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Thread: Idratek/IDRANet and Linux

  1. #11
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    >extensive survey ...

    I did look at several seriously - EIB / KNX (was tops, until David introduced me to Idratek), and Dupline, and Comfort, X-10, Nice, and C-Bus, which some use with HomeSeer, etc, and some others ... bottom of the list was X-10, Comfort was good but limited, Nice was nice but very limited, Dupline was interesting, C-Bus was good, but expensive, EIB / KNX was better, but similarly expensive, and rather too in-accessible ... Idratek was tops for functionality (by a mile, once I saw the light, which David & his blog helped with a lot), and also for affordability ... the big downside with Idratek was that it needed Windows (as did the others), and so would need some very careful ring-fencing, and that it depended on RS232 ... both being live-able with, given David's stable experience of it, that it could run on a more-or-less dedicated low-power Mini-ITX, and that David had found he could manage it from a Mac using Remote Desktop ... it's also a bit weak on the AV & display side of things, but then so's eveything else, particularly if real HD is required ... we'll probably be using the Mac to do that side of things, 'though details are a WIP ...

  2. #12
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    Many thanks for all the info, plenty to think about!

    The main reasons for wanting Linux is because my (real) job involves a lot of Linux programming and scripting so I wouldn't have to spend time and money learning MS stuff. Also we already have a Linux box on 24/7, and this move is turning out to be very expensive and I'm trying to find ways of spending a bit less money :-)

    I may just buy a couple of Idratek modules and play around with a couple of your suggestions including VMWare - but maybe not by spending money a Mac even though I'd like one (you wouldn't have found me saying that before OS/X!)

    It would be great if Idratek did document the protocol, I'd certainly be interested in getting involved in a project to create a Linux(/BSD/OSX) API.

    "I guess I don't understand why you exclude C-Bus from low power wired Cat-5"

    Sorry, what I should have said was (I may have this wrong) that although the C-Bus itself communicates like that all the modules I can find all seem to control the mains voltage at the DIN rail so need direct mains wiring to there. We are moving into a newly built house so it's going to be much easier cutting holes around the place doing low voltage wiring than safely doing mains wiring in line with regs. Also, my wife is likley to be happier with temporary holes rather than me removing whole sheets of plasterboard and demonstrating my bad plastering skills :-)

    ... And I understand creating any new mains circuits is now going to cost me due to having to have a Part P inspection and the only way to avoid it is to change my job and work for a Part P approved firm(?!) Has anybody had any experience with Part P and home automation by the way and is it more costly if somebody comes out to inspect and you have to spend an hour explaining what C-Bus etc is?

  3. #13
    Automated Home Guru jpdw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    I may just buy a couple of Idratek modules and play around with a couple of your suggestions including VMWare - but maybe not by spending money a Mac even though I'd like one (you wouldn't have found me saying that before OS/X!)
    This is the approach I have taken, buying a 'starter kit' in November. It's a 200 "investment" which seems to be less than most other alternatives. I'd recommend this -- have a try & see what you think. The starter pack also has a 30-day full Cortex licence (after the 30 day you can still use it to reflex "program" the devices). As reflex level setup runs fine without Cortex, you dont need to invest a always-on windows PC initially - just a dual boot (or maybe VM partition) would probably be OK.

    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    The main reasons for wanting Linux is because my (real) job involves a lot of Linux programming and scripting so I wouldn't have to spend time and money learning MS stuff. Also we already have a Linux box on 24/7, and this move is turning out to be very expensive and I'm trying to find ways of spending a bit less money :-)
    You might find cortex supports a lot of what you'd like to do anyway, so reducing the amount you want to develop & script. If you have specific requirements, pop an email to idratek and I'm sure they'll answer your questions. Or of course post on here.

    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    ... And I understand creating any new mains circuits is now going to cost me due to having to have a Part P inspection and the only way to avoid it is to change my job and work for a Part P approved firm(?!) Has anybody had any experience with Part P and home automation by the way and is it more costly if somebody comes out to inspect and you have to spend an hour explaining what C-Bus etc is?
    A whole different can of worms...

    My key aim is to avoid notifiable work where possible. Where anything is notifiable, to lump it in one go and consider getting a pro in (or pay LABC and do it myself, getting them to sign off afterwards)

    To avoiding work being notifiable, I am trying to avoid needing *NEW* circuits. Arguably idratek suface mount units are "replacements" of existing light switches or (in the case of PIR & Temp modules) extra low voltage for signalling (signalling & data is listed as non-notifiable in most locations). I'm uncertain if a DIN-rail mounted relay or dimmer unit is classed as a "fixed appliance" which could make it notifiable (if it's in the CU then definately notifiable anyway).

    NOTE - the above is based on my current understanding. My advice is to do some reading up yourself. Scope of Part P notification is a frequently debated issue on the forums at www.diynot.com, so that would be a good place to visit occasionally and has links to the official docs & regs.

