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Thread: Some questions and advice please...

  1. #1
    Automated Home Sr Member
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    Oct 2009
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    Default Some questions and advice please...

    I have not had the need to mess with my Idratek system for a while - has it has worked well and has been stable. However, circumstances dictate that I have to make some changes, hence questions...

    I may have to move house in about 12 to 18 months. The way the house has been wired up, there are no conventional light switches. I do have CAT5 running to where light switches used to be and we have Idratek switches, but lights pretty much turn on and off depending on how we use the room, and only in a few rooms do we use the Idratek switches. I will therefore have to leave things as they are, but not sure how any subsequent owners will find Idratek. Currently, Cortex is running on an Epia with Windows XP (!), and I had not really needed to upgrade either the machine or Cortex. It is rackmounted in the garage and on the odd occasions (after brownouts, which we do get every now and then), I have had to VNC in to restart Cortex. Trying to convince any new owners that this is not too difficult a task may be difficult! I have considering replacing the system with either Loxone or KNX as I believe I ought to be able to re-use my CAT5 cabling, but I do think Idratek is a much better system and will regret dismantling it if I do end up living here a few more years. Hence, questions and advice....

    1. Is there an Idratek installer who may be able to take over the system and support / remote configure for any new owners? This would mean that I can keep the system as it is and don't need to spend money to replace it.
    2. If anyone has considered moving away from Idratek, would KNX or Loxone be a better substitute? I think if I were replacing the system, I would have to go with an installer, rather than DIY, for support later.

    Now, a few other questions...

    3. If I remember correctly, Karam did mention sometime ago about a firmware module which works like a super reflex? Is there such a module or one planned? This would mean that all the clever stuff can sit in a box with just a web interface for the stats etc and a Windows laptop will only be required for configuration. Is this is a possibility? This would remove reliance on a Windows machine running Cortex and ought to make transferring to a new owner an easier experience.

    4. My current AUI is working as a glorified doorbell only. I had been wanting to get DFP-H02s (I would want to get 6 - 8 !), but held off as I was hoping there would be a module which would make use of the video. I have recently been playing with Google Home minis but they are a disappointment as they do not work properly with our GSuite accounts, but the broadcast facility has become indispensable to get the kids downstairs. Is it possible to use the minis as an audio interface to Cortex and to allow two-way communication with the AUI? Maybe Alexa? Alternatively, can the DFP-H02 integrate with Google Assistant or Alexa such that it then becomes the interface? This would be a killer function!

    5. Our electric UFH is not as yet fully integrated with Cortex. It is currently only on and off via Cortex as I never found a way of integrating the floor temperature sensor with Cortex. Is there a way of doing this?

    Any thoughts / advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    Why do you have to VNC into your system to restart Cortex? Cortex can be set up to autostart and to auto run the network after the PC strats up. Similarly, so long as you have a PC whose BIOS supports it, you can configure the PC to autstart after a power resumption. So the user reset procedure in the case of any other glitch would be: Turn off the PC, turn off the IDRANet power, turn IDRANet power back on, turn PC back on and wait for a few minutes.

    Regarding the questions:

