How-to: Use an arcade controller in your chair to trigger voice control

Difficulty: 2

Picture 253I am very confident that voice control is the way to go when it comes to controlling my home theatre setup into the future, because I am currently using it and benefiting from the huge advantages it offers. I believe a reliable voice control system will be the best way to control any electrical appliance, and that voice control is likely to be in our lives indefinitely. There are huge cultural and environmental problems which need to be addressed for it to work reliably, but the technology that interprets what we say works very well.

After setting up voice control on my home theatre PC, I realised that there needed to be an instant way to trigger the voice control so it would start listening to me. I needed a way to avoid using a traditional Universal remote, or my gadget. I needed a button that is ultra convenient. This means installing a button right next to my hand that will trigger the voice control. The only way of achieving this is by installing a button into my lounge. This may seem a bit excessive, but once it is done, the benefits we receive from it will last us well into the future. I believe all home theatre seating or lounge suites will eventually have the option to add a button into the arm.

There are many different types of buttons on the market, but I have only seen one that I know will be able to last the lifetime of the lounge. It’s going to take a beating, so I needed a button that was strong and reliable. Arcade machine buttons have proven themselves over the years as being ultra reliable. Fortunately for me, they are also cheap.

The end result is a button sitting immediately next to my hand which can activate and control my whole entertainment system using my voice. It’s not going to get much better than this. I expect this configuration to last the life of the couch, and it is likely to be considerably cheaper than having these factory installed. The only DIY work needed to be done for most lounges will be to drill a hole to install the button, and to click the pieces together. My scripts are not perfect yet, but I hope you will agree that it is pretty exciting stuff.

This article will show you how to install an arcade controller board, and a button into your lounge to trigger voice control of your entertainment.

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How to: Control TV, VCR, DVD, cable and more with voice using USB-UIRT

Difficulty: 2.5

USBUIRTOnce I was able to voice control my home theatre PC, I still needed to use my remote control to turn on the TV and receiver. I wanted to rid my lounge room of remotes altogether, so I needed to find a way to get my computer to control the rest of my audio visual gear. I wanted to be able to control everything in the lounge room with just my gadget and my voice.

It was logical to use Infra Red (IR) technology for this, because that is the only way we can control most AV gear currently. Often the buttons on a device (such as a TV set) don’t offer as many options as its remote control unit.

The USB-UIRT is a magic device that can send and receive IR signals. It connects to a USB port on our computer and enables us to send IR commands from our computer to our peripheral AV gear. It sits at the back of the room and has good range and reliability. This device removes the need for remote controls in our TV room altogether as we can tag a voice command to tell the USB-UIRT which IR signal or signals we want it to send.

The result is that we can walk into the room, press the trigger button and say “TV on”. This will turn the TV and stereo on. When we say “I’m finished”, the TV and stereo will turn off. 

It gets really impressive when we start controlling our VCR, BluRay or cable box with voice. I have added some extra scripting which will enable just this. When I put a video into the video player, I can say “Video Player” and the TV will change the channel to AV, to show the VCR. I can then use the usual play/pause/stop/rewind/fast forward voice commands to navigate through the video. When I return to the media centre, the tape will stop, rewind and 3 minutes later, eject the tape and turn off. This is while all the other media centre voice commands are working as per normal.

This article will show you how to setup the USB-UIRT to control your audio visual gear to control everything in your lounge room/home theatre by voice. The scripts need to be installed, and IR signals learnt, which is thankfully quite easy with to do with EventGhost. The speech macros have also been updated to simplify the commands to their shortest abbreviation. I have also included another speech macro which enables the “Play artist/genre/track” commands. It’s a bit harder for the computer to pick up the new commands, though they do work. The old commands still work and are worth learning because the computer is much more likely to recognise them. The commands will be progressively tweaked until each command is as simple as we can make them. It’s not far off as simple as it can get now.

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How-to: Setup a cheap Dual Monitor KVM alternative

Difficulty: 2.5

KVM 006A Keyboard/Video/Mouse(KVM) switch lets you use the same keyboard, mouse and monitor to control multiple computers. This helps you save desk space and money as you can use the same peripherals to control and view each of the computers you connect.

If you have a dual screen setup, and you would like to connect multiple computers up to your monitors, people will tell you to spend a large amount of money to get a KVM switch which will handle this. 

For a dual screen KVM switch which you can connect 4 computers, you are looking at spending around $500 and you are also likely to have to spend additional money on the cables, and these can cost more than the switch itself. It is almost worth purchasing extra monitors and peripherals to control your computers, instead of buying one of the really fancy switches.

This article will show you a cheaper option to achieve the same result. Halving the cost comes with the most minor of drawbacks:

  • Switching can no longer be done through the keyboard (still works for one screen).
  • To switch computers, you will need to press two buttons instead of one.

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How-to: Buy a new computer – Part I

Difficulty: 1.5

rocceforte3.jpgOne of the most frequent questions I am asked by friends and family which have little computer experience, is what type of computer they should buy. Due to the huge range available, and the multiple uses that may or may not be involved, there can be no simple answer. It is very easy to go to the shop and spend a lot of money on a computer. But this may well be more powerful than you really need and a waste of your hard earned dollars. You can buy complete computer systems for under $1000, and you can also spend well over $10,000; but what will the benefits be? In any case, this is never going to be a small investment, so it’s important to make sure you get what you want.

Back to the basics: Part one of this article will cover some initial questions you should ask yourself when planning the purchase of a new PC. Part two gives you a brief rundown of the individual components that make up a computer system itself.

This article is written for Australian consumers though I expect much of the information would be relevant for people from around the world. The main difference would be what computers are available from the different shops.

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How-to: Buy a new computer – Part II

Difficulty: 1.5

bits.jpgFollowing on from “How to: Buy a new computer – Part I“, which covered some initial questions you should ask yourself when buying a new PC, you should have an understanding of what you would like to do with your new computer and have an idea of what type of computer you are after. If you have not yet checked out part one, please do so before reading this article.

keyboardmouse.jpgThis section of the article we will break down the components of a computer system and show you what is important for the tasks you want to achieve with your new computer. By the end of this article, you should be armed with enough information to feel comfortable going to the shop and making your purchase.

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