Why are you using a PC for HA ???


Senior Member
upstatemike said:
I'm not saying there isn't any value in that, I'm just saying it isn't worth $4,800.
Hmmm. In that case, you should consider using a PC for HA, and DIY'ing it :D :D


Senior Member
IVB said:
upstatemike said:
I'm not saying there isn't any value in that, I'm just saying it isn't worth $4,800.
Hmmm. In that case, you should consider using a PC for HA, and DIY'ing it :D :D
I guess the market I fall into is not "custom installed by a professional" but neither is it hard core DIY where you write every line of code and build much of your own equipment.

I am looking for the segment of Home Automation that most closely matches the stereo market. I want to pick the components I like and connect them together to do what I want. I don't want to build my own amplifiers and I don't want to pay somebody to hook up my speakers either. I don't mind programming a universal remote but I don't want to design the menu that displays the satellite stations on my TV.

Ultimately I want to spend more time enjoying the end result than I spend putting it together.

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
I am looking for the segment of Home Automation that most closely matches the stereo market. I want to pick the components I like and connect them together to do what I want.

Not trying to be flip, but if someone had already invented that, you'd know, because they'd probably own the state you live in :)


Senior Member
Dean Roddey said:
I am looking for the segment of Home Automation that most closely matches the stereo market. I want to pick the components I like and connect them together to do what I want.

Not trying to be flip, but if someone had already invented that, you'd know, because they'd probably own the state you live in :)
Maybe if enough people ask for it somebody actually will invent it.

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
Well, on the serious side, it's not a matter of invention. It's been invented a number of times. But for it to actually become a reality, you have to convince the hundreds of companies who sell the things that would have to plug into this system to adopt the invention. That's the hard part.


Well now...

Wasn't that fun.....

3 pages of posts in less then 24hrs...

I cannot cover all the responses. I will pick a few tho..

Crestron is expensive, although not as much as people said here. List price is much higher then the actual price you get on new stuff. Dealer markup varies but is like 30-40%. I completely agree the big touch panels are outrageously expensive and you would be better off using a PC doing E-Control and browsing web pages off the Pro2 or MC2E to control stuff. Remember the newer Crestrons have a web server so you just create web pages for your control and you can use anything that can browse to control the system. The only panels I ever fool with are the wireless one way panels like the current 1700C or the older 1550. While still expensive the 1700 is amazingly durable. I have a client who has one he has for use by his 2 year old. Its been in use for 2 years now. Without any maintenance other then a wet rag to remove plenty of goo. Its gets dropped daily onto hardwood floors. Kicked. You name it. Its still mostly in one piece and works. The 2 year old can operate everything in the house too.

Its still expensive stuff. A PC can be cheap and as long as you don't mind some rebooting and twiddling with it - its all good.

Going back to the system Ripper99 described. Indeed, those systems and the programming tools, sucked. Bad unreliable junk. I know I did them. However now things are quite different. The stuff really works. The tools really work. The hardware like the Pro2 and MC2 stuff have been out for more then 3 years now and all the bugs are pretty much worked out.

Crestron still *requires* people to be certified. I agree its stupid and a waste of time. However now-a-days there are SERIOUS tests to become certified. Only 30% of the people that go to the basic classes get certified now. There are levels of certification too and being a top notch certified crestron programmer is crazy hard to do. By any standard.

There are support forums where you can get any question answered in hours by some of the best Crestron guys on earth. The best one is at Yahoo Groups. Its open to anyone.

The software is available if you look around. However as a end user you will not be able to get support, Period, Other then support forums.

Its about like learning Photoshop or Autocad. More like Autocad as it is not intuitive. Once you know a few basic things, like how to start building a system and how to change views from hardware to software its not -that- hard. But because it is crazy deep in programming depth there is a learning curve. I learn new stuff on it all the time - after working with this stuff for 10 years too.

