Home Theatre: Redux


Those of you who have been following this site for a while will know that I have a certain proclivity towards engineering sometimes complex home theatre configurations.

Naturally, as an Architect and Software Engineer (former life) I’m a huge fan of continual improvement – and my home theatre experience doesn’t escape this principle.  Since we moved into the new house late last year, the configuration has been somewhat suboptimal.

As someone who has suffered from poor vision for over a decade and a half, I’ve been a huge fan of the home projector option, and this carries to this day.  As a result, a 720p DLP projector which was purchased way back in 2006 still has a place in the current configuration – although this time around it is ceiling mounted.

The Layout

The house suffers from the very popular open planned living concept, and as a result the lounge area is only bounded by three walls.  This leaves a rather awkward open area which exposes the surround left speaker – not much can be done about that.

We have two sofas (3-seater and a 2-seater) plus a leather single seater recliner which is styled in the gold class theatre design complete with twin cup holders.

Having bricks-and-mortar which we own also provides us with an opportunity to do things right – as a result, the surround back channel speakers are wired through the ceiling and re wall mounted behind the main sofa.  Here’s a diagram which illustrates the current speaker layout (a lay of the land, so to speak):

Lounge configuration

Now this configuration is hardly out of the ordinary – with one notable exception: a 55” Sony Bravia is wall mounted above the amplifier/center speaker, which means we have 2 HDMI outputs.  In addition to this, I prefer to have independent ability to play an Xbox console while the main TV is in use, so to the left of the center speaker is a 24” LCD monitor.

In Theory

With the new Harmon/Kardon AVR 370 now installed and configured, almost all input devices are using pure HDMI output only (direct to the amp).  The notable exceptions are the Rega RP-1 turntable (with pre-amp) and a BlueTooth extender which came with the amp.

The new amplifier supports two HDMI outputs (but doesn’t support outputting different discrete sources!) however it does make more logical sense to output to the Projector and the Bravia since they won’t ever be used at the same time as the projection goes over the Bravia’s screen.

Achievement unlocked: All-HDMI setup.

The one problem was how to handle the 24” LCD monitor?  Using an existing 2×4 HDMI switch, I output the Xbox HDMI to the switch and made the LCD one of the two outputs, the second daisy-chaining to the amp.  This provides a way to run the Xbox via the Amp (to the Bravia or Projector) whilst also providing output to the 24” LCD.

Here’s how it all looks:

Configuration Guide

Basically, all input runs through the amplifier and for the Bravia or the projector, there’s no need to do anything special to switch between sources.  It’s a nicely centralised configuration using almost 100% HDMI.

In Practice

Well, I’m very happy with the outcome!  Here are a few pictures of the final configuration.

IMG_0909_Medium IMG_0905_Medium

Above we have the new amplifier which is pretty slick looking on the outside, and a profile of the amplifier surrounded by the media units, with the center speaker above.  You can just make out the 24” LCD monitor to the left of the center speaker.

IMG_0907_Medium IMG_0908_Medium

The next set of photos show the view from the 3-seater sofa, you can see how the projection screen sits above the 55” Bravia.  The photo above and to the right is a side profile which shows where the Rega RP-1 sists in relation to everything else.


Last;y – a quick shot of the projector which is nicely ceiling mounted now.  The effort hasn’t gone unappreciated by the audience as my youngest son Damian looks on:


Advanced Twonky Media Server configuration on a Thecus NAS



As you’ll no doubt recall from my earlier 2012 article, I have a NAS in my home office.  It is a Thecus N5200XXX 5-bay Network Attached Storage device, and it sits on my home gigabit network.

The Thecus features an OS which accommodates pluggable “modules”, one of which is a licensed copy of Twonky Media Server. 


Twonky is a DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compliant media server which broadcasts (via UPnP) to media receivers on your local network.  The server has device profiles for a range of media receivers, and is pretty easy to configure.


Configuring Twonky

The majority of functionality Twonky exposes is fine out-of-the-box, but there might be some cases where you’d want to modify or augment functionality.  In my case, I wanted to change the way Twonky displays Pictures and Videos when viewing by date (to sort by most recent, and by Day instead of Year./Month).

To make changes you’ll need to hand edit the various Twonky configuration files – a warning up front – if you aren’t confident in messing with configuration files, this might not be a step you want to entertain. 

Accessing Twonky configuration

As would be no surprise to many network gurus, the Thecus module files aren’t directly accessible via a Samba or NFS mount.  This means you’ll need to employ a different approach – namely secure shell (SSH) – in order to get at the Twonky configuration files.

Here’s an easy to follow guide on configuring and using the Thecus SSH module, or see below

  1. Install and start HiSSH module on your Thecus NAS
  2. Activate the HiSSH module (by default it is configured to use your admin account’s password)
  3. Use an SSH client to connect to the NAS (using user: root)

Personally, I disabled the SSH module after I was finished accessing the NAS.

Free SSH Clients for Windows

If you are running a version of Microsoft Windows, these SSH clients are worth a look:

For this article, I’ll be using winSCP as it has a nice Explorer-style User Interface and allows the use of interaction with your clipboard for copy/cut and paste operations.

Accessing the Twonky Configuration

Once you’ve authenticated, you’ll find the main module files under the path:

Warning!  Before you attempt to make any changes to any module files, I highly recommend making backup copies of any files or folders you want to modify.

In my case, I wanted to edit the device configuration for all devices, so I navigated to the following path:

Click on the image for a closer look

Opening the view-definitions.xml file, it was a simple matter of replacing the “bydate” container configuration under the video container configuration, with this:

<container name='bydate' id='video/date' sortcriteria='-dc:title' 
           createClass='object.item.videoItem.movie' class='object.container'> <container buildon='dc:date[1:10]' sortcriteria='+dc:title'
           createClass='object.item.videoItem.movie' class='object.container'/> </container>

I made a similar change for the Pictures container object.  Once saved, the Twonky module needed to be disabled and enabled again.

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