CQC 1.4 Beta available

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
A very late beta of CQC 1.4 is available if anyone wants to play with it. By very late I mean it's basically about ready to ship so it's only a beta in name. It's really very solid and has been through a number of internal betas and within the existing user community.

The major new goodies in this release are:
  • Media Management. The biggest ticket item in this release is CQC's first steps into the media management world. Our driver architecture has been extended to support 'media drivers'. This allows CQC to provide browsing of media repositories and control of media renderers, and to coordinate them into a coherent media system.
  • Graphical Interface Features. CQC's user interface designer/viewer system has been extensively improved in this release. Interface widgets were added to support the new media management features, to allow you to view cover art, to browse media categories and cover art. The 'action system' was extended to include the interface widgets themselves, allowing you to create very dynamic interfaces without any programming. The new toolbar widget is a very convenient way to provide access to more buttons than you have physical space for. And a new simple animation widget allows you to easily represent the active states of devices under control.
  • Elk M1 Support. A new driver is available for the Elk M1 and M1 Gold automation panels. It supports both the serial and Ethernet based connections. The M1 is a very popular automation panel that is very reasonably priced.
  • Escient Fireball Support. The first media repository device supported in our new media architecture is the Escient Fireball, which is a single zone, media repository and renderer for CDs and DVDs. You can browse the Escient cover art database and control it during playback.
  • J.River Disk Repository Support. J.River Media Center 11's disk based media repository is now supported as a CQC media repository, so you can browse the repository via category and cover art and invoke a renderer to play selected media.
  • Zoom Player Support. Zoom Player is now supported as a media renderer, and is a very powerful combination with a file-based media repository like J.River above, with CQC providing the coordination.
  • Undo in Interface Designer. The user interface designer tool now supports Undo, which allows you to safely experiment or to recover from accidental changes.
  • Z-Wave Driver Improvements. The Z-Wave driver was vastly improved in this release, and now is very quick and very reliable. Z-Wave automation via CQC now shows what Z-Wave is capable of.
  • JPEG Support. You can now import JPEG images into CQC for use in interfaces, in addition to the already supported PNG and bitmap formats.
The web site is being reworked for the new version. It's not completed yet, and it's not fully polished, but it is here:


There is a new 'Quick Tutorial' now, which is online instead of being in a separate Word document. It's the fastest way to evaluate CQC. Use the Learn tab, and then select the Quick Tutorial link and you can step through it. It will take you through a hands on installation and configuration of CQC. It will only be able to skim the surface in that short a time, but it will give you a good feel for what CQC is and does, what tools it provides, and so forth.

Feel free to give it a whirl. It's available for 30 days unencumbered, so you can play with it without any limitations . The new media stuff and the powerful new command system really crank CQC up to the next level. It now probably has the most powerful back end out there in the software-based world. The front end has now pulled even with the competition in terms of power and flexibility. And now we offer media management in the same package.

As far as the outlook for 1.5, the currently planned bit ticket items are:
  • Our own media ripping and meta data retrieval utiltiy. So we won't depend on any third party tools to let you create your hard drive based media respository.
  • A streaming server to support SqueezeBox, Exstreamer and other distributed music clients. So we'll be able to provide zoned music streaming from our own repository.
  • And we will plug a final hole in our back end capabilties by implementing an event system (i.e. if this happens, make that happen.) For us, this has to be a network-wide scheme, so we've had to think it out carefully and are ready to get this taken care of now. Since we will likely base it on the xAP scheme, it will only be a reasonably short jump from there to supporting xAP/xPL.
  • The .Net Viewer will become a full production product by the 1.5 time frame, actually before then, so we'll be alble to fully support small handheld devices. It is also available in a fairly early beta form now if you want to play with it.
  • And we'll be delivering our own hardware based controller configuration in the 1.5 time frame.
We hope to have 1.5 available before the end of the year. With the above features in place, I think that CQC will pull out ahead of our competitors in terms of what it can do all out of a single 'box', or with just one or two extra bits which are completely hidden behind the scenes, such as Zoom Player if you also want to play media from the controller as well as stream it out.
Wow, that's a lot of new stuff! I wish all automation platforms did development this aggressively!

Now that you have the Elk M1 support in place are there any plans to add other hardware automation controllers like Stargate or Homevision Pro? I was thinking the easiest way to talk to Stargate might be through its integrated web server.

Also how about supporting Virtual Weather Station? This gives you instant support for dozens of different weather stations for the effort of writing just one interface. (Much like your xAP/xPL strategy).

Anyway, keep up the good work!
I like the sound of being able to rip media right from CQC. Are you at all worried about the fact that some people may show up knocking on your door saying you are vilolating copy write laws?

