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iRule - The iPhone/iPod touch/iPad remote solution
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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:40 pm    Post subject: iRule - The iPhone/iPod touch/iPad remote solution Reply with quote


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Hi, guys -

Some of you here have heard about iRule in other threads, but perhaps some of you haven't. Not everybody here frequents the other forum, and several members have expressed interest in how I've set up my home theater remote, so I thought I'd start this thread to share and discuss.

Disclaimer: I have no official relationship with the developer other than that I was a beta tester and through the process, now consider him a friend. If this post/thread end up sounding a little like and advertisement, it's just because I'm excited about the tool and possibilities. In short, I'm having FUN... It's kind of taking me back to the feeling I had getting into home theater in the first place.


Background
I don't like programmable remotes like Harmony or Pronto. OK, I hate them. I hate multifunction buttons - pressing a button to make a button do seven different things. I want to press one button that does one thing, and I want that button to say what it does. I also like a really nice UI with simply, understated buttons - like a real remote - not gaudy, obnoxious buttons with cartoonish graphics. I don't want a remote that forces me to make choices based on activities or that force me to control everything - I want a mix. I want the control, but I also want simplicity so my wife can use the theater without me even having to be there.

So I went the direction of an AMX system, but never felt like investing the substantial time to set it all up, especially since it would require substantial time every time I wanted to make changes. So, the stuff just sat around in boxes and I used half a dozen remotes to control my system... For over two years!


Touchscreen Functionality and Ergonomics
Some will argue that a touchscreen isn't usable because you have to look at it to use. While you certainly do have to look away from the screen sometimes, I've found it a minor inconvenience, and one I'm willing to endure to have a completely from-the-ground-up remote with exactly the buttons and functionality I want. If you're still not convinced, consider that AMX, Crestron and several other companies sell touch-panel-based remotes costing in the thousands of dollars. If you're still not convinced, close this browser window and go order a remote with physical buttons. Wink

Seriously, touch-screen remotes aren't for everybody. It's up to each person to decide what they like and dislike, and what attributes of each solution are most important to them.


iRule
Enter iRule. I already had an iPhone and I like it. My wife has one and likes hers. iPod touches are also reasonably inexpensive (especially used). The authoring doesn't require a certain computer or platform, or even installed software - just a browser. No USB driver issues, no conflicts... Just a browser - it's all in the "cloud". You can make your own button graphics, or use provided buttons. Finally, the hardware gateway to make it all work is (relatively) inexpensive. I was pretty sold on the idea once I started thinking about it and how I'd use it.


iRule Basics
An iRule setup is three pieces: A web application for setup, an "app" that runs on an iPhone OS device, and a hardware IP gateway that the app talks to control IR and RS-232 devices. You set everything up in the web tool called "iRule Builder", then you use the application on the mobile device to sync the configuration back wirelessly.

In a nutshell, the process looks like this:
1) Login to iRule builder with your browser.
2) Pick your devices from the list to add IR codes, or add pronto hex codes or serial codes
3) Layout your panels and pages, add buttons, and add device functions to buttons
4) Sync wirelessly from the iPhone/iPod touch
5) Assign devices in the device
6) Test and fix, then sit back and enjoy your own custom-designed remote


Hardware
There are several different gateways you can use, and some newer AVR's and prepros are IP control-capable, so no gateway is necessary to control that device. Some newer Denon and Integra equipment is controllable, for instance. A benefit is that unlike IR (and like serial), the communication can be two-way.

I'm currently using a Global Caché GC-100-12, but if you have a simpler "living room" setups, you may be able to get by with a GC-100-6, which has one serial port (vs 2), and 3 IR ports (vs 6). There is also a newer, more modular Global Cache gateway, as well as a gateway from another company, but I'm not very familiar with either.


Cost
The iRule app is $50, a gateway is approximately $150-250, and an iPod touch is going to run you about $175 for a new third-generation 8GB iPod touch. So, all in, you're looking at around $375-$500, depending on your system. In other words, not much more than a high-end Harmony and a little less than a mid-range Pronto.


Links
Global Caché GC-100-06
Global Caché GC-100-12
iPod touch 8GB (3rd gen)


Here's the link to the iRule official site:
http://www.iruleathome.com


I'll post some of my UI images in another post.


Cheers,
SC


Last edited by ecrabb on Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reserved.
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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, I'm a graphic designer, which is why I'm so obsessed with UI look-and-feel... So, I spent most of a couple of days designing a UI exactly like I wanted for lights, power, audio, PS3, DirecTV, HD DVD, and a few "utilities". I was home sick anyway, so it worked out perfectly. I spent another evening or two linking most of it up and making it all work how I wanted. I still need to add a couple more devices as time allows, but my everyday stuff is now finished and working flawlessly.

