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🔌General Home Automation => Other Automation Systems => Powerline Control Reliability => Topic started by: JeffVolp on July 13, 2007, 05:14:53 PM

Title: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on July 13, 2007, 05:14:53 PM
Since there hasnít been any activity on the Powerline Control Reliability topic in a long time, I thought Iíd give a status report on the XTB-IIR development.

The XTB-II is a high-power 2-phase X10 powerline interface.  While intended as an alternative to the TW523 / PSC05, it can also boost signals from most other X10 controllers, such as the CM11A and CM15A.  The XTB-IIR will be an enhanced version of the currently available XTB-II, and has been designed with repeater operation as a primary function.  Unlike the XTB-II, which can only operate as a repeater while emulating the TW523, the XTB-IIR will be able to repeat powerline signals in any configuration.  More information on the XTB-II development can be found here:

http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_development.htm

The main loop has been completely re-coded, and is working again.  I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions you might have.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: Brian H on July 13, 2007, 06:20:09 PM
Thank you for the update.
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on August 12, 2007, 12:41:58 PM
Another month has passed, so a quick update before I get back to the soldering iron...

Error checking and collision detection is working.† The unit can interleave and boost inputs received from the X10 Input, digital port, or powerline (repeat) without needing any mode switching.

There is still much coding to do.† My schedule has been slipping due to a spurt in demand for assembled XTBs.† September looks tough.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on August 19, 2007, 10:37:18 PM
I made some significant progress in the last couple of weeks, so another status update is due:

First, on the issue of repeating bright/dim commands:

This is tough for repeaters because it deviates from standard X10 command protocol.† Normal X10 commands are separated by a 3-cycle gap between commands.† A sequence of bright/dim commands contains no gaps.† To make matters worse, a bright/dim command is interpreted differently when it stands alone rather than being part of a sequence.† Repeaters normally only transmit the second half of each command.† A receiving module that does not see the first half directly from the transmitter would only recognize isolated bright/dim commands, and interpret them as micro-dim steps.

The XTB-IIR will transmit both halves of each bright/dim command, with one exception.† Like all repeaters, it must receive the first half of a command to decode it.† It is impossible to repeat the first half of the first bright/dim command in a sequence.† That also cannot be tacked onto the end of the sequence because it could collide with another command being sent after the bright/dim sequence.† So, the repeated sequence will always be one fewer than the total number sent by the remote transmitter.† However, there will be no gaps between the bright/dim commands, and they should be interpreted correctly by the receiving dimmer module.

Now, regarding broadcast storms:

The XTB-IIR will shut off its transmitter in response to a 'broadcast storm".† Two thresholds are available.† One allows a burst of about 100 commands, or a continuous average of 20 per minute.† A higher threshold allows a burst of about 300, or an average of 60 per minute.† In either case the XTB-IIR transmitter will re-enable itself after 10 seconds of clear line.

The LED flashes continuously in response to a storm.† I had planned to issue a STATUS OFF out the digital port when a storm occurred, but it may be more useful to return the actual traffic seen on the powerline.† Thoughts?

My to-do list is getting pretty short, and this may be ready for distribution in September after all.

Jeff

Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 03, 2007, 01:02:01 AM
Just another quick update on the XTB-IIR status:

Firmware coding has been completed.  All planned enhancements have been tested.  Like the XTB-II, this version receives and transmits extended commands, but it does not repeat them because of the overlap issue.  Additional components are on order, and the first units will be available by mid-September.  The development document has been updated, and more documentation will be available in the near future.

http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_development.htm

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 06, 2007, 01:26:39 AM
Another quick update:

After a day of kitting, I've been working on documentation.  The Mode Options draft is available now:

http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_modeoptions.htm

The parts list and a photograph of the assembled prototype PCB are also available on the XTB page.

A draft of the complete description will be available in a few days, but most of that info is in the development document that has been linked earlier.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 14, 2007, 05:07:09 PM
Finally, the XTB-IIR is shipping...

I just completed the first draft of the descriptive document:

http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_description.htm

I would appreciate any feedback that will help me improve the document.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: -Bill- (of wgjohns.com) on September 14, 2007, 10:34:29 PM
Finally, the XTB-IIR is shipping...