    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    you have to spend an hour explaining what C-Bus etc is?
    A scenario I envisage when we have our boiler changed in a couple of months. My intention is to fix the relay unit ready (which will drive the heating zone valves) then explain to the spark (if needed) that it's effectively just a bunch of 2-wire volt-free thermostats. I'll also provide 4 little switches so he can toggle the relays to test - just like waggling the knob on a stat - without having to even start explaining Cortex....
    Last edited by jpdw; 24th January 2008 at 08:31 PM.

  4. #14
    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    Hi,

    .

    "I guess I don't understand why you exclude C-Bus from low power wired Cat-5"

    Sorry, what I should have said was (I may have this wrong) that although the C-Bus itself communicates like that all the modules I can find all seem to control the mains voltage at the DIN rail so need direct mains wiring to there. We are moving into a newly built house so it's going to be much easier cutting holes around the place doing low voltage wiring than safely doing mains wiring in line with regs. Also, my wife is likley to be happier with temporary holes rather than me removing whole sheets of plasterboard and demonstrating my bad plastering skills :-)

    ... And I understand creating any new mains circuits is now going to cost me due to having to have a Part P inspection and the only way to avoid it is to change my job and work for a Part P approved firm(?!) Has anybody had any experience with Part P and home automation by the way and is it more costly if somebody comes out to inspect and you have to spend an hour explaining what C-Bus etc is?
    Well - that certainly is an advantage to the Idratek approach in a retrofit. Since it's a modern house I assume that the walls are something like dot and dab so you don't need to chase to get the Cat5 into the switch ?

    My understanding with Part P is that you pay a notification fee to the LABC and they have to get it inspected at their cost, which does not include charging you extra 'cos the bloke doesn't understand it. So the fee may not be that painful, especially if you plan it carefully and lump the notifible stuff in one hit.
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  5. #15
    Automated Home Sr Member MrFluffy's Avatar
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    Im looking at this thread with interest, Idratek sounds very interesting from a technical point of view, but there is absolutely no way whatsoever I would entertain a system based on a windows controller. From my industrial and commercial experiences, microsoft products should play no part in anything expected to exhibit stability (ask LSE...) Ive also got some experience of vmware, and I would much much prefer to go with a native install rather than have their ip stack etc interfering with what is going on.

    A *nix deployment would sit in the rack, be on industrial hardware, attach to the terminal server for disaster recovery scenarios, plug onto the tape backup system and a myriad of other features.
    Has anybody contacted idratek to see if specifications on the structure of the packets etc is available to allow some reverse engineering?
    A FUSE (its a software package) module would be heaven. Like x10 and a load of scripting, but works.

  6. #16
    Automated Home Legend Paul_B's Avatar
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    MrFluffy,

    I'm sorry but I can't agree about your view on Microsoft and Windows server. It may have held some validity with desktop OS or Windows NT4 but not with Windows 2003. If the server is used only as a server and not a desktop then their is no reason for it to be unstable / unreliable. This is both my professional view and my own experience running Idratek on a Windows server for almost 2 years.

    Paul

  7. #17
    Automated Home Sr Member MrFluffy's Avatar
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    Thank you for your input, however rather than dilute the request, please allow me to rephrase it to that I have a rack full of perfectly good sun and x86 based servers, none of which run windows for my own personal reasons that I do not feel obliged to share more about, all my current hardware infrastructure is set up thus, and if the specs are available I would be interested in making a investment in a Idratek system.

  8. #18
    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    You would need to contact Idratek directly to see what they can document for you. They have given me some documents in the past to help with reflex programming.

    Don't under-estimate what you are losing by not running Cortex though. It's a lot more sophisticated than event triggered scripting type stuff.
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  9. #19
    Automated Home Guru JonS's Avatar
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    My experience of playing with cortex for a few months and having it running 24/7 on a laptop for the last year controlling my house is that running under windows is not a problem. I have had to reboot after windows updates, but I think I have only had to restart windows one other time. I have had to restart Cortex a few times, usually after making some changes / having a play and it probably wasn't essential just cleaner to restart from known back-up. To be honest if you are looking at it from an professional systems engineering view then security is weak compared with reliability. That's security of the product not windows as it cannot run as a background service and if you want it to restart after a reboot you cannot have a pwd on the account.
    I am not a M$ fan-boy and I do not like fiddling with OS (and don't on my laptop, which runs office 03 and is used as kitchen PC and kids use for playing on-line games, so hardly virgin install), but as others have said you'd almost be missing the point of Idratek not to use Cortex.
    Finally on the reliability thread with Reflex you don't need the PC to have 99.999% availability as there is adequate fall-back. To put the reliability in context one of my priority jobs when I commissioned my set-up was to do the Reflex programming, a year later and it is not complete, Cortex on XP just works.
    HTH
    Jon
    Last edited by JonS; 10th September 2008 at 12:12 AM. Reason: more thought

  10. #20
    Automated Home Legend Paul_B's Avatar
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    MrFluffy,

    I didn't mean to get into an OS war either and full understand your wish to stay with *nix. The current Cortex source I believe is written in Delphiand have no idea if this is platform independent.

    The guys at Idratek are incredibly responsive to most requests so drop them a mail and they maybe able to assist.

    Good luck

    Paul

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