Hello and confused....


Active Member
I have been reading up on this site as well as Promixis,Cinemar and Charmed Quark. Lots of great info!
I am ready to dive into the world of home automation. I want to do multi-zone audio, lighting control, and HVAC automation and possibly tie in my ADEMCO alarm system and video cameras. I'm just a little confused.
Things I own already:
1 older PC in central wiring closet with M-audio 410 card WIN 98, 1 HTPC with Windows XP Media Center Edition, 1 Fujitsu 3400 tablet with WIN 2000, 1 Squeezebox, 5 rooms with speakers wired and installed, 3 bullet type CCTVs, 1 channel vision modulator and all rooms wired with CAT5 and coax.
I downloaded a trial copy of netremote and xlobby and kinda had trouble programming both of them. I think I am proficient with installing hardware, but am definitely not a programmer! Mainlobby looks a little more user friendly.
I guess my main software question is: Where do I begin? Can I use the mainlobby for everything including HA? I am not sure which software package to begin with.
And my main hardware question is: scrap my perfectly working ADEMCO Vista 20se and buy an ELK or CADDX?
My order of importance would be: multizone audio with remote control in the kitchen, security, HVAC then home automation. I certainly am not made of money, but would be willing to spend a little if I had a plan. Thanks.....
You didn't mention HomeSeer. Is there a reason you didn't include it in your search? HS can control all you listed and much more with both Caddx, and Elk plugins as well as a MainLobby plugin along with the newer Maestro front end interface. Couple that with one of the most active bulletin boards on the web you should be up and going in no time.
I certainly am not made of money, but would be willing to spend a little if I had a plan.
And that's exactly what you need before we can make any real recommendations. All of the software and hardware out there has their pros and cons and you should choose them based on what your main goals are.

Do you want integrated security/lighting/HVAC and simple HA in a rock solid hardware box? The Elk may be a good answer. The same without integrated (but available) security? Cortexa may be the right answer.

Do you want a touch screen interface? Then CQC or Mainlobby alone or with an ELk may be the right answer.

As Rupp says, Homeseer may be an answer for a pc based system (unless you go for the Pro). Or HAL if you want voice control.

Audio doesn't need any of the above for systems like the Russound, Nuvo, etc unless you want to interface with CQC or ML.

So the short answer is you really do need a plan for what you want short term and what you may want long term. Once you know that you can choose the right components and start slow and build from there.
Check out THIS thread on in2networks products/software that may bring some life to your Ademco/Honeywell systems. They even have a slick interface to the MCE operating system. I really liked the demo I saw; just not sure it is compatible with your current system.

If you do want to go with new hardware I would highly recommend the Elk M1 Gold over the Caddx series (and I have played around with both with the Caddx NX8e and Elk M1 Gold).

The combination of HomeSeer and MainLobby makes a great interface to the Elk (and Caddx) but I would not recommend the new 2.0 version of HomeSeer yet till it gets out of "beta". If you want to go with HomeSeer, pay for the 2.0 version and use the 1.7.44 older version till they get things worked. This is what I am doing for my setup and it is very stable.

CQC is another alternative, but I can't give any first hand experiences with it. A lot of Cocooners use it and I believe Dean has some example screen shots on his website.

As far as audio, you mentioned you had a Delta-410 in a current PC. What audio distribution method (if any) do you use for this?

I'm not sure if JRivers media center can support this card and multiple zones but you may want to look into that. Cinemar makes a decent product that hooks into it as well (MusicLobby).

Fortunately, most of the products mentioned above have trial versions of their software.
thank you everyone for the Cinemar mentions.
TLCNORM, welcome to Cocoontech.
MainLobby can do what you ask with the possible exception of managing the squeezebox. We don't have an Ademco plugin today, but I think we have access to one that one of our dealers wrote. So, you shouldn't have to replace the panel. Of course we do have plugins for ELK and very soon the HAI panel if you want to look at those excellent offerings. When blended with Mainlobby, you have robust embedded controller logic tied with a wonderful PC / touchscreen interface.

MainLobby also now has event and scheduling capability for full HA functionality for things not supported in the panel.

MusicLobby / J River fully supports multizone and that audio card.
Wow, you guys are awesome!
Rupp, I wasn't sure if I would need Homeseer if I used the Mainlobby product.
Steve, I do plan on eventually utilizing my existing touchscreen tablet or upgrading to a PC with an ELO touchscreen in the kitchen for command central. I don't care if I get voice control.
Bravesirrobbin, Thanks for the info on in2networks. Looks pretty cool! Jriver does support multizone. I was planning on using dedicated amps or recievers for the various zones. I have played with realvnc and got remote access thru my touchscreen tablet. I do want something a little more slick, like mainlobby.
Davidl, I am not too concerned with utilizing my squeezebox. I'd love to see a plugin for ADEMCO! Like I said it has been very reliable for me and I'd hate to discard it.

