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UPB - My First time, impressions...

sbessel

Active Member
Well this weekend I installed 7 Simply-Automated USR240 dimmers, and ~7 slave switches along with a fixture module. This is my first UPB experience, I have ~80 various x-10 devices at my house, and have a lot of experience there.

Here are my quick first impressions:
  • Hardware
  • The dimming switches are of very nice construction, the interchangeable faceplates are real cool, up to 8 buttons available.
  • The LED's are cool, although why only green and blue (light blue does not count)
  • Setup is easy, although you must have the software.
  • Out of 8 switches one did not work, the software would not see it for setup, I tried everything
  • Why do only the slave switches come with wire nuts?
  • The fixture module, what kind of mounting is this? It is non-standard and impossible to mount clean.
  • The slave switch LED, worthless, lights green, on all the time or on with load, this depends on how you wire it. No other options
  • The slave switches only support 2 buttons, a side by side full length rocker
  • Slave switch, why have a white/red wire if it is unused, the electrical boxes are full enough as it is.
  • The documentation sucks, they reference things that are not there, like relay mode.
  • The white/brown wire looks white/black
  • The switches are slow, I thought my Switchlincs and keypadlincs were slow, these babies take a long time for a simple on/off command, not a good response time, and for a switch that is directly controlling a load to be 1/2 second to respond this feels unprofessional.
  • Software
  • The UPBStart software... where do I begin, the person that thought this up and programmed this apparently had no real world experience, and obviously has not seen the light of day in years. This thing just plain sucks... I mean a requester that says 'In Understand' instead of O.K.?
  • Software: Links? what and why are these, why can't I just have a button linked directly to a device? I mean I have devices and links, but I can only activate the link, so now I have redundant devices, redundant devices, redundant devices...
  • If you change/add/move a room the software looses it's brain.
  • The update/program option is very slow
  • You can do all kinds of things on each button, on/off/activate/deactivate/dim.... but you have to do it to a link and not a device
  • I can no way found out how to make a button just send a command/key/something to HS
  • HomeSeer Integration
  • It does not see the devices automatically, you have to export in the UPBStart then HS imports it, so any changes are not real time
  • You have to stop and exit HS to start UPBStart to add/change/more devices
  • You get the devices listed in the rooms as locations, this is fine and good.
  • The only options available to dimming devices are on/off/dim
  • The links are imported to a location called UPB Device Link, then everything is dumped here, all the devices because the UPB software made you make a link for every device
  • For each link you have all kinds of options, like:Activate,Deactivate,Fade On,Fade Off,Snap On,Snap Off,Dim to 10%,Dim to 20%,Dim to 30%,Dim to 40%,Dim to 50%,Dim to 60%,Dim to 70%,Dim to 80%,Dim to 90%,Blink,Restore Last On Level
  • I can default the switches to come on to a set dim level when pressed, but in HS if I send an on command it goes to 100%, this is different and less preferred than the way the Switchlincs work. As with them I set them at a preset on of 60%, if I send an On they go to 60%, I can then send a dim 100% to go to full on. This allows me to set each switch to it's preferred preset on. These UPB's will loose that ability
  • Where are all the options? I see nothing, no real settings, polling or anything, seems very simplistic.
I will add update this as I see fit, but this is all I could think of right now, and I am really low on sleep and patience... stupid Caddx plug-in... :(
 

bfisher

Active Member
I'll try to add my two sense as best as possible since I've been living with UPB for awhile now:

The LED's are cool, although why only green and blue (light blue does not count)
This depends on the switch purchased.

Out of 8 switches one did not work, the software would not see it for setup, I tried everything
I assume you made sure the top pipe (LED) was pushed in? If your box is tight, it's easy to knock this pipe out stuffing it in. I usually test my switches prior to putting in the box just to make sure.

Why do only the slave switches come with wire nuts?
All of mine have come with wire nuts (more than I can use). Again, I assume this depends on the switch purchased.

The slave switch LED, worthless, lights green, on all the time or on with load, this depends on how you wire it. No other options
I have this issue too. However, I think if there was another wire between your master/slave - the LED would work properly. My house doesn't have this other wire and the LED only lights when the load is on.

The documentation sucks, they reference things that are not there, like relay mode.
All the switches have relay mode - or dimmer mode. Relay mode is used when you are switching flourescent lights, etc.


The switches are slow, I thought my Switchlincs and keypadlincs were slow, these babies take a long time for a simple on/off command, not a good response time, and for a switch that is directly controlling a load to be 1/2 second to respond this feels unprofessional.
This is my biggest complaint with UPB. It takes long enough that someone inexperienced with your switches wonders if they did it right - and then they work.

Software: Links? what and why are these, why can't I just have a button linked directly to a device?
Links are like scenes - they allow you to associate multiple switches/devices together to work simultaneously.

If you change/add/move a room the software looses it's brain.
Never had this happen to me.

You can do all kinds of things on each button, on/off/activate/deactivate/dim.... but you have to do it to a link and not a device
Not true. I don't use links at all - and have all of these functions working fine.

The update/program option is very slow
Really? something doesn't sound right with your software. Programming a switch takes 2-3 seconds for a full program... and once you've programmed it, then it takes less time to update with any minor changes. (I assume you're talking about sending your programming to the switch. Deciding what you want a switch to do can take as long as you need, but once you've done a couple - it's a matter of a minute to set it up)

I can no way found out how to make a button just send a command/key/something to HS
That's a function of HS (as are the rest of the items). I don't use it so I can't comment. I use Homevision Pro and it handles UPB pretty nicely (in my opinion) (overcoming all of your issues with HS integration).

Hope this helps. If you need help figuring it out - let me (or several others around here) know. I'm not an expert (or even been trained) but UPB works very nicely for me.
 

Steve

Senior Member
Scott,

Thanks for sharing your first impressions and I'm sorry you had difficulty with your install. I plan on a much more thorough look at these, but wanted to at least give my initial thoughts to some of your points. I am only going to reply to the hardware and software (UPStart) issues as I do not use Homeseer. I suspect with Homeseer, or any other HA package with a driver or plugin, YMMV depending on what the vendor/author supports. A good driver/plugin would support all functionality available to UPB.

On the hardware...
The LED's are cool, although why only green and blue (light blue does not count)
I don't think there are LEDs that support all colors. Each vendor supports different colors, Either Green, Blue and Light Blue as you stated, or Green, Red, Orange (for the older 1130 and PCS switches) or Blue, Red, Magenta for HAI switches.

Why do only the slave switches come with wire nuts?
All the switches I tested came with wire nuts, perhaps someone snagged them before you got to them

The fixture module, what kind of mounting is this? It is non-standard and impossible to mount clean.
What is standard? What were you looking for? The module is flat with mounting 'ears'. Should work great on any flat surface like the top of a cabinet. It would be tricky to use in other application if there is no flat surface to mount to.

The slave switch LED, worthless, lights green, on all the time or on with load, this depends on how you wire it. No other options

The slave switches only support 2 buttons, a side by side full length rocker

Slave switch, why have a white/red wire if it is unused, the electrical boxes are full enough as it is.
The rockers could perhaps be more flexible. The LED should be able to track the load but is not multi color. I don't think the slaves were designed to slave a real multibutton. I think its nice to even support the dual rockers. The extra wire should be for the dual rocker scenario. Perhaps an improvement can be made similar to the US240 where 'optional' wires are cage clamps instead of a wire. This is a very nice feature that only SA has.

The documentation sucks, they reference things that are not there, like relay mode.
Nice thing about UPB is that the same switch can be used as a dimmer or non-dimmer/relay. To enable relay mode simply set the switch as non dimming in UPStart.

The switches are slow, I thought my Switchlincs and keypadlincs were slow, these babies take a long time for a simple on/off command, not a good response time, and for a switch that is directly controlling a load to be 1/2 second to respond this feels unprofessional
UPB falls somewhere between X10 and Insteon. I have UPB and Insteon side by side and the UPB is just slightly slower than Insteon. I hope to demonstrate this in an upcoming review. Different people have different expectations. Personally, I agree UPB is not 'instant', but it is very usable to me and my wife (the critical factor!).

On the software...

The UPBStart software... where do I begin, the person that thought this up and programmed this apparently had no real world experience, and obviously has not seen the light of day in years. This thing just plain sucks... I mean a requester that says 'In Understand' instead of O.K.?
Well, we all know software usability is a highly personal thing. While IMHO UPStart could probably use a few improvements, I think is an outstanding piece of software. I think part of the problem is that it is very powerful, and with power comes some complexity and sometimes obscurity. Here is a screenshot of what you mentioned. I find it informative even if perhaps non-standard.
upbss.JPG

Software: Links? what and why are these, why can't I just have a button linked directly to a device? I mean I have devices and links, but I can only activate the link, so now I have redundant devices, redundant devices, redundant devices...
Links are very powerful. I have not used them much yet as I have just been controlling devices directly for testing. Here is a definition of a link from the manual:
At the bottom, a link is just a number from 1 to 250. It is what it does that
is more important than what it is. Associated with any UPB device that can
receive commands (like a switch or module) is what is called a Receive
Components Table. This is similar to the stored presets in older technology
X10 devices like PCS SceneMaster or SmartHome SwitchLinc devices.
Each entry in the Receive Components Table contains a level and, if the
device is dimmable, a fade rate.
How would you use these presets? Here is an example. Below is a table
representing three switch-controlled lights, with three different settings, for
three different uses:

Speaking of the manual, my recommendation is to read it thoroughly before doing serious installs, it will just make your life that much easier. It is actually well done. It can be found HERE.

If you change/add/move a room the software looses it's brain.
More detail is needed. I have not seen this except for I have a device that spews out a ton of noise and when that is on, UPStart behaves erratically. Have you used the built in signal and noise meters?

The update/program option is very slow
Yeah, I can see your point, but it's kind of relative. If you are in a rush and programming one device at a time it can appear slow. The bright side is you can make all the changes you want in UPStart and then just program them all and leave. Go do something else while all the programming is being done.

You can do all kinds of things on each button, on/off/activate/deactivate/dim.... but you have to do it to a link and not a device
More info needed. I am not using links, but controlling devices directly.

I hate to point out the obvious on UPStart, but even with whatever flaws it may or may not have, it is light years ahead of INStart (equivalent setup software for Insteon), which is still vaporware.

I think you were a bit burned out on the Caddx thing and rushed which left you with a bit of a bad taste. :( I'd encourage you to go through the user guide and give it another go and see if your opinion changes. Of course this is just my opinion, which is no better than yours. I have just learned even from personal experience that just jumping in without taking the time to study and get over the learning curve many times results in disappointment. Perhaps thats why the pros are very happy with it - they've been down the block a few times and really like it now that they fully understand it. First experiences are always tough. I hope you have better luck with future installs. Thanks again for posting your thoughts and by all means give us some more detail when you are rested.

Edit: I apologize if some items are redundant to bfishers. I started typing earlier, before his reply - he must type faster :)
 

markthomas

Active Member
Steve said:
On the hardware...
The LED's are cool, although why only green and blue (light blue does not count)
I don't think there are LEDs that support all colors. Each vendor supports different colors, Either Green, Blue and Light Blue as you stated, or Green, Red, Orange (for the older 1130 and PCS switches) or Blue, Red, Magenta for HAI switches.
Just an FYI... tri-color LEDs are fairly common. You can usually see them at Radio Shack, for example. They have two different-color diodes in them with reversed polarity. You obtain the colors in this way (using blue/green as an example):
  • DC current in one direction: blue
  • DC current in the other direction: green
  • Alternating current: aqua (blue + green alternating so fast your eye blends the colors)
 

Steve

Senior Member
Yes Mark, I agree. I noted the three colors that the vendors use. What I meant by 'I don't think there are LEDs that support all colors' is an LED that supports more than 2 different color diodes. Like an LED that can be Green, Blue or Red and then all the combinations (Orange, Magenta, Light Blue/Aqua). All the vendors have tri color, just using different primary colors to start. Make sense?
 

sbessel

Active Member
First off let me say these were just my first quick impressions, and my CADDX issues were completely unrelated, and no way biased my opinions.

The LED color was just and observation, I think the blue is cool, the green is to dim to be useful, and the light blue is so close to blue it is essentially useless. I would rather a blue/red combo or something I can easily tell the difference from across the room

My biggest issues are the speed, as this is the slowest automated switch I have used.

Also the extra buttons and how they are programmed. In UPBStart to make another button control another device, you have to create a link to that device, make that device receive to that link, and then you can add that link to the first devices button. This is the only way I could make this work. There *had* to be a device to receive on the link as well. Which means I could not just trigger on a Device 13 button 1 ON/OFF, or just send out a command for HS to receive, a light or something had to go on/off. This in my book made me loose a ton of functionality and customization.

I have keypadlincs that have buttons that control nothing but HomeSeer events.

The mounting on the fixture module. I needed to mount it in a standard box, yet it fit one set of holes, but then there was no way to attach a cover, it was not setup to be forward enough to look like a blank switch, there was just no clean way to install it. I ended up having to take apart an old switch and use it's frame so I could get a cover plate, and yet the fixture module was too far back.

The HS interface makes this link stuff even worse... I now have duplicates of each switch, and I have better control over the links, but yet their location is worse and confusing...

The bad module was bad, nothing I could do to fix it, I am beyond the is it on plugged in stage, another switch worked fine in it's place.

As far as the room issue causing software problems. When I first did everything I put the switches in their correct 'rooms' but then when importing to HS each room was a different location, this looked bad and made VR commands very difficult and confusing. I then changed the switches to all use a new room called 'Lights', the problem is it would send it to the switch correctly , but the software would not change and then the 2 were out of sync, the software never showed the new room. The only way I could fix it I had to go and do one of those network verification passes it would come up with an error for each switch I would then double-click on the itty bitty box then tell it the switch was correct not the software, then I exited the software without saving (as it still did not have the new room) and opened it again and told it to read the config from the network, then it caught up. This entire process took a long time and a boatload of clicking... all in all bad and a big 'ol fat hairy bug...

As far as the requestors, that is just my impressions, but the 'I Understand' button is hokey, there are too many of them, and when it is the only option it is a bit foolish... To me it had the looks of a beginner programmer, I only added 8 switches, but I probably clicked the 'I Understand' button more than 20 hundred times, all for different things.

I did read the UPDStart manual, it was extremely confusing as far as links and such. Personally I feel the software is 400% more complicated than it needs to be. The requestors attempt to be happy and tell you info, but yet there is no online help to explain some of the really confusing little buttons on each switch.

What I would have liked to see is a very simple software package that would let me see my unconfigured switches, let me add them, configure their buttons and parameters and then save it. Quickly and easily, UPBStart was not either. Perhaps I could use a UPBQuickConfigure.

The docs with the switches reference a 'relay' mode, they say look in the config section, the config section says nothing. The UPBStart software says nothing about relay mode... this was just a simple observation.

As far as the updates being slow, every time I change stuff on a switch it uploads it to the switch and verifies this upload, this kills a minute, and I find this slow.
 

bfisher

Active Member
Wow - not as positive of an experience as mine...

I view Upstart as you described your desired solution. It finds my switches, I make my changes, upload them to the switches, and save it. Very easy. I'm still using an older version - no reason to upgrade it since I haven't purchased new switches in a few months. And your upload experience is shocking... my switches get updated in seconds - worst case 10-15 seconds.

I don't remember hitting the I Understand button more than once per session - usually telling me that my version is outdated. I wonder if there is a software setting forcing all these confirmations?

And as for changing rooms - I'm surprised by this as well. I had no problems switching rooms - I've done it numerous times.

Want to try my older version of Upstart? Maybe your version is bad?
 

sbessel

Active Member
bfisher said:
...

And as for changing rooms - I'm surprised by this as well. I had no problems switching rooms - I've done it numerous times.

Want to try my older version of Upstart? Maybe your version is bad?
Since I am now remote and all my switches (for this time) are installed I don't need the software anymore, plus you have to exit HS to use it... a pain...

It wasn't switching rooms, it was creating a new room and trying to move a switch into that room that caused my software issues.

Perhpas an older version would be different, as I did download the latest. A link or copy of the old software would be great.

I am not saying everything was bad, I am just pointing out my observations. I never once had signal issues, and I installed these in a 6,000 sf single story home, with 5 seperate panels, and no couplers or repeaters.

I picked UPB over Insteon due to my experience with Smarthome and my understanding that they developed Insteon. I have a ton of SmartHome swtichlincs, keypadlincs and various other switches of theirs. And overall their quality is low, I have ~20% failure rate, not a complete failure that requires a removal, but an annoyance failure that I am stuck living with. Plus all my Smarhome products seens to have a stupid small limitation or annoyance in their operation, one that their tech say 'that is how it supposed to be' enough that I wouldn't touch anything that they designed from scratch.

I also have high expecations, I feel there is no reason a product shouldn't be perfect.
 

Steve

Senior Member
Well, UPB is certainly not perfect, so that explains a lot! :) I used to be a perfectionist too, but I got tired of all the disappointments so I've learned to accept less.

A few things though,

If you are saying UPB is _slower_ than x10, then there are certainly issues there - maybe even related to programming speed. Is the slowness via local control and HS, or HS only? A lot of noise on the line can create slowness due to retries, and will also slow down programming. I haven't timed it recently, but if memory serves, each switch was about 10 sec for a full program, less for updates.

The only PLP faster than UPB is Insteon, and IMHO is only marginally faster. But if you think you had trouble with UPStart, try Insteon. Oh yeh, I forgot, there is no software for it yet. :( Each has their own set of issues, but I think UPB is far ahead at this point in time.

