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Author Topic: I'm getting back into the automation hobby  (Read 339 times)

guyl

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I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« on: October 24, 2022, 10:25:17 AM »

Hello all.

Some might recognize my name, mostly from the Applied digital support forum that used to discuss the Ocelot and Leopard controllers. I looked around the forum a bit and saw a few familiar names, mainly Jeff Volp (hi Jeff!), who also still seems to be using his trusty Ocelot, which is what I also use. Still very reliable. The truly hobby aspect which was so prominent in the heyday of X10, Applied Digital, Homseer, etc  seems to have greatly died down. Most users seems to just be content with using their systems for everyday living and nothing more. I sort of got back into it innocently enough when I bought an Alexa echo dot, mostly for my wife who has vey poor eyesight (glaucoma, etc). It was meant mostly as a talking clock, kitchen timer, temperature and weather, etc.

Well one thing lead to the next, and I started thinking that it would be neat if I could control my X10 based wall switches with Alexa. A few Google searches later, I read up on the BWS Systems HA Bridge. It's free, and it's ability to run command line programs gave me the connectivity I was looking for. I looked around and found my CM11A, and wrote a VB program to "drive" it as my own homegrown "X10 bridge". Other HA Bridge and X10 users seem to use RF solutions, but I've always avoided the RF stuff whenever I could. So I got that working, and then updated things so that the HA bridge talked to my X10 bridge using TCP socket commands. Fast and reliable, and less clunky than command line programs.

I did get the WM100 Wifi hub about a year ago, and it's handy enough, but another thing I've always avoided is cloud only based stuff. Cloud is handy as an extra, but nothing quite beats true local control. My next move is looking into learning Android programming to make a phone app that could communicate directly with my X10 bridge. The TCP connectivity is already there... I looked for a generic phone app that would allow you to define buttons and pressing one would sernd a string to a socket. Didn't really find anything, so I'll try and roll my own.

Any ideas welcome. Glad to be back!
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Brian H

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2022, 05:53:33 PM »

Welcome to the X10 Forums.
I am sure users will be eager to share their knowledge and learn from you.
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JeffVolp

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2022, 11:44:30 PM »

Welcome Guy!

Yes, I'm still using the rock-solid Ocelot.  I added a Smartenit Harmony for an Alexa interface, but that not as reliable as the Ocelot.  It's handy to say "Alexa, east floodlight off!" when it gets turned on by a lighting flash.

Jeff
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petera

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2022, 10:47:52 AM »

I'm assuming you are referring to this software https://github.com/bwssytems/ha-bridge It's been well discussed on this forum in conjunction with the software HomeGenie, which incidentally is free to use on the same basis as the bridge. Unfortunately when AWS decide to update their software on their Echo range you are at the mercy of the bridge developer to also update his or Alexa becomes unusable with it.This update can happen at the most inconvenient time too,

I suggest you read up on the HomeGenie project here https://github.com/genielabs/HomeGenie When it comes to X10 support there's very little out there that will beat it. It will run as comfortably on a full blown PC as it will on a Raspberry Pi2 or better using either CM11,CM15 and CM19 "out of the box" and with some modification an Ocelot no doubt.

If you did like HomeGenie you couldn't do better than to learn a little Python or C# programming. It's not necessary as HomeGenie has a very comprehensive wizard events scripting built in.I've tried X10 on many platforms but always come back to HomeGenie as it always just works.

That's just a little outline as to what's happening out there. Not sure about the Android immersion. It's quite gimmicky but I suppose each to their own. If you have any questions on the subject of HomeGenie there's always the forum here available to ask https://github.com/genielabs/HomeGenie
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Brian H

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2022, 06:01:16 PM »

I believe Jeff is talking about the Smartenit Harmony P2 or G2 smart gateway.
It can be used for X10 and Insteon with the addition of a Insteon 2412U or 2413U PLM.
The P2 and G2 both are no longer on the Smartenit sales pages. Only the G4 is still there.

Since Richardson Capital Partners. Completely closed them down (Insteon production, Smartlabs and Smarthome ) in the beginning of the year and wiped their hands of the company. Including removing all their references to them in their work profiles. Some of the management and employees are trying to start it back up. New modules are slowly trickeling in again.
So for now Smartenit is using  (if available) a 2412U or reconditioned 2413U if you ordered the Harmony with a PLM for X10 and Insteon use.

HomeGenie is another way to go and users here are using it. Some with the Raspberry Pi and a CM15A X10 interface.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2022, 07:05:33 AM by Brian H »
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guyl

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2022, 10:41:27 AM »

Petera, that HomeGenie looks interesting, especially with that dashboard presentation. I'll be reading up on it for sure. If I understood your statement correctly when you referred to the HA bridge being used "in conjunction" with it, you mean that HomeGenie by itself doesn't support Alexa, so HA bridge is still needed for that. I did read up on HA bridge and it appears that in the past, compatibility issues did creep up with some changes that Philips made, esp with device id's now having 9 octets. The latest version of the bridge (5.4.1) is from January this year and the previous release was 2 years ago, so things seem to be quite stable.

