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rtbatch 02-08-2010 05:47 AM

Folks,

I am new to the thread, and a technical professional in the IT industry who lies in Connecticut. I just completed the shell for a large renovation, bringing my house size to 5,500 square feet (3,000 sq feet new). I am doing the electrical work myself (with consultation from a licensed electrician). I have spent a huge amount of time researching home automation, and I must admit significant frustration with what I see. Tens of companies, competing standards, very expensive proprietary solutions. It's like the computer networking industry before IP became the standard. The technology landscape is a mess.

Of course, I recognize that a HA professional can help sort this out, but I find most are aligned with one supplier or another - which gives me concerns about design objectivity. In my case, I am most in need of objective design and sourcing assistance (for which I will pay a reasonable fee), as I am confident I can install most of what that individual / firm can design. Where can I source that?

So, let me start with a basic question, how does one sort out Z-Wave vs Zigbee vs (very expensive) propriety approaches like Radio Ra, LightTouch, Crestron and AMX? I have no desire to build a robo-house that I will have to spend a lot of time tweaking (or calling tech support). More important, I don't want to imbed technology in my walls that is likely to be an evolutionary dead end.

That said, how does one (self-install) an HA system backbone that doesn't cost as much as a car?

BTW, why in the world would anyone buy a very expensive proprietary touchpad interface (wall or table top) when for $299 you can get an iPOD touch (or soon iPAD for double the price) that is 10 times smarter (and more open and flexible) than anything a HA firm can build?

Also, other than Kaleidescape (hugely expensive), a home video server seems like an impossibility. I have no interest in cobbling together a "Frankenserver" based on Wintel or LINUX technology. I most certainly understand the associated DRM issues and the concept of fair use.

Sorry for the long post, but I'm hoping to get evoke the typical thoughtful responses which I have come to admire from AVS forum, and the good folks who are its community. Thank you in advance for your insight and assistance.

Neurorad 02-08-2010 06:26 AM

Call a few pro custom installers in your area, ask if they will work as a consultant. Find one you like, as he'll also install stuff for you that you won't want to deal with, or have the time to figure out. If you need distributed video immediately, as soon as the remodel is finished, he can do that. He can also sell you materials, and equipment, at relatively low prices - often cheaper than you can buy them.

It seems that ethernet cable is becoming the 'backbone' for most installs, with proprietary signalling over those cables.

Lots of people are using iPod Touch, for HA control. But most rich people who install home automation systems don't want to 'deal' with that, mostly the configuration. It's not often offered as an option by pro installers. In-wall touchscreens don't get misplaced, and offer a lot of real estate. In HA terms, I think of the iPad as a glorified remote control, and it will probably replace many remotes.

You'll want to check out CQC as a home automation system. It's software based, that can be used with hardware that you buy. Extremely flexible, and puts you in control. That may solve your media server dilemna as well. Watch the slideshow on the homepage.

CQC has recently partnered with VidaBox, a hardware manufacturer. VidaBox website shows you what CQC can do, better than the CQC website. Check out the CQC forum for DIY info.

The cocoontech.com forum has a New House Wiring Guide, that may help you.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 06:56 AM

You know, there are lots of HA firms out there (in Fairfield County,CT), most are aligned with one brand or another. And no shortage of Cestron and AMX, as my county is one of the "richest" in the nations. Lots of folks who love throwing money at problems. Not me. That said, I have gladly paid for civil, structural, architectural, landscape and electrical consultation - when absolutely needed. I guess I can start on the great "HA design firm search" - not looking forward to that as either you're super high-end (AMXville) or an audio store on steroids that is brand-aligned.

There's CAT 6, then there's IP. I have no interest in running anyone's proprietary protocol. Video over IP is very doable at gigibait (LAN) speeds. BTW, you know what stymies me - having to pull RG6 for video distribution. What a lousy, lousy idea. No, I don't need a Vserver right away, although I'd like to archive my 500+ DVDs. IMHO, proprietary touch panels are a complete dead end - as Apple will have a profound effect on that part of the HA market (as it should).

I'll most certainly check out CQC. The thing that is hard to sort out is "roll your own platforms" vs purpose-built stuff, like Control4, versus vendor integrated products like Savant and Lifeware. And, I must honestly admit, I do not trust Microsoft one bit as the basis of an HA platform. Their quality, reliability, security and openness are second-rate. Can you imagine what would happen if car electronics were based on Microsoft? Not gonna trust my home to Redmond.

Thanks for the most helpful reply.

IVB 02-08-2010 07:37 AM

People trust MS more than they realize; many of the products out there sit on an XPe image.

I've been in/around here for years, and in my personal experience, the issues people have with M$ servers is because it's a familiar GUI so they treat it like a computer. Myself, i've rarely had an issue with my server because it was a Microsoft OS, check the email in my sig, I do more than a little HA.

