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Author Topic: Getting ready to X10 myself  (Read 13967 times)

adamsdaddy

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Getting ready to X10 myself
« on: April 15, 2010, 03:58:21 PM »

Greetings.  I am one of those newbies that will probably ask the same ole questions you've heard before but here it goes....  I'm trying to do my research first before diving into the whole x10 system.  Money is always an issue, as is the wife spending money on "useless" items.  I have purchased the following on eBay just to play with: 1 HR12a remote, 1 TM751 transceiver, 1 HD466 appliance module, 1 IBM LM465 lamp module, 1 RR501 remote module, and 1 CM17A firecracker serial connector.

I dropped about $20 on all of it so the wife was fine with it.  Not knowing what I was getting into I wanted to "play" with a little bit of it before jumping into a huge system that didn't work.  I read all about 2 phase house wiring, line interference, numerous transmitters transmitting on the same house code and such.  I'm trying to do my best to do this right without all the hassles and frustrations that come with blind experimentation.  This is where you, the experienced x10 user, can help me take my next baby steps if your up to it.

The RR501 works fine anywhere in the house with ease as does the TM751 transceiver.  I was happy with that after reading the horror stories about line interference.  I have TONS of electronics in the house; plasma TV, 5.1 surround, 2 desktops and 5 laptops and a bunch of charger and gizmos all running in a house that is only 2 years old (a house fire required me to do a total rebuild.)  So far, no interference.  The 2 items I connected worked just fine with almost no delay from remote button to the light coming on.  So far I'm impressed.  I got the firecracker serial connector as part of the package but quickly found out I cannot use it.  I run all Vista with 1 XP computer.  The XP laptop doesn't have a serial port.  So here are my very specific questions.  I know you get general questions a lot that tend to run off on wild tangents and get lost from the original question so I will try to stay specifically on topic. 

1 - What use is this firecracker device to me by itself?  Are there Vista programs that actually work for it or is it really a paperweight for me and I should upgrade to the usb version of this (I believe that's the cm19a???)

2 - I was happy to see the IBM device worked with the x10 devices.  I'm finding out there are many companies to choose from.  Are there any problems using products from different manufacturers as long as they are x10 based products?  I've read about how some products are x10 compatible but really they just recode their product to send out x10 signal.  Do I really want to go there?  Is crossing platforms like this OK or should I just stick with all x10 type products.

3 - I have Vista.  I got all new computers with the house fire and I don't plan on upgrading to Windows 7.  Had too many problems when Vista was new so I'll be waiting a while for any upgrades.  I get a little confused on what will and will not work with Vista.  I Googled a bunch on software and came across Activehome Vista, Active Home Pro, firecracker that works with Vista and other such things.  My goal is to eventually automate my entire home.  I'm specifically looking for answers to the best product that will allow me to automate my home using macros and my computer, using my windows mobile 6.1 phone to run programs (I already do the LogMeIn thing... I'm looking for something like WebcamXP, a specific program to run on the phone), A way to connect everything up through IP and my router and anything else I might be missing that I don't know exists. 

4 - Is there a way to control 1 CM15a through multiple computers.  I read a blog on connecting it to a router and all computers could control it much like a network hard drive.  It this possible?  I'm interested in Active Home and/or Active Home Pro and/or any other products you recommend (free and/or purchase) that will work well.  I tried just a few freeware versions from Russia or someplace like that and I found it to be more of a waste of time than I was interested. 

5 - Specifically, how buggy is Active Home Pro?  Which version should I get?  Do I dare purchase something like this from eBay?  Should I order from X10.com or are their other reputable companies out there that offer good product?

6 - I noticed the slightly annoying "click" that comes with the appliance module turning on/off.  Reading posts I gather this is normal.  I plan on replacing my wall switches with x10 wall switched.  Do the in wall on/off switches click as loud?  I don't mind as much when the switch is behind the sofa and muffled but the wall switches are right by my head.

7 - Are there any items or products I should steer away from?  The CM17A firecracker seems useless and I probably wouldn't have purchased it had it not come as a package.  Are there other older model items or poor quality items or "buggy" items I should avoid?

I guess that's it for now.  I thank you in advance for your assistance.  I would like to make my automated transition as easy as possible and what better way to do that than to ask the advice of the people that have already been there.  Please forgive me if I'm just rehashing old questions but I thought it easier to sum them all up together in one place.  Thank you again.

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Brandt

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2010, 05:25:17 PM »

1 - What use is this firecracker device to me by itself?  Are there Vista programs that actually work for it or is it really a paperweight for me and I should upgrade to the usb version of this (I believe that's the cm19a???)

I have one in-line with my cm11a, and I never use it....paper weight as far as I know. Although you don't have a cm11a, or HD11a (IBM version), so you might use it initially for any scenes or macros.

