Homeworks vs RadioRA for the DIY'er or low-maintenance dude(eh, me) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 77 Old 09-05-2006, 10:22 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking to put in automated lighting somewhere in the "no less than 3 months, hopefully within 6 months" timeframe. I was given a link to this thread, which is 2yrs old and discusses RadioRA vs Homeworks.

I read through it, at first glance the speed of Homeworks vs RadioRA sounded pretty conclusive, but it also seemed like I may not be able to self-install Homeworks. That means I'd have to get someone to install it. Not necessarily a fatal issue, so long as I could arrange for a VERY minor amount of labor as I'd probably want to re-program the whole thing myself so I could tweak endlessly. Obviously I'd sign a waiver on the "yeah, i know I screwed it up so I won't call and harass you for support".

Any of you pro's have an opinion on this, and whether you feel any of these are the wrong answer for me?

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post #2 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 05:27 AM
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The thing that scared me about that thread was the $2000 RF controller that's necessary with Homeworks...Ouch!
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post #3 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 07:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah, I know. I'm just scared when I read something that has the word "slow" in it, above all else, the wife must approve.

Also, I neglected to mention above - I need a wireless solution if I DIY, as I don't know the NEC well enough to run the LV control lines near the electric HV lines.

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post #4 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB
Yeah, I know. I'm just scared when I read something that has the word "slow" in it, above all else, the wife must approve.

Also, I neglected to mention above - I need a wireless solution if I DIY, as I don't know the NEC well enough to run the LV control lines near the electric HV lines.
I would take it with a grain of salt that that thread is 2 years old, and the RadioRA system has been improved with each new year. I'd like to hear of a new install and what the response times were.
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post #5 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 10:13 AM
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IVB, the Homeworks system can also be programmed via software...the RadioRa cannot (unless something has changed), you really don't need to know anything else beyond that ;).
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post #6 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Hmmm. That is very interesting. If you don't mind, a few more questions, and thank you very much for taking the time to help me with this.

If:
A) I'll be using a 3rd party automation engine (ie CQC) to control my house, and
B) Either path still allows manual on/off (ie, non-automated lighting) in the event of CQC-system failure,
then

Q1) Does that software control actually help me? I think that would meant that I have to use something like the chronos to automate the scenes, then just use CQC to tell the chronos which scene I want to use. However, thinking this through, that would mean 2 different locations for lighting rules, which could lead to issues.
Q2) are there any other factorsthat would make me want to go with a more expensive solution like HomeWorks RF? Some possibilities could be:
- performance/speed of response
- other controllable items (i noticed Homeworks has a controllable shading product, which might be interesting in the future)

Thanks again for the help.

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post #7 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 04:30 PM
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I have never seen the speed of either system, (and I have put in both), be a factor. The price differential between Chronos and a HW processor is modest. RA is not programmed via a computer. Each device in a RA system, keypad or switch, holds a bit of the programing. In HomeWorks, the programming is held within the processor (though some volitile addressing and default action information is held in a system dimmer/switch).

The "rules" issue you mention is a real one. I prefer having all of the lighting related programming in one place (typically in the HW processor). I then only allow other systems the ability to select preset routines and actions the lighting system controls.

FWIW, HomeWorks is not intended as a DIY product. (I'm sure you knew that already.)

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post #8 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 08:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Yep, I do understand that HW isn't intended as a DIY product, if I opt that route, I may very well see how much it would cost to have someone install it/what other options are. My needs for an installer are very very very simple - just put the stuff in, put in a controller that I can control via CQC, and i'm done. I won't do rules via a lighting controller, rather I'll tackle the programming inside CQC. Hopefully that won't be too much $$.

Having done more research, the big things making me contemplate HW much more strongly now are below. Anyone think I'm getting this wrong?
1) RS232 protocol limitations. I think I found is that the RadioRA protocol doesn't expose the dimmer level via the RS232 protocol. That means that I cannot partially dim a light manually and know what it is set to. That's a big minus in my mind. Plus, not sure if it's just the CQC driver, but the control seems more limited on RadioRA than HW.
2)Future expandability. We're looking to put a 2nd floor on the house, and I'll ram into the 32 device limit right quick. If I get the Chronos bridge, then most of the price advantage RadioRA has is gone.

