Hacking Niles ICS System - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 27 Old 08-20-2013, 01:53 AM - Thread Starter
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The story is that my grandpa, who is rich, bought himself a huge home back in 2008. It came with a Niles ICS System (2x VS6 and GX2, controls for every room). The problem was that the builder didn't have anyone trained to install it so he just got one of his guys, rushed him though training and had him do it. He was awful and after 2 weeks of messing with a laptop my grandpa threw him out and had some guys come in and just install DSS boxes in the rooms he and grandma watch.

Here I come in 5 years latter. I have been staying over at their place for the last week while my grandpa is recovering from surgery. I thought I would take a crack at the system. If you don't know, while you can download the Intelfile3 from the Niles website, you cannot use it as it says "You are not authorized". You have to have this IR capture device that dealers have to get passed that annoyance. What they do have is the firmware images for the IR Capture Station in that download from Intelfile3. After a bit of reverse engineering I found its off an older LPC2300 arm chip. Since the software looks for a comport, I figured its using one of those USB-to-Serial adapters. It also looks like when the capture station receives an escape (27) it immediately does some reset stuff and sends this string.

"# Bam IR Capture Unit 0.36 15Apr06\r\n"

I plugged in one of those duel USB serial port adapters I had around, connected them with a loop back adapter and fed a simple program that every time it received an escape, it would send that string.

EUREKA! I am now able to configure both the HT-MSU as well as the the GX2's. It just gets though the software part and doesn't help you if you need to have it learn a new remote, but at least you can update the firmware and change some devices around. I plan to build a Arduino device try to mimic it.

All in all, all this Niles stuff looks really hack-able. The Display wall panels run an ATMEGA128 with a DM9000 ethernet controler and 32k of static ram. I haven't popped open the Display's yet but might do it in the morning.
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post #2 of 27 Old 09-12-2013, 08:57 AM
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Thanks - I enjoyed reading this. I've been around and around with Niles about the policy of "dealers only programming". I think they would have a much bigger following if they didn't lock everything down.
I'm going to try your hack. What terminal program did you use to send the strings?
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post #3 of 27 Old 10-21-2013, 07:55 AM
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2nd.  What program did you use to send the string?  Can we have a copy?  PM also sent. :)

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post #4 of 27 Old 10-21-2013, 04:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Sorry I haven't updated in a while:P

I used a program called "TeraTerm" Its a dead simple terminal program. I then hooked up two usb serial adapters together with a null modem adapter. Set TeraTerm on one port and tell Intelfile3 to use the other. I then ran a simple script. I don't have it handy but here is what I think I remember it as.

:start
wait #27
if result=1 goto ok
goto start

:ok
send '# Bam IR Capture Unit 0.36 15Apr06'#13#10
goto start

It sends the escape character somewhat randomly so you kind of need a script. But its enough for you to change the configs. After digging in the DLL it looks like the IR capture protocol is somewhat simple and could possibly be made from arduino, but to be honest I just wanted a way to add a new panel so I haven't gone that far yet.
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post #5 of 27 Old 10-29-2013, 07:03 PM
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Ok, so I had a chance to try it today and this is what I did to make it work... (A little spelled out because I was guessing at a lot and figure many of you maybe as well)

 

Bought a loop back serial adapter on ebay. (could have made one simple enough with some research)

Downloaded TerraTerm (http://en.sourceforge.jp/projects/ttssh2/releases/)

Downloaded free trial of a serial port splitter (http://www.fabulatech.com/serial-port-splitter.html)

 

Split the serial port that the loop back adapter was connected to into 2 virtual ports.  Had TerraTerm use 1 and Niles use the other.

 

I made a text file and put the following in the body.

 

:start
sendln '# Bam IR Capture Unit 0.36 15Apr06'#13#10
goto start

 

I edited this from what WarlockD did above because I kept getting errors with his script.  I was hoping that the Niles didn't care if it kept getting the string so I tried it.

 

Then I changed the .txt file to a .ttl file.  

Opened ttermpro.exe and clicked Control then Macro and opened the file.  When the script is running, it just keeps sending the signal until you hit pause or end.

 

Then I opened Niles and tried to do the programming again and bingo! 

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post #6 of 27 Old 12-30-2013, 06:22 AM
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Will this program the remote then?
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post #7 of 27 Old 01-12-2014, 10:54 PM
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WD and KK - You rule!!!

 

One quick improvement; instead of buying/installing serial com ports and looping them, I've installed com0com Null-modem emulator, which created two virtual com ports., rest per Kevin's description.

