Author Topic: Home Automation Experiences  (Read 1494 times)

DeeEmm

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Home Automation Experiences
« on: April 09, 2008, 04:12:34 pm »
Hi all.

Last year I took the plunge and dumped Windoze in favour of Ubuntu, I've been using it ever since for both work and play and am very happy with it. I've also been a long time user of 'the other' MCE and currently have a unit set up as our main media controller in the lounge. I'm very keen to get a Linux MCE installation up and running to replace it but would like to hear from other users who also use it for X10 home automation as I've not found a lot of info on it.

Our current setup basically consists of

An MCE unit that stores all the music / photos and has TV tuner cards in the lounge
A separate PC running as the home automation server (HAS)
Various network storage drives.

The HAS has a touch-screen mounted in the hallway and provides the main interface for the home automation. it also has 2 cameras connected to it. In addition I have installed mControl as the main HAS software - this is pretty feature packed and is also accessible as a menu item on the MCE unit. At the moment we have X10 controlling lighting, irrigation and some other stuff.

The system has been in use without any problems for the past 2-3 years everything works and it rarely needs 'fixing'

So why fix it if it isn't broken????  ;D Guess that's the geek in me ;D

I'd like to hear from others experiences with X10 equipment and also camera integration; what events can be used to trigger X10 devices? Can events / X10 signals also be used to trigger things in the LMCE core - ie can a motion sensor be programmed to switch the display to a camera? does the camera integration include motion detection?

Also, does LMCE actually control the X10 devices or does it upload the program to the CM19a memory so that the CM19 unit runs programmed events?

With thanks in advance.

DM


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tschak909

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Re: Home Automation Experiences
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2008, 07:10:05 pm »
If you feel your system works well. Then use it.

With that said, I think what we have is significantly superior to anything else out there....but I am one of the developers, I am rather biased.

Why?

It comes down to a simple realization: building a home automation system on top of a permissive distributed messaging system produces a system in which the barrier to entry to do large scale integration is lowered significantly.

LinuxMCE (and its parent Pluto stack), is made up of many different device software, each talking to each other, sending commands, events, and data between each other, and the side effect is...we get a smart home system.

While LinuxMCE does wrap a number of pieces of software, such as Xine and Asterisk, the amount of code in the wrapped software is dwarfed in comparison to the software which wraps these components. The amount of logic in the wrapper code is nothing short of staggering, and the overall system understands its topology.

Okay, so what's the effect?

I have LinuxMCE controlling all my AV gear, my TV, my Amplifier, my VCR, radio, etc... all via different methods.. my amp talks RS-232...my TV and other AV gear talk IR (which I have connected via an USB UIRT IR blaster), all of these devices had their own remotes, which I programmed into the system their codes that they emitted by training them to the ir blaster....

now? all my remotes are put up in the kitchen junk drawer

As I am a developer, I have one of each type of remote that can be used:

* Nokia 770
* Fiire Chief gyro remote
* Windows MCE remote
* Wiimote
* Tablet PC
* The touch screen on a Cisco 7970 IP phone
* A Windows CE PDA
* A Nokia N70 Symbian based phone

Unlike the remotes I had put in the kitchen drawer, each of these remotes can control anything in my house, the TV, the lights, climate control, security system, etc.. and they all stay in sync.

Furthermore, if I am watching cable TV, the button presses on an orbiter, go to the right place. I do not have to switch modes myself, I do not have to pick up another remote, the software does the right thing.

Magic? no. This is a direct consequence of passing messages.

The same with media. We have the ability to distribute media across any number of PCs in the network, connected as set-top boxes to your TVs. Using a floorplan you upload, you can instantly bounce media from room to room, and between multiple rooms.....

And lighting? you don't have to wholeheartedly commit to a particular lighting system. If you have interfaces for X-10, and Z-Wave and Insteon...you can use them all together, and it doesn't matter what interface a particular light or sensor is hanging off on from the user's perspective..they select it from the floorplan, and the core translates the message to the appropriate protocol for each interface. It doesn't matter whether the lighting interface is connected on the core, or one of the media directors, it just works.

why? passing messages.

