Automate! The fun starts with a computer added to the home automation setup.�
I have evaluated the following software packages, all Windows based.
- ActiveHome, delivered with the CM11 computer interface, runs with some trouble on Windows XP
- ActiveHomeVista, a functional clone of ActiveHome with extras and runs on Vista an Windows 7
- Homeseer by Keware
- Home Control Assistent
The last two are (costly) intelligent software packages with if/then conditional logic, and require a PC permanently switched on.
The ActiveHome software, not so intelligent because without if/then logic even with the PC on, is sufficient to store locally in the CM11 macro's for most of the purposes like schedules and activating groups of devices with a click on a controller. Any if/then logic requires one of the three other packages.
When you do not want a PC permanently turned on: good enoughm unless you want Vista or Windows 7.
The only package in local languages, such as Dutch, German, French etc!
My opinion on the other software packages
- Homeseer by Keware Now my favorite, quite a heavy use of Microsoft technology like Agent en Windows Scripting host with voice recognition and voice output.
This program is very quickly evolving, very good support, faithfull followers. Very open to add other software/hardware to due to the scripting host.
You need some basic programming skills to exploit the features.
Free ActiveX control available for the do-it-yourself programmers.
Runs on all modern Windows versions 95/8 NT4, Windows 2000.�
The voice stuff is not very impressive.�
- Home Control Assistent: professional, very powerful visual programmer, solid scheduler and very user friendly.
Interfacing with non-X10 is limited to program activation from within HCA
Very well suited to not experienced programmers who do need if/then logic.
For ActiveHome any recent PC with Windows 95 or 98 and woth some trouble will do. Many people report mixed success with Windows NT. The last versions run fine with Windows 2000/XP and I recommend that too. Or better us ActiveHomeVista.
The other packages require a PC turned on 24/7. You have to consider therefore the following factors:
- Noise. Most PC's have noisy fans. So stuff it away in a place far from your bedroom or livingroom.
- Energy costs. Without power management it will consume energy and cost you money. At least switch off the monitor and have the ard disk fall to sleep. Beware deep power saving configuration because the PC must wake up to handle X10 events, either from the CM11 via the serial port or triggered by internal timers.
- Accessability. You need regular access to the PC to get a real benefit of the software package. If you have a local network you can use remote control software like the commercial PC Anywhere or the free RealVNC package.
- Power failures. If the power is restored not every PC will restart (notebooks and ATX types for example). Some kind of UPS is recommended. A simple poor mans UPS is the battery of a notebook!
- Reliability. X10 is not reliable (the protocol is not reliable by design, X10 devices are low-price low-quality) so do not trust your life on it! If you add a PC with Windows the risk is even bigger. I am satisfied uptill now about X10 in general but the Universal Module controlling by heating system failed once. Luckily i was at home.
And Windows 95/8 require regular reboots. Windows 2000/XP is stable enough.
- Cost. A power PC is required for the real smart things like voice recognition. If you do not want that, an older PC will do fine. X10 is rather slow, timer events are not even in the seconds ranges but more in minutes. Besides the user interface not a powerfull CPU or large disk is required. If it runs Windows 95 it will do.
- Power failures. An older style PC (the 'AT' type) will reboot if the power is restored after a power failure, if you place the X10 software program in the startup group. Neither notebooks nor the modern ATX computers reboot by restoring power by default, some have BIOS settings for that! Because notebooks will survive a reasonable short powerfailure thanks to the battery they are less susceptible to this problem.
The ATX computer is therefore less to not suitable than the other types unless you modify the powerswitch. See the figure underneath. You could even have the on/off switch parallel to this circuit.
I opted for an older notebook With the battery installed it will survive at least two hours of power failure and runs Homeseer fine under Windows 2000. I reboot the notebook twice a year , no crashes for years. I access it from the other PC's in the house to configure or reboot with VNC. It also is the downlaod PC and inetrfaces my weather station WS3600.