#1 HA software


New Member
Hi, I'm new to the HA thing, but I am a techy and love the idea of having a smart home. I did a little searching and it seems that homeseer and hal2000 seem to be the best bang for the buck. Just curious to know what the opinions on this site are. The one feature that I feel is very important to me in regards to what software I will end up using is speech recognition. Which software does it best? I am definately a newbie, but now that I found this forum I will be reading and learning until I become a HA guru..lol. I look forward to hearing your opinions.
jiggygent said:
Hi, I'm new to the HA thing, but I am a techy and love the idea of having a smart home. I did a little searching and it seems that homeseer and hal2000 seem to be the best bang for the buck. Just curious to know what the opinions on this site are. The one feature that I feel is very important to me in regards to what software I will end up using is speech recognition. Which software does it best? I am definately a newbie, but now that I found this forum I will be reading and learning until I become a HA guru..lol. I look forward to hearing your opinions.
The best advice I can give is to download the software and try the 30 day trials. HomeSeer can be downloaded here: http://www.homeseer.com/downloads/index.htm

There's also a very active message board for HomeSeer available here:
Unfortunately, that's a little bit like asking what color red is the best. It depends a lot on personal preference. It also depends on your level of comfort with programming. A lot of people on this board like CQC (don't know if it does VR), and there's HomeSeer and HAL. I personally use HomeSeer and am happy with it (usually ;) ).
thanks! Actually, I have no programming experience whatsoever. But I see tons of people post plugins and scripts for different software that seems to be plenty for me. =0) I am slightly computer savvy so I can figure things out pretty easily.. But I am looking for ease of use. It seems from what I read homeseer seems to be most popular. After looking at james lipsit's website I was ready to jump right into hal 2000. But I read that homeseer can do more and cost significantly less.. so i'm leaning towards that.. but I just want to get the most for my money. I want to make sure whatever I get that I have scalability as well. And both of those seem to do that.. any other programs that can do as much as those two??
If you want to take it out of the box and just use it then HAL is the strongest VR. If you want to buy lincoln logs and build your own then Homeseer gives you more options for customization. If you want to fabricate your own logs then take a drive by Misterhouse and see if looks appealing. As stated above, CQC has some following here, but its strength is with the the front-end graphics rather than VR. There are also many smaller players in the game, but I'm not aware of any that focus on VR such as is done with HAL.

Most new users have expectation of open air VR such as is illustrated on futuristic shows. The setup of an environment where open air VR is usable is a difficult and expensive endeavor. What you will find more workable is something like a telephone as the voice source so the background noise does not detract from the voice commands.
Of course, i'd agree that CQC has very strong front-end skills, but i'd also state that it's got a fantastically powerful back-end, and that I consistently see a higher average installation complexity than with any other package. Of course, I don't hang on the HS forums, and this is the only real HA forum i'm on, so my perspective is obviously skewed.

There was a poll done a few months back on this. I'm sure MUCH has changed since then, I know there was an absolutely massive influx of customers to CQC so the #s are probably far different now. We went from something like 10 users per monthly user group webex to 2 webex'es per month, each with 20. That may not sound like huge #s, but given that most folks are forum type folks, and that they're scheduled for 8:30am Saturday morning PST/11:30am EST, getting 20 folks to chat about HA is a pretty mean feat.

Of course, who is #1 is meaningless unless the software can actually do what you want it to do, at a price point you can handle. I personally don't think VR is going to be ready for widespread adoption with open-air usage for a long time, so in the meantime i'm automating everything else using a touchscreen, security keypad, or remote based interaction method.

But trust me - once I can use my voice instead of a touchpad to reliably interact with my HA setup instead of anything else without spending $4K on a gentner mixer, i'll immediately do so.
Forget about VR. I concur with Michael. Nice for Wow, not practical for real use.
But, If Wow w/ VR is really important, sounds like Homeseer or HAL.
Once you have either of them working, don't forget you can add MainLobby as a front end, and as additional back end power. Also adds full media capability (distributed music / video / control of AV equipment).

So, very extensible with either.

If VR is found to not be important, then HS has best bang for the buck of the "primary" players.

If you have some additional budget (~$200 compared to $400 - $1000) and you want to concentrate the Wow in polished user interface from a touchscreen (much more practical in every day use), then MainLobby and then CQC are the primary players.

For Media control, then MainLobby and CQC are the players.

For ease of setup (especially for media and lighting), then MainLobby.

All of these choices are good valid products that are supported well with their user and company supported forums. None of them do everything, but all do lots.

