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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.

39CentStamp 02-10-2010 12:21 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Folks,

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?

Why a touchpanel instead of an Ipod touch? Screen size & functionality. If you are willing to trade the quirks for a lower price then the touch is a nice option.

Why a touchpanel instead of an iPad? Because it didnt exist until recently. As far as we know.. the iPad may very well replace touchpanel sales for systems that dont need proprietary features like intercom.

Another issue is reliability and apples "dont ask dont repair" policy. My iPhone 3g is still running strong a year later. My girfriend iPhone was purchased the year before mine and it was replaced 3 times under warranty and now shes using it to answer calls with only because the screen wont respond well. It takes a couple minutes to slide & unlock it.

So the gamble will be whether or not these things live beyond warranty and what to do when they fail the day after.

Quote:


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.

ADMS is the only thing i would recommend to a client at this point. Other than that, the frankenserver is pretty much your only option and IMO AVS is the place to learn how to cobble it together.

Pvr4Craig 02-10-2010 07:57 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

...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?

In case you haven't run across it, there are systems like Sage or MythTV built around a backend server storing all your media and connected (via IP) to frontend devices rendering the media on systems throughout the house.

I personally use Myth but Sage seems to fit better with your objectives.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 02:57 PM

You're absolutely right about Apple. My daughter has been through 4 iPods. The only answer that makes sense usually is replace rather than repair. All things considered (versus a proprietary pad) I'll take the Apple. Much more brilliant as a device for the $. At $299 for an iTouch, economies of scale massively favor Apple. Even if I have to replace them more frequently.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 02:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by 39CentStamp View Post

Why a touchpanel instead of an Ipod touch? Screen size & functionality. If you are willing to trade the quirks for a lower price then the touch is a nice option.

Why a touchpanel instead of an iPad? Because it didnt exist until recently. As far as we know.. the iPad may very well replace touchpanel sales for systems that dont need proprietary features like intercom.

Another issue is reliability and apples "dont ask dont repair" policy. My iPhone 3g is still running strong a year later. My girfriend iPhone was purchased the year before mine and it was replaced 3 times under warranty and now shes using it to answer calls with only because the screen wont respond well. It takes a couple minutes to slide & unlock it.

So the gamble will be whether or not these things live beyond warranty and what to do when they fail the day after.



ADMS is the only thing i would recommend to a client at this point. Other than that, the frankenserver is pretty much your only option and IMO AVS is the place to learn how to cobble it together.

ADMS, I will check it out. Muchos Gracias!

rtbatch 02-18-2010 02:59 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post

In case you haven't run across it, there are systems like Sage or MythTV built around a backend server storing all your media and connected (via IP) to frontend devices rendering the media on systems throughout the house.

I personally use Myth but Sage seems to fit better with your objectives.

Another great lead. More homework to do. I'll probably wind up writing a book about this. Many Thanks.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 03:03 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiasco View Post

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.



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

The DTV2 can be, but it's pretty retro. DTV1 - dumb as a stump. My hunch is there is much better stuff in the Kohler pipeline.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 03:14 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiasco View Post

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.

Very interesting dilemma. Gotta go wireline for reliability. Holy Guacamole. I don't mean to contradict myself, but I'm sure you can appreciate the paradox. Who wants to reboot a blue-screened house? If wireless is so iffy, then I run Cat6 (or proprietary wire) to every switch box. That just doesn't pass the sniff test with me.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 04:13 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

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.

Dean,

I hope to match the quality of the second half your response with my own. That said, I'm going to be very candid about the first half, as I have been a [marketing] executive in very large technology companies. So, my responses will be conditioned by that experience. That said, it's seldom easy being on the receiving end of tough love.

I have the greatest admiration for bootstrappers. That said, as a CEO you're probably a great engineer (with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder). I can't tell you how many times I've heard a masterful engineer say "My website sucks because I'm putting all my energy into my product." Puhleeze. Sales and marketing are as important as product. You must re-balance your efforts if you're ever going to be more than an aspirant. Your website is a piece of crap, that greatly disserves your firm. A proper description of who you are, what makes you different, and easy to find well produced information that amplifies your unique selling proposition (including genuine testimonials) is not spin. It's sound business practice.

And why do I care who you are, and if you'll be in business tomorrow? Because I'm going to put your stuff into my house - a house that I built largely with my own hands, and that is very much a reflection of what I value. The commercial term is "vendor risk," a perception you (and every small company) must dedicate yourself to overcoming. As such, do I sound like a guy who can be spun by a pretty web site? You can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to investigate the viability of small companies with whom I do business, even ones with fancy websites. That said, please take a look at this Web site http://www.savantav.com/ for an example of what I mean. For better or worse, this is your competition. Point taken on Savant price - they may very well be in the Crestron category. That said, I am seeking to ascertain whether their products are as good as their web site, and whether they represent a good value. Regardless, at least I know who's running the company, and have some insight the leadership credentials of the management team. But that's no guarantee either...

Lastly, leaders do not trash their competition - they captivate their intended audience - which unfortunately you have not done in this instance. Although you may be inclined to respond to my post with invective, I urge you to resist the impulse - because, bottom line, I am the customer. A customer that may still be persuadable.

I very much appreciate the tone / information value of the second half of your post. That said, as a "large" system (your words), I would only offer one final piece of advice. What I am looking for in a supplier is someone who is passionate about making complexity yield to simplicity - with elegant, reliable, affordable solutions. If you can convince me of that, you'll earn my business.

Respectfully,

rtbatch

PS. To clarify the record, I made no comment about your price levels. That statement originated elsewhere.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 08:21 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Another great lead. More homework to do. I'll probably wind up writing a book about this. Many Thanks.

I like the looks of Sage, as a distribution box. What about the server? I have 500 dvds to rip. Thanks.

rtbatch 02-18-2010 08:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

ADMS, I will check it out. Muchos Gracias!

ADMS - $11K retail, and I can't rip my dvds. Did I miss something?

David Haddad 02-18-2010 08:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

ADMS - $11K retail, and I can't rip my dvds. Did I miss something?

You can rip content via any PC and integrate such content with the ADMS. You cannot rip DVD content on the ADMS itself for the obligatory reasons - Crestron wants their solution to be legal and does not want to be sued by Hollywood.

weddellkw 02-18-2010 09:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

ADMS - $11K retail, and I can't rip my dvds. Did I miss something?

Ripping DVD's, in regards to 'established' manufacturers and out-of-the-box functionality, is probably a thing of the past. Or it will be soon.

The ADMS is A) the future (at least in functionality) of home media servers, B) is 9K, not 11, C) probably the most exciting piece of home-theater equipment to come on the market in the last year or two. [All of the above, less the 9k part, are opinions by the way ]

Access to Netflix, Hulu, videos/music/pictures stored on your local computers/servers, iTunes store, etc etc etc all in one box. Built in BluRay player. Video/surround-sound out + 2 independent, simultaneous stereo outputs for music.

-------------------Fanboyism over-------------------

IVB 02-18-2010 10:38 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

I like the looks of Sage, as a distribution box. What about the server? I have 500 dvds to rip. Thanks.

An inexpensive box will do. DVDs need to be ripped 1 at a time, but if you get AnyDVD-HD you can also stream BluRay's to the HD200 extenders.

rtbatch 02-19-2010 06:59 AM

$9K, no way. What does Kaliedescape have that Crestron doesn't? Bigger you-know-whats and better engineers. What they don't have is scale.

I agree, physical media is moribund. Still, I'm not gonna toss 500 SD DVDs.

Better plan: Buy a 1 TB NAS drive, ship it and the DVDs in chunks to a commercial ripping (transfer) service. Put the results on a home 4TB NAS. Batch run AnyDVD-HD against the files. Front-end with Hauppauge HD-PVR. 1080i is fine for SD. Sling the bits over a 1 GB LAN.

Wait for the 1080P Hauppague, which will come soon enough. Judiciously buy Blu-rays and rip to NAS. Locate NAS within reasonable distance of primary 1080P endpoints and dish out component, unless the Honeywell stuff is credible.

Total cost < $5K. Anyone have a better plan?

IVB 02-19-2010 08:08 AM

That's a frankenserver, which is the only current way to do that.

BTW, I don't think there is such a thing as a commercial DVD transfer company - it's currently illegal to do that. Only K-Scape has a license to do that.

AnyDVD-HD is located in Barbados/somewhere like that, and no integrator would dare install it due to it's seriously sketchy legal position.

Neurorad 02-19-2010 11:01 AM

I'm sure you can find a place in South Norwalk that will do the transfers for you.

That's where I bought booze underage.

Wouldn't take that long, using a networked laptop sitting on your coffee table. You could make certain it's done correctly that way.

rtbatch 02-19-2010 12:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

That's a frankenserver, which is the only current way to do that.

BTW, I don't think there is such a thing as a commercial DVD transfer company - it's currently illegal to do that. Only K-Scape has a license to do that.

AnyDVD-HD is located in Barbados/somewhere like that, and no integrator would dare install it due to it's seriously sketchy legal position.

Just called an audio company. Bit for bit (no cracking of DRM) is in the gray-zone under the DMCA. None of them are big enough to test the waters against the MPAA. Well, worst case, I can hire a teen-ager to do it for me. Not gonna do it myself.

Thanks.

