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Author Topic: looking for advice getting started  (Read 37434 times)

NESter

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #30 on: October 31, 2010, 02:18:41 AM »

status update...

I tried moving the cm15a downstairs, and it works fine in vmware down there, but it can't receive RF from the living room, and PLC don't reach the living room either.  I guess I'm SOL with the RF.  wifi didn't work well in the living room with the router in the basement either.  so I guess I'll end up installing it in my kitchen and running a USB cable downstairs to the server when I get that far.  I'm guessing the PLC issues are simply indicative of the need for a phase coupler?  The living room is definitely on the opposite phase.  Of course, so is the kitchen.  I can receive PLC sent from the basement in the kitchen.  The kitchen is probably the best location for the interface if I want RF to work from the whole house.  Any recommendations for a phase coupler?  I have a three-pin dryer, or I could hard-wire if the results are worth the extra effort.  Are the ones available for $20-$30 any good?  My house is small by modern standards, so I don't *think* I need a repeater.

On the plus side, I found some USB monitoring software for Windows, so I am going to start logging data from AHP.  Hopefully if I line up the raw data with the logs from AHP I can decipher some of it.
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dave w

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #31 on: October 31, 2010, 10:54:17 AM »

Any recommendations for a phase coupler?  I have a three-pin dryer, or I could hard-wire if the results are worth the extra effort.  Are the ones available for $20-$30 any good?  My house is small by modern standards, so I don't *think* I need a repeater.
$0.02

A high output repeater will also help with electrical noise problems, where a passive coupler will not.

The XTBIIR is the best, but if cost is an issue the Smarthome dryer unit or the X10 XPCR are better than a passive coupler, although they can get in to "firestorms", (typically caused by a module that transmits status - but I have had X10 / Leviton units that just went haywire - my ACT CR234 has high output and has been very reliable. XTBIIR is still my first choice).
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NESter

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #32 on: October 31, 2010, 05:52:48 PM »

I'll have to price them out and think about it.  The literature indicates that repeaters are more important for larger homes, which mine is not.  I suppose I probably have plenty of noise from CFLs and the millions of gadgets I have, so maybe it's not a bad idea.  I was debating just buying one of those cheapo couplers just because it's not a budget concern, and if it doesn't work (or doesn't work as well as I'd like) I can upgrade at a later date. 

I've switched to usbmon for my monitoring.  I was thinking of throwing some small tools together for data collection.  Does anyone out there have a cm15a and want to contribute?  Right now I am thinking I want to write a script that watches usbmon for unknown data and allows me to tag what the data represents (device, command, etc).  Once I have enough data, I can try to make this thing work natively.  I'll be working on this off and on in my free time, but if anyone has different modules than me, it would expand my data set and ultimately enable me to support modules that I don't own.
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dave w

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #33 on: October 31, 2010, 06:46:10 PM »

I was debating just buying one of those cheapo couplers just because it's not a budget concern, and if it doesn't work (or doesn't work as well as I'd like) I can upgrade at a later date. 
Hey, that is a good plan.
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NESter

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #34 on: October 31, 2010, 11:19:08 PM »

XTB-IIR looks nice, but I'm not up for the soldering, and the assembled version is pretty pricey for something that might be overkill for my purposes.  I'm also not too keen on installing equipment that requires me to sign a waiver.  I'm sure these things are built well enough to pass UL testing, but tell that to my insurance company...
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dave w

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #35 on: November 01, 2010, 01:15:28 PM »

XTB-IIR looks nice, but I'm not up for the soldering, and the assembled version is pretty pricey for something that might be overkill for my purposes.  I'm also not too keen on installing equipment that requires me to sign a waiver.  I'm sure these things are built well enough to pass UL testing, but tell that to my insurance company...

There is a ton of stuff in a typical home that is not UL approved.

I would still take a pass on a passive coupler (yuk-yuk). The XPCR can be had at a very low price off Ebay.
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Brian H

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #36 on: November 01, 2010, 01:21:14 PM »

XPCR may cause signal firestorms with a CM15A.
http://kbase.x10.com/wiki/Known_Issues_with_ActiveHome_Pro
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Brandt

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #37 on: November 01, 2010, 01:41:25 PM »

avoid the headaches go with an XTB-IIR with a CM15a plugged directly into it, and never look back... >!
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Brandt

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #38 on: November 01, 2010, 01:45:02 PM »

NESter, your back and forth is starting to get to me.

First you say:

I'm interested in getting started with X10 hacking. 

then you say:

for me, hacking is the hobby.  Whether it's hardware, software, or some combination.


