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1  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: HA Architecture on: April 03, 2014, 12:08:06 pm
Totally understand why you want to use Spark Cores to communicate.  But, don't use the 'expensive'  excuse.  Those things are U$40 each.  And you don't get a relay, power supply or anything with them.  It's actually cheaper to hack into a Wemo light switch (U$48) once you consider how much a power supply, enclosure, relay, relay driver, etc is going to mount up.  XBees cost around U$17 in comparison and have the same kind of requirements.

See, I went with XBees so I could have clear comm from the house out to the barn.  There's about 4 walls, a steel building and 60-70 yards of distance to deal with.  WiFi just won't hack it.  One XBee radio relay in the middle does the job just fine.

Don't misunderstand though, I plan on someday getting one or two of the spark cores to play with because they are just so dog gone cool.  Gotta wait til the taxes are paid though, I may not be able to afford it.
2  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Relay control using xbee on: March 21, 2014, 02:29:55 pm
Gee, you didn't  try google:

As for hooking an Arduino to it, there's only about 10,000 posts on this on this forum alone.  Half of my blog is about using XBees to control stuff, both hooked to an arduino and stand alone.  Almost all of my examples have the code I used.

And, I'm not the only one; just look around for a few minutes and you'll find a few hundred examples.

If you're looking for someone to post the code you need here, good luck with that.
3  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Relay control using xbee on: March 21, 2014, 01:05:55 pm

4  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Configuring XBEE Problem using XCTU on: March 19, 2014, 09:14:47 am
There have been some problems with XCTU and windows 7.  I never experienced them I went from windows XP direct to windows 8 and skipped the ones in between.  However, the 7 version sounds like it is working better because it gets a firmware version that is correct.  Try programming with it to see what happens.

edit: I thought about this a bit and you should be seeing the same firmware version in both the test and the read.  The fact that you don't is weird.  I don't have a clue why that is happening.  Actually, the test button should give you back the serial number of the XBee, is that right, or is there something really weird going on.  What I did to prove this on my machine was to plug in the XBee, start XCTU, choose the right port on the start up screen,do the test/query, go to the configuration tab, click read and it just worked.  The test query and read both gave me the same version and serial number.  Notice also that I didn't set the API checks, or do anything special.  Just test, switch screens, read. 

I checked and the version I use is in the 5 series ( and I vaguely remember there were versions of XCTU that came out and didn't work very well.  You might take a look around a try an earlier version if you can find it.
5  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Configuring XBEE Problem using XCTU on: March 18, 2014, 06:57:03 pm
Yes, the controller blinks once per second and a router will blink twice per second.  It's in the XBee documentation.

Since you have two XBees, try programming something into the one that you can read.  If it works, then the other XBee may be bad.  You can go to the digi site, they have a forum.  There are some folk there that know all there is to know about XBees and also the Digi techs monitor the site.

The problem you seem to be having has always been a baud rate mismatch for me.  Once I got the correct baud rate, it worked.  You can experiment with baud rate on the terminal screen.  type +++,  wait, nothing happens, try a different baud rate.  Echoing in the terminal screen doesn't mean anything except it found the comm port.
6  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Configuring XBEE Problem using XCTU on: March 17, 2014, 10:23:01 am
Did you actually reset the board by grounding the reset pin ?  I've had to do that a couple of times with a stubborn XBee.  I use a jumper wire and touch it to the pin and the sleeve on the USB plug.

If the reset works and the message goes away, then look at the bottom of the XCTU screen for error messages.  There's a number of them that can appear there to tell you things.  You may well have to do the programming again to make sure the settings get over to the XBee.

But now, just to backtrack: remove the XBee, close XCTU, and start it again.  Choose a port in XCTU, plug in the XBee to that port.  Do the test query on the first screen, if it doesn't work, set api mode and test query.  If it doesn't work, try a different baud rate.  If the board is good, and the port is right, you should get a response from the modem and an 'OK' screen from XCTU.

7  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Configuring XBEE Problem using XCTU on: March 17, 2014, 01:26:35 am
Is the XBee a series 1, series 2, or series 2.5 ? 

