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Old Sep 15, 2010, 11:37 AM   [Permalink]  #1
KHarms
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Lightbulb HCA Touch Panel

We bought a new piece of gear here at HCA Central and I wanted to share my observations. When we built the Touch Screen User Interface and the Client-Server in version 10 we had in mind the HP TouchSmart computers. They had a touch screen and ran a recent version of Windows. This seems like a good fit for putting a “HCA Station" someplace in the home like the Kitchen or the Den.

But a few weeks back we saw a review for a Touch Screen PC from Shuttle. This new unit, called the XPC X50V2 looked interesting:

http://www.slashgear.com/shuttle-xpc...nless-1677855/

It looked like it had several really nice features besides price: It doesn’t have a fan so it is quiet, had a good screen resolution, and was wall mountable.

I got the job of checking in out.

I looked around for a good price and bought one.

http://www.circuitcity.com/applicati...24-105876677-2

NOTE: I’ll give you web links to what I bought but products seems to come and go quickly so you may find that links in this article either don’t work or point to discontinued products. But a bit of looking and you will find similar things.

As the review said, this is a” barebones PC” so you are required to install the memory and drive and then install the operating system.

I have to say it wasn't easy to figure out which memory and driver would work.

To me it seems silly – and bad business - for all the resellers who have this sort of "bare-bones" PC not to have on the page a “You will need memory, a drive, and an Operating System - these will work so go buy them”. And supply links to them. I had to do a lot of “look and see if the numbers look the same” on the memory and drive to see what to buy.

I may do technical support for HCA but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert on building PCs so I have to say I was a bit concerned about putting this all together but I looked upon it as an adventure.

The memory I purchased is this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820148161

Some documentation seems to say that it can take a max of 2GB and other things I read said 4GB. I decided that 2GB was enough anyway so that is what I bought. Memory isn’t an easy thing to buy. There seems like thousands of different memory modules. I spent a lot of time comparing strings of letters and digits until I felt reasonably sure that I had the right thing. So I don’t build up too much suspense, turns out I bought the right stuff.

The hard drive was simpler as I didn’t need great performance or a huge capacity.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16822136373

Since I would need to install the operating system I needed a portable CD drive as well. It took a while to find a cost effective one since I didn’t need to write but only read CDs. Resellers should make it simpler to find those as well. This looked ok:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16827106329

Click image for larger version

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After a few days it all arrives and I unpack. All I find is a one page “instruction sheet” in many languages that points out where the power switch is, how to use the stand, and how to remove the stand and mount to a wall. Not much else. Nothing about how to install memory etc. I go online and find some setup instructions – no reference to this in given on the material in the box – that shows how to disassemble and install memory and the drive

http://us.shuttle.com/barebone/Specs...structions.pdf

Installation of the memory and hard drive wasn’t difficult. The online documentation and the inside of the machine were different. Of course! But it wasn’t hard to figure out what had to be disconnected and removed to get to the locations I needed. And then with the memory and drive in place it all went back together without much trouble.

Beware: There are LOTS of tiny screws to remove. You better have a small point Phillips screwdriver but with a big handle as they are in TIGHT. Took a while but I got the memory and the drive in.

I opted to install Windows XP. Yes that is way old and, yes, I could have used Vista Or Windows 7 but I had an installable copy of XP and since I was setting this up for just for HCA I figured why not save a few dollars and go with it.

As I said above I wasn’t really sure how to do the OS install but I connected up the external CD drive, keyboard, and mouse – we have plenty of those in the spares box - put the Windows install disk in the drive and then started the machine. And magic happened! XP installed fine. It spent a bunch of time and I had to answer some questions and choose options during install but it wasn’t hard.

After it was done the touch screen worked and it was a Windows machine! As an aside, I never installed Windows before on an empty machine and I was amazed how “clean” it was. All our office and lab machines from Dell come with tons of other stuff already installed.

In the Shuttle box was a disk labeled “Driver DVD”. No mention of that in the one page “instruction sheet”. But I figured it was probably needed so I put it in the CD Drive and the AutoRun started installing things. Of course, not all installed ok. Various error messages about invalid command line parameters to the Windows Installer.

Note: Those errors could be because the XP I installed was old – pre Service Pack 2.

Then I started looking for how to enable Wireless which I wanted to do on order to get the machine on to our internal network. And I could find nothing on enabling wireless. I looked online for what seemed like hours but no luck. Was I missing a driver or something else? I had no idea at this point.

I have to say that in my looking, I did miss a picture in the one page “instructions” sheet showing a program called “Control AP”. If I had gotten out my magnifying glass I could have seen from the screen image of this program that it can control screen brightness, the “light bar” – a blue color emitting from the bottom of the unit – the camera, and wireless. But that is what you need do – use this program to turn wireless on and off. That took a long time to figure out.