Sorry for the huge PNGs... I wanted to keep the quality and transparency.


Main Home, System Power
When you press "PS3", it switches my prepro to the correct input, and links to the PS3 remote control page below. The "power on" button is a macro that turns on my hushbox, projector, prepro and amps, and the PS3. The "power off" button is just a "link" in iRule, that shoots you over to another page with two more buttons to confirm shutdown or cancel. That way, I can't shut the system down by accident.



Lights Page
These tap the serial part on the gateway to send simple X10 commands, that my home automation controller receives, and runs Insteon and X10 "scenes". I sort of "abstracted" it that way so I can tweak the lighting without touching any of the remote stuff. Plus, I only execute one command from iRule, but that can do a whole number of things without setting up a macro in iRule. I added a "clean" button that runs my lights up "retinal scan" mode, which is otherwise never used. Wink



Audio Page
Volume, mute, basic listening modes



DirecTV Panels
I LOVE how these turned out. It's based on the HR2x-series remotes, but I added macros for favorite channels. This is sweet because the DirecTV HR2x-series receivers are really slow, and tuning with the macros is FAR faster than doing it any other way. I tap the button and a second or two later, I'm watching that channel.



PS3 Pages
Nearly all buttons from the PS3 BlueTooth remote. I'm using the Logitech PS3 BT/IR adapter. Works flawlessly.



"Tools" Page
This is stuff I just use occasionally, with room to grow. Pic Mute for trips upstairs, Brightness/Contrast for if I'm playing a bright or dark game and want to bump something one way or the other.




You can see I kept some of the look and feel of the OEM remotes I was emulating, but also tied them together - that was something I really wanted.

So, I guess that's it. Ask questions. Discuss. Whatever.

Cheers,
SC
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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From another thread...
Nashou66 wrote:
I want to know how easy it would be to add the rs232 commands for my Marquee's , TV-One Scalers and the Lumagen HDQ scalers i use for aspect and gamma control in my set up. having one main remote to do all the complicated things for a blend , not just macros, but set up and tweaking procedures where i need to use more than one device during a certain set up section. If i was able to have say some marquee function,Tv-one functions and lumagen function all on one screen it be awesome!!! Adn with the larger size of the iPad it be perfect. I hope Itai makes the necessary changes for the iPad.

Are any of the scalers IP-controllable? Multiple gateways might start getting a little pricey, but not compared to all the toys you already have, I guess. Twisted Evil But, seriously... Technically, I think it's totally possible.

As for the UI, there's no reason why you couldn't design a screen with whatever controls you wanted. If you were using the iPad, you could divide the screen into quarters... Projectors 1 and 2 at the top left/right, then the whole section at the bottom for scaler controls or whatever.

Tell me more about what kind of controls you'd need... How many buttons?

Nashou66 wrote:
Crabb in the iTunes store they say its for the iPad as well, I assume he will be making a better version to work better with the iPad?

Right, it works with the iPad, but it's iPhone resolution scaled up 2x - so it doesn't look great, and you don't have any more "real" screen real estate than you do on the iPhone - it's just bigger. I can't say for sure on iRule for iPad, but I do know people are interested. We've talked about how awesome the screen real estate would be for a really great UI. It would be gorgeous. You could cram all sorts of buttons on there!!! So, yeah - I'd imagine the developer would want to do an iRule version.

SC
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Nashou66




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ecrabb wrote:
From another thread...
Nashou66 wrote:
I want to know how easy it would be to add the rs232 commands for my Marquee's , TV-One Scalers and the Lumagen HDQ scalers i use for aspect and gamma control in my set up. having one main remote to do all the complicated things for a blend , not just macros, but set up and tweaking procedures where i need to use more than one device during a certain set up section. If i was able to have say some marquee function,Tv-one functions and lumagen function all on one screen it be awesome!!! Adn with the larger size of the iPad it be perfect. I hope Itai makes the necessary changes for the iPad.

Are any of the scalers IP-controllable? Multiple gateways might start getting a little pricey, but not compared to all the toys you already have, I guess. Twisted Evil But, seriously... Technically, I think it's totally possible.

As for the UI, there's no reason why you couldn't design a screen with whatever controls you wanted. If you were using the iPad, you could divide the screen into quarters... Projectors 1 and 2 at the top left/right, then the whole section at the bottom for scaler controls or whatever.

