Sunday, August 26, 2007

LinuxMCE and Home Automation

A few people were kind enough to send me links that are about MythTV but are separate projects. The first is a commercial project called HackMythTV which sells ready to go systems with MythTV and Pluto Home installed and with ZWave hardware. I'm a little leery about posting this as it becomes a bit of an advertisement (unpaid yet) but there are bound to be some users who want ready made. Now to offset the previous link I have a couple of more interesting links, still about MythTV and Pluto Home.

Jason Bodington was kind enough to send me these two links: LinuxMCE and a 25 minute Demo Video of LinuxMCE being installed and used. I watched the video and I was impressed by LinuxMCE's ease of use. Looks like a lot of other software will need to step it up and catch up. Currently LinuxMCE and HackMythTV are both using ZWave as the HA controller and modules. The one thing that did bother me was the expense of the entire system. I have no idea how much a thin client costs. Also it would be nice to know that it can handle two video feeds and allow them to go to two TVs at the same time. I couldn't tell if that is supported. Guess I have questions of the LinuxMCE folks.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Free time, kind of ...

Finally, I finished a rather nasty semester and an overlapping busy time at work. Most of this was my own doing, I could have handled the issues better. At the beginning of the semester I wasn't proactive (sounds like a marketing term) with the handling of my tuition hence hence its handling was botched (my tuition was paid late). Then my books arrived late and further problems were experienced getting my lab supplies even later. The end result was that I started from 3 to 5 weeks late. Since I'm taking online courses at Pace University time management is very important. With the help of my professors (they were very lenient on due dates) I was able to eventually catch up. I was lucky this semester because one course was on material I know well (networking). The other was very interesting but difficult course (Telecommunications II). By the final week I managed to catch up but I needed to take a couple weeks vacation to do it. I received an A in both courses and put a lot of work into getting those grades. Moral to the story is that I need to manage the tuition and assignment schedule better. Don't leave things to the last minute!

Enough about why I've been too busy to do anything with HA. I haven't been totally without some HA research. On the hardware side I ordered a MSP430 USB Stick Development Tool and ez430 MSP430F2012 Target Board (includes 3 boards). The F2012 chip doesn't have a UART but does support SPI and I2C along with ADC and is low power. It has 2K of flash and 128 bytes of RAM. This should be an interesting chip to play with. I've played with the PIC's and the 8051 family. I'm very comfortable with the 8051 family, it's an easy chip to use (C or assembler). The 12 or 14 bit PIC is a difficult chip when using assembler. I'm more comfortable with it when using C or BASIC. The nice thing about PICs is that the selection is flexible and when they were first introduced the tools and information were easy to get. The first MCU I was introduced to was the 6801, though the first CPU was the 6502. I really liked the Motorola chips (the 6809 is still my favorite chip) but eventually so did the Automotive industry and just couldn't get them in small quantities anymore. I've not used a DSP before so this should be interesting. Of course it has more capabilities than your average MCU so I have a bit of learning to do. Of course I have the GCC MSP430 tools for Linux. There are rpms to install the compiler on Fedora but I'll need to compile the compiler suite for Ubuntu. Oh, in case your wondering I have plenty of other boards (like the ZX40a or the s180 used on the HCS II) that I'm not mentioning because I'm that far behind. :-)

On the software side I've purchased 2 books on Perl (Intermediate Perl and the out of print - Learning Perl Objects, References, and Modules ). I'm hoping that this will help with Mr. House and Insteon. I'm very tired of not having my HA up and running (my X10 is not operational at this point, see Everyone Loves Mystery for details). I need to get a module built for to support the Insteon PLC and the Insteon modules. Right now I have 2 dead RS232 PLCs and 2 USB PLCs. I hope that the Insteon folks will take them back otherwise I'll only be able to use the USB PLC. That will require a new module to support the USB HID interface. I'm not sure I'm up to that much of a challenge at this point (a USB OO module and an Insteon OO modules).

PS: I again have a working X10 setup! It turns out the the power strip with my laser printer on it is the cause. In the past I have removed the power from the printer but this time I removed the entire strip. POW! The X10 is now operational. I'll have to check the power usage of the laser printer and see if I can get a filter that will work with it.

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