However, it does seem to be a waste to get an expensive HW controller if I'm not actually going to use it for anything other than an RS232 interface. If it wasn't for that, I'd be sold now on HW.

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post #9 of 77 Old 09-06-2006, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
1) RS232 protocol limitations. I think I found is that the RadioRA protocol doesn't expose the dimmer level via the RS232 protocol. That means that I cannot partially dim a light manually and know what it is set to. That's a big minus in my mind. Plus, not sure if it's just the CQC driver, but the control seems more limited on RadioRA than HW.
This is the case. It's a feature of the RA system (at least it was when I wrote the driver), not of the CQC interface to it. All you get is off/on. A pretty stupid mistake in what seems otherwise to be a quite solid product.

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post #10 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 07:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey
This is the case. It's a feature of the RA system (at least it was when I wrote the driver), not of the CQC interface to it. All you get is off/on. A pretty stupid mistake in what seems otherwise to be a quite solid product.
Just to settle it, I called Lutron and that is the case. On/Off status only :( I asked if there were any chance of revising the protocol and was told no, it's not meant to be as robust as the homeworks solution.
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post #11 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 06:16 PM
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If you are going to the expense of a Chronos being able to put the system on line via computer is a major plus as opposed to running around from keypad to device and to keypad. Much better serial protocol that even supports conditionals and advanced sequences ( turn off light let fan run 20 minutes and then turn off fan ). Radio Ra can be purchased at your local electrical distributor but you had better know what you need because they will not. Homeworks does require an authorized contractor. It's GUI programming so most anyone can do it with a little patience and lots of effort.

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post #12 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 07:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiblesolutions
If you are going to the expense of a Chronos being able to put the system on line via computer is a major plus as opposed to running around from keypad to device and to keypad. Much better serial protocol that even supports conditionals and advanced sequences ( turn off light let fan run 20 minutes and then turn off fan ).
Interesting, thanks for that info, one bit of confusion. I presume you're talking about Homeworks? If so, what does "able to put the system on line via computer" mean? With an RS232 interface, couldn't that happen with RadioRA too?

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post #13 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB
Interesting, thanks for that info, one bit of confusion. I presume you're talking about Homeworks? If so, what does "able to put the system on line via computer" mean? With an RS232 interface, couldn't that happen with RadioRA too?
I think what's meant is that with RadioRa, even with the serial interface, you have to do the programming at each switch. With HW, you connect to the network and program all the switches via the configuration software.
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post #14 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 08:53 PM
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Ya, that's what he meant. That's why I quipped in my first post "that's all you need to know". Any system that cannot be programmed via software is really limited. There's no way to save the programming, no way to document the programming (other than manually), no way to change things without running around the house etc. It's a major pain. Fine if all you want to do us automate 10 or so switches but for a large number fo switches, no way. Not to mention the numerous other differences between the systems. Radio Ra has very limited programming capability.
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post #15 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 08:56 PM
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Just to give one example, with Homeworks you can walk around the house with a laptop and adjust loads in real time from your laptop. That's extraordinarily useful when programming room and house scenes.
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post #16 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 09:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QQQ
Just to give one example, with Homeworks you can walk around the house with a laptop and adjust loads in real time from your laptop. That's extraordinarily useful when programming room and house scenes.
Would it be a benefit given that i'll be using CQC for all the lighting rules?

I'm still leaning towards homeworks (if I can afford it) given the other superior items mentioned, but want to understand the relevant advantages for my situation.

Thanks again for all the help.

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post #17 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 09:21 PM
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It's difficult to cover some of these things in writing as it can get pretty involved. Yes it would still be an advantage because you could see that percentage you want to set a particular fixture to. With Radio Ra there would be no way to know a percentage (of course you can't send a light to a certain percentage with Radio Ra anyhow).

I'm not sure you'd want to write all your rules with CQC either. I'm not saying you shouldn't, but you would really want to work with Homeworks software and see what makes the most sense for you. For instance, if you want to execute a whole house lighing scene, I can't imagine why you would want to attempt to write that entirely from within CQC. It would be much easier to write the scene in Homeworks and then just call it up from CQC. You could still add some rules in CQC, but I'd think you'd want to do most of your lighting programming right in Lutron. I know you love CQC :) but I'd advise you not to get too married to the fact that you have to do everything from CQC.

Another example is that in Homeworks you can create virtual keypads and program them. Keypads that don't really exist on the system. Then you can draw those keypads on your CQC screens and control them from CQC.
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post #18 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 09:27 PM
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Another reason to write the basic lighting in Lutron is that most of the time you are going to want at least a few Lutron keypads here and there (or more commonly all over as the case may be). You will program those keypads from with Homeworks. Once you've done that, you can easily call up the programming that exists on those keypads from CQC.
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post #19 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 10:11 PM - Thread Starter
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All true, a variety of reasons why it looks like HomeWorks is certainly nicer and a better HA solution.

I'll cost them both out, here's hoping I can afford using HomeWorks.

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post #20 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB
Would it be a benefit given that i'll be using CQC for all the lighting rules?
QQQ has covered much of this but let me add a macro philosophical view. You do not want a control system controlling an essential sub-system directly. If most of you lighting logic resided in your CQC processor and it crashed how would you control your lights? I think it better to recall the settings stored in a dedicated lighting processor and use the control system to parse out the information you wish to display. In this case Homeworks is a much faster system and processor than Radio Ra which means it's easier to import this data into your control system.

I'm sure Mr. Roddey will chime in that his system is immune from overhead issues as it's a full blown Intel processor, but I still think it best to offload certain aspects of a program to other processors and software programs. Why not let Lutron determine when all off is true and simply read that feedback from the lighting processor. That seems much simpler than polling every device for the analog value of 0 and evaluating one giant <and> gate. So much simpler to look for the feedback from the Lutron processor that the all off led is high. It will also be quicker and easier to get what you want onto you CQC controlled panel. The point is not that you could not write the logic in CQC but who go to the trouble.

Homeworks has something called scene saver where the control system can call up individual loads and dim and brighten them and when you are finished you can save that preset into the Lutron processor via RS-232. Personally, I think the method QQQ has already suggested of walking around the house communicating with the processor via wireless Ethernet is superior you can still resort to this form of programming logic should you prefer.

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post #21 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 10:18 PM
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Another plus is that the HWI processors are now TCP/IP (i.e. ethernet as well as RS232) controllable. This seems to be pretty new stuff for Lutron and they're still working out what they can do with the processor now that it's "on the net". They have a small web server running in the processor that renders keypads, telnet capabilities, ftp for project up/download, etc.

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post #22 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 10:25 PM
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Intersting timing on this thread. I'm in the same spot at IVB in wanting to add in lighting control to an existing house. I'm not ready to integrate it into CQC or an automation system yet but probably would in the future. I know these aren't really comparable to X-10 but what kind of cost factor are they in comparison? Am I looking at $150/switch or something a bit higher/lower? Any recommended installers in the Seattle area?

There was a comment above that its not intended as a DIY. Is that due to the programming software for the devices? Or is it due to something else? just curious.
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post #23 of 77 Old 09-07-2006, 10:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Homeworks has something called scene saver where the control system can call up individual loads and dim and brighten them and when you are finished you can save that preset into the Lutron processor via RS-232.
Dang, that's cool and a big timesaver. Matter of fact, between that and the nicer RS232 protocol, it may be the tipping point to make me wait until I can afford to get HomeWorks, extra processor cost and all.

Thanks for pointing that out, I'd hate to have bought something and regretted a major function point like that.

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post #24 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 12:14 AM
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Does a DIY have access to the software or do you need to be a dealer to download it?
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post #25 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 12:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QQQ
It's difficult to cover some of these things in writing as it can get pretty involved. Yes it would still be an advantage because you could see that percentage you want to set a particular fixture to. With Radio Ra there would be no way to know a percentage (of course you can't send a light to a certain percentage with Radio Ra anyhow).
You certainly can set a RadioRA dimmer to a particular level from the RS232 interface (or the Chronos). You can't save it to a scene that way, or centrally program it, or even read it back... but you can say "turn the bathroom light on at 15%".
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post #26 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 04:36 AM
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There seems to be some confusion of terminology, or at least I'm confused ;)

I highly respect QQQ and AS's opinions and information as they are top quality installers in their field, but some of the comments don't seem to align with what I've read in the protocol doc:

Quote:
With Radio Ra there would be no way to know a percentage (of course you can't send a light to a certain percentage with Radio Ra anyhow).
You can set any zone to any dim value, and at that point you would of course know what that value is. You cannot poll a zone for the value if it has been changed manually.