My main concerns were: complexity of programming. I had trouble figuring out netremote and think girder may be as difficult for me. Mainlobby seemed more user friendly, I'll have to see if there is a trial version. Then I was wondering if there would be a need for homeseer if I used the Mainlobby suite.

Thanks for the support. I'd be interested in any and all opinions.
MainLobby3 is right around the corner. There are tons of prebuilt scenes in it that will really help you get up and running quick. Request the demo install of MainLobby2 on www.cinemaronline.com (MainLobby Products page, Request Trial button on top right). That will give you 30 days of trial, and MainLobby3 will be available within that time frame. Let me know if the Ademco plugin is needed.
If you do decide that you want some of the additional features that Homeseer provides (or HAL) like Voice Recognition, then the MLHSPlugin is the key to integrating HS and ML for a super powerful total system.
Thanx for the consideration!
If I remember correctly, 'jeffx' is the resident Ademco guru and can tell you what your system is compatible with if anything. Does it even have a serial port? I thought only the 128P was capable of interfacing to HA systems? You may want to shoot jeff a PM if he doesn't reply here, or search for posts with 'ademco'.

So, if interfacing your security to your HA stuff (anything besides x10) is important to you, you may have to bite the bullet and go with a different panel.

If you go that route, you will find yourself surrounded by Elk supporters here. A combination of Elk and Mainlobby or CQC would be ideal. Elk would handle all the critical stuff like lighting, HVAC, etc and ML or CQC can supplement it and control your audio, build slick interfaces, etc. I would play with both as they are both nice systems with different approaches.

The problem with Homeseer is while it is a very powerful piece of HA software, it pales with ML or CQC in graphical control, even with Maestro, and IMHO it is not cost effective to go with Homeseer _and_ ML.

Cortexa is up and coming and a nice system too but you would have to get a separate security panel like a GE, DSC, Elk, etc. It has a pretty cool interface but it is still generic, albeit customizable but not in the same class as ML or CQC interface wise. But it has a bunch of other cool features and may be worth a look to you.

The Elk panel will be every bit as rock solid as your Ademco plus open up a whole new world of capability. When I replaced my AT&T panel I almost went with a 20 series Ademco, until I found Elk of course and have not regretted it since. I am also in the process of removing an FBII system from my sisters house and putting an Elk in there as well. It is funny, I see new posts almost daily from people who have recently purchased M1's and I'm sure there are still many more lurking. Plus they have probably the friendliest and best support of any tech company on the planet.

But one word of caution - don't ask Martin at Automated Outlet about any of this. You will 'walk out' of his store with an M1 and lots of UPB gear - and go back weekly for more! ;) Seriously, Martin (and Jim) are great resources for any of your stuff...
Again, thanks for all the great responses. Tonight I will get a trial version of Mainlobby. They really seem to have the best documentation and seem to be the most user friendly for non programmers like me.

So just to confirm. If I go ELK and Mainlobby I will not need Homeseer...right?

I'll write Jeffx about Ademco.
So just to confirm. If I go ELK and Mainlobby I will not need Homeseer...right?
Yes and no.

Cinemar (creators of MainLobby) has their own plugin for the Elk M1 Gold. I don't know how versatile or useful it is as I have never used it. In other words I am not sure how good it is for "general" home automation purposes.

HomeSeer is more for general home automation uses, but it can not transfer data to MainLobby (actually MainLobby Server) without the MLHSPlugin. HomeSeer does have two alternatives for getting data from the Elk M1 Gold. Electron (our administrator at CocoonTech) wrote a free script and Mark Lyons wrote a pay plugin. I have used both and each has their own strengths.

So as far as money outlay you may want to do a quick calculation.

For MainLobby/Elk M1 you would need MLServer (currently free), Elk M1 Gold plugin (I believe it is $100), and MainLobby (forget its price). You will still need to get J Rivers media center and MusicLobby for your music interface that you stated you might want later.

If you want to go the HomeSeer route you will need MLServer, HomeSeer, MLHSPlugin ($50??), and the Elk Plugin ($40 or Free). Please take notice of my warning of using HomeSeer's 2.0 version. Of course you will use the J Rivers and MusicLobby products as stated above for your music interface.

