Ever since we moved into our house the subwoofer output on my Sony receiver has been crappy. It would randomly cut out causing all low frequency sounds to go away. Left with nothing more than a small set of speakers the sound was extremely tinny. To get the sound back I would just wiggle the connection on the receiver or even unplug the cable from the subwoofer and plug it back in. This would some how rejuvenate the connection for just a little while longer. I’ve always thought I knew what the issue was but never took the time to properly fix it. Well this past weekend I said enough was enough.

I pulled my receiver out of the entertainment center, cut the power to it and removed the six screws holding the cover on. The subwoofer port sits on a secondary board in the receiver that is fortunately easily removed. With the RCA cables removed on the outside and a ribbon cable and another connector on the inside there is only the matter of removing four screws. With the screws removed the board comes away from the receiver and I am able to get my first look at the bottom of the board.

It turned out I was right all long, a simple solder joint break.

The fix here is very simple. I got out my trusty soldering iron and heated up the joint and added a slight amount of solder. I don’t have a finished pic but you can look at any of the other solder joints above, that is how it ended up.

I then reversed the above procedure. With the joint soldered correctly the subwoofer doesn’t cut out anymore and in fact, the subwoofer seems sound better than I ever remember it sounding while in the house.

A while back I posted about having ordered EyeTV and the HD Homerun. I promised a post once it all arrived and here it is.

If you didn’t visit any of the links I provided before then here is a quick over view of what I ordered. The HD Homerun is a network based dual ATSC/QAM tuner. ATSC is the new digital broadcast standard and QAM is the how many channels are distributed on the cable system. Chances are the cable TV provider in your area provides at least some QAM channels. The HD Homerun has two hook ups meaning I can record two shows at once or watch and record a show or even watch two shows at the same time. The HD Homerun will also allow you to use one of the ports for ATSC and the other for QAM if you so choose. The HD Homerun’s ethernet port runs at 100Mbit and easily supports watching a pair of channels. Based on some entirely unscientific google searching, I found that the highest bitrate available using ATSC is about 19Mb/s while QAM is around 56Mb/s. Like a wireless network, neither actually hit those rates often so the HD Homerun is quite capable of streaming two channels at the same time.

I went with the HD Homerun over any of the other tuner options because it doesn’t lock me into a tuner that works only on the Mac platform. As much as I love Mac and all I just didn’t want to drop cash on a solution that would tie me indefinitely to the Mac platform for watching and recording TV.

EyeTV is software for the Mac that can talk to the HD Homerun to watch a show or record (or both). It provides a some what confusing interface that lacks any sort of intuitive flow. This is really unlike most Mac apps. For example, when using the program guide you can click on a show to view details about the show such as a full description. Once on this screen, there is no clear indication of how to return to the program guide again. There is no back button of any sort and clicking on the Program guide button again doesn’t bring you back where you were. Instead, you are supposed just click anywhere on the detail screen to go back where you were.

Despite the interface EyeTV works rather well. One of my favorite things about EyeTV is how it works with the Mac to wake it when it is time to do a recording and the EyeTV helper app will launch EyeTV. While I have heard rumors of Windows Media Center being able to do this I’m not entirely sure that it can and can do it reliably.

Another thing EyeTV can do is re-encode and then share via HTTP any recordings that have via the network. The encoding is small enough to work with a 802.11g network yet of good quality. Best of all you’re not tied to just viewing the files on another Mac, Windows is welcome too.

If you looking for a way to watch and/or record TV the HD Homerun plus any DVR software package is a good bet. EyeTV for the Mac is definitely the way to go despite some interface shortcomings if you are a Mac user. If you like MythTV on Linux or Media Portal or Media Center on Windows the HD Homerun is a great choice.

In getting ready for the coming TV season I wanted to get my recording capabilities up to snuff. I’ve grown tired of trying to get MythTV working and decided to bite the bullet and buy a solution. I decided on a HD Homerun with some EyeTV software for mac.

The great thing about the HD Homerun is that I’m not tied to the Mac for watching or recording TV, I can use just about anything I want including MythTV (despite giving up on it for now), Windows Media Center and even just VLC. I post some more about it as soon as it gets here.