But then I found no mention where this program comes from! It wasn’t on the “Driver” disk. The only program on the disk was a screen alignment program – which I didn’t need as the touch screen worked great without calibration.

So, for now I gave up on wireless, and I connected the Shuttle to our network – used a cable - so that I could do massive amounts of Windows Updates. That took a long time as it brought in Service Pack 2, then a whole bunch of other stuff, then started it all again with Service Pack 3. Prepare yourself for spending lots of time on this!

But after all that, wireless still didn't come on. While I still didn't know if I was missing a driver or not I turned my attention to the "Control AP" program - whatever that was! And after much searching I found a download point for the “Control AP “program on the shuttle site.

I Installed it and then I tried to enable wireless and it worked! Finally I was able to get to the network wirelessly. All that was needed was this program. No new driver needed.

After that it was just installing HCA – and that needed .NET which took an amazing amount of more time to download and install. Then configure as a HCA client and the Touch Screen User Interface, and start it up.

And HCA worked great!

After all this hardware and software work, what did I have? I had a fully functional touch screen “HCA Station” and it worked GREAT! All the client and touch screen features worked fine on this machine.

Last piece was to attach it to the wall. And there was another story. I really have to wonder why most mounting brackets are so expensive. After all it is just a few pieces of metal. After another long session searching I did find this:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824997932

Still cost more than I thought it should but it did work fine.

Click image for larger version

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So what did it cost to get a fully functional wall mounted touch screen computer running HCA connected to our HCA Server? Total was $460 for the Shuttle, memory, and drive, and $20 for the wall mount. Add in some shipping costs and just about $500. Not a bad price at all.

And, most importantly, couple this with a server running Windows Home Server and you have a massively useful HCA installation for under $1000 which is very close to the HP Touch Smart computer alone. And way less than something from one of the big boys like Crestron.

It was an adventure! It could have been much less of an adventure with better help from the resellers pointing me towards the right pieces and from the Shuttle company in providing some much better documentation.

We had had the Shuttle running for over a month and no problems at all. It's a great platform for HCA running in client mode. We even have it doing text-to-speech when a program on the server uses Speak elements. Kind of fun!
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Old Sep 15, 2010, 12:42 PM   [Permalink]  #2
kjbbasic
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Default Re: HCA Touch Panel

First, thx for the detailed info on this. I'm looking at adding something similar on the main floor of my house.

Side question tho...how did you get speech working from the server to the client?
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 11:22 AM   [Permalink]  #3
KHarms
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Default Re: HCA Touch Panel

Had to notice that did you? It's a feature we added in 10.1 which will be released around October 1st. With this new feature each time the server "speaks" it also tells all the connected clients to do the same. However there is also configuration parameter for the server that says "Don't speak" so you can shut-up the server if you want while allowing the clients to speak. And each client can be configured to speak or not as well.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 06:42 PM   [Permalink]  #4
kjbbasic
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Default Re: HCA Touch Panel

Again, thx for the response and ... Yes I certainly did (notice and ask!) ...now that I have the client-server stuff up and running I was certainly missing the speech feature on the clients. My current solution is not optimal.

I appreciate the touchscreen info and the slip

So far so good with the rest of client-server...very nice feature.
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Old Sep 17, 2010, 07:57 AM   [Permalink]  #5
KHarms
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Default Re: HCA Touch Panel

In 10.1 there are some other Touch Screen Interfaces changes as well that you may like. So just hang on for a bit longer...
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Old Oct 29, 2010, 03:46 PM   [Permalink]  #6
KHarms
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Default Re: HCA Touch Panel

And 10.1 just released has those Touch Screen changes: The ability to customize the header bar, select colors for the background and text, access the troubleshooter from inside the TUI, and improvments in the device propup control panels.
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Old Jan 22, 2011, 07:15 PM   [Permalink]  #7
codgers
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Default Re: HCA Touch Panel

After reading Kimberly’s positive experience with the Shuttle X50v2 touchscreen computer, I decided it would make the perfect touchscreen computer for our kitchen.

I already had a copy of Win 7 Ultimate that I hadn’t used, so I thought I’d try that for the O/S, and for reasons of reliability and performance, I decided to use an 80GB Intel SSD instead of a conventional hard drive. Also, the SSD is completely silent, and the Shuttle X50 has no fan, so the computer would be noiseless.

The X50 is available in both white and black, and I decided on white, since it was going in the kitchen, and for some unknown reason, the white version was $40 less than the black version from the merchant I ordered from, directron.com ($319.99 vs. $359.99). This was without memory or storage. I added in a single 2GB stick of RAM (the computer has room for two sticks for a total of 4GB). The SSD came in at $200 from Amazon, bringing the cost of the hardware, including shipping, to about $573.

