Friday, September 29, 2006

Another bad day ...

"If I didn't have bad luck I'd have no luck at all!" I don't know who said it but it sure applies. Entropy is on the attack and I'm paying for it dearly. This week our toaster finally died (18 years, not bad), our Mr. Coffee died (&1 year, not good), my HA server is getting drive errors (is it a bad or loose data cable, bad mother board or a bad drive? ARGH!) and Insteon has said no to releasing the SDK document to the public.

On the Insteon front you'll need to buy the kit to get the document. I expected this but was hoping they'd be more like the folks at UPB and release the information to 'talk' to their controllers. So far ZWave (Zen-sys), X10 (we reverse engineered this one) and Insteon haven't been very co-operative in this matter. So far none of them have taken any action against those who have written code and released under the GPL either.

Now back to my HA stuff. My current problem is my server running Mr. House has crashed with drive errors. Previously I kept getting random ECC errors and always the same two sectors (I thought these thing got automatically mark bad and left that way). Anyway last night the system came to a halt (unrecovereable errors). Today I'm wondering if I have a bad or loose data cable, a bad IDE controller or a bad drive. I tried a second new drive and I'm seeing the same errors. I thought I noticed that the data cable was loose (but I'm not certain) so I don't know what's what. I'm working on it now (I'm editing this from my Linux laptop) and I'll probably find out this weekend which problem it is. I really need to move my HA over to a dedicated system with no moving parts (my HCS-L system should have a simple interface within the month). But now I've discovered an additional problem I didn't have before. My Asterisk system! With the server down I have no PBX. I was monitoring 3 telephone lines (2 copper, 1 VoIP). One copper line has an answering machine, the other line and VoIP roll over to voice mail. While it's not the end of the world it's extremely inconvenient. Looks like I really need to start to look into proper redundancy (some form of RAID, I'd prefer hardware). I'll be moving the server from the cheap UPSI'm currently using ($30, it's working rather nicely despite the price) to the larger one it supposed to be on (a proper one with 2 x 33A batteries). My wife and I are spoiled by technology! We can live without it but that's not what we've grown accustomed to and I think I'm only going to make that worse. :-)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Insteon raises the price of their dev kit.

Insteon has raised the price of their development kits from $99 (US) to $199 (US). For the Windows developer this is not too bad as they get the documentation, forums, support and software. For the Open Source developer this is pretty expensive, we get documentation and the forums. I've not called the support hotline as I always use the forums. The software is Windows software. I've tried to get it to run under Wine but have not had much luck. What I'd like to see is for Insteon to make the documentation available to the dev kit. The Open Source community can provide their own support. I'm going to approach Insteon and see what can be worked out.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Appearance on 'The Linux Tech Show'

I've been invited to appear on The Linux Tech Show. I checked them out (wanted to make sure that they were who I thought they are, and they are :-) and I have agreed to do it. Looks like I might be making my appearance on October 11 (2006). I'm assuming that I'm talking about the book and Linux home automation. Looks like my 15 minutes of fame is going pretty well. I'm glad that it has finally settled down at work! For a while I was being introduced as an author. This seems really out of place where you have a bunch of folks with patents and Phd's (I have neither). A book doesn't make me the smartest person in the room and I just want to be one of the team. That's the best way to learn from really smart folks, be one of them.

Seems my CM11A has given up the ghost! I can't send any commands now (Argh!). Now I have to get busy and get the Insteon controller up and running again. This really stinks! This is the 3rd CM11A that has died. The CFO (wifey) is not happy!

Something a little odd has happened (related to my web sites). My hit count has gone way up. A few weeks ago I was seeing about 500 hits a few on the Now I'm seeing 1K+ hits. I hope this continues. Here's last weeks counts:

Open HCS II project176
This blog420
My Fortune City site70
My Geocities site0
Linuxha@Source Forge430
My Comcast site1611
Other (???): 14
Site visits total: 3813
Unique site visits total: 3796

The Geocities and Fortune City sites get redirected to my Linux HA site (so don't be surprised when it happens). The 'unique site visits' is where I removed the duplicate IP addresses. My Comcast homepage has always run in the 800 - 1200 hits/week range. This is pretty cool. Unfortunately I have to clean the pages up (especially the HCS and Linux

Now I should get back to work on updating my pages. I have a lot of information to post including Bruce PerensInsteon software: Ion. While this may not seem like a big deal right now, Bruce has solved a problem I hadn't been able to crack. That is how to read and write using libusb. This helps eliminate blacklisting HIDs, recompiling kernels and drivers and loading the driver. That's a big deal.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Finally someone has reviewed my book (and they like it)!

Well today is a happy day for me, Lee Schlesinger (editor of has a review of my book (Linux Smart Homes For Dummies) and I think it's a good review. Other have stated that they bought the book for specific chapters and that they're also happy with the book. I'm very happy to hear this as I've wondered what other thought of the whole book.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bloody pirates!

Someone was kind enough to notify me that my book has been pirated. That's not nice! I'm not sure how to respond to this. I've notified Wiley and they'll take care of this.

I know there are few folks who believe that such books should be free because they're based on Open Source. But they have to realize that that won't encourage folks to write books. These books are not so much about the Open Source Software as the author's solutions. It takes talented editors and a lot of other folks to get a book written (this does not include getting it printed). Don't believe me? Take a look at the average documentation for any Open Source project (or close source for that matter).

Now on to happier thoughts. I ordered an ARM SBC from Technologic Systems. I found them in Circuit Cellar Magazine (it's one of the first places I look for electronics). The TS-7200 has 32M of Ram, 16M of flash, CF Flash 2 serial (RS485 half duplex, an option), 2 USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Ethernet, PC104 16 bit bus and 20 IO bits. I may get the DAC (12 bit x 8 channels) but I also orders a real time clock and an on-board temperature probe (both options). This matches the functionality of the original HCS II SC (Z-180, RS232 console, RS485 half duplex comm. port, 16 in/8 out digital I/O, 8 channel - 8 bit DAC). I'm happy with this setup so far. I do wonder if more ram would be a good idea. The TS-7200 can take up to 64M of ram. I'll have to remove the 32M chip and replace it with a 64M chip.

There is some discussion as to whether this setup is embedded. It does use dynamic ram and an OS but I feel that this combination buys me a flexible, already written package that I can expand. I managed to get the Linux running by simply plugging it in (LAN, console and power). I know Linux well enough that it took me a few minutes to configure the board for my setup.