12. It’s not always flying in Arizona

Previously: last days of spring

Realizing that it is too hot for flying a drone, and going through some renovation at home, I had to fill my “spare time” with other things to do. Since we have been putting hardwood floors in our house, we had to shuffle our entire house’s content between our rooms while the hardwood guy finished the other rooms.

One of the first rooms I had to free up was my living room. In it I have one of the most complex setups you can think of: my entertainment center.

Being the geek I am, I have about any kind of system you can think of hooked up in this little space:

Of course I have the usual suspects:

  • TV
  • TiVo DVR
  • DVD player
  • Amplifier

but add to this:

  • Computer
  • XBox
  • Wii
  • Apple TV
  • Universal remote
  • TiVo’s tuning adapter (I hate this ugly mandatory addition to my TiVo)
  • a satellite DVR
  • MoCa adapter
  • Network switch

Each one connected to a power cable, ohh and speaking of cables, let’s not forget about 1,539 feet of tangled wires and cables running throughout the system:

  • 110V cables
  • Power Supply Cables
  • Coax
  • Speakers
  • Network
  • Digital Audio
  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • IR extenders
  • A few others I can’t even remember anymore…

When I was done un-plugging it all and moving it to the temporary-room, I ended up with a pile of equipment that was about the height of my waist line (I know, given my short height, this might not be too impressive, but trust me, it was a big pile of stuff, mostly cables.)

I knew it is too hot to fly the drone,  so I decided to use my free-time to do something that is at least as nerdy as flying my drone, without leaving my home.

I decided to use this time to pre-wire my entertainment center so that I will not have this pile of cables and wires put back into my living room once the new floor is done.

So, I started planning and  measuring and sketching and diagramming  and researching and Amazoning (yes, you can use it as a verb cause I said so) and counting parts and ordering and verifying orders for 3 weeks  from 15 different Amazon vendors, while my hardwood guy did this:

which at least put my GoPro into use while its flying host was resting for the summer.

Meanwhile, I came up with this plan:


Basically, what I had in mind was to pre-wire all compartments of my unit and place panels with outlet plugs on them in the back of each section,  so that when I put the equipment back in, each shelf will have a set of outlets in the back of it ready to be plugged without the need to run wires from one shelf to the other or up to the TV.

The funny thing is that in any entertainment center few things are guaranteed:

  • The wires will always need to get to another part of the entertainment center
  • The holes for the wires will always be too small
  • All of your units will need power
  • There will never be enough power outlets in your surge protector

Or another way to say it is: entertainment center were never designed to have entertainment equipment really placed in them, only dummy cardboard boxes in display at the store the sell them.

So my plan was to have all the mess to be hidden and pre-wired on the back of the unit so you don’t need to see it, touch it, or worry about it.

This way, next time my annoying tuning adapter from COX dies, I will not need to fish its power plug out of 1,200 other cables, but instead just pull it back, unplug it, and plug it back in to restart it.

The day has come, and I was ready to start my project.

First step was to measure and cut the holes in each part of the backboard to fit the housing of all the electric and low-voltage wires.

Most of it was done with an X-acto knife but some parts had to be drilled out and cut with a power saw.

Next I started pre-wiring all the power outlets before I could mount them into place.

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Now, I could mount the power outlets into their mounting boxes and run power wires from each of them to a new robust central surge protector.

This was not as much fun as I thought it would be… With my “advance” sense of elastic body, kneeling and standing and laying on the floor, and standing again and again and again was adding incredible amount of pain to my body.

Once done with that phase, I had to take a long night break.

When I came back from work the other day, I started working on the low voltage part:

I started to snap-in all the outlets for the HDMI, Network and Coax, just to learn that although they look symmetric, if you put them up-side-down, you will need to find a way to remove and re-insert them without cutting your fingers, while if you live them to be, they will fall back and flip inside their fitting.

I now had most of the basic plugs attached.

2014-07-15 23.41.47


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Next I had to wire all these to each other on the back side of that unit.

After a long evening that turned into a sleepless night I ended up with the following beauty (view from behind):

2014-07-18 00.46.16 2014-07-18 00.45.42

I also plugged a couple of super-quite fans to the back to release the heat out of the unit, and I’ve set up a network switch and MoCa connection to have wired network ready for all these devices…

Next I had to move it into place without scratching the new hardwood floor, and start putting back all my equipment, wire it all in, and test that it works, but not before I had to clean all the mess inside the unit and outside.

To my TOTAL surprise, it all worked on the first attempt! Well, at least I thought it was. Apparently the surround speakers didn’t work.

A few days earlier, I had a professional AV guy come to re-wire my surround speakers and replace my outside backyard speakers that came with the house and were of low quality (cheap car speakers) and had to be replaced. This is because up until now the wires for the speakers where just laying on the floor underneath my carpet floor.

He did a great job and even placed a connection panel on the side of my wall, but he didn’t label the outlets correctly and it took me about 3 hours to re-trace the plugs to their relevant speakers by un-mounting the speakers off the wall and using continuity meter to find each pair of speaker’s plugs on the wall.

Then I set down for 1 hour to prepare patch speaker cables to run from my unit to the wall.

With an aching back, I went to plug them to the wall, just to learn that my cables where too short!!!

Upset, but determined, I prepared a fresh set of 8 cables, this time long enough.

So yes, things always take less time the 2nd time around. I finished it in 30 minutes.

I plugged the longer wires, and I’m ready to test the speakers for the first time, and the surround speakers are not producing any sound.

I went through my entire collection of 5.1 Dolby DVDs to find one I knew for a fact that must have a good rear track. The winner had to be my favorite movie: The Matrix!

So, I put it in, blast the volume, and I can hear Trinity talking from my center speaker, but nothing comes out of the back.

After another hour of troubleshooting I learned that I didn’t wire the plugs well enough and this is why my speakers didn’t make a sound when the police came to arrest Trinity.

After a few more adjustment to the cables (while the test movie is starting again), I was able to plug it in, just in time before the truck hit the pay phone booth!!!!

Both Trinity and my speakers were saved at the same moment!

Finally I could enjoy my living room again.

One unsolved issue I still face: I couldn’t find a way to calibrate the audio delay that is introduced by my 15 year-old Pioneer amplifier… So watching AppleTV movies in 5.1 surround is not an option for movies that has an element of surprise, because I can see the action before I can hear it… You’ll be surprised how much 100ms can ruin a good surprise…

Until summer is over, I’m going to spend more time in front of my entertainment center with the A/C in full throttle and my wife on my side….

Bring these popcorn bags!!!!

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