Also in the long run are you planning on supporting features like the ability to add cover art and organie the media in a database?
Now that you have the Elk M1 support in place are there any plans to add other hardware automation controllers like Stargate or Homevision Pro? I was thinking the easiest way to talk to Stargate might be through its integrated web server.

We'd like to support all of them. But those types of devices are very time consuming so we might not be able to get them done ourselves in the short term. It usually takes a few weeks of work each, to get to understand the product and how to set it up and how it works and then to get the driver done.

For 1.5 we are really tightly focused on the issues above. We have a bad habit of letting the releases get a lot bigger than originally planned :) and they end up taking a lot longer than they should.

It would be great if someone wanted to take on a driver for one of those. We we be happy to give you a full product license in return. Are the protocols for these available online?
I like the sound of being able to rip media right from CQC. Are you at all worried about the fact that some people may show up knocking on your door saying you are vilolating copy write laws?

It will just be CDs at first. DVDs we won't support ripping for exactly that reason. We will provide the ability to browse movie repositories you have (like DVD Profiler) but we won't provide the ability to rip them ourselves. We'll be adding support for at least one mega-changer (the Sony 777) to handle movies on disk.

Also in the long run are you planning on supporting features like the ability to add cover art and organie the media in a database?

Yes, we'll be providing integration into at least one online meta data service for 1.5, so it'll be able to grab meta data and cover art during the ripping process. In the first cut, we aren't going to try to do any sort of DVD Profiler level of organization, but that will evolve over subsequent releases.
That sounds like a fair trade to me.

Write a driver that supports some USEFULL hardware and receive a free copy of the controller. Some of you guys who have the ability may want to jump on that because CQC is looking better and better in my eyes. I predict that by 1.6 or 1.7 version of CQC many of you will be drooling over its features wishing you had a copy.
Unfortunately I am not technical and cannot write a driver. But before I give up on the stargate support I want to point out one other possible shortcut. Pine Tree Systems located at http://www.getstarcom.com/ have a program called Starcom that exposes all of the I/O, variables, flags, etc of a Stargate and makes them available to other programs. Does something like that cut down development time enough to make it worth supporting the stargate?
It probably would be pretty much the same. If I was going to take on the driver, I'd just go straight to the device. It might be slightly harder, but significantly better in the end. Anything that leaves third party code out of the picture, the better generally. It just adds more pieces to the picture that can fail, as a rule.

If someone can point me at the protocol docs, I can talk a look at it and see what it's like. It might turn out to be easier than other controllers I've dealt with.
OK, it's not nearly as complex as an Elk or Omni, so it might not be too bad. Let me get the 1.4 release out (on the 5th), then after that I'll have some time to look into this.
You think the Elk M1 is complex? I find it one of the easiest pieces of hardware to interface, and the SDK is pretty good. But I do agree that the Stargate and some of the other popular panels should be supported as well :)
Doing a robust two way driver for any non-trivial device is 'difficult'. It's not difficult relative to shoving a piano up my nose, which I've yet to accomplish, but it's time consuming if it has to be 100% stable and robust. You have to try out lots of different scenarios, and you can't assume that the docs are always correct (and in fact they weren't, since I had to point out a couple of errata when I did the driver.) In most cases it's a device I've never used, so I have to learn the quirks of the device and how to set it up in a realistic way, so I have to spend time with it as a user to get to understand how it works. And any time spent on X isn't being spent on Y and Z unfortunately, and there are a lot of Ys and Zs.

It wouldn't be hard to do some simple interfacing to the Elk, for casual use. But for a mission critical device like this, in a system like CQC that takes stability uber-seriously, a lot of time has to be spent with it to insure that there are no suprises and that all the i's are crossed the t's dotted. Our customers wouldn't accept anything less. And even then, it's still quite possible I didn't get it completely right the first time.
Charmed Quark vastly improves with each release.

I really like the new website and how easy it is to navigate through.

I strongly urge everyone to at least try Charmed Quark!

Also Dean,
if your intersted in supporting the Ocelot I can send you one for awhile.
I definitely am interested. So many people have asked about it. Let's do this. Let me get through the release on the 5th and, assuming I don't have a heart attack by then, I'll be back into 'big picture' mode again. I'll start exploring the protocol and get familiar with it. Then I can get together a driver that I think roughly has all the basics in place. That way, when you do send it, the time I'll need it will be fairly small relatively to if I just got received cold and had to spin all the way up on it while it sat there on the floor.

It might be the 10th or so before I get started into the exploration phase, since there is always a certain amount of post-release busy-ness that goes on, getting everything squared away, resopnding to support queries from folks coming to take a look the product for the first time, planning the next release, and so forth.

We'll be very busy preparing for 1.5, but there's generally time to keep a driver or two going on the side at all times, even when not officially working on one. Life is for whimps, right? It's how many drivers you write that counts :)