Would you surf the web, even once, with a Crestron controller? Check your email on an AMX controller? Allow your Control4 system to auto-install updates? Of course not, otherwise it would be unstable.

I've posted all my experiences, good & bad, in this 19 page AVS thread, butthis CQC forum equivalent is 127 pages. (Seems that CQC'ers are a lot more into discussing DIY-HA than the AVS crowd. )

You can also check the site in my sig for my personal architecture & cost breakdown.

Neurorad 02-08-2010 08:06 AM

Oooh, Fairfield County - I grew up in Wilton.

CQC is a lot like AMX and Crestron - extremely flexible. If you want AMX/Crestron, you'll have to pay for it. You could get a similar result using CQC, but it will take a lot of time and effort, and if you don't enjoy the process you will fail.

Maybe you could find a local CQC installer, PM the mod at CQC forum.

As far as hating Windows, embedded XP is everywhere - ATMs, industrial apps, navi systems, trains, etc. Windows OSs can be 'locked down' to limit screw ups. Windows can be very stable if the use of the device is directed to a single purpose, e.g. HA.

I'm not going to debate Apple v MS, because there's nothing to debate. If you want flexibility use MS, and if you want great design then go with Apple. You (currently) can't have both.

How is the iPad different from other tablet PCs? Answer - marketing, and design. Many CQC users have been using the Samsung Q1 for a while (thread from 2006).

The prices on in-wall touchscreens will drop, but it takes a lot of R&D $ to bring one of these to market. These are small-ish companies that currently sell touchscreens - seems there are hundreds out there. Sure, AMX and Crestron will drop their prices, but they'll never be as cheap as a mass-produced product like the iPad.

I'm sure many homes with pro-installed automation systems will have a couple iPads floating around, but I would also have permanently installed, in-wall touchscreens.

Neurorad 02-08-2010 08:11 AM

Many music distribution systems have media server options as components, that are connected to the home network.

***

Maybe you should wait until a universal HA platform has been formed, before installing one. Shouldn't be more than 10-15 years.

Have you looked into AppleTV?

I think Russound distributed AV systems have iPhone apps.

cgull 02-08-2010 09:22 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

So, let me start with a basic question, how does one sort out Z-Wave vs Zigbee vs (very expensive) propriety approaches like Radio Ra, LightTouch, Crestron and AMX? I have no desire to build a robo-house that I will have to spend a lot of time tweaking (or calling tech support). More important, I don't want to imbed technology in my walls that is likely to be an evolutionary dead end.

That said, how does one (self-install) an HA system backbone that doesn't cost as much as a car?

You can look at Crestron and AMX but if you want something that's more DIY (for install and future upgrades), you should look at the ELK M1 or the HAI OmniPro II controllers. Both can serve as a security and HA system and work with many of the different wired and wireless technologies. In otherwords, instead of standardizing on Zigbee or Z-Wave, these systems support multiple so you aren't locked in to a specific brand/technology. And when I say these are DIY friendly, you can probably find a custom installer in the area if you want to go that route.

Cocoontech has a great HA technology spreadsheet where you can compare the HA systems as well as lighting control systems: LINK The spreadsheet is linked in that thread.

As far as planning your system goes, were/are you able to run low voltage wires to the light switches? If not, I assume you plan to go with a wireless setup right?

amirm 02-08-2010 10:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurorad View Post

Maybe you could find a local CQC installer, PM the mod at CQC forum.

A bit of fine print not known as well (although posted here on AVS) is that CQC when provided by a commercial entity, costs 5X more than it costs you as end user to go and download! The software alone costs more than the dealer cost of Crestron controllers with hardware! So if you are looking in this direction to save money, going the commercial route with CQC doesn't make sense.

BTW, you can download CQC and play with it for free. I did that. Be forewarned, it takes a lot of time to use it. Don't assume it is as simple as it is to use Visual Studio/Expression Studio/Dreamweaver and such with integrated design and programming environment.

To your larger point, I think you already have the full story. As suggested, cat-5/cat-6 is the right infrastructure no matter what you do. Make sure you run multiple runs to each termination point as for example, HDMI over cat-6 requires a pair (and I suggest cat-6 over cat-5). You can run analog video over that too with appropriate baluns at each end.

