The Treehouse Blog

X10 Project

on Sep.17, 2005, under Linux

One of the things I wanted to take care of this summer was some type of outdoor lighting to be used when coming home at night. There just isn’t enough ambient light to figure out how to insert the key into the lock. I was considering LED lighting built into the deck, outdoor lights around the deck, and automating the existing outdoor lighting. Seeing this as an opportunity to finally begin playing with X10, I dove in.

The first phase was to control the deck and garage outside lights with a wireless remote. I purchased some X10 light dimmer switches to replace the light switches, a wireless transceiver, and a remote control. Everything worked well except the remote range seems a bit short. Latency wasn’t bad… probably a little less than a second.

Phase two involves the hall light, and a computer interface. I bought a PowerLinc USB and downloaded the WISH / x10dev software. The only “gotcha” for the software was that it assumes your hiddev0 is in /dev/usb whereas mine was in /dev. The error messages were not at all helpful in figuring that out, unfortunately. At this point the interface worked, but I had some phase issues: my two lights were on one phase, and the computer interface was on the other. Instead of building or buying a phase coupler, I went with Doug‘s suggestion of moving breakers around instead. They’re really about the easiest plug-and-play devices in existance, but it was something that I had never done before, so I certainly turned off the mains. My current unresolved issue is that the latency between issuing a command on the computer, and the device receiving the command, is aboud three seconds… way too long, especially if you want to do about six commands for a single event. Still haven’t figured out if this is as fast as the interface goes, or if there is a software bottleneck.

So, there’s my X10 project summary. I’m pretty happy with the results so far. It’s not incredibly cheap (I’ve spent about $100 to control three lights… albeit with a wireless remote and computer interface), but it has achieved the goal, and now I know a bit about X10 🙂


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September 2005


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