CQC and HouseBot Queries


Hey Guys,

Im in a bit of dilemma as to which of the above two software options to go foward with.

I guess I'll start off by giving an idea of my requirements and current set-up.

Basically I currently use a homevision pro hardware based unit for general control. It controls the following;

1 x RS232 controlled Yamaha RX-V1700
1 x IR controlled Yamaha RX-V757
2 x RS232 Controlled Infocus IN76 Projectors
2 x RS232 Controlled Yamaha DVD-S1700 DVD Players
1 x Clipsal C-Bus PC5500 PC Interface
2 x 13 CHAR LED Displays via RS232 (dumb units - no feed back just direct write)
A couple of 12VDC actuated 240VAC relays/contactors

I have the homevision unit controlled via an in wall Touchtronix Touchscreen driven by a Windows PC which has plugin to control the Homevision unit. A single serial output on the Homevision unit is fed into a Baytech Multiport Controller which basically allows this one serial port to control 8 connected serial devices. Different ports can be selected by outputting a control character and port number from the Homevision serial port and then the required commands can be sent to the selected device.

The whole setup basically controls two presentation rooms that have a projector, amp and DVD player each with all the lights controlled via CBus. They show the same 20 minute presentation which is triggered by a button on the touchscreen etc. Its not commercial but more of a tourist information video that gets shown up to 15 times daily on both screens.

I have a keen interest in the whole automation side of things so I'm always playing with it! So thats the setup at the moment. Although the homevision unit is rock solid it does have a couple of limitations as with any hardware unit when it comes to greater control of units, dealing with serial feedback and just general room for future expansion. So im looking for a PC based solution to handle the nitty gritty stuff and leave some of the PC-less work to the Homevision unit.

I have been trialing (if thats a word) CQC and Housebot over the past few weeks to see which would be the best option for me to go with. I'm impressed with both and both would give me alot of room to expand. However as any of you that know either system theres a steep enough learning curve and almost an endless realm of possiblities when it comes to using them in such a setup.

The homevision unit isnt really designed to deal well with the level of feedback that the RX-V1700 provides over its serial port so the system is a bit laggin on the reliability side of things which always gets me into trouble when what should happen doesnt happen when the trigger button is pressed!! :(

So after going through both of these for a while Im at a loss as to which route to go down. The thing is I know it will take a full setup of both systems to evaluate which one fits the bill! Id love to have a system that is a bit less dumb in relation to the serial control and if a Power On command is sent to the Yamaha units for example, that if they fail to switch on for whatever reason, the system will retry for a couple of times before sending a notice to the touchscreen.

The LED units always seem to work which is a bit ironic given that they provide no feedback. The receiver will not switch on sometimes and the dvd players either dont select the right language track on the DVD menu or else it just doesnt play at all. So I guess Im looking for the best system to provide reliability to my set-up.

Ive read through numerous posts in here and Im well aware of the different members with which ever systems. Im not looking for a simple CQC vs Housebot answer but more of an opinion from someone who has travelled a bit further down the road than I have with either system so I can make an informed decision. As I said I've done it before and it always takes so much longer than I ever planned to get the system to where I wanted it to be and Ive already spent a good bit of time with both systems so Im well aware of it! I know I always turn to cocooners whenever I have dilemmas like this!

I looked at other options also eg Elve but I narrowed it down the above options due to reading about their reliability and track record. I need to write a driver for CQC for the Yamaha DVD player but its similar enough protocol to the RX-v1700 so Im using that driver as base to work of. Ive done a good bit of C Programming and basic etc before but Im slow to get my head around this Object Orientated stuff that the CML language is based on. Housebot on the other hand has an easier learning curve as alot of implementation in drivers and external macros are handled in vbscript. I know the support is also pretty good in both systems with Dean and Scott so thats another reason for me.

Sorry about the bit of a short novel but I'd really like to hear back on what advise ye in the know could offer me with this. Its a bit late here now so Im not thinking that clearly but I'm sure theres a few things I've forgotten to ask!!

Anyways, any advice at all would be greatly appreciated as Im just not able to decide which one to go with!

thanks inadvance,

Now that my heads a bit clearer;

Firstly Im not looking for CQC vs Housebot oneupmanship but more informed advice as to what limitations I would likely meet if I went with either choice. I really dont want to find myself in a situation where I want to do something and it cant be done with the above equipment setup in mind.