So to save money, spend it now on cables. Instead of centralizing everything, look at hybrid solution. Put a BD/DVD player next to a TV. No need to centrallize that. Or do as I am doing and use machines like HP Touchsmart with integrated DVD drive, media center for sharing a networked tuner, and a data server where your recordings occur. You don't get everything but you get something.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 10:51 AM

My premise on the Mac stuff is economic. More iTouches and iPads will be sold in a year than all the touch screens in the HA market over the last 10. And the Apple stuff arguably has the best OS (Unix-based) in the world. For example, the Kohler DTV (digital shower valve) costs nearly a thousand bucks ($725.00 on line). Compared to an iTouch for $299. By comparison, the DTV is dumb as a stone and as hermetically sealed as a can of tuna. No, I would not put an iTouch in the shower, but $500 extra for waterproofing a device with the IQ of a gnat, that doesn't connect to a network?? Too bad if you need 2 DTVs. I could buy a 20" iMac for that. See my point. IMHO, nothing will top Apple for intelligence & price. Further no HA vendor will achieve Apple's economies of scale.

Honestly, I should know. I used to buy / distribute both MAC and PC systems in $20 million chunks. It's game over for purpose-built touch screens from vendors who have neither the scale not the software development chops of Apple and its ecosystem. As far as human factors, there is no contest between MAC and PC. That battle is long over. Mac sells the best, Microsoft sells the most. BTW, I do have an Apple TV. I use it to play music from my home theater system. The problem is I can't rip DVDs and Broadcast HDTV into iTunes, otherwise I'd be done with my video server problem.

By way of full disclosure, my personal computer is a ThinkPad X60S. As a supplier of enterprise computer systems, Apple is a great consumer products company. But would I run my house on a Wintel box? Not knowing what I know about them, which is way, way too much.

Fair points ? Thanks again for the excellent dialogue. AVS Forum rocks.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 11:04 AM

I will give CQC a hard look. What about the RG6 "problem." I really don't want to string that black spaghetti all over my house. What about a gigabit IP wireless VLAN? Thanks for the great thougths.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 11:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by cgull View Post

You can look at Crestron and AMX but if you want something that's more DIY (for install and future upgrades), you should look at the ELK M1 or the HAI OmniPro II controllers. Both can serve as a security and HA system and work with many of the different wired and wireless technologies. In otherwords, instead of standardizing on Zigbee or Z-Wave, these systems support multiple so you aren't locked in to a specific brand/technology. And when I say these are DIY friendly, you can probably find a custom installer in the area if you want to go that route.

Cocoontech has a great HA technology spreadsheet where you can compare the HA systems as well as lighting control systems: LINK The spreadsheet is linked in that thread.

As far as planning your system goes, were/are you able to run low voltage wires to the light switches? If not, I assume you plan to go with a wireless setup right?

On the switches, I could run control wires, as the framing is open, but that feels very Y2K, hence my question about Z-Wave vs Zigbee. Proprietary control protocols, not a chance, I'm afraid. I've looked at HAI - but not Elk. Will do the latter. Thanks for the cocoon link. See what I mean. This stuff is tough to sort out, and I'm a pretty technical guy.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 11:09 AM

My premise on the Mac stuff is economic. More iTouches and iPads will be sold in a year than all the touch screens in the HA market over the last 10. And the Apple stuff arguably has the best OS (Unix-based) in the world. For example, the Kohler DTV (digital shower valve) costs nearly a thousand bucks ($725.00 on line). Compared to an iTouch for $299. By comparison, the DTV is dumb as a stone and as hermetically sealed as a can of tuna. No, I would not put an iTouch in the shower, but $500 extra for waterproofing a device with the IQ of a gnat, that doesn't connect to a network?? Too bad if you need 2 DTVs. I could buy a 20" iMac for that. See my point. IMHO, nothing will top Apple for intelligence & price. Further no HA vendor will achieve Apple's economies of scale.

Honestly, I should know. I used to buy / distribute both MAC and PC systems in $20 million chunks. It's game over for purpose-built touch screens from vendors who have neither the scale not the software development chops of Apple and its ecosystem. As far as human factors, there is no contest between MAC and PC. That battle is long over. Mac sells the best, Microsoft sells the most. BTW, I do have an Apple TV. I use it to play music from my home theater system. The problem is I can't rip DVDs and Broadcast HDTV into iTunes, otherwise I'd be done with my video server problem.

By way of full disclosure, my personal computer is a ThinkPad X60S. As a supplier of enterprise computer systems, Apple is a great consumer products company. But would I run my house on a Wintel box? Not knowing what I know about them, which is way, way too much.

Fair points ? Thanks again for the excellent dialogue. AVS Forum rocks.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 11:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by amirm View Post

A bit of fine print not known as well (although posted here on AVS) is that CQC when provided by a commercial entity, costs 5X more than it costs you as end user to go and download! The software alone costs more than the dealer cost of Crestron controllers with hardware! So if you are looking in this direction to save money, going the commercial route with CQC doesn't make sense.

BTW, you can download CQC and play with it for free. I did that. Be forewarned, it takes a lot of time to use it. Don't assume it is as simple as it is to use Visual Studio/Expression Studio/Dreamweaver and such with integrated design and programming environment.

