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Author Topic: AHP Reliability Tips and Tricks  (Read 52123 times)
TomG
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« on: April 28, 2009, 09:55:31 PM »

I have used this forum for inspiration in the last couple of years such I thought I should give something back by posting some learnings I wish I knew when I started.
Here are some observations. Feel free to provide your thoughts.

It can be made to work! I ended up with a very elaborate set of macros using AHP that actually works 24x7 and I use almost all 256 available addresses with over 50+ switches, motion sensors, 5 cameras etc. AHP has undocumented limitations but there are reasonable workarounds for all.

Those are the workarounds:
(1) Speed and Waits in Macros
In my experience x10 and AHP can handle only up to 2 commands per second. If you have a setup that will generate more then this number or expects better perf then the commands will be dropped and the result is unpredictable. In macros avoid secvential commands or macros calling macros that do not have at least 1 sec wait between every 2 commands. If you have multiple motion sensors "overlapping" each other they will create a storm of commands causing others to be dropped. Be conscious of the volume of "traffic".
(2) Flags that are Used for Macros Set to Run on the PC vs Set to Run in the Interface.
Flags work reliable if they are used across macros that are either all of them run in the interface or all of them run on the PC. But if a macros that runs on the interface sets a flag and another one on the PC expects that flag it won't work reliable. There is some "replication" delay between passing the value of the flag from the interface to the PC (up to few seconds) that makes this not work. But on the other end the monitored house code devices work well even across the interface and the PC. So you can key your macros using a device that has the address on the monitored house code and works well.
(3) Calling a Macro from another Macro.
The most reliable method I found is to use an extra RF transceiver dedicated for this (e.g. on house code M). Whenever I want to call macro M3 for example I transmit RF M3 ON (using the RF commands) and the transceiver that will be plugged in close to the AHP box will send on the line an M3 ON. For some reasons I noticed the ghost devices sometimes do not work. With the RF method you need to send the RF command twice with a 1 sec delay in between. Do not ask why but with this method I got 100% reliability.
(4) Recording Video
You need to take the time to pick the right video codec (in the preferences/video section) that works for your computer. I could not make it work on Vista but it works well after tune up on WinXP. The best method to pick the codec : select one of the codecs in the combo box, ensure one camera is on (for some reasons the video preferences do not store the settings if no camera is on at the time) and select Tools/Video Function/Start Video Recording.  At this time watch the CPU utilization (in task manager) and you will see it go up to at least to 40%. Then stop the video recording. The important step is now : wait and see how long it takes for the CPU to get back down to 5% or less. If it takes more than few seconds pick another codec. The point is some codecs will starv your CPU and will hang AHP or your machine. I found for me the DivX driver (you can find it free on the internet) gets the CPU only up to 30% and back down to 3% in just 3 seconds.
(5) Macros with “If Else”
While the help says that the if else conditions will be evaluated in order and only the first one true will be executed I did not see that reliable in practice. I did see the 3rd else be executed when there was a 2nd one already true. The workaround is to ensure the conditions you set for all macros in the if else sequence are all exclusive. E.g have conditions like : (If Flag1=ON and Flag2=OFF) else if (Flag1=OFF and Flag2=ON) else if (Flag1=OFF and Flag2=OFF). In other words repeat all the flags you use for that chain of if else in all conditions.
(6) AHP Crashing
For me the AHP is crashing at least once per week. I could not find the pattern, it seems to be some race condition when it has to handle some macros while video recording it going on. It does cause a crash inside csrss too. But there is a workaround : I build a bat file that using utilities like tlist.exe, findstr.exe, tasklist.exe (downloadable from Microsoft.com) will “watch” every 6 minutes and if AHP is gone will restart it. Even better at restart AHP actually sends up a P16 ON and you can have a reset macro that will send you email the reset alse take care to turn off lights that might be left ON during the crash etc. I needed this monitoring .bat file since I’m using AHP to record videos in short 2 minute clips each time the sensors outside notice movement. Since I use this when I’m in vacation I wanted to be sure it will work over weeks at a time.
(7) Controlling AHP over Internet or Viewing your Cameras over Internet
I had no luck with MyHouse online but at the suggestions in this forum I found out LogmeIn.com that work very very well. It is free and you can logon securely and remotely to your home machine, see the videos etc.
(8.) Running Multiple Macros in Parallel
It does work. If you notice it does not it is more likely dues to (1) above where if traffic exceeds 2 commands per second some will be dropped.
(9) Motion Sensors and Rain
In my experience the motion sensors need to have a small cover put on top. I live in Seattle where it rains a lot. I saw this water shielding effect where is the sensor is covered by a film of water simple the RF signal looses so much power it won’t work. I made a nice small 4 inchesx4 inches “roof” on the sensor and it works like a charm. Or put the sensor in a location where it will not get wet.
(10) Line Noise
I did put all my UPS-es, phone chargers and the TV thru a filter. It did made a huge difference. Boosterlinc made little difference.
Also if needed get the XTB (search the forum), it is worth every penny. This is an “amplifier” that will boost up the signals from AHP. Do get also a passive phase coupler. I had (and still have it collecting dust) and active phase coupler and it cause some form of signal storm resulting into many StatusRequest signals being reflected across lines to the point where no useful signal be be sent and eventually causing havoc for AHP. The passive one works well.