 

Thanks for sharing :cool:

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post #8 of 27 Old 04-12-2014, 02:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGun View Post
 

WD and KK - You rule!!!

 

One quick improvement; instead of buying/installing serial com ports and looping them, I've installed com0com Null-modem emulator, which created two virtual com ports., rest per Kevin's description.

 

Thanks for sharing :cool:

This allowed you to program the system? I'm trying to buy a used unit

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post #9 of 27 Old 03-30-2015, 12:21 PM
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Has anyone had any luck programming a used unit with this hack? I am in the process of acquiring hardware, and I am going to try to test this, but I was unsuccessful testing the com0com method above. I'd appreciate any input if this can be revived! Thanks in advance!
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post #10 of 27 Old 09-05-2016, 11:23 AM
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Thumbs up

Thank you guys (@WarlockD @kevinkeenan @the Gun) so so much! This worked fantastically once I got over the learning curve.

I was able to set this up with the combination of the attached script file detailed above (the short version) along with com0com to configure two fake ports and TeraTerm to fire off the macro script. After that, IntelliFile 3 worked without issue.

Thank you all again. This saved me time and money! And shame on you Niles for A - making your dealers buy an expensive box and B - preventing anyone else from programming something they purchased from you with money! I get it, it's good for your relationship with dealers but what about when I just need to change one little source? I have to get you dealer out to my house? What if they live 500 miles away? Terrible.
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post #11 of 27 Old 09-27-2016, 08:48 PM
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What system are you programming? Is it serial or TCP/IP? I just got a GXR2 and remotes and need to set it up. I've tried to get it working but how do you communicate through the cat5 cable to the GXR2? Any help is greatly appreciated.
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post #12 of 27 Old 09-27-2016, 09:07 PM
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Wow. Just after sending that I tried redefining the virtual ports by checking the "use Ports class" boxes and now it works! With any luck I'll have this up and running this weekend. Thanks so much!
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post #13 of 27 Old 03-20-2017, 09:59 PM
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I know this is an old thread, but can more report back on how this worked out? Were you able to 100% configure a GXR2 on your own?

If I could get a walk through that would help a lot.


Thank You!
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post #14 of 27 Old 03-21-2017, 06:51 AM
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Absolutely. Just use the Niles program, comOcom, teraterm and the macro code as outlined above. Once you save the files it takes about 1 minute to link up. The only thing you can't do is program new IR codes for a new device, but there are plenty of on-board choices that worked for me.
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post #15 of 27 Old 03-22-2017, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlasmaElite View Post
Absolutely. Just use the Niles program, comOcom, teraterm and the macro code as outlined above. Once you save the files it takes about 1 minute to link up. The only thing you can't do is program new IR codes for a new device, but there are plenty of on-board choices that worked for me.
Thanks so much PlasmaElite for replying to this thread.

I have a used GXR2, 1 standard audio in module, 1 net interface card, 1 HD tuner, and 1 basic single gang zone controller on the way for like ~$300 with shipping so I have a few questions:

1. I bought the cheapest single gang controller to control one zone. In the end i'll buy the iRemote to control all zones. Does each zone need a controller for it to work? For example, could a single RCA input module, an iRemote, and 6 zones / 12 speakers be enough to control a single sound source to all 6 zones?

2. How do you configure the GXR2? Reading PDFs from Niles it appears it wanted a USB dongle (and shown from here it was just a USB to serial with a character escape to challenge answer dongle), but how do i talk to the GXR2? From the PDFs I connect an Ethernet cable from my NIC to the expansion port to talk to it. Does it need to be crossover or just straight through? What OS works best with the old Niles IntelliFile3 software?

3. The best setup would be getting the iRemote TS. When you say you can't teach it new IR codes, does that include the theater mode on the iRemote TS?

4. Niles has labels saying it must be 568A terminated. 568B is still the same on both ends. Does it really matter? I can follow 568A for this equipment since its 1 to 1 direct, just curious with field experience.

Again, thank you!
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post #16 of 27 Old 03-23-2017, 07:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinFoil View Post
Thanks so much PlasmaElite for replying to this thread.

I have a used GXR2, 1 standard audio in module, 1 net interface card, 1 HD tuner, and 1 basic single gang zone controller on the way for like ~$300 with shipping so I have a few questions:

1. I bought the cheapest single gang controller to control one zone. In the end i'll buy the iRemote to control all zones. Does each zone need a controller for it to work? For example, could a single RCA input module, an iRemote, and 6 zones / 12 speakers be enough to control a single sound source to all 6 zones?

