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Comment: Re:Welcome to my money pit! (Score 1) 409

by Sacarino (#29880633) Attached to: What is the Current State of Home Automation?
http://cliste.sailwhatcom.com/ is a guy in Washington that imports from the manufacturer in HK, so you'd get it quicker if you order from him... he sells stuff in enclosures though, so there's a bit of a markup for the middleman and final assembly bit.

If you want to order direct from the mfg and don't care about finished enclosures, they have an ebay site at http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Ananiah-Electronics where I believe they also sell the enclosures as separate purchases. Seller is on the level and has provided excellent support for me.

The RF40315T-x model can take either 6v or 9v-40v DC through a stepdown transformer, so you can directly wire it to a battery in the car. Works pretty well, although you'll get drop-outs from time to time so don't use any logic that trips based on the first "I'm not here any more" signal. I don't know if your software currently supports them but the protocol is fairly easy to figure out so you could roll your own if needed.

Good luck!

Comment: Re:Why not use automation already proven (Score 1) 409

by Sacarino (#29878945) Attached to: What is the Current State of Home Automation?
You can definitely do this, and in fact I have a automation-geared PLC called an Ocelot (made by Applied Digital) which I use for mission critical applications... My garage door, for instance, is tied into the Ocelot so I know exactly what position it's in and if it's in transit or not. My lawn irrigation setup is another thing that ties into the Ocelot. For the things that must go right, I highly recommend a PLC of some sort. The Ocelot also has features that I wouldn't expect to find elsewhere (IR recognition & transmission capabilities, for instance) but any PLC that can provide contact closure information would work.

The benefit of using a software based controller for the higher level functions really comes into play with the convergence side of things. Let's say that when the wife gets home, she likes the thermostat set on a certain setting, a particular genre of music in the background, and the lighting set in a particular scene. But when I get home, we have a compromise programmed with the thermostat and the lighting. If she leaves, then the house readjusts to just my settings - which includes ditching her music in favor of my own. Or, if we're both "away" and a door is opened or motion detected, we get emails with attached images from the cameras in those locations. You could probably do a great deal of that with just a PLC but controlling playback of a MP3 player or sending emails starts putting you in the realm of esoteric hardware interfaces... at least for me. The downside of software controllers is the pricing. When I bought into Homeseer with v1.6, it was a fraction of what it costs now. They have competition with other pricing schemas but the software costs in a niche market like this are an interesting economics lesson. An open source alternative like Misterhouse is certainly an option but it's hard to argue against the availability of hardware and software for the wintel platform.

Having said all that, I would have to take a real hard look at my options if I was starting from scratch. A lot of these HA software guys seem to think that I'm their piggy bank and they can rape my wallet accordingly. I understand that they spend a lot of time as a code monkey to get it right but annual licensing (CQC) doesn't sit well, nor does nickle-and-dime you on features/plugins (Homeseer).

Comment: Re:$2000 in and counting (Score 1) 409

by Sacarino (#29878277) Attached to: What is the Current State of Home Automation?
Using some ir-controlled home made window blind controllers I built, the blinds on the first floor of the house are controlled by the computer. Most notably, it shuts them when the sun goes down, so I don't have to worry about people seeing into the house after dark. I got real used to that real fast, let me tell ya.

Don't suppose you'd like to share some technical details about that, would you? I would love to tie my blinds into the system but there's no way I'm paying Somfy-esq prices for the capability.

Comment: Re:Welcome to my money pit! (Score 1) 409

by Sacarino (#29877943) Attached to: What is the Current State of Home Automation?
I haven't looked at the reliability of Insteon in my current setup as a result of my X-10 install here. I have a lot of devices that really affect the signal-to-noise either by adding noise to the powerline or by sucking the signal out of it... my 2 remaining X-10 devices are on a dedicated circuit with a noise filter at the end of it, so they work fine. Having to identify and isolate things that are generating noise on the power line is a PITA and not what I consider fun, so I vowed to migrate away from it.

I know there are many people that are happy with their powerline setup, but I didn't want to spend money to find that I wind up with the same problems. I've heard that newer powerline protocols actually have the capability to analyze the operating environment but I have no experience with that. Additionally, the ability of Z-wave to create and route through a mesh network really sold it for me... If you're trying to reach from A to C and B isn't responding, it'll use A to D to C instead. It's also quite fast - I noticed a couple second delays via X-10 from command to execution that just aren't there via Z-wave.

Regarding occupancy, I have a couple logic gates that make the house "occupied" or not. An active RFID transmitter in the cars is one, motion sensors and pressure pads (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=96481 - very DIY but works great to detect a sleeper!) are another, and a really ingenious idea I found at http://www.cocoontech.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=11317 allows me to track individual keychains.