IT AINT PERFECT. Do NOT get me wrong on this. There are times I wanna -KILL- Crestron. There being located in CresKill has meaning to me :D


As far as reliability goes a PC vs Crestron debate is I feel a done deal.

Yes I know how to make a PC extremly reliable.

Only use Windows 2000, kill off everything but what you need, adopt complete security - run as a user.

Use expensive parts for your PC, USE A SLOWER PROCESSOR then the board can take. Never buy boards because of price. Use extablished boards - NOT NEW HIGH PERFORMANCE STUFF. Leave a MARGIN - Buy a motherboard that will do 2Ghz and then put in a 1Ghz chip. Buy a power supply with way more power then you need. Buy ram thats way faster then you need. Dont use a high speed bus. Choose the slower bus for graphics. Its tempting to buy everything at its maximum performance - this is wrong. SPEND money. Don't buy a hyper high performance cheap part, buy a lesser performance expensive part. DO NOT BUY ITEMS THAT HAVE JUST SHIPPED, BUY LAST YEARS MODELS. By then you can check and see if any issues exist with the boards BEFORE you buy, you can look at the mfrg service notes.

Yea, I can make a high avaliability, high MTBF PC windows machine. I count MTBF failure as a reboot and it not being available 100%.

However, a dedicated hardware platform like a Crestron will outperform it in MTBF. The Crestron products selling now have been the same hardware for 3 years now. That is long enough to really know if there are any problems and to correct them.

With PC's the maximum life of any shipping hardware is like 6 months. In 6 months the manufacturer has forgotten the product you bought and is onto the new one. Trying to ship the thing as fast as possible. No time to fully test it. Push it out the door NOW. No long term refinement of the hardware. They create new designs every 3 months. You as a buyer have no choice in buying a hardware platform that has been tested and debugged by a big base of users over years. Close to zero established reliability.

On a hardware design level a PC -CANNOT- be as reliable as a dedicated hardware device. Its called established reliability. A PC cannot have it because of the way the business model works.

This also applies to the OS. Windows changes every second tuesday of the month. While older platforms like W2K with service pack 4 are fairly established performance and you can get real established reliability this does not apply to XP. You also have software that runs on top of windows, you have drivers written by third parties, there are security issues and updates.

There is math that says the more code you have the less reliability you can have. Period. This also applies to part count - the more parts the less reliable it is, period. mathmatically. So with Vista on the horizon at a 9GB windows directory - it seems less likely it will be more reliable then XP and of course XP is less reliable then W2K.

With a Crestron system on the other hand - the hardware is established and has been in the field for 3+ years with a established track record. The OS is written by the people that make the hardware. In fact most of the firmware has not needed any updates in 2 years on the Pro2/MC2. The hardware and OS work. ALL the hardware is made by and tested by the same people who make and design the OS and programming tools. The design stradigy is for established reliability. Look inside a Creston box - awesome good parts and engineering, its over engineered. The hardware has evolved and has not been re-invented every six months as PC hardware and boards are.

I will stand up and argue I can make a crestron system far more reliable then any PC based system. In fact I will argue its mathmatically impossible for a PC to be as reliable as a Crestron.


As far as Crestron support -as a dealer- goes, its hard to beat. Crestron TrueBlue support is amazing. 24hrs a day - 7 days a week even at 3am on Xmas, you can get a call back from a very knowdgable support guy who can answer your question in the first pass. They have handy all the hardware and will drop your program in and test it to see your problem while your on the phone.


Of course Crestron has its down sides. Oh yea it does. The wireless touch panels use NiCd batteries. Yup old fashioned NiCd. Dead with memory effects in under 6 months. How stupid is that ?.

There are well documented issues with the software and the hardware. However there are release notes and very clear coverage of the problems. The problems get fixed however in a prompt manner. Support people are upfront with any issue - if its a problem, they tell you. However the problems are now very very minor.

Overall, I no longer have many issues with Crestron. Going back 3 or 4 years however it was terrible. Not any more.

