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  #1  
Old 01-18-2012, 12:58 PM
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What's out there for remote control/automation systems?

So, was browsing around and came across the URC IP controller modules again and got me thinking. I've got an MX880+MRF350 driving my HT and it works quite nicely, but it would be nice to have a bit more robust programming capabilities, two way control would be great.

My projector, SSP, and Sage extender all support two way control (though the former are via RS232). A little more research and it seems like URC is "artificially" limiting their IP two-way control modules, only URC can make them, you can't make your own.

So I'm curious what's out there for robust IP/RS232/etc two-way control (with IR for "legacy" devices of course).

iRule looks pretty cool (and they've got Android support now) but I'm not a big fan of touchscreen-only remotes, and unlike apparently everyone else, I've got no desire to have to bring my phone down to the HT and use it for control. I do a lot of navigation/DVR-ing and I like physical buttons for that.

So I'm curious what others have found and are using for the more advanced control/automation systems.
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Old 01-18-2012, 11:53 PM
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well, I know you know that many of us are using CQC for that stuff, so I'll leave this question to the other systems.
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  #3  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:26 AM
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I searched all over the place for something like you are describing. Since I use a client instead of an extender I ended up going with http control and rs232 using eventghost to send all the commands. I could have gone with a touch screen interface (iRule, etc) but I'm like you in the fact I don't like them. I use a simple WMC remote that will do anything I tell it to. Good luck finding something that will work.
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Old 01-19-2012, 09:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post
well, I know you know that many of us are using CQC for that stuff, so I'll leave this question to the other systems.
CQC seems really cool for the "backend" control, but the problem with that for me is how do you integrate it with a "frontend", essentially with a remote control?

What I mean is how do you get that control into your hands to actually use it? I know you could do a tablet/touchscreen, but like I said, for everyday DVR-type use I want hard buttons for navigation and shuttle controls. Is there some sort of combo device with a screen and hard buttons (along the lines of an MX880/MK5000/etc) that has hard buttons and a screen that can be driven by CQC?

Something without soft keys just wouldn't work IMO because there's way too many buttons/commands that are required to use only hard buttons, and if you try to overload hard buttons it just becomes a confusing mess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by panteragstk View Post
I searched all over the place for something like you are describing. Since I use a client instead of an extender I ended up going with http control and rs232 using eventghost to send all the commands. I could have gone with a touch screen interface (iRule, etc) but I'm like you in the fact I don't like them. I use a simple WMC remote that will do anything I tell it to. Good luck finding something that will work.
I kinda wonder if RTI can do it, but it's basically impossible to get a hold of that stuff (harder than URC from what I can tell).
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Old 01-19-2012, 10:55 AM
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Doesn't RTI use IR blasters and rs232 like other systems? I have to think that would be expensive, and not really worth it for a single room. iRule would act the same way from what I've read.

It seems to me you either have to use a touchscreen device of some kind, or use a simple remote with a control interface of some kind (eventghost or something similar). I'm not all that familiar with any of the HA methods, but that seems overkill for controlling one room.
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  #6  
Old 01-19-2012, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Wayneb View Post
Now that Pronto is out of the game you don't have any two-way remote options that you can easily find software for. I think the URC MX-5000 is priced way too high.
It might not be super bad if I could write my own 2-way IP modules for it (ie to control Sage), but you can't.

Quote:
You can try and find a Pronto TSU9400 on Ebay but they are hard to find so people sell them for inflated prices. You can use something like CQC and get feedback on an Ipod touch and use the remote you have.
I never really liked the Prontos, and needing a second "remote" kind of defeats the whole purpose.
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  #7  
Old 01-19-2012, 02:51 PM
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Girder...
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  #8  
Old 01-19-2012, 03:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post
CQC seems really cool for the "backend" control, but the problem with that for me is how do you integrate it with a "frontend", essentially with a remote control?

What I mean is how do you get that control into your hands to actually use it? I know you could do a tablet/touchscreen, but like I said, for everyday DVR-type use I want hard buttons for navigation and shuttle controls. Is there some sort of combo device with a screen and hard buttons (along the lines of an MX880/MK5000/etc) that has hard buttons and a screen that can be driven by CQC?

Something without soft keys just wouldn't work IMO because there's way too many buttons/commands that are required to use only hard buttons, and if you try to overload hard buttons it just becomes a confusing mess.
I'll describe what I do with it. I'm not saying you should do it or that there's only one way, as i've long since abandoned my religious beliefs :-)

I agree totally on the DVR front, I must have hard buttons. I will NOT use a touchscreen where I need to look down. Hence, I personally use an (MX850? one of those #s) which sends IR to a USB-UIRT in one room, an (MX300? old) which sends IR to an IRA-3 in another room. Both of those devices are connected to either the main server or a slave server.