    1. IDRATEK can provide a remote support service so long as some kind of remote access to the system is made available. Typically this tends to be via something like Teamviewer or more recently AnyDesk.
    3. There was an idea some time ago to create a standalone module with some general logic programming capability - somewhere between the existing Reflex functions on individual modules and the full power of Cortex. The idea was to enable somewhat more elaborate but still relatively dumb logic functions to be more easily embedded at a lower power level - for example a more elaborate security alarm function which could run for longer on battery backup. However it was of debatable value. For simple lighting and heating the existing Reflex functionality within the modules can be used just fine. If you try and do more complex system state based stuff you soon end up specifying something with memory capacity, programmability and programming constructs which imight as well be Cortex on a small PC. In some ways its a matter of perception. Nowadays a 'PC' can be a palm sized solid state box with a power consumption of only a few watts. You simply turn this on and within a few minutes Cortex is running the network. It is the same as what might be considered the local controller for other home automation systems. The only difference is that we expose that it is Windows based and our users can have full access to the platform. However it doesn't mean that they have to. We have a number of more dedicated function installations (such as building lighting control, heating control and such) where the user just sees a small palm sized black box and their only interaction method with the system is via the Cortex mobile interface and/or via physical module buttons. As far as these users are concerned they simply have a controller box which, if anything goes wrong, they know via a notice label to toggle the system power and the black box power button as described above.
    4. Unfortunately no integration with these 3rd party devices. It also tends to be a pain to do these things only to find the 3rd party has decided to stop allowing you access in some way according to their whims... . Cortex itself can be used to handle camera images and you can then access via the Cortex mobile interface. Also I expect that our 'DIY' Android noticeboard app will shortly evolve to include display of camera video which would then make it easier to implement a 'display upon trigger' type of feature. Some basic inegration with Alexa has been implemented by one or two of our users in different ways. I think you'll find earlier posts in this forum on that matter.
    5. The floor temperature sensor (or up to 4 of these) connect into a QAI module which converts and linearises the thermistor signal and you get the usual Cortex temperature object at the end of it. This you can use as the temperature input in a standard HVAC object which then controls the power to the mat. So the concept is that you have an HVAC to control the floor temperature. You could also have an HVAC controlling the room temperature via an air temperature sensor. You can then modulate the floor HVAC with the demand from the air temperature HVAC (via a virtual boiler object I believe). In this way ensure the floor temperature doesn't exceed a certain level, or have different levels for cold or warm weather days (using the external temperature profile modifying feature).

  3. #3
    Automated Home Sr Member
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    Thanks Karam.

    I am currently using VNC as my EPIA does not auto start when power goes off and for some reason, was never able to have Cortex autostart, hence VNC, log in and start manually. The plan is to upgrade anyway, after all, the motherboard has working pretty much non-stop for over 10 years and running XP. I was thinking of getting something like a LattePanda, but just wonder what are you using for your dedicated installs?

    1. Remote support service is very reassuring

    2. I did speak to a Loxone rep yesterday. He had not heard of Idratek until my email and looked it up. He was amazed that you have been well ahead of the game - I think it must have been about 15 years ago that I first bought some modules from you to try in my house in Newcastle!

    3. I remember now - we did have this conversation previously and that having a standalone module was only slight less than a PC in terms of functionality. It would be great to be able to install a small box as you describe. If I am selling my house, I could get one of these from you programmed? I presume you can remotely monitor these to change functionality etc as above?

    4. Yes, I understand the reasoning.

    5. That is how I am currently using the electric UFH but without the QAI. I have the UFH controller set at a fixed temperature. I do not currently have CAT5 running to them directly but as they are not too far off from my current modules (and space that I have kept for DFPs), I should be able to get cabling to them.

    Looks like I am almost certainly going to bite the bullet and order some DFPs. Just some other thoughts... I currently use a videum video capture card for my AUI. It is not supported under W10. There are a myriad of USB capture "cards". What would be your recommendation? It would be nice if Cortex had built-in SIP functionality (maybe the W10 does?).

  4. #4
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    We have used some Beelink units - AP34 and BT3 Pro. The former is more powerful but unfortunately the BIOS doesn't yet allow auto power up after a mains resumption so rules it out until such time. In both cases it's a 4GB/64GB configuration. You do need the 64GB mainly for the sake of any initial W10 update but also no harm having the extra capacity for years of Cortex data logging. If you are doing significant video work then probably a solid alternative choice would be the NUC platforms, though I have no experience of these yet.

    2. Well certainly one of the biggest Loxone installers in the UK (according to them) has known of us for some time now

    3. Not sure if you misunderstood me. The 'small box' is for example the Beelink BT3 Pro described above, which is literally a palm sized solid state machine for around 120. CortexW10 licence/options added to this. Otherwise yes we could provide a procurement and setting up service if that is required. Obviously some labour cost will be involved depending on the overall complexity of your set up.

    I don't know about recommending a particular digitiser. As you say, quite a few around and we ourselves have a sprinkling of old ones with obscure brands, some which survived OS updates others not. Haven't done another round of testing for a while so I think it's going to have to be a case of pot luck or wait for reports from any other users who may have more recent experience. CortexW10 has an upgraded video handling component amongst other things but no SIP functionality has been introduced.

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