Quote:
Another example is that in Homeworks you can create virtual keypads and program them. Keypads that don't really exist on the system. Then you can draw those keypads on your CQC screens and control them from CQC.
You can do the same with RadioRa in creating Phantom Buttons.

Quote:
I'm sure Mr. Roddey will chime in that his system is immune from overhead issues as it's a full blown Intel processor, but I still think it best to offload certain aspects of a program to other processors and software programs.
To be fair, Dean has always maintained that mission critical systems (HVAC, Security, Lighting) should have their own controller backup and should not rely on any Home Automation software running.

Quote:
Why not let Lutron determine when all off is true and simply read that feedback from the lighting processor. That seems much simpler than polling every device for the analog value of 0 and evaluating one giant <and> gate. So much simpler to look for the feedback from the Lutron processor that the all off led is high.
I'm not sure of the complexity here. You can poll all RadioRa device states with one single command and receive them in one string. It would be one line of code in the RadioRA driver to evaluate that string and determine if all zones are On or Off and that would be a permanent field to the end user and completely transparent.

Again, this is in no way meant as an attack on QQQ or AS as they have a zillion times more experience than me. I'm just trying to understand all the differences, as I'm in the same boat as IVB.

Robert
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post #27 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 05:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertmee
I'm not sure of the complexity here. You can poll all RadioRa device states with one single command and receive them in one string. It would be one line of code in the RadioRA driver to evaluate that string and determine if all zones are On or Off and that would be a permanent field to the end user and completely transparent.

Robert
It seems to me to be an issue of scalability. Of course you could write this code, and if you had 10 devices to read it'd be no big deal. But 50?100?150?256? A function will handle the math but that's a large parsing routeen, theoretically, when all you would need do were you to use the lighting processor is evaluate a single led true/false state. Call me lazy but that seems a much better way of determining if all off ( or any other scene ) is true.

I'll admit that the Lutron GUI software is a mega-kludge. It's designed for idiots ( electricians and A/V contractors ) and they have some very funny ways of doing certain things that will make those of you used to actual programming pull your hair out. Essentially, a conditional in Lutron is always iniitialized by a button press. It is can be predicated upon a Boolean ( state variable or True/False statement ) or a lighting state but there are limitations and in many ways your control system can be a better palce to evaluate the conditions. But at least the facility exists. So if you only want you exterior lights to go on a dusk( astronomical sunset ) you could write that conditional. Or if you wanted a fountain to turn on only in the months of May-September, from 9am-12 and 3pm-6pm you could write this too.

It also has a vacation mode where the lighting system records what loads were turned on and when and when initialized, the system will playback that recording randomly. You could also write all of this logic in CQC but why would one bother if it's already done? To whom are you proving your code writing abilities?

You could hook up the system to your alarm panel via a simple contact closure and if the Alarm condition resolved to true then you could turn on what ever lights you defined and lock out any and all keypads. You might wish to flash the outside lights and on and on.

You could add different styles of lighting with Homeworks. You could use a centralized panel for your exterior lighting, perhpas shades and drapes, while using wireless for existing high voltage. It frequancy hops on over 100 channels of FM while Radio Ra exists on a siggle AM channel. Radio Ra is very slow and verbose.

