Alternative to MainLobby?


What are others using as an alternative to ML?
Dont get me wrong I LOVE ML but with the new version coming out it looks Like I will have to shell out a bunch of $$ and just want to make sure I am not missing a good alternative. I am amost positive I will stick with ML.

I am currently running HomeSeer, MainLobby and an Elk M1G.

Is CQC and alternative? What are the differences? Can you use custom graphics with it? Elk support? Easy to use?

Thanks for the info,
There are many choices when it comes to Home Automation software. CQC seems to be an excellent "matured" package. On the HomeSeer boards there is another flash based "Harmony" package.

Plus it is ALWAYS good to look at alternative solutions to see if anything offers a more viable a solution than what you are presently using!

I myself like versatility in my control software so I can interface many things as I have the desire to buy/learn/implement them. I also do not like to spend a lot of time getting a user interface to work (i.e. have to spend a lot of time configuring software).

I believe that the combination of HomeSeer and MainLobby gives me this versatility. HomeSeer, yes both the good and the bad of it, lets me interface ALL of my hardware to my automation system. This is very important to me! I have not had a piece of hardware yet that HomeSeer can't handle. This includes Caddx NX8E Security System, Ocelot (with Relay Output and Digital Input add on modules), PH Anderson A-D board, NetCallerID, W800 RF Receiver, MR26a RF Receiver, Elk M1 Gold, etc...

Of course I have to tell you that I have NOT yet upgraded to the new HomeSeer 2.x version (still on 1.7x).

I like the versatility HomeSeer offers in their scripting as well as their web interface.

Now, to get all of this into a user interface I use MainLobby as it has the power to interface with ALL of my HomeSeer devices. I can create some great looking scenes using a wide variety of library buttons/icons/etc... and I can have them change color/appearance based on the status of those devices. Of course I can just read the raw values in those scenes.

MainLobby also offers other advantages in Home Theater/Audio as well.

So again, just my opinion mind you, but I don't see another platform combination as versatile (i.e. can interface with all of my hardware) currently on the market. Maybe some day, just not today...

Do you use Homeseer Phone and the Way To Call modem? I am looking for a potential alternative to the Stargate phone board (since they don't make it any more) and somebody on the Stargate mailing list suggested Homeseer Phone could do most of what I am doing now. That is: It can go off hook on one of the extension ports on my Panasonic phone system, dial the paging access code, and make a TTS or wav announcement.

This simple but critical action seems to totally stump most automation platforms and I'm trying to find somebody who is doing it with homeseer just to confirm it is at least possibe on that platform.
I'm using CQC in concert with the Elk. I haven't turned off ADT yet as I'm still running the sensors, but all these screens are fully functional. Custom graphics are trivial to use and easy to import, and I dig the fact that it supports PNG files so that I get high quality images. The screens below just have my house floorplan as a custom graphic, but I've got a ton of stuff that I've gotten from other users that I've also imported in other screens. For example, I'm using ripper's Elk graphics. Check out the personal site in my sig for some more screenshots.

I'm also using the RAIN8 and Aprilaire HVAC directly with CQC as I had them up before I got the Elk. I'll put those screenshots last, but there's no reason I couldn't go via the Elk there too.

Check out my questions here - they're pretty newbie & simplistic. I'm a business middle-manager in the healthcare industry who's still trying to understand Photoshop Elements - If I can integrate CQC with the Elk, anyone can...




Direct via CQC [ie no need for Elk, but I could if I want]



I only use HomeSeer with the devices I listed above. HomeSeer phone never really seemed to be ready for prime time (by reading all the posts on basic problems it has) so I stayed away from it.

Of course YMMV. Also, one that has actually played with HomeSeer phone should chime in as their opinion would of course be more valuable than mine.

Also, I don't want this thread to turn negative as it could actually contain a lot of good information on the various packages out there! It would be nice if people could just list the capabilities and the likes/dislikes of the packages they are using out of respect for the OP's post.

Also, importance is a relative issue and usually varies on the individual. I will forgo some features/options in order to retain the versatility as I tend to use a lot of different hardware configurations. Others may not have this as a priority as they only have one or two pieces of hardware that they will have to configure.