You know they have Jails that use the Pro2 to control various systems including locking and security. Crestron has case studies on this done by the feds that established it was more reliable then a PC based solution.


Crestron Dealers:

Most are caca... Bad news and only out to profit. Most go out of business in 2 years.
The good ones do not want to help a John Q Public as that is WAY more work then doing a normal job. They also do not like DIY as a DIY guy is gonna play with the system and that eventually leads to support calls and less profit. Most good Crestron guys drop in complete systems they know work, IE AC, Security, Lighting and do not use cutting edge stuff as it will cause issues. They do not do convergence as that too leads to less profits because of support calls on things outside their control.

A DIY guy like us, wants to play with cutting edge. Things that really don't work fully yet. We spend lots of time fooling with stuff. A good Crestron guy won't do that as it leads to lots of support and -zero- profit.

Still today a fully automated house cannot be made 100% reliable and is impossible to do profitably.

You can do sections and systems that work well as long as you don't do cutting edge. This can be done profitably IF you know what your doing.

However the good Crestron guy is gonna dictate what AC system, what Thermostat, what lighting system, what security system. The AV system ( what I do ) they gotta at least be involved in the equipment choices as they gotta make sure the stuff will work with automation. A good Crestron guy will tell you things like "No I won't do voice control - it doesn't work well yet".

You see a Crestron guy CANNOT spend lots of time with you helping you with the cutting edge system, they loose money doing that.

So A Crestron dealer is gonna run away from a DIY guy.

This is NOT what a DIY guy likes to hear.

I don't do HA for a living. Nor do I do Crestron for a living. Kinda a hobby and I help some of my clients. I make high end video projectors. High end home theater -requires- a Crestron. So my video systems -require- a Crestron 1700 based system. This allows me to control broadcast servers RS422 and all the various stuff in a high end home theater.

I do know however from previous experience all about HA on the most insane level. I have clients who have attempted it. Vastly unlimited budgets. PC farms running it all. I have seen the highest end HA in use.

The home theaters I do systems for are usually at least $500,000 in hardware just for sound and picture. So the houses are usually more like compounds and some form of serious HA is always present.


All that aside. On a more affordable level :D I can see completely mixing a PC and HA together. Doing a Media Center thing and doing complete convergence. While close to impossible to do without hiccups - its a fun hobby. It sounds fun to me. Impossible as it may be - that just gets me more focused and determined to make it work :) I like a good puzzle. HA is a serious puzzle.

Using a PC that you already own is a very cool way to do HA and I think a good reason to use a PC.

I would do it. But I don't have a PC I wanna dedicate to this.


My points are:

1. While possibly more expensive - and that is up to debate - I feel a Crestron based system can and should be considered for any serious HA project. In fact I feel a control system - not the touch panels - has a place in any HA system, even if you have to get it one on ebay.

Look at my example with a ST-CP and 2414 for $300.......

If you have a computer based HA system you can talk to the Crestron on a RS232 port so YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS !

HOWEVER this is completely DIY. You will need to do your own software and not use a dealer for this to work. You would need to learn Crestron. I think this does fit a DIY model. But this is a obvious issue as I pointed out several times.

2. A crestron system is more reliable then any version of a PC based system.

However there are things - as you guys established - that a PC can do that a Crestron cannot - like video surveillance.

For me.... I'm still gonna be buying a ST-CP and a 2414s. I have almost nothing to control and am doing nothing but lights, a few appliances and my water heater. I do not need or want full HA. So this solution is perfect for me as its cheap $300..

I wanted to bring to everyones attention this fun DIY possibility I stumbled into. That was the reason for my post...

Jeeze,,,, my fingers hurt. WAY too long a post.....

Sorry for being so wordy.....


Ok then, A quick tour of Crestron programming.

First up is the hardware view in Simpl. This software is for configuring the control system. Desiging the pretty touchpanels is a seperate program called VTPro.

