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What are my options to connect my ELK to my PC? I get the ELK RP--that's not what I'm asking. What I mean is, if I wanted my computer to do something if I arm my security alarm, for instance, or if the doorbell is detected by the ELK, then again my computer could do something. I don't even know what I want my computer to do, but I think options via girder or eventghost would make sense. I use powerhome, and see how it can control my lights, but having my elk controlling the lights so far has been fine for me. So if the only real gain by connecting the PC would be light control, well, I'm already there and I probably won't pursue this. But there must be some really cool things I could do if I had my computer connected to the elk.

I guess I should add that I have looked at the ELK RM, but what I am looking for is software I could run on my computer to monitor and respond to the elk--not something used to control the elk. Hope that helps.

Since you already use PowerHome, is there some you want to do with the Elk that PowerHome cannot do? Disclaimer: I think PH now supports an Elk interface, but I am not sure and I haven't done it yet. I know it is high on the pH roadmap.
I'll add in some more queries that might help you out too Mr.Gibbage.

What can/can't you do via RS232?

What requires the ethernet expander?
Wayne, I currently use PH only to manage my Insteon links. I know that it has some other HA capabilities, but haven't looked into that. Will PH connect to the Elk via the serial port? If so, that would be great--nothing more to buy and something for me to play with this weekend!

Collin, I do not have the Ethernet expander yet, but am seriously thinking about it. But if I have a computer connected to the Elk via the serial port, and can make the computer do things based on messages from the Elk, and also instruct the Elk to do things, then I don't really see the need for the Ethernet expander.

Cinemar's MainLobby, Homeseer and CQC all support the ELK M1. With each of these software packages, you can view what the ELK panel sensor status are and send commands for the ELK panel to execute.

With MainLobby, you can also mimic the keypads functions and duplicate the functions on a touchscreen. Not sure of the other two because this capability isn't documented by ELK (at least it wasn't). MainLobby supports RS232 connection and Ethernet connection. You need a ELK Ethernet adapter for TCP connection. The panel supports serial directly. If you want RS232 thermostat support as well, then you have to add a serial expansion board.
I do beleive you can connect the elk to powerhome as a controller... this is currently done via the rs232 but I beleive Dave is working on an option to use the ethernet interface also soon...

I cant wait for this option :D as my PH machine is upstairs and has ethernet but I cant connect via serial so I havent tried it yet... but I beleive you can trigger PH off zone changes ect. I dont know about controling the elk from PH though hope someone else can chime in on this..
I'm not sure you got the answer you were looking for. I interpret your question as "Why would I want to use a pc, and what will it give me that the Elk alone can't". The answer to that is that the software will complement the Elk and do things that either the M1 can't or the software does easier or better. Some examples of this are Text-To-Speech, IR control (could also be done with other hardware attached to Elk), control of *any* other equipment that has drivers - distributed audio systems (RM now supports Russound), VR, more robust 'rules' or scripting, etc. Packages like CQC or Mainlobby also let you build custom touch screen interfaces (similar to RM but MUCH more sophisticated). For your security needs and basic automation control of lighting, HVAC and anything controllable by a relay then you don't really need additional software. Hope that helps.
Thanks, Steve. You are right--I was wondering what the added benefits would be. As a result of this thread, I am looking at PH as it does now connect to the Elk as a controller. I think there's a lot of promise here, and I think it may serve my needs. This is awesome because I won't have to buy anything new. I am thinking about adding some IR controllers, and TTS also sounds cool.
There are several third party companies that now support the serial RS-232 data bus protocol coming off the ELK M1. These products include: CQC, MainLobby, PowerHome, mControl, ... plus others.

The M1XEP Ethernet Interface is not required, but it makes the automation package more versatile. You can connect a PC running any of these software packages directly to the M1 through a RS-232 serial port. You will have to keep the M1 within 50 feet of the PC to satisfy the RS-232 specifications. What the M1XEP does give you is the ability to connect a PC anywhere you have internet access to the M1. Once the software has made a Ethernet Socket Connection, the data flowing to the PC is the same as a direct connection using RS-232. The RS-232 direct connection only allows ONE connection. The M1XEP allows up to 30 connections. For example if you have multiple PC's and or Touchscreens, they all need to access the data all the time.

