An X10 alternative?
I've been very bad, i.e. no X10 problems x10 (part II) yet, sorry about that. Job concerns have plagued me along with returning to school (enough on those subjects) and figuring out which US Presidential candidate to vote for (or more like not vote for ...). But I have also been a bit busy with HA! And there are three new items, the first is that X10 (nasty X10'sies pops-up burns the eyes!) has released a new interface, the CM19A, PCS has UPB and Zensys has ZWave.
The CM19A appears to be a combination of the CM11A (RS232 to power line interface) and a CM19A (USB to RF interface). In other words it can transmit and receive X10 power line signals and X10 RF signals (though I doubt it can handle that at the same time). They've also released a Windows scripting SDK to go along with the CM15A. Now that doesn't sound bad and they've even invited the developers from the comp.home.automation newsgroup to participate in SDK forum. They only thing they've forgotten is that there are other OS's beside Windows (like Linux, BSD, QNX, ...). So far it's been more than 2 weeks since I posted a request for further information and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I'm now trying 2 more direct methods for gaining the information. If, after that, I get no further information I may do like Dave Houston suggested and put in my own by replacement for the Cypress chip. Dave suggests a PIC or maybe an AVR (of course we may soon be able to use an ARM7 chip). I think that would at least permit access to the CM15A via other OS's. This is assuming that X10 won't share the information with us (I'm not done checking yet).
UPB - Universal Powerline Bus
UPB has the potential to pickup the slack where X10 left off. Here's what I can tell from the available documentation. It appear to use the frequency range of 4 - 40KHz (spread spectrum fashion) with 40 V peak signal. Where as X10 uses 120KHz at around 5V p-p. Because of this information I'm guessing that both UPB and X10 can co-exist (different frequency ranges). UPB supports 250 house codes, 255 unit codes and 254 link codes (I'm not really sure what that translates to yet). X10 supports 16 house and 16 unit codes (256 devices, though the Extended Codes support up to 4096) UPB devices ACK the commands received, in so doing, use 2-way communication (closed loop, where are X10 is open loop, no ACK). The response time is reported to be <.25 seconds where as X10 is slightly less than 1 sec. The devices are more expensive than X10 (though about the same price as the higher quality X10 ). There is a PC interface and they have a manual (PDF) that explains how to program it. Over all it sounds like a better X10 to me. Further technical specs can be found here (pdf) along with a X10 migration document (pdf). Better yet they don't seem to have a problem with the CHA folks writing there own programs to interface to UPB. A problem X10 and Zensys have yet to over come!
Zensys - ZWave
Zensys ZWave - Initially this looked like it was going to be another X10 replacement. It's wireless and has a USB interface to the PC. I contacted them and spoke to them about getting enough details so I could write a Linux driver for their interface. They were interested in selling me the services of a consultant to write an Open Source driver for Linux (which would of course be closed source). I tried to explain but I doubt they ever caught on as they still send me info and ask if I'm going to go with their products. This even after making it very clear (I did say no) that I was no longer interested. Zensys may still be very useful for Windows (they have software for that) but no other OSs are support. BTW, after investigating the USB interface (FTDI) we figured that we could reverse engineer the protocol and write a driver for Linux. But why support a vendor with your money when there are other alternatives (UPB and possibly ZigBee). That and the fact that the vender seems intent on locking you out .