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Newbie Automation Hardware Advice Please

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    First of all, let me say that I respect all of the opinions expressed in this thread regarding reliability issues. We have all had different experiences and our individual points of view are all therefore valid. This post has nothing to do with HS or any other hardware or software product. It is only a fantastic and purely hypothetical scenario that helps me to arrive at my own conclusion regarding reliability.

    One day, a rep from the top manufacturer of alarm panels rings my doorbell and informs me that his company has cloned all of the features of their most reliable panel into a software application that runs on XP. He continues by telling me that the software version of the panel is absolutely bulletproof, is certified bug-free and that there is no difference what-so-ever between the hardware and software versions of the product.

    He then tells me something quite shocking; he informs me that in the next 12 months my family and I will have two kitchen fires, three burglar attempts, one carbon monoxide leak, two cracked water pipes and a severe medical emergency that will require the use of a panic alarm. Seeing my jaw drop in disbelief, he tries to console me by telling me that all of the hardware sensors and panic switches in the house will work flawlessly during this time frame.

    While I am still trying to process what he has just told me, he lifts up both of his arms and reveals that his most reliable hardware panel is in his left hand - and his equally bulletproof software emulator that runs on XP is in his right hand. He then stares me in right in the eye and tells me that I must choose only one product to safeguard my family and my possessions over the next 12 months.

    Which one would you select?


      I think we continue to disagree that we agree.

      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Mark S. - A computer ... is it not a hardware controller then?

      There is no difference except in the bum wrap that people who have had bad experiences give to PCs. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

      I never said that, but there is a difference - my HS machine gets tweaked constantly, my Stargate is left alone. If you read my posts, I never gave HS or PC's a bad rap - I'm actually quite happy with my HS PC. I am saying that I use/recommend a stand-alone hardware controller as my interface because it can serve as a backup to HS functions for those of us who frequently break HS through our own meddling. HS is great - take a deep breath.

      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> ....Just trying to understand if a panel can act as a "pass-though" from an external device (HS) - or if it only fires off commands from its' own logic.
      Yes, both (at least Stargate can). And that's precisely the reason why I suggest using a hardware controller as a component for your system.

      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> While I am still trying to process what he has just told me, he lifts up both of his arms and reveals that his most reliable hardware panel is in his left hand - and his equally bulletproof software emulator that runs on XP is in his right hand. He then stares me in right in the eye and tells me that I must choose only one product to safeguard my family and my possessions over the next 12 months. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

      At the risk of inflaming Rick again...experience says the hardware controller. As someone stated earlier, there are reasons why nobody sells a software security alarm system - mostly human factors, but also PC's moving parts, viruses, etc. However, this issue is mitigated quite a bit as long as you don't touch it - as I'm sure you won't. I mess up HS about monthly. I have been without SG about a half dozen times in 7 years - and not once since I stopped messing with it.

      But thanks to HS, home automation is not a one or the other choice - you get to use both PC/HS and a hardware controller. As Rick stated, the beauty of HS is that it ties your controller to not only HS, but every other part of your system.

      As I said earlier, my hardware controller code does what I consider my "mission critical" stuff like automating my Caddx and lighting, while HS does the more complex stuff - but they are integrated by the HS plugin and continually talk to each other. If I lose HS, SG (and I assume Elk M1) code can jump in and replace some, obviously not all, of the lost automation functions. Only if I lose SG at the same time (never happened), do I have to lift my butt and turn on a light at the switch or hit the ARM button on Caddx. The backup is a beautiful thing.


      Hometroller S6 w/ HS3Pro, Way2Call
      BLAB8SS, BL Backup, Easy Trigger, HSTouch, Open Sprinkler, SONOS, Ultra1Wire3, UltraM1G, WeatherXML, Z-Wave


        How many out there do PM on their PC HS system

        PM: Ensure fans are operational
        Record key MB Parameters (e.g temp)
        Review OS event logs
        Clean Filters
        Check connections for tightness

        How often?