Assuming the XBee is already in API mode and series 2 and above, on the first screen, set XCTU to use API mode (Check the box), then go program it to AT mode by choosing the correct firmware, it will get an error, ignore it.  Go back to the first screen and set XCTU to AT mode (uncheck the boxes) and then go to the configuration screen and finish programming it.  You don't always need to do it this way, but sometimes XCTU needs to be messed with a bit to get it to work.
8  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Configuring XBEE Problem using XCTU on: March 16, 2014, 10:31:53 pm
There's a checkbox on the very first page in the middle.  It's labeled 'Enable API'  and it set API mode 1.  If you want API mode 2, the check box right below it labeled 'Use escaped characters' is the one you want.  If you want AT mode, uncheck the API mode one.

However, you should be able to push the 'Test/Query' button and get a good response.  Check the baud rate.
9  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Lighting controls on: March 15, 2014, 12:10:44 pm
mae1985, I don't what the laws and such are in your area, but you can get yourself in trouble with custom wiring.  The problem is that the people  that approve building don't understand what you're doing and they will drive you nuts with requirements.  Another problem is insurance once you get it built.  Insurance companies want to blame anything they can to keep from paying if you have a problem.

But, that aside, if you get a home run for the items that you want to control, and some way of getting the state of a switch there too, you can do anything you want.  At first a simple on-off would be good, then expand the processing to dim, remember state, color, whatever.  I'm not a fan of wires for control points; wires are fine for getting power to something, but the control should be mobile.  I want control of whatever it is wherever I am.

That's why I opt for radio control.  To me that means an XBee (I understand them) hooked to a switch and some kind of power so I can flip the switch and a light turns on somewhere.  Where is determined by code running on a processor that I can change on a whim.  Control also means a web interface so a cheap tablet or expensive cell phone can turn something on while I'm at the store or reading a book in bed.

Try not to limit your thinking.
10  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: HA Architecture on: March 13, 2014, 10:21:19 pm
There are as many solutions to this problem as there are people doing it.  In my case, I would put a radio controlled switch at each location.  Many of these report the status of the switch and some of them report the power usage.  Being me, I would chose something with XBee or ZigBee mesh networking so I could expand it later.

Since you have two lights and four switches, you probably have two, two way switches for each light; one to turn it on as you come in and one on the other side as you go out (so you don't have to go back).  That would mean a SPDT relay to handle the various possibilities on one of the switches.  Or, you can make one of the switches actually control the lights and the other switch just send a signal to the first switch to command it.

You could bite the bullet and wire the lights to a central controller and make all the switches radios that tell the controller which light to turn on.  This is the most versatile method since you can reprogram the system to do anything you want

What everyone tells you about powerline controls is absolutely correct.  You have to have a really quiet electrical system to make that work reliably and every motor, computer, switching power supply in the house will work to mess you up.  Those were OK forty years ago, but they don't work worth a darn today, unless you have massive capability for retries and control packet integrity.

Everyone thinks hard wired is the way to go.  Someday you'll want something where there are no wires.  What happens when you forget and drive a nail through one of them?  The wire gets eaten by ravenous bats that decided to populate your attic?  Sure, radios die, but they're simple to replace; wires are tougher. 

If you want to go Wifi, there are a couple of switches that use UPnP over ethernet to announce their presence and allow you to control them.  If you want to go ZigBee the choices are limited, but they exist.  Z-wave switches are abundant, but the controllers are all proprietary (unless you want to go to a Raspberry Pi).  Xbees running a simple text protocol are cheap, but you have to build your own stuff.  Perhaps hook a relay to an XBee digital pin and put the entire thing in a wiring box next to the light; you could hook a switch to a digital pin to replace the wall switch.  Then put the controller (an arduino) on a shelf somewhere.

But, you say, "the <insert some part number> radio is much cheaper and works really well.  That's true, but what happens when you expand the system and the next radio just can't make the hop from the wall of the garage through two interior walls to the shelf where you put the arduino?  With XBees, this is simple, put a repeater in between them.  With other radios, have a nice time writing your own packet forwarding code.  Z-wave and ZigBee handle this well also.  Wires don't handle it at all, you have to run a new wire.

See what I mean about possible solutions?  You'll have to consider the future of this one room house into your plans.
11  Community / Bar Sport / Re: Your latest purchase on: March 09, 2014, 09:36:29 pm
I don't think he was at all concerned about water.  With the water table at over 400 feet and the rainfall as low as it is, I'll bet he covered them with plastic to keep dirt from messing up the contents, or building up inside them.  I didn't get to see when they filled it, but was told that he actually wrapped it over the top and sides of each container. 

You're right about preppers, he wouldn't want to be this close to anyone else.  So, grow house (there is a big generator on site), storage for something valuable that he wants to protect especially well, extra bedroom?  I drove by it today and he has mounted cameras on the walls, looking at the gate and has no trespassing signs all over the place.

