I probably won’t be getting the next amp for a while, to keep my budget under control having spent quite a bit on the matrix switcher.


The VAMS-0808 matrix switcher and determining its protocol – part 2


As I mentioned last month, I bid on and won an 8×8 AV matrix switcher on eBay. The switcher arrived the Monday following the Saturday that I won it (speediest delivery ever!), so I took it home and plugged it all in.

I rummaged around for a serial cable to connect the switcher to boron, the Ubuntu file server and found something that I thought would do the job. Sadly the switcher has a male connector, whereas for a standard serial cable it should be a male connection on each end. So, slightly disappointed, I went ahead and ordered a M-F serial extension from eBay, assuming that this would do the job. This attempt also failed – the matrix switcher would not respond to any of the commands that I thought it should, and nothing was being returned either. After a bit more research in the little documentation that I had I noticed that the switcher requires a cross-over cable AKA a null modem cable.

The next cable I ordered was a M-M cable, so I got an M-F converter at the same time. Success! I now have the ability to control the matrix switcher via the RS232 on boron.


The following weekend I set about writing a prototype of the software to communicate with the switcher. The switcher operates in such a way that state is important, since switching channels requires at least 2 commands and at any time someone can press a button on the front panel to issue any command.

When a button is pressed on the front, a message is sent via the serial port to indicate the action that has taken place. Similarly, when an instruction is sent to the unit over the serial connection a reply is received indicating whether that command succeeded or not. Sometimes the switcher doesn’t notice that it’s been sent an instruction, so to get around that I ended up sending the same message up to 3 times.

The resulting prototype works quite well. I may release the source code at some point.

Here’s a video demonstrating the software and the switcher: