Xlobby plugin development


Postby Hiller on Wed Sep 29, 2004 5:21 pm

There seems to be some interest in a plugin for HomeSeer so I am going to see what I can do with it. You all have to be patient with me as I am not the greatest programmer out there but usually I can plow my way through stuff.

I don't have any X10 items right now so that functionality will come a little down the road. I just want to make sure I can get HS to do something from XL. I think the first thing I am going to do is see if I can make HS speak. If I can do that I'm pretty sure the rest should be smooth sailing.

Since I am completely unfamiliar with the program, what features would you like the plugin to perform?

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Postby kolemieux on Wed Sep 29, 2004 9:00 pm

Actually the #1 request is indeed X10. Currently the only way to get Xlobby to send X10 commands is via proxy thru Girder's X10 support. I actually think that there is much of homeseer you would not need and could create in a 10' TV view with Xlobby if some native X10 control's existed.

However - as u mention 2 way feedback with voice which exists in Homeseer would be nice.

That's just my 2 cents on this one.

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Postby CouchPotatoe on Wed Sep 29, 2004 11:48 pm

We have a protocol called xAP that allows control typically via Ethernet of things like X10, C-Bus lighting, temp sensors, relays, input/output ports, newsfeeds, TV listings, mp3 players eg SliMP3 , Rio, Exstreamer, weather reports , stock/shares etc etc. We already have a host of applications and they are very easy to write yourself with examples and an Active X control for VB etc. If you prefer .Net eg C# then there is a complete development framework available called xFx.

xAP was created by the UKHA members (UK Home Automation) as an open two way contol protocol for devices typically found in the home. Within xAP we have a 'schema' that is very simple but handles 90% of all hardware devices by categorising their control into 3 categories BINARY|LEVEL|TEXT - this we call BSC 'basic status and control' and it is eminently applicable to home automation applications. X10 sits nicely in this model for example and we have X10 xAP support available . Indeed xAP is all free in the same spirit as XLobby. xAP is a totally 'open' protocol and very easy and also human readable. It is very powerful too. It can be run on any OS and has even even been implemented in embedded controllers. It is starting to appear as a supported control protocol in many different products.

One of the other things we have is a very capable plugin already for HomeSeer that makes all xAP connections appear as devices on HomeSeer and all HomeSeer devices appear as xAP. Two way realtime status reporting and control works really fast. This (no cost) plugin has been almost a year in development , working with the nuances of two way device integration in HomeSeer. I see a possible route here for xAP to be the route to XLobby and onwards there to amny different devices/applications, but I have no experience with the XLobby side of plugins. If someone could provide that part of the jigsaw then we as the xAP team will provide whatever is needed on the xAP side to work with XLobby and all the support we can offer - any milege ?

Some xAP informationla links and also a couple of Yahoo groups for xAP users and xAP developers.

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Postby samgreco on Thu Sep 30, 2004 1:49 am

YES! xAP, xAP, xAP !

Then maybe I can finally firgure out how to utilise the FOUR Rio Receivers that I own. If I could then synch them with anything on XNet AND work my X10 lighting stuff....

Sorry, I'm beginning to drool...

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Postby hjackson on Thu Sep 30, 2004 4:37 am

"Currently the only way to get Xlobby to send X10 commands is via proxy thru Girder's X10 support."
Not really. I use command lines to control my X10 stuff. If you have the CMA11 device by Active Home(get it at Radio Shack or Lowes), you can just use their command line driven app (X10comm.exe).

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Postby Aaron on Thu Sep 30, 2004 6:32 am

Thanks CouchPotatoe
I did not know about the xAP. I think this might be a great way to go.

I use Homeseer to automate a ton of items in my home and for voice recognition too.

I'd like to see the plugin to Homeseer see all my HS devices as "objects" that XLobby knows to send commands to as well as receive status/images/etc from.

1) Set multiple images to represent each HS object.
device is on = imageON
device is off = imageOFF
device is dim 10% = image10
device status text is "Movie Time" = imageMOVIE
... and so forth.

2) Read and display status from HS
The object status text may = "Aquarium Daytime" so I'd want XL to 'read' that status and display it on a screen.

3) Send 'triggers' to HS
just send specific on/off/dim 20%/ etc commands directly to an HS device via an image click on a screen

4) also have an HS-side plugin that sent updates to XL when a device changes.
SO... this means the interface would be two-sided so that the HS side knows what devices XL is "looking for" and when that device gets changed it send the changes to XL immediately.

how does that sound?

true two-way communications
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Postby stevenhanna6 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 6:55 am

looks like I might have to get some x10 stuff and look into finally look into xAP. Any one want to save me some time and give me a "basic" list of what I should get...I just want some kind of cheap starter kit....or something that offers the most bang for my buck.
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xAP For TV Functionality?

Postby andylaurence on Thu Sep 30, 2004 8:48 am

There is also xAP functionality built-in in the Nebula Freeview card software ( Perhaps with xAP functionality, TV could be integrated using the Nebula card. This would allow programs to be recorded onto the server for later playback, or multicasted to the clients (the software has multicast built-in).

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Postby CouchPotatoe on Thu Sep 30, 2004 11:43 am

Steven - I would send you some X10 bits to play with but unfortunately they are UK 230V versions :-( It is a very low cost option to get started - maybe $30 or so - but can be very costly if you get hooked on Home Automation ;-) There will be starter kits but all you need is a lamp dimmer module, an Appliance module, a CM12 computer interface and perhaps a manual 'press button' controller or even an RF linked keypad controller.