I hope this is useful.

TomG
« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 07:00:01 AM by TomG » Logged
Knightrider
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2009, 02:46:34 AM »

It's very useful indeed. 
Thanks for taking the time to write a digest on "It Can Be Done".
+1 from me.
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JMac
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2009, 05:28:51 AM »

Thanks - although my system is trouble free (for the most part), you have stated a few strategies that will save (trouble-shooting) time for a lot of us.
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solberg123
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2009, 07:27:27 AM »

I'm preparing to do an install in the next two weeks so this is very helpful for me. Can you elaborate on item 10? My apartment is small, 800 square feet or so, and I have lots of electronic stuff plugged in all over, tv's, computers, phone chargers, video game consoles, and the usual appliances. I'm concerned about the concentration of line noise in such a small environment. Should I just put filters on anything that's electronic, and plugged in? It's reassuring to know that filters were so beneficial for you, it makes me feel better about my project.

And for the rookie question of the day, what does UPS stand for?
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steven r
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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2009, 01:09:19 PM »

....what does UPS stand for?
Uninterruptible Power Supply. APC is one of the better companies. <-- Click link

Much of today's electronics (e.g. Computers & entertainment systems) are sensitive to low or interrupted voltage. In the case of computers, open files can be corrupted if a computer suffers an unexpected loss off power. UPSs can help maintain a constant voltage should line voltage drop.

From an X10 stand point, however, they along with surge protectors can be major suckers of the X10 signal. By plugging them into filters, it eliminates or at lease substantially reduces their effect on the X10 signal. I have all (7+) UPSs in my house plugged into filters as well a dedicated battery charging station that is plugged into a filter. Phone chargers and laptops are also a common signal suckers.


« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 01:33:51 PM by steven r » Logged

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TomG
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« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2009, 01:21:39 PM »

This is what I did about the line noise - in that order. You might want to try the same steps:

1) Do nothing. There is good chance it will work with no need to any special filters, couplers.
2) Get 3 in-line filters (XPPF) you can find on ebay for about $5 each and use them to plug in your : computer+monitor, TV and the phone/ipod/camera battery chargers. You can put all charger on the same power strip and use just one filter for all. If the TV uses more then 500W or computer+monitor exceed 500W you will need the larger filter (the 10A one), also on ebay.
3) Get a passive phase coupler. The easy to use one is about $30 on ebay you plug your dryer (as in washer and dryer) thru it, since the dryer needs two phases. Or there are less expensive ones, but you need to cut wires, work at the panel etc.
4) Get the XTB from http://jvde.us. You plug your AHP device thru it and it improved dramatically the signal strength and quality of signals received by AHP.
5) You can get a whole house filter to isolate noise coming from others. You can also isolate all CFL-s using filters like 6287.