HomeGenie seems to support conditional scripting, which is something I'll probably leave in the Ocelot. Ask Jeff, once you've known the reliability of the Ocelot, it's not tempting to go to something else. It's ladder logic programming model is what drew me to it (and tripped up most other users!). They kept me busy on the appdig forum! You can do very complex, nested logic with the Ocelot, and the expansion hardware module (inputs, outputs, IR commands) provide that functionality that's rarely available with other home automation platforms. Those that do are things like the ELK M1 and the JDS Time Commander and Stargate. The Ocelot rates close to zero in sexiness, and isn't trying to be. It's more of a critical internal organ like the heart that just need to keep beating to keep everything else going.

The one thing that would draw me to using the HomeGenie as a front end is what seems like an Android app. That just might be the missing piece in my otherwise complete puzzle, and might save me learning programming (I'm 63 and the desire to learn new stuff isn't as strong). I'll certainly check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

The Smartenit device Jeff is talking about seems to be more of a dedicated bridge type device, and though it supports X10, they do so through what used to be no longer available Smarthome interfaces, instead of the much more easily available X10 ones like the CM11A or CM15A. Is Smartenit an offshoot of what was Smarthome?

That's the thing with the long term viability of some products. Technology products often have a short support lifespan. When I last did this stuff as a hobby 15 years ago. New protocols were coming out like crazy. Insteon, UPB, Zwave, Zigbee etc. Then much of it shifted towards IP based, which at least made interoperability possible. Since that time, UPB is down to just one supplier (if I read that right at Cocoontech), Insteon went down with the demise of Smarthome and some kind of possible resurrection might be in the works. X10 itself made an abrupt exit and was restarted under new ownership. In several of these cases, cloud based products ceased to work overnight with no warning. You can understand why we can get gun shy of cloud based products. As I've said before, it's nice as an extra (how many times do you really need to control your lights "from anywhere in the world"?) but local control remains king in my mind. That's another plus with the HA bridge emulating a Philips Hue bridge: Alexa will keep working with it even if your internet goes down, according to some posts I've read.
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guyl

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2022, 04:04:44 PM »

I just messed around with HomeGenie, and it almost works. The interesting thing is that the phone app not only talks to the HomeGenie server, but also to some other devices directly...including the Philips Hue bridge. So I had it "discover" the HA Bridge as a Hue Bridge, and was able to control devices through the bridge, exactly as I wanted! But...it only works once. If I close the phone app and reopen it again, I get "authorization error" from the HA Bridge, and have to rediscover it again (and lose any groups I had created, etc). Then it works again...until I close the phone app. Frustrating.

I also tried discovering the HomeGenie server itself and that fails. I don't know if you need to do something on the server (like the "link" button in HA bridge) to allow discovery. The documentation on HomeGenie is rather limited. Any clues are welcome.
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brobin

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2022, 06:16:44 PM »

Smartenit still has the G2 available and requires a 2412U PLM which they have for sale with it.  However, they have a new product which is X10/Insteon only (no ZigBee) called the Harmony PICO which does NOT require any external PLM as they built it into the product for a total price of $110.  Only problem is that it can't be ordered yet and I haven't been able to get any other details about it yet.
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brobin

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2022, 06:28:15 PM »

Update! I just to spoke to Smartenit and the Harmony PICO is almost ready for release pending some software issues they're working through.  Essentially, it'll operate the same way the other Harmony products do but without the need for a PLM.

Thankfully, the floodwaters that entered my garage crested about a foot below my Harmony so it never missed a beat!  My Stargate remained high and dry as well!
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Brian H

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2022, 06:08:01 AM »

Thank you for the information.
Somehow I read the G2 was a G4  :(
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petera

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2022, 05:35:27 PM »

Petera, that HomeGenie looks interesting, especially with that dashboard presentation. I'll be reading up on it for sure. If I understood your statement correctly when you referred to the HA bridge being used "in conjunction" with it, you mean that HomeGenie by itself doesn't support Alexa, so HA bridge is still needed for that. I did read up on HA bridge and it appears that in the past, compatibility issues did creep up with some changes that Philips made, esp with device id's now having 9 octets. The latest version of the bridge (5.4.1) is from January this year and the previous release was 2 years ago, so things seem to be quite stable.