Also I am interested in using the touchscreen and another computer as Software Remotes in Housebot/ Interface Viewers in CQC. I would also like to use one of the DT Research DT360 WinCE 5.0 tablets as an IV. Will this work for me on CQC. I know it will on Housebot but havent checked that out on CQC just yet.

Is there another option here that I am naively ignoring that I should be looking into?

After looking at the length of the post I put up last night, Ill be surprised if anyone reads this!!

hoping to hear back,

You're right, that was a long post. :( I'll give my opinion, but keep in mind I have never used or even looked at Housebot.

I started with CQC about 2 years ago, before my new house was even completed. I looked at a few different HA software systems, and found that CQC was more open then any of the others. It does have a fairly steep learning curve IF you are going to use some of the more advanced things with it. I emphisized IF, because if you are just looking for a package to control all of your devices, and to access them through a nice touchscreen interface, and all of your devices already have CQC drivers, then it is pretty easy to use.

I have been in IT for 16 years now, but do not know how to write code at all. When I first looked at CQC, I was a bit intimidated. However, once I started to use it, I found out how much support there was from the user community. Users write drivers and share them for free, they provide access to their templates so that you can get an idea of how to make certain things work, and they send you graphics that you might have liked from one of their interfaces. In addition, any time I have an issue with something, I post it on the forum, and will typically receive a response from another user, or from the software's creator, Dean.

Currently, I use CQC to control my security system, lighting, garage doors, fountains, thermostats, whole house fan, get weather reports and doppler info, control my Russound 12-zone whole house audio system, access Pandora radio, and access my library of MP3s on my network. I am currently working on integrating my Sage TV setup into CQC, and will be controlling my pool equipment soon as well. All of these are controlled through 3 in-wall touchscreens, from my iPhone, or from my iPad. Compared to a lot of other user's systems, mine is fairly simple, and I don't use a lot of drivers.

So I think that CQC can provide a robust system from something simple like mine, to something VERY advanced. I think the ability to create a driver for any device is a big plus too. If it has a serial port, it can be controlled by CQC!
I am also a fan/user of CQC. I would say if CQC has the drivers to support the devices you need it is a no brainer going that way. The CQC user community is really good. When I first started a had lots of questions about how to get things done and I always got super fast answers.
With HouseBot you can do everything you listed except maybe the Clipsal stuff, not sure on that. if it is controlled through the serial port though then yes you can do that too. As with CQC, if it has a serial port then HB can control it. As you mentioned HouseBot uses vbscript for it's scripting engine, each script runs in it's own thread too so that reduces your chances of something goofy taking down your whole system. HouseBot is very lightweight, I've ran it on embedded XP on thin clients, in virtual machines and right now I'm test-running it under a Wine session on Linux. I've never had it crash because of something that wasn't my fault, and I've had uptimes of well over a year.

As mentioned HB can be extended with VBScript, but also C++ (HB is written in C++) or VB.NET or C# plugins. The GUI remotes (called SWRemotes) run on most everything Microsoft but there is no native iPhone/Pad/Pod Swremote. A user has released an iApp that allows basic control (Puppeteer), but I use a free Remote desktop app (irdesktop) along with a hack to allow multiple RDP sessions on XP. The end result is extremely fast updates and 'feels' completely native on the iPhone/Pad/Pod. There is also connectivity through IIS if you want to design your own web pages for access, there is also a user-contributed web remote on the forum. Also worth mentioning is that the Windows x86 SWremote will run fine under a Wine session on Linux or Mac OS X.

The SWRemote can do most everything you'll need. About the only major missing piece is the ability to stream live images/movies to the client. There are ways around this depending on what you want to do but the native ability would be a welcome improvement.

The forum is quite and slow most of the time, Scott is very helpful but his time is spread thin these days. I'm not around as much as usual because I'm spending more time on starting a business right now. Don't take it the wrong way if you ask something and it doesn't get answered right away. I wish there was more activity, but I'm just as guilty as anyone else... The upside is that there is little to no bickering on the forum, everyone seems to be on the same page most all the time.

HB stores all of it's config data in an MS Access DB, everyone has their opinions on it as do I and I'll leave it at that. Just be sure to turn off any disk delay-writes. That way if you lose power, your chances of getting a corrupt DB are diminished.