2 - I was happy to see the IBM device worked with the x10 devices.  I'm finding out there are many companies to choose from.  Are there any problems using products from different manufacturers as long as they are x10 based products?  I've read about how some products are x10 compatible but really they just recode their product to send out x10 signal.  Do I really want to go there?  Is crossing platforms like this OK or should I just stick with all x10 type products.

Don't worry about this, you're not there yet.


3 - I have Vista.  I got all new computers with the house fire and I don't plan on upgrading to Windows 7.  Had too many problems when Vista was new so I'll be waiting a while for any upgrades.  I get a little confused on what will and will not work with Vista.  I Googled a bunch on software and came across Activehome Vista, Active Home Pro, firecracker that works with Vista and other such things.  My goal is to eventually automate my entire home.  I'm specifically looking for answers to the best product that will allow me to automate my home using macros and my computer, using my windows mobile 6.1 phone to run programs (I already do the LogMeIn thing... I'm looking for something like WebcamXP, a specific program to run on the phone), A way to connect everything up through IP and my router and anything else I might be missing that I don't know exists.

I can't really answer this, I'm not a windows user. I would not want my home 'powered by windows'....Linux here..
You say your goal is to eventually automate your entire home, then I would not have wasted any money on a tm751 or rr501, except I use them as backup receivers rarely.

4 - Is there a way to control 1 CM15a through multiple computers.  I read a blog on connecting it to a router and all computers could control it much like a network hard drive.  It this possible?  I'm interested in Active Home and/or Active Home Pro and/or any other products you recommend (free and/or purchase) that will work well.  I tried just a few freeware versions from Russia or someplace like that and I found it to be more of a waste of time than I was interested.

This may cause problems because the computers would not be aware of what each other are doing and that could screw things up.

5 - Specifically, how buggy is Active Home Pro?  Which version should I get?  Do I dare purchase something like this from eBay?  Should I order from X10.com or are their other reputable companies out there that offer good product?

Can't answer this.

6 - I noticed the slightly annoying "click" that comes with the appliance module turning on/off.  Reading posts I gather this is normal.  I plan on replacing my wall switches with x10 wall switched.  Do the in wall on/off switches click as loud?  I don't mind as much when the switch is behind the sofa and muffled but the wall switches are right by my head.

You get what you pay for. If you wanna drop more money on a higher end appliance module, the relay won't be as noticeable.

7 - Are there any items or products I should steer away from?  The CM17A firecracker seems useless and I probably wouldn't have purchased it had it not come as a package.  Are there other older model items or poor quality items or "buggy" items I should avoid?


If you say your goal is to automate your entire house then I will list a few items I like to call the core 'infrastructure':

CM11a for powerline controller only.
w800usb for a whole house RF receiver
xtb-iir for the best phase coupler/booster ever (will solve any headaches you may have otherwise)

Later addons:
rain8 for your irrigation
rcs txb16 for your HVAC
DS7000 and the wireless components that go with it for security

From there of course you get:
wall switch dimmers for incandescent fixtures
wall switch relays for your florescents or whatever you don't want dimmable (like a ceiling fan)
lamp modules for table or floor lamps
2-pin appliance modules for indoor floor fans and such
3-pin appliance modules for a/v equipment or outdoor extension cords to xmas lights or pool pump, etc...(check ratings)
HR12a's scattered around the house (might as well go wireless when you have the w800usb, plus they are the easiest controllers to label)
MS14a motion sensors to automatically turn lights on around the house



If there are any other special applications you would like to try, its up to your imagination and stop by here for help.

« Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 05:29:01 PM by pomprocker »
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Brian H

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2010, 06:19:12 PM »

#1 Firecracker is a RF sending device that the TM751 and RR501 can receive and control. The TM751 does not have a power line receiver in it so it can only be controlled by a remote or any X10 RF signal.
The Firecracker software is on this page. Puts a HR12A Icon on the desktop that you can send commands with.
http://www.x10.com/support/support_soft1.htm

#2 X10 made the IBM devices and a few other brands like Black and Decker; Stanley and Heathkit.

#4 The CM15A AHP Interface is not a network device. It is USB. Active Home is the software for the older serial interfaced CM11A. Active Home Pro is for the CM15A.

#5 If you purchase from an EBay Dealer. Make sure you get a registration code as it is needed to activate AHP and it is only by a download link X10 or the dealer sends to you by email. X10 usually has a deal going with all the plug ins included and sometimes even a few added modules for the same price.