The xAP connector for X10 directly uses (attaches to) the CM12U so it then becomes an Ethernet based X10 controller (shareable) . If you are already using HomeSeer with an X10 controller then when you install the xAP plugin it will use the xAP version for X10. There is a much enhanced new HS xAP plugin due imminently.

The xAP support for Nebula TV is great, includes recording etc - and there is also a true xAP TV application for TV listings with 'reminders' etc. Shortly it will have a web interface added too.

One of the great things about xAP is that it is very 'loose' in its coupling - it communicates via UDP and hence you don't get those feedback locks that so often hang applications. xAP information is received by everyone although various filters are applied (and addressing used) to indicate its relevence. A Tivo for example could listen to the modem and watch for Caller ID information to display on the TV screen. Whereas a database lookup application receives the same information and creates a log and also broadcasts back the Callers name which again the Tivo might choose to watch for and display. But if the database application was 'down' for whatever reason nothing hangs, you just lose that bit of the functionality. xAP effectively network enables all your hardware.

So Aaron - taking your wishes in your post (and speaking only from the xAP side) every device in HomeSeer becomes effectively a network device - providing realtime event reporting over Ethernet every time its status changes and also controllable over Ethernet.. It truly distributes the device control. XLobby therefore makes an ideal front end as a display/control panel for these devices. We have our simple control with 'BSC' which is suitable for 90% of real world devices (see above) which also includes a display text field that might provide a button legend if required or even perhaps an html address to a jpeg or more. And you could add more complex schema that you design yourself for example to control the 'whizzo ice cream maker'. Writing xAP connectors for devices is relatively staright forward and there are loads of examples with source code.

Schemas are designed to abstract the hardware from the equation so for example our whole homeaudio (mp3) schema drives a SliMP3 / Squeezebox or an Exstreamer just the same - and could drive WinAMP this way for example. It is a way of managing 'play this track' 'add this to playlist' 'asking what is currently playing' 'raise the volume' etc etc where the backend hardware is hidden. Later when you replace WinAMP with a Squeezebox it all continues working transparently. Some commercial applications eg MCS music already use xAP as their control for this reason.

The synergy with XLobby is great - XLobby gains access to network hardware in a continually expanding area - and once basic xAP support is in place the supported devices just grow and grow. This is not limited to true hardware as all internet based information eg weather , share prices, emails etc can be presented via BSC . XLobby forms the graphic front end for your whole system incoroprating HA - and it will work in conjunction with your favourite logic/script engin eg HomeSeer or whatever. Exactly what it is best at... and it is very good at this !

There are more complex schema that would benefit from specific support eg the 'whole house audio' is designed as a complete system rather than being broken into BSC parts. However HomeSeer can be used with any xAP schema to create devices and these 'devices' can then of course be broken down & presented back by HomeSeer as BSC should you so wish. In this way say the current track playing which was originally contained in the 'whole house audio' schema gets re-presented as a BSC TEXT type.

Loads of potential here...

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Postby Aaron on Thu Sep 30, 2004 3:14 pm

Steven & Kevin,
So it looks like a decent coder (I'm unfortunately not in that category!) could build the XL side plugin and the Homeseer side is already done!

Here's my offer...
I have a few X10 items and Homseer I can send to Steven for testing. I do not have an extra CM11a so if someone could provide that to Steven he'd be set to build the xAP interface.

btw... the best price on CM11a is $24 here:
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Postby jowaldo on Thu Sep 30, 2004 4:02 pm

I have an extra one of these I could send steven if it helped
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Postby Hiller on Thu Sep 30, 2004 4:05 pm

I think instead of the HS plugin, I'll try doing something with xAP. I'll first just set something up to be able to send xAP messages out.

If the CM11 is what is needed to start then I'll order one of those. I guess I should get a couple of wall plugs for lamps and such. Any recommendations on which are best?

If Steven wants to do all this then I'll let him, I know he is a much better coder than I will ever be! But I thought with everything on his plate with the XLobby core having me work on a plugin might help out.

Let me know...

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Postby stevenhanna6 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 7:39 pm

Hiller, I dont know who should do what right now I need the equipment first to play around with. Looks like CM11a is the way to go, as far as I understand it works with both RF and over power lines.....does it do 2 way communication for both?
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Postby justonemore on Thu Sep 30, 2004 8:27 pm

Not sure about xAP. Currently I have WAY too much time invested into HomeSeer.

Hiller. I saw your post last night about what we (I) would like it to do, but decided not to answer right away, because my response would have been everything. :)
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Postby sdumas on Thu Sep 30, 2004 9:32 pm

Yes, X10 does two way communications.

You do have command line programs that can be used to return information as well.

You can send a query to see if the device respond and its current state.

ex. A10 On

It tells you that device on A10 is on.

The X10 interface (or Homeseer) will give you graphical representation of the different devices, sliders to dim lights, and all bunch of other gizmos that are quite interesting.

Currently I am using the command line program to turn on, turn off and dim lights with Xlobby. But it's only one way...

If you buy on they deliver in Canada within two days and there are no duties or custom broker fees. The drawback... you'll get emails everyday trying to sell you more X10 stuff (they REALLY want to sell these Ninjas Cameras...)

Buy a basic kit, it'll cost you about $49 CDN. You'll get everything you need.
Sylvain Dumas
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