Like CQC, you'll find that HB is more DIY than some others so you'll find yourself writing more drivers the further you stray from the norm. I think the biggest advantages of HB is the small size/requirements, the flexibility, the insane reliability, and the super-cheap price. No yearly fees, no multi-client license, no per-plugin fees, etc. If your forgetful, lazy, and cheap like me, that seals the deal. :(

If I were in your shoes, I'd give HB a try first since it's about 1/10 the price of CQC. Do the trial and if you need more time just let Scott know. If HB does everything you need, then why spend more? If it doesn't then at least you'll know. Heck even if you bought HB, used it for 6 months and still ended up moving to CQC, the entry price for HB would barely be noticed on your CQC budget.

Whichever way you go, I wouldn't flip-flop between the two during the trial(s). I'd give each one my undivided attention for the duration of the trial to learn the eccentricities of each. If you try to bounce between them you may end up not liking either of them.

Thanks very much for the indepth responses guys. It did answer alot of my queries.

One other thing I am thinking about now. If I do migrate from the Homevision Hardware Controller which has been solid as a rock for the past 3 years; do you think I would be able to expect the same reliability from either CQC or Housebot? Or are we at a stage where the software options are just as reliable? As you can see from my initial post the server unit would not have to be up all night and at the moment even, I send the touchscreen computer into hibernate from say 10pm until 8am. As there is no automated tasks being run during this time, it cuts down on power a good bit and leaves me the opportunity to set a restart on the computer if issues start to arise (which havent yet as the actual automation is done by the hardware controller and the computer just drives the touchscreen and few other services)

So I know I will be going to a software option but just want to assess if its a good or bad move if I have reliability now and if placing the automation task on a software based controller would dent this? Im not concerned about hardware failure like disks or fans but more the reliability of the software itself!? What uptimes do you think I could be looking at with the drivers, tasks etc being 'properly' implemented?

When I do go ahead I intend on using a Atom processor based fanless Win XP PC to run things. Its a full install of XP with 1GB of memory etc but the electricity savings is worth the cost of the unit. Should I have any worries here?

Also any ideas if either or both of CQC/Housebot would run a native interface remote on these DT Research DT360 Win CE based units?

Thanks again for all the help, its fantastic!

CQC does have a CE based IV. It is part of their RIVA client system which is basically a smaller version of the regular interface system which is designed to work on low powered machines. That being said, there are lots of different CE versions and the RIVA client works with a lot of them, but not all. My gut feeling is that it would work however, but I'd direct you to the CQC web site to make sure. :)
Reliability is something that CQC is well known for. It may not be the simplest product in the world to understand (though it's not nearly as hard as it seems at first), but in the end you will have a very robust product. It really doesn't use any third party code, so things like the database issue mentioned aren't a problem. That's why it's 800,000 lines of code, because we do everything ourselves that we possibly can, so that we can control the quality. And I don't think that any other software based product could claim to be more robust.
I'll add to this as well.

I am a CQC user, an industrial automation engineer and have my house fully automated.

I also use C-Bus.

CQC will work for you, as would HB (no experience with it though).

I started looking into automation back in 1995. i originally wanted to have a jukebox with a touchscreen and nothing could be done except for a very expensive apple based solution.

I have experience with some of the industrial HMI solutions that are available and I must say that CQC comes very close in [basic] features to a lot of them. The client server archicheture and distributed nature of the softwre makes it very flexable. I too started using CQC before I built my house.

As for robustness, that depends on what you are going to do. if you like to tinker, then expect to break it occasionally. I just finished a revioisn on a driver to a PLC that broke it - not sure why yet, but the system crapped itself with the new lines in the driver.

If you plan to just install it and leave it, maybe only adding to the interface, then CQC will be a very robust system - some of the hardware will probably fail (comms wise) before CQC does.

CQC is also very easy to backup, so should the worst happen, a restore will not take very long at all.

Your question abot the Atom processor etc, CQC has been run as a aster server on some very small systems, so I dont believe that you will have any issues at all with that configuration. The DT360 question has already been answered. There is also an app for the ipad/iphone/itouch as well - another solution to consider

HouseBot is also rock solid. I've ran it on everything from a 733MHz PIII to a new quad core. You'll have no problems whatsoever with an single or dual core Atom setup. Check out Logic Supply for some nice MBs with a bunch of serial ports. Combine it with dual SSD in a RAID 1 if the MB supports it and you'll have a setup that will last for many years. The DT360 isn't a problem either, HB's SWRemote should run fine on it.