          Personally my HS server is rarely touched. It doesn't have a keyboard or monitor and I use net meeting or RDP to admin the server. As far as Ensuring the fans are operational - never thought of that but the side of mine is out and to tell you the truth I do not know where it is. So I guess I subliminally check that. I used to record the temp on my HS server but I never seem to look at that any more. I do look at the event logs once in a while.
          My theory on maintaining my HS server is to only add critical plugins and only one every month or two to ensure stability. I also only use my server for HA so I never surf or add any other software. I believe there are 2 types of HS users those who have a dedicated server and those who do not. Those who do more than likely have a better success rate on reliability than those that have a dual use system.


            Yeah, this could go on forever...

            On the issue of the maintenance and virus updates, etc... I recall when my home was run by an 80286 based PC running at 12MHz and had a whopping 40MB (not GB) hard drive. Networks were mostly unheard of. ALL of the issues that people now are listing as the reason the PC is not a controller in the PLC sense were nonexistant. The PC ran, and ran, and ran without fail.

            At about the same time, I had a DSC security panel. While helping a friend with some automation recently, we looked at replacing his old DSC security panel, which coincidentally was almost the same model as the one I had back in 1993.

            So my closing comment (to my contribution to this thread) is that at the heart they are the same, but only ONE type of controller evolved over the years. The cost of that evolution is that there are 100M controllers out there running pretty much the same OS which means there are a ton of people who know more and can do more with them than I can, and that is where the trouble begins if you don't take care. The controller that never changed, never evolved, and never became a standard just kept chugging along doing all it was built to do.

            Rick Tinker (a.k.a. "Tink")




                <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Rick Tinker (HomeSeer Tech):
                Thermostats can be controlled through the panel and thus the HAI plug-in, and the same HAI thermostats are apparently supported by the Elk panel. In the case of the stats connected to the HAI system, it does limit the amount of information and control - e.g. if you have heat pump thermostats, you cannot put them into Aux/Emerg heat when connected to the panel - you have to press the button on the thermostat. This limitation (and many others) are eliminated by connecting the thermostats directly to a serial port on the computer and using the new HAI thermostat plug-in. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                In that I am considering the same system as you (OP and HS plus other goodies), and that you have removed the thermostats from direct connection to your OP controller, AND that you are processing most of your HA through HS... then why buy the Omni? Why not use, say, a Caddx as the security system, as it can send simple status updates to HS, and let HS control the rest (lights, announcements, thermo, etc.)?

                I'm just trying to undstand the benefits of the Omni controllers when used with HS and weather using HS is replacing the HA features of the Omni, and thus relagating it to being just a security system (which can be purchased for much less money, BTW).



                  Because I have had it since 1999 when I built this house, HomeSeer was not even a glimmer in my eye, and I had no idea that over the next 10 months I would see ever more infrequent paychecks from my then home automation company employer...

                  If I were starting over today, I would choose Elk M1 or Caddx.

                  Rick Tinker (a.k.a. "Tink")


                    Well, that certainly speakes volumes

                    I hate to drift this message topic, but... have you had a chance to look at the M1 protocol? I spent some time looking at it this morning and it seems relatively complete. The part the I found the most helpful is that the controller can be configured to automatically send 'events' to the serial port without having to poll or read a log. That seems like one of the major issues with the HAI systems.

                    Having programmed interface applications myself (GPS units), I found the protocol fairly straightforward and can see they left it open for easy expansion in the future. The only area that I felt was thin was its lack of ACK replies. Hmm, maybe I need to brush up on my VB ?!?

                    Have you had a chance to take a look at the protocol? What are your thoughts... will it eliminate some of the limitations found in the HAI protocol?




                      Based upon everything I have read or heard about the M1, there is nothing I don't like about it! At least two professionals I know (the security kind that is) have even spoken volumes about it. The fact that the M1 supports the HAI thermostats connected to it is an excellent fact as well.