Tell me more about what kind of controls you'd need... How many buttons?

Nashou66 wrote:
Crabb in the iTunes store they say its for the iPad as well, I assume he will be making a better version to work better with the iPad?

Right, it works with the iPad, but it's iPhone resolution scaled up 2x - so it doesn't look great, and you don't have any more "real" screen real estate than you do on the iPhone - it's just bigger. I can't say for sure on iRule for iPad, but I do know people are interested. We've talked about how awesome the screen real estate would be for a really great UI. It would be gorgeous. You could cram all sorts of buttons on there!!! So, yeah - I'd imagine the developer would want to do an iRule version.

SC


The Tv-ones have both IP and RS 232, and the Lumagen has RS 232 as well. I think the TV-Ones though need a program to work via IP or RS-232, but they also have IR so i have that covered, i know the Lumagen HDQ can be controlled via RS 232.
What I need to know is if i can have each repetative device with different addresses so for example i have Lumagen left and Lumagen Right and the same for the Tv-Ones?

I know i can address the Marquee's independently and control via RS-232.

So I have 2 TV-One scalers(most likely IR)
2 Lumagen Scalers (rs-232)
2 marquee Projectors(RS-232_
1 Moome Mux( IR)

Then my sources

Oppo BD83
LG BH200
Dish network HD Reciever
Pioneer DVL-92 Elite laserdisc combo player
I think that is it for now Very Happy

Oh And a lutron light controlled via IR.

Also I love the elegance of your remote images!!!!


PS : you left a reserved spot open above, for nay reson or a mistake?
Athanasios

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greg_mitch




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GJ on the UI...it looks nice. How does the original UI look compared to this? Is there a built-in editor for the UI or is it pretty custom "coded"? It would seem like the buttons on the directTV UI would be too small and would likely result in missed button or double hit? Any thoughts?

After getting the H1000 to a point where it is usable (after about 30 minutes of programming), I never went back into it and have been using it for about 2 years. It isn't perfect (but imagine no remote is) and the touch screen is terrible (should meet a hammer after testing at factory!)...

I will likely either go to larger touch panel or hard button remote...I think the small size of the touchscreen makes it very difficult to use and impossible without looking at it. The buttons I end up using the most are the hard buttons on the H100, so I will likely try out a hard button option next.

edit: Last I read about iRule it seemed that there were a few changes at the pricing structure and multiple iTouch registrations, etc. What happened? I also remember reading a review that listed three other programs that offer about the same functionality and some even were designed for a few other wifi to IR or wifi to serial adapters...something with a RED in the title...can't think of it right now for some reason.
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Athanasios,

I need to check with Itai on the nitty gritty details, but I think all you need to do is create a second "device" for each projector and scaler. So, you'd have Marquee L and Marquee R in your device list. Then, you have a gateway for each projector, each with its own IP address, and you just assign each "device" to the proper connected gateway. I could be wrong, though so I'll check it with Itai.

I think for the projectors, you could just use an iTach for each projector:
Global Caché iTach for Serial Devices

It'll even run as PoE (power over ethernet) if your switch supports it.

Itai always recommends to me to use IR wherever you don't need two-way communication, mostly because serial is a pain in the ass. It's a pain in the ass because there are no standards for serial communication, so every manufacturer's piece of equipment has a different protocol. So, for instance, the Lumagens - unless you specifically need feedback from those devices for some reason (which I'm not sure how to use at this point), IR would be much easier. I have two devices I'm running as serial - my Extron switcher and a Smarthome Insteon interface. Figuring out the protocol was a pain. It works flawlessly now, but it was a frustrating couple of evenings getting that one device to work. OTOH, if you know what you're doing, at least you can figure out the serial stuff. You need a USB-UIRT or a Global Caché IR receiver to learn IR commands if its not in the database already. Not sure if the Lumagens would be in the database or not.

All your other sources would be cake with IR.

SC
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MikeEby




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those Global Cache boxes are expensive...I'm going to show an Engineer at work one...I don't see why you couldn't put several RS-232 ports in the same box. It seems like it would be a very marketable device. It doesn't seem like WiFi is needed.


Mike

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Nashou66




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

you need the gate way to be wireless to comunicate with the iPhone/iPad/iTouch.

And thanks Steve, i think it would all work out fine after testing different connections.

Athanasios

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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greg,

Thanks for the praise. I worked at it pretty hard, so it was nice to see it finally come together.