For the long haul I would recommend using HomeSeer as they WILL get it right eventually. It should be more versatile than the Elk/MainLobby plugin only. Look at all the features HomeSeer brings to the table and I think you will agree.

Of course I want to make it known that this is just my opinion. I have used everything I listed above except the Elk M1 plugin from Cinemar (i.e. use the Elk with "just" MainLobby).

There will be newer versions of MLServer and MainLobby which will make those products a lot more versatile, but I have not used them at present. Cinemar is getting more and more usefull for home automation and is currently striving for an "all inclusive" stand alone package (i.e. so one doesn't need an external product such as HomeSeer). Will they be at this state with their new products coming out? I don't know ... yet ;) ;) .

I also have to admit that I am a fan of Cinemar as I really like the end result that I get for my displays with VERY minimal time and effort (I don't like programming either).
IMHO, I think the Elk and ML or CQC will be all you need - and save you alot of cash! The plugins or drivers for the Elk expose pretty much all of the Elk functionality. In most cases as I stated above, the Elk is used for all of your mission critical stuff and you only use ML or CQC for your graphical interface and supplemental features that the Elk does not support, like TTS, IR, etc. Neither ML or CQC are full blown automation packages like Homeseer (yet) but I think there is very little Homeseer would give you that is not available in one of the combos above. RFID is perhaps one thing that comes to mind and also perhaps Voicemail/phone functionalitly. Both Homeseer and Mainlobby are plugin based systems where you buy the core product at a reasonable price and then add plugins for additional functionality. Depending on your needs, those plugins can add up fast. The concept is good, pay only for what you need, but if you have alot of needs you'll need a money tree! CQC on the other hand is all inclusive, buy either the basic package with only a few big options available, or a complete package where everything is included. All drivers, etc (like Elk) are always included in the base package.

I would just start with the Elk, evaluate both ML and CQC (they are both excellent packages each with their strengths and weaknesses) and implement one of them, then if you find it is really needed, you can add Homeseer at any time. Like BSR, these are strictly my opinions, YMMV. ;)
You might also want to look at Housebot. It's back in the control of it's original developer (was owned for a while by the now defunct Meedio LLC.), and the future of this great HA package is looking better than ever.

I would compare it to the 1.7 version of Homeseer as far as setup, plugins, reliability, and setup procedures. IMHO Housebot excels however by also including Insteon support and most importantly (for me) a GUI interface similar to Mainlobby or CQC. It's also about 1/3 the price of the base HS package.

I don't have an M1G (yet) but I did have a DSC system that worked great with Housebot. I wouldn't expect the M1G to be any different. Scott, the owner of HB is very active on the HB list and is always working to improve the apps functionality.

I think the bottom line is that you will find extremely knowledgeable people on this list that are more than willing to help you no mater which avenue you choose. I believe in the "best tool for the job" approach and HB was best for me. Probably the best thing for you is to download trial versions of each and play with them to find the best tool for your job.

Everything mentioned here is top-shelf so it will be hard if not impossible to make a bad decision. Good luck and welcome to the group!

It is good to see other players such as Housebot getting into the automation marketplace.

When I looked at their supported devices though this is what I found:

ADI Ocelot / Leopard
Global Cache GC-100
Modem / Phone
PowerLinc USB
X10 CM11a, CM11g
X10 MR26a
Z-Wave USB
Insteon (coming soon)

So currently it seems like there is no Elk M1 Gold (as you stated), nor any security system that is supported. Of course this could all change over time as the developer adds more capability to the product!
I think you will find Cinemar's ELK plugin to be the most comprehensive plugin on the market. So, that should not be any pause of decision. We have worked very well with ELK and David (Spanky) and the rest of the ELK team have been very supportive.

I would post a ELK / Cinemar combined marketing piece that was distributed by ELK and Cinemar at some recent trade shows, but it is a meg and Dan would probably yell at me for posting such a large marketing file. ;)

But, back to your current situation, dependent on your Ademco model, there may be a MainLobby compatible plugin already available. That by itself should save you quite a bit of money changing out your panel and reprogramming it. I don't believe any of the other (possibly Homeseer?) software solutions has an Ademco plugin. Post what model you have and we will see if this is a solution.

BTW, the docs for MainLobby 3 / MLServer 3 are quite a bit better than the MainLobby 2 docs. And, the scenes that come presetup and ship with MainLobby 3 will REALLY help get you going quick.

What is very cool is that you have quite a few good quality choices. That didn't exist even two years ago. The PC based automation business is kicking up.