But then when it comes down to it you say:

XTB-IIR looks nice, but I'm not up for the soldering,


So what is it? are you in or are you out?

Go with the XTB-IIR, and call it a day..


If soldering lessons are needed I can point you in the right direction for video tutorials....
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NESter

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #39 on: November 04, 2010, 01:16:22 AM »

can I solder?  sure.  do I enjoy it?  not a bit.  I have a friend who used to assemble PCBs for traffic lights, so when I need more than just a little bit of that stuff done, I usually ask him.  no point in doing a bad job myself.  it's just not a skill I've mastered, and to spend that much on a kit and risk ruining it with my amateur talent is silly.  Do you guys want to put me down or would you like to see some results?  I was hoping to find others who wanted to see this work.  I guess asking for advice is a bad idea.  this is a hobby, not a business.  I can't just drop over $100 like it's nothing.  If the cheap "solutions" are no good, then I will have to just find a way to keep my equipment on a single phase for the foreseeable future.  some day I can have my skilled friend assemble a XTB-IIR for me, or perhaps I'll win the lottery and not mind dropping an extra 50 to buy one preassembled. 

I've placed this hurdle on the back burner anyway.  I'm using AHP via virtual machine and usbmon on my laptop, which allows me to keep the cm15a in the room with the modules I am playing with.  when I have something worthy of running on my server, I will figure out a way to move the cm15a to a central location in the house within USB cable distance from the server.  If no one is going to offer to help with the actual project of figuring out the protocol, I'll just disappear for a while and work on it by myself.  Maybe when I post the first version that supports the few types of modules I own someone will be interested.
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pconroy

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #40 on: November 04, 2010, 11:17:52 AM »

If no one is going to offer to help with the actual project of figuring out the protocol, I'll just disappear for a while and work on it by myself.  Maybe when I post the first version that supports the few types of modules I own someone will be interested.

It's not that no one wants to help, it's that the skill and time commitment required are often prohibitively costly.
Like I said, others have made a good start at reverse engineering the protocol.  Make sure you leverage their effort.


I have one personal, hopefully funny, story about soldering.
I can't solder - but many, many years ago - I bought a Heathkit Auto Engine Analyzer.  Back when cars had points and plugs. :)  Anyway - I did my best to assemble it, solder it up, but it never worked.

Feeling miserable, I put it on a shelf and forgot about it.

A year or two later I noticed that the Eveready D Cell batteries in it had leaked all over the insides.
I boxed it up and mailed it off to Eveready.  Back then, they had their No Leak warranty printed on the sides of the batteries.

I expected it to come back clean but still dead.
Imagine my total surprise when my analyzer came back dead - and working!!!


To this day, I know I owe some poor EE my gratitude for finding and fixing my terrible soldering job...
:)
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dave w

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #41 on: November 04, 2010, 12:17:04 PM »

Do you guys want to put me down or would you like to see some results?  I was hoping to find others who wanted to see this work.  I guess asking for advice is a bad idea.  this is a hobby, not a business.  I can't just drop over $100 like it's nothing.  If the cheap "solutions" are no good, then I will have to just find a way to keep my equipment on a single phase for the foreseeable future. 
Nah we are trying to help. It is just several of us know from experience that, regarding a repeater, there ain't none better than the XTBIIR and because of its very high output, it solves a lot of noise issues in addition to coupling between phases. Having said that I stick by my (low cost) recommendation of the XPCR if cost is an issue.

I used the XPCR and the Leviton equivalent for years, before upgrading to the ACT CR234 (another fine unit). My problem with the X10 made models was they would, for no apparent reason, simply lock up and become unresponsive. Cycling their breakers remedied the problem for six months or so. This was back in the early 1990's so it is likely the current version has eliminated the problem. 

The XPCR can be had for the ridiculous price of $18 off eBay. And no soldering!! BTW next time you do have to solder go to Radio Shark and pick up a roll of 63/37 solder, also known as eutectic solder. It's plastic range is only 14* wide, so solidifies almost instantly. Virtually eliminates "cold" solder joints. Makes soldering much more mistake proof. Also wipe your tip frequently on a damp cellulose sponge or steel wool to help heat transfer.
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Brandt

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Re: looking for advice getting started
« Reply #42 on: November 04, 2010, 12:25:51 PM »

A hardware hacker should know how to solder :D

Here is the guide that i learned from a couple years ago:

http://store.curiousinventor.com/guides/How_to_Solder
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