IVB 02-19-2010 02:09 PM

Now lets talk about what OS is the most stable & well proven for this Frankenserver. Ya know, people would save a lot of time if they just listened to me from the get-go

BTW, you better negotiate a flat rate per DVD. It takes perhaps 15ish mins per DVD, or 0.25 hours. 500 DVDs * 0.25 hours/DVD = 125 hours. Todays youth will probably ask for $10/hour min, or >$1K just to rip the DVDs. And that's assuming they don't screw something up, there's a few things to be done.

Also, if they start making copies for their own usage and share all those easy-to-distribute bits among your friends, the fair-usage defense goes out the window if the MPAA ever comes knocking on your door.

MurrayW 02-19-2010 02:27 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

Now lets talk about what OS is the most stable & well proven for this Frankenserver. Ya know, people would save a lot of time if they just listened to me from the get-go

BTW, you better negotiate a flat rate per DVD. It takes perhaps 15ish mins per DVD, or 0.25 hours. 500 DVDs * 0.25 hours/DVD = 125 hours. Todays youth will probably ask for $10/hour min, or >$1K just to rip the DVDs. And that's assuming they don't screw something up, there's a few things to be done.

Also, if they start making copies for their own usage and share all those easy-to-distribute bits among your friends, the fair-usage defense goes out the window if the MPAA ever comes knocking on your door.

I wouldn't have any problem paying them $10 an hour for their actual time...about 1 minute per DVD x 500 = ~$60 or a little more than a dime per DVD. I did this with my teenage son several years ago for my CD's but I paid him a quarter per CD. I didn't have a time constraint and we hooked 3 CD roms up to his computer and he did them in between using his computer for other things. It took him about 1 month to get through 400 CD's. I also didn't have to worry about any "fair use" violations because he and his friends would not want to distribute any of my music!

David Haddad 02-19-2010 02:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MurrayW View Post

I wouldn't have any problem paying them $10 an hour for their actual time...about 1 minute per DVD x 500 = ~$60 or a little more than a dime per DVD.

1 minute???

MurrayW 02-19-2010 02:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Haddad View Post

1 minute???

I minute for putting the DVD in the slot and starting the ripping process. The other 14 minutes the computer does all the work and doesn't require any one doing anything. I was being facetious...at least a little bit.

IVB 02-19-2010 08:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MurrayW View Post

I wouldn't have any problem paying them $10 an hour for their actual time...about 1 minute per DVD x 500 = ~$60 or a little more than a dime per DVD. I did this with my teenage son several years ago for my CD's but I paid him a quarter per CD. I didn't have a time constraint and we hooked 3 CD roms up to his computer and he did them in between using his computer for other things. It took him about 1 month to get through 400 CD's. I also didn't have to worry about any "fair use" violations because he and his friends would not want to distribute any of my music!

If it were my teenage son doing it for me, i'd make him do it for free and be happy about it.

If it were my teenage son doing it for someone else, i'd slap him silly if he accepted a deal where he only did it for actual time invested. He'd know about value-based billing, where it's not how much time he spends typing, but rather how much time he'd save the requestor. Maybe splitting the difference, but if he's bound near the computer to constantly swap DVDs, and is going to be harshed on if there's a mistake, fingers-on-keyboards is not the right metric for compensation.

Neurorad 02-20-2010 12:50 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

value-based billing, where it's not how much time he spends typing, but rather how much time he'd save the requestor.

(just had an a-ha moment, for billing rates, for HA/RC programming, or any other kind of programming for that matter thanks, IVB)

IVB 02-20-2010 08:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurorad View Post

(just had an a-ha moment, for billing rates, for HA/RC programming, or any other kind of programming for that matter thanks, IVB)

doesn't just have to be programming either. If the requestor doesn't like that billing paradigm, they're welcome to find someone who'll be the low bidder.

Someone has the following tagline on another forum. After a few years here, i've found the hard way that this is painfully true.

Quote:


The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of cheap price is forgotten.

And for those who think there's no such thing as poor quality when ripping DVDs, go ahead, take the cheap route, wait a month (or more) for the results, try and play through 10-20 of the results. I await your 'help wanted, dude screwed up my rips, how to fix without re-ripping' AVSForum thread. I know because I'VE screwed up more than 1 rip, and I typically pay attention while i'm ripping.

David Haddad 02-21-2010 12:05 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

I hope to match the quality of the second half your response with my own. That said, I'm going to be very candid about the first half, as I have been a [marketing] executive in very large technology companies. So, my responses will be conditioned by that experience. That said, it's seldom easy being on the receiving end of tough love.

I have the greatest admiration for bootstrappers. That said, as a CEO you're probably a great engineer (with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder). I can't tell you how many times I've heard a masterful engineer say "My website sucks because I'm putting all my energy into my product." Puhleeze. Sales and marketing are as important as product. You must re-balance your efforts if you're ever going to be more than an aspirant. Your website is a piece of crap, that greatly disserves your firm. A proper description of who you are, what makes you different, and easy to find well produced information that amplifies your unique selling proposition (including genuine testimonials) is not spin. It's sound business practice.

And why do I care who you are, and if you'll be in business tomorrow? Because I'm going to put your stuff into my house - a house that I built largely with my own hands, and that is very much a reflection of what I value. The commercial term is "vendor risk," a perception you (and every small company) must dedicate yourself to overcoming. As such, do I sound like a guy who can be spun by a pretty web site? You can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to investigate the viability of small companies with whom I do business, even ones with fancy websites. That said, please take a look at this Web site http://www.savantav.com/ for an example of what I mean. For better or worse, this is your competition. Point taken on Savant price - they may very well be in the Crestron category. That said, I am seeking to ascertain whether their products are as good as their web site, and whether they represent a good value. Regardless, at least I know who's running the company, and have some insight the leadership credentials of the management team. But that's no guarantee either...

Lastly, leaders do not trash their competition - they captivate their intended audience - which unfortunately you have not done in this instance. Although you may be inclined to respond to my post with invective, I urge you to resist the impulse - because, bottom line, I am the customer. A customer that may still be persuadable.

I very much appreciate the tone / information value of the second half of your post. That said, as a "large" system (your words), I would only offer one final piece of advice. What I am looking for in a supplier is someone who is passionate about making complexity yield to simplicity - with elegant, reliable, affordable solutions. If you can convince me of that, you'll earn my business.

I think your post is excellent and also think it deserves a response. I agree that Dean's justification of his poor website was weak (and PLEASE don't find nor look at mine , but I’ll at least tell you I have no excuses and that it's currently being redone as I write this). I also think Dean will be the first to acknowledge that he is programmer first and a marketer second.

Regarding your comments about Dean trashing the competition, I think I can put myself a little inside of Dean's head there and tell you that he does not see Lifeware as a competitor and was simply using them as an example of a company that has spent millions on marketing, apparently to little affect. I'm not saying his argument was valid, merely that in his mind he was not trashing the competition. For instance, I think you would be hard pressed to find him slam Main Lobby who qualifies as more of a competitor.

So having acknowledged your very valid points, I'd like to present some counterpoints. While Dean may not have the greatest website in the world, he has nevertheless built a loyal community of CQC users, and has a better support structure in place than many large companies. As an example, he has an extremely active user forum, and he as the product designer is exceptionally active there:

http://www.charmedquark.com/vb_forum/index.php

And he also has a section of tutorial videos that put many hundred million dollar (and billion dollar) companies to shame:

http://www.charmedquark.com/Web/Supp...rialVideos.htm

I can also tell you from both reading Dean's posts as well as numerous exchanges with him over the years that you'll be hard pressed to find someone who will give you more honest answers about their product. I don't think Dean knows the meaning of the word hyperbole. Which might be bad from a marketing standpoint, but is damn great if you are one of his (potential) customers and need honest accurate answers regarding system design.

Dean will also be very open with you that he is basically a one-man shop. If that bothers you, you need to look elsewhere. However *in this instance* I don't think it should. Why? Because if you use Dean's product it's not like you are buying 100K of hardware where you are SOL if Dean gets in a car crash. And even if the worst happened and Dean disappeared the odds are good that his software would continue to work with Windows operating systems for many years to come. And even if it didn't, still all your hardware would be just fine. So I think it's quite the different situation versus spending 100K on a hardware platform where you better hope and pray they are around in a year.

One last thing. I am not a customer of Dean's nor a family member , my company is involved primarily in large scale Crestron projects. If I sound like an evangelist for Dean it's simply because I have watched both him and his product evolve over the years and think what he is doing is great, I think he is addressing a genuine market need.

Frankly, and now I am also going to be very candid, I'm not sure what you are looking for as you are a bit all over the place. You don't want to buy "expensive proprietary touchpanels", don't want a backbone that "costs as much as a car", don’t want to work with a company that "is aligned with a brand", but also don't want to do "deep integration" yourself and dismiss using a PC. I'm half waiting with baited breath for you to say you'd also like to have it all for less than $25 . Point being that you state what you want/don’t want and then in the next breath dismiss the things that might help you achieve your goals. It seems to me you need to adjust your requirements to reflect the reality of where the market is at. If I was a DIY with your requirements, CQC would be at the top of my list. It’s a powerful product, DIY's are supported, there's also a robust community, and it's as "open" and "brand agnostic" a product as you will find. And it most definitely can be reliable using Dean's software and running as a dedicated automation machine (and I'm no Wintel fan either). However it's most definitely going to take some effort and time on your part.

