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Author Topic: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...  (Read 12954 times)

MrBlackCat

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First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« on: November 13, 2006, 09:00:45 PM »

Hello to Everyone, well not technically everyone, just anyone who reads this post. :)

After about 20 hours of reading (not continuously) I decided to register and see if I could find out any information directly I am looking for and to possibly offer my 2 cents (plus tax) on some of the messages I read here.

Since this is my first post, I will throw in some comments and an introduction based on having read several thousand posts before joining this Message System.

I have had SO many thoughts as I read, but most posts were older and a quick check shows the originator of the post never came back again or even thanked anyone, at least publicly.  (shame!)  The good part is that I don't expect much from most people anyway, so I am not surprised or let down etc.

A persons first experience on an internet message board can be REALLY HARSH!  I have used many message boards since the BBS days and like many here, I finally got used to seeing what I see here...  How many message boards has anyone been to where there was more positive/praise posts than negative/bashing posts? (rhetorical)  Depending on the type of board, it isn't many.  In my opinion, it isn't because there IS so much negative, or even because negative people are more likely to complain or whine about things, but because few people will praise anything.  One reason that comes to mind might be because it (e.g. a level of quality) is expected.  If a product says it can do X and do it well, and it does, the that is just "ok" and not "great" or something that deserves praise, to most.  I don't deny that there is an obvious pattern of unhappy people having to tell everyone about it, while satisfied people tend to just move along.  Maybe the satisfied people here are off playing with their X10!  :)
It is my opinion, that most of the positive posts here don't seem to be posted because someone sought out a place to tell others just how great their X10 equipment was.  Many of the positive posts are in defensive reaction to the negative posts more so than just "finding a place to praise X10", is my point.  (calm down few, I said most, not all)  I could go on for hours, days and pages about the psychology involved, but I won't.  I will say that most of those "ranters" seldom are here for resolution though.  They are just angry and passing it along.  I have read hundreds of posts like that mixed in with some valid angry ones.  I can see through it, but when I see someone putting a huge effort into "helping" someone who isn't here for help, that actually bothers me.  However, on a positive note, there is a LOT of information here for someone who is looking for resolution to problems.  People say X10 should do more to support their products and I would have to agree GENERALLY, but they DID put this message board here.  Even for a great company, a message system like this can be "dangerous" in a way due the reasons mentioned above relative to "more negative feedback than positive".  I have seen many supporters here say the same thing I just said a dozen different ways.  (e.g. How often have you written a company to rave about their product compared to the number of times you have written to inform them of your dissatisfaction? Rhetorical example)

Moving along...
My X10.  I have been using these X10 products since the Sears and Roebuck days.  For what I have, and what I've done with it, I like it a lot. (a WHOLE lot? Yes.)
Here is my (tiny?) negative experience with X10.  12 years ago or so I blew one Radio Shack  61-2676 Transceiver.  Within the next couple of years a wall switch and two lamp modules stopped working.  One lamp module was my fault because of accidentally using it with a very large old computer I had at the time by accident. (got two same color power cords swapped!)  Lesson #(lost count): Never dim a 150 pound computer with Dual 8 inch drives while it is running.  This is just asking too much of even X10.  Sounds like I was dimmed a bit that day, that wasn't too bright. ;)
Seems the power where I live has some serious (sustained) voltage spikes, so we eat electronics and light bulbs like chips around here.  I run 130V bulbs in all incandescent light fixtures.

The point to the above paragraph is that the X10 equipment I have is very tolerant and durable.
I have bought nothing new X10 in more than 10 years.  I have not needed to.  (until recently, getting to that)  My old X10 works very well and has for many years, used constantly for an ever-changing wide range of tasks.
I have most of the standard controllers, switches, and modules from the 80's and early 90's.  I used to write some very complex (I thought) software in Basic for my CP290.  I still use my CP290 daily as well as my 2676 RF Transmitters and Transceiver.  Maybe a couple dozen all together.  They have moved with me a couple of times now.  My favorite toy... The Radio Shack Homeminder.  The heart of my system for YEARS!  (yes, that is screaming you must have a Homeminder to understand)  I loved that thing!  The first few months I had it, it blew the video.  No problem, under warranty, they fixed it right up.  Later, out of warranty, it blew the video again and I paid a very reasonable amount to have it fixed again.  Years later (not sure when, maybe 93?  94?) it blew out again.  Times had changed and they wanted $70+ dollars to fix it this time.  I had only paid $59 new for the unit, so I chose not to do it.  I retired it and packed it up.  It was dark times in the land... oh wait, never mind.  I was just unhappy for a few days. :)