Oh well, he keeps to himself.
12  Community / Bar Sport / Re: Your latest purchase on: March 09, 2014, 12:26:51 am
Yes, it was one big hole.  I'd post the location using google maps, but he might get pissed.,-112.045438&spn=0.001597,0.00327&t=h&z=19

This is after the fill and before the garage went up.  The four containers are off to the right (I messed up counting them).  The plastic is near the house. There are five containers under that garage with one of them sticking past the foundation on the bottom side where the dirt has been disturbed.  The house has been torn down.  There is an 8' block wall around the entire property with steel gates at the front. You can see where they started the wall at the front of the plot.  We all think he's a prepper.  Actually most of us in this area are to some degree.  With the price of gas and distance to a grocery store, we have to be.  I have about two months of staples, a well, a couple of hundred gallons of gasoline, fifty gallons of diesel (tractor), couple of generators, etc.  You know, the basic necessities.

And, this is Arizona, everyone has a gun.  Most of them are wearing a gun most of the time.  A couple of folk out here regularly walk their dog with a gun strapped to their side.  Makes for a very polite neighborhood.
13  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Automation_Manual and web control on: March 08, 2014, 05:23:25 pm
Just remove the manual control.  Then, there really isn't any problem.  A computer can only do one thing at a time, so whoever switches the light last ... wins.  You may have a problem with coordination, in that the person wants to read and someone else keeps turning the light off, but that can be resolved with a phone call.

It's exactly the same problem two people with remote controls for the TV.

That is unless you did something really weird with the code that I don't know about.
14  Community / Bar Sport / Re: Your latest purchase on: March 08, 2014, 11:18:01 am
Some of you will find this hard to believe.  I have a neighbor (roughly 3/4 mile south and 1/4 mile west) that built a huge garage.  What was interesting, besides being jealous of the garage) was that he had the foundation poured, inspected then he brought in 7 containers.  He then had a backhoe dig out the center of the foundation about 30 feet deep, and a crane lift 5 of the containers and put them in the hole.  Then he covered them all with plastic sheets, and buried them.  After running some equipment over the loose dirt to compact it, he poured the floor inside the foundation, and had the inspectors come out to inspect.

So, the garage is all finished now and looks pretty cool.  All of us are wondering what he is going to do with the containers buried under it.  The left over two containers are setting on the lot along with a few huge rolls of plastic.

So Nomad isn't the only one that love containers.
15  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Lighting controls on: March 04, 2014, 12:58:52 pm
These are just my thoughts and experiences, so don't take them as gospel.  You never, ever have enough light switches.  There's always a need to turn off the light on the front porch from out in the barn, or vice versa.  I built my house, and after it was totally done, started adding switches in places I didn't think I needed them.  Life has a way of sneaking up on you like that.  So, the home run idea is pretty good from the aspect of being able to put a battery operated switch anywhere it happens to be needed that sends a command to a central location.

I wouldn't go ethernet, I'd go with RF, but that's because I realize that I may want to put a bookcase where the light switch is and add a switch somewhere else.  It's nice to be able to control a ceiling fan without getting out of the bed; RF controls can be on the table next to you in instances like that.  Little RF controls of various kinds are available, batteries are cheap on the web, and a control can be constructed that will tell you when the battery is getting low.

So, if I were to do it over, I'd home run the lights, hook them to relays that are controlled from a processor of some ilk and plant RF switches all over the house to control them.  Rig up a cheap tablet that can send to a processor and control stuff as well; this will become your 'home remote control'.  If you use a web interface to control the house, you can have several of these little tablets that can even be placed on the wall to tell you the time, temperature, if the oven was left on, etc. 

Don't limit yourself to wires.  Wires are for things that can only be done that way.  Controls should be placed wherever you want them today, and moved to where you want them tomorrow, or be in your pocket wherever you are.

Don't worry about high voltage relays, that technology is the oldest there is and is really easy to learn.  There are really cool solid state relays that don't make any noise, take a tiny amount of power to activate, and last almost forever.  These things can take care of a myriad of problems for you.   My hot water heater (one of those cool solar things) has its helper element controlled by a solid state relay that is controlled by an arduino, which in turn, is controlled by an XBee that I can send to from anywhere in the world via a web interface running on a Raspberry Pi.  Sure, there's a lot of technology there, but what the heck?  It's the 21st century.
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