If you are not interested in making that effort, then I suspect your other best option, guessing from your various posts, is Control4. That would require less "deep integration" and does not cost as much as a car. On the other hand it's neither as powerful as CQC (in my *opinion*) nor a company that directly supports DIY types who are interested in a high level of involvement, and you'll likely be working with an installation company that is "brand aligned". YMMV.

David Haddad 02-21-2010 02:15 AM

BTW rtbatch, I just happened to be visiting Dean's forum and couldn't help but laugh when I saw this thread where he says:
Quote:


I want to start working on a better web site...

Your post here was on the 18th and his was on the 19th. So as you can see Dean does pay attention to feedback. I'm sure he's been meaning to improve his site for some time but I also suspect your post motivated him.

rtbatch 02-21-2010 08:05 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

Now lets talk about what OS is the most stable & well proven for this Frankenserver. Ya know, people would save a lot of time if they just listened to me from the get-go

BTW, you better negotiate a flat rate per DVD. It takes perhaps 15ish mins per DVD, or 0.25 hours. 500 DVDs * 0.25 hours/DVD = 125 hours. Todays youth will probably ask for $10/hour min, or >$1K just to rip the DVDs. And that's assuming they don't screw something up, there's a few things to be done.

Also, if they start making copies for their own usage and share all those easy-to-distribute bits among your friends, the fair-usage defense goes out the window if the MPAA ever comes knocking on your door.


IVB,

You da man / woman: After ripping my 800 audio CDs, I'm never going there again. And bonehead that I am, I didn't rip them lossless (rather 192) Big mistake. Of course you can't buy lossless from itunes, hence my boycott, except for guilty pleasures. I could always go with the Sony jukebox - feels like another bonehead idea. Fact is only 20% of my DVDs are "worthy" of ripping - the rest is cruft. BTW, I'd never allow my content to be shared in violation of copyright law. Content creators deserve their due...

rtbatch 02-21-2010 08:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Haddad View Post

BTW rtbatch, I just happened to be visiting Dean's forum and couldn't help but laugh when I saw this thread where he says:

Your post here was on the 18th and his was on the 19th. So as you can see Dean does pay attention to feedback. I'm sure he's been meaning to improve his site for some time but I also suspect your post motivated him.

David,

Having worked with VCs and many entrepreneurs, my heart went out to Dean. If his community hadn't been so effusive, I wouldn't have wasted my breath. CQC seems "worthy" of the tough love. Now my dollars, that's another story. Vendor risk must be a genuine concern of all but the those at the top of the technology food chain, a position I cannot claim. That said, I advise some of the best IT architects in the world (in my field) so I know of what I speak.

Something unfortunate happens to Dean (which I would never wish), and 5 years from now I'm ripping out imbedded infrastructure. That's one of the problems in the HA market. Lots of aspirants, a birds nest of competing / half-baked standards and a mountain of vendor risk to assess and manage.

rtbatch 02-21-2010 08:50 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Haddad View Post

I think your post is excellent and also think it deserves a response. I agree that Dean's justification of his poor website was weak (and PLEASE don't find nor look at mine , but I’ll at least tell you I have no excuses and that it's currently being redone as I write this). I also think Dean will be the first to acknowledge that he is programmer first and a marketer second.

Regarding your comments about Dean trashing the competition, I think I can put myself a little inside of Dean's head there and tell you that he does not see Lifeware as a competitor and was simply using them as an example of a company that has spent millions on marketing, apparently to little affect. I'm not saying his argument was valid, merely that in his mind he was not trashing the competition. For instance, I think you would be hard pressed to find him slam Main Lobby who qualifies as more of a competitor.

So having acknowledged your very valid points, I'd like to present some counterpoints. While Dean may not have the greatest website in the world, he has nevertheless built a loyal community of CQC users, and has a better support structure in place than many large companies. As an example, he has an extremely active user forum, and he as the product designer is exceptionally active there:

http://www.charmedquark.com/vb_forum/index.php

And he also has a section of tutorial videos that put many hundred million dollar (and billion dollar) companies to shame:

http://www.charmedquark.com/Web/Supp...rialVideos.htm

I can also tell you from both reading Dean's posts as well as numerous exchanges with him over the years that you'll be hard pressed to find someone who will give you more honest answers about their product. I don't think Dean knows the meaning of the word hyperbole. Which might be bad from a marketing standpoint, but is damn great if you are one of his (potential) customers and need honest accurate answers regarding system design.

Dean will also be very open with you that he is basically a one-man shop. If that bothers you, you need to look elsewhere. However *in this instance* I don't think it should. Why? Because if you use Dean's product it's not like you are buying 100K of hardware where you are SOL if Dean gets in a car crash. And even if the worst happened and Dean disappeared the odds are good that his software would continue to work with Windows operating systems for many years to come. And even if it didn't, still all your hardware would be just fine. So I think it's quite the different situation versus spending 100K on a hardware platform where you better hope and pray they are around in a year.

One last thing. I am not a customer of Dean's nor a family member , my company is involved primarily in large scale Crestron projects. If I sound like an evangelist for Dean it's simply because I have watched both him and his product evolve over the years and think what he is doing is great, I think he is addressing a genuine market need.

Frankly, and now I am also going to be very candid, I'm not sure what you are looking for as you are a bit all over the place. You don't want to buy "expensive proprietary touchpanels", don't want a backbone that "costs as much as a car", don’t want to work with a company that "is aligned with a brand", but also don't want to do "deep integration" yourself and dismiss using a PC. I'm half waiting with baited breath for you to say you'd also like to have it all for less than $25 . Point being that you state what you want/don’t want and then in the next breath dismiss the things that might help you achieve your goals. It seems to me you need to adjust your requirements to reflect the reality of where the market is at. If I was a DIY with your requirements, CQC would be at the top of my list. It’s a powerful product, DIY's are supported, there's also a robust community, and it's as "open" and "brand agnostic" a product as you will find. And it most definitely can be reliable using Dean's software and running as a dedicated automation machine (and I'm no Wintel fan either). However it's most definitely going to take some effort and time on your part.

If you are not interested in making that effort, then I suspect your other best option, guessing from your various posts, is Control4. That would require less "deep integration" and does not cost as much as a car. On the other hand it's neither as powerful as CQC (in my *opinion*) nor a company that directly supports DIY types who are interested in a high level of involvement, and you'll likely be working with an installation company that is "brand aligned". YMMV.

David,

Thank you for the very thoughtful post. Your perspective is so valuable because you are a knowledgeable Crestron guy. So you have a very informed perspective of those two diametrically opposed worlds. I'm not sure I'm so much "all over the place" but a guy who is spiraling toward the bullseye - wobbling a bit along that path. I too seem to be homing in toward Control4 (who seems to have spooked the incumbents).

That said, I remain persuadable on CQC. The tough challenge is deciding whether I fall closer to the CQC or Control4 end of the spectrum. Clearly I'm not a Crestron candidate. No apologies there ;-)

Fear not. My HA budget is $10 - $15K, a very respectable amount of money (except for investment bankers). Of course, I'm excluding, AV servers / equipment. But for the HA controllers, lighting controls and communication backbone (and a few itouches) that should be more than sufficient. The rest is sweat equity.

BTW on the subject of recognizing cost vs quality, the last five cars I bought were Lexuses. IMHO, the Crestrons and AMXs represent Lamborghinis, which means you'd better work for a hedge fund or have a mechanic in the family. If there is a Lexus in the HA market I'd like to know. For now, I'd be very satisfied with an Accord or Camry equivalent.

If I go toward Control4 my expectation is I would employ a dealer for design coaching, occasional questions, and affordable technology sourcing. Although not a Linux hacker, I've been around enough electrical systems (line and low-voltage) and PCs / servers not to be a "support nightmare" for anyone. It will be very interesting to see what I find once I start making sourcing inquiries...

rtbatch 02-21-2010 08:57 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

doesn't just have to be programming either. If the requestor doesn't like that billing paradigm, they're welcome to find someone who'll be the low bidder.

Someone has the following tagline on another forum. After a few years here, i've found the hard way that this is painfully true.



And for those who think there's no such thing as poor quality when ripping DVDs, go ahead, take the cheap route, wait a month (or more) for the results, try and play through 10-20 of the results. I await your 'help wanted, dude screwed up my rips, how to fix without re-ripping' AVSForum thread. I know because I'VE screwed up more than 1 rip, and I typically pay attention while i'm ripping.

Seems like there are 2 issues, bit for bit transfer to NAS, then post processing with ANY... The problem is physical handing and wait times. How long should it take from plastic to NAS? Unless you have an automated handler, someone has to babysit the drive. zzzzzz. Feels like a death march to me, but a perfect job for someone in China or India. Lots of IP protection there :-(

rtbatch 02-21-2010 09:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Haddad View Post

BTW rtbatch, I just happened to be visiting Dean's forum and couldn't help but laugh when I saw this thread where he says:

Your post here was on the 18th and his was on the 19th. So as you can see Dean does pay attention to feedback. I'm sure he's been meaning to improve his site for some time but I also suspect your post motivated him.

I read Dean's thread. Tell him to hire a pro. Wrestling with FrontPage?! As a web designer, I'm sure he's a great HA engineer :-) Perhaps his loyal community can throw him a few bucks to do that. He probably deserves it. He most certainly needs it. He probably needs an angel investor too.

Would you buy an HA infrastructure for a seven figure home from this guy? Still persuadable tho, even if I'm not sure that "Heathkit HA" is the way I want to go.

rtbatch 02-21-2010 10:07 AM

Well folks,

You've been a great source of insight. Feels like a good next step will be to analyze and summarize your thoughts. Gonna start working on that. Keep the insight flowing. Thank you!

If any of you have seen a Gartner "Magic Quadrant" they summarize a vendor space on two axes: Completeness of vision and Ability of execute. Of course, Gartner enumerates what criteria they use to rank on those axes.

IMHO, that's what I think the HA market needs, a Gartner MQ. As they are very protective of their IP, I guess I'll have to syntehzsize one for myself, as what's out on the web is pretty feeble / incomplete.

BTW, the Heathkit <-> Lamborghini marketspace is most intriguing, especially to a (technologically literate) guy who's trying to make an informed decision and get something built (on less than investment banker money). No wonder this has been an emerging market for 30 years.

39CentStamp 02-21-2010 10:27 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

David,

Fear not. My HA budget is $10 - $15K, a very respectable amount of money (except for investment bankers). Of course, I'm excluding, AV servers / equipment. But for the HA controllers, lighting controls and communication backbone (and a few itouches) that should be more than sufficient. The rest is sweat equity.

$10-15k for the control system & controllers would probably be better spent with Charmed quark & their hardware partners.

As a DIY'er, C4 is going to be a bit of an uphill battle. I am sure you will be able to find a dealer who is willing to sell you design and hardware and let you attempt to install it yourself. But i promise you that this dealers patients will wear thin as you constantly call for support when the hardware doesn't do what the control4 website says its supposed to. After a little bit of back and forth he will eventually completely ignore your phone calls and you will have no direct access to support from Control4. At the end of the day you will have spent as much $ or more than if you had just hired the Control4 firm to do the entire installation.

With Charmed Quark you will find an entire community to answer support questions.

rtbatch 02-21-2010 12:37 PM

Is Control4 really that un-baked?

rtbatch 02-21-2010 12:57 PM

Folks,

I respectfully submit for your comments. The Savant quote is most interesting:

http://www.cepro.com/article/crestro...ation_systems/

rtbatch

David Haddad 02-21-2010 01:43 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

I respectfully submit for your comments. The Savant quote is most interesting:

http://www.cepro.com/article/crestro...ation_systems/

Yawn to that quote . If I could have a dollar for every time I've heard someone say that over the past 15 years I wouldn't have to be working at all . Usually the person saying it has a strong self-motivation or bias in doing so, rather than performing an objective analysis of the market. Or they just aren't very good at understanding the marketplace, love the PC market, and are convinced that every market in the world is going to follow that model. That is not to say I don't think there is some truth in the statement. And generally if you predict something for long enough, the likelihood that it will happen increases.

Dean Roddey 02-21-2010 02:18 PM

You have to keep some perspective on the web site thing. Products like this almost never sell directly to an end user, so spending time on something that appeals to end users it pretty much a waste of time. The number of folks who really want to DIY on this level are TINY. It's really pro systems that count, and therefore it's installers who you have to appeal to.

I can honestly say that I've never ever once had an integrator contact me and say he wanted to use our product but the web site sucks. The only questions they have are, can it do X, Y, and Z and what does it cost? If it can't do X, Y, and Z, then however much they like it, they can't use it. It doesn't take too many years of such 'training' for even someone as slow as me to figure out that probably the web site isn't nearly as important as having competitive features.

And really no integrator is going to choose a product in this area by just going to someone's web site and browsing. They are going to go to integrator related online (or physical) communities and see what other people are using and what they think about the products. They'd never take anything on our web site as gospel.

Anyway, none of this is an 'excuse' for not having a better web site. But I've not adopted the balance of application of time that I have because I'm an incompetent business person, but because it's never been the deciding criteria for whether a professional would use the product or not. It's always driven by what can it do. So, I concentrate mostly on making it able to do more things.

The post on the forum about the web site really wasn't related to this thread at all. It was just more about a long discussed effort to simplify it, and to segregate out the technical information where it's available if you want it, but having most of the main content related to more 'markety' stuff.

And, no, I wasn't slagging off on Lifeware, just pointing out that money and a great web site has little to do with vendor risk. Lifeware probably spent more on the bagel budget than I've ever earned, but that ultimately didn't help them. Why? Because of what I indicated above. It's not how many customers you impress, it's how many integrators you convince to install your product. And integrators are technically competent people who wouldn't be much influenced by the web site and the amount of advertising (and the free coverage that they got in response to that.)

Not that I wouldn't want to be in the position to squander millions of my hard earned internet bubble billions. And being a struggling startup doesn't make my soul any purer than theirs. But it really isn't too related to vendor risk. People have been saying I wasn't going to be around since 2002'ish when I started. A lot of companies have fallen by the wayside, all of them with more bucks (and probably nicer web sites) than me.

And, finally, yes, I am an actual human being, not a robo-quote marketer. So I do actually say things I mean in public. I know it's considered bad form by many. But I think that more people appreciate knowing that they are getting the truth than most marketers believe. The buck starts and stops with me, and everyone knows it. As soon as people get over that and judge the product on its merits, hopefully there won't be just a me, and I can start speaking in the royal third person about the company.

Quote:


I very much appreciate the tone / information value of the second half of your post. That said, as a "large" system (your words), I would only offer one final piece of advice. What I am looking for in a supplier is someone who is passionate about making complexity yield to simplicity - with elegant, reliable, affordable solutions. If you can convince me of that, you'll earn my business.

Everyone in this busyess is passionate about that. But reality is reality. It's either a closed and simple system, in which the number of possibilities is closer to zero than to infinity, or it's an open system in which the number of possibilities are closer to infinity than zero. If it were possible to have a system that is both simple and unlimited in possibilities, someone would have long since done it.

Not that our product couldn't be simpler. Everyone's could, and we are addressing it where we can. But basically it's either something in the Control 4 land, and the limitations for customization and third party hardware support that implies, or it's not. Control 4 has done well with themselves in that entry level world by creating a simple and limited system. But I don't think that they will be able to move too far up the food chain without losing a lot of that simplicity. You eventually have to start dealing with all of the random hardware that each customer has, and at that point the complexities start to multiply.

rtbatch 02-21-2010 02:55 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

You have to keep some perspective on the web site thing. Products like this almost never sell directly to an end user, so spending time on something that appeals to end users it pretty much a waste of time. The number of folks who really want to DIY on this level are TINY. It's really pro systems that count, and therefore it's installers who you have to appeal to.

I can honestly say that I've never ever once had an integrator contact me and say he wanted to use our product but the web site sucks. The only questions they have are, can it do X, Y, and Z and what does it cost? If it can't do X, Y, and Z, then however much they like it, they can't use it. It doesn't take too many years of such 'training' for even someone as slow as me to figure out that probably the web site isn't nearly as important as having competitive features.

And really no integrator is going to choose a product in this area by just going to someone's web site and browsing. They are going to go to integrator related online (or physical) communities and see what other people are using and what they think about the products. They'd never take anything on our web site as gospel.

Anyway, none of this is an 'excuse' for not having a better web site. But I've not adopted the balance of application of time that I have because I'm an incompetent business person, but because it's never been the deciding criteria for whether a professional would use the product or not. It's always driven by what can it do. So, I concentrate mostly on making it able to do more things.

The post on the forum about the web site really wasn't related to this thread at all. It was just more about a long discussed effort to simplify it, and to segregate out the technical information where it's available if you want it, but having most of the main content related to more 'markety' stuff.

And, no, I wasn't slagging off on Lifeware, just pointing out that money and a great web site has little to do with vendor risk. Lifeware probably spent more on the bagel budget than I've ever earned, but that ultimately didn't help them. Why? Because of what I indicated above. It's not how many customers you impress, it's how many integrators you convince to install your product. And integrators are technically competent people who wouldn't be much influenced by the web site and the amount of advertising (and the free coverage that they got in response to that.)

Not that I wouldn't want to be in the position to squander millions of my hard earned internet bubble billions. And being a struggling startup doesn't make my soul any purer than theirs. But it really isn't too related to vendor risk. People have been saying I wasn't going to be around since 2002'ish when I started. A lot of companies have fallen by the wayside, all of them with more bucks (and probably nicer web sites) than me.

And, finally, yes, I am an actual human being, not a robo-quote marketer. So I do actually say things I mean in public. I know it's considered bad form by many. But I think that more people appreciate knowing that they are getting the truth than most marketers believe. The buck starts and stops with me, and everyone knows it. As soon as people get over that and judge the product on its merits, hopefully there won't be just a me, and I can start speaking in the royal third person about the company.



Everyone in this busyess is passionate about that. But reality is reality. It's either a closed and simple system, in which the number of possibilities is closer to zero than to infinity, or it's an open system in which the number of possibilities are closer to infinity than zero. If it were possible to have a system that is both simple and unlimited in possibilities, someone would have long since done it.