To your larger point, I think you already have the full story. As suggested, cat-5/cat-6 is the right infrastructure no matter what you do. Make sure you run multiple runs to each termination point as for example, HDMI over cat-6 requires a pair (and I suggest cat-6 over cat-5). You can run analog video over that too with appropriate baluns at each end.

So to save money, spend it now on cables. Instead of centralizing everything, look at hybrid solution. Put a BD/DVD player next to a TV. No need to centrallize that. Or do as I am doing and use machines like HP Touchsmart with integrated DVD drive, media center for sharing a networked tuner, and a data server where your recordings occur. You don't get everything but you get something.

Amir, sage advice. I even looked at the SONY DVD jukebox. Right now the video server market is a train wreck (of pieced together solutions) like the practical one you suggest. But is Kaliedescape worth the premium? Perhaps, if you get bonus checks that look like phone numbers. IMHO, the engineering is not that hard. Kaliedescape just doesn't have the scale to cut their prices by the order of magnitude that needs to happen. So in the interim, it still feels like "frankenserver" is the order of the day. No?

Please tell me more about HDMI over Cat6? Not a bad way to go. At least I'm not pulling RG6 (yuck), and I can rip out the Baluns in the future. I presume component is getting shipped over the wires? Doesn't sound like IP-based endpoint devices.

Reading your comments about CQC, it sounds like just the ticket for a programmer (which I used to be but care not to do now). I'm willing to do component interconnection, but not deep system integration. Thanks for your thoughts.

IVB 02-08-2010 11:42 AM

Check out the site in my sig, i do extensive HA with CQC, and i have yet to write a single line of programming. It's all point & click.

For wireless, I have zWave, and there's absolutely zero chance I'd use anything wireless if I had a choice. I might use Lutron's HomeWorks wireless solution, but it's $250 per switch, at which price point I'd just go with a hardwired lighting protocol. I have a ton of stuff that interferes with wireless in my neighborhood (power lines, multiple baby monitors, i can see 7 different wifi networks from my house, plaster/lath walls, microwaves, cellphones, cordless phones, etc etc).

You may think hardwired is Y2K, but it's the only way to achieve 100.00% reliability. And given your comments about WinTel, I suspect 100.00% reliability is important to you.

Neurorad 02-08-2010 11:44 AM

You can bemoan the current state of overpriced technology all you want, but if you want something done well, now, and by someone else, you'll have to pay the asking price.

If you install the correct infrastructure (cables), then you'll be able to roll with the changes. Currently, many people are running 5-6 runs of cat6 to each video drop. Futureproof as much as you can. Adding mini-coax x3, for component video distribution, to each drop, will avoid problems with HDMI handshaking and will save money, but at a cost of picture resolution. Your call.

Again, if you want to DIY, you better enjoy it, or you will fail.

More DIY HA discussions at cocoontech.com forum.

Edit - another point on CQC - cheaper than AMX/Crestron, because you don't have to use AMX/Crestron hardware.

cgull 02-08-2010 06:45 PM

IVB is right and has the experience to back it up: wired is currently the only 100% reliable way to do this. In many environments wireless may be rock solid but why take the chance? Run the wire while you have a chance.

I've run about 2500 feet of Cat6 so far in my house and that's only for networking, phones, audio distribution keypads, touchscreens (+IP camera drops), and audio/video distribution (via baluns...only to the kitchen though). I did this myself but the alarm contractor is going to run cat5 to many of the light switches and will add a couple sensors for HA. And that's not including what he's doing for the alarm! I figure by the time I finish I'll have about 3500 feet of Cat6.

I will always have the flexibility of going wireless but if I want rock solid reliability, I can use the wired switches. Best of both worlds.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 09:25 PM

Folks, great, great discussion. My number one design criterion is reliability. My philosophy is my home must function electrically if my HA goes off line. I am installing a transfer switch and a modest sized generator.

Therefore, I'm looking for "kick the plug" reliability - and IMHO, that should be intrinsic to HA as "table stakes," and not something that should be custom engineered in at great cost. If power's on / restored it should start / restart. If the HA doesn't start / reset, the house should function.

My second criterion is the finished system controllers must be usable by an 8 year old. No, I don't expect someone that age to customize / tweak the set-up but he / she should be able to run any av config or turn on any lights an adult can. No robo house for me, or future buyers ;-)

If something can't be done via Cat6, then it needs to be re-engineered. I can accept 2 Cat6 runs for Component as an interim measure until IP home video distribution grows up. Any comments on that technology?

Wireless (Z-wave / Zigbee) is that unreliable / interference prone, really? Hard-wired lighting control still feels stone age. Lutron certainly is not worth the premium. Proprietary, plus pure price gouging.

