X10

All posts tagged X10

Raspberry Pi TV Time Machine

I just saw this cool little TV Time Machine project for the Raspberry Pi:

“For the innards, Wellington used a cannibalised thrift store Dell monitor, hooking it up to a Raspberry Pi 2 and some second-hand speakers. After the addition of Adafruit’s video looper code to loop free content downloaded from the Internet Archive, plus some 3D-printed channel and volume knobs, the TV Time Machine was complete.”

However, we already have a TV Time Machine that can play anything available on our TiVo Roamio OTA (over-the-air):

Broadcast television today is a retro paradise: MeTV, Antenna TV, GRIT, Comet, Heroes & Icons, GetTV, COZI, etc.

The TiVo also can provide DVR recordings, any show we have on Plex, anything on Netflix or Amazon.

Our TV Time Machine in action:

We run the HDMI output of our TiVo to our big TV in the den.

But a composite output is available as well.

I connected an X10 video sender unit to this output with an RCA cable (red, white, and yellow plugs).

Whatever is playing on TiVo in the den is transmitted via the sender to the video receiver unit in the guest room, which is attached to the 1983 TV set by a standard TV coax cable.

The den TV doesn’t need to be on.

[Above left: video sender unit in den; above right: video receiver unit in the guest room. The little curved rod is an IR extender, not needed here. It can be folded down.]

Control the den TiVo remotely from the guest room with the free TiVo phone app:

I try to keep the sender off when not in use because it jams part of the crowded 2.4 GHz band used by older wifi routers; see previous post Conflict between Wifi, X10 video sender.

The X10 receiver can be on all the time. The old TV is always set on channel 3.

(Video sender/receiver pair in the TTM aStore)

Since these devices are analog, the picture looks especially good on an old analog TV.

Next up: “Police Squad!”… IN COLOR

We have all 6 “Police Squad!” and all 49 “The Outer Limits” episodes on Plex.

Amazon Dash Button, repurposed.

If you are an avid Public Radio Tulsa 89.5 listener like I am, you probably have had a “driveway moment”:

You just arrived back home with a riveting story in progress, but there is something urgent you need to be doing besides sitting and listening to the radio in your car.

So you dash indoors, turn on the radio, and try to continue listening while you do whatever is so all-fired important.

But wait, here’s the Public Radio Tulsa “Driveway Moment” Button!

From your driveway or garage, push the button on your key ring, and instantly start recording on your indoors Windows PC. Listen to the rest of the story when you have time.

Yes, in only one fast, easy stroke of your index finger!


This is a short how-to, since the hard work is in two previous posts.

  1. Do the hack described in detail in this post: Amazon Dash Button Hack: X10 wireless doorbell.
  2. Instead of creating the doorbell.bat file, create a KWGSrecord.bat file as described in this post: DIY online radio recorder (KWGS update). Change the number of seconds in that file from 10800 (3 hours) to 1800 (1/2 hour), or whatever length of time you want.
  3. Alter the text in DashButton.bat from the first post so it executes KWGSrecord.bat instead of doorbell.bat.

There, wasn’t that easy?

Maybe not.

But it can be done, because I just tested it from both our garage and driveway.

You could also keep the button near your home radio for spur-of-the-moment KWGS recording.

Yet another example of repurposing the Amazon Dash Button.

(By the way, the button’s product label can be peeled off, and replaced with a custom label if you wish. Or you might say it means a “Bounty” of good radio.)

Now it’s a KWGS radio with recorder!

Here is a fun and cheap home automation trick I did last week.

Our house came with a wireless doorbell, which sadly has gone to that Great Electronics Recycling Depot in the sky. What to do?

I recalled reading somewhere that the Amazon Dash button is capable of being repurposed via a hack. (By the way, the first button is basically free).

“Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected during the set-up process. When you’re running low, simply press Dash Button—ensuring you never run out of your essentials again.”

The hack involves starting up a .bat (batch) file that “watches” for your button push, then runs any other .bat or .exe file on your PC that you have selected, rather than ordering an Amazon product.

Since I was able to create a batch file that activates our X10 chime module, we now have a free wireless doorbell!

