Home automation with a Mac

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by emw, Aug 18, 2004.

  1. emw macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #1
    I searched the forum and couldn't find anything on this...

    Has anyone experimented with home automation (X10) applications on the Mac?

    If so, have you found any value in them?

    Most solutions I have seen run through the house wiring systems somehow, although I haven't researched all that thoroughly. I would like to have something that could somehow tie into my wireless network.

    Any input would be appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. jsw Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #2
    There might be a couple of problems here. First, the PC world has more options than Mac users do, so you might end up needing to use an old PC to do this. Second, wireless options - i.e., 802.11-based ones - are almost undoubtedly going to be more expensive than simple signal-over-power-line ones.

    What are you looking to automate? Or, more specifically, what types of things? On/off switched, basically? Or more sophisticated stuff like thermostats?

    I've seen some pretty sophisticated PC-based systems that use the power lines. Is this completely out as an option?
     
  3. rainman::|:| macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2002
    Location:
    iowa
    #3
    X10 is the standard that uses power lines to communicate. If it's wireless it isn't truly X10 (tho there is a wireless X10 standard now, but it's not 802.11). There are certainly options for Mac, you'll need a USB PowerLinc for hardware, and some sort of software to control it.

    For X10 parts, like lamp modules, plugins, etc... i use smarthome.com.

    They have a small section on Mac software--
    http://www.smarthome.com/mac.html

    So, to get a good working home automation network, you need
    1. Modules for the things you wish to control. They can be plug-in modules, or actual outlets that have the circuitry inside them. Very slick. Also they have lightswitches that can send and receive X10 signals, giving you control over the switch's device from other locations, as well as being able to control other things from that switch. Look around at all the options, and familiarize yourself with X10 transmitters vs. X10 receivers.

    2. An interface, as I said you'll want a USB -> powerline solution

    3. The software above (although you don't truly need a computer involved).

    Good luck!
    paul
     
  4. emw thread starter macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #4
    Thanks both of you for your replies.

    Power-line based systems are not out of the question, I just wasn't sure how that worked. Sounds like it won't be a problem, so I'll take a look at those. I am primarily looking to control lights, etc., though may add in the thermostat so that I can turn it on or off - we already have the programmable thermostat, but if you shut it off, that does you no good.

    I'll report back what I decide to go with - looks like some pretty cool options are available.
     
  5. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2003
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #5
    I don't know what system he uses, but my father-in-law has implemented extensive home automation on a mac. He can turn on and off lights all over the house, run spycams, etc., etc. I don't think you need a windows machine to do this.
     
  6. real_murray macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2004
    #6
    I DO!

    I'm a big home automation buff and I do it all on my mac. Check out Indigo. i use Indigo with a Powerlink USB module from smarthome.com. Works great! Indigo can be used in congjuntion with applescript for even more flexibility. I set it up so that F1 - F4 on the keyboad will toggle vaious lights in the room where my computer is. A sensor on my door will turn on a light when the door opens after dark. The light by my bed turns on when its time to get up in the morning (Its hard to wake up to a dark room, espcially in the winter).

    So yes, you can do it all from your mac!
     
  7. rainman::|:| macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2002
    Location:
    iowa
    #7
    Have you considered controlling your thermostat from Indigo as well? I'm curious about how well it would integrate. Most thermostat controls are proprietary and don't operate on X10, so how would I get it to interface with the Mac? I want something that can poll the thermostat for current temperature, and adjust it based on applescripts. I'm hoping someone knows... I haven't begun building my X10 network yet, but I'm looking at buying a projector for my home theater, so I would definitely want to have one then. Projector powers up, lights dim, screen unrolls...

    paul
     
  8. kgarner macrumors 68000

    kgarner

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2004
    Location:
    Utah
    #8
    Another vote for Indigo. I haven't used it (yet), but it does have one very cool feature. Scripts for Salling Clicker. I wrote up a little post on my website about how one might set it up and what you can use it for. Check it out if you like. It's the first one in my sig.
     