I do really enjoy electrical work, so this will be a pleasure. when it's not a pain in the butt.
By the way, I'm not a Mac bigot. I just consider Microsoft to be the GM of software. Even with their stumble, I'll take Toyota (actually Lexus) any day. I could have chosen BMW or Mercedes, but the Lexus quality / TCO is better. So, what's the Toyota of HA?

Thanks Cgull, IVB and Neurorad for your thoughtful comments. I know the voice of wisdom when I hear it.

IVB 02-08-2010 09:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post


Therefore, I'm looking for "kick the plug" reliability - and IMHO, that should be intrinsic to HA as "table stakes," and not something that should be custom engineered in at great cost. If power's on / restored it should start / restart. If the HA doesn't start / reset, the house should function.
...
So, what's the Toyota of HA?

The Toyota of HA is *not* kick-the-plug reliable. If you want 100.00% reliability, you're going to have to pay for it.
Quote:


Wireless (Z-wave / Zigbee) is that unreliable / interference prone, really?
Hard-wired lighting control still feels stone age.

What would you rather use in a mission-critical application where network dropout = kiss of death? A wireless G network, or a hardwired connection?

Although to be fair, it depends on your definition of reliable. My definition is that if I press a button, I know for a fact that:
1) it *will* do whatever it's programmed to do, every single time, no ifs/ands/buts.
2) it *will* work incredibly fast. No noticeable time delay.

As of this writing, there is no wireless protocol (except perhaps Lutron RadioRA2 & HomeWorks) that does that. Since you feel that Lutron is overpriced, then you have to decide what's more important to you, reliability or $$. (or just accept it and run the hardwires)

Take it from me - anybody who tells you anything different is trying to sell you something.

rtbatch 02-08-2010 10:00 PM

IVB, went to the CQC site. No "About Us" page. Nothing about them as a company. Nothing about their pricing. No architecture overview. Web site is Y2K. I had to get company info from an HAI press release (below). Who are these folks, a bunch of Goddard night owls making some extra scratch on the side? Not criticizing you. Clearly you know your stuff. CQC Spooks me out. What a contrast to Life-ware or Savantav for example...

What about wireless "N"?

BTW, I say this with the utmost respect. You sound like a world-class HA hacker. My hacking days are well behind me. Am I fated to a Life-Ware / Control4 solution approach? Savant looks promising, but expensive...

About CQC (http://www.charmedquark.com/)
Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd is a privately held company, based in Annapolis Maryland. Incorporated in 2004, and based on development work extending back to the early 1990s, Charmed Quark Systems has developed a powerful suite of software tools that comprise the CQC product (Charmed Quark Controller), which integrates hardware, software, network based data, and media to create robust and flexible automation and media management solutions.

Fiasco 02-08-2010 10:44 PM

I don't know why your so consumed by using a wireless solution in an exposed frame house.

I would never consider wireless if wired was an option.

IVB 02-08-2010 11:05 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

IVB, went to the CQC site. No "About Us" page. Nothing about them as a company. Nothing about their pricing. No architecture overview. Web site is Y2K. I had to get company info from an HAI press release (below). Who are these folks, a bunch of Goddard night owls making some extra scratch on the side? Not criticizing you. Clearly you know your stuff. CQC Spooks me out. What a contrast to Life-ware or Savantav for example...

heh, ask the pros what they think of lifeware and see what they say.

Ask around about DIY HA solutions, and see who's using what for real HA purposes. Check over on cocoontech, IIRC the last poll had something like >50% using CQC, perhaps 40% using HomeSeer (only for hardcore techies), 10% using other.

I do know that in recent months, CQC has taken off in the professional usage arena, but that meant they had to take down the DIY pricing & some other info. If you check their forums, you'll see how much more active it is than pretty much any other HA forum. No real company can stay alive surviving on DIY/end-user sales, so I can't really blame them.

Quote:


BTW, I say this with the utmost respect. You sound like a world-class HA hacker. My hacking days are well behind me. Am I fated to a Life-Ware / Control4 solution approach? Savant looks promising, but expensive...

Not sure I understand that. I'm not technical at all (don't work in IT, i'm a biz-side guy in a very non-technical industry). But I know how to point&click. I also entered into this without a fixed set of requirements, which means I'd either be constantly calling the installer & paying change orders or accept less than what I want.

Don't take this the wrong way, but it doesn't seem like DIY-HA is for you. I'd advise calling an installer, describing what you want, and getting an estimate.

SweetSpot 02-09-2010 12:48 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Folks, great, great discussion. My number one design criterion is reliability. My philosophy is my home must function electrically if my HA goes off line. I am installing a transfer switch and a modest sized generator.

Therefore, I'm looking for "kick the plug" reliability - and IMHO, that should be intrinsic to HA as "table stakes," and not something that should be custom engineered in at great cost. If power's on / restored it should start / restart. If the HA doesn't start / reset, the house should function.

