Warning: R-rated Geek Content Follows

Posted by Steve on Sat, 02/21/2009 - 10:08pm
After three weeks of updates and upgrades to my Insteon home automation setup here, I ran across this YouTube video today which summed up the experience nicely.

Okay, upgrading my HouseLinc software wasn't nearly as painful as trying to get that "Stupid Piece Of S**t That Doesn't F*****g Work" ISY99-i installed. But it wasn't a stroll on the beach either. HouseLinc v2 imported all my Insteon device settings from HouseLinc v1 fine, only to report that it couldn't communicate with three quarters of them. It took half the night to get everything working -- changing outlets for the serial PLM controller, rebooting it, resynchronizing the database, etc. Caveat: if you want home automation and none of this makes any sense to you, you might want to do yourself a favor and hire a pro.

In the end, I don't have a clear idea what I did to fix it. It just suddenly stopping throwing errors and started working.

It's bizarre, but the new PLM refused to work in same outlet that the old one used, but it's working fine in an outlet that the old one didn't like. I assume it's some kind of noise issue in the line and maybe the new PLM does a better job of filtering it at the expense of signal sensitivity. Who knows? All it means is that if it happens again I'll have to test the Infinite Monkey Theorem one more time. But at least I can say that it's working NOW and it's working well.

From a user perspective, there's not a lot of difference between Houselinc v1 and v2 except for the presentation. There are some new bits, like a daily "System Maintenance" cycle (which isn't really explained), the drag/drop works better and the software does a better job of identifying the Insteon devices it encounters.

The one new piece of Insteon equipment I got works very nicely. It's a wireless, multi-scene portable remote called, predictably, RemoteLinc. It's a little larger than an iPhone and has six programmable scene buttons plus Dim/Bright and All On/Off buttons. It requires two plug-in modules called Access Points, which handle the wireless signal and are plugged respectively into outlets sitting on opposite legs of your breaker panel. Installation is relatively painless. Plug one in, push the Set button and then run around the house plugging the other one into outlets until you see a steady blue light.

Then it's back to HouseLinc to program it. Note that Houselinc isn't required to program RemoteLinc. You can also select the devices you want RemoteLinc to control by putting the device into beacon mode and then having RemoteLinc scan for it. However several of my Insteon devices are buried inside ceiling light boxes so HouseLinc is definitely the way to go.

The next step is to see if I can get the Unix box to talk to HouseLinc's PLM too. Once I get everything programmed, I'd rather put HouseLinc aside and have Unix control Insteon events so I don't have to leave my Windows box on 24/7. Some experimenting showed that these Unix shell commands worked with the non-HouseLinc PLM to control my upstairs hallway sconce lamp.

# Turn upstairs hall sconce ON
rs232 -d /dev/ttyS0 -b 19200 -s "\h02 62 04 51 C1 0F 11 FF" --hex --verbose -r9 --wait .4

# Turn upstairs hall sconce OFF
rs232 -d /dev/ttyS0 -b 19200 -s "\h02 62 04 51 C1 0F 13 0A" --hex --verbose -r9 --wait .4