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Thread: Idratek/IDRANet and Linux

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    Default Idratek/IDRANet and Linux

    Hi,

    I'll soon be moving into a new property and I'm planning to wire up Idratek's products for various functions in the house.

    I'd ideally like to control everything from a Linux box though, is information available on the IdraNet protocol or is all the complex stuff handled by the PCD-001/PCA-001 module and will I be able to run Cortex on a Windows PC initially to obtain the data bytes used for events and then simply send/listen to these on the serial port from Linux - or may they change over time?

    I'm not talking about doing anything complex as far as the protocol is concerned, just listening to and sending events.

    The other option I guess is to connect a Idratek input/output module to a PC relay board and link the modules with Windows/Cortex and Reflex initially but that seems a bit stupid!

    Do other companies produce similar products (control over a low power cat5 wired network rather than a C-Bus type setup) - I can't find any others other than Wireless (prefer not) or X10 (not reliable enough after past experience).

    Many thanks.

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    Automated Home Legend Paul_B's Avatar
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    I'd think that would be a massive task as Cortex is written for Windows in Delphi I believe. If you must run Linux then I be looking for a piece of virtualisation software to allow Windows XP to run on Linux and let Cortex run from there.

    Paul

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    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    besides Idratek & C-Bus, there's the Italian Dupline system, which could be worth a look !

    if you really want Linux & Cortex, one option might be to get a Mac with Parallels or the other one (name escapes me, sorry, begins with V), and run OSX & Linux & XP all at once ... this would not be virtual, but real ... only Cortex won't work without RS232, and Mac ain't had that for years ... so would have to wait for Idratek to go with USB ...

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    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul_B View Post
    I'd think that would be a massive task as Cortex is written for Windows in Delphi I believe. If you must run Linux then I be looking for a piece of virtualisation software to allow Windows XP to run on Linux and let Cortex run from there.

    Paul
    But the serial port for the PCA/PCD has to be native, so I doubt a virtualised Windows + Cortex would work.

    May be when a USB version of the PCA/PCD appears ...

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    Automated Home Guru jpdw's Avatar
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    I'm more a Linux user, maybe like you. I've been "trying out" some Idratek bits for a couple of months before building it up further.

    I originally started from the idea of just wanting to use Idranet & Reflex's - but after using Cortex for a while I've realised that it adds SO much more to the "system". NOW my intention is to build a dedicted machine for it, using a low-consumption mini-itx platform, then hide the box away somewhere and access it from my usual (linux) workstation via RDP - ie the cortex machine becomes just an appliance not a PC/workstation.

    When I build the mini-itx platform my first attempt will be to install linux first (either fedora or ubuntu -- simply what I know best) then use vmware server to attempt running Cortex on a virtual winxp. That way I can also use the linux host platform as my home server, and retire my current old mini-itx (which is too slow to host both). If virtualisation doesn't work then I'll switch around with XP as host & linux as the VM.

    How much you need to interface would depend on what you want to do? Cortex has a webserver and this may give you some means to interface via web calls -- something I want to try but haven't had the time/setup yet to do.

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    Automated Home Legend Paul_B's Avatar
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    David,

    You are quite correct about the serial port but the virtualisation I was thinking of was VMWare (not that this would be available for most users). I am pretty sure from the VMWare course that it supports virtualisation of com ports to allow for things like dongles.

    Paul

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    Automated Home Guru jpdw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul_B View Post
    David,

    You are quite correct about the serial port but the virtualisation I was thinking of was VMWare (not that this would be available for most users). I am pretty sure from the VMWare course that it supports virtualisation of com ports to allow for things like dongles.

    Paul
    Last time I look (last week) VMWare Server specification says it includes virtualising serial ports ---IIRC it allows pass through (ie what you'd need for cortex) or piping a file on the host to the VM's serial.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul_B View Post
    (not that this would be available for most users)
    why not? VMWare Server is freely downloadable.