You can hope all you want here, but the reality is that bringing what can be hundreds of individual devices from tens of manufacturers back to an operational 'ready' state after a power failure requires a custom engineered solution. This is of course dependent upon the system's complexity, but you will not find any plug-n-play, turnkey HA solutions of even moderate size.

Quote:


My second criterion is the finished system controllers must be usable by an 8 year old. No, I don't expect someone that age to customize / tweak the set-up but he / she should be able to run any av config or turn on any lights an adult can. No robo house for me, or future buyers ;-)

You're going to have to decide between two conflicting ideologies here: Ease of use + 100% reliability or low cost--you will not find both together. This is particularly important when it comes to resale value.

Quote:


If something can't be done via Cat6, then it needs to be re-engineered. I can accept 2 Cat6 runs for Component as an interim measure until IP home video distribution grows up. Any comments on that technology?

I'm not certain when UTP became a universal, do-it-all cabling standard, but this kind of thinking is unrealistic. For example, you cannot carry significant low-voltage current to end-devices over UTP, especially outside a limited point-to-point topology.

IP video distribution is in its infancy. It will be some time before there are dedicated ICs that can encode high bit-rate content in real time without significant compromise. HDMI version 1.3 has a 10.2Gbit/s bandwidth specification and is a highly protected content pipeline, and Digital Content Protection, LLC would prefer to keep it that way. IMO, the next step is direct to the display, web-based content delivery, but that is a ways off.

Quote:


Wireless (Z-wave / Zigbee) is that unreliable / interference prone, really? Hard-wired lighting control still feels stone age. Lutron certainly is not worth the premium. Proprietary, plus pure price gouging.

The vast majority of Z-wave and Zigbee devices operate within the 2.4GHz unlicensed ISM band, not exactly an area of the RF spectrum which could be considered uncluttered and interference-free.

Hard-wired = "stone age?" This is dangerous thinking for someone where reliability is priority one, and it will burn you down the road. Which is more reliable, Ethernet (802.3) or WiFi (802.11)? Why are the critical trans- and inter-continental SONET/SDH communications links over fiber optic cables and not SatCom/Microwave/Other RF? Cost, bandwidth, and reliability.

I find it rather odd that you despise "proprietary, price gouging technology" after showing so much admiration for Apple. I can say, however, that every well-engineered, hard-wired Lutron Homeworks system I've worked with has had 100.00% operational uptime, something not even Google can claim. You can whine about price premiums and value-cost till your heart's content, but I assure you that you'll whine even more when your lighting system malfunctions. Lutron carries a premium cost for a reason, and along with Crestron and Vantage are the only lighting systems that can be considered consistent value-adding investments rather than something you'll be forced to take with you after resale.

Quote:


I do really enjoy electrical work, so this will be a pleasure. when it's not a pain in the butt.
By the way, I'm not a Mac bigot. I just consider Microsoft to be the GM of software. Even with their stumble, I'll take Toyota (actually Lexus) any day. I could have chosen BMW or Mercedes, but the Lexus quality / TCO is better.

Not that I care, but require Apple's OS X to have the universal hardware support and backward compatibility of Windows and then we'll call it an even fight.


Quote:


So, what's the Toyota of HA?

Apples to oranges comparison, akin to asking in what factory your house was made. Best I can do, and this is by no means all-inclusive:

Lutron/Crestron = Lexus/Toyota
Z-Wave/Zigbee = Kit Car


-Sean

bryansj 02-09-2010 05:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

IVB, went to the CQC site. No "About Us" page. Nothing about them as a company. Nothing about their pricing.

From the main page / Overview / What does it cost:

http://www.charmedquark.com/Web/Over...DoesItCost.htm

CQC comes in two different versions. There is the DIY version and the Pro version. The two products are the same in terms of features, they are only different in terms of how they are sold and supported.
The DIY Product is sold directly to customers, and is sold on an as-is basis, with support solely through our support forum on a best effort basis. The customer cannot expect any assistance from Charmed Quark for the implementation of their automation solution, though we do provide much guidance and answer many questions on the forum. The customer also cannot expect any help from any of our Integration Partners (professionals who install and configure CQC for customers) if they purchase the DIY version of the product.
There is a $95/year maintenance fee which covers all new versions released during that year. It also covers all but the largest new features that are released. So far, only one new feature has not been covered by the fee in the last six years, so it's rare that a new feature wouldn't be covered.
The Pro Product is sold only through our Integration Partners or Resellers, as a part of an overall package of products and services required to implement the solution the customer desires. The Integration Partner provides support for their customers, and Charmed Quark provides priority support to the Integration Partners.
The professional version of the product does not have any maintenance fee.
Integration Partners are not allowed to provide installation or configuration services to DIY customers. Doing so will void their status as an Integration Partner and void any warranty or availability for upgrades to the customer. We provide the DIY product at a reasonable price as a service to the DIY community, but we cannot support any custom installations except for the professional version of the product.