By now you have probably heard about the digital tv switchover deadline in February of 2009. In case you haven’t, head on over to http://www.dtv.gov/ to get the long story. The short story is that analog TV signals will be turned off as of February 17, 2009. If you get your TV using an antenna, then there is something you need to do to get ready. You can either buy a new TV with an ATSC tuner in it already or you can purchase a government subsidized digital to analog converter box. To get your $40 coupon head over to https://www.dtv2009.gov/.

Last friday I received my coupon in the mail. The coupon comes in the form of a prepaid credit card and you can use it at any store that sells approved converter boxes. I took mine over to Best Buy and picked up their Insignia branded converter box. This box is fairly basic providing one digital input, one RF output and a composite video output but the box is proving to be quite up to the task. The composite output allows you to get stereo sound (surround sound in fact) from the device and an improved picture over the RF connection. It also offers just the current program and the next program on it’s very simple program guide.

Now you might be thinking there is nothing wrong with the current system and that just couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though your old analog TV isn’t digital, the picture will be virtually perfect and in some cases better than you’d get if you had dish or cable. Audio too will be improved and if you have a surround sound system then any show that uses surround sound will be available to you in surround sound as well.

While the analog to digital switch over is a bit of a hassle the quality improvement is very much worth it. If you have any old TVs that are still in good shape and you don’t want to buy a new one then I strongly recommend going the converter route.

I’m calling the projector project itself officially finished. I’m really pleased with how the whole project turned out, especially for the price paid. Here’s a listing of everything I’ve gotten to make complete this project.

Projector: $380
Ceiling mount: $17
Blackout cloth: $40 (three pieces, two for window coverings and one for the actual screen)
Wood for the frame: Free, previous owner of the house left it here
Cabling: $85 (50′ VGA to md1, 50′ component, component cables for Wii)
ATSC HDTV card for computer: $25
Other misc parts including outlet box, plates etc: $10

Total: about $555

For under $600 I now essentially have a 90″ EDTV, not exactly HDTV but very close. I’m able to view over the air HDTV of all of the local stations, play DVDs and Wii on a fairly large screen. The HDTV content looks very good despite the projector only having a native resolution of 854×480.

Click here for an screenshot.

This weekend, among other projects, I managed to get some wire pulled for the projector which is now mounted on the ceiling. The wires pulled include component, VGA/USB and romex for power to the projector. The last thing I need to get is get the new outlets in the ceiling tapped into an existing circuit and I can call my home theater project done for now.

The component cable is hooked into an old mechanical A/V switch and allows me to switch between my Wii and DVD player. The VGA cable is, of course, for hooking up to a computer. I ran this cable because I wanted a way to play downloaded video, pictures and because my laptop makes a better DVD player than our stand alone DVD player.

When everything is all said and done I’ll have some new pics posted to my gallery.

Made some great progress towards finishing up the home theater last night by building the frame for my screen. I based my screen frame around a howto located at this site. My frame does not use any support bracing to help save on the weight and honestly the wood could be straighter. Measuring 79×45, I’ll be able to get an absolute maximum size of 90″ diagonal when viewing “widescreen” formatted material. This also gives me a maximum of 74″ diagonal for regular 4:3 content. Not bad for a total project cost of about $600.

Read on for pics and other info.

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Well I have the projector in my possession and now I’m working out how to setup a screen. Once in a while I’d bring home a projector from work and just project onto a white shade from our basement. I’d like to create a larger and more permanent screen rather than pull down the shade each time we want to use the projector. While the shade works, I’m limited in how wide I can go.

Over on avsforum.com I read about what they call BOC or black out cloth. It’s actually some cloth that goes behind drapes to cut out light. It has decent properties for acting as a projector screen, though it has hardly any gain and can dull up the image some. So far, despite what my wife thinks, I have minimal cash invested into my screen so far. I’d like to avoid having to buy a “real” screen because DIY is just more fun.

The problem I’m running into is that BOC doesn’t appear to roll up well, and I’d prefer being able to roll up the screen between uses. So it looks like I’ll need to create a rigid frame to put the BOC onto which is going to create a storage issue. I guess I should have thought of all this before I got the projector!