The images of the screen shot I tried to fit onto the size screen of the forum so your gonna have to squint some. But I think they are readable.

First up, Simpl - which is any but Simple. But I suppose considering the complexity of what you can do it is prett simple.


Below I dragged a MC2E control system in from the list of them on the left. I then opened up some of the ports on the MC2E and clicked on Properties for a serial port.

You also add devices like IR things, DVD Players and such from a list that includes almost anything ever made. These are all grouped by mfgr and model. You drag those onto the IR port where you connect a emmiter for that device. There is no limit to how many devices you can drop onto a IR port. You can learn your own devices as well. People share devices on the Yahoo forum. You can also drop in RS232 items like a 2414 module.

LOTS of hardware things on the list on the left. You just drag it over to the right and that adds it to the system. You right click on it if you need to configure it - like a serial port as I did below.

This drag and drop thing works for even the most advanced items and hardware.


Once you have added all your stuff to the hardware view, you switch to the programming view.

This is where you do everything. The logic symbols you can drag into your system are on the far left. In the middle is the Crestron hardware with your dropped in devices from the previous step under "Program View" and on the far right is the workspace called "Detailed View".

In all the next images I try and open most of the logic symbols you can drag into your program and use. The list is everything you can think of. It took 4 screen shots to show most of these symbols. Serial parsing, logic gates, analog signal processing,, everything.... So as these shots go along look thru the symbols on the far right to gauge what you can do with programming. You can of course create anything from these symbols and if you want make your own symbols..

Man these are hard to see... Sorry I was trying to fit them on the forum screen.

This shot shows various IR devices ( dyd players, Lutron lighting, DSS ) connected to various ports - you drag these into view on the right to work with them. On the top right is a Sony DSS with a few functions visible. Below that is a Multiple One Shot with a .1 sec time, below that is stepper which is a macro with various steps each with a lenght of duration and delay between each step.

I also pulled in a OR that has not been "connected" to any other symbols yet and below it is the touchscreen with its button press outputs I explain later.


Next up a better view of the devices connected to this system and how it looks. These are all dragged in from the database in the first step way above. You can also see the things connected to the RS232 ports on the top of this list.


Here you can see how to "connect" things together.

Once dragged into the program you have to connect a device's functions to a touch panels button presses. In the right pane you can see the touchpanel on the left and a TiVo on the right. You connect them by labeling the same thing on each function wire. You see that here. The Press452 is the touchpanel button and this is connected to the TiVo in the Master Bedroom MBR by my label "MBR_TiVo_7" and this also appears on the device symbol on the IR function for 7.

So by pressing the button assigned to 452 on this touch panel the Simpl program will then send out the 7 IR function though IR port H and into the emmiter and control the TiVo...


In this below shot, I show how you can take a analog voltage input, in this case a telephone ringer signal, send it to a AND symbol that also checks if the Lutron Lights are off and if both things happen ( and ) it sends a "Mute" to the Audio Processor, in this case a Levinson 40 which is RS232 controlled. So I take a analog input and a RS232 input and do logic and send out a RS232 output command.

SO If the Phone rings and the lights are off mute the audio. Its just a example.

Very simple really.


Now on to the pretty stuff. Although some would say the above stuff is fairly pretty.

We now switch programs to VTPro. The stuff you use to program touchpanels.

Again its all drag and drop. You just add what touchpanel you have and start drawing buttons. Its like photoshop but made for this work. You can take any image you have or can make and import them as backgrounds or as a button skins. Each button can be any shape, any text font or color, and image. And all those things can be different when you depress the button. So your button can be very graphical and your only limit is your graphics you have handy.

The below page is from a 1700 and this image does not do it justice. The buttons look like metal on the panel. Very hot looks and very high resolution panel. Remember this is a wireless handheld panel.

You can see all the pages in the touchpanel on the left. You drag over what you want to work on.


Here I have turned on the "Join Numbers" which you can see in the Simpl program above. These are the numbers you connect to in the device in Simpl.