Neurorad 02-09-2010 05:31 AM

I used to think that Lutron cabling was proprietary, until I figured out what it was. You can use any brand of cable with the same spec. You can also use Ethernet cable, but it's discouraged.

Lutron dimmers are supplied by a single twisted, shielded pair, for signalling. Keypads use that pair, plus an untwisted pair for power.

The main Lutron lighting controller integrates with other subsystems using RS232, IP, or contact closures, using published protocols.

Here's a white paper on Lutron's RF technology.

Edit - For Lutron's premium residential system, HomeWorks, they do a pretty good job of protecting the information associated with the installation process, and the equipment itself. They want only qualified installers, so the end result is as close to perfect as possible. And to protect their installers.

Fiasco 02-09-2010 08:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurorad View Post

I used to think that Lutron cabling was proprietary, until I figured out what it was. You can use any brand of cable with the same spec. You can also use Ethernet cable, but it's discouraged.

Lutron dimmers are supplied by a single twisted, shielded pair, for signalling. Keypads use that pair, plus an untwisted pair for power.

The main Lutron lighting controller integrates with other subsystems using RS232, IP, or contact closures, using published protocols.

Here's a white paper on Lutron's RF technology.

Edit - For Lutron's premium residential system, HomeWorks, they do a pretty good job of protecting the information associated with the installation process, and the equipment itself. They want only qualified installers, so the end result is as close to perfect as possible. And to protect their installers.

You can use cat for keypads. We use Liberty cable which is lutron spec but cheaper then lutron cable. One thing we do is run the keypad line out from the processor panel, through the keypad boxes and then return it back to the processor from the other end. If another trade clips one of our lutron wires, we have the fail safe return leg to fall back on.

Fiasco 02-09-2010 08:41 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

For example, the Kohler DTV (digital shower valve) costs nearly a thousand bucks ($725.00 on line). Compared to an iTouch for $299. By comparison, the DTV is dumb as a stone and as hermetically sealed as a can of tuna. No, I would not put an iTouch in the shower, but $500 extra for waterproofing a device with the IQ of a gnat, that doesn't connect to a network??

The Kohler Media module and digital shower valves most certainly can be networked. They can stream audio from internet radio stations or a uPnP audio server.

Quote:


Honestly, I should know. I used to buy / distribute both MAC and PC systems in $20 million chunks. It's game over for purpose-built touch screens from vendors who have neither the scale not the software development chops of Apple and its ecosystem. As far as human factors, there is no contest between MAC and PC. That battle is long over. Mac sells the best, Microsoft sells the most. BTW, I do have an Apple TV. I use it to play music from my home theater system. The problem is I can't rip DVDs and Broadcast HDTV into iTunes, otherwise I'd be done with my video server problem.

By way of full disclosure, my personal computer is a ThinkPad X60S. As a supplier of enterprise computer systems, Apple is a great consumer products company. But would I run my house on a Wintel box? Not knowing what I know about them, which is way, way too much.

Fair points ? Thanks again for the excellent dialogue. AVS Forum rocks.

I use XP and Eventghost to automate my home. Works like a champ at a fraction of the cost.

Fiasco 02-09-2010 08:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Folks, great, great discussion. My number one design criterion is reliability. My philosophy is my home must function electrically if my HA goes off line. I am installing a transfer switch and a modest sized generator.

Therefore, I'm looking for "kick the plug" reliability - and IMHO, that should be intrinsic to HA as "table stakes," and not something that should be custom engineered in at great cost. If power's on / restored it should start / restart. If the HA doesn't start / reset, the house should function.

My second criterion is the finished system controllers must be usable by an 8 year old. No, I don't expect someone that age to customize / tweak the set-up but he / she should be able to run any av config or turn on any lights an adult can. No robo house for me, or future buyers ;-)

If something can't be done via Cat6, then it needs to be re-engineered. I can accept 2 Cat6 runs for Component as an interim measure until IP home video distribution grows up. Any comments on that technology?

Wireless (Z-wave / Zigbee) is that unreliable / interference prone, really? Hard-wired lighting control still feels stone age. Lutron certainly is not worth the premium. Proprietary, plus pure price gouging.

I do really enjoy electrical work, so this will be a pleasure. when it's not a pain in the butt.
By the way, I'm not a Mac bigot. I just consider Microsoft to be the GM of software. Even with their stumble, I'll take Toyota (actually Lexus) any day. I could have chosen BMW or Mercedes, but the Lexus quality / TCO is better. So, what's the Toyota of HA?