Not that our product couldn't be simpler. Everyone's could, and we are addressing it where we can. But basically it's either something in the Control 4 land, and the limitations for customization and third party hardware support that implies, or it's not. Control 4 has done well with themselves in that entry level world by creating a simple and limited system. But I don't think that they will be able to move too far up the food chain without losing a lot of that simplicity. You eventually have to start dealing with all of the random hardware that each customer has, and at that point the complexities start to multiply.

Dean,

I think your posts have amply served to definine your target market, unique selling proposition and disdain for the importance of marketing. As this is AVS Forum, not the Harvard Business Review, I have nothing further I wish to say about your business philosophy or practices here - other than to sincerely wish you the best of luck.

As a professional courtesy to you, I'll send you my personal email (via other means) should you desire to discuss my comments further. The option will be yours of course - as I seek neither favorable commercial terms as a potential customer, nor to offer services for which I would charge (were my profession management consulting or venture capital). (I hope this offer doesn't violate the code of conduct for AVS Forum).

You're obviously a passionate and capable engineer. Perhaps, in some small way I might be able to assist you to be a better businessman.

Respectfully,

rtbatch

Dean Roddey 02-21-2010 03:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Dean,

I think your posts have amply served to definine your target market, unique selling proposition and disdain for the importance of marketing. As this is AVS Forum, not the Harvard Business Review, I have nothing further I wish to say about your business philosophy or practices here - other than to sincerely wish you the best of luck.

As a professional courtesy to you, I'll send you my personal email (via other means) should you desire to discuss my comments further. The option will be yours of course - as I seek neither favorable commercial terms as a potential customer, nor to offer services for which I would charge (were my profession management consulting or venture capital). (I hope this offer doesn't violate the code of conduct for AVS Forum).

You're obviously a passionate and capable engineer. Perhaps, in some small way I might be able to assist you to be a better businessman.

Respectfully,

rtbatch

I don't disdain marketing at all. I'm just explaining to you that the people who are responsible for the sales of a product like ours are not the end user. They are technically savvy (and generally pretty cynical) people with a 'show me' attitude. No amount of marketing is likely to make them use a product. It has to work, and it has to be reasonable for them to use, and it has to make them money. That's basically the criteria for acceptance of a product like this.

If I had the budget for it, I'd certainly be happy to inundate them with marketing material. But I have no belief at all that it would work. And I believe that examples such as Lifeware prove this point. They spent huge amounts of money on advertising, and it didn't help, because ultimately they could only succeed by convincing installers to install the product, and they cannot do that by marketing.

This is not a 'pull' market, it's a push market. Customers aren't really asking for a specific solution, they are asking just for a solution, and the installer provides that solution, using a product that meets those critiera mentioned above.

There's really only one industry rag that I know of, CE Pro. It's a pretty small world. The industry players hardly even seem to advertise in that. I don't think that they really have to, because it is such a small world, and there are online communities where probably the bulk of them hang out and discuss what works and what doesn't (and fight and bicker just like on any other online forum.)

Anyway, you really are misrepresenting my position. It's not that I'm anti-marketing. If there was money to do it I'd do it just to play the game in the usual way. But this isn't a market like DVD players or coffee makers. You can't really 'lifestyle' these people. They are the ones who 'lifestyle' their customers. We are really a wholesaler type company. So, I'm saying that my not being able to do so isn't as big an issue as you might think.

Within that small community they all know who we are. Their reasons for not using the product would have more to do with vested interest in the systems they already support, some amount of anit-PC sentiment though that has been reduced somewhat over the years, the same vendor risk issue that you raised, and the 'how do I make a profit with it' issue.

The latter is probably the biggest one. Most of them make their profit on hardware margins. There isn't much hardware margin in a system based on commodity hardware. And they have to try to sell something to the customer that he can go look up the prices for and argue with them about it. Though I agree with some of the sentiment in that Savant article about people needing to make more on the service side, I don't think that many installers agree with that.

We do have a partner called Vidabox who sells non-commodity hardware that is based on CQC. But as with anything that is intended to be solid and pro level, the price is generally way above the huge price sensitivity of the do it yourselfer, so still the pro world is the only market that is viable. And the installer who accepts that this gets them over the hurdle profit margin, then probably falls back to the vendor risk issue. So it's a tough cycle to get out of .

39CentStamp 02-21-2010 05:23 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Is Control4 really that un-baked?

I don't know what you mean by un-baked. My comments were more about the fact that its a dealer product vs a DIY product. That means your service and warranty is routed thru a dealer. You as the end user have no access to service or support from Control4.

Based on experience, if you find a Control4 dealer who is willing to sell gear directly to you and provide you with a wiring plan/schematics.. the relationship will go south very quickly once you start asking questions.

The "quick sale" will no longer be quick if the dealer now has to support you as you learn to install Control4 and tame it. The saved money will no longer be savings if the dealer charges you for this support.

The dealer can contact Control4 whenever he wants. Its part of his dealer agreement. You cant. With CQC you can contact the dealer. You can ask for help at the forum without hearing "hire a pro".

Control4 (or CQC or whatever) is not plug and play. Getting it installed and operating is not in a manual that you can find online. Its a combination of manuals, manufacturer training, support calls and trial and error.

So IMO its an uphill battle from the beginning if you choose to DIY a product that is not meant for DIY. Not that its any easier or harder to install than anything else, just that there is no support network in place to walk you thru it.

39CentStamp 02-21-2010 05:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Folks,

I respectfully submit for your comments. The Savant quote is most interesting:

http://www.cepro.com/article/crestro...ation_systems/

rtbatch

Savant is what happened when Control4 and B&0 had a baby.



Savant is already selling the iPhone and iTouch as a controller. I guess they dont care if their clients are paying for high end and getting a science experiment.

Adding...

Quote:


"The days of living strictly off hardware margins are numbered. If anyone thinks they can hold onto that model, they’re going to be extinct - a dinosaur."

This is a pretty funny quote coming from one of the most expensive players in the game.

Dean Roddey 02-21-2010 05:33 PM

Maybe the Savant quotes I've seen are not representative, I dunno. But they were all very high dollar.

IVB 02-21-2010 06:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Fear not. My HA budget is $10 - $15K, a very respectable amount of money (except for investment bankers). Of course, I'm excluding, AV servers / equipment. But for the HA controllers, lighting controls and communication backbone (and a few itouches) that should be more than sufficient. The rest is sweat equity.

Hmmm, not sure what that "av server/equipment" exclusion means as my AV server *is* my HA controller, but as of a year ago I was at $17K and I bought my stuff way cheap & used off eBay. (see the technical details tab in the website in my sig for a breakdown of that cost). In the past year, I probably spent another $2K, or just under $20K.

I put in 1000 manhours on the website, but that calc was done 18 months ago. With some of my latest drama, i'm easily at 1500 manhours.

Now that Vidabox exists and uses CQC as their software engine, if I were to do this again I'd just go get one of their servers, Vidabox customized S70. My server ended up being about $4K, but has taken me forever to determine what pieces/parts are most stable. Those guys have done all that work, and I think MSRP is somewhere around $7K.

I'd bet that bill would end up being about $30K, with the only true upgrades being servers & touchscreens/nicer remotes. IE, same old used crap being controlled.

Quote:


If any of you have seen a Gartner "Magic Quadrant" they summarize a vendor space on two axes: Completeness of vision and Ability of execute. Of course, Gartner enumerates what criteria they use to rank on those axes.

IMHO, that's what I think the HA market needs, a Gartner MQ. As they are very protective of their IP, I guess I'll have to syntehzsize one for myself, as what's out on the web is pretty feeble / incomplete.

It's a shame that the CQC forums got corrupted a few years back. I'm a management consultant by training, spent many years in the big 5 (well, when there *was* a big 5), and now am one of the lead strategy guys for an $8B company. I repeatedly bemoaned the lack of a coherent methodology and value matrix for HA, only to be told in public that the industry is too immature & individual needs are too fractured for that. As this 127 page thread shows, nearly 4 years later, I still can't find a way to map it in a way that would make me enough $$ to quit my day job. And if anyone has the skills to create a methodology, roadmap, or value quadrant, it's me. (0.9 probability)

BTW, vision & ability to execute are *not* the right dimensions to create an HA-MQ. Sure, you could perhaps define individual vendors on that basis, but in this space you need to pull together many different vendors to create a coherent solution. I'd tell you what I think are the right dimensions, but then I wouldn't be able to charge you $25K for my HA industry report...

santiagodraco 02-23-2010 07:18 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

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.


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.

To be honest it sounds more like you are trying to sell something, no offense intended.

I've just purchased several Z-wave devices and have installed several, and so far they are working perfectly. I simply can't see how you can imply that there is some inherent failing in Zway (or another good wireless solution) where it justifies spending orders of magnitude more money on dedicated wired solutions. I also don't think "mission critical" is a valid argument for a home system. First off electronics can fail, in a wired control box or a wirelessly controlled system.

Assuming you don't have devices so far apart in a home that they can't reach each other I simply can't see it justified to spend the money to wire and to purchase the overpriced wired system components.

amirm 02-23-2010 07:43 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by santiagodraco View Post

To be honest it sounds more like you are trying to sell something, no offense intended.

He is not selling anything. He is an end user like you. And unless something has changed, while he likes Lutron, he hasn't installed one.

Quote:


I've just purchased several Z-wave devices and have installed several, and so far they are working perfectly.