CQC is in control of the USBUIRT & IRA3, and does whatever I want in response to the button presses. In the Family Room/HomeTheater, one custom MX850 button turns the lights on/off, two control the Pioneer Elite input & Denon input (so I can switch between Wii, Sage, local DVD with RS232). The regular DVR buttons do *NOT* control SageHD200 directly, rather CQC catches the signal and determines if i'm listening to a CD, SageTV, or the local DVD player, and routes the play/pause/stop/next/prev to the appropriate one.

In the MBR MX300, one of the custom hardbuttons triggers an "event" (CQC macro kinda sorta) which turns on the MBR speakers, sets input & volume, then text-to-speech announces the weather.com forecast.

I also have a bazillion automated rules. In the H/T if a movie is playing and the volume is above <xx> and the phone rings, it pauses the movie and turns the sound down so I can answer it. (I also have a DnD mode where it prevents that action if I just want to chilll & watch it, another button toggles that).

I could go on but you get the point - my personal opinion is that if you only use a touchscreen or use macros for everything, you've missed the point of Home Automation. That's just an alternative form of manual control. What you want is a hybrid of hardbutton control (for certain use cases), touchscreen control, and automated/intelligent control.
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Old 01-19-2012, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post
I'll describe what I do with it. I'm not saying you should do it or that there's only one way, as i've long since abandoned my religious beliefs :-)

I agree totally on the DVR front, I must have hard buttons. I will NOT use a touchscreen where I need to look down. Hence, I personally use an (MX850? one of those #s) which sends IR to a USB-UIRT in one room, an (MX300? old) which sends IR to an IRA-3 in another room. Both of those devices are connected to either the main server or a slave server.

CQC is in control of the USBUIRT & IRA3, and does whatever I want in response to the button presses. In the Family Room/HomeTheater, one custom MX850 button turns the lights on/off, two control the Pioneer Elite input & Denon input (so I can switch between Wii, Sage, local DVD with RS232). The regular DVR buttons do *NOT* control SageHD200 directly, rather CQC catches the signal and determines if i'm listening to a CD, SageTV, or the local DVD player, and routes the play/pause/stop/next/prev to the appropriate one.

In the MBR MX300, one of the custom hardbuttons triggers an "event" (CQC macro kinda sorta) which turns on the MBR speakers, sets input & volume, then text-to-speech announces the weather.com forecast.

I also have a bazillion automated rules. In the H/T if a movie is playing and the volume is above <xx> and the phone rings, it pauses the movie and turns the sound down so I can answer it. (I also have a DnD mode where it prevents that action if I just want to chilll & watch it, another button toggles that).

I could go on but you get the point - my personal opinion is that if you only use a touchscreen or use macros for everything, you've missed the point of Home Automation. That's just an alternative form of manual control. What you want is a hybrid of hardbutton control (for certain use cases), touchscreen control, and automated/intelligent control.
I do most of these things... with Girder...
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  #10  
Old 01-19-2012, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
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I do most of these things... with Girder...
Yep, agreed if thats all you want to do plus you don't mind getting your hands dirty, you don't need to spend the $$ on CQC as Girder is perfectly workable. I actually owned Girder pre-CQC (the first paid version). I left Girder because the complexities of tying full back-end home automation into custom screens with a high # of devices under control required a lot more work & techie thinking than I cared to do.
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  #11  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post
I'll describe what I do with it. I'm not saying you should do it or that there's only one way, as i've long since abandoned my religious beliefs :-)
That's really all I'm looking for, ideas for what's out there.

Quote:
CQC is in control of the USBUIRT & IRA3, and does whatever I want in response to the button presses. In the Family Room/HomeTheater, one custom MX850 button turns the lights on/off, two control the Pioneer Elite input & Denon input (so I can switch between Wii, Sage, local DVD with RS232). The regular DVR buttons do *NOT* control SageHD200 directly, rather CQC catches the signal and determines if i'm listening to a CD, SageTV, or the local DVD player, and routes the play/pause/stop/next/prev to the appropriate one.
Hm, I guess I really hadn't thought about pairing a URC type remote with another backend automation system...

Quote:
I also have a bazillion automated rules. In the H/T if a movie is playing and the volume is above <xx> and the phone rings, it pauses the movie and turns the sound down so I can answer it. (I also have a DnD mode where it prevents that action if I just want to chilll & watch it, another button toggles that).