I just completed the first draft of the descriptive document:

http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_description.htm

I would appreciate any feedback that will help me improve the document.

Jeff

Glad to hear it is finally shipping!   8)

It is hard to give you any constructive input on the document without knowing what the "target audience" is.   ???

Are you aiming this at fellow "techies" who might appreciate the design thought process, history, etc. or at potential and / or existing "customers"?
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 14, 2007, 11:54:49 PM
Quote
Glad to hear it is finally shipping!

Me too.† What started out as a simple mod to the XTB-II code turned out to be much more work than I had planned.

Quote
Are you aiming this at fellow "techies" who might appreciate the design thought process, history, etc. or at potential and / or existing "customers"?

I figure most people who will be interested in the XTB-IIR are those with fairly substantial automation systems already.† Someone with a CM15A and few lamp modules doesn't need the power of the XTB-IIR.† So I think the potential audience will be pretty tech savvy.† This is the first pass draft.† Since it is shipping now, I wanted to get the info out there.† My intent was to have the first section give an overview for those who are not interested in the details.† The following sections explain in detail how the major features work.† There are still a lot of details that are not addressed, but the document is too long as it is.† Maybe sub headings would help so the reader can just scan for the topics of interest.

Thanks for looking at it.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: -Bill- (of wgjohns.com) on September 15, 2007, 04:48:38 PM
Quote
Glad to hear it is finally shipping!

Me too.† What started out as a simple mod to the XTB-II code turned out to be much more work than I had planned.
Isn't that always the way it goes?† What looks easy at first glance turns out to be hard.† Then, there are the "minor glitches" that turn out to be "major headaches".† Then, there is; "As long as I'm in here, why don't I add this feature... and this one... and that one."† †;D

Quote
Are you aiming this at fellow "techies" who might appreciate the design thought process, history, etc. or at potential and / or existing "customers"?

I figure most people who will be interested in the XTB-IIR are those with fairly substantial automation systems already.† Someone with a CM15A and few lamp modules doesn't need the power of the XTB-IIR.† So I think the potential audience will be pretty tech savvy.† This is the first pass draft.† Since it is shipping now, I wanted to get the info out there.† My intent was to have the first section give an overview for those who are not interested in the details.† The following sections explain in detail how the major features work.† There are still a lot of details that are not addressed, but the document is too long as it is.† Maybe sub headings would help so the reader can just scan for the topics of interest.

Thanks for looking at it.

Jeff
Yes, something to make the "basic points" stand out and then flesh-in the details about them in a way that allows the reader to "skim" to the parts that are of particular interest to him / her.

Based on the potential usefulness of this product, it might be wise to create a separate "simpler" document for your less tech savvy potential customers.† With wiring, "signal suckers" and "noise generators" being what they are today, I personally see your potential customer base as nearly anyone with X10 PLC products!† With that in mind, you need to explain (simply enough for the "connect the magic box to fix my problem" crowd) what problems your device will most likely solve for them and what problems it most likely won't.† All in simplest terms without having to sift through too much text.

Speaking of "simple", do you have a pre-wired version that will plug in to a dryer or range outlet (preferably with a pass-through socket)?† That would be really cool!† †8)

This may all sound stupid, but, like the typical customer, I'm to lazy to search!† ;)† †:D
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: steven r on September 15, 2007, 06:09:33 PM
...Speaking of "simple", do you have a pre-wired version that will plug in to a dryer or range outlet (preferably with a pass-through socket)?  That would be really cool!...
While the drier / range may not be the ideal place for a phase bridge, the fact of the mater is that there is a large number of X10 users that will never go the step of a hard wired solution at the breaker box. They however might be convinced to adopt a plug in solution.
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 15, 2007, 09:53:13 PM
Thanks for the feedback.

First, I agree the format needs a lot of work.† My intent was to get the info out there.† Since nobody has come back with any questions so far, maybe I did that.† I will be editing it down to a reasonable size as I get time.

I started to totally re-do the first section, beginning with some of the XTB background, and taking out all the detail.† I want that section to answer the question: "What will the XTB-IIR do for me?"† The following sections will cover the hardware and firmware detail for the technically inclined.† I'll try arrange it so the overview prints on a single page.† Splitting it into two documents might be necessary if I can't get it down to a reasonable size.

