zen.org Communal Weblog

October 19, 2004

Bridging the gap

Filed under: — brendan @ 09:26 IST

Tucked away next to the PVR box (nay, tv-box) is a nice tiny Linksys WET54G wireless bridge. It’s a device that lets anything become part of a wireless network without requiring you to have a wireless card or other antenna. A random PC can become a wireless PC just by plugging it into the bridge, as long as the PC has an Ethernet port. (A lot of motherboards now include at least one Ethernet port by default, as do most laptops.) The bridge talks through the air to the rest of our network, and a tiny Ethernet cable goes from the bridge into the tv-box. My 7-meter Ethernet cable gets to be put away and restore a little order to our livingroom.

There are minor steps companies like Linksys could take to make their products so much more friendly to non-Windows systems. They seem to assume that most customers are putting the bridge onto a Windows network, with a Windows PC. Gah. So I had to search Google to find the bridge’s default address ( to configure it. I presume the CD that comes with it has it mentioned in the docs somewhere, but it’s still silly that they don’t make some note of it somewhere on the single-sheet install doc in the box. (I just remembered that .226 was the same default address for the similar WET11 bridge over in the states. A silly number to think I’d remember.) The default password of ‘admin’ could also be included with the install instructions…

Details: Plug it into my laptop, set the laptop’s address to a 192.168.1.* subnet address, point the browser at the bridge, and go through the steps. Pick a name for it (dora, since that’s who P was insisting he wanted to see on TV at the moment), first enable WEP, make it use a 128-bit key and hit Apply to have it actually accept a longer hex key, give it the key, and let the bridge restart. Then change its address and gateway, Apply, again it restarts. Change my laptop back to its correct subnet, again point the browser at the bridge using the new address. Meanwhile go onto our DHCP server, make the bridge get assigned its own specific address, and also add the name and address to our local nameserver. Now tell the bridge to use DHCP to get its address, and again restart. Yeesh. Unplug everything, put it down next to the tv-box, plug the Ethernet cable into the tv-box, and let everything start again. Laptop can ping both Dora The Bridge and the tv-box. Whew.

Next time I can work on this, I should be able to configure channels without worrying about plugging the tv-box into the network. That’s really the big task coming up: selecting “Watch TV” from the MythTV interface and making it actually show a channel. Don’t care what. 🙂

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October 18, 2004

Taking back our day-to-day schedule.

Filed under: — brendan @ 18:04 IST

We decided to build our own PVR (personal video recorder) to make it easier to enjoy TV when we want to. With a son nearly 3, we’ve long known that our ability to watch random television programs is controlled by how tired we are. Since TiVo doesn’t have any service in Ireland, and we don’t want to buy the alternative service that is around Ireland and the UK, we’re rolling our own. (The privacy addict that I am hesitated mentioning Ireland here, but there’s already enough evidence on public record about our existence in Ireland, so why not.)

The goal is to make a device that’ll save TV shows for whenever we choose to watch them, but with more convenience than usually comes from a VCR. In particular, we don’t want to be restrained to the length of the tape that happens to be in the VCR at the time. But we would like to be able to save the programs we enjoy watching so we can take advantage of recreational time when it presents itself. (Our current favorites: The West Wing, CSI, Law and Order, and Gilmore Girls.)

Right now in the livingroom is a Shuttle SN45GV2, which is a tiny (SFF — Small Form Factor) PC. It’s got a 250Gb disk (from the states for $139, tho E just found one for $80 that’s even bigger), 512Mb of memory, a Radeon 9200 video card that I got near home with my friend Declan, and a Hauppauge PVR-350 tuner card to actually get at the TV signal. The PC has a long Ethernet cable at the moment, but it’ll soon be using the Linksys 54Gbit wireless bridge that I got today to let it be on our network without a wireless card in the computer, and without stringing a cable along the floor in front of our fireplace.

The tuner card is interesting because there’s nothing on its packaging to suggest that it matters where you buy it, Europe or the US. (TVs in one area use different signals than another, making them not work from one place to the other.) A friend was over in the US and brought one back for me; everything looked great. In fact, if you visit the link for the card you’ll see the page that says, ”Note: The WinTV-PVR-350’s TV tuner and S-Video/composite video inputs are for either PAL or NTSC.”. That’s actually wrong; the tuner, when you take it out of the box, has a big sticker on it that says “NTSC / NTSC-J”. Gah. I verified that it will not work properly with PAL-I signals coming over the wire here in Ireland. So I had to go get another from someone here. Voila, no markers on the box, but on the card is a “PAL-I” sticker.

In goes the card, up comes the computer, and after booting and some bit-tweaking (to be detailed later) I saw a successful test pattern on the TV screen. Yay!

Now that it’s working, and I’ve gone through the steps with mythtv-setup to make it understand the basic parts of how I’ve got everything set up (also to be detailed later), I have to make it grok the frequencies of the NTL basic cable. Haven’t had a chance to do that yet, and I start some work tomorrow (11 days of fun C++ stuff), so I suppose I’ll be working on it in the evenings somehow. Or maybe the weekend, though typing in the livingroom around our son is an exercise in futility. What time I may have had today was eaten up by making this blog exist, getting a toner cartridge, and the wireless bridge.

Tsk, tsk, it’s all about time management.

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