I could go on but you get the point - my personal opinion is that if you only use a touchscreen or use macros for everything, you've missed the point of Home Automation. That's just an alternative form of manual control. What you want is a hybrid of hardbutton control (for certain use cases), touchscreen control, and automated/intelligent control.
My concern is how you link, or sinc the remote with the automation system, seems like a bit of a mess to have to program page jumps, pages, macros on the remote and keep that all sinced up with the backed.
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  #12  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:50 PM
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I have Control4 for my home automation. It is a pretty good system and more cost effective than Crestron. It is not really a DIY system since you need your dealer to do lots of stuff but you can pretty much do all of the programming yourself. The remote controls have physical buttons and use Zigbee networking to communicate with the controller. But it is not cheap, I imagine even a fairly low-end system is going to be at least a couple of $K.

The touchscreens are useful for their versatility for programming all kinds of different functionality but for basic HT function I agree that physical buttons are better. But a touchscreen allows you to do lots of stuff that would be tricky on a remote, like controlling lights anywhere in your house, controlling your HVAC, etc.
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Old 01-19-2012, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post
My concern is how you link, or sinc the remote with the automation system, seems like a bit of a mess to have to program page jumps, pages, macros on the remote and keep that all sinced up with the backed.
I'm not 100% clear on what you're asking, so I'll better describe what I'm doing. I did almost the same exact thing with Girder, so it's not a CQC-specific approach, rather the way I implemented home automation.

On my remote, I do *NOT* do page jumps/macros/etc as thats converting your remote into an automation controller. I may have these uber-expensive remotes but they're a waste of $$ and I got them before I realized what one could do with PC-based automation.

What I do is have my remote control transmit an IR signal to a receiving device (IRA3 or USBUIRT). Thats it, end of story, no fancy macros on it. I then have CQC (could be girder) do all the equipment changing/etc. I have a USBUIRT as I used to have IR-only devices (ie my TV), so CQC/girder could both receive an IR signal and blast it out.

Does that answer your question? I'm happy to find a mutual time to do a webinar/audio-call, although I haven't really done anything with CQC in nearly 3 years so I don't use any of the new fangled stuff Dean wrote up to make life simple. Then again, I didn't actually do any programming beforehand, it was all point&click, so its' not like i'll be coding in front of you.
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Old 01-20-2012, 09:23 PM
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Wanted to add that the forums over at www.cocoontech.com are a great resource for home automation.
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  #15  
Old 01-25-2012, 01:12 AM
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Re How-To automate without writing code... Homeseer.com and their user forum
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:38 AM
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sort of thought I replied to this...

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post
On my remote, I do *NOT* do page jumps/macros/etc as thats converting your remote into an automation controller. I may have these uber-expensive remotes but they're a waste of $$ and I got them before I realized what one could do with PC-based automation.

What I do is have my remote control transmit an IR signal to a receiving device (IRA3 or USBUIRT). Thats it, end of story, no fancy macros on it. I then have CQC (could be girder) do all the equipment changing/etc. I have a USBUIRT as I used to have IR-only devices (ie my TV), so CQC/girder could both receive an IR signal and blast it out.
Yeah, what I really meant was having pages of soft keys, and keeping them in sync with what you're doing.

For example I've got (on my MX880) a "TV" device/activity, and a Blu-ray device/activity. TV controls primarily SageTV and has a bunch of soft buttons defined for thinks like Don't Like, Watched, Sage's AR controls, etc. But it also has soft buttons for my SSP's aspect ratio controls.

Blu-ray is similar but it has different soft buttons for it's unique functionality, but also has it's own button(s) for the SSP's aspect ratio controls.

So the "concern" I have is how to keep the soft keys on the remote synced up with what the backend automation system is doing if they can't talk to each other.

Now the above also alludes to the problem I'm trying to solve, aspect ratio switching. My SSP has a good video processor and some pretty robust aspect ratio controls, but it can't do the Horizontal Squeeze necessary for non-scope content on my anamorphic setup, so I need to use the 4:3 AR mode on my projector unless I'm viewing scope content.

So I've been trying to figure out how to make a macro that will toggle ARs and automatically switch the projector's AR mode for certain SSP AR modes as appropriate.

Pretty sure my MX880 can do it with some sort of elaborate macros but I haven't sat down to really think through that.