Read more below.


The Dash button hack:

The Readme file for the Amazon Dash Button Hack at GitHub has the full procedure and free software for the hack.

My supplemental notes:

Download the latest version of the software, which is in .zip format. Unzip it into a folder on your PC (I put it into C:\DashButton).

Then connect a new, unpaired Amazon Dash Button to your home wifi network. A smartphone Amazon app is needed to do this. First make sure to update the Amazon app to the most recent version. Subprocedure at Instructables; do Steps 1 and 2 only.

Next, I found that “pushing the button you wish to pair repeatedly” per the Readme file’s Normal Usage Instructions didn’t work that well for me.

You can skip directly to the “If you already know the IP of your button” section for testing if you do the following:

  • Open up a browser on a PC directly connected to your wireless router and type in “http://192.168.1.1” (or whatever the correct IP address is for your particular router’s make and model) to access the router’s management GUI.
  • You will be asked to enter both a username and password. Typically, they are both “admin” if you haven’t changed it previously. Check your manual.
  • Find the “DHCP Clients Table” (on my Linksys router, it’s under Status/Local Network). Look at it or take a screenshot.
  • Push your Dash Button, then refresh the DHCP table and compare. You should see a new “Generic Amazon” device along with its IP address and its MAC address.
  • Copy down the IP address (e.g., 192.168.1.105) and the associated hardware (MAC) address (e.g., AB:78:BF:8C:9D:19).

OR

  • Download the free Fing app to your smartphone. When you hit the app’s refresh button, it shows a list of all your locally-connected network devices.
  • Push your Dash Button, then immediately refresh Fing. You should see listed a new “Generic Amazon” device with its IP address and its MAC address.
  • Copy them down.
  • Try again if at first you don’t succeed.

It’s fine to use the IP address from the above for testing in the “If you already know the IP of your button” section of the Readme page, but it needs to not change over time. To accomplish this, go into your router’s GUI as mentioned above, and reserve an IP address for your button. This is where you use the button’s MAC address you noted above. Look through your router’s GUI menu to find where to reserve the IP address by MAC address.

Our router is set up to dynamically hand out IP addresses to devices on our network (that’s what DHCP means), starting at 192.168.1.100. You should reserve an unused IP in the range 192.168.1.2 through 192.168.1.99, or the equivalent non-DHCP range on your router.

My permanent batch file to execute the hack is named “DashButton.bat”. This is needed if you want the hack to run every time you reboot. Here is the text contained in it:

C:\DashButton\AmazonButton_v4.0.exe 192.168.1.10 C:\Users\User\Desktop\doorbell.bat “Comment: place this file in Startup.”

  • Change the text above to include your button’s IP address, and the location of the .bat file on your PC that you want to execute.
  • Change the comment to something meaningful to you, or just delete it.
  • Be sure the quote marks are the straight up and down kind (“dumb”) not the curly type (“smart”).

(I show below how to create the doorbell.bat. You can use any other executable file on your PC for testing, or just to do a different action at a push of the button.)

  • Double-click DashButton.bat to activate the hack.
  • Push your Dash button.
  • If the doorbell batch file (or the file you selected) is executed, then your DashButton.bat is working.
  • Put a copy of it into your PC’s Startup folder. That way, when Windows is rebooted, the it will be executed during Startup.

The batch file to use with the Dash button hack:

You can use any batch or .exe file you have, but I wanted to activate our X10 Chime module.

I mentioned in the previous post that we already have an X10 home automation system, including a CM15A USB Transceiver Module plugged into our desktop Windows PC.

With the CM15A and free AHSDK software in place, any of our X10 devices (including our Chime module) can be activated over our local network.

My doorbell.bat file has this text in it:

start /d “C:\Program Files (x86)\AHSDK\bin” ahcmd.exe sendplc A9 on

  • The folder with my ahcmd.exe executable file is C:\Program Files (x86)\AHSDK\bin. Our Chime module is at X10 address A9 (house code A, unit code 9).
  • Adjust your batch file text to match the location of your ahcmd.exe and the module you want to activate.
  • Again, be sure the quote marks are “dumb”, not “smart”.