And since we do have a rich set of event triggers ranging from everything from sunrise/sunset, to presence detection, and reacting to sensor input, we can have any event emit a series of commands to any set of devices under LinuxMCE's control. I use this to turn on the weather channel in the morning as my alarm clock...which also turns up my lights to 30% (due to the showtime event)... I also use it to turn on the lights when i approach the house, it detects my cell phone as an event, and can thereby trigger to it. My cell phone and Fiire remote also trigger follow-me events, so that when I leave a room, and go to another one, my TV follows me.

With that said, I do use Z-Wave at the moment. I do not have X-10 devices.. but there are many on here who do, and have a substantial investment in X-10 devices....and basically, they're just another node in the system...a very complete set of the protocol specification is supported...we use the CM11A as the standard interface, sending messages directly from the core to the X-10 interface... and for those things that you can't do with X-10...guess what? you can jump to Insteon as a solid upgrade path.. or Z-Wave... or use a series of GC-100's connecting contacts and sensors! mix and match... to get what you need...

So you ask, why fix it if it's not broken? ... It isn't fixing it, if you're improving it. :-)

And I'm sure, the geek in you, would appreciate the flexibility (minus a few very specific and currently immutable requirements) that only this system can provide.

-Thom

Hi all.

Last year I took the plunge and dumped Windoze in favour of Ubuntu, I've been using it ever since for both work and play and am very happy with it. I've also been a long time user of 'the other' MCE and currently have a unit set up as our main media controller in the lounge. I'm very keen to get a Linux MCE installation up and running to replace it but would like to hear from other users who also use it for X10 home automation as I've not found a lot of info on it.

Our current setup basically consists of

An MCE unit that stores all the music / photos and has TV tuner cards in the lounge
A separate PC running as the home automation server (HAS)
Various network storage drives.

The HAS has a touch-screen mounted in the hallway and provides the main interface for the home automation. it also has 2 cameras connected to it. In addition I have installed mControl as the main HAS software - this is pretty feature packed and is also accessible as a menu item on the MCE unit. At the moment we have X10 controlling lighting, irrigation and some other stuff.

The system has been in use without any problems for the past 2-3 years everything works and it rarely needs 'fixing'

So why fix it if it isn't broken????  ;D Guess that's the geek in me ;D

I'd like to hear from others experiences with X10 equipment and also camera integration; what events can be used to trigger X10 devices? Can events / X10 signals also be used to trigger things in the LMCE core - ie can a motion sensor be programmed to switch the display to a camera? does the camera integration include motion detection?

Also, does LMCE actually control the X10 devices or does it upload the program to the CM19a memory so that the CM19 unit runs programmed events?

With thanks in advance.

DM




nosilla99

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Re: Home Automation Experiences
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2008, 08:29:19 pm »
@DeeEmm

Following Thom's comprehensive response I can add that I am now using X10 extensively within my home and all of it is monitored and managed via LMCE.

To answer one of your specific questions regarding the management of events, I have listed below some of the specific things that I am doing in relation to X10:.

1. I have floor plans which show the current status of all my lights and appliances within the house, all the devices are one way, but LMCE monitors X10 events on the powerline so also knows if I have changed the status of a light or appliance using X10 remotes or mini controllers.

2. I have motion detectors which fire events which LMCE can then process, so if the living room motion detector is tripped and it is dark then a light is automatically turned on.  Additionally if the security system within LMCE is set to alarmed then my AMP and TV is turned on and a recorded message played, the media directors in the house also switch to show the Web CAM in the living room.

3. All my lights, TV's and AMPs  are turned off in the house if I set the security system to sleeping

4. If I play a movie after 8pm at night certain lights are turned off and others are dimmed in the room where the video is being watched.

It is possible to build complicated sequences of events based upon mind boggling criteria using pull down lists within the system so event management is genrally only restricted to your imagination.