#6 The appliance type modules and the non dimming wall switches have a mechanical ratchet switch in them and clunk. The two wire dimmers are silent but will not play nice with CFLs and inductive lights like low voltage lighting. Also the non dimming switches need a Neutral power wire in the switch box. Dimmers steal power through the load.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 06:26:11 PM by Brian H »
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adamsdaddy

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2010, 02:00:54 AM »

Thanks for your input.  This really helps me decide what to add next.  Let me just add that I received the ur74a remote today in the mail.  I must admit that I was skeptical.  What kind of remote for 10 bucks would do everything I wanted it to do.  It's 11pm my time and I was able to take the SAT button and program it for a very specific set of commands.  I always have problems with the kids accidentally turning off the comcast DVR instead of the TV with the remote comcast supplies.  I was able to program every button I wanted to every command I needed.  My SAT button now only turns on/off the TV while turning the channels on the comcast box.  I programed button 1-7 to change the inputs on the TV while 8 accesses the dvr and 9 accesses the on demand feature.  Button A - D do specific buttons and though I bought the remote on eBay and had to experiment on how to work it, I was able to get it to do everything I wanted.  I am thoroughly impressed wit the ur74a for a $10 remote.  Plus it successfully talked to both transmitters and both receivers I currently own using the x10 button.
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Brandt

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2010, 12:41:58 PM »

in my opinion; while 'home by remote control' is an interim step, the eventual goal (for me at least) is home automation. This would including programming your house to know and anticipate whats going to happen and what to do in those situations.
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pconroy

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2010, 05:01:43 PM »

3 - I have Vista.  I got all new computers with the house fire and I don't plan on upgrading to Windows 7.  Had too many problems when Vista was new so I'll be waiting a while for any upgrades.  I get a little confused on what will and will not work with Vista. 


You might just prefer Windows 7...  In essence they fixed so many things that they screwed up in Vista.  I have XP, Vista and 7 boxes at home.   I still find Vista the most painful one of all.  Windows 7, for example, can run many older programs better than Vista.

As often the case - no guarantees.  Just keep in mind that you might want to upgrade on PC to "7" and see if life gets better!  :)



4 - Is there a way to control 1 CM15a through multiple computers.  I read a blog on connecting it to a router and all computers could control it much like a network hard drive. 

Depends on what you mean by control...  If you run ActiveHome for example, then I'm pretty darned sure, that computer wants to control the interface.   You could use LogMeIn, or VNC, or Remote Desktop to connect other computers to that one (that owns the CM15a) and apply control that way.

If you mean it - the way I've defined it...
- I want the PC that physically connects the CM15A to accept commands from other computers on the network, then I think you can't use Active Home.

When I wrote my own code - I wanted that ability (and the ability to have more than one home-automation PC on the network).  So I can.  But that doesn't help you much! :)


if you were willing to run an alternative OS, like Linux, then I'd have some more suggestions.
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JeffVolp

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2010, 06:28:56 PM »

You might just prefer Windows 7...  In essence they fixed so many things that they screwed up in Vista.  I have XP, Vista and 7 boxes at home.   I still find Vista the most painful one of all.  Windows 7, for example, can run many older programs better than Vista.

One of the fellows I hike with said he can no longer download tracks from his Magellan GPS since he updated to Windows 7.  Apparently there is no Windows 7 driver for it.  Magellan appears to be taking this as an opportunity to force people to buy a new GPS.  I remember the CM11A problems when XP was introduced, so I am leery of any computer upgrades.  (I'm still running XP here).

Jeff
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X-10 automation since the BSR days

Brian H

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2010, 06:33:31 PM »

Jeff I also am sticking with XP until security updates are stopped.
Heck I still have an ancient IBM Laptop with Windows SE on it. That one runs my old Active Home program and Smarthome Manager Essentials for my 1132CU. Though the 1132CU also works under XP.
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adamsdaddy

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2010, 01:20:25 PM »

Thanks for your input.  I've been doing my research some more, trying to find the right balance for what I want with what I can afford.  EBay inputs are appreciated.  I had not considered the problem of getting Active Home vs Active Home Pro and what I may or may not be buying on EBay. 

Back to topic so this doesn't go all sideways on my conversations...

I'm sticking with Vista.  I only say this because I own it and am not interested in spending money on a whole new system for 6+ computers in the house.  I agree that Vista is not the best but this is what I decided to stay with.  Any info on what works and doesn't work with Vista I am really interested in.  I do have 1 XP laptop so maybe older stuff would work with it but it is a old.  The max memory I can put in it is 256megs which I have done.  I use it to broadcast 1 webcam over the internet using WebcamXP.  It takes forever to boot up and get it running but when it is up it works fine... slow... but fine.  I would entertain ideas on how to integrate any program (HAP, HA, Firecracker and such) to it as long as the programs are not so memory intensive that it makes the laptop useless.  I would like to use it to send and receive simple signals for x10.  I could use LogMeIn to access the XP laptop and push a few buttons on the computer.  A crude way to control x10 away from home but effective.  I've
done this with WebcamXP when I forgot to turn the program on.  I use LogMeIn to access the computer, turn on WebcamXP then exit LogMeIn to use the WebcamXP program I have on my Windows Mobile phone.