I am now remodeling my next house and adding full X10 throughout.  New X10 equipment can be had so inexpensively from sellers on eBay these days, it is amazing to me.  I have bought hundreds more dollars of just basic items.  There are built in 220 volt heaters in each room, so the 220V 20AMP DPDT's are EXCELLENT!  The majority of the rooms will have their on controllers and house code.  I have 7 house codes already laid out/planned and partially set up for use at this time.  Gathering equipment and setting up one area at a time.

Ending the ramble now.  I think that is enough introduction.  Now to get back to my first question.  I will post other questions in the appropriate threads as I present them.

Ramble closing statement:  With the X10 items I have and use, I have had what I consider excellent usability and reliability for 20+ years.  Now that I have bought a large batch of new stuff to use, I will keep you posted in a comparison.  I will not be using much of what I read people are having issues with though.  No software (that I don't write), no cameras, no CM15A etc.  I have PC's in every room and mobiles (Libretto's) anyway, so with FireCrackers and a mouse, life is simple enough for me.  I fully plan on developing my own software when I move in to this house.  I am amazed this hasn't been done more, or maybe it has and I have not found it anyway.   The Third Party Add-Ons and Software was the first section I read on X10's site along side Google searches.

My First Question...
I have my Homeminder, and I still want to use it just for fun.  (like my VIC 20, Commodore 16, Commodore 64, Tandy Color Computers, Lava Lamp, 8088's, Altos, etc etc, you get the idea)
Can anyone help me to fix it?  All I know is that the video is blown.  It still transmits, but I can no longer program it blind. (and yes I knew it so well, I did for more than a year)  I have built single board computers, designed and built simple analog and digital electronic devices with 555's, 556's (insert 100 other IC's here) and can solder well etc, but I really don't know how to analyze this problem.  Nothing is obviously visually blown.  I have no oscilloscope, but I do have a logic probe, transistor checkers etc.  This video issue seems to be a common problem with the Home Minder, so I was wondering if anyone knew of schematics in existence for these devices.  I wonder if it is the RF Modulator itself, or whatever circuit links the main board to the Modulator... I just really don't know.  If anyone thinks they can help, I will open this thing up and work "with" anything anyone can offer.  I plan to buy a working one from eBay next time it pops up so I can compare circuitry power/signal to locate the issue and maybe repair this one.  Then I will have a spare one if nothing else.  (be hell if they were different models hu?)

So, can anyone help this old relic with an old relic?  (ok, just kidding about the age, I am not even 40 yet, it just sounded good)

As I type this excessive first post, I found one of the repair bills inside the perfectly preserved box complete with, packing, instructions, and inserts. :)

Here is what it can offer.  I can make out what appears to be a component.  1 - MX7376 IC   $2.77  Is this a particular IC that blew out/ blows out a lot?  Could this be all that is wrong with mine? Were there multiple points in the video that were weak? Someone out there knows and hopefully here knows and can share this information.


Thank you,
John Martin
MrBlackCat 
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Tuicemen

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2006, 09:29:41 PM »

Hey MrBlackCat welcome aboard!
Sorry I can't help but there are a few old timers with lots of the older X10 stuff which may have some incite for you! ;)
There is lots of people that have written there own software for firecrackers,CM11A,CM19As and CM15As
Some share them via freeware, others offer then for saleand other only tease you with examples of what they have done! ;) :D ;D
perhaps you could post a link to this post at Topic: GUESTS/LURKERS: Why Don't You Register (and Become NEWBIEs)?  (Read 2491 times)
TTA likes newbies to introduce themselves there as many users don't read all the threads here! ;)
;) Cheers! ;)
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Charles Sullivan

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2006, 09:48:35 PM »

Welcome John!  Glad to have you aboard and glad that you're coming with a positive attitude.

I know nothing about the Homeminder, but you mention a RF modulator.  If this beast transmits RF it will need to have been registered with the FCC and there may be schematics available on the FCC website:  https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/oet/cf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm  Look for a FCC ID on the label of the unit.

Take a look at the repaired circuit board to see if there are signs of manual soldering around any chips, especially the one mentioned on your repair receipt.

