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Preface > Organization of This Book

P3.4. Organization of This Book

You should be able to understand the bulk of each project with very little reading. The pictures alone tell a story. At the beginning of each chapter we include a conceptual diagram, a "What You Need" list, and a small "Project Stats" section that describes the relative difficulty, time involved, and cost of the project. We assume that you've already got a PC, so we typically don't take that expense into account in the overall cost of the project.

The 13 projects in Home Hacking Projects for Geeks are divided into three categories: Home Automation, Home Entertainment, and Home Security.

P3.4.1. Part I, Home Automation

Chapter 1, Automate a Light

(written by Tony Northrup), introduces you to lighting that responds to your needs without request. We'll show you how to automate a light using a motion sensor, and you'll never need to walk across a dark basement again.

Chapter 2, Automate Your Porch Light

(written by Tony Northrup), expands upon the concepts in the first chapter. This chapter introduces a component, the light sensor, but more importantly, it offers a simple solution to a complex problem by integrating your lighting control system with your computer. You'll learn a little bit of Perl by using scripts that should be simple to read if you're familiar with any programming language.

Chapter 3, Remotely Monitor a Pet

(written by Tony Northrup), shows you how to extend the reach of your home using the Internet. This chapter covers the basics of configuring a web server using either Windows or Red Hat Linux. You'll see some new hardware here, too, and use some concepts from the previous projects to rig up a system that takes snapshots of your pet when it passes in front of a motion sensor. When you're done, you'll be able to check in on your pet from any web browser in the world!

Chapter 4, Make Your House Talk

(written by Tony Northrup), allows your house to reach out to you. You'll implement a whole-house audio system using cheap computer speakers and a wireless audio transmitter. You'll then configure your PC to find information for you and present it via synthesized speech. This project uses no-cost software, but you can spend a little money on good speech synthesis software to make it really cool.

P3.4.2. Part II, Home Entertainment

Chapter 5, Remotely Control Your Computer

(written by Eric Faulkner), introduces you to soldering. You'll build a simple circuit from easy-to-obtain parts that allows you to control your PC using any infrared remote. You'll teach your PC how to access your digital media library while you kick back on the couch. There's a Linux version and a Windows version of this project. If you want to continue on to the next project (recommended), you should complete the Windows version.

Chapter 6, Control Your Home Theater

(written by Eric Faulkner), is another hardware project that's slightly more difficult than the previous one but still fairly easy to complete. In this project you'll be scripting the control of any devices that respond to infrared remote controls. If you have too many remote controls on your coffee table, this allows you to do everything with one remote, without having to switch modes.

Chapter 7, Build a Windows-Based Home Theater PC

(written by Eric Faulkner), is a more complex software integration project with unique PC hardware requirements. This chapter gives step-by-step instructions on how to assemble a PC for use in this and the next project. You'll be creating a computer that integrates into your home theater and features time shifting, digital video recording with a built-in programming guide, video games, and more.

Chapter 8, Build a Linux-Based Home Theater PC

(written by Eric Faulkner), takes a Red Hat Linux approach to the home theater PC. You'll be interacting with Linux at the kernel level in this chapter, but thanks to some special tools, it will be safe and easy. The resulting PC will have the same features as the Windows version, but you won't have to buy Windows.

Chapter 9, Create Time-Shifted FM Radio

(written by Tony Northrup), brings time shifting to your Howard Stern fix. You'll take advantage of the whole-house audio system from Chapter 4 to have your favorite radio talk show at your command.

Chapter 10, Access Your Entire Media Collection Over the Internet

(written by Eric Faulkner), takes your digital audio library and exposes it to the Internet with a web server application using Microsoft IIS. You'll be introduced to Active Server Pages and VBScript; you can do your own scripting if you're interested, or simply cut and paste.

P3.4.3. Part III, Home Security

Chapter 11, Keyless Entry Welcome Home

(written by Eric Faulkner), extends the functionality of an off-the-shelf keyless remote entry system. You'll build a small control mechanism to enable the lock to trigger events for a "welcome home" sequence. A little imagination can tie this project into every other project in the book.

Chapter 12, Watch Your House Across the Network

(written by Tony Northrup), is an evolution of the pet monitoring project in Chapter 3. This time, however, you'll stream full motion video across your home network or the Internet to peek in on your home's multiple, inexpensive video cameras from any web browser.

Chapter 13, Build a Security System

(written by Tony Northrup), brings physical intrusion detection, event processing, and alerting capabilities to your home. While it's possible to buy an affordable security system for your home, it will usually require a monthly maintenance fee, and it won't allow you much control over the system's behavior. After completing this project, you'll be able to configure your alarm system's behavior to your family's tastes using a simple Perl script. You can even build an off-site video storage system to securely store video evidence of a crime, even if your computer is stolen in the process.

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