Give it some time. I had a friend who installed Insteon and at the beginning, was exceptionally happy. Fast forward a year later and he had a closet light that wouldn't turn off, making his wife very unhappy.

Quote:


I simply can't see how you can imply that there is some inherent failing in Zway (or another good wireless solution) where it justifies spending orders of magnitude more money on dedicated wired solutions.

Touch your dimmer switch. Does if feel warm? If so, that is one thing centralized wired systems do better. The dimmer control is not stuffed in a little box, shortening its life due to heat. Centralized systems have nice large heat sinks and have open air flow.

Quote:


I also don't think "mission critical" is a valid argument for a home system. First off electronics can fail, in a wired control box or a wirelessly controlled system.

I think you missed his point. He is saying lighting control must be treated as mission critical. It is night time, you hit a light switch to light up the stairway, it needs to work. If your DVD player doesn't play when you hit a button, that is OK. But not lighting. And certainly not if you are married and the other half doesn't consider this "hobby" fun .

Quote:


Assuming you don't have devices so far apart in a home that they can't reach each other I simply can't see it justified to spend the money to wire and to purchase the overpriced wired system components.

Justification is hard no matter which way you go. $60 for a wireless dimmer is incredibly high compared to $2 standard switch. Sure, going up to $300+ makes the hole in your pocket bigger . But ultimately you need to decide how much you value the last bit of reliability. For me, it meant hardwired despite the huge increase in cost. The value was there the first day I powered it on and as long as the end points where correct, the system worked. I had no unknowns I could not "see."

The other way to look at this is the total value of the house. It doesn't make sense to spend $20K on lighting for a $150K house. But if the house is worth $1M+, then that is another matter.

Neurorad 02-23-2010 08:59 PM

Any Centralite dimmer failures yet, Amir? Maybe you should have splurged for the HomeWorks, you know, an arm and 2 legs.

I'm itching to get my distributed audio, lighting, and alarm installed, so I'll have something to control with CQC.

rtbatch, make sure you get some sturdy stands for your ipads, so they don't tip over when you poke 'em. Maybe you can lay them flat on some tables, and use some Velcro so they don't slide around.

j/k, look to Peerless or Chief Manufacturing for some slick mounts like this, for your ipads

Maybe for a couple of them, and the others you can carry around.

Edit - Don't forget the recessed back boxes, with 110V outlets, for the transformer bricks.

IVB 02-23-2010 09:01 PM

Amirm hit the points I'd have made. In the end, it is not possible to argue against my position, because mine is based on first-hand experience in my house. I had to get to something like 13 switches before I had even 50% reliability; until then, it was plug-n-pray-real-hard-and-it-still-won't-work. And, I had to go to 3 dimensions (put a few in the basement, put a few in the attic) to really create the mesh. In the end, even with 23 devices, I still don't have 100.0% reliability. Nobody can argue with that because its true.

Finally, Amirm hit the nail on the head about housing costs. I live in NorCal, my remodel will cost a min of $400K and thats if I go cheap and just add 1500ish sqft. The house itself was built in 1911, and all the wiring is decrepit, so i'm likely allocating $50K-ish to hardwired lighting, re-doing all electrical runs, etc.

BTW, if you think the point of automated lighting is an alternate on/off mechanism, then you're missing the point of automated lighting. I wrote a post somewhere here or on CQC about that, i'll try and find it. Deployed correctly, it really is a mission critical system.

amirm 02-23-2010 09:06 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurorad View Post

Any Centralite dimmer failures yet, Amir? Maybe you should have splurged for the HomeWorks, you know, an arm and 2 legs.

I went ahead with Crestron lighting instead. So no experience with Centralite although it was half the cost of Crestron. As a comparison, Crestron bag of parts was more extensive than Centralite. And the dimmers easier to configure.

Quote:


I'm itching to get my distributed audio, lighting, and alarm installed, so I'll have something to control with CQC.

I looked at both CQC and ML and didn't find either to be my cup of tea but I do appreciate others favoring them.

amirm 02-23-2010 09:14 PM

I should add that I did go with Lutron for shades. They work quite well but don't even think about doing them yourself. The Lutron site is a disaster as compared to Crestron when it comes to documentation and searching for things.

Neurorad 02-23-2010 09:43 PM

Good choice with the Crestron, Amir.

I think Lutron's documentation is unbelievably detailed, compared with other manufacturers'. A CI showed me an old HomeWorks Install Guide, and it looked like a child could install the devices.

I think window treatments in general can be difficult, it's like another world. The extent of Lutron's customization options are really overwhelming, I've seen their order sheets. If I could afford Sivoia shades, I'd probably pay the extra to involve the local Lutron shade pro. Maybe you get a magic shade documentation book when you go to PA for special PSP training.

(Tried to talk the wife into 3 Sivoia drapery tracks in the MBR, yeah, no way in hell. Automated Lutron drapes would be more than 10 times the cost of the drapes she wants to use.)

Edit - I'm still pushing for the Sivoia shades for the kitchen remodel, though.

David Haddad 02-23-2010 10:11 PM

Unless something has changed Lutron has a huge ~300 page QED shade manual right on their website that anyone can download.

santiagodraco 02-24-2010 12:12 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by amirm View Post

He is not selling anything. He is an end user like you. And unless something has changed, while he likes Lutron, he hasn't installed one.


Give it some time. I had a friend who installed Insteon and at the beginning, was exceptionally happy. Fast forward a year later and he had a closet light that wouldn't turn off, making his wife very unhappy.


Touch your dimmer switch. Does if feel warm? If so, that is one thing centralized wired systems do better. The dimmer control is not stuffed in a little box, shortening its life due to heat. Centralized systems have nice large heat sinks and have open air flow.


I think you missed his point. He is saying lighting control must be treated as mission critical. It is night time, you hit a light switch to light up the stairway, it needs to work. If your DVD player doesn't play when you hit a button, that is OK. But not lighting. And certainly not if you are married and the other half doesn't consider this "hobby" fun .


Justification is hard no matter which way you go. $60 for a wireless dimmer is incredibly high compared to $2 standard switch. Sure, going up to $300+ makes the hole in your pocket bigger . But ultimately you need to decide how much you value the last bit of reliability. For me, it meant hardwired despite the huge increase in cost. The value was there the first day I powered it on and as long as the end points where correct, the system worked. I had no unknowns I could not "see."

The other way to look at this is the total value of the house. It doesn't make sense to spend $20K on lighting for a $150K house. But if the house is worth $1M+, then that is another matter.

Good points and that helps me understand better some of the concerns. I'll have to wait and see. In any case since I'm using Homeseer, for example, I can even mix and match devices and see how it goes. But I think it would be easier to simply have spares than to pay for a complete rewiring

Adidas4275 02-24-2010 07:34 PM

this is a large discussion and i will throw my limited experience in the ring
I have about 10 z-wave light switches and have had them now for about 3 months and all is good... instant on and off and i could not be happier with homeseer.

if the OP is still looking for DIY there is some great stuff over at homeseer's forum.

Dahwoo 02-24-2010 08:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by 39CentStamp View Post

Savant is what happened when Control4 and B&0 had a baby.



Savant is already selling the iPhone and iTouch as a controller. I guess they dont care if their clients are paying for high end and getting a science experiment.

Adding...



This is a pretty funny quote coming from one of the most expensive players in the game.

I can not believe B&O, who has on many occasions, had some very flashy/eye catching equipment and gear came up with that remote. That seriously has to be the worst thing I've ever seen. The guys who pitched that had to have blown a serious amount of opium into the vents of that entire engineering team for this thing to have ever hit the market. Rant Over

Neurorad 02-25-2010 05:55 AM

I'd like to try it for a few weeks, before bashing it. I think it's pretty novel, just a different form factor.

Edit - I think B&O is about style + function. Maybe function trumps style, in this case.

Edit #2 - reminds me of the round Savant RC, + a TS.

IVB 02-25-2010 12:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by santiagodraco View Post

Good points and that helps me understand better some of the concerns. I'll have to wait and see. In any case since I'm using Homeseer, for example, I can even mix and match devices and see how it goes. But I think it would be easier to simply have spares than to pay for a complete rewiring

The issue isn't having spares - that insinuates defective devices. My point is that wireless just isn't as reliable as wired. Want proof? AVS search on wireless video, wireless dropouts, RF interference, etc. Anybody who says a wireless network is as reliable as a wired network is delusional. Full Stop. Period. End of Line.

Throwing a signal across an ever-increasingly-crowded spectrum simply cannot be as reliable or fast as a dedicated physical circuit. How much lower that reliability is based on A) your physical environment & B) the quality of the merchandise you select. For example, I might be able to get to 99% reliability if I went with RadioRA2 and several RF repeaters. My lot size is only ~40' x 100', so houses are really close together. On a good day, I've got 8 wireless networks, 3 baby monitors, overhead power lines, 6 neighbors cordless phones, and much other stuff to interfere with signals. I'd need many RF repeaters. I was hoping zWave's mesh concept would help me, but it just hasn't. If I opted for a hardwired network, all that wireless crap wouldn't affect me.