2. How do you configure the GXR2? Reading PDFs from Niles it appears it wanted a USB dongle (and shown from here it was just a USB to serial with a character escape to challenge answer dongle), but how do i talk to the GXR2? From the PDFs I connect an Ethernet cable from my NIC to the expansion port to talk to it. Does it need to be crossover or just straight through? What OS works best with the old Niles IntelliFile3 software?

3. The best setup would be getting the iRemote TS. When you say you can't teach it new IR codes, does that include the theater mode on the iRemote TS?

4. Niles has labels saying it must be 568A terminated. 568B is still the same on both ends. Does it really matter? I can follow 568A for this equipment since its 1 to 1 direct, just curious with field experience.

Again, thank you!
I just hooked up a sonos connect to a friends Niles ICS system. Yes you can play a single sound source to all 6 zones at the same time including Spotify. Too bad there isn't a simple app out there that lets you control the Niles. Surprised nobody has written one to hack it. At least I haven't found one. Logitech says the harmony remotes are compatible with the GXR2 but I tried quickly and it didn't work. I set it up in a way that the Niles volume when turning on a zone is turned all the way up on every zone. They then can control the volume through the sonos app. They have the iremote only. Its annoying to have to use the remote though. Too bad they don't have one of the keypads on the main level. It does work though.
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post #17 of 27 Old 03-23-2017, 06:15 PM
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1) each zone can be individually controlled to play unique or same source sounds. A single iRemote and an RFG is all you need to control everything with flexibility and it's RF so it goes through walls. I happen to use three iRemotes, one on each level of the house so one is always within easy reach. I actually have no wall-mounted zone controllers, the remote does it all. I do have in-wall volume knobs that were pre installed in each zone that are nice to quickly adjust volume without grabbing the iRemote.

2) simply go from your computer Ethernet port to the gxr2 expansion port. Normal Ethernet cable direct. I use Windows XP.

3) you can set up theater mode (I have not, mine is driving six zones in the house only). You have access to all the program functions. The IR codes for many components are included with the Niles Intellifile3 download, but it is old and not updated in a long time. As such newer components are not in the library. With the factory IR connection box you can teach it new codes but not with the method described here.

4) I only have used standard pre-made Ethernet on this system but yes it would matter.

Make sure you update the bios on all your hardware before embarking on your setup. Most of my insert cards were out of date. The intellifile3 software will do this for you.

I hope this helps. If you need a walk through it may be possible with time.
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post #18 of 27 Old 03-23-2017, 06:22 PM
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One more thing on the IR codes. They are stored and uploaded as data files to the gxr2. It is reasonable to assume you could upload pre-configured codes for just about any device if there is a library of them. Factory techs may have access to such files, but I have been unsuccessful finding anything compatible online. If anyone has these I'd love to get them, especially the pioneer elite CD player codes! :-)
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post #19 of 27 Old 03-23-2017, 07:00 PM
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Thank you PlasmaElite. Really appreciate it. Now I need to find a computer that can do XP
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post #20 of 27 Old 03-28-2017, 12:15 AM
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So I got one configured but appears only two zones work.

I have an IM-AUDIO RCA In and put all zones in party mode. Is that the best way to test?

Thanks!
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post #21 of 27 Old 04-12-2017, 12:26 PM
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com0com, terraTerm, macro did the trick for me. I put in a bunch of ICS singles from eBay that the house was pre wired for. Mostly using several chromecast audios via IM audio card but it's still useful for volume, on/off, source, and occasional FM radio listening. Has anyone tried using a 30 pin to lightning adapter to run a newer iPod on iOS 10 via the IM-icard2?