And of course thinking of all this just reminded me how cool two-way IP control of Sage with feedback directly on the remote would be (but apparently isn't possible with URC without them writing a two way module for it).
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Old 01-26-2012, 08:28 AM
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I've got a question for you guys. I just bought a cheapo receiver to hold me over until I can decide what I really want (it has shockingly good features for being so cheap) and I'd like to control it with an IR blaster of some sort. All I need would be for on/off and volume. Input switching would be nice, but not essential. I've looked at a UIRT, but have no clue how to get it to tell the receiver what I want it to do. I would just get a harmony remote, but I don't really like the new ones and since all my stuff is in a closet I'd like to use my current RF remote.

What would be a good solution?
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Old 01-27-2012, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post
sort of thought I replied to this...



Yeah, what I really meant was having pages of soft keys, and keeping them in sync with what you're doing.

For example I've got (on my MX880) a "TV" device/activity, and a Blu-ray device/activity. TV controls primarily SageTV and has a bunch of soft buttons defined for thinks like Don't Like, Watched, Sage's AR controls, etc. But it also has soft buttons for my SSP's aspect ratio controls.

Blu-ray is similar but it has different soft buttons for it's unique functionality, but also has it's own button(s) for the SSP's aspect ratio controls.

So the "concern" I have is how to keep the soft keys on the remote synced up with what the backend automation system is doing if they can't talk to each other.

Now the above also alludes to the problem I'm trying to solve, aspect ratio switching. My SSP has a good video processor and some pretty robust aspect ratio controls, but it can't do the Horizontal Squeeze necessary for non-scope content on my anamorphic setup, so I need to use the 4:3 AR mode on my projector unless I'm viewing scope content.

So I've been trying to figure out how to make a macro that will toggle ARs and automatically switch the projector's AR mode for certain SSP AR modes as appropriate.

Pretty sure my MX880 can do it with some sort of elaborate macros but I haven't sat down to really think through that.

And of course thinking of all this just reminded me how cool two-way IP control of Sage with feedback directly on the remote would be (but apparently isn't possible with URC without them writing a two way module for it).
About to jump on a concall so i'll make this short:

Can't you just *not* have your remote do any of that, but rather put all the programming into (CQC/Girder), and let it handle that via IR blasting if your devices don't have serial or IP control? You can still have a button for each activity. I'll post a screenshot of mine later, but I have:
- Sage (turn on TV, turn on Denon, set all to correct inputs)
- BluRay (ditto for local BR player)
- Wii
- TV Off
- 5CH Stereo
- Dolby Surround
- Backyard light off (this room overlooks that)


Best way to avoid not getting out of sync is to not
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Old 01-27-2012, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by panteragstk View Post
I've got a question for you guys. I just bought a cheapo receiver to hold me over until I can decide what I really want (it has shockingly good features for being so cheap) and I'd like to control it with an IR blaster of some sort. All I need would be for on/off and volume. Input switching would be nice, but not essential. I've looked at a UIRT, but have no clue how to get it to tell the receiver what I want it to do. I would just get a harmony remote, but I don't really like the new ones and since all my stuff is in a closet I'd like to use my current RF remote.

What would be a good solution?
Save yourself the mental hassles, skip the PC, just use a fancier remote that has an RF & repeater function. As said above, I have an MX850/MRF300. The MX850 transmits IR to in-room devices, and RF to the MRF300 in the closet which then translates that into IR for the devices in the closet.

MUCH simpler than even Girder to set up. Its damn near trivial. Just make sure you get one with a software-based macro programming program.
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:49 PM
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Can't you just *not* have your remote do any of that, but rather put all the programming into (CQC/Girder), and let it handle that via IR blasting if your devices don't have serial or IP control? You can still have a button for each activity. I'll post a screenshot of mine later, but I have:
Right, but then how do you overload soft keys (aspect ratio, etc) and still know what they mean? My MX880 has 6 soft keys, my TV activity has five pages of soft keys, most of which, but not all, are direct SageTV commands but some are projector or SSP commands/macros that are useful during the TV activity, like Aspect ratio toggle.

I mean I sorta did it way back when with Girder and my Streamzap when I was using my HTPC. If nothing was running the colored buttons would launch specific apps, like red was Sage and blue was JRMC or something. And then if you were in an app, like Sage they did something different, like red was "Don't Like", yellow "Watched", blue "AR toggle".

But then you have to know/remember/learn what each of those magical buttons does in what context. Which was OK for 4 buttons that I programmed myself, but nobody else would know what they were for, and there's way more than just a handful or even a page of soft keys I want access to in the event I need them.
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