Comment: Welcome to my money pit! (Score 4, Informative) 409

by Sacarino (#29877425) Attached to: What is the Current State of Home Automation?
The problem with "home automation" systems is that it is VERY loosely defined. Some say it's the ability to control your lights, others say it's HVAC, still others say it's distributed audio/video. Since it's such a generic term, somewhat consequentially there are a variety of vendors and products that claim to be home automation. If you want to bridge technologies, you have to find a product that'll do that natively or allow you to expand it yourself.

I happen to have a pretty robust system that uses Homeseer as the backend engine. This allows me to leverage strengths from various hardware providers due to the extensibility of their software, plus I have the ability to roll my own .NET code and have it integrate into the system. I currently utilize some very specific X-10 devices for a narrow niche (wireless door and window sensors) and a thermostat (if it ain't broke!), but the great majority of my stuff has been converted to Z-wave. The beauty of Z-wave over X-10 is the signal confirmation... with X-10, I'd send a signal into the ether and hope it'd get there, but with Z-wave, I get delivery confirmation so the system knows that a desired action hasn't been completed. There are additional technologies out there like Insteon, ZigBee, and UPB, but they have issues I don't like or the squeeze isn't worth the juice. Some of this crap is exceedingly pricey and I just can't justify spending it.

I use Cinemar's MainLobby for integration with my theater gear, which also provides the sexy touchscreen frontend that everyone looks for in a system. Homeseer has also deployed a software with similar capabilities called HSTouch, but it isn't as powerful for my A/V setup just yet.

Just a quick rundown of some things that I've got my system setup to do:
  • Occupancy detection - if vacant, it goes into an energy savings mode and shuts off lights and adjusts thermostat setpoints.
  • Exterior lighting is automatic based on sunset/sunrise, plus only brightens to 100% when motion detected or doors are opened.
  • Certain actions at certain times trigger sequences: when I open my bedroom door in the morning, the kitchen light kicks on and the TV flips on and tunes to the news channel I like.
  • Caller ID is screened and/or announced for me, in addition to displaying on television screens.
  • Freezer and fridge doors trip alarms if they're left open for too long.
  • Exhaust fans in the bathrooms are based on humidity conditions.
  • Yard irrigation is controlled both by wind conditions and zoned soil wetness conditions.
  • When the doorbell is rung, the touchscreens all show a live camera feed for that door from my ZoneMinder server.

There's tons more that I currently do, I've got a list as long as my arm of things I plan to do, and there's a lot of options out there for things I could do. If you're interested in HA, you really need to figure out what it is for you by detailing out what you want and how you want to get there. My route is a lot of DIY because I'm happy hacking my way through a problem... If you've got more money than brains, you can certainly take the vendor lock-in approach of something like Crestron.

Windows

Developers Will Get Windows 7 Alpha On Oct. 28 83

Posted by timothy
from the let's-call-it-project-kilimanjaro dept.
CWmike writes "Microsoft confirmed today that it will hand out 'pre-beta' release copies of Windows 7 on Oct. 28, at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC). Mike Swanson, a Microsoft technology evangelist, has said attendees will receive a 160GB external USB hard drive that will presumably include the Windows 7 alpha. Mike Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, was cautiously optimistic that today's announcement meant Microsoft was on track with Windows 7. 'If they didn't do this, you would have to wonder if they could make the schedule,' Cherry said."

Comment: Re:Hmmmmmm (Score 3, Informative) 149

by Sacarino (#17921338) Attached to: A New Twist On Skywriting
You might wanna check the altitude again.

While your point in general is correct about VFR flight, this guy was cruising at FL400 - Class A airspace.

He would definitely had to have an IFR plan on file, otherwise he'd get a message from the tower to call a phone number when he landed... and that would be the end of his days as a pilot. That's assuming he didn't have a fighter come along to say hello beforehand.

I would have liked to hear DEN Center asking wtf they were up to when it came time for that little loopy bit and back-track for the bottom of the "G"
Windows

Microsoft's new CLI 688

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the everybody-loves-the-cli dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Months ago a story ran regarding a job advert at Microsoft for a developer role to lead the work on a new generation of command line interface. It has now been disclosed at the PDC and its name is MSH (Microsoft SHell), codenamed MONAD. Here is the best description so far."
Microsoft

Microsoft Officially Shows Longhorn, WinFX 681

Posted by simoniker
from the antlers-mounted-on-wall dept.
Theaetetus writes "Microsoft today unveiled its most detailed look yet at its new OS, Longhorn, due in 2006, during Bill Gates' keynote speech at the company's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. An article at Internet Week describes some of the goals: avoiding viruses, worms, and 'building apps that are as smart as Outlook.'" The company "also unveiled 'WinFX,' which it described as a new application programming model for Windows that is the evolution of its .NET programming framework."

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