For connecting to my router allowing multiple computers to control a product I found this item: http://www.smarthome.com/2412N/SmartLinc-INSTEON-Central-Controller/p.aspx  It appears to connect to my router and accept commands from the internet or wifi connection and transmit from cat5e to the powerline.  This is my question for this, is there an x10 device similar to this?  It says it is compatible with x10 but my understanding it just recodes it's own signal and sends it out in the x10 language.  How compatible it this device with AHP?  Will AHP even see this item? I'm guessing not but that is where your expertise comes in.

X10 commander seems interesting.  Though I don't have an Iphone my son has an Itouch.  Any comments on this product?  Will it work with Windows Mobile 6?

My thoughts with "networking" the CM15A were this.  I have an HP network hard drive that every computer in my house can access.  It hooks up to my router and all the computers, even the wireless ones can see Z drive when I map the network drive to it.  The HP hard drive has a usb port on the front for additional items.  So adding 2+2 together I thought if I connected the CM15A to that usb port then any computer running AHP with a connection to my internet would be able to access the device.  Here is where the users come in.  I don't believe AHP does a continuous search for the CM15A but I don't truly know.  Would my computer know if I unplug the CM15A from it's usb connection?  I know the computer would see an unplugged USB but would AHP stop working?  Theoretically I could unplug the CM15A from the wall, move it to another outlet and plug it back in and AHP wouldn't care as long as it wasn't sending a command at the time.  If this theory holds true then theoretically I could plug it into my HP network hard drive, map its location to my computer and run AHP.  I should be able to do this to another computer with AHP and do the same thing.  Now before you jump in, I get that there would be cross commands if both programs were sending out similar or conflicting information at the same time but follow me here...  Computer A sends a command to the CM15A at 10am and computer B sends a command at 11am.  Would this work.  I guess the real question here for those that use the CM15A is this.  Does the CM15A send and receive commands like a hard drive, only accessing it when it wants to send or receive information or does it act like a webcam where it wants dedicated control all the time.  As a newbie I'm sure someone has already tried this and knows the answer but I have not been able to find the answer elsewhere.  Maybe someone with a similar setup could try this out.  Ultimately I'm guessing the CM15A would now work through the USB on my network drive but I thought I would ask anyways... food for thought on this one. 

The UR74A I recently purchased worked brilliantly with my complicated remote control system.  I have some newer items (due to the fire) and I was afraid my TV and sound system wouldn't have a code to work with.  It worked great and I was even able to take the SAT button and specifically program it to run the DVD, TV, Cable and 5.1 sound with my most common codes with ease.  I would like to do this with my laptop.  Which program works well to do this.  I know I need the usb RF transmitter (forgot the code name here) to control x10 stuff.  I would also need some sort of IR transmitter.  I read a little on USB-UIRT but I'm not familiar enough with it yet.  Anyone used the UIRT to control their TV yet and what program would work good integrating this technology with my x10 stuff.  I know this goes a little off topic for x10 related stuff but it ties in with the ultimate home automation theme so I thought I would throw it out there.

Total Home Automation is my ultimate goal if all this x10 stuff works as well as I hope.  I'm not looking for a buggy system that only works half the time.  I get enough of that with Vista and issues with my Windows mobile phone.  I have been impressed with the reliability of the few items I currently own.  I have read posts on the Bill's Voice Command on other posts.  I've seen comments on other software like HAL and others.  Any input on other programs that work well with x10 products?  I'll probably go with AHP but I've seen some interesting Youtube videos on other systems.  What's your thoughts on this?

Thanks again for your advise from an x10 newbie.  Maybe I'll youtube my x10 adventure for the next newbie that comes along.




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Rocket J Squirrel

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Re: Getting ready to X10 myself
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2010, 01:41:51 PM »

Re networking, you can play with this a little for free. The X10 Commander server software can be downloaded from Melloware for free. It includes an HTTP interface so you can send commands from anywhere on your home network (or even from outside if you forward a port and aren't concerned about security). The part of X10 Commander you must pay for is the iPhone/iPod client (well worth it IMHO).

A clever fellow I happen to know personally wrote a simple JavaScript to send commands from any browser over the network to the X10 Commander server. It is also free. All it can do is send simple on/off dim/bright commands, but if you can program, you could set up more sophisticated stuff using HTTP.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 02:04:36 PM by Bob W. »
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