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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2006, 10:02:39 PM »

Hey MrBlackCat welcome aboard!
Sorry I can't help but there are a few old timers with lots of the older X10 stuff which may have some incite for you! ;)
There is lots of people that have written there own software for firecrackers,CM11A,CM19As and CM15As
Some share them via freeware, others offer then for saleand other only tease you with examples of what they have done! ;) :D ;D
perhaps you could post a link to this post at Topic: GUESTS/LURKERS: Why Don't You Register (and Become NEWBIEs)?  (Read 2491 times)
TTA likes newbies to introduce themselves there as many users don't read all the threads here! ;)
;) Cheers! ;)

Thank you for the suggestion and reply Tuicemen... is done.  :)
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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2006, 10:10:07 PM »

Welcome John!  Glad to have you aboard and glad that you're coming with a positive attitude.

I know nothing about the Homeminder, but you mention a RF modulator.  If this beast transmits RF it will need to have been registered with the FCC and there may be schematics available on the FCC website:  https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/oet/cf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm  Look for a FCC ID on the label of the unit.

Take a look at the repaired circuit board to see if there are signs of manual soldering around any chips, especially the one mentioned on your repair receipt.


Hello Charles Sullivan...
Thank you for the reply, link and suggestions.
I am looking at the FCC site you provided the link to now.  I have not used it before.  Any suggestions on how to use it?

Thank you,
John Martin
MrBlackCat

[Edited by CS to adjust quotes]
« Last Edit: November 14, 2006, 12:50:01 AM by Charles Sullivan »
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Charles Sullivan

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2006, 12:58:13 AM »

Welcome John!  Glad to have you aboard and glad that you're coming with a positive attitude.

I know nothing about the Homeminder, but you mention a RF modulator.  If this beast transmits RF it will need to have been registered with the FCC and there may be schematics available on the FCC website:  https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/oet/cf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm  Look for a FCC ID on the label of the unit.

Take a look at the repaired circuit board to see if there are signs of manual soldering around any chips, especially the one mentioned on your repair receipt.


Hello Charles Sullivan...
Thank you for the reply, link and suggestions.
I am looking at the FCC site you provided the link to now.  I have not used it before.  Any suggestions on how to use it?

Thank you,
John Martin
MrBlackCat

[Edited by CS to adjust quotes]


You have to have the FCC ID of the device.  If there's no FCC ID on the label of the device, then it's not registered.

For an example, try the one for the CM17A Firecracker:  FCC ID B4SCM17A
The first 3 characters (B4S) go in the "Grantee Code" box, the rest (CM17A) in the "Product Code" box.  Then click on "Start Search" at the bottom of the page.  In the search results page, click on "Detail" in the "Display Exhibits" column.

Note: The details for many devices are kept confidential.  This one isn't.

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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2006, 01:31:37 AM »

Welcome John!  Glad to have you aboard and glad that you're coming with a positive attitude.

I know nothing about the Homeminder, but you mention a RF modulator.  If this beast transmits RF it will need to have been registered with the FCC and there may be schematics available on the FCC website:  https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/oet/cf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm  Look for a FCC ID on the label of the unit.

Take a look at the repaired circuit board to see if there are signs of manual soldering around any chips, especially the one mentioned on your repair receipt.


Hello Charles Sullivan...
Thank you for the reply, link and suggestions.
I am looking at the FCC site you provided the link to now.  I have not used it before.  Any suggestions on how to use it?

Thank you,
John Martin
MrBlackCat

[Edited by CS to adjust quotes]


You have to have the FCC ID of the device.  If there's no FCC ID on the label of the device, then it's not registered.

For an example, try the one for the CM17A Firecracker:  FCC ID B4SCM17A
The first 3 characters (B4S) go in the "Grantee Code" box, the rest (CM17A) in the "Product Code" box.  Then click on "Start Search" at the bottom of the page.  In the search results page, click on "Detail" in the "Display Exhibits" column.

Note: The details for many devices are kept confidential.  This one isn't.