As starting point I would either do nothing or do 2) or 3) or both 2) and 3).

Tom
« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 01:25:17 PM by TomG » Logged
solberg123
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2009, 02:23:01 PM »

Awesome insight and information, great stuff. I really appreciate it.

I have my TV and components on a single surge protector. Do I put the filter between the TV and the surge protector, or the surge protector and the receptacle.
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steven r
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« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2009, 02:51:22 PM »

...I have my TV and components on a single surge protector. Do I put the filter between the TV and the surge protector, or the surge protector and the receptacle.
Since the surge protector itself can be a surge protector, plug it into the filter and then plug the filter in the wall.
For most of my applications, I use 10A filters. Make sure you don't overload the filter and "let the magic smoke out". It's imposible to get all the "magic smoke" back in and they don't work without it.  Wink
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solberg123
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« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2009, 03:23:32 PM »

To avoid the risk of letting the magic smoke out, would there be an advantage to using 20A filters? I see plenty of them on eBay.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 03:27:39 PM by solberg123 » Logged
dave w
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« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2009, 03:56:38 PM »

Make sure you don't overload the filter and "let the magic smoke out".
"Magic smoke".    Wow, I'm on a level with David Copperfield and didn't know it.  Cheesy
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JeffVolp
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« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2009, 05:13:44 AM »

To avoid the risk of letting the magic smoke out, would there be an advantage to using 20A filters? I see plenty of them on eBay.

The 20A XPF is a notch filter.  That is a narrow-band device that only removes noise or signal loading in the X10 frequency band.  It relies on the selectivity of the X10 modules to ignore out-of-band noise.

The XPPF is a low-pass filter that will also attenuate noise outside the X10 frequency band.  It is more effective in cleaning up noise on the powerline.

A low-pass filter is larger and more expensive to produce than a notch filter of similar current rating.  That is why the high current filters (and even the small Leviton 6287) are notch filters.

While the XPPF will handle a typical computer & monitor without a problem, it will get pretty warm and begin to stink when pushed hard.  I haven't seen any magic smoke come out though.

Jeff
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solberg123
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« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2009, 08:59:46 AM »

I just checked and my dryer is connected to a standard wall outlet. I guess there's no need for a phase coupler?
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dave w
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« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2009, 09:57:51 AM »

I just checked and my dryer is connected to a standard wall outlet. I guess there's no need for a phase coupler?
No, it means you have a small 120V dryer and you can not use a "plug-in" phase coupler or "plug-in" repeater from Smarthome.com. You still probably have "Split Phase" power in your apartment. One way to confirm is to look at your HVAC breaker(s) on your panel. If the HVAC breaker occpies two slots, or is "double wide" you have two phases (split phase) in your apartment. Perhaps you could access the two phases at your air handler, but for safety and code you would need a sub-panel installed for the wire in coupler repeater. There is also the "capacitor in the stove outlet" fix, which you can find on this forum but would make the NEC code book burst into flames I don't recommend.
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EL34
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« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2009, 12:24:56 PM »

Another Tip:
Instead of using AHP to log onto my home computer, I use remote desktop sharing to log onto my main server/X10 computer at home.

You have to know your IPaddress, and that can change if your router losses power.
I have a windows program that uploads my Ip to my web server every 30 minutes so I always know what my IP adress is by brwsing a file on my server.

Using remote desktop sharing lets you access everything on your compter, not just AHP.
Remote desktop sharing is free.
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2009, 10:31:02 AM »

If you allow RDP (remote desktop) from the internet to your computer, you have guaranteed you will be hacked.  RDP is one of the top 10 open ports home users open up and is one of the top 10 hackers look for.  RDP is not secure and it has very many vulnerabilitiesin it.

Dont think you have anything important on your computer?  doesn't matter.  Worse can happen, like being suied by the MPAA for filesharing, which a hacker can install, then download whatever he wants and it will look like you did it.
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