There are four fields of though on home automation controllers:
1. PC controller only - All the control of the home is done by a PC running one of the Automation Software Packages. Downside: Should the PC crash the home automation goes down. You still have to have some kind of hardware to connect to doors, windows, motion detectors, etc.

2. Embedded controller only, like the M1. This is what the M1 was designed to be, the central home automation controller. The M1 is designed with hardware watchdog circuity to stay alive always. Downside: Many of the advanced control and automation desires are beyond the embedded processor on the M1 controller board. Basic home automation functionality is more than satisfied. High level math, speech recognition,... need a PC.

3. PC occasionally connects to the embedded controller ( M1). For remote control and to check on the status of a system, the PC can connect to the embedded controller when desired either through the RS-232 serial port locally or via the M1XEP Ethernet interface any where in the world. The ELKRM Remote Management Software was designed for this purpose.

4. PC constantly connected to the embedded controller ( M1) and running one of the Home Automation Software Packages. This combination give the most advanced home automation control system. The M1 is providing the hardware arms and legs to gather the data required by the PC. Advanced control features can be written for the PC Automation Software. Should the PC lockup or crash, the M1 will continue to execute whatever program it has been given to do. The M1 can even act as a hardware reboot for the PC should communication from the PC fail.
The M1 can even act as a hardware reboot for the PC should communication from the PC fail.

That is an excellet idea Spanky and the first time I have run across it.

I had been thinking about that too. My plan was to connect a small relay to one of the 5v molex connectors in the computer wired across one of the elk's inputs. Then connect an elk output across the power switch. Then whenever the computer loses power, the Elk can restart it (perhaps after a short delay).

I was wondering if there were any smarter ways to do this. I think it would be really cool if the elk could "ask" the computer if everything was OK, perhaps every two minutes or so. Then if the computer had locked up, or blue screened, and still had power, the elk could recognize this and reboot it. I don't know how I would do that though.

just thinking off the top of my head but maybe have the computer set a value in the elk every 2 min and then every 3.2 min( I think you need to have the time off a minute so it dosent check while the computer is setting the value, but agian it may till happen....) check this value with the elk, if it matches what is expected change it to a different value if it doesn't match then reset the computers power via insteon(or your perfected technology) or even a relay on an elk output by interrupting the computers main power.

while the computer is booting up you'd need to fiigure how long it takes and have a work around for that or extend your checking times. Also you'd need to build in a out if the m1 is running off battery.
I kind of do this with my cable modem (crashes every 24 hours), but didn't want to rely on a PC for this. So I am using a Linksys wireless router, rebuilt with OpenWRT, and wrote an elk driver so my M1 can reboot the modem whenever it can't be pinged.

Back in the days of Homeseer, I used my.Elk to interface the M1, and configured a rule in the M1 to turn on a certain output every x minutes. Once the PC sees that the Output has been turned on, the PC turns it back off, so the M1 knows the PC is alive. This same heartbeat mechanism works the other way around as well, since if the PC notices that the output has been on too long, it knows something is wrong with the connectivity to the M1 (or the M1 itself).
Spanky brings up an interesting point about the ELK's ability to reboot the PC in case of PC hickups.

As additional options, MainLobby supports PC to PC monitoring as well. PC1 (like the MainLobby Server) monitors PC2 (like a touchpanel PC or HTPC) and if it sees PC2 is not responding, it can execute an application relaunch, or a PC reboot both through software Wake On Lan request, software OS Restart request, as well as a hardware reset (using contact closure on the power switch) or via an applicance switch controlling the current to the PC.

Thankfully, if the system is properly setup...all of this is not needed as OS's and MainLobby are now very reliable. But you can use some of the above to start a PC client remotely or on timed event to start the PC only when you need to use it. Like to start your HTPC for your Theater Room only when it's time to watch a movie. This conserves hardware and more importantly energy.

These abilities demonstrate Spanky's point that the combined embedded controller (like ELK M1) and good software like MainLobby, CQC or Homeseer provide tremendous flexibility on what you can do.
One thing I was thinking that if I wired an elk output across the power switch of the computer, the first thing I would do if I detected something was amiss was to close the output for ten seconds, to ensure that the computer was turned off. And then turn it on by closing the output for one second. That way, if I checked to see if my PC was alive and found out that it wasn't because Bill Gates thought it was time to update Windows, then I would get the PC into a known state before making any other changes.