Sunday, April 24, 2011

My thoughts on my 2011 TCF HA Presentation

On Saturday, April 2nd, I gave another HA presentation at the 36th annual Trenton Computer Festival (TCF). The presentation went well though there were a few oddities like the Insteon pausing, Microsoft Windows insisting on telling me about new devices (argh!) and the fact that I only had 4 hours sleep the night before. During the presentation my friends were letting me know how much time I had left and I attempted to speed things up only to find that I began tripping over my own words. Even though it generally went well there will be a lot of changes for next year's presentation. First the first 26 slides (the lead up to the demo) will be shortened. Next more of the Misterhouse and the demo will occur and it will be better tested before hand. I think I'll do a presentation at one of the local user groups this summer/fall to work the rough parts out.

At this year's (2011) presentation I planned to use the Dollhouse to actually show automation with LEDs and some Insteon & X10 devices. Well that didn't go according to plan as I was 'surplused' from my job with AT&T Labs (I now have a new one, thank you). So for about a month before the presentation my attention was elsewhere. About a week before the presentation I sat down and began to concentrate on the presentation. At this point my Ethernet IO device driver was still in the alpha phase of coding. I could talk to the device and control the LEDs but not as a normal device (eg. devices added through the mht file). Also the enhancements to Misterhouse were in shambles and I couldn't recall their state (job hunting can do that to you). So I went to plan B.

I decided that I would setup Insteon with fluorescent light bulbs in the Dollhouse. I used 7W bulbs (60W equivalent?) to keep the heat down and minimize the possibility of burning down the doll house. I found lamp repair kit parts at my local Home Depot and attached the ceramic sockets to the floor of the house. The wires ran out the back of the Dollhouse to a 4 ft. long power strip attached with the Insteon modules. I attempted to get an X10 module working but for some odd reason it failed to be recognized. I then began coding the floorplan, test code (macros) and other things. Unfortunately for me lots of people kept interrupting, some of it work related (IE. very high priority). So I ended up trimming the questionable items and had a working presentation and code at 3AM the morning before the presentation. Good thing I trimmed it down as I almost ran out of time during the presentation.

So some things I need to work on are:

  • Shorten the presentation so I don't have to fly though it and over material I'd like to cover. Actually this might be a moot point as I intend to do a different presentation anyway (much more interactive).
  • Better testing before hand as it's embarrassing to have the 'product' not working perfectly.
  • More show and less tell.
  • Get the Ether IO drivers working and add Z-Wave.
  • Setup a more hands on demonstration section.
  • Add a 'remote access' section to next year's demonstration (thanks Donald for the idea). This means controlling a real home from the presentation.
  • Some kind of Android interface to access all the home automation.

I think next year's presentation will take up 2 time slots or may be out with the Thermin and computer antiques. The first part will be the introduction and a demonstration and the second will be the hands on part. I will need to think this through and test this thoroughly. The remote access part will be just as interesting.