I haven't messed with IR at all. What are some of the capabilities there? For example one of my zones is preamp out to a home theater. Right now, I manually change inputs on the receiver from TV to CD when I want to listen to a GXR2 source.
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post #22 of 27 Old 04-14-2017, 01:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRIMMACE View Post
I just hooked up a sonos connect to a friends Niles ICS system. Yes you can play a single sound source to all 6 zones at the same time including Spotify. Too bad there isn't a simple app out there that lets you control the Niles. Surprised nobody has written one to hack it. At least I haven't found one. Logitech says the harmony remotes are compatible with the GXR2 but I tried quickly and it didn't work. I set it up in a way that the Niles volume when turning on a zone is turned all the way up on every zone. They then can control the volume through the sonos app. They have the iremote only. Its annoying to have to use the remote though. Too bad they don't have one of the keypads on the main level. It does work though.
If you're feeling industrious, you can get an RS232 Gateway and use most any Home Automation suite to control it. I'm sure niles still has the GXR2 ICS RS232 commands out on their support site. When i had my GXR2, I was using homeseer. Just sending the commands out via serial was simple. You could easily set up a HSTouch application that dealt with nothing but the Niles code. After niles was acquired by the parent company of Elan, they actually built a control box that used the Niles ICS system as the amplification layer. I doubt it was cheap...
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post #23 of 27 Old 09-02-2017, 08:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcoultas View Post
If you're feeling industrious, you can get an RS232 Gateway and use most any Home Automation suite to control it. I'm sure niles still has the GXR2 ICS RS232 commands out on their support site. When i had my GXR2, I was using homeseer. Just sending the commands out via serial was simple. You could easily set up a HSTouch application that dealt with nothing but the Niles code. After niles was acquired by the parent company of Elan, they actually built a control box that used the Niles ICS system as the amplification layer. I doubt it was cheap...
Hi jcoultas,

How did you get rs232 to the Niles? Is there a special module? There is no Rs232 on the GXR2.
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post #24 of 27 Old 09-09-2017, 01:26 PM
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I am trying to update the firmware of my GRX2 which was installed in 2008, so I can add an IM-NET card. I followed all the instructions posted here.

I m using IntelliFile 3 Build 143, Firmware Update 3.0.49.1

Following the instructions above longer get the "Unauthorized" message. I can the configurations, etc. but I get a FAIL message when trying to load the firmware update.

UPDATING Contact [.....]
Verifying bin file...PASS
Transferring Program ... FAIL
RETRY load program ... FAIL
RETRY load program ... FAIL

Then it tries the next contact and fails again.

Has any one experienced this and found a solution?

Thanks!!
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post #25 of 27 Old 09-09-2017, 10:03 PM
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I found a solution that someone might useful. I also made a mistake that looked catastrophic that got me to the solution.

In the frustration of the failures to update the firmware, I made a mistake and on the transfer data window, I clicked to transfer data to the device. The data was empty. The GRX2 stopped working. All the screens went black. I turned it off, waited 1 min, turned it back on. Nothing. Tried again, the same. Pretty scary. When trying to use the software to connect, I would get a msg saying that no Master device was found, that perhaps there was a problem with the connection setup and to try to upgrade the firmware using the Upgrade Firmware program from the Niles ICS directory.

There are 2 executables there. Tried both and they failed to connect to the device. But then I saw a readme file. I read it and it says to kill your WiFi and to turn off the firewall of the system. There were no comments on this on the forum so I had not done it. I had kept the Terraterm macro running and I run IntelliFile3 from my desktop (not the executable in the ICS directory) and clicked the Optimization button to reestablish communication with my system. This time I left it open and run the Update Firmware executable in the ICS directory. It opened without complaints and, alas, the upgrade started and completed without any problems. In a few minutes, the main system and all the screens and components were updated to the latest firmware. The system came back to life and so did I.

Great job to the guys that figured out the hack.

Hope this helps someone.
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post #26 of 27 Old 09-10-2017, 05:12 AM
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Curious...why would one buy used, unknown, unsupported, out of date Niles hardware instead of readily available alternatives that do WAY more than what Niles ever could do?
Is it about not knowing what to buy / use?
Or the challenge in reverse engineering the Niles system?

I somewhat understand if the system is already in place like the OP, but I don't understand buying a used system on eBay and going through all of this.
BTW, I would just replace the Niles system and move on.
IMHO, there is no "deal" when you factor in the effort, time and result. Unless it's a hobby. But then again...the same hobby applies to the more modern replacements.

Thoughts?
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post #27 of 27 Old 09-27-2017, 06:07 AM
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Curious...why would one buy used, unknown, unsupported, out of date Niles hardware instead of readily available alternatives that do WAY more than what Niles ever could do?
As you say, I would not buy a new system and install from scratch. But for those with a system in place it?s far easier/cheaper to tweak than install a brand new system. I have a receiver, 15+ in wall speakers, and ethernet wired to controllers in every room. It was fun and easy to modify some of the default settings and add controllers here or there.

While we?re on the subject though - aside from wireless systems like Sonos, are there any systems that work well with existing speakers and ethernet for control? What would you recommend to replace the Niles entirely when the receiver kicks out?
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