  9. real_murray macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2004
    #9
    Student Discount

    You can get a student discount on Indigo too. Just email and ask.


    I'm sure you could set something up to controll your thermostat, assuming you had one that was x10 compatible.

    As for controlling your projector, don't just put an appliance module on it and cut the power (The bulb will overheat). You'll have to set up an IR emitter. I know they exist, i just dont' have much experience with them.
     
  10. kgarner macrumors 68000

    kgarner

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2004
    Location:
    Utah
    #10
    Not trying to hijack this thread, but does anyone know if it would be possible to get a HDTV/Digital Cable or Satellite reciever that hooks up with a computer (preferably Mac). I know you can do it with just regular cable, but what about the new stuff?

    What I am think of is using a computer as your entertainment center (output to TV, DVD, Surround Sound, PVR, and Tuner of some variety). The reason would be to then use Salling Clicker for the remote. I know, more trouble then it's worth, but can it be done? Mostly just wondering right now.
     
  11. real_murray macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2004
    #11

    There was a post at www.macosxhints.com about this. Aparently the digital cable companies in the US are required to give you a receiver with a firewire port on it if you ask. See HERE. With the right software and some applescripts you could probably pull this off.
     
  12. kgarner macrumors 68000

    kgarner

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2004
    Location:
    Utah
    #12
    Thanks, i will be sure to check it out.
     
  13. emw thread starter macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #13
    Nice software. This looks like what I am after - clean interface, robust controls, etc. Also, reasonably priced (although no students in my family...).

    I like the whole "control it via e-mail" function so that if I'm working late I can turn on lights from work or the road.
     
  14. emw thread starter macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #14
    This is an interesting idea. I wonder if you could tie it into WeatherPop or some other application to turn the thermostat on or off based on outside temperature/humidity. For example, if it's 85°F outside, but only 30% humidity, I might not want the A/C on, but if it's 70% humidity, crank it up. This would be especially useful if you turn off the A/C at night because it's cool, forget to turn it on when you leave, then it gets up to 90 the next day and you come home to a sweltering house.

    Without that tie-in I'm not sure I'd try and control the 'stat - I find the programmable thermostats pretty useful, since (at least with mine), I can program in 4 different time periods for Weekdays, Saturday, and Sunday, with different temperature settings for each period...
     
  15. rainman::|:| macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2002
    Location:
    iowa
    #15
    This is kind of what I'm thinking-- Hell, I could put an outdoor temp/humidity sensor outside my window, and control it that way. But I had that exact thought about it measuring a temp/humidity ratio and adjusting for it... There are also devices on smarthome.com that can open/close sliding doors or windows, so it could turn off the A/C and open the windows if it suddenly cools down outside.

    It wouldn't be difficult, it's just a matter of finding a thermostat that will interface with my Mac, instead of the proprietary controllers that are on the market now... It'd be too expensive to route it through another controller first...

    paul
     
  16. emw thread starter macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #16
    I'm sure you've researched this, but why wouldn't this one work? It looks like it interfaces with any X10 controller?

    As for the automatically opening and closing windows - that would be slick. Especially if you had a rain detector.
     
  17. relimw macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    Location:
    SC
    #17
    You can also try out misterhouse. You'll need to not be afraid of the Terminal to get the initial setup going, and for highly advanced stuff. It uses a web system to get things adjusted to your needs. I've used it for several years, and it's never given me a major problem.
     
  18. relimw macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    Location:
    SC
    #18
    This is the one I have at my home. I'm not sure if it's flakey naturally, or if all the brownouts at my home have caused it to become flakey over the last four years. Setup was straight forward, and a simple reset of the box at the HVAC end clears up the flakiness till the next brownout :)

    I would highly recommend having a good whole house surge protector w/filter installed before you wire everything up.
     

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