Saturday, February 18, 2006

Linux Home Automation packages

I promised to do a blog entry on the available HA packages for Linux. This will probably evolve over time and I'll probably give it a home on my web pages but for now here it is. As far as I know there are 3 HA packages for Linux (there's a lot more software but not what I'd call software packages). There is PlutoHome (Commercial support & Open Source - GPL?), ECS (Proprietary license) and Mr. House (Open Source - GPL). I pulled the Pluto Home description from their web pages. ECS's came directly from Mark Gilmore (ECS author). I left his HTML mark-up on his description. And the Mr. House I made up from the Mr. House web pages. I'm not so good at marketing (hey, I are an engineer!).


ECS is an all-purpose object-oriented Windows/Linux automation program that is suitable for virtually any tasks (in commercial, industrial, and residential environments). Supporting a large variety of devices, ECS is elegantly simple, yet extremely powerful. Automated tasks may be implemented via simple time-based schedules (great for novices) and/or English-like scripts (which give power users the flexibility they demand). And anyone who can surf the web will be comfortable with ECS, as it supports a browser-based user-interface (accessible via the Internet or WAP-enabled phone/PDA).

Mr. House

MisterHouse is a powerful Perl base open source home automation program. It's an events based control and monitoring program that works on events based on time, date (from the web or other computers), socket, voice, serial data and other events. It currently runs on Windows 95 (or better, there's a joke in there somewhere) and on most Unix based platforms, including Linux and Mac OSX. Mr. House is a powerful, flexible automation solution for your home which works with a variety of control platforms such as iButton, X10, EIB, Insteon, UPB and hard wired (no that's not all of them :-). Its user interface is web-based, which enables control of the systems of your home from anywhere in the world. You can directly access Mr. House from your cell phone, via email, through the web interface, via IM or by direct telnet. It fires events based on time, web, socket, voice, and serial data. Because it's Open Source the user community has contributed a lot of extra scripts to do all sorts of things like interface to your PDA, create shopping lists, track your auto (I only picked out a few, there's a lot more!).

Pluto Home

Pluto is the only all-in-one solution for your home that seamlessly combines media & entertainment, home automation, security, telecom and computing. You can control your whole house with a mobile phone, a touch-screen tablet or a web-interface. A Pluto system is like an appliance - not a computer. It is self-configuring, maintaining and updating. No technical skills are required to use or install Pluto. Pluto is above all simple. The devices are all plug and play. Pluto is also an open platform, offering unlimited expansion potential, and requiring no special cabling.

My Opinion

Let me clearly state that I've only looked at ECS & PlutoHome so I can't comment on their use. I am using Mr. House and I do like it a lot. So much so that I've written an Insteon software interface and I'm helping another gentleman build the UPB software interface. I don't have UPB but I do have X10 and Insteon.

I am on the ECS mail lists and Mark Gilmore (ECS's author) keeps it updated and is very easy to work with. He's been supporting ECS for years and I expect that he'll continue to do so for years to come. ECS has a nice description of what hard device it support here. Because ECS is a commercial program you can expect support for what you pay for. So this is a more of a turn key system than the other 2 but it does have an API so that users can write programs to inter-operate with ECS. This is a good program for those who do not want to go through the steps of putting togther something as complicated as Pluto Home or Mr. House.

I don't really know a lot about PlutoHome. You can download the parts and use them on any Linux distribution but they supply a complete package based on the Debian distribution. I know it supports the CM11A X10 interface and that it can link/connect to other Open Source programs (Asterisk, Myth, etc). Since it's Open Source you can modify it. But I'm afraid I don't know much more than that.

Now, Mr. House I know a lot about but I'm no expert on it. That's why I'm on it's mail list. I know Mr. House has a steep learning curve. Most people get inundated with Mr. House can do and generally don't know where to start (hint, only try to do one thing at a time). It helps to know the Perl (do a perldoc perlintro on a machine with Perl) language and a little HTML (do a Google search for HTML intro) is also a good thing for when you start building web interfaces to some of the data and controls. The default scripts that come with Mr. House can do some amazing things but requires a little tweaking to suite your personal needs. There are a lot of examples of how to do things but if you get stuck just ask on the very active mail list usually can get you on your way. This program/package is really meant for those who don't mind DIY. You've got to be willing to learn and do some digging but you'll be reward with a program with can interface to just about anything.


At 2/23/2006 4:49 AM, Anonymous Michael said...

Good review! I started to use Plutohome two monthes ago. It's amazing software! Think is the best open source solution to build smart home.


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