Clicking on any button produces a menu for settings. Here you assign many button properties.



Thats a quick tour. Im sorry if your eyes are now crossed. It was blurry as well....



Here are clear pictures of all the logic symbols you can tie together in a Crestron control processor. No limit to how many or how you use them. Mostly my brain hurts after so many symbols so I try and limit my brain hurting. However I feel there is nothing you can't do with all this logic avaliable.

Analog functions for analog inputs and outputs. Serial symbols for string operations.
Logic and memory functions. These are not all the functions just the important ones.

You can also write C++ if you want and use that as a symbol.

Remember you drag these symbols over and then connect all the "pins" to other stuff.

Each one of these little babies is a program to itself. Some of them are crazy complex internally but simple connections.

Cool that you can take in analog signals and process them into anything. Even send out a processed analog signal. Cool stuff.



So you can now picture that you just take in the serial strings from a 2414, do logic which can be ANYTHING and then send out whatever you want. IR/RS232.. anything.

Just drag and drop.

This stuff works with a $250 ST-CP. This kind of power combined with a 2414 will make for a 1132C on Steroids. Completly stand alone with no PC anywhere. Years of uptime.

$300 bucks and you got on hella Insteon HA system.

Scale this up and you get the idea.

Crestron does one thing, automate. The hardware, software, firmware, company direction and buisness model all do only one thing, automate.

I feel a Crestron control system - not the panels if you don't want - should be part of every HA DIY guys system. As long as you don't mind the lack of official support and the complexity of doing the systems.

You could even become a "certified" programmer and do it fairly cheaply if you can find a cheap place to stay around the Creskill NJ area and find cheap plane fare. I don't know what Creston's charges for this - if anything.

However I think in my description I covered how to do a system :D

You can right click on any symbol for help with that symbol.

I know you guys will have fun with Crestron. On eBay they are cheap. Ask for the software from the guy selling them.

You need

For doing a control system:

Simpl - current version at least 2.07.32
Crestron database - current version at least 18.1.5
Simple Plus Cross complier

For doing a Touchpanel:

VTPro 3.5.27 or higher

For editing IR device drivers:


Once you have these you can you can "Live Update" to stay current. The database is important as new things are added all the time, like Blu-Ray players.


Also keep in mind the new systems are multi threaded / multi tasking. So the stuff can all go on at the same time.

So you can have 4 serial ports all banging away completly different stuff doing completly different things ALL AT THE SAME TIME while all sharing the same variables and logic as needed.

IR/RS232/Ethernet/RF/Analog/Relays/ All that going on at once...

Also I think the best way for us DIY guys is to ADD a crestron system to a current computer automation system. That way you have BOTH. The Computer can talk to the Crestron via RS232 or ethernet. The Crestron can talk to the computer.

Whatever software you have can be made to talk to a Crestron. Worst case its a plug in. However all you need is to control a RS232 port in your software and you have a Crestron talking to your computer automation.


Active Member
I will stand up and argue I can make a crestron system far more reliable then any PC based system. In fact I will argue its mathmatically impossible for a PC to be as reliable as a Crestron.

And I'll be the first guy to stand up and say my system costs way less for the features I have, is way easier to maintain and is more reliable than you give credit and because you are using old Crestron stuff from ebay your system will never have as many features *unless* you fork out some serious money.

With the cheap equipment you speak of on ebay can you add color touchscreens easily if they are not Crestron?


Senior Member

Wow, that is a lot of Crestron info! I feel like I could pass the certification test just from reading your posts!

What would be the quickest way to get a list of all the Crestron dealers in Syracuse? (I'm just curious who is putting them in locally).


Senior Member
eh, it'll take me several years to read through that, but i wanted to thank you for putting the screenshots up so we have a chance to take a look at how it works.

Guy Lavoie

Active Member
That's an interesting tour into the high end of hardware controllers. I like the logic gate model for the conditional logic. Thanks!