Newbie needs a hand with some simple stuff


New Member

I've just started getting into this stuff, and have been playing a lot with phidget's currently building a fairly smart fridge using servos to turn the thermostat, temp sensors, load cell to measure number of beers, touchscreen on the front, cod sensor (to tell when the fridge door is left open) Im using an IR sensor to detect if someone is in front of the fridge (to turn the mic on) and of course u can turn IR off so you can issue voice commands from anywhere in the bar (the mic is suprisingly sensative). Everythings linked to the big bar stereo via one of those logitech wireless media stream thingies (cheapy off ebay) and it all works well and hope to finish this off shortley starting to look at what to do next and notice you guys/girls are automating everything!!! which is really impressing me and making me want to do the same but i don't have a very good understanding on what to at present ive got an old 500mhz computer (a spare i had laying around) running next to the fridge with all my interfaces and usb gear running into the fridge. Ive looked up DS10a's which as far as i can tell, wirelessly transmit data to a X10? So if a window is opened or mailbox, etc...which REALLy interests me...but coudl someone please school me on what an X10 is and how they work? Do they run from your main PC and can u use a high level language like VB to program it?

Thanks heaps and sorry for the silly question.

Hey Dan,

Welcome to CT! X10 is a communication protocol which uses the electrical wiring in your house as the transmission medium. There is also a RF version of the protocol, which devices such as the DS10A, Palmpad and Hawkeye motion sensors use. There are several manufactures which make X10 based equipment (you can even find it at your local Radio Shack). You basically have several types of devices, such as light switches, appliance/light modules (so you don't have to do any wiring), and more. X10 does have some reliability issues, but with filters and such, you can minimize this. The RF version of X10 is definitely extremely reliable. There are several new protocols which are trying to replace X10 (Insteon, UPB, Z-wave), but each has its issues, and it's definitely more expensive. Most people got into home automation by trying a cheap X10 based starter kit.

There are several X10 interfaces out there which let you control the X10 based hardware through your PC. There is plenty of software support as well, or you can write your own, since the protocol is documented.

In your case, if you wanted to monitor your mailbox or windows with a PC, you would need a few DS10A sensors, the RF receiver and software. If I remember correctly, the CM19A supports the RF protocol, and is USB based. There is a lot of hardware out there which supports X10, so if you have more specific questions, don't hesitate to ask.

PS: I want to install a touchscreen in my fridge door as well, did you get a chance yet to look at what kind of insulation is used in the door? Thanks!
Wow, appears i have some reading to do then :huh:

Thanks very much for the info!!!!

As far as the fridge goes, no...i havn't cut into the front yet as i'm waiting on a touchscreen kit for it. I scored the monitor for a couple of bottles of rum (it's just a 15" LCD), and think from memory the t/screen kits are around 100 bucks on ebay. Ultimatley i'd love to get one this month, but have got a fair few on.

Have you pulled the door apart? Is there something inside i should know about? haha.

Here's a few pics and stuff...hasn't been updated for a few weeks tho. Ignore the frame...ive since moved to a shelf to measure the beer.

Cheers again,
I haven't pulled the door apart yet, waiting for some more info. I am just concerned that some units might have insulation that is flammable or toxic. Don't forget to take pictures of the screen install process!
Will do.

If that's the case, i may look at sealing the monitor and pulling the hot air out the door somehow. Nothing's ever easy is it :huh: then wouldn't be much fun if it was.
I'd be careful with X10. I didn't find it very reliable. Insteon seems to be more solid. Like others are saying, UPB/Z-wave might also be better. They might be out of your price range though. Here's my story on Switching From X10 to Insteon
X-10 can be reliable, though not usually "out of the box". If you install a quality coupler (such as the X-10 Pro one) get a signal strength meter, and go through your house to eliminate noise generators and "signal suck" devices (by plugging in blocking devices), then it can be very reliable.

I myself am sticking with X-10 as the other technologies don't seem to be ready for prime time (based on the many posts I read here every day), or they don't have features I need for my home (such as RF).
X-10 is VERY reliable for me... I run my 2400sqft house on it and it never misses a beat. I have a phase coupler/repeater from Leviton and a mix of Leviton 1 & 2-way and X10 brand devices, including a few RF items... not a single issue, ever in 4 years. Using Homeseer 1.7 with lots of customization.
Hmm all very interesting notes. Thanks everyone for your opinion, the more the merrier. So you were saying Insteon (in ur link) doesn't come with a type of SDK? I'm fairly big on programming my own software as it's the one thing i can do.

Another question i do have all this stuff affected by how old the wiring in the house is? Because unfortunatley my house (well....rental) is about 30 years old and suspect wiring.

You can purchase the PowerLinc-USB SDK ($199).
I would say that your old wiring could possible hinder device performance. You won't know until you try it.
I still run plenty of X10 devices. When properly placed, they can be reliable. You could start with X10 and then mix and match devices/protocols,
especially if you plan on writing your own code.