Thanks Cgull, IVB and Neurorad for your thoughtful comments. I know the voice of wisdom when I hear it.

You keep saying that reliability is your #1 concern but then contradict yourself.

I would say Lutron is most certainly worth the premium. I have swapped out failed Leviton, Zigbee, and Lightolier systems for Lutron. I have never swapped a Lutron system out for a different manufacturer.

Dean Roddey 02-09-2010 04:51 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

IVB, went to the CQC site. No "About Us" page. Nothing about them as a company. Nothing about their pricing. No architecture overview. Web site is Y2K. I had to get company info from an HAI press release (below). Who are these folks, a bunch of Goddard night owls making some extra scratch on the side? Not criticizing you. Clearly you know your stuff. CQC Spooks me out. What a contrast to Life-ware or Savantav for example...

Lifeware spent probably a hundred million dollars in personal wealth of a former internet bazzillionaire. They advertised like crazy, they obviously spent a lot of money on the web site. But, ultimately, the product has to work or all that is meaningless. Given that they have basically tanked, I'm assuming that the nice web site didn't really help in the end.

We have gone the other way. We put everything we have into the product and we don't have a sugar daddy to fund us because we are bootstrapping. So, yes, resources are tight and if it comes down between the web site and the product, it has to be the product, because that's what utimately gets installed in the user's home and has to actually work.

But we've been around for a long time, and you can easily do a search and find out that we are well regarded. You can poke around on our support forum and see that generally the only real complaints that our users have is that we don't already do everything that can possibly be done. No one is complaining about the reliability or the power.

Actually, you are the first person I think who has ever expressed any interest in who we are or where we are, that I can remember anyway. And, it's kind of like what company's About page is going to say, BTW, we are probably going out of business next month or we are struggling? I'm sure Lifeware's doesn't say that, but they've clearly almost disappeared, and it seems like it would be a really bad choice for a long term viable solution.

Most folks primarily are concerned with other people's experiences and evaluations of the product. The only real complaints that many folks would have is that it, like any large product, requires a fair amount of spinup to get your head around it. This is inevitable, though we are always working on ways to improve that.

But, basically, there's simple and very limited and there's very flexible and more complex. Most products I think fall pretty near one or the other end of the spectrum. More complexity will exist outside of CQC than within it, if you are going to do all of the hardware stuff yourself as well. If you don't want to put in the time, we can get you in touch with an integrator who will work with you, but of course their time is as valuable to them as yours is to you, so it's either spend your own time or spend your money. There's no short cut. I think that, after you see the pricing for a Savant system, you may consider even Crestron cheap.

BTW, the comment above about our pro product being more expensive than a Crestron controller, that's a little misleading. Maybe more expensive than one of their very small and limited controllers, but certainly not even close to what one of their more capable controllers will cost once you have all the doo-dads required to handle a fairly reasonable sized solution. And of course our product is already media capable out of the box, on top of being a powerful automation controller, and it will grow with you for minimal extra cost.

AnthonyZ 02-09-2010 06:49 PM

Lifewhere? iTouch? Easy to use? Reliable? Cheap? You have a lot to study, buddy. You couldn't be further from your goal. iTouch or iPad as an interface because it's so easy? Yeah, if you feel that it's reasonable to open an "app", close an "app", open another "app", etc. Is the iFanboy device of choice a viable add on controller? Sure. Would I actually want to use it as my primary controller. Not a chance in iHell and not even if you were paying for it. I won't even get into the DRM issues that make MS look like open source...

As a disclaimer, I run my home with CQC and have built a handful of CQC systems for clients, as well. One is in and running a $60 million dollar ranch. Mine is in a humble 2K sq.ft. home. It's more than capable in both scenarios. Does that mean that you shouldn't investigate other options? No but, I'd suggest you do so with more humility than you've shown thus far.

Fiasco 02-09-2010 07:48 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnthonyZ View Post

Lifewhere? iTouch? Easy to use? Reliable? Cheap? You have a lot to study, buddy. You couldn't be further from your goal. iTouch or iPad as an interface because it's so easy? Yeah, if you feel that it's reasonable to open an "app", close an "app", open another "app", etc. Is the iFanboy device of choice a viable add on controller? Sure. Would I actually want to use it as my primary controller. Not a chance in iHell and not even if you were paying for it. I won't even get into the DRM issues that make MS look like open source...

As a disclaimer, I run my home with CQC and have built a handful of CQC systems for clients, as well. One is in and running a $60 million dollar ranch. Mine is in a humble 2K sq.ft. home. It's more than capable in both scenarios. Does that mean that you shouldn't investigate other options? No but, I'd suggest you do so with more humility than you've shown thus far.

The iTouch makes an excellent controller and you don't have to open multiple apps to control your stuff either. The iPad should make a great primary controller.


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