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I want my computer to be in the basement, but to use it on the first floor. Which cables should I run through the floor? Can some be wireless or other methods?

Here are some of the options I've thought of:

Basic: Run DVI, usb (mouse), usb (keyboard), and audio cable (4 cables)

USB Hub option: Run DVI, and 1 usb, then using a usb hub split it into mouse, keyboard, maybe even audio (2-3 cables)

HDMI Option: If I get a new video card and monitor that supports HDMI, would I be able to run both audio and video through it? Would the monitor have to have an audio out? Also there is a lot of extra bandwidth in the HDMI cables, could I send two monitors on 1 cable or would I have to use 2 cables? How about sending mouse/keyboard through the HDMI cable? I see a lot of monitors with USB hubs built in, but I assume I'd still have to wire HDMI + 1 USB cable to use the USB hubs?

X Terminal Machine/Thin Client: I don't really know much about this option. Not sure if it would allow me to run graphics acceleration and watch movies, does anyone know more details about what this would allow me to do?

Other options: Any other ways to do this? Can any of this be wireless?

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btw, what's your motivation for keeping the computer in the basement? –  Andy Jun 15 '10 at 15:27
    
@Andy: I'm going to try and set up a server room. It'll be cooler and dust free, greatly increasing the life of my computers. I was thinking about putting my desktops as well as my servers down there and so was wondering how hard it would be. It might just end up being for my servers. –  Jarvin Jun 15 '10 at 15:42
    
Gotcha. Oh the joys of being a homeowner! Have you considered getting a low power computer that doesn't generate as much heat, so needs less cooling, so needs less/no fans, so gets less dust inside?! I've been considering getting something like an EeeBox with 4 gigs of RAM, speedy SSD, and it'll be low power, quite nippy, and if you don't want HD video (ie the one with a cool graphics card) you don't even have a single fan for cooling IIRC! Just a thought... –  Andy Jun 15 '10 at 15:50
    
What are you planning to use the computer for? If it's for streaming video/audio content in another room save yourself the effort and just buy a PS3/XBOX 360, install PS3 Media Server (works for Xbox 360 too) on the computer, and stream the content over your wireless network. I do it all the time and it works great. The best part is, you can still use the computer in the other room while its streaming without lag (as long as the computer doesn't really suck. I was playing an older game on my computer and streaming a movie just last night using my laptop. –  Evan Plaice Jul 29 '10 at 9:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If I get a new video card and monitor that supports HDMI, would I be able to run both audio and video through it?

yes

Would the monitor have to have an audio out?

Only if you wanted to use something other than your monitor for the audio (and even then, there may be other ways).

could I send two monitors on 1 cable or would I have to use 2 cables?

No idea, but guess only one monitor per cable.

How about sending mouse/keyboard through the HDMI cable?

That's not possible.

Not sure if it would allow me to run graphics acceleration and watch movies, does anyone know more details about what this would allow me to do?

You can do this, but it seems inefficient to use two computers in this way, and I don't think you'll get the same performance as you would with just the one computer used directly.

My two cents is to use as few digital cables as possible. So that's ideally one HDMI and one USB. Alternatively you could use DVI, digital audio, and USB.

Never tried any of this though:)


Edit:

Can some be wireless or other methods?

Great idea! Yeah, there are both proprietary and standard solutions I believe for doing this with audio and video. I'd recommend avoiding devices that take analogue inputs (even though they'll no doubt convert to digital before transmission). One site that popped up in Google was this one: http://www.wirelesshdmi.net/. The keywords currently seem to be WirelessHD, WHDI, and WiGig.

I was originally thinking you could do something with DLNA, but I'm not so sure. (I think it's more movie playing than just streaming a constant live signal.) Does anyone know for sure?


Edit 2:

One consideration with wireless though is that it will add extra latency to the signal, which will manifest itself as a slight lag between giving input, and seeing the result on screen. I have no idea if it would be negligible, small, or awful (and it will be affected by the strength of connection between the two transceivers).

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I've witnessed a TV-over-wireless (in the 2.4GHz band that most high bandwidth wireless technologies currently use) product tested from one room to the next (so we could see+hear both ends. There was noticable lag between the two locations - small but definitely there. This is fine for TV/movies, and probably general computer use too, but may be unacceptable for gaming. –  David Spillett Jun 15 '10 at 15:32
    
Interesting, cheers! –  Andy Jun 15 '10 at 15:40

DisplayPort claims to support multiple video streams (daisy-chaining multiple monitors), audio streams, and aux data like USB 2.0 and ethernet.

I've never used it, and I have no idea if many/any manufacturers support all that yet, but on paper it sounds like a great solution.

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Edit: It would appear you can get both HDMI and USB extenders that operate over Cat5e/Cat6 network cable, so this might be your best option. For example products: HDMI, USB. The USB extenders my search brought up all only state USB1.1 support - this would be too slow for attaching external drives (aside from small flash drives, perhaps) but fine for your keyboard, mouse and other similar controllers. That should cover everything (display and sound via HDMI, control via USB) and not as expensively as I thought the extenders might be. I suggest you look for reviews before buying such devices though, in case they introduce an amount of latency which may be unacceptable for your use of the machine.


Previous answer with a more negative view on cable length limitations:

The main problem you are going to have is cable length limitations. What sort of distance are you expecting the cables to need to run?

I don't know what the longest length the DVI standard officially supports, but the longest extension cable I've seen is about 4.5 meters. HDMI is likely to be similar.

Assuming your keyboard and mouse (and other controllers if you have them) are USB based then there is a limit of 5 meters between each device, so you would need a hub at least every 5 meters. You can get 5m "active" USB extension cables which are essentially single port hubs with a long cable, so you could chain these together to remove the need for hubs. In either case you will be introducing latency with each step (the 5m limit on USB cables is due to signal timing issues, not electrical power loss over the distance) though probably not as much as you would notice.

The other main option is remote control via software like Remote Desktop (windows), NX or just plain X (Linux and similar), or other such solutions. This would mean still needing a full PC upstairs, but you could grab a small low-power low-noise Atom-based machine for upstairs and use it to remotely control the fat noisy monster in the basement. This way you only need an ethernet cable running around the house which can be up to 100m long removing the cable length issue. You could also use a KVM-over-IP unit to achieve the same effect in an OS agnostic manner (you would even be able to interact with the machine's BIOS). Remote control (including via KVMoIP) has one major drawback though - you will not be able to run highly graphical tasks well, if at all, which includes videos and games.

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Do you know what's the cause of max cable lengths here? Is it just signal attenuation? (I know that max ethernet cable lengths are based on collision detection, not on signal attenuation, which is why I ask, though I know it's very different.) –  Andy Jun 15 '10 at 15:45
    
For both Ethernet and USB it is timing. That is probably why the USB-over-cat6 is limited to USB1.1 - the higher speeds presumably require tighter timing allowances. I don't know the exact details for USB but With ethernet it is, as you say, about collision detection. Much above the 100m and the readings used could make a device's own signal bouncing off the end of the cable could be mistaken for a collision. Too short (there is a minimum length for most, if not all, connectors too) and the signal strength could overwhelm the next device (or, again, a device's own collision detection). –  David Spillett Jun 15 '10 at 23:42
    
Thanks. Yeah, USB for me is a big unknown - would love to find out more when I get time. –  Andy Jun 16 '10 at 8:44

you could use something like Gotomypc.com if you have a second computer like a laptop or a iproduct to control it

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