At present I am using a CM12U (UK Version of CM11A) controller but have just ordered a firecracker interface with the intention of adding support for this controller in LMCE.

NOS.
   
« Last Edit: April 09, 2008, 08:43:03 pm by nosilla99 »

DeeEmm

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Re: Home Automation Experiences
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2008, 12:44:03 am »
Thom, NOS,

Thanks for the prompt replies.

Whilst my current system is fine for the purpose it's currently being used for (as a single media unit) it does have one huge drawback - it has very poor support / available devices for using as a distributed audio system. This for me is one of the most appealing aspects for Linux MCE, especially as we are half way through renovating and would like to expand the current system (there's obviously a whole heap more features that LMCE has too).

For distributed audio, the Micro$oft counterpart requires investment in hardware 'Media Extenders; which at last look were not available here in Australia (apart from using an xbox which requires additional $oftware - plus I doubt anybody would want to use xboxes as 'thin' clients - they're simply not very thin ;D ) - The Windows MCE community has long been looking for a software only extender so that people could create their own thin clients out of spare PC's. This may have changed in more recent times as I have not kept up to date with developments, but back the last time I looked it didn't seem like one was forthcoming.

Another positive reason for switching to Linux MCE for me is that I am currently running MCE2005 (XP) - it's likely that I will need to update my hardware to run the bloated Vista version which inevitably will need to happen at some point (M$ have a habit of sending you automatic updates that cause your machine to stop working) - I just don't need to waste any more cash on M$ products.

In addition, the mControl software's webclient will only work on Internet explorer 7 - this means that I have to try and upgrade the OS of the DT375 web-tablet that I bought as a portable touch-screen and it won't work on either my Ubuntu machine or the partners Mac, to be honest as we've never had it we don't miss it, but these things should simply just work!!! (why use a web browser as the basis for an interface and then ignore web standards so that it only works with one browser??).

The home automation consideration is a big part of the renovations - so far the X10 has proven to be very cost effective if a occasionally little unreliable - most of the problems I have experienced have been related to missed messages which is easily fixed by sending a series of 3/4 messages in a row. Here in Australia X10 modules are pretty expensive so I've been importing them from the USA and modifying them to run off of 230 volts.

The renovations are now coming to the stage where I need to rewire the house - it's only a little extra bother to utilise something like a hard wired c-bus system but I would rather avoid throwing away the cash we already have invested in the X10 gear (and no doubt spending a shed load more) so it's good to hear that you've had success with this and that the Linux MCE system seems to be capable enough to support our current set-up.

Overall I'm very impressed with what I've seen, especially as there's some proprietary systems being sold with LMCE pre-installed - it gives me the impression that it's a mature and stable product.

I've downloaded the latest distro and will install it on a spare PC to test it out, no doubt I will have many more questions in due course.

Once again, thanks for your replies.

DM

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JimmyGosling

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Re: Home Automation Experiences
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2008, 03:34:48 pm »
Alright guys, here is my $.02 and some may or may not like it.

I would like to re-iterate tschak909's point about not fixing what isn't broken.  What he says is completely true about the system, but keep in mind that not everyone has had a smooth ride here.  Your patience and determination will be rewarded however.  I've seen a great deal of people come in here after watching a youtube demo or otherwise, throw some of their old, or just some unsupported, hardware at it and make a very nasty time for themselves.  Ultimately becoming frustrated and blaming the application. 

so what I would like to do is set some expectations.  Right now this IS a geek's project imo. We are making incredible leaps and bounds in all  directions for the smarthome,  but you're also working with beta products here, sometimes things don't work right away; usually they can be "fixed" if you get involved with the program and just hang out a little bit. 

That isn't for everyone,  DeeMee, you would seem to be a good candidate in that regard.  Can I ask one thing though, please drop the '$' using in Microsoft's name.  We're not trying to draw any battle lines here with other MCE's.  Windows has provided a good application which we can continually gauge our own again.  I think we can beat them on just about every front, we don't need to resort to name calling.