HomeGenie seems to support conditional scripting, which is something I'll probably leave in the Ocelot. Ask Jeff, once you've known the reliability of the Ocelot, it's not tempting to go to something else. It's ladder logic programming model is what drew me to it (and tripped up most other users!). They kept me busy on the appdig forum! You can do very complex, nested logic with the Ocelot, and the expansion hardware module (inputs, outputs, IR commands) provide that functionality that's rarely available with other home automation platforms. Those that do are things like the ELK M1 and the JDS Time Commander and Stargate. The Ocelot rates close to zero in sexiness, and isn't trying to be. It's more of a critical internal organ like the heart that just need to keep beating to keep everything else going.

The one thing that would draw me to using the HomeGenie as a front end is what seems like an Android app. That just might be the missing piece in my otherwise complete puzzle, and might save me learning programming (I'm 63 and the desire to learn new stuff isn't as strong). I'll certainly check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

The Smartenit device Jeff is talking about seems to be more of a dedicated bridge type device, and though it supports X10, they do so through what used to be no longer available Smarthome interfaces, instead of the much more easily available X10 ones like the CM11A or CM15A. Is Smartenit an offshoot of what was Smarthome?

That's the thing with the long term viability of some products. Technology products often have a short support lifespan. When I last did this stuff as a hobby 15 years ago. New protocols were coming out like crazy. Insteon, UPB, Zwave, Zigbee etc. Then much of it shifted towards IP based, which at least made interoperability possible. Since that time, UPB is down to just one supplier (if I read that right at Cocoontech), Insteon went down with the demise of Smarthome and some kind of possible resurrection might be in the works. X10 itself made an abrupt exit and was restarted under new ownership. In several of these cases, cloud based products ceased to work overnight with no warning. You can understand why we can get gun shy of cloud based products. As I've said before, it's nice as an extra (how many times do you really need to control your lights "from anywhere in the world"?) but local control remains king in my mind. That's another plus with the HA bridge emulating a Philips Hue bridge: Alexa will keep working with it even if your internet goes down, according to some posts I've read.

I donít use Alexa. Iíve enough remotes lying around. I tend to produce all the automations I need in the software so Alexa is surplus to requirement for me. There is a program in HG that with the relevant modifications will work in conjunction with HG. The BWS bridge does work with Alexa/HG but again as I mentioned above stops working every time AWS updates Alexa.

I outlined the benefits of HG above in relation to X10 and the fact that itís solid. Again I wouldnít be bothered with an Android app either. No need for it as far as Iím concerned. If Alexa functionality ďout of the boxĒ is key to your setup HG may not be for you. By all means experiment with it and see for yourself.
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guyl

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2022, 09:38:23 AM »

I donít use Alexa. Iíve enough remotes lying around. I tend to produce all the automations I need in the software so Alexa is surplus to requirement for me. There is a program in HG that with the relevant modifications will work in conjunction with HG. The BWS bridge does work with Alexa/HG but again as I mentioned above stops working every time AWS updates Alexa.

I outlined the benefits of HG above in relation to X10 and the fact that itís solid. Again I wouldnít be bothered with an Android app either. No need for it as far as Iím concerned. If Alexa functionality ďout of the boxĒ is key to your setup HG may not be for you. By all means experiment with it and see for yourself.

Well that's it, our needs and preferences are sometimes different. Personally I like to use my phone as a controller. That allows me to get rid of the palmpads, mini controllers, RF stuff, etc. My wife is legally blind, and voice control for her is very useful. I like it too when my hands are full and I'm going to the basement. Right now as of only yesterday, I have what I feel is the ideal setup for me: The Ocelot does the timed and conditional logic (and hardware i/o with the house), Alexa does the voice command, and the Home Genie Plus phone app (which I discovered through you... thanks!) does the phone controller. Both Alexa and Home Genie Plus use the HA Bridge and my X10 bridge. And NONE of it depends on the cloud! Up until now, I was using the WM100 for phone control, but that depends on the cloud, and isn't as neat or configurable as the Home Genie Plus app. I just might mess around with Home Genie itself next. I'm sure I'll discover something useful there. But the basics are all covered perfectly.
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JeffVolp

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Re: I'm getting back into the automation hobby
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2022, 12:15:41 PM »

The Smartenit device Jeff is talking about seems to be more of a dedicated bridge type device, and though it supports X10, they do so through what used to be no longer available Smarthome interfaces, instead of the much more easily available X10 ones like the CM11A or CM15A. Is Smartenit an offshoot of what was Smarthome?

Following a discussion on this board regarding the demise of Insteon and the Smartenit Harmony's need for the Insteon Modem, I revised the XTB-232 firmware to support the IM protocol.  The new version is called the XTB-XM, and that is what I have been using with the Harmony G2.

The XTB-232 supported the CM11A protocol, which runs at 4.8K baud.  Since the IM runs at 19.2K baud, an existing XTB-232 needs a minor hardware mod to speed up the opto-isolated serial port for the higher rate in addition to swapping the PIC.

A limited number of the XTB-XM are available.  When they are gone, that's it.

Jeff
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