HB performs a self-backup of it'd DB on x startups (definable in the registry) and you can perform a full backup by simply backing up the HouseBot install directory.

I now see why this is such an excellent resource!!

I have to say I do like Housebot but I like CQC alot too and see the benefits both systems would bring! The only thing that is offputting for me about CQC (and this more because of me that CQC) is the drivers that I dont have. Such as the Yamaha DVDS1700 DVD Player (RS232). I have looked at the driver manifests for the RX-V1700 (Yamaha Receiver) and am still trying to get my head around how the CML implements drivers. I have all the documentation and I know pretty much everything re comms and quirks on both yamaha devices.

I know it would be alot easier for me to do this in Housebot (albeit taking alot longer due to replication in tasks etc) but I would end up with a lot more bloated and a harder driver to work with. I can see how CQC just makes it alot easier once the driver is written.

Have any of you guys written any of your own drivers for CQC in either CML or PDL - or do you seek out people to write them for you. Its probably the only limitiation I have with CQC - limitation being with me not CQC but a limitation nonetheless! I havent looked too far into it yet but have a fair dose of C prog under my belt so its all a matter of time!

Two futher queries. If I was looking to replace the DVD players (which just put out the same video over and over every 20 mins) is there a media player device that could pull the media off some LAN storage and put it out over HDMI. The critical thing here is that is would have to be controllable by CQC? Any ideas on how/if this can be done? I may try this query on the CQC forums too.

I know ive more questions about CQC than housebot but thats just the way it is. Housebot is a bit more easy to figure out but Im seeing how the CQC offering offers it its unique edge.

Thanks a million guys for taking the time to wise me up!! :)

With this project being so AV centric, have you ever considered just using a remote like the Philips Pronto TSU9600 along with the RFX9600 extender? It's a complete two-way interface to the devices (those that support two-way) and each RFX9600 has 4 input ports, 4 output ports, 4 IR ports & 4 serial ports. Your uptime with something like this would be far superior to any PC based solution.
I would just want to clarify, re Mick's comment above. When he said crapped out, he means that the functionality he has created isn't working as expected, not that CQC itself has crapped out. The reason we developed our own language and compiler is for reasons of stability.

You can't destroy CQC with a driver, because the language doesn't allow you to do anything that could destablize the server it runs inside of, unlike the situation with a general purpose langauge where the server might be loading a DLL or a language engine that allows the driver to do almost whatever it wants. This vastly improves the stability of the system. Also, since our product is networked, there is one server that runs the drivers (you can run multiple instances of it around the network, but meaning that there is a separate server program that runs the drivers.) So even if you really tried hard and managed somehow to cause some problem via a driver, it couldn't affect the other parts of the product, which are implemented in other servers.

So there's very much a firewalling of functionality going on, where the core of the product is always protected. So, in Mick's case, though he's managed to get something awry with the functioning of the driver, he knows he doesn't have to worry that this has somehow compromised the system. He can just remove the driver and replace it when he's ready to try his fixes.
Have any of you guys written any of your own drivers for CQC in either CML or PDL - or do you seek out people to write them for you. Its probably the only limitiation I have with CQC - limitation being with me not CQC but a limitation nonetheless! I havent looked too far into it yet but have a fair dose of C prog under my belt so its all a matter of time!

You will get CML under control in no time - I cant program for s*** and I have managed to write many PDL drivers and now have a couple of CML finished. The first is always the hardest. The DVD player should not be a problem for you in CQC. Failing that, there is always the forums and people there to help. Also check there in case the driver has already been written.
If you want some insight, post the link to the protocol for the DVD comms on the forum asking for comments on how easy it will be to do (or here). Knowing Ya,aha its probably binary like the amps, but doable none the less.

brathnach said:
Two futher queries. If I was looking to replace the DVD players (which just put out the same video over and over every 20 mins) is there a media player device that could pull the media off some LAN storage and put it out over HDMI. The critical thing here is that is would have to be controllable by CQC? Any ideas on how/if this can be done? I may try this query on the CQC forums too.

Very easily achieve in CQC. I don't so it so I cant spell out the specifics, go to the CQC forums for the details, but there are media players etc that are all controllable by CQC.