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Open Source Hardware controller


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#1 Waynedb

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 05:02 PM

There are a couple of interesting threads over at AVSForum started by someone who is going to be building an open source hardware automation controller.
http://www.avsforum....d.php?t=1294640
http://www.avsforum....d.php?t=1294971

#2 TonyNo

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 08:57 PM

Nice tip, Wayne!

#3 Dan (electron)

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 09:20 AM

Someone needs to point this guy to this place ;) The CT*AMEE thread probably has most of the specs the controller should have.

#4 Waynedb

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 09:54 AM

I sent him a link to this thread.

#5 BlueBill

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 02:02 PM

Well here I am and thanks for the warm welcome. I'm actually working on the CPU spec (which affects which peripherals and what overall computing power would be available) right now.

#6 Dan (electron)

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 02:24 PM

Hey BlueBill, welcome to CT!

In case you are wondering about CT*AMEE, check out this thread, which was an April Fools joke, but seemed to be close enough to a really great controller ;)

#7 BlueBill

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 02:38 PM

Ok I've looked at the CT*AMEE spec (2007) is that the thread?

Moderator feel free to post this in a new or appropriate thread and I'll be happy to work from there.

Looks good, here's my 2c for what it's worth. (remember a new broom sweeps clean) my comments in red.

.: features :.
hardware
Intel Xscale processor (667 Mhz) how much Flash & RAM on the chip?
2 USB ports (supporting mass storage, serial port hubs, etc.) I'm so not sold on USB as it's short range and a nearby PC would be required, also writing USB host driver software is painful at best, that said it's cheap enough to add a USB B connector.
2 serial ports (DCE) RS232DCR, DTR would be handy for X10 Firefly support
10/100 ethernet interface
16 onboard inputs (digital or analog, 10 bit) IMHO I'd drop some of the I/O in favor of a smaller form factor and a more modular design
8 onboard digital outputs see above comment, maybe 4 generic I/O would be enough but tell me what you'd hook up and lets see.
V.92 modem, with CID support I'd drop this in favor of an external modem on one of the RS232 ports. It also would need to be certified with the phone companies, plus cost.
1-wire interface yes, but this can easily be part of the GPIO I/O ports
Bluetooth 2.1 interface (great for RFID!) drop, cost and an external RS232 unless you want the excitement of writing a USB Bluetooth stack...
ZigBee IEEE 802.15.4-2003 interface yes, in the battle between ZigBee & Z-Wave I'd go with ZigBee and to avoid hassle of the ZigBee stack $$$$ and use the cheap & cheerful XBee S2 $20 or XBee SP2 $30
RS485 interface (supporting AlphaNet, ADInet, Elk, and more coming soon) I was planning on using a single MAX3111E RS232,485,422 all on a single IC
1 IR zone (RX,TX) using stereo jacks (zones can be expanded using SECU16) I'd use a separate small processor to keep the timing (and add the 1wire stuff) for IR three blaster outputs and a single IR in TSOP1138 onboard

Unit can be clustered for high availability, or to monitor remote locations (IPSEC)
Fits in a standard 14" structured wiring can packaging is important, is this case common & cheap? Hammond & PacTek make nice inexpensive plain plastic cases.
12 VDC (with battery terminals)

software ahh the tricky part, but sounds right to me. (I'm a hardware engineer after-all)
Linux based firmware
Cepstral TTS engine
CT*flex scripting/rule engine
Web based interface (with AJAX and SSL support)
Native ZigBee, Insteon, UPB, Z-wave, Insteon support, X10 (using serial/USB interfaces, except for ZigBee)

major features
2 modes: 'home' and 'advanced'. You can either use the rule wizard to generate very powerful rules quickly without having to know or learn a new language, or you can use the advanced CT*flex scripting engine. CT*flex supports serial and IP based communications, advanced math and ASCII string processing and much more.
No client software is required
Because the firmware is Linux based (2.6 kernel), you can create your own drivers, or modify the existing ones.

Food for thought. Linux home server "plugs" are becoming cheaper and more common every year. Example PogoPlug, Synology, QNAP, GuruPlug would take a major chunk out of the hardware / software design and could act as the core of the system (with almost unlimited storage and processing power compared to the above design. A simpler non Linux but still open source with autonomy AMEE would drive the cost and complexity down.

#8 linuxha

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 11:59 PM

Hey guys, this sounds like my DollHouse project (I've only partially read the threads). Right now I'm using MisterHouse and Perl on a Sheeva Plug (ARM 1GHZ 512M RAM - I also have a Guru Plug but I hear I'm going to have cooling problems). I have the following hardware available to me: SimpleHomeNet ZBPLM (Insteon, X10 and ZigBee), RS485 USB dongles (to be used with my HCS II), XBee modules for a Thermostat and Tweet-a-watt, Elexol EtherIO 24, Elexol USBIO24, Labjack U12, ... uhm this list is getting a bit long (I've got a lot more hardware but I think you get the point). I'm currently working on MisterHouse, Insteon, X10 and getting the Elexol EtherIO 24 (EIO) working together. I'm currently up to the EIO driver. :-) I also have Java/Groovy running on my Sheeva (very cool!). That's the phase 2 project where MisterHouse is replaced by a Java/Groovy based project. While working on the code I'm investigating other technologies to integrate into the project. I should have some SimpleHomeNet ZigBee devices next month. Additionally my research suggests that Lutron could be supported too. I'm really still in the architect stage of my research. The MisterHouse/DollHouse part is for a presentation/demo at the Trenton Computer Festival (TCF - NJ) on April 2nd (bird in the hand so to say).