So again, the favorite package of one person may not match another's.
upstatemike said:
Tymon said:
What are others using as an alternative to ML?
I've seen people mention XLobby... Is that an alternative product or just another name for the same thing?
I don't know much about XLobby but it is not a Cinemar product. I know Michael McSharry was playing around with it with his xAP interface for a while.

Actually it "may" be an alternative but I don't think it is as easy to interface. Hopefully others can chime in that have use xLobby.

BTW: I'm sure most users have seen my MainLobby scenes but HERE they are in case other users are curious.
The good news is that I think Tymon's original post was before Cinemar clarified that what he used to do (open DVD files on many clients which used to require many MLServer software installs), not does not need any additional MLServers, so in actuality, he is better off with the new version for a very nominal upgrade price increase.

Of course, please Tymon, update your post here if my assumption is incorrect, based on your question and subsequent follow up on Cinemar's forum.

Tymon's latest Cinemar forum post:

"A little confusing but I take it that the short and sweet is:
You will not need run an instance of MLServer to DVDlobby to show Cover art and play a movie on any client.

This is AWESOME news!!!

I never liked running MLServer on every client just to get DVDLobby to work.



So, this is a "win" for MainLobby 3!! ;)

XLobby is a freeware user interface that is mostly centered on Media control. Very nice product, especially for the money (free).
However, no where near as configurable or as powerful as either MainLobby or CQC or Homeseer (all commercial products).
If you are doing a standalone living room theater, it is a real nice solution. If you are automating a home and need commercial product support as a dealer, or if you like to add all kinds of neat automation and media control power, or if you want your system to be "yours" and not look like someone elses, then the three other commercial versions are for you.

EDIT: BSR or Electron - how can MainLobby be added to the forum quick links?
You correct. That was one of the big factors.
The others being that I own several plugins and I am not sure if I will have to pay to upgrade those as well. It could turn into a lot of $$ just to upgrade.

I guess I am just looking for alternatives. Both in functionality, flexability and price.

BSRs post to my initial post pretty much explains exactly why I am using ML. It is just so darn flexable.

Like I said, I LOVE MainLobby.

I just didnt want to shell out a bunch of $$ if there is another option I should consider.

Thus far, I will be sticking with ML. (although I am going to dig into CQC a little more).

Please keep the suggestions coming!

CQC certainly supports the Elk very well. The biggest advantage you'd get by switching is that you could take 2 products (and I guess maybe 3 or 4 if you are using J.River and or DVD Profiler), with a single product, which is highly integrated. It makes a big difference in the stability and ease of maintenance.
DavidL said:
XLobby is a freeware user interface that is mostly centered on Media control. Very nice product, especially for the money (free).
However, no where near as configurable or as powerful as either MainLobby or CQC or Homeseer (all commercial products).
Just to further clarify for comparison purposes: CQC is functionally equivalent to the combination of MainLobby and Homeseer? Or are CQC and MainLobby comparable and both would still be used in conjunction with Homeseer?
CQC works standalone, at least according to Dean, that he has posted above that he considers it a competitive advantage due to concerns over "stability". Crestron and AMX seem to share that model, and price it accordingly. CQC, being a very small software company, can't price that aggressively for many reasons that also are shared by Cinemar.

MainLobby is highly flexible and can be used both standalone, or integrated with any number of other products including Homeseer, HAL, J River MediaCenter, and lots more. MainLobby integrates with best of breed applications to provide the same Robustnesss that Dean speaks of, but from a different strategy.

I don't think that Dean has been keeping up with MainLobby advances (and I have not CQC advances) as in many posts he speaks of the requirement of MainLobby to be used with another product which, in reality is not the case as MainLobby is robust home automation and media control on it's own merit. MainLobby is a more open application to outside development and integration than most others. This is why it has been succesful in the marketplace as it provides the freedom to explore the advantages of other products both hardware and software to accomplish the end goal.

Dean, as FYI, only a portion of MainLobby customers use another product like Homeseer. They just happen to be the more vocal forum participants as they are really into their hobby, and post on boards like this.

I am not aware that CQC has done any integration with, or other software solutions have tried to integrate with CQC like what is done frequently with MainLobby. Dean has sent me a reply message that it is technically possible, but I didn't get the impression that he found that strategy appealing, so I didn't persue. Always open to that discussion though Dean!