The editor just uses a drag/drop interface in the browser. Basically, you get a little gridded layout the size of the iPhone screen, and you can grid that space up with dividers however you like - from 1x1 to 20x20. Then, you just drag the buttons into the grid squares. It's kinda like HTML, though where if you want a button to span more than one grid square, you just tell it that. Then, you drag the commands from your device codes onto the buttons (or vice-versa - you can drag buttons onto already-defined buttons, too).

Here's what the Builder UI looks like...



You can see the simple 3x5 grid I set up for my Main-Home page, and you can see the thumbnails of the other pages in that panel below, and you can see both my buttons, as well as the simple gray default button style up above that comes with iRule.

I've had no problem with the button size on the DirecTV panel. It's probably not ideal, but it works just fine. The touch screen on the iPhone really is excellent. Not sure if you saw the story on Gizmodo or Engadget a few weeks back where the tested the accuracy of the touchscreen of several different touch devices, and the iPhone come out well ahead of the others. Also, the buttons themselves (the "hit boxes") are a little larger than the graphic itself implies. Oh, and I haven't had a single "double bounce" that I'm aware of. It's damn good. I'm really impressed.

I think the other remote you're talking about is the Red Eye... They have the "mini" that just uses a headphone-jack IR blaster, but the Red Eye is all IR as far as I know.

Yeah, a bigger touch screen would be nice... Which is why everybody is curious about the iPad... I think that would be a VERY cool HT remote.

Oh, and the Harmony 1000 is OK, but yeah - I'm totally underwhelmed. Same here... Spent 30 minutes or an hour, set it up, then just used it. But, I never got all my IR distribution working, so I was doing the "remote dance" to point it in the right direction at the right time. I lost interest.

SC
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nashou66 wrote:
you need the gate way to be wireless to comunicate with the iPhone/iPad/iTouch.

And thanks Steve, i think it would all work out fine after testing different connections.

Athanasios


I know you need WiFi...I mean do you need WiFi on the Ethernet to RS-232 converter?...Assuming you have an Access Point already installed in your house?


Mike

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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeEby wrote:
Those Global Cache boxes are expensive...I'm going to show an Engineer at work one...I don't see why you couldn't put several RS-232 ports in the same box. It seems like it would be a very marketable device. It doesn't seem like WiFi is needed.

The iTach boxes are new, Mike and there are several different version for wired and WiFi. The link I posted above has pictures of both on the same item, even though that's not how you order it.

The older Global Caché boxes did have two RS-232 ports in one box. The GC-100-6 is about $150, so about $75/serial port... The problem is, the two serial devices you're controlling have to be near each other. That might be fine for Anathasios.

The iTach boxes are more flexible because they're simple one-function boxes, but it's more expensive. If you're controlling a bunch of stuff all in one place (like a rack), then you can use the larger GC gateways.

Oh, Anathasios... The antenna on the iTach boxes are to connect to a WAP... The iPod wouldn't connect directly to the iTach box; rather, the iTach box connects to the WLAN through the same access point your iPod or iPad would.

SC
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Nashou66




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also. i wonder if someone makes a RS-232 a/b switch for when i want to connect the Marquees to the marquee librarian/ and PC based controller, and preferably so it can be controlled remotely.

I also found out he Tv_ones can be controlled via RS 232 also from the web site. And it looks like Lumagen AND TV-One are listed on the iRule devises page on the web site!!!
very cool!

Audio Video Distribution Amplifiers, Switchers, Video Processors and Video Switchers

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Audio Authority
Zektor
Parasound
Gefen
Monoprice
Shinybow
DVDO
Key Digital
Lumagen
Gefen
RCA
Key Digital
Channel Vision
Niles
Elan
Aton
Oppo Digital
TV One
Shinybow
Marantz


Edit: just posted while you posted.

I think it be easiest fro me to use two gateways so i can have 4 RS-232's ports unless the GC-100 18 has room for two more RS-232 ports. This way i can run the marquees, with two and then either the lumagens or the TV-Ones with the other two ports. Hmm Just remembered the Marquees RS-232 can be daisy chained. I know with the Marquee software each PJ can be identified, so it might be possible to use one RS232 port from the GC-100 to one marquee which then connects tot he other marquee trough the loop port on the PJ's.

I am going to have fun setting this up!! Cant wait, i just need to contact Global cache and see if i can get a custom configured gateway on the 18 inch model.

Athanasios

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MikeEby




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does the iPOD/iPhone talk directly to the RS-232/Ethernet device or is there a Mac or PC that acts as a controller?

SC, does iRule allow custom commands to RS-232 or are they all preconfigured?


Mike

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Nashou66




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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike, I know the RS-232 device( the network gateway) talks directly to the iPhone/Touch/pad. Steve will have to answer about the commands.