As Kimberly mentioned, you need a USB DVD ROM to load the OS, and I had a ca. 2002 external HP DVD burner that I thought I could use. This drive caused problems later.

First thing to do was to assemble the hardware. This was straightforward, but does involve a lot of screws. Installing the memory and SSD took about 30 mins.

I then plugged in a USB keyboard and mouse, inserted the Win 7 64 bit disc into the HP optical drive, and turned on the computer. The computer booted off the install disk, and I got to the point of clicking “Install” and then got the message:

“Required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing. If you have a driver floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB flash drive, please insert it now. Note: If the Windows Installation media is in the CD/DVD drive, you can safely remove it for this step.”

An Internet search for this message quickly showed that a variety of conditions have been known to cause this message from the Win 7 installer. I went to the Microsoft site, and found that not only a driver, but very old firmware in a CD/DVD drive could cause this message. Given the age of the HP burner, I thought this could very well be the problem, and figured I might as well just buy an inexpensive external CD/DVD, which I did. I might add that for testing purposes, I also tried to install a copy of WinXP SP2 using the HP burner, and I repeatedly got a blue screen crash shortly after the installer started.

After getting a new USB LG DVD drive, I tried the Win 7 install again and had no problems. Immediately after finishing the Win 7 install, I loaded the drivers CD that came with the Shuttle, and it auto-installed a bunch of drivers, as well as the touchscreen calibration utility. The driver installation enabled, among other things, the Ethernet port, so I could access the net.

After Win7 installed, it downloaded a bunch of updates, and said to reboot to install them. Upon rebooting, I was getting a message saying the updates had failed to install. I found a recommendation on the net that suggested installing a few of the updates at a time until I located the one(s) that were failing. I did this (it was just one update that had problems), and after installing all the other updates, I tried the one that was failing, and it installed OK.

Like Kimberly, I couldn’t find the Control AP program from Shuttle anywhere. That program is needed to enable WiFi, the internal web cam, etc. I finally called Shuttle tech support and they gave me the download location. You need to go to global.shuttle.com, select the button at the top labeled “Supports” and from the drop down list select “Support List”. This takes you to a page with a box entitled “Select Product”, where you want “Systems” in the first dropdown, and “X50V2/V50V2(B)” in the second drop down. This takes you to a page that has “Downloads” in the upper right hand corner where you can select “X50V2/X50V2(B) Drivers”. This takes you to a page where you can select your Operating System from a drop down, and then all the downloads, including drivers and Control AP can be found. I have to give Shuttle extremely high marks in the tech support area. When I called them and I asked for customer service, I got someone immediately who could answer my question. I don’t think I have ever reached a support person at any computer company so quickly! From the Shuttle site it appears that all the drivers/programs are available in versions to support Win7, Vista, and XP in both 32 and 64 bit modes.

I must say that I am extremely impressed with the performance of the Shuttle. It’s dual core (four threads) Atom processor is fast, and the whole machine is a pleasure to use. The touch screen image is very good, provided you aren’t looking at the screen from a position that is higher than the screen itself. I think they optimized the screen for desktop use, where you will be looking at the screen from a lower angle. This is an important consideration if you are going to wall mount the unit, because you want to mount it near eye level for optimum color saturation.

One concern I had, since this computer was going to be turned on 24/7, was power consumption. I plugged the computer into a wattmeter, and found that at no time did power consumption exceed 26 watts. When the screen turned off after the time out, the steady state power consumption dropped to 16 watts or less, which I think is excellent. At this power draw, even at the highest tier of California’s exorbitant electric rates, it shouldn’t cost more than about $3.50/month to operate.

As I mentioned, the computer was going in our kitchen, and we didn’t have a TV in the kitchen, so I thought I’d try also using the X50 as a client for our Slingbox HD. It works beautifully for this application, and the screen has the perfect 16:9 aspect ratio for HD television display. I also loaded a copy of 64 bit iTunes and can stream our music collection from our server.

I decided to wall mount the Shuttle at approximately eye level using an articulating bracket, since it needs to be turned perpendicular to the wall for optimal television viewing. This was the bracket I used:

http://www.amazon.com/swingout-brack.../dp/B001F4YVOQ

It was inexpensive, has a large degree of movement, and fits reasonably close to the wall. I also ran an Ethernet cable to the PC rather than relying on WiFi, since I was going to be streaming HD video to it. On the web, I was able to find a short Ethernet cable with a right angle connector on one end, which prevented the cable from sticking out from the edge of the computer.

The low voltage cable from the Shuttle power brick is approx. 5’ 6” long, so I was able to put the power brick in the attic plugged into an outlet I installed for the purpose and drop the low voltage cable down the wall to a wall plate.

We have been using the Shuttle now for about a month, and it is working out well. I have attached three JPEGs showing the installation.
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