You should also look at your existing hardware when making a purchase decision. As the hardware is way more expensive than the software, picking the software that doesn't support YOUR hardware can be very expensive wrong choice.
With that said, All of the software supports Infrared so that's not a problem. But, if you have Serial or TCP (ethernet) controllable devices (like a security panel) then you should see if that hardware is supported by the vendor.
Biased. Duh. As are all on here. A couple folks make money related to their bias (like David). Why the rest of us have the biases we do is a study in human nature. ;)

Frankly, I thought that was a more balanced response than I expected when I see a Cinemar person doing the posting. :)
C'mon, David, you're trying to be fair to the competition... what kind of capitalistic approach is that? :p

jiggy, I have limited experience in the HA space. I've been playing at HA for about nine years now. I have only gone full-tilt on two platforms so far: HomeSeer and MainLobby. I tinkereed with HAL, CQC, PowerHome, and a couple of others long forgotten. I'm a simple guy with limited techy knowledge and little patience for implementing many things at once. If something basically meets my needs, I'm unlikely to start over with another until the old one ceases to meet my needs. My budget is moderate, but I'm not shy to buy things - and expect many of them not to work. Of course, my wife's "needs" supersede mine. :p

My primary focus has always been touchscreen-based systems for home automation. I tried VR / TTS. Yuck. Not useful with wife, kids, guests. Not in my experience, at least. I think the most impressive thing to show anyone - wife, kids, guests, etc - is a system that does what is expected of it - be that function ever-so-humble... it must WORK... and it must be simple enough to USE that they can do it.

What I want it to do:
Irrigation / Sprinklers
Security System
Video Security
Caller ID Notification
Phone Control
Photo Album
other things... email, recepies, games, etc.

HomeSeer worked well for this stuff for a long time. I put a lot of hours into making it control three CD changers via touchscreens through the web interface. Lighting and sprinklers and security and weather and such all worked great. But the interface was hideous by todays standards. And I'm no graphic designer... bummer.

I tried and/or bought a few packages trying to get the "next" GUI to make this stuff work better.

Finally, Cinemar's back-end server came out, which made it possible to support HomeSeer and build an attractive front end.

Today, I've dumped HomeSeer and am only using the Cinemar stuff. It has its good and bad points - like anything else - but it really serves the touch-screen UI incredibly well.

Welcome aboard.
CQC doesn't do VR, for the reasons already discussed. It's something that sounds great but probably really isn't practical for most folks and it costs a lot to really make it work. So we've just concentrated our efforts elsewhere.

Independent of the discussion at hand, I would also like to correct the above impression that CQC is mainly strong in the graphical area. It is strong in that area, but it's has an extensive and powerful back end as well. Note that 'back end' is not the same as 'number of drivers', but is all the architcture behind the pretty face. Of course no product does everything so one may be stronger in a given area than another, but in terms of overall backend functionality, it's very powerful.

When someone wants to show off their system, it's way easier to just post pictures of the interfaces than to explain all the wiring behind it, so it's easy sometimes to get the feeling that a product is all about the user interface I guess. If they tried to explain all the wiring, that gets into the 'product-speak' of the individual product in many cases, and it would just sound like Greek (or Geek) to the uninitiated.
I'd like to think I am pretty unbiased <_< . Those who really know me know that I usually just call it like I see it. But the bottom line is that people's biases come from what works for THEM. Everybody is individual. learns differently, acts and reacts differently, has different wants and needs, etc. That's what makes the world so exciting. IMHO, none of the systems in the major marketplace are inherintly bad. Your choice has to be a personal one, based on how a particular product 'feels' to you, the support you get, the company behind it, etc. One mans junk is another mans treasure. Some people love HAL and think the VR is the best thing since sliced bread. I tried it and also bought this stupidly expensive Acoustic Voice Tracker microphone and I couldn't get the darn thing to be more than like 60% accurate, even just at the local pc. You could argue I'm an ID 10 T and didn't know what I was doing, or I have a weird voice, or it could be more than 100 different other factors. The point is don't be fooled by others experience because yours will be unique, but, in general, I agree VR is not ready for plug and play, especially in a home where there are kids or other sources of noise. Does that mean it doesn't work, not at call. Paul Koslowsky, Jim Lipsit and others have built awesome VR systems that work great for them. And as for software, you just need to try them on, just like you would test drive a car, your impressions will be different from others. While many people think Mainlobby is awesomely easy out of the box, I found it very unintuitive. Others think CQC takes an engineering degree to do something simple - I found once you got past some design oddities it was very easy and natural to create stuff very rapidly. But that is just MY experience, but I know Mainlobby is a good groduct - just like I know a Jaguar is every bit as good if not better than a Honda, but I prefer a Honda. Also their marketing strategies are polar opposites. They are all good, just different. But jump on in, the waters nice - just be your own person and make your own choices.
What a question!

Which one does the most? Well, I would have to say Crestron but you'd better have a pretty big budget for that.

Other than that, it really depends on what is most important to you. You have to take a look at your requirements, programming ability, etc.

I think Rupp's suggestion of running a few of them in trial mode is a good one. Perhaps that will give you a feel for what is comfortable for you. I have run several of the packages mentioned and they are all good.

What are you planning on doing with it?
I just want to say thanks to all of you for your opinions. The participation in this forum is great. I am learning more with every thread I read.. I really appreciate it.

AutomatedOutlet, I want it to control lights, hvac, multimedia, security, access weather.

Let me just say, I haven't even started this project. This is still in the early planning stages. I'm looking into what is the best hardware to buy to meet my needs. So far after reading some threads It looks like i'll need a gentner ap800 mixer, some pzm 11 mics and still not sure what would be the best hardware for lights and other devices.. but looks like x10 seems reasonable. I always plan way in advance and just buy everything at once..lol I like to get my hands dirty and get to work and not stop until im done. I find this to be a challenge and something new for me to learn and I love that. I'd love to hear more ideas.. thanks again for all the opinions. Keep'em coming!