Thank you again for your reply Charles Sullivan...
I did successfully enter the device and it shows up registered to X10, but there is no information available in the needed fields from what I understand.
The FCC ID is B4S8N5TV-432
The Homeminder was an X10 controller interface which operated from a handheld remote and output video to a Television through a standard VHF connection.  It had a limited, but very functional Telephone Interface to turn modules on an off from built in as well.  It was a timer based device.  To set it up, you brought up the video on your television, selected a room, then lets say "a lamp" as a style, and it added it to the selected room.  Then you assigned on times, off times, dimmer levels etc.  It had the semi-random lived in look capability for instance.  You could control groups of devices in real time with it as well as scedules.  schedules "Memo Pad" event reminder built in.  It was amazing for the time in my opinion.  I won't go into the limitations or write a review, but I liked mine a lot.  :)

Thank you again for suggestions and assistance,
John Martin
MrBlackCat
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dave w

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2006, 12:19:58 PM »

MrBlackCat
Any relation to the firecracker?

Anywho, I don't know if this will help or if I am just blathering.

I had two GE Homeminders, purchased cheap when Radio Shark took them off GE's hands (probably for a fee)  :D

Yes mine lost video, and in one case the modulator was the culpret. If I remember there was a short coax coupling video to a modulator module.  I confirmed the dead modulator by coupling the base band video to a TV with video input. I think I put Homeminder back in service by a channel three modulator also from Radio Shark. Wow that was twenty years ago, a synaps must have fired.
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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2006, 07:46:03 PM »

MrBlackCat
Any relation to the firecracker?

Anywho, I don't know if this will help or if I am just blathering.

I had two GE Homeminders, purchased cheap when Radio Shark took them off GE's hands (probably for a fee)  :D

Yes mine lost video, and in one case the modulator was the cculprit If I remember there was a short coax coupling video to a modulator module.  I confirmed the dead modulator by coupling the base band video to a TV with video input. I think I put Homeminder back in service by a channel three modulator also from Radio Shark. Wow that was twenty years ago, a synaps must have fired.

Any relation to the firecracker...  OK, read in the context of X10 site, I thought "X10 Firecracker" and WOW was I thinking this guy is nanners. (which can still be very interesting)  LOL!  As always I change modes and re-read out of context or in a general context (or sometimes others) and I realized you were referencing Black Cat Fireworks.
OK!  THAT WAS FUNNY!  (even though it took me 30 seconds to get it!)  I think it deserves some color or something other than caps... lets see...

OK!  THAT WAS FUNNY! LOL!

But no, no relation to the fireworks brand.   I have been Mr.BlackCat, MrBlackCat, MrBlakCat or BlackCat on ling since about 1984 with my first Compuserve account though.  That was on my Double Speed VIC-MODEM equipped VIC-20... 300 baud.  It could transmit faster than I could type... sometimes.

Thank you for the information... This is EXACTLY the response type I am looking for.  I don't expect "all the answers".  I don't have much information to give right now even.  But the more clues you have going into something like this, the better.  I am going to open this thing up this week and have a look.

Thank you dave w for the reply.  :)

John Martin
Mr.BlackCat  (eBay)
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dave w

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2006, 12:24:18 PM »


Thank you dave w for the reply.  :)


Sure!

Last night my other synapse fired and I remembered the fix on our second Homeminder. It was also a loss of video, but I remember the video would flash back when I "thumped" on the top of Homeminder (Def: To thump, or thumping -To gently tap the appliance with an object such as a pencil, bat, claw hammer, or sledge, in an attempt to restore intended operation. A holdover from the ancient days when electron flow was controlled by vacuum tubes ).

Anywho, it was a cold solder connection on the PC board. As I recall this was a common problem.

Good luck!
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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2006, 09:58:41 AM »

Thank you to everyone who has replied to my post...

This project is cancelled for now as the remote has died from many years of storage... No way to work with it now.
(The Homeminder is Ir remote only operation.)

I am back on eBay looking for another one!  :)

I think I actually may just focus on writing my own software for now.  I have a dozen PC's running most of the time. I don't see why that would not be more effective than having to rely on the various X10 consoles that seem to have unusual problems.  I have to say one thing for all those years I used my Homeminder, I honestly can't remember one singe failure with operation... for YEARS, with constantly adding modules and changing things around.  If the module did not come on, I went to see what *I* had done wrong in every case.  I guess its limitations are the tradeoff.  I do have some concerns of which is the best device to use.  I think I will start with this FireCracker device as it is so inexpensive.  How hard could writing some software be?  I can't come here every day, but I will be back with a million software questions I am sure!

Thank you,
MrBlackCat



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TakeTheActive

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2006, 10:56:22 AM »


...I do have some concerns of which is the best device to use.  I think I will start with this FireCracker device as it is so inexpensive.  How hard could writing some software be?

IMHO, skip the FireCracker completely - it's only ONE-WAY and tied to the computer.

Get yourself 1 RCA-branded X10 ActiveHome for $10 and 1 X10 RR501 Transceiver for ~$15. There are TONs of software programs already written for the CM11A and if you want to "roll-your-own", take a look at HeYu, supported by our very own Charles Sullivan.

Money well spent, IMHO... ;)

Reference: 07/02 Bandit Alert: RCA ActiveHome with RCA Home Control Kit for just $10!  (Read 1845 times)
« Last Edit: November 18, 2006, 04:27:30 PM by TakeTheActive »
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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2006, 11:13:28 PM »


...I do have some concerns of which is the best device to use.  I think I will start with this FireCracker device as it is so inexpensive.  How hard could writing some software be?

IMHO, skip the FireCracker completely - it's only ONE-WAY and tied to the computer.

Get yourself 1 RCA-branded X10 ActiveHome for $10 and 1 X10 RR501 Transceiver for ~$15. There are TONs of software programs already written for the CM11A and if you want to "roll-your-own", take a look at HeYu, supported by our very own Charles Sullivan.

Money well spent, IMHO... ;)
.
Hmmm...  CM11A... I have concerns. I have read of issues with all of these devices that seem very valid, even when not used standalone.  I would prefer my X10 system be run by a PC (or PCs) all the time for voice control for instance.  In the past I used Windows 3.11 with Voice Control software which I used with X10. (with BASIC software that I wrote)  I stopped using that some time in 1997 due to software incompatibility with Windows 95.  I am not comfortable trusting any of the more recent X10 devices after reading so much about odd behavior.  While more of this odd behavior does seem to occur while operating disconnected from a PC, there are dozens of threads discussing failures and undesired operation even while attached to the PC for most any of the devices I have read about.
I have a CP290 and just bought some several sets of Controllers (HR12A), Transceivers (TM751) that came with firecrackers. :)  My old transceivers are RR501's (RS# 61-2676)  I will be running 6 or 7 different house codes in my new house as is my current design.
I was reading up on newer devices devices but now have reservations about reliability.  I thought maybe with the simplicity of the FireCracker (no memory, no line power etc) it would be the most reliable with full time computer-only control.  I guess I was just thinking of the FireCracker as the most simple interface between the PC and X10.  I only have one CP290 I think, so that won't work in my new house. :(
I am definitely going to be looking at different software.  My best software used Lotus 123 (I used/owned Version 1.0a  ;D ) entries... all I did was change my spreadsheet and my basic routines read from it.  It was simple and concise.  It was heater control worthy with a UPS on the PC.  I intend to use that same model again. :)
Oh... that was another thought of mine with the FireCracker... it isn't plugged in to line power, so I see it as one less part of the system that doesn't get fried, crashed or hung by our wild power conditions here.  The transceivers are at risk... BUT my RR501's have hung in there for years and my CP290 is doing fine still also.

Thank you for the suggestions.  :)

MrBlackCat
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Tuicemen

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2006, 09:10:59 PM »

MrBlackCat

If one way transmit RF only is all you need then the Fig newton firecracker is probably the cheepest.
Doing a Google search will turn up several documents for writing you own program for these or you can download many of the freeware programs designed for this!

If you need to create macros which you can trigger from remotes  then at the very least you'll need a CM19A (usb firecracker) listed on e-bay for around $7
The ActiveHome Pro SDK will allow you to write programs to use with this!
As well as most of the freeware x10 programs work with this!
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MrBlackCat

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Re: First Posts, Rambles, and Homeminder Repair Question...
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2006, 12:21:36 AM »

MrBlackCat

If one way transmit RF only is all you need then the Fig newton firecracker is probably the cheepest.
Doing a Google search will turn up several documents for writing you own program for these or you can download many of the freeware programs designed for this!

If you need to create macros which you can trigger from remotes  then at the very least you'll need a CM19A (usb firecracker) listed on e-bay for around $7
The ActiveHome Pro SDK will allow you to write programs to use with this!
As well as most of the freeware x10 programs work with this!


Hello Tuicemen...

Thank you for the guidance.  I don't really see or know of a need remote triggered macros the way I use X10 really, so the FireCracker seems ideal. :)
I am also not in the habit of thinking of ways to use macros, so I might check into that possibility in the future.  I have read some of what people use them for on this site though.

Thank you for the reply.  :)

John Martin
MrBlackCat
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