While the XTB-II and XTB-IIR can certainly be connected to a dryer receptacle, that will decrease their performance if the dryer receptacle is not near the distribution panel.† The main purpose of the XTB-II/R is to increase signal levels throughout the home.† To do that, the XTB-II/R should be close to the distribution panel so all circuits start out with the maximum possible signal.† However, if a homeowner wants to plug it into an unused dryer outlet for convenience, he can do so.

What should really be done is a standard 240V 15A or 20A outlet installed near the distribution panel, and a matching cable and plug installed on the XTB-II/R.

Jeff

(edited to correct a typo)
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: steven r on September 15, 2007, 10:47:57 PM
...What should really be done is a standard 240V 15A or 20A outlet installed near the distribution panel, and a matching cable and plug installed on the XTB-II/R....
My point exactly.  :)
Don't get me wrong I love the basic box I have my CM15A plugged into and even think it would be cool to have a XTB-II/R.
While having the XTR-IIR installed at the distribution panel would be ideal, most X10 users do not feel comfortable doing the wiring themselves or even paying "Mr. Sparky" over $200 to do it for them. For less than that there's a lot of options one can do.
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 16, 2007, 12:43:34 AM
While having the XTB-IIR installed at the distribution panel would be ideal, most X10 users do not feel comfortable doing the wiring themselves or even paying "Mr. Sparky" over $200 to do it for them. For less than that there's a lot of options one can do.

I understand.† I guess I'm coming at it from the viewpoint of how it is designed to work.† There are a bunch of plug-in couplers and repeaters out there.† Some installations work well, but others don't.† Nothing can be done about the signal lost between the dryer receptacle and the distribution panel.† If I tried that here I would expect at least half of the signal would be lost due to the length of the run.† Now, if the dryer receptacle is only 20 feet away, it should work fine.

There is one other issue.† The XTB-IIR is not just a repeater.† It is also the powerline interface for an automation controller.† It accepts a direct digital input from a high-end controller such as an Ocelot or Stargate.† In most cases it may be easier to drop that link down to the distribution panel than run it to the laundry room.† The CM15A can also be plugged into The XTB-IIR, and it will directly boost its output.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: -Bill- (of wgjohns.com) on September 19, 2007, 07:53:53 PM
While having the XTB-IIR installed at the distribution panel would be ideal, most X10 users do not feel comfortable doing the wiring themselves or even paying "Mr. Sparky" over $200 to do it for them. For less than that there's a lot of options one can do.

I understand.† I guess I'm coming at it from the viewpoint of how it is designed to work.† There are a bunch of plug-in couplers and repeaters out there.† Some installations work well, but others don't.† Nothing can be done about the signal lost between the dryer receptacle and the distribution panel.† If I tried that here I would expect at least half of the signal would be lost due to the length of the run.† Now, if the dryer receptacle is only 20 feet away, it should work fine.

There is one other issue.† The XTB-IIR is not just a repeater.† It is also the powerline interface for an automation controller.† It accepts a direct digital input from a high-end controller such as an Ocelot or Stargate.† In most cases it may be easier to drop that link down to the distribution panel than run it to the laundry room.† The CM15A can also be plugged into The XTB-IIR, and it will directly boost its output.

Jeff

Actually, my distribution panel is in my laundry room about 10 feet away from the dryer outlet and on the opposite side / end of the house from my computer!   ;)   ;D
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 19, 2007, 08:52:11 PM
Quote
Actually, my distribution panel is in my laundry room about 10 feet away from the dryer outlet and on the opposite side / end of the house from my computer! ;) ;D

A dryer plug on the XTB-IIR should work fine there.† And you could certainly rely on the repeater mode if you didn't want to move your automation controller down to the laundry room too.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: Boiler on September 20, 2007, 08:26:36 PM
...The XTB-IIR is not just a repeater.  It is also the powerline interface for an automation controller.  It accepts a direct digital input from a high-end controller such as an Ocelot or Stargate.  In most cases it may be easier to drop that link down to the distribution panel than run it to the laundry room.  The CM15A can also be plugged into The XTB-IIR, and it will directly boost its output.