So a new wireless doorbell at zero additional cost.

Or, (gasp!) use the button as intended.

Amazon Dash Button

Amazon Echo Dot, aka Alexa, aka "Computer" in our theater room.

Amazon Echo Dot, aka Alexa, aka “Computer”, responding to my voice command in our theater room.

Among its many talents and skills, the Amazon Echo Dot device allows you to voice-control a number of smart home systems, notably, Philips Hue.

But we already have X10 home automation devices, which are not supported by the Echo. (See the X10 section of the TTM aStore.)

There is a way to get Alexa (Amazon’s virtual personal assistant, who inhabits the Echo Dot) to accept X10 voice commands to turn lights, fans, and coffee makers on and off. I’ve done it.

See the 35-second video at bottom of page; read more below.


HA-Bridge is free software that emulates the Philips Hue light system.

When HA-Bridge is installed on a computer, it tricks Alexa into thinking she is “seeing” and controlling a Philips Hue light that is actually a different brand of device, such as X10.

The computer also needs a CM15A USB Transceiver Module (or the like) to communicate with X10 devices. (I already had a CM15A plugged into a Windows 10 PC so we could use the X10 Commander app on our smartphones.)

I could have installed HA-Bridge on one of my Linux-based Raspberry Pi computers (see Corey’s Write for a procedure), but I preferred not to disturb the existing arrangement on our Win 10 computer.

Luck was with me. Just last month, Tuicemen wrote a Windows-based program, Alex10, that uses HA-Bridge (included) to talk with Alexa. It is also more user-friendly than HA-Bridge. So Alex10 was the way to go. (Tuicemen deserves a PayPal tip for his good work if you use it.)

I won’t go into further technical detail about how to do it, but here are the resources I used:

Tuicemen’s Alex10 page

Tuicemen’s Alex10 Forum

Tuicemen’s Alex10 thread on the X10 CommunityForums


Yesterday was our first sci-fi Saturday with voice-controlled lights.

When I say “Computer: turn on Movie Time”, our assorted decorative and house lights come on. (I selected the name “Movie Time” and the lights to be activated in the Alexa Android app.)

Then, when I say “Computer: turn off theater lights,” the house lights go down, and the show can begin.

When I say “Computer: make it so” in my best Jean-Luc Picard voice, Alexa (renamed “Computer” last week) is pre-programmed to respond “Aye, aye, Captain.”

See it in action in our house:

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

Our kitchen TiVo Mini, LG 24″ LED TV, TiVo remote.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(You may have seen the list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I will break it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow.)

The kitchen is now a simple TV room. The TiVo Mini is responsible for that change.

Years ago, because of my wife’s need to watch “General Hospital” recordings while cooking, I put together a too-complicated Rube Goldberg setup. But it was either that, or renting a cable box with DVR dedicated to the kitchen.

She had to switch the den TV to VIDEO1, change its audio setting to SPEAKERS OFF, FIXED AUDIO OUT, and turn on the den X10 video sender. Then she could control the den cable DVR box via the kitchen X10 receiver’s IR extender. (The extender relayed the Cox remote’s commands to the sender, which converted them to pulses from its IR emitter, which was attached to the Cox cable box.)

Then she (or I) had to switch it all back to watch in the den.

Whew!

Since X10 is old analog technology, it looks best on a tube TV rather than a new flatscreen. We bought a new 13″ tube TV back in 2006 from Best Buy. The picture tube eventually faded, and it had to be whacked sometimes to make the sound work. The microwave fritzed the X10 radio frequency whenever it was used, so the TV had to be muted.

Not great, then barely serviceable.

Enter the TiVo Mini and a new LED TV.

Now all she has to do is turn on the new LED TV and the TiVo Mini, both with the kitchen-dedicated TiVo remote, and select episodes recorded on the TiVo Roamio in the den.

She is much happier now. The 13″ was carted back to Best Buy (Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day).

The outdated X10 technology still has a place, though: The workout room TV setup for my wife. The TiVo Roamio in the den even simplified it considerably.

(A few additional details from a slightly different angle in the earlier post The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini.)

Two rooms to go: the den and the theater room.