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    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    Hi,
    I'll soon be moving into a new property and I'm planning to wire up Idratek's products for various functions in the house.
    Welcome, congratulations and an excellent choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    I'd ideally like to control everything from a Linux box though, is information available on the IdraNet protocol or is all the complex stuff handled by the PCD-001/PCA-001 module and will I be able to run Cortex on a Windows PC initially to obtain the data bytes used for events and then simply send/listen to these on the serial port from Linux - or may they change over time?

    I'm not talking about doing anything complex as far as the protocol is concerned, just listening to and sending events.
    Several questions here, so several answers in a different order ...

    With the Idratek product you have modules which sit on the IdraNet and talk in Reflex packets. You can create Reflex programs which are distributed across all modules to effect one form of control scheme. In addition to that, using a PCA/PCD you can interface a PC to the Idranet, so the PCA/PCD is translating Idranet bus protocol into RS-232, but still spitting out most of the packet contents - some headers may be removed, but these are handled by the PCA/PCD, so it doesn't matter. You can then run Cortex on the PC, which provides a basic Reflex programming capability to get Reflex programs into modules, but more importantly provides a higher level of functionality and integration to other systems (eg Skype, Telephony, CCTV, Squeeze Boxes, email, web etc) together with an animated GUI so that you can see what's going on.

    When I first discussed the Idratek system with Idratek some years ago they indicated that the protocol at the Reflex level (ie at the PCD/PCA serial port) would be documented and available. This was important to me and I have been given information on request, but it does not seem to be published on their website. I think all Idratek users will agree that they are very helpful in resolving queries.

    It is possible to install a program to watch what Cortex sends/receives to the PCA/PCD. I used Advanced Serial Port Monitor from Agg Software. It is also possible to use a second PCD as a bus monitor, although I I got distracted by real life before I got very far with this.

    The packets are more sophisticated than, for example, X-10, and I doubt simple replay would work. Reverse engineering is feasible, but would be hard work, far easier to get hold of the Idratek documents - so perhaps a question for Karam to clarify Idratek's position on this.

    It then would be possible to treat the Idranet simplistically as a network of sensors and actuators and handle events on your Linux box. I have to say that it seems the worst of both worlds to me, a lot of programming to get a simplistic control scheme with the attendant costs of running a Linux box 24/7.

    So there is a degree of do-ability, but it's a shed load of work to avoid a Windows box and get to the level of automation that Cortex provides. Perhaps you can clarify what your reservations about using Windows are, there may be a lateral approach.

    For example, one approach, foregoing the high level features of Cortex, might be to create a pure Reflex control scheme, which only needs a Windows PC to run Cortex to set up the program, which might be handled using a dual-boot setup. Once the Reflex program is loaded into the network the PC can be disconnected.

    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    The other option I guess is to connect a Idratek input/output module to a PC relay board and link the modules with Windows/Cortex and Reflex initially but that seems a bit stupid!
    If i understand the concept then I agree that it appears a bit stupid.

    Quote Originally Posted by qbatqbat View Post
    Do other companies produce similar products (control over a low power cat5 wired network rather than a C-Bus type setup) - I can't find any others other than Wireless (prefer not) or X10 (not reliable enough after past experience).
    Agree on X-10. Chris did an extensive survey of alternatives and is best placed to comment. I guess I don't understand why you exclude C-Bus from low power wired Cat-5, there is also EIB which I think uses something similar to Cat-5, and maybe even Cat-5. It's difficult to beat Idratek for functionality vs price IMHO though.

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    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    It would certainly be an intriguing experiment. There may be other lossage - I'm guessing a hardware CCTV card might not virtualise either. YMMV.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd love a Linux based Cortex. Sorry Chris, yes that was Linux, not OSX

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    jpdw,

    Good point I was thinking ESX but you are correct that VMWare Server (previously GSX I believe) is freely downloadable and will run on Windows or Linux.

    Paul

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