My Automated Home Part 1



Over the next few posts, I will outline the amount of home automation I’ve done, the various components to my system and in conclusion, my wife will post what it is like to live with it.


First I’ll say that even though I’m only now blogging about it, I’ve been trying to automate my home before it was cool, or was a category at CES. I first got into it because my light in the bathroom could only be turned on if you went inside the bathroom and felt around under the mirror just above the sink. That was 2005. Not exactly 10 years ago, but my first venture into home automation was replacing my bathroom light switch in my condo with an X10 switch, and then dismantling an X10 HR12A and turning it into a single 2 button switch. Why? Because at the time every 2 button switch sucked, and this was the only one which had the necessary oomph to be reliable — or reliable enough where if you pressed a button 9/10 times you could be sure the bathroom light would do something.

Days Of X10

Yes back in 2005, I started rewiring my condo by adding x10 switches — basic push button variety. It’s really surprising that I am able to find them online now and add links to this post. X10 is a really difficult system, it’s a one way communication, and outside of a physical device doing something somewhere, you have no idea what you did worked. Many devices, like TVs, refrigerators, and microwave ovens would eat, or alter the signal on the line. So I need to have repeaters, and RF to powerline adapters. Even that was tricky. Whenever the bathroom light would stop responding to the button, I’d have to unplug and plug back the RF repeater.

First Home Automation Hub

Right around the time I met my now wife, I started coding my first home automation server, it was very crude web server system with a very simple static home page which sent X10 commands over a serial port device called the firecracker. And yes, it still exists, and I have 2 of them in a plastic bin in my basement. Added to that I had remote control system. I used girder to create scripts which when a computer received a specific IR command it would execute. I did not know it then, but this was the start of something. I had automated my in window AC unit with a script which would be able to control it. All of this was stateless behavior, which means, you hope the system is in the state you want it to be, but you have no way to check. So this is when my wife would visit me and our lazy evenings would include laying on the couch and controlling the condo lights, and AC with an early Harmony remote. Sometimes it worked, sometimes you had to press the button several times or sometimes I had to reset a server, adjust a switch, or give up and turn the light off by hand.

Electronic Lock

My first electronic lock, was not part of my home automation system, but it was very useful as I got into running, not having to carry a key on me. It was also great that it had an autolock feature, which meant that all the money I was spending on expensive toys inside my condo was behind a foolproof deadbolt. At 26, level of responsibility to lock your door all the time was above my capacity.

Enter Chumby

Since there will be a wife’s reply to this home automation blogs, I will reference that shortly after we got married I bought this little device. He was cute, soft, and had chumby charms. And he had an easy to develop for flash platform. Which I wrote my first home automation app. It was just some buttons on a tiny screen. But with these buttons I could trigger all the capabilities — which at this time were just lights and the AC toggle from my bedside.

Wrap Up

This covers my condo from 2005-2009, the home automation was very crude, and basic. And to my mind was very geeky. However when I sold my bachelor pad and we bought a house, the young lady who was probably younger than me at the time, who bought our condo was enamored with these things and had it written into the sales contract that I leave them in place. Geek FTW. That’s it for this post. I’ll try to talk my wife into writing a short response, some reminiscing of our courtship could be fun.


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