Hardware for the Cheswick's Digital House

Our home is equipped with DSL service (768/768 ADSL(!)), 1000Mb Ethernet, and 802.11n. A server running FreeBSD runs the home, our web pages, email, etc.

The server has several interesting connections. The server has two sound cards. One sound card is connected to the auxilary input of our home intercom system, so one stereo channel is announced in the house, and the other is connected to a local speaker for debugging.

We also have a serial port connected to an X10 interface device . There are various X10 sensors, switches, and receptacles scattered around the house.

X10 stuff

We use X10 in all the usual ways. The master bedroom has switches that control the rest of the house. There are motion sensors, etc.

During the Christmas season our computer varies our external Christmas lights in a non-tacky manner (very slowly.)

Garage door monitoring

We live in a good neighborhood, but on a fairly busy road. It's probably not a good idea to leave the garage door open all day, if we aren't out working in the yard. So we installed the X10 garage door monitor.

The transmitter works fine, and the reciever accepts other X10 radio signals as well, so it picks up our mailbox monitoring. The receiver sends weird extended X10 codes to the little monitoring box that also comes with the set. The box is plugged in, but I don't think anyone looks at it.

The computer receives the signals and announces changes in state on the intercom. This is handy for telling whne someone is leaving or returning home. Since the transmitter sends a "garage door closed" signal every 45 minutes or so when the door is closed, we have to monitor the state of the door and suppress redundant announcements. Rarely we get this announcement at very odd hours.

It might be nice to set or clear other lights on the annunciator, but the extended codes were not clear, and it didn't seem worth the effort. It might be a nice way show certain states.

X10 problems

X10 works great when it works, but is very hard to debug when it doesn't. Is a failure caused by weak signals, or noise from something? Though our house has an X10 bridge between our two breaker boxes (and that fixed some problems) there are still a few recepticles that never seem to work.

I have installed several wall receptacles and most have failed within a year. