iPod remote control interface mockups

Here are some initial interface wireframes for the iPod Touch remote control. I’ve not shown all of the menus because that would be quite a bit of work. These three should give you an idea of what I intend to do though.

Main menu

The main menu summarises the major systems of the house. Clicking on one of the buttons takes you to more controls for that system. The colour of the buttons indicate the overall state of the system – green = OK, yellow = warning, red = error, grey = disabled.



The audio controls will list the 4 zones, with a drop-down menu next to each button to select the audio source. Clicking the large button switches the zone on or off. Pressing the ‘Use for all’ button copies the settings of the selected zone to all the other zones.



The large buttons display a thumbnail of the live video from the cameras. Clicking on the large button will show the full video feed (resized to fit the iPod’s screen). Cameras can be disabled for privacy.


Software-based matrix switcher?

Today I discovered two new libraries/applications:

  • Festival (text-to-speech engine)
  • PulseAudio (distributed cross-platform feature-packed sound daemon)

This has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. Rather than paying out £400+ for an A/V matrix switcher, PulseAudio may allow everything to be done through a combination of software and soundcards. If I understand it correctly, the audio sources could be anywhere in the house (via a nearby networked computer with soundcard) and the sinks (amps, speakers, recorders etc.) can be elsewhere in the house (also connected to a nearby computer). The network carries the audio over IP and PulseAudio does all the funky stuff.

Combine this with the text-to-speech features of festival and you’d also have a talking house. This isn’t a new idea – many home-brew home automators have added TTS facilities to their houses – but it’s an interesting one. While it wouldn’t be used for frequent announcements, urgent announcements could be broadcast. If I can get the alarm system connected to the network, it could shout out messages to intruders. If a CO or smoke detector is triggered, the voice system could relay the message to all rooms in the house.

mvpmc and Fedora

I’m really starting to dislike Fedora. It’s bloated and breaks so easily. Unfortunately it currently runs my primary server which hosts DNS, DHCP, SMB and OpenVPN server.

A few weeks ago I finally found my MediaMVP box hidden away in one of the draws in my bed. I’ve used it before to run mvpmc, a client for the MediaMVP which presents a simplified MythTV front-end. This was back on FC4 i think (maybe FC5). Now I’m using FC7 but I’ve discovered, after a lot of pain, that the default DHCP server in Fedora does not work with mvpmc. I don’t know and don’t care why it doesn’t work, but at least I’ve now got a successful DHCP server running on my Unbuntu system – only problem is that system is only on occaisionally. If I can get VMWare Server running on boron though, I can get an Ubuntu VM set up purely to run the DHCP server until I can get around to completely replacing Fedora with the more fashionable (and much more reliable) distro.

So a note to people wanting to boot mvpmc: don’t use Fedora to host your DHCP/TFTP servers.

Another note: there’s a new version out (after 10 months of waiting!).

If you’re interested in open-source media centres, I’m intending to write an article about MythTV and mvpmc, with reference to how it’s being set up in our house.

SSH brute force attack prevention

The standard SSH server does not come with any usable form of SSH brute force attack prevention, but with a few firewall rules it’s possible to implement something that works quite well. I have set up the rules on 2 machines with great success. To make sure that I dont get locked out accidentally though I added an extra rule before these to allow access from my trusted network. If you only have remote access to the machine, it may be a good idea to do the same.

Invisible menus in MythTV

When I installed Fedora 7 recently, I found that the menus in MythTV had disappeared. At first I thought it may be related to the OpenGL rendering of the menus, but it turned out to be the theme relied upon the Microsoft Core fonts. There’s a handy guide that allows you to install the MS core fonts on an rpm-based system without breaking the licensing (apparently).

If you’re planning on setting up MythTV, especially if you’re living in the UK, I suggest following the MythTV Installation Guide by Garry Parker. Although it is targeted at Ubuntu, it can easily be applied to rpm-based and other distributions with the right knowledge.

Simple VPN setup

I’ve tried to set up a VPN in the past, to create a secure permenant link between the server on which this site is hosted and my home network. I tried both PPTP in the form of Poptop and ipsec implementation FreeS/WAN. Today I succeeded in producing a nicely routed connection with reasonably low latency, using OpenVPN. I think I’d looked into this in the past but I dont think the documentation was as good back then. Now I’ve found that there’s a simple guide to setting up a basic connection with static keys. If you’re lazy (like me) there’s also a Webmin module for OpenVPN, which provides you with some more advanced options. It probably took me about half an hour to figure out and set up the connection.

The bonus thing is that there’s an OpenVPN client for Windows too! I’ve installed it on Vista without problems, but not got around to testing it yet. If I ever find a use for and get a laptop, and I make the mistake of running Windows, at least I’ll be able to connect into my home network.

Debian Sarge users may find this hint handy if receiving an error saying that the nodes under /dev don’t exist.