And how does this help? Well, I'd like to put in a Homeworks style keypad at the front door where each button turns on a different scene (multiple different lights, potentially different levels). Imagine if, due to wireless/other reliability issues, pushing the 'turn light on' button resulted in, well, nothing. Now imagine that it's late at night and me/wife are holding one of our young children because we stayed at a friends house too late (or maybe bringing in the groceries). How happy do *you* think they'd be that the light switch isn't working? How long before they ask to rip out the keypad and just put in a $2 light switch because it's more reliable?

I'm not trying to stoke the fires here, but anyone who thinks the benefit of automated lighting is using a touchscreen to turn on lights, or using a few rules here/there to turn lights on & off is missing the point of automated lighting. That's not automation, that's alternative manual control, and you can measure annoyance by spousal units in terms of 'milliseconds after opening the credit card statement' since they also don't see the point. It's one of these "Hey Ma! Looky see what I can do with a computer!"

And we wonder why so many women think this hobby is a waste of time.

Fiasco 02-25-2010 03:06 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

The issue isn't having spares - that insinuates defective devices. My point is that wireless just isn't as reliable as wired. Want proof? AVS search on wireless video, wireless dropouts, RF interference, etc. Anybody who says a wireless network is as reliable as a wired network is delusional. Full Stop. Period. End of Line.

Throwing a signal across an ever-increasingly-crowded spectrum simply cannot be as reliable or fast as a dedicated physical circuit. How much lower that reliability is based on A) your physical environment & B) the quality of the merchandise you select. For example, I might be able to get to 99% reliability if I went with RadioRA2 and several RF repeaters. My lot size is only ~40' x 100', so houses are really close together. On a good day, I've got 8 wireless networks, 3 baby monitors, overhead power lines, 6 neighbors cordless phones, and much other stuff to interfere with signals. I'd need many RF repeaters. I was hoping zWave's mesh concept would help me, but it just hasn't. If I opted for a hardwired network, all that wireless crap wouldn't affect me.

And how does this help? Well, I'd like to put in a Homeworks style keypad at the front door where each button turns on a different scene (multiple different lights, potentially different levels). Imagine if, due to wireless/other reliability issues, pushing the 'turn light on' button resulted in, well, nothing. Now imagine that it's late at night and me/wife are holding one of our young children because we stayed at a friends house too late (or maybe bringing in the groceries). How happy do *you* think they'd be that the light switch isn't working? How long before they ask to rip out the keypad and just put in a $2 light switch because it's more reliable?

I'm not trying to stoke the fires here, but anyone who thinks the benefit of automated lighting is using a touchscreen to turn on lights, or using a few rules here/there to turn lights on & off is missing the point of automated lighting. That's not automation, that's alternative manual control, and you can measure annoyance by spousal units in terms of 'milliseconds after opening the credit card statement' since they also don't see the point. It's one of these "Hey Ma! Looky see what I can do with a computer!"

And we wonder why so many women think this hobby is a waste of time.

You are absolutely right. Lights have to work... period.

If you automate someones house and the lights are only 95-98% reliable, that's a downgrade from a $3 dimmer.

rtbatch 03-04-2010 02:55 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by 39CentStamp View Post

I don't know what you mean by un-baked. My comments were more about the fact that its a dealer product vs a DIY product. That means your service and warranty is routed thru a dealer. You as the end user have no access to service or support from Control4.

Based on experience, if you find a Control4 dealer who is willing to sell gear directly to you and provide you with a wiring plan/schematics.. the relationship will go south very quickly once you start asking questions.

The "quick sale" will no longer be quick if the dealer now has to support you as you learn to install Control4 and tame it. The saved money will no longer be savings if the dealer charges you for this support.

The dealer can contact Control4 whenever he wants. Its part of his dealer agreement. You cant. With CQC you can contact the dealer. You can ask for help at the forum without hearing "hire a pro".

Control4 (or CQC or whatever) is not plug and play. Getting it installed and operating is not in a manual that you can find online. Its a combination of manuals, manufacturer training, support calls and trial and error.

So IMO its an uphill battle from the beginning if you choose to DIY a product that is not meant for DIY. Not that its any easier or harder to install than anything else, just that there is no support network in place to walk you thru it.

Here's how I got "unbaked" from your post, "But i promise you that this dealers patients will wear thin as you constantly call for support when the hardware doesn't do what the control4 website says its supposed to."

Are we dealing with lousy documentation, or lousy quality?

As a technical professional, I would most certainly do my homework before lunging for the phone.

Thanks :-)

rtbatch 03-04-2010 03:07 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

Hmmm, not sure what that "av server/equipment" exclusion means as my AV server *is* my HA controller, but as of a year ago I was at $17K and I bought my stuff way cheap & used off eBay. (see the technical details tab in the website in my sig for a breakdown of that cost). In the past year, I probably spent another $2K, or just under $20K.

I put in 1000 manhours on the website, but that calc was done 18 months ago. With some of my latest drama, i'm easily at 1500 manhours.

Now that Vidabox exists and uses CQC as their software engine, if I were to do this again I'd just go get one of their servers, Vidabox customized S70. My server ended up being about $4K, but has taken me forever to determine what pieces/parts are most stable. Those guys have done all that work, and I think MSRP is somewhere around $7K.

I'd bet that bill would end up being about $30K, with the only true upgrades being servers & touchscreens/nicer remotes. IE, same old used crap being controlled.



It's a shame that the CQC forums got corrupted a few years back. I'm a management consultant by training, spent many years in the big 5 (well, when there *was* a big 5), and now am one of the lead strategy guys for an $8B company. I repeatedly bemoaned the lack of a coherent methodology and value matrix for HA, only to be told in public that the industry is too immature & individual needs are too fractured for that. As this 127 page thread shows, nearly 4 years later, I still can't find a way to map it in a way that would make me enough $$ to quit my day job. And if anyone has the skills to create a methodology, roadmap, or value quadrant, it's me. (0.9 probability)

BTW, vision & ability to execute are *not* the right dimensions to create an HA-MQ. Sure, you could perhaps define individual vendors on that basis, but in this space you need to pull together many different vendors to create a coherent solution. I'd tell you what I think are the right dimensions, but then I wouldn't be able to charge you $25K for my HA industry report...

I must admit I am deeply amused by this 30 year old emerging market, especially as a technology strategist / architect for an even bigger company than yours ;-)

BTW: By definition an MQ is completeness of vision and ability to execute. I know of what I speak ;-) It's main purpose is normalizing vendor qualifications / selection criteria.

What the HA space needs is a much more thoughtfully structured functional taxonomy - all the way from "Roll Your Own" systems like CQC to "Press Here Dummy" systems like Crestron. I'm deciding whether I need / want to do that, not only to help my own decision making but to rationalize this very wacky space for less informed customers. Until that happens we'll never see a $1 Billion HA company.

Thanks,

rtbatch

rtbatch 03-04-2010 03:12 PM

Very funny :-D. Savant clearly has Crestron in its sights. To rich for my blood.

rtbatch 03-04-2010 03:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by IVB View Post

The issue isn't having spares - that insinuates defective devices. My point is that wireless just isn't as reliable as wired. Want proof? AVS search on wireless video, wireless dropouts, RF interference, etc. Anybody who says a wireless network is as reliable as a wired network is delusional. Full Stop. Period. End of Line.

Throwing a signal across an ever-increasingly-crowded spectrum simply cannot be as reliable or fast as a dedicated physical circuit. How much lower that reliability is based on A) your physical environment & B) the quality of the merchandise you select. For example, I might be able to get to 99% reliability if I went with RadioRA2 and several RF repeaters. My lot size is only ~40' x 100', so houses are really close together. On a good day, I've got 8 wireless networks, 3 baby monitors, overhead power lines, 6 neighbors cordless phones, and much other stuff to interfere with signals. I'd need many RF repeaters. I was hoping zWave's mesh concept would help me, but it just hasn't. If I opted for a hardwired network, all that wireless crap wouldn't affect me.

And how does this help? Well, I'd like to put in a Homeworks style keypad at the front door where each button turns on a different scene (multiple different lights, potentially different levels). Imagine if, due to wireless/other reliability issues, pushing the 'turn light on' button resulted in, well, nothing. Now imagine that it's late at night and me/wife are holding one of our young children because we stayed at a friends house too late (or maybe bringing in the groceries). How happy do *you* think they'd be that the light switch isn't working? How long before they ask to rip out the keypad and just put in a $2 light switch because it's more reliable?

I'm not trying to stoke the fires here, but anyone who thinks the benefit of automated lighting is using a touchscreen to turn on lights, or using a few rules here/there to turn lights on & off is missing the point of automated lighting. That's not automation, that's alternative manual control, and you can measure annoyance by spousal units in terms of 'milliseconds after opening the credit card statement' since they also don't see the point. It's one of these "Hey Ma! Looky see what I can do with a computer!"

And we wonder why so many women think this hobby is a waste of time.

Your "FUD" notwithstanding, you make some valid points. That said, separate control wiring is the only solution? I'm not sold. I have a question for you. When my land line goes down (icestorm) how come my cellphone still works?

Question 2, why are an increasing number of folks disposing of their land lines? Answer: Because, for the most part you have large, regulated companies providing wireless backbone service.

Applying that standard, why can't I have similar resiliency in a home wireless network (for lighting control or HA)? Answer: Mediocre engineering, half-baked standards and lack of scale. All problem that are fixable in a grown-up industry - one that makes resiliency, affordability and ease of use its hallmarks.