#9 BlueBill

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 08:16 AM

Good stuff Neil. I'm going to have to buy your book. Might I inquire about your XBee thermostat?

Just looked at the first chapter on Amazon. Like yourself I've been working in electronics since the mid 1970's

In 1976 I handwired a COSMAC ELF 1802
Posted Image

Edited by BlueBill, 15 December 2010 - 08:51 AM.


#10 Dan (electron)

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 09:10 AM

As for the AMEE comments, keep in mind it was done as a 'joke', but makes a great 'start' judging by the responses.
  • Processor: Xscale/ARM, as for memory, the more the better, but it's hard to figure this out without knowing the footprint of the OS/software.
  • USB: supporting mass storage would allow logging of sensor data. The other reason I added this is so people can add more serial ports to their controller, using supported serial port adapters.
  • V.92 modem, with CID support: I agree about the modem comment, especially now that people are dropping land lines.
  • ZigBee: this one is a little tricky for sure. Now that ZigBee Pro has been released, I would like to see support for that. ZigBee RF4CE is another option that should be there.
  • The case shown in the picture is a real picture of a Core2Duo based system which can be DIN rail mounted. I think you'll have plenty of flexibility here, but being able to be mounted in a structured wiring can is pretty important.


#11 linuxha

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 09:42 AM

Good stuff Neil. I'm going to have to buy your book. Might I inquire about your XBee thermostat?

Just looked at the first chapter on Amazon. Like yourself I've been working in electronics since the mid 1970's

1) Make sure you get the book discount as it's old and really should be updated (but no one has asked). Don't tell my publisher I said that. :-)

2) Yup, high school (1978), I must say that I've enjoyed the trip and the cool stuff hasn't begun yet! :-)

3) XBee Thermostats. I'm actually working on 2 different types. XBee (Digi XBee) without an extra CPU and an AVR Raven based unit. I have all base board heating and I need an intelligent thermostat for each room. I have 2 Oullett X10 units that work well but are no longer made. I have two 'intelligent thermostats' that are annoying and live on a stiff schedule. Let's face it there seems to be nothing for electric base board. I hope to have at least the XBee units ready for my presentation in April (that's a big 'if' though).

In 1976 I handwired a COSMAC ELF 1802

... deleted ...


Nice, do you have pictures of the other side? I have a nice wire wrapped Z80 Starter kit at work. I didn't do the wrapping but it's art! Of course it probably can only truly be appreciated by those who have done that kind of work. :-)

#12 linuxha

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 10:00 AM

As for the AMEE comments, keep in mind it was done as a 'joke', but makes a great 'start' judging by the responses.

  • Processor: Xscale/ARM, as for memory, the more the better, but it's hard to figure this out without knowing the footprint of the OS/software.
  • USB: supporting mass storage would allow logging of sensor data. The other reason I added this is so people can add more serial ports to their controller, using supported serial port adapters.
  • V.92 modem, with CID support: I agree about the modem comment, especially now that people are dropping land lines.
  • ZigBee: this one is a little tricky for sure. Now that ZigBee Pro has been released, I would like to see support for that. ZigBee RF4CE is another option that should be there.
  • The case shown in the picture is a real picture of a Core2Duo based system which can be DIN rail mounted. I think you'll have plenty of flexibility here, but being able to be mounted in a structured wiring can is pretty important.


When I talk Linux systems I always suggest a large dose of RAM. Linux doesn't need it but the applications that the user will want (they just don't know it yet :-) really could use the extra RAM. I like the Sheeva for that reason, 512M of RAM is a good dose. The MisterHouse software is currently running in 4M of RAM (but it's not under heavy use). On my current main system it looks like this:

Cpu(s): 10.8%us, 0.7%sy, 0.0%ni, 86.6%id, 1.4%wa, 0.4%hi, 0.1%si, 0.0%st
Mem: 483252k total, 466484k used, 16768k free, 12860k buffers
Swap: 983032k total, 368728k used, 614304k free, 55316k cached

PID USER PR NI VIRT RES SHR S %CPU %MEM TIME+ COMMAND
9343 mh 15 0 47464 38m 2644 S 1.9 8.2 23:00.54 mh

This is a 1GHz Athlon w/512M of RAM. I've got a lot of extra junk in there that I'm playing with at the moment. The Sheeva version is running a modified version of MisterHouse and is a bit lighter on resources.

The reason I said that the user doesn't know is that if you can make this work smoothly the user the user gets idea runs to the 'App Grocery Store' and downloads the next '99 cent app' to add to the mix (my project is open source so the 99 cent app is a metaphor but don't ask me to spell that ;-) ).

I saw that someone mentioned KNX, I'd love to get my hands on KNX but the stuff is expensive and there doesn't seem to be any consumer stuff in the US. There appears to be a lot of it in Europe. It is already in MisterHouse though MisterHouse needs some tuning to take better advantage of it..

BTW, I hope to look at the AMEE (?) stuff later tonight so I can catch up.

#13 Waynedb

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:28 AM

This is getting very interesting, my brother used to do a lot of stuff with low power devices and custom programming in Linux. I think I too will check out your book.



#14 BlueBill

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:34 AM

I think I should start a new thread. First lets pick a name. AMEE or something else, off the top of my head HARP Home Automation for Real People. Then I'll try to put a block diagram together describing my overall vision so it can be expanded and modified into a community vision.

#15 linuxha

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 12:43 PM

I think I should start a new thread. First lets pick a name. AMEE or something else, off the top of my head HARP Home Automation for Real People. Then I'll try to put a block diagram together describing my overall vision so it can be expanded and modified into a community vision.


I'm a real people? Remember no one on the internet knows you're a dog! Woof!




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