I needed to get access to the newsgroups so I reset my news reader software (remember my server died last month). So I spent so time catching up on the CHA newsgroup. It was good to see the regulars are still posting and the newsgroup is as lively as ever. I noticed a lot of information on Insteon and some on UPB and that Z stuff. Found some info on UPB (good stuff to know) and a lot on Insteon. One nice thing was that there are $20 (US) Insteon switches, a dimmable switch and a non-dimmable switch. I purchased one of each and I'll let you know what I think of them sometime later. Looks like Insteon is another step closer to X10 dominance, they now have a better support, a reliable protocol, better quality and now their cost is in the right range. X10 are you listening (of course not ;-) )? Last night I received the v2.12 PLC controllers and dropped the serial version in place of the v2.9 PLC. I now have to recoding to do as I think the PLC now everything you send to it (this allows serial pacing). It's not a problem but I have other problems with my code (hey it's Alpha code and I rushed it) and I don't need to see extra weird things in my code. My general X10 network at home (including all the new Smarthome equipment is behaving better but not perfect).
Insteon sent me some info (here's the PDF) on the First Alert Onelink smoke detector. So far I haven't been able to find out a whole lot. They appear to be wired (electrically powered) smoke detectors, have a battery for backup and speak Insteon. There has been some suggestion that the Onelink will be priced around $60 (US). My wife wants our smoke detectors to be replaced with this, now. And I need to add the capability to Mr. House to call our Cell phones with the information. Smart woman, I love her! So far I haven't found out when they'll be available. Insteon also announced that Somfy has Insteon enabled blinds/shades control. I'd love to get my hands on these but I have this fear that they'll open at the most inopportune time. The seem to run around $350 (US). Don't trust the prices I'm quoting, it was a little confusing to determine if these prices were for the Insteon products or the non-Insteon products. I've got a few emails in about this stuff but no one (First Alert or Somfy) has contacted me back yet.
Last goodie is the Pepper Pad (800x600). It looks like a Tablet PC, runs Linux, less capabilities than a laptop (that's what Pepper is advertising but it's not really true. It's sort of like a 3Com Audrey (640x480?)) and costs about $850 (US), yipes! A laptop is definitely cheaper! It's as wide as a thin woman's lap. It's specs are here. Yes I'd love to have one but $850 there's no way I'm buying one. Everything it does I can do with my Nokia 770 (800x400) and MH (IR control via the ADI Ocelot (<$200 (US), which I already have). While I think these two devices (the Pepper and the N770) are probably aimed at different markets I think the N770 will work better as a HA remote (and information viewer). One thing to note: the President of the Pepper, Mary Ellen Heinen, wrote a response to a November 22, 2005 review by Jim Louderback ('Ten to Avoid' pcmag.com). While she is correct that this isn't a meant to be a desktop machine she doesn't really address the cost of the device. This was the problem the Audrey had (hence the comparison. Why do I need an Audrey in my kitchen?). These devices have a browser, a few apps (music, AIM, games) and a TV remote (and a few other things). I won't spend that much on a remote (yes I know you can get fancy remotes costing more). Heck I balked at the Nokia's price of $350 (US). BTW, I love this Nokia and my wife has taken to it too (but she doesn't know the price yet ;-). I'll tell her later after I get it integrated into MH and she can see it real purposed. Right now she just views it as one of my toys for getting any information quickly (usually while watching the TV.