                      The only thing stopping me from switching over to that panel is time. I do not have time AT ALL to write a plug-in for it. I am already getting cursed each day (I can feel it, I know you guys are out there) for not putting out updates and fixes to several of our plug-ins, and I am under the gun to get HomeSeer 2 done as well. As far as HST writing a plug-in for it within the next 4-6 months, you can put a fork in it.

                      I would be more than willing to give advice/help to anybody else who wants to undertake the effort though.

                      I can also guess that if I asked Wade Moose if they have a DLL or sample code for accessing their panel via Ethernet, they would have it and would give it to me. {sigh} Oh HAI, where for art thou HAI.

                      It seems to me that a good investment if you want more than just basic security would be the M1, and you would just have to write a script interface to get you by until somebody wrote a plug-in for it.

                      Rick Tinker (a.k.a. "Tink")


                        So Rick, is it fair to say that you don't think there is anything you can do with the HAI panel and plug-in that you cannot do with the Caddx panel & plugin? And for a significantly lower cost with the Caddx?

                        If the above comment is true, and assuming a good Elk plugin was available, why would you pick the Elk over the Caddx? The Elk appears "cooler" than the Caddx, but is it more functional? Wouldn't HS still be treating the Elk as a glorified set of inputs, just like the Caddx? The Elk pricing is closer to HAI than it is to Caddx, so it the higher cost worth it?



                          Back when I built this house and did not know a thing about HomeSeer, I liked the thermostats being connected to the panel because of the automation in the panel I could do with them in both a home/away mode situation as well as a fire alarm situation. Also, operating all of my Leviton X-10 light switches from the panel was faster and more reliable than that other home automation program I was using at the time. I tried having that software control the upstairs hallway lighting and I could count 6 seconds from the time I saw the motion detector light come on to the point where the light turned on - way too long. Today, HomeSeer turns on my garage light when I open a house door and it is nearly instantaneous.

                          So, if I were buying today for the same reasons I did back then, I would get the M1, and if I got a good price on my HAI on eBay (e.g. low trade-in cost), I would probably still purchase an M1 today. If I were buying based upon wallet though, then Caddx and Dave Crawford's plug-in would more than meet my needs.

                          So I think the answer to your question is no, I have not YET seen any reason to pay the extra money for the M1 given my extensive use of HomeSeer in my setup.

                          Does that answer your question?

                          Besides Wayne, I know you, and you won't part with the extra money either way - fess up, admit it, you're a cheapie just like D.K.! At least with the Caddx I can't see where you would go wrong with the less expensive approach.

                          Rick Tinker (a.k.a. "Tink")


                            I also took a look at the message protocol for the Elk M1. I can see that people would like a plugin developed so that it works like other interfaces (I'm thinking primarily about the x10 capabilities, here). But, the protocol seems to be very straightforward and also seems to lend itself to working well with scripts.

                            It seems like you can do just about anything you'd need to do with scripts.


                              I don't believe you are comparing "apples to apples" when looking at cost and capability between the Elk M1 Gold and the Caddx system. Remember the Elk M1 Gold can also incorporate capabilites of a PLC such as an Ocelot and its digital input/output modules as well (minus the IR capability) as well as handle multiple RS-232 interface functions.

                              Think of the long term capabilities, if its "just" a security system you need or if you want/need the other capabilities as well.
                              **** Do You "Cocoon"? ****


                                After some long reading, I have decided to get the M1 Gold. For Thermos, I'm gonna try the Omnistat to see how they work (should work just find according to ELK). I'm replacing an existing system that went on the fritz, installation should be a breeze.

                                I may be able to get the system locally (wholesale), but I don't think they have them in stock. So while I'm waiting, I'll build a HS unit and have a couple of weeks to play with it before I attempt some integration.

                                I'll keep everyone posting on my progress.