As far as I'm concerned, HA is still a heathkit market - with a lot of nice, smart folks not focusing on the right things.

The question for me is whether I want to wade deeper into this molasses. Jury's out. Still researching.

Thanks,

rtbatch

rtbatch 03-04-2010 03:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by amirm View Post

He is not selling anything. He is an end user like you. And unless something has changed, while he likes Lutron, he hasn't installed one.


Give it some time. I had a friend who installed Insteon and at the beginning, was exceptionally happy. Fast forward a year later and he had a closet light that wouldn't turn off, making his wife very unhappy.


Touch your dimmer switch. Does if feel warm? If so, that is one thing centralized wired systems do better. The dimmer control is not stuffed in a little box, shortening its life due to heat. Centralized systems have nice large heat sinks and have open air flow.


I think you missed his point. He is saying lighting control must be treated as mission critical. It is night time, you hit a light switch to light up the stairway, it needs to work. If your DVD player doesn't play when you hit a button, that is OK. But not lighting. And certainly not if you are married and the other half doesn't consider this "hobby" fun .


Justification is hard no matter which way you go. $60 for a wireless dimmer is incredibly high compared to $2 standard switch. Sure, going up to $300+ makes the hole in your pocket bigger . But ultimately you need to decide how much you value the last bit of reliability. For me, it meant hardwired despite the huge increase in cost. The value was there the first day I powered it on and as long as the end points where correct, the system worked. I had no unknowns I could not "see."

The other way to look at this is the total value of the house. It doesn't make sense to spend $20K on lighting for a $150K house. But if the house is worth $1M+, then that is another matter.

$60 for wireless dimmer is ludicrous. Make billions of them and the price will fall to reasonable level. Scale is a big problem in the HA market. Land of the pygmies.

BTW, All safety / security affecting aspects of HA are mission critical, IMHO. Standards, engineering and products should reflect that fact. Full Stop. What's the MTBF on a good grade of light switch or circuit breaker?

Not for a second do I believe in your price vs reliability argument. That's HA industry sophism. Sorry.

rtbatch

ccotenj 03-04-2010 04:00 PM

^^^

so start a HA company and make "billions" of switches...

you aren't really getting anywhere by continuing to post (in various forms), "well, i think it should be different"... great... i get your point... but it's not...

you've been given some really good advice by people who know what they are doing... you can choose to accept it, you can continue to "want" it to be different, or you can move on... insulting them probably will not get you anywhere...

your cellular phone analogy, while clever, doesn't wash...

rtbatch 03-04-2010 04:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccotenj View Post

^^^

so start a HA company and make "billions" of switches...

you aren't really getting anywhere by continuing to post (in various forms), "well, i think it should be different"... great... i get your point... but it's not...

you've been given some really good advice by people who know what they are doing... you can choose to accept it, you can continue to "want" it to be different, or you can move on... insulting them probably will not get you anywhere...

your cellular phone analogy, while clever, doesn't wash...

Well, as the expression goes, "If your taking flak, it's probably because you're over the target."

I beg to differ on my cell analogy. Wireless works when properly engineered - be that premise deployed or as a managed service. Maybe the right answer is "HA as a service," to a dual-homed wireless mesh - with mission critical interfaces/controls that revert to traditional manual operation in a worst case scenario.

I'd like to apologize for holding the HA industry to a higher standard - and seeking products that meet those very reasonable expectations, but I can't. If similar hadn't happened in the computer industry, we'd still be using command line mode. Another very apt, (but irritating) analogy to those inclined to ask "whats wrong with command line?"

Not an insult, but rather, a piercing insight.

Respectfully,

rtbatch

39CentStamp 03-04-2010 05:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Very funny :-D. Savant clearly has Crestron in its sights. To rich for my blood.

Everyone has Crestron in their sites. This is because Crestron is several years ahead of them all. The inside joke about Savant is that it is as expensive as Crestron with 50% of the feature set. Thats what my B&O (all form barely any function) and Control4 (entry level functionality with an ugly wrapper) was about.

39CentStamp 03-04-2010 05:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

Here's how I got "unbaked" from your post, "But i promise you that this dealers patients will wear thin as you constantly call for support when the hardware doesn't do what the control4 website says its supposed to."

Are we dealing with lousy documentation, or lousy quality?

As a technical professional, I would most certainly do my homework before lunging for the phone.

Thanks :-)

Rather than build an extensive set of manuals and hand-holding documentation for the average joe.. they provide training classes. These training classes are geared towards professionals who already (or should ) know the basics of HA and DAV installation.

This system means that HA companies don't have to invest a significant amount of time and money trying to teach the world how to use a soldering iron or tone out a cable. They can focus on teaching people how to use their product.

The typical DIY response to this is that "its not rocket science" meaning that they think they can do it themselves. Or "these companies are trying to rape the end user" meaning they can't understand why Crestron doesn't want to invest money in teaching 1 end user how to install and program the product.

There is no behind the scenes conspiracy going on here. No one has dropped the ball by not creating a series of Dummies books for installation and configuration. The business model is different.

I keep hearing the comparison to PC and IT. 99.9% of PC's purchased for home use are off the shelf and cheap with a fixed feature set. The other 1% are custom and expensive. 99.9% of home owners have cheap linksys routers that work just fine for 2 laptops and a printer. The other 1% require expensive solutions.

Same goes for our industry. 99% of the population has switches and dimmers that cant be controlled and they are cheap. The other 1% have HA dimmers and switches and they are not cheap.

Most of the self proclaimed technical professionals who lunge into Home Automation with preconceived notions end up with several grand of unusable products in their garage and a system thats only utilizing 50% of the available feature set. Its like the guys who buy Crestron on ebay and beg for a copy of System Builder. Then several years later when they figure out how to program it they have a very capable Crestron system thats limited by the System Builder programming environment.

Neurorad 03-04-2010 05:38 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurorad View Post

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

Robert, you can lament all you want, but you're building a house, and decisions need to be made now. Do you want to buy into this crap fest, or don't you.

C4, or no C4.

Nobody is holding a knife to your throat, many have walked away, complaining of the ridiculous prices.

Have you considered becoming a C4 dealer?

nexus99 03-04-2010 07:24 PM

Man, I really want to get into this argument ... but I don't really have anything to say :-)

Ok, I will make some points that probably aren't on topic at all...

It seems to me that if you are building a house you really need to worry about wiring... and then you can decide everything else later.

I have been shaking up my magic 8 ball trying to see the future... and it looks like IP to me. Persinally I hate serial and I'm a happy camper just sticking IP serial servers everywhere and running everything over an IP network. And many devices that aren't IP devices still use CAT 5 or 6 to connect up.

So this means lots and lots of CAT6 drops all over the place. It sucks to have to go back and add more after the fact.

For me I really didn't understand what I needed from HA for a long time. And I am honestly still learning.

I did discover that I dont really need fancy touchscreens. But I do need a way to write custom code to manage my devices. Having lights come on automatically is really cool. Having them go off automatically is even cooler. And that is just the tip of the iceburg.

Think security, then think conveniance, then think about flash. Thats a good way to figure out what you need.

Dean Roddey 03-04-2010 07:57 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbatch View Post

I'd like to apologize for holding the HA industry to a higher standard - and seeking products that meet those very reasonable expectations, but I can't. If similar hadn't happened in the computer industry, we'd still be using command line mode. Another very apt, (but irritating) analogy to those inclined to ask "whats wrong with command line?"

Not an insult, but rather, a piercing insight.

Respectfully,

rtbatch

You are holding up two utterly different industries and complaining that one doesn't work like the other. They have completely different markets, and one will always require a fairly labor intensive setup and the other just sells you canned boxes. Therefore one is inherently a lot more expensive than the other.

You could ask yourself why doesn't every home in the country have an in ground swimming pool? Because it's labor intensive and expensive. Therefore the market remains somewhat limited and someone coming out with a great and inexpensive pool cleaning robot isn't going to make everyone go put in an in ground pool and suddenly change the market, because that's not what's limiting the market acceptance. It's the cost of digging the big hole and putting in the lining and tiles and plumbing and concrete and all that.

So it's a chicken and egg situation, where no one is in the position to suddenly make home automation go massive scale and drop the costs, since no one can really come up with a system automagical enough to drop the costs such that it will become massive scale.

It's not that all the people in the industry are too stupid to realize that going massive would be a nice thing. It's just that that would require something that no one is going to be able to do. It could probably really only happen if the housing industry agreed to put a completely standard automation infrastructure into every home built and every customer was willing to pay for that. The automation vendors could target that standard infrastructure with a plugin solution. And of course then that every hardware vendor (in the home theater, lighting, security, sprinklers, etc... worlds) agreed to use a common protocol and create devices that really integrate well, which is not remotely the case.

Short of that, it will remain a manual and laborious process like putting in pools, and so the market will remain limited, and so the massive R&D available to something like the PC industry won't be available.

nexus99 03-04-2010 08:49 PM

Dean is right. Once the TCP/IP of the HA world is created and signed on by everyone then we will see things change.

Of course the HA would could just use TCP/IP :-)

But then you need a standard set of controls. I wonder which venders you would need to get on board to actually have a go at it. Crestron, Elk, HAI, ZigBee, UPB, Z Wave?

If there was a conglomeration of 5 or 6 of the big players everyone else would fall into line I bet.


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