This is one of the major advantages that I see in the XTB-IIR.  It will interface to your controller and directly drive both phases of your powerline.  NO more coupling and phase lags.

I have my CM15a and a Leviton HCM02 active coupler both located at the Load panel (which I consider to be optimal).  I regularly see "reflected" commands from the HCM02 that make the round robin route from the opposite phase back to the CM15a.  Most of the time the CM15a pauses for these returned signals.  One in awhile, depending on what sneak paths are active (A/C, Oven, Welder), a firestorm ensues.  The worst case appears to be "DIM/BRIGHT" commands.  Anyone who has read my posts already knows I'm not a fan. 

The following is a clip from my activity monitor during a dim sequence.  The "received" dim 47% is a reflection from the Leviton repeater back to the CM15a.  If the CM15a pauses, all is well.  If it doesn't, firestorm.

811    09/18/2007 10:15:07 pm    Macro    C3 (1st Deck)
812    09/18/2007 10:15:07 pm    Macro    C Bright 100(1st Deck)
813    09/18/2007 10:15:07 pm    Macro    C Dim 50(1st Deck)
814    09/18/2007 10:15:13 pm    Receive C Dim 47(1st Deck)

I believe the XTB-IIR will prevent this since it is driving both phases and acting as the interface to the controller. 

Jeff - comments?  Have I mis-stated something?

Boiler
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on September 21, 2007, 10:10:57 AM
The following is a clip from my activity monitor during a dim sequence. The "received" dim 47% is a reflection from the Leviton repeater back to the CM15a. If the CM15a pauses, all is well. If it doesn't, firestorm.

811    09/18/2007 10:15:07 pm    Macro    C3 (1st Deck)
812    09/18/2007 10:15:07 pm    Macro    C Bright 100(1st Deck)
813    09/18/2007 10:15:07 pm    Macro    C Dim 50(1st Deck)
814    09/18/2007 10:15:13 pm    Receive C Dim 47(1st Deck)

I believe the XTB-IIR will prevent this since it is driving both phases and acting as the interface to the controller.

Yes, the XTB-IIR would be the source, so there would be no "reflected" commands unless there is another repeater out there.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on October 27, 2007, 12:35:48 AM
I just wanted to let you folks know that there has been an update to the XTB-IIR firmware.

One user reported his unit was not responding to commands sent from a maxicontroller plugged into the X10 Input receptacle.† While first thought to be related to his rather unique 3-phase installation, the cause was more subtle.† Through some long-distance troubleshooting, including several photos and a very helpful video clip, I was able to simulate his results with one of my maxicontrollers.† That unit produced a 120KHz burst that started later than expected, and it was lower in frequency than that produced by the maxicontroller normally used to test the units.† The fact that the XTB-IIR worked correctly when the maxicontroller oscillator was tuned higher in frequency confirmed the diagnosis.

The fix was to simply extend the sample window on the X10 Input port before switching over to monitoring signals on the powerline.† If anyone sees a similar issue with their XTB-IIR, please contact me for a new PIC with firmware version 1.01.† Units shipped after 10-25-07 will include this update.

As these units are put into service with a wide variety of equipment, there may be other issues had not been seen on the prototypes.† Like with its older brother, there can be additional firmware updates in the future.† If the update fixes a problem, it will be supplied at no charge.† The update requires unplugging the PIC microcontroller (with power removed), and carefully replacing it with the new PIC.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: John026 on October 31, 2007, 04:31:59 PM
Just a quick thought. Now that the XTB-IIR is installed in my house (WOW great product thanks again) can I, or should I disconnect the powerside of the PZZ01 becuase it will be coupling twice so close to the XTB? Also, Will it (the pzz01) work as a "passive filter" without being powerd up.  Just want to fine tune the system where possible.

John
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: JeffVolp on October 31, 2007, 05:12:13 PM
I believe the main purpose of the PZZ01 is to block X10 signals from entering and leaving the home over the utility feed.† I have the Leviton flavor of that unit installed here, and I don't believe there is any problem having both coupling networks.† It should remain connected per the instructions to block X10 signals.

Thank you for the feedback on the XTB-IIR.

Jeff
Title: Re: Status report on the XTB-IIR
Post by: John026 on October 31, 2007, 05:38:36 PM
Thanks for your input Jeff

John