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Dealer Taps Stardraw Software for Multiroom Audio

PC-based control systems make sense when Cat 5 isn't run to proper locations.

Don't you just hate it when a builder wires the house for multiroom audio, but fails to run Cat 5 to speaker locations?

That's what boggled Femi Adegoke of Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based AWE!DIO, when he came across a model home with speakers wired to a Russound CAA66 distributed audio system, but no provisions for keypads, except for one in the kitchen.

The solution was a system that uses the Stardraw Control PC-based automation system communicating with the CAA66 via RS-232, and off-the-shelf IP-based interfaces. Installers can simply select the whole-house audio button, and each zone appears on-screen, along with a list of the available sources. Pick the room, along with a source and adjust the volume.

"Using the Russound CAA66 and Stardraw Control, I can now control all six zones of audio and get feedback, even though I have only one keypad in the kitchen," says Adegoke.

For interfaces, Adegoke uses the Sahara Touch-iT Tablet i215, a complete Windows XP machine ($2,395).

"This is a really nice wireless device with a 12.1-inch touchscreen," Adegoke says. "It boots up into the control program so my client isn't even aware that he's using a Windows PC. It behaves like a dedicated touchpanel but it's much more powerful and much, much cheaper than a proprietary product."

Elsewhere Adegoke specifies Ultra-Mobile PCs, the smaller Tablet PC that is lately finding favor among home systems integrators. Specifically, he prefers the UMPC 17209/17210 from eo ($1,100 to $1,400), featuring a built-in camera, audio, card readers and more.

Typically, on the back end of Adegoke's Stardraw Control systems is a series of Ethernet-to-serial boxes and IR adapters. His favorites include:
- Global Caché GC-100-18R rack-mountable module with a network connection, two serial ports, three relays and six independent IR outputs or sensor inputs
- Lava ESL RS-232 4-DB9 four-port Ethernet-to-serial device server
- Comtrol DeviceMaster AIR one-port wireless (802.11b)-to-serial module

The special modules are used in combination with routers, network switches and a collection of A/V components. Not bad for a whole-house audio system with no keypads. "No proprietary hardware is needed, and the software is open-architecture based on Microsoft's .net framework," says Adegoke. "All PCs in a residence can be used as system controllers."

About Stardraw

Founded in 1993 by ex-Microsoft development manager David Snipp, Stardraw has amassed quite a following among do-it-yourselfers and commercial A/V integrators, but CE pros like Adegoke are gravitating to this and other PC-based systems.

Stardraw has its roots in design software for lighting control, but over the years has come to specialize in A/V-related products. In 2000, the company released Stardraw AV design and documentation software for commercial-oriented A/V pros, and later delivered a "lite" version for smaller jobs.

Released in November 2005, Stardraw Control, the company's automation software, is one of the newest products in the Stardraw repertoire. The manufacturer has already delivered drivers (RS-232, IP, IR and others) for many of the popular subsystems including Aprilaire, Bosch, Denon, Imerge, Lutron, Xantech and Yamaha.

Stardraw is still missing drivers for plenty of the top subsystems, but dealers can program a button to launch a subsystem's own browser-based interface. For example, Adegoke says, "I have a Proliphix IP thermostat. In Stardraw I can program a button and have it bring up my thermostat page."

Similarly with music management systems, Stardraw is racing to create two-way communications to enable the exchange of metadata. For now, though, users could open Imerge's own PC-based interface (for example) to select artists, songs, playlists, etc.

All drivers are open-source, explains Adegoke, "so anyone can write their own or look at an existing driver, then copy or modify it to suit their needs."

And while Stardraw gives users the capability to write their own scripts using C#, non-programmers can create colorful GUIs (graphical user interfaces) and program the control system through drag-and-drop tools.

Stardraw Control is based on technology. The program can run on any Windows, Mac or Linux device.

As Adegoke sums it up, "With Stardraw you can design your own GUI, it's open-architecture, the hardware is non-proprietary, no programming (hard coding) skill required, and it's customizable, cost effective & flexible."

Stardraw retails for $500 per project.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Audio · Distributed Audio · Software · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]


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