Thursday, August 16, 2007

Best of intentions...

So the PS3 came Tuesday and I actually got to hooking it up and trying out various things. I got it to play a Super Audio CD (SACD), regular old CD, DVD, Blu-Ray Disc, and PS2 and PS1 games. While checking out Chrono Cross (a PS1 game) I was troubled to see some occasional video anomalies.... it was like the TV was periodically losing video synchronization whenever a "bright" flash occurred on the screen (not an uncommon occurrence in a video game). My initial assumption was that this was an issue with the "backwards compatibility" support for this particular game.

However, when I went to watch "300" (a Blu-Ray movie) the same thing occurred. Shannon was concerned that the PS3 was defective, but I was betting it was either a problem with my 6 year-old TV or my much newer (and admittedly cheap) Psyclone video switch.

So yesterday I did some research online... and it turns out other people have experienced the same problem with the Psycloine PSC01. The learning here is that although the Psyclone is an excellent switch for passing 480i and 480P component video signals, it just doesn't have the bandwidth to fully support a 1080i signal... particular when that signal has a great-deal of dynamic range. It's interesting that this phenomena did not occur when watching the cable box through it, but I suspect that the degree of compression the cable company applies to its signals is much less then what you see on a Blu-Ray disc (and hence the reason the problem didn't occur on cable but showed up on Blu-Ray). Of course video game programmers get to specify the exact colors to drive the screen with at any given point in time... so if they want to make have the screen pure black and half pure white.... they can (whereas film/and video is always an approximation to some degree or another).... so it also makes sense that it's evident on games.

This left me with a conundrum... it's obvious that the the PSC01 cannot be used for the PS3 and likewise I probably should not use it with an Xbox 360 some day. That means potentially replacing this switch with a higher-bandwidth switch like the Audio Authority 1154A, (or newer 1154B) or the Zektor HDS4.1. However, these switches sale for $200 to $250 ... and I had already invested $100 in the Psyclone... buying another switch means just leaving the psyclone on the shelf to collect dust.

Then I had an epiphany... it struck me that my $1000 Denon receiver (which is a middle-of-the-pack Denon receiver... their top-end receiver sales for $7200) probably was designed to accommodate a 1080i signal. So I could feed the Cable box and PS3 into the receiver's two (it only has two) component inputs and then send that output to the TV's only 1080i Input. Then all of my 480P sources (DVD player, Wii, and Xbox) can be plugged into the Psyclone and fed directly into a 480P input on the television.

Of course this introduces two issues. First and most obvious... if I ever purchase another devices that outputs 1080i... I'm hosed. I will have to buy another switch box. That said, I have no immediate plans to pick up an Xbox360 which is about the only conceivable box I would get that outputs 1080i.... so if nothing else this is buying me time to save up for a better swich (or maybe a better receiver and/or television? :) )

Secondly, my switching is not as intuitive as I had it last weekend as the new diagram will attest. Like I stated previous the Denon 3801's Component inputs are "hard-wired" to the TV/DBS audio input and the "DVD" input. Since it make the most sense, the cable box can be plugged into the TV/DBS input, but that means the PS3 must be plugged into the DVD input. I suppose if someone comes to my house wants to play a DVD on the PS3 this will make sense, but I still have my standalone DVD player... and it's plugged into the video switch.. which I mapped to the "VDP" input. So... PS3 on DVD, DVD on VDP... Got that?

This problem also propagates to the TV inputs: The Psyclone's video out has been connected to the 480P input labeled "DVD"... this is kinda' okay... after all the DVD player is probably the most used device connected to the Psyclone... so if you were stumbling through my setup you probably would try the TVs "DVD" input when trying to watch a DVD... but your probably wouldn't think to use the DVD input for the Wii (which doesn't play DVDs) or the Xbox (which does, but I never bought the Xbox DVD remote so you can't access that functionality). Likewise, the TVs lone 1080I input is labeled "DTV" and it's being fed by the receiver (which as I stated previously is switch between the Cable box and the PS3).... this leads to if you want to use the PS3 select "DVD" on the receiver but DON'T select DVD on the Television.. select "DTV".

As I stated in the beginning.... if you ever come to my house and want to watch something... I'll have a printout of the wiring diagram waiting for you.... take some time to peruse it. It'll help. :)

One last comment, you may notice that the PS3 has been connected with wired ethernet whereas in previous diagrams that was not the case. I had originally intended to use the PS3's 80211.g (aka Wifi) capabilities to just connect to my wireless network rather than bothering with the wired connection. It's not that it would be hard to hardwire it... when I had my house networked I made sure that there would be four 100mbit ports behind my component rack. Rather, if the only reason you put the PS3 on the network is to access the the Internet... and your Internet conneciton speed is slower than even the wireless network then it doesn't really matter what type of networking you choose. However, my premise was flawed.... I had another reason to put the PS3 on my network instead of just as means of accessing the Internet.

As it turns out, the PS3 is a DLNA player too. If you aren't familiar with DLNA... follow that link for more information. Almost completely coincidentally, my RAID array in goliath coughed up a hard drive recently. I didn't notice it at fist because it was a RAID 1 mirror and the other drive was still serving up data. However, now my local copies of my MP3 files, photos, and even school programmer projects I was holding onto were now vulnerable. I decided that it was time to retire goliath as a file server. Until a few months ago, goliath was my everything server. Not only did he serve files but he also functioned as a DHCP server, a DNS server and my firewall. However, I demoted him after purchasing a Buffalo Technology WHR-HP-G54 high-power router and loading the open-source dd-wrt firmware on it. Now "lexington" (it's a really little box) runs a linux kernel and fulfills all of those miscellaneous services that goliath once handled.

However, as I stated previously, goliath was now just a file server... and one with its relability cut in half by a bad hard drive. So Shannon and I talked it over and I purchased a Buffalo Technology Network Attached Storage (NAS) box. Specifically the 1 Terabyte TeraStation Live. Which, as it turns out, is a DLNA Media server. I plan to name him "bronx".

So now, simply copying photos, music, videos, etc. onto the Terastation live (which is primarily the kind of data that goliath was hosting anyway). Means that all of that media is instantly viewable in my Home Theater on the PS3. Not a bad "freebie".

Since streaming high-quality video can potentially consume quite a bit of bandwidth, I thought it best to go ahead and future-proof things with the 100mbit physical ether net cable as opposed to the 54mbit wifi network. Besides the PS3 even came with a network cable in the box!

BTW, if you haven't figured out were my system naming convetion comes from... wikipedia is good for that too.

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