So, CQC so far likes to do it alone, and MainLobby can manage on it's own, or you can addon another software product to really leverage the best in industry approach. For instance, both HAL and Homeseer offer very nice voice recognition. MainLobby could add that feature, but it's really not that attractive from a commercial dealer perspective so the DIY can accomplish this by integration between MainLobby and HS or HAL. So, all of our customers get what they want. This is one example of hundreds.

Another example is one that Dean brings up - DVDProfiler. This is an excellent (best standalone) application to lookup movies. Many folks love this product. Now, if that is your choice, you can manage your coverart and movie metadata there and then easily import into MainLobby's DVDLobby for the best movie presentation and launch control. Now, MainLobby has it's own lookup (that I personally use), but some like DVDProfiler better. So, there is a choice. And, many very cool methods in development that will be the best in industry approaches (tease).

If automation based on Events and Conditionals and Variable changes and Time is what you really want (the essentials to automation), then MainLobby 3 has that all on it's own. Don't forget that MainLobby also is the king of media control as that is it's roots. No one's products compare on this regard IMHO. And, from a music perspective, that comes about by leveraging the best music database and player in the industry - J River Media Center 11. Again, best of breed approach.

One guy can't do it all the best. But, each specialist company can do their part, and MainLobby brings it all together into a highly reliable, hugely configurable, feature rich, supportable product.
I have two thoughts, which honestly may be true about MainLobby also but I just don't know enough to say. I last test-drove *Lobby in August, at the same time I was testing out CQC, and I'm sure my info is outdated by now. But, I believe them to be strengths of CQC, so I'll mention them here.

1) As an end-user, I'm distrustful of relying on multiple apps to get the job done. I'm not interested in which widget by which company I need in order to have an integrated HA/HTPC system - I just want my business requirements met and I'd rather have "one throat to choke" if my system doesn't work. Stability is paramount, and I'm a dead man if I introduce instability by upgrading one product but not the other (and how often have I heard that? "oh, you need Vx.x of our product in order to work - we haven't yet upgraded our stuff to that other company's latest version")

As someone who has overseen many different business "partnerships" and the investment community in my day job, my jaded belief is that regardless of what the partnership agreement says, any given company simply does not have a fiduciary responsibility to make the customers of another company any happier than they need to be. Plus, I'm not interested in reading a single word under the heading of "How to Integrate <xxx> with CQC". I'm eagerly anticipating the upcoming V1.7 release of CQC that will:
- do away with the requirement for even more software packages, bring more in-house [or embed them behind the scenes so that I don't even have to think about them]
- Have direct support for even more devices. CQC is coming up on 100 devices directly controlled, and this native support allows for great flexibility and power in creating an integrated automation/front-end engine.

2) 2nd-to-none support from the user community, who really use the product and have nothing to gain from marketing hype. Dean has been able to create an almost cult-like environment with a ludicriously strong and passionate user community that really helps spoonfeed the newcomers [and oldtimers] in accomplishing tasks with CQC and/or any other device they need to accomplish their goals.

If you post a question on the CQC forums, within 6 hours you will have responses from 5-10 different users, both assisting you in doing something, as well as describing their own setups so you get some alternatives. Folks rush in to share their own code, macros, etc., so that others don't have to waste unnecessary time struggling. And, even the newcomers are adopting this mentality. Just yesterday 2 different folks who are still in their 30-day trial walked a brand new newbie through how to setup CQC. Talk about assimliation - it is a volume of traffic and warm welcome that I don't see on forums with 10x the # of users.

Between this and Dean's 24x7x365 work ethic and support, I don't view CQC as a 2-person company at all, rather much much bigger.

Anyhow, this whole thing may be true of both companies, no idea. Just thought I'd point out why I personally feel that some of CQC's strategies make much better business sense than some would think if they just glanced at the surface.
Well said IVB

CQC for the money is really a bargin. I tell everyone to try all of them out and find what they fell fits them the best.
EVERY Product out there has it's advantages and disadvantages. A feature on one product might be what gets you to buy it but the same feature might mean nothing to another. The only way to get the right one for yourself is to run the trial as Tech-Home said.