Thursday, August 17, 2006

Linux HA and little microcontrollers

Now that I'm done with my book and I sat back and looked at my HA setup. I have quite a hodge-podge of bits a pieces of different things. While the PLC portion will probably remain the center of my HA system I'd really like to start making more use of the microcontrollers like my HCS II. The HCS II is based on the Zilog Z80 (a Z180/S180 which is a microcontroller Z80). The central controller is called the SC (Supervisory Controller). It has a bunch of digital and analog I/O. Other modules called comm-links. The first comm-links were based on the 8051 controller. Later ones were based on Microchip PIC chips (particularly the 14 bit 16Fxxx and 12Fxxx chips). Today we have a long line of chips to choose from. There are 8051 derivatives, lot of PIC chips to choose from, AVRs from Atmel, TI has the MSP430 family, Zilog has the EZ8 family and we're starting to see ARM chips in tiny pin outs that make it easy to use as microcontrollers. Many of the tools (assemblers, IDEs and compilers) to write code for these chips are available as Open Source projects. Some are available under Linux and BSD in addition to Windows (I'm tired of being hog tied by Windows). It would be nice if I had Microchip's IDE under Linux (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). I think I'll start with a few comm-links attached directly to a serial port on my Linux and see what I can come up with. Nothing too fancy just simple digital I/O for now. This would let me use simple LEDs to perform testing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Initial reviews look good.

Some of the people who work with me have purchased my book. So at work today I did a book signing. :-) So far the reviews have been good. I doubt that anyone has fully read the book. So far I'm finding this all a bit sureal. I'm becoming more comfortable with the technical aspects of the book. I was terrified I could have screwed that up. Not something you want to do if you're a technical person in the lab.

I've begun posting the errata to the LinuxHA forums. I'll also post them to an error addendum later. I've fixed the links on the side of the page (oops). I forgot the initial part of the link and it would look for the page here on

Well I still have a lot to do (Insteon software, etc.) and there are lots of little things eating away at my time. I really hope to get back to coding the Insteon code soon as I have a pressing need for that to work (especially since I have a bunch of modules to install). That's all for now.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

An eventful year!

Well it's been a very eventful year. One year ago I agreed to write a book on Linux Home Automation Linux Smart Homes For Dummies). It should be available on Monday, the 14th of August 2006. It pretty much took up all my time for the last year (I'm a very slow writer). We (the Editors and I) actually had to pull 2 chapters (plus other material) from the book because it was getting way too long! The book is supposed to be about 348 pages long (it's 364+ pages). The 2 chapters that we removed were on Mr. House and Asterisk & Mr. House and LIRC (Linux IR Control). They would have added another 30 pages to the book. We also removed a lot of side material. I think the book is better because we removed the side material. I wish we could have kept the Mr. House and Asterisk chapter but it was too long and it would have added more of a delay to the book. I'll work on that material soon for magazine articles.

While the book was being worked on I managed to get sick. Yeah, I know I promised not to talk about work or stuff outside HA but this directly affected the amount of time I have to work on HA. What started out as a breathing problem (I'm asthmatic) turned into a digestive problem as the strong anti-biotics did a number on me. This in turn cause me to be unable to ride my bicycle (I ride long distances to relax, exercise and control my weight better). I ended up putting 20 lbs. more than I would have normally seen during the winter. In the long run this screwed me up from January through June. Just as I started to get over all of this my wife got sick. I ended up taking care of her while she was sick. In fact she's just getting over that. So for the last 9 months we've been battling illnesses. This has left little time for things like hobbies or many chores around the home. So for the next few months a number of put off chores will be done. I will also be able to allot some time for HA as I have a number of links to post and a lot of updates to my many web pages. Throw in the fact that things have been very busy in the labs where I work and I can easily say 'Life has been interesting'.