I too am not inundated with confirmation dialogs. Must be some explanation, but I am using newest version.

I think its awesome that besides some of the setup issues you had it seems to be working perfectly! 6000' and 5 panels, that's fantastic. Usually some of the multipanel installs require at least 1 or 2 couplers.

A lot of the rest is probably specific to the UPB plugin for Homeseer. There is a dedicated forum to it HERE if you haven't been there yet.
 

AutomatedOutlet

Senior Member
Scott,

Communications would probably be faster if you had the phase coupler installed. Without it, the signal may have a pretty long way to travel.
 

sbessel

Active Member
My speed concerns are local control at the switch of the attached load, if there is something in between or a noise issue, then I have HUGE problems that NOTHING could fix :( Push the on, and wait 1/2 to a full second and the light comes on. My old $.98 x-10 bulk swtiches are much faster.

When I checked for noise or communications issues with the UPBStart software it always showed everything perfect and clean.

Actually control from HS is faster than I expected and I have no complaints here.
 

UPBseer

Member
The LED's are cool, although why only green and blue (light blue does not count)
It is a green/blue LED as explained above. The light blue shows a visible difference at night, not so much in daylight.

Out of 8 switches one did not work, the software would not see it for setup, I tried everything
Sounds like your switch is not hearing UPB.

The fixture module, what kind of mounting is this? It is non-standard and impossible to mount clean.
It mounts in a J-box. There are also slots for tie-wraps/cable ties

Why do only the slave switches come with wire nuts?
Customer feedback. Most folks that install our products are electricians who have all the wire nuts they need and then some. Newer products will not come with wire nuts.

The slave switch LED, worthless, lights green, on all the time or on with load, this depends on how you wire it. No other options
No other options on this version. The next generation of "dedicated remote" switch will have more options but that means more wires. The third option is no LED at all with the brown wire capped off.

The slave switches only support 2 buttons, a side by side full length rocker
Yes, the single rocker or the dual tall rocker, same as the US11-30.

Slave switch, why have a white/red wire if it is unused, the electrical boxes are full enough as it is.
The brown white wire controls the left two buttons, the red white wire controls the right two buttons. The USR could be connected to two separate "master" switches and mounted with the ZS12 faceplate.

The switches are slow, I thought my Switchlincs and keypadlincs were slow, these babies take a long time for a simple on/off command, not a good response time, and for a switch that is directly controlling a load to be 1/2 second to respond this feels unprofessional.
The delay is due to the switch waiting for another button tap. The switches have single tap and double tap functions, along with the 5 tap and 10 tap set up and reset functions. The switch has to have a delay to ensure the users intention.

The UPBStart software...
UPStart has come a long way from its beginnings as an Engineering tool. We are always looking for suggestions to improve the interface.

Think of Links as Scenes. Links can be activated or deactivated. They can be configured to snap, goto, fade, or just send a status, or even blink. I agree that the documentation could use some work here. Links are very powerful and allow all device associated with the link to work in unison or in a method desired by the designer. Links can turn some lights on, others off and set a desired dim level on others. They can be used as a virtual remote where no traveler wire exists. Using Links and US2-40s with the various faceplates you can let your imagination create the lighting experience.

If you change/add/move a room the software looses it's brain.
Not sure exactly how you tried to change/add/move a room. The best place is the Edit Device screen under the ID tab.

The update/program option is very slow
Yes, I agree. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done to speed it along with all the reading, writing and verifying going on.

You can do all kinds of things on each button, on/off/activate/deactivate/dim.... but you have to do it to a link and not a device
Since the US2-40 is controlled by a Link, you are doing it to the device when you do it to the Link that is the local load Link.


I can no way found out how to make a button just send a command/key/something to HS
There is a check box on the Options tab that will do that. If you do not send a Link with a button (Unused) but have the check box for "Report light level after any button or rocker is pressed" a status message will be sent.

Thanks for the feedback.
 

SpaceCowboy

Active Member
My only comment (or maybe question - is this happening to others) is about the buzzing/hum the hear from my HAI UPB switches.

Not the status transmission buzz, which is obvious, but generally, on or off, the UPB switches make a hum or buzz. Am I the only one that gets this buzz? I only have two switches installed, on two different legs, on different levels of the house.

I don't hear anything from the Insteon switches I'm testing.

Is this normal? Or Noise?
 

Steve

Senior Member
Brad, Thanks for the info!

Spacecowboy, I don't hear any buzz on an SA or PCS switch. HAI has been disconnected as will the PCS shortly.
 
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