Preview of upcoming CQC 1.1 release - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 12-04-2003, 04:28 PM - Thread Starter
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(* With permission from AVS *)

I just wanted to give folks a preview of the upcoming stuff in the next (1.1) release of CQC. CQC is a software based, network distributed, secure, powerful control and automation suite for Windows 2K and XP. It integrates both a powerful back end and a powerful front end, object oriented macro language and development environment, user interface design tools, system management, and centralized data storage into a single, coherent package, so you don't have to patch components together from multiple vendors. It is user account based, secure, and supports IR, X-10, serial, socket, and USB devices, and is inherently designed for robust two way control.

Driver Development. Currently, device drivers are written in the built in CML language. This is still the preferred mechanism, since it is very flexible and CML being a general purpose language, it can handle protocols of any complexity.

However, for many folks, this is a little too much, because they don't have software development experience. So, I've brought back something (with significant improvements) something that was thrown away when the CML language was added, namely the Protocol Description Language, which allows you to describe the protocol of a device, without any programming, and a generic driver will use that description to do the actual work.

Clearly it won't be quite as flexible as a general purpose language, and it cannot handle super-complex or extremely inconsistent protocols very well. But it will handle most devices easily enough. It is not just simple send/receive strings, so it can handle the powerful two way device control that CQC is known for.

Here is an example of a protocol file for a Kramer video switcher, which has a simple, two byte protocol, so it's a fairly simple protocol to understand. The file is kind of big because it is heavily commented, so that it can serve as a very well explained example. Full documentation is available but won't be up on the web site until the new release, but you should be able to get a good feel for what's going on from the comments.

CML based drivers get to use the very nice built in graphical IDE, which allows for very powerful debugging and development. With the protocol based driver, the driver itself is just a black box to you, so you cannot look inside the box to the same degree. However, it does have a simple but very useful test harness that allows you to test the protocol offline before you load it up into CQC. It allows you to ask that various debugging information messages be displayed in a scrolling log, see protocol information, and see the values of the fields you've defined, and change their values as would a client applications so that you can test field writes.

It became clear to me that many people wanted to use CQC and to provide support for their devices, but needed an easier way to go about it, and hopefully this will help them with that job. The protocol language can support serial or socket based devices.

Device Drivers. One pretty important new driver for a number of people is for the Global Cache GC-100, which is an ethernet based multi-function box. It is configurable with various numbers of contact closures and IR blastsers/sensors. So CQC can now support zoned IR, which is something it didn't support in the past. The IR architecture has been updated to fully support zoned IR.

Note that this box also provides serial ports, but they are not useable by CQC because they don't look like standard serial ports. Global Cache is working on a redirector driver that will allow that to happen, so that the serial ports will also be useful for talking to other devices. We will update our driver at that time as required to make this happen.

Another new driver is for the Denon 3800 DVD player. The 3800 is one of the least expensive DVD players that offers a full featured control protocol, so it is a great addition to a system that needs strong automation. If I could afford one, I'd definitely add one to my collection. Old timers may note that this isn't a new driver per se, it was just unavailable for a while, and has now been brought back on line after being missing for a few releases.

There are also a good number of smaller features and some bug fixes, but those are the two most important new features. CQC has the power and killer architecture already, but I need to make it easier for you to get your devices under control.

Coming Attractions. If you come to the lab and see what's on the slab, there are some interesting things coming.

Most notable is that we are working with Zen-Sys to support their Z-Wave wireless control system. Z-Wave is basically X-10, but good. Unless X-10, it uses fast and reliable wireless network technology to control and monitor modules around the home. It probably spells the end of X-10 before too much longer, and it is an exciting new addition to CQC's repertoire. It's a little more expensive than X-10, but you get what you pay for. It is reliable and far faster than X-10, and when you want to build a full house automation system, that's important.

Given that X-10 is still popular, the USB version of the Powerlinc 1132 X-10 controller is also on the list. Smarthome has been really jerks about providing the documentation for the protocol, and eventually someone had to hack the protocol before it could be supported. I almost hate to even help them sell hardware after their being so snooty, but I can't let my disrespect for them as a company interfere with my customer's needs.

There are also some good drivers coming from third parties, which I won't discuss at this time, since I don't want to undercut them. As always, if you are willing to provide quality support for a non-trivial device, I'll be happy to give you a free copy of CQC. Some of these third parties drivers won't make it into the 1.1 release, but they can be released ad hoc without having to wait for 1.2.

I haven't set a date yet, but the 1.1 release is probably a couple weeks away at this point. All the changes are about done, documentation updates are underway, and I'll be moving into the test mode soon.

Dean Roddey
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd


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