Why is it dealer only software? Why does the sun raise in the East? Partly to protect dealers, partly because Lutron feels that the only creature less capable than an A/V dealer is an electrician and they wish to make certain that their critical sub-system is installed and programmed correctly--as they define it. Partly because it is. There are preferred installation practices and certain design limitations to the amount of keypads, and devices; what devices can be used with what processor, distance limitations on a RS-485 link, difference distance limitations on an inter-processor link, termination requirments, power limitations, and on and on. Does that mean that a DIY cannot program or install a Lutron system? Please. Is there a copy write? Yes, but unlike Crestron's I haven't read it carefully. I don't think they care as much if a contractor provides the tools. Some of the sales force has warned me that their opinion is that it is a bad business practice but they have not said to me that it violates the dealer agreement. There really is no copywrite issues with respect to code or GUI as there would be in an AMX/Crestron source code debate. ( I have modules written by others, given to me either by liscence or because I am a beloved figure in the integration world ) that I am expressly forbidden to share. Not so with Lutron. Perhaps someone is a bit more clever in a particular conditional, but nothing so difficult only a few could manage it.

Once you add a Chronos to a Radio Ra system the price difference between wireless Homeworks and Radio Ra becomes very small. The limitations on programming, system size, the type of loads and how the system is setup are huge. Is Homeworks more expensive? Yes. If the added cost for infinate expandability ( you can add up to 16 processors to the Homeworks system where the Chronos bridge has you maxed out and there are limitations about what can be done acroos the two bridges. ) For me it's a no brainer. I put in the first official Radio Ra sale in these Unitied States with Rodgers Hill as my Lutron Rep. It works. But it's not Homeworks and with a Chronos it's no longer inexpensive.
In terms of published MSRP pricing it's 210/switch/dimmer for Radio Ra vs 275 for Homeworks. 1400 for the Chronos vs 1600 for the H4P5 proceessor. For more money you could use a H8P5 processor and do wireless, centralized and wired smart devices.

Alan
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post #28 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 11:03 AM
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Robert,

Thanks for catching my goofs. My statement about Radio Ra being unable to be set to a specific level was due to a misreading of Dean's statement that "all you get is off/on". He knows the protocol well and was referring to feedback but I thought he was referring to control. Most of our jobs are large and Radio Ra is not an option on them due to the 32 switch limitation. It's been probably 5 years since I've touched Radio Ra. So to be honest I am not fluent in "Ra" :D.

As for being able to create a phantom button in Ra, good catch.

It's been a while since we've had sopme fun giving each other a hard time and now you've remotivated me....DIY Boy :D.
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post #29 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 11:09 AM
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On a serious note, I just don't have the time to thoroughly review Ra's current capabilities. But I'm quite confident that if I did I could write a comparison of 101 things that Homeworks can do that Ra cannot. I'm not trying to talk anyone into Homeworks as I think Ra works fantastic for its applications. But I've followed a lot of IVB's posts and have a feeling that he would want the capabilities of Homeworks. I could be wrong on that, but with all the things he's created in CQC that is my feeling. Of course it's easy for me to say that when I'm not the one spending the money but I'm saying it as a fellow home automation geek :). Homeworks programming software offers countless options. More in a minute....
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post #30 of 77 Old 09-08-2006, 11:24 AM
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OK Robert, here are a few things I can do with Homeworks. I'll leave it up to you to do the Ra comparison :). Let's suppose I have an 8 button keypad which is pretty common. You want to minimize wall clutter yet retain a lot of functionality. So here are some things I can do with Homeworks:

1. Program a single button to operate much as a 3-setting lamp. Tap the button once to set the room to high. Tap it again to set the room to medium. Tap it again to set the room to low. Tap it again to set the room to off.

2. Program a button to go to one setting on a single tap and a different setting on a double tap.

3. Program a button to set a scene on tap. Press and hold the button to dim the scene.

4. Create "global scenes" that you want to be able to call up from keypads all over the house. So you program the scene ONCE. Then just put that scene on as many kaypads as uou want.

5. Astronomical clock built in that tracks sunset and sunrise througout the year. For example, you might want to set the outside lights to always go on at sunset.

6. A variety of shade integration capabilities to numerous to detail (so try to refute that one Robert :D).

7. Conditional programming. That's huge. Program the away button so that if you press it at 9 AM it turns all the lights off. But if you press it at 8 PM it turns all the lights off and turns a few security lights on. And of course if you press it at 9 AM it can watch until sunset and if no one has returned home by then it can activate a few security lights. Endless scenarious here.

I could keep going. It'll be interesting to read Robert's response (really). You can keep me up to snuff on my Ra knowledge :).
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