Athanasios

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ecrabb
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeEby wrote:
Does the iPOD/iPhone talk directly to the RS-232/Ethernet device or is there a Mac or PC that acts as a controller?

Nope, no "controller" PC. There are several other solutions that depend on a "server" PC, but iRule was designed from the get-go to eliminate that. iRule (running on the iPhone OS device) talks directly to the gateway(s) via its WiFi connection.

MikeEby wrote:
SC, does iRule allow custom commands to RS-232 or are they all preconfigured?

I don't know how many RS-232 devices they have command sets pre-built for, as both of my serial devices are pretty obscure... I had to build the command sets from scratch. So, that answers your question about custom commands, I guess!

The builder app can take IR codes in Pronto format, Global Cache IR codes, and ASCII and HEX for serial/ethernet.

SC
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PostLink    Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guys, I talked to Itai about the gateways and about Athanasios' situation...

He indicated that iRule can (and does) support other, much cheaper gateways... One he uses is cheaper than any of the Global Caché gateways, but has 16 RS-232 ports. Apparently, he just doesn't "publicly" support it because it's not as "consumer"-friendly as the GC gateways, and it takes a bit more work to set up.

He said with that box, it would be no problem driving 2 projectors, 2 blend boxes, and 2 scalers. Then, add a GC to control the IR stuff and you're off to the races.

SC
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Nashou66




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PostLink    Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ecrabb wrote:
Guys, I talked to Itai about the gateways and about Athanasios' situation...

He indicated that iRule can (and does) support other, much cheaper gateways... One he uses is cheaper than any of the Global Caché gateways, but has 16 RS-232 ports. Apparently, he just doesn't "publicly" support it because it's not as "consumer"-friendly as the GC gateways, and it takes a bit more work to set up.

He said with that box, it would be no problem driving 2 projectors, 2 blend boxes, and 2 scalers. Then, add a GC to control the IR stuff and you're off to the races.

SC


Allrightythen!!!! With some instructions I think I can do this on my own. Can you ask Itai what those gateways are? Maybe you should have him become a member here too Wink

Athanasios

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jrwhite




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PostLink    Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Athanasios,

We use TVONE Corio boxes at work ( our software products control them ), and they CAN be controlled via TCP/IP. TVOne is pretty vague on this, and you'll get mixed answers if you talk to their tech support, but it's easy to do.

You just send the same command strings that you would send to the RS-232 port, except you send them to the IP : port that the Corio is configured for. Just open a socket, send the string ( terminated by a Carriage Return ), wait for a reply ( you don't have to parse the reply, just wait for it ), then close the socket. If you close the socket before the reply is sent, the Corio will discard the command.

I don't have iRule or a GC, but from my reading of the AVS thread this should be possible. Itai may have to add it as a TCP command. The TVOne protocol allows you to query the status of all the controls, so it could provide some very useful feedback. I'm not sure if Itai has programmed 2 way for the Corio's yet, but, I think this would be very useful, as any Corio user would know.

So, you could get an off the shelf GC100-12 and use the 2 com ports for your 'Quees, and any IR gear, then control the Corio's directly via IP.

Jonathan
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PostLink    Posted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jrwhite wrote:
Athanasios,

We use TVONE Corio boxes at work ( our software products control them ), and they CAN be controlled via TCP/IP. TVOne is pretty vague on this, and you'll get mixed answers if you talk to their tech support, but it's easy to do.

You just send the same command strings that you would send to the RS-232 port, except you send them to the IP : port that the Corio is configured for. Just open a socket, send the string ( terminated by a Carriage Return ), wait for a reply ( you don't have to parse the reply, just wait for it ), then close the socket. If you close the socket before the reply is sent, the Corio will discard the command.

I don't have iRule or a GC, but from my reading of the AVS thread this should be possible. Itai may have to add it as a TCP command. The TVOne protocol allows you to query the status of all the controls, so it could provide some very useful feedback. I'm not sure if Itai has programmed 2 way for the Corio's yet, but, I think this would be very useful, as any Corio user would know.

So, you could get an off the shelf GC100-12 and use the 2 com ports for your 'Quees, and any IR gear, then control the Corio's directly via IP.

Jonathan


ok, so then i would just connect the TV-Ones to a standard Ethernet router/Hub and the iRule would send the commands
to them via wireless tot he router then through the ethernet hub which the T-Ones are connected to. Right?

One more thing since i have you here. I tried to connect the TV-Ones to my laptop to control them with the WCP or the Corio Suite and could not get them to communicate.

Athanasios

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