Road Map to a Tech Household
My given name is Kyle Button, but for years I’ve been known as TechButton to my peers in the technology world. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to my family and how I’ve integrated technology into every aspect of our home life. My oldest son is 3 years old and already shows an affinity for all things tech; he is a whiz with the iPad. I also have an 8 month old son whom I will be introducing to technology as his developmental stages allow. My wife is a techno-phobe, often describing our house as a technology prison. I’d like to think I’m really the warden at her self-imposed prison, trying to set her free by introducing her to all the wonders of technology that are actually applicable to her life.
Here’s a quick introduction to the home theater setup created in my modest corner of the Midwest: When creating this configuration I had few things in mind. I wanted to have a system that worked for all users, but I had to keep in mind how easy it was to use for my wife with her lack of patience for all things tech related and my 3 year old who can’t read yet, but can find familiar objects/colors, yet also wanted a system that was powerful and that allowed me to challenge my knowledge and put new concepts into practice. What I was able to come up with is a home theater PC (HTPC) with Windows 7 Media Center as the front-end. I started in HTPC when we purchased our first HDTV. I wanted a way to save money on TiVo but also enjoyed the fact that I could play PC games on my HDTV. I started on Windows XP MCE; while having tried other options over the years, like MythTV and Sage, I kept coming back to Media Center.
I am running two machines at my house with dual-internal TV tuner cards ATI 650’s in each. The main PC:
- Dell XPS 410 Intel Processor, highly upgraded
- a Kingston 60 GB SSD hard drive as the main OS and other essential software
- Western Digital (WD) 1TB drive as the secondary hard drive holding:
- Every day recorded TV like:
- Big Bang Theory
- CBS Monday lineup
- Recording two or three channels a night simultaneously
- Movies – Archived from the DVD collection
- Downloaded videos, shows we may have not recorded or one of us deleted by accident
- Every day recorded TV like:
My second PC:
- HP Compaq CQ5110Y with an Athlon 7550 Dual-Core Processor
- Upgraded memory to 4GB
- Two 320GB Hitachi HDD w/Software RAID1.
- It is an extra machine for storage as well as doing recordings of:
- Cartoons 100GB
- Duck Tales – Entire Series
- Tales Spin – Entire Series
- Children’s programming 125GB
- Super Why
- Dinosaur Train
- Monster Jam ßAwesome
- Busy Town Mysteries
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Full seasons of shows we started watching later in their run:
- Cartoons 100GB
I’m using a dual tuner HDHomeRun connected to the network which both PC’s utilize. Most of the items in the house are connected by Gigabit hardwired via Cat5E. What an experience that was to run the cable–talk about a quality family activity! There are four D-Link DGS-2205 5-port Gigabit Eco-switches (low power) linking all the devices together. I’ve cobbled together a little graphic of how my devices are connected to each other if you’re more of a visual person.
Also connected to Main Media Center PC are three Xbox 360 units. Two of them are hard-wired to the switches mentioned above and the third is wirelessly bridged by the NETGEAR 5GHz Bridge/Access Point WNHDE111. There are two Blackarmor 1TB NAS backing all of these items up, as well as storing more movies. The router at the top of all this is a NETGEAR WNDR3700 featuring full Gigabit and Dual band wireless.
Recently added to my technology collection were an LG BD530 Network Blu-ray player and a Roku box, which is quickly growing on me with its ability to stream Hulu and as of late its ability to stream via Amazon. A new device on its way is a Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) to offer (yet) another Blu-ray for my other HDTV in the house as well as another way to play Hulu. Even though it wasn’t intentional (wink, wink) by acquiring the PS3, I also am gaining another gaming system out of it.
Somehow in my busy existence as father, husband and family tech guru, I find time to use the Xbox 360 system to play games as well. You can find me on Xbox Live as TechButton likely playing FPS and Role playing games; COD: Black Ops and Fable 3 are my current favorites. But it’s not all about me, and that’s the important thing to keep in mind my fellow tech geeks with families. It’s important to find ways to get your family involved with the technology you love so that they can love it too someday! The Button Family purchased a Kinect on release day and has found it a great way to spend some quality time together. My 3 year old is a bit on the small side, but when the Kinect can detect him and his attention span lasts, those highlight videos at the end of a game are worth all the time I spent putting this crazy home technology network together.
I am excited about CableCARD technology as I have plans to integrate an HDHomeRun Prime in the near future. As you can see, I am enthusiastic about technology and emerging trends. My family and I enjoy all the flexibility that a Windows Media Center ecosystem offers and I will expand upon this with a closer look in the future.
Kyle “TechButton” Button