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Comment: My experience with wiring a house (Score 1) 336

by BilGe (#45950929) Attached to: New Home Automation?

About 15 years ago I set up a wiring closet in my house. Over time I have learned some important lessons.

My house is only 1300 ft^2 with one level. It is built on a slab, so there is no basement. Fortunately the attic provides reasonably good access to the interior walls.

I ran at least one RG-6 coax, one CAT-5 (there was no such thing as CAT-6 back then) and one 4-wire telephone to a plate in every room. Most rooms have more than one plate. Some plates have two coax. Everything goes back to a central closet - really just a piece of plywood on the wall in the closet where the furnace and water heater are. I ran a dedicated 15-amp power circuit to the wiring panel with 4 pairs of outlets (16 total).

I do not subscribe to cable TV, so the coax has largely been unused. I have both television and FM antennas on the roof, and that uses a couple of the outlets to get to the back of my main hi-fi system.

The 4-wire telephone jacks also get very little use. I wish I had pulled two CAT-5 to every plate. One of them could be used for telephone systems including various PBX-like systems.

A few years after doing all of this, I added line-level audio to the wiring panel. I wish I had done that earlier. If you run line-level audio, be sure to use really good double-shielded cabling for it. I did not, and it picks up a fair bit of 60hz buzz.

I have tried some home automation stuff using X-10 devices. Some of them work and some do not. Reliability has been a big problem.

Here are my suggestions. Much of this echos comments from others.

1) You cannot have too many plates in each room. One per wall is not too many. Yes, that includes the bathrooms!
2) You cannot have too much power in each room. At least one 20-amp circuit per bedroom, preferably two, and separate from the lights in that room. At least one 20 amp circuit per wall in the family living spaces (living room, family room, multimedia room etc.) At least two or three 20 amp circuits on the kitchen counters. More 20 amp circuits in the garage and basement.
3) At least two Cat-6 per plate.
4) At least one RG-6 coax per plate. Two on some plates, especially if you think you might run a satellite or something to it.
5) At least one line-level audio pair to each plate.
6) Leave plenty of room in the conduits. Mine are jammed so full I cannot get anything more through them, and they only go about three feet from the plywood panel up to the attic.
7) Leave good stout pulling strings in every conduit.
8) Plates on the outside is a good idea. I have not needed them, but I don't have a deck or hot tub.
9) I don't really like any of the lighting controller systems that are available. X-10 is really old and lame. Insteon is not reliable. Z-Wave is hackable. Belkin WeMo depends on third-party servers.
10) Bring neutrals into every light switch box.
11) Running security wiring while the walls are open is good, even if you are not going to use it.
12) Whole-house surge protection and GFI.
13) Buy an electrical panel that is twice what you think you will need. This means both amperage capacity and number of circuits.
14) Make a provision for connecting a whole-house generator.
15) Run at least three speaker wire pairs from the front to the back of any place you might put a home theater system.
16) Run some HDMI cabling to the center of the ceiling where you might hang a projector. Also put a power circuit up there.
17) Same goes for any place you might put a VESA mount. Run HDMI, power and Ethernet to the back of any television.

The Military

United States Begins Flying Stealth Bombers Over South Korea 567

Posted by samzenpus
from the nice-day-for-a-flight dept.
skade88 writes "The New York Times is reporting that the United States has started flying B-2 stealth bomber runs over South Korea as a show of force to North Korea. The bombers flew 6,500 miles to bomb a South Korean island with mock explosives. Earlier this month the U.S. Military ran mock B-52 bombing runs over the same South Korean island. The U.S. military says it shows that it can execute precision bombing runs at will with little notice needed. The U.S. also reaffirmed their commitment to protecting its allies in the region. The North Koreans have been making threats to turn South Korea into a sea of fire. North Korea has also made threats claiming they will nuke the United States' mainland."

Comment: Cool is fine, but it needs to be useful first (Score 1) 281

by BilGe (#39540881) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Shortcuts To a High Tech House

All this discussion about tankless water heaters is interesting, but you will get FAR more bang for your buck by dumping more insulation in the attic, replacing drafty windows, weather stripping doors etc. None of this is going to wow your friends until you start comparing utilitiy bills. I added a layer of R-19 unfaced batts to my attic in late 1999. Payback in lower gas and electric bills was less than 6 months, and it has been free money since then.

For cool stuff on not too much money, I suggest setting up some X-10 controllers and using your computer to run them. It's not hard to do and costs only a few hundred dollars for the basics. You can set up porch lights to run on a sudown-sunup schedule. Set internal night lights to turn on at bedtime. Set your coffee pot to turn on a half-hour before you have breakfast.

A weather station is also cool but will set you back $400 or $500. Connect it to a computer and publish it on the Internet.

It is possible to get a thermostat in every room, then set up a control system so that conditioned air goes only to rooms that need it. The vents are controlled by inflatable bags so they can let air go only where it is needed. No clue how much it would cost, probably quite a bit.

Comment: It is inevitable and probably a Good Thing (Score 2) 211

by BilGe (#38715276) Attached to: Putting Medical Records Into Patients' Hands

My sister works as a Medical Assistant in a very small family practice. In fact, the practice is so small that my sister and the doctor are the entire staff. They hire an electronic medical records service from "the cloud". This service makes it possible for every patient of their practice to have on-line access to their records. The records get updated in near real-time because both my sister and the doctor use tablet computers. The tablets go everywhere, even the exam rooms, so as notes are taken they go directly to the patient's records.

I have not heard any details about how many of their patients actually USE this service. I would bet no more than half, since many of their patients are geriatric cases - too old to want to bother to learn how to use a computer.

My sister and the doctor both are very much in favor of this kind of access to medical records. They think it makes their job easier. It gets more details to the patients and it does not tie up the phone just to be reading records to someone. It also lets patients remind themselves about treatment decisions that have been made.

It requires an ActiveX object to access the records and so is useful only for Internet Explorer users. The vendor is supposed to be working on a way for Mac users to get access as well, but they are not there yet. Firefox and Linux? Ferget it! Heck, they just added support for IE 9 and 64-bit Windows a few months ago.

Comment: It's never too late to start. (Score 1) 918

by BilGe (#27365895) Attached to: With a Computer Science Degree, an Old Man At 35?
My parents did not have enough money to send me to college, and I had pretty bad grades in high school. Basic attitude problem... I wound up getting a job doing computer support for Radio Shack and later GRiD Systems. They had education benefits, so at age 30 I started college part time evenings with the intent of getting a B.S. in Computer Science.

Over the next ten years GRiD Systems vanished, I got another job (which I still have), and slowly I achieved the goal. At age 40 I graduated with a GPA over 3.98.

The degree has probably helped me keep my job, though it did nothing for my pay. I already get paid handsomely.

It's worth noting that I make a living as a Windows expert, but I do not have ANY of the Microsoft credentials that are often required. I've been around enough that I don't need those letters to prove I know what I know.

My opinion is it's never too late. Start now, get the degree you want, and don't be too surprised when things come out totally different than what you expected. Life happens...

My grandmother is another good example. She was widowed at age 54 with an 8th grade education and no job. She got a GED, then a college degree as a teacher. She taught art in public schools for 12 years before retiring at age 70.

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

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