Category: home automation

ISY994-i product

Yet Another New Home Automation Controller

For those who’ve followed my home renovation blog over the past 14 years, you know I’m a computer nerd with some nerdy obsessions. Like home automation. Early in this blog in fact, I talked about how cool my new X10 home automation setup was. Subsequent articles were less flattering, like The Night of the Flashing Lights, when I came home one evening to see all the lights in my house — outside and in — flashing at two second intervals. And my neighbors not knowing whether to call the police, the fire department or an exorcist. And when a power

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Insteon, Apple style

Since moving to this house, I had gone from running one 24/7 computer server to three — actually four if you consider a hibernating laptop. The web site you’re looking at right now ran on one of them — a FreeBSD Unix server. A Windows box ran my home automation set up. The other computer, running Ubuntu Linux, was mostly work related. Thing is, the juice needed to run these servers and the related hardware was killing me, including the air conditioning needed to counteract the heat they produced in my small office. The three computers together drew about 700

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Beware the Sucker Holes

No, that’s not a pornographic double entendre. “Sucker hole” is a term I learned from an old flight instructor. It’s a break in the clouds which beckons naive, non-instrument rated pilots to take a chance on finding clear skies through that hole only to have the clouds close in on them and leave them in zero visibility. Last week I said I’d post my progress with the new Insteon home automation device, the ISY99-i. Lemme digress for a second. Say what you will about marketing droids, but when a company goes to the trouble of holding a brain jam to

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My house “blue screened”

I had my first Insteon home automation device failure this week. Unfortunately, it happened to the brains of the “automation” part — the software/hardware combination that executes the timers that turn the lights on and off. Specifically, the culprit was the PowerLinc device that bridges my house to the USB port on my computer which runs the timers. Here’s the little sucker. At 70 bucks, it’s not like changing a lightbulb. Okay, I was pissed about it, especially as it’s only a little over two years old. But, fact is, I was never happy with this automation set up. For

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Robot, robot

There was a song by a Chicago band called The Flock that I used to love during my trippy teen days: Robot, robot arms and legs Teeth, bones, hair, its all there Robot, robot arms and legs Battery’s dead, head’s dead. (Mechanical man, mechanical man!) Whenever I muck with my home automation hardware this song plays over and over again in my head. It’s pretty maddening. Sitting on my dining room table since last Thanksgiving was a small pile of boxes containing Insteon controllers, in-wall dimmers, relays and the like that have been waiting patiently for me to complete the

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Insteon Rides Again

I thought I’d post an update on my trials and tribulations with the Insteon home automation network here. A couple of months ago I posted an X10 and Insteon home automation primer. At that point I was just getting into upgrading my problematic X10 stuff here with the newer, wireless Insteon hardware from SmartHome and didn’t know how well this stuff would work or what problems I’d find. However I was fed up with X10’s flakiness and Insteon looked like an improvement, at least on paper. I ran into problems with Insteon from the git-go, mostly devices that either didn’t

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When Robots Attack

Being the gadget freak I am, I’m of course a big fan of home automation. 90% of my house is under X10 control and the command of a FreeBSD server running some perl scripts I hacked together. I’ve already written some articles about X10 and my trials and tribs with it so I won’t repeat them here. I love having my house turn its own lights on/off. I like setting up whole-house lighting schemes, available at the touch of a button. But truthfully, X10 is a lot like owning a 1970s-vintage Triumph motorcycle. You run it for a while, then

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Phase 7: The Wrath of Details

Today officially begins the scheduled start of the next major phase of the renovation at Brooklyn Row House: the rebuilding of the master bedroom and upstairs hallway. It started like most of my scheduled projects. In other words, it didn’t. Dykes Lumber, which was given instructions to call me before delivery, arrived yesterday when I must have been out walking the grovelers. Granted, it’s a contractor size order but, sheesh, even GC crews take lunch breaks, guys. They didn’t call to confirm that they were even delivering yesterday so I could at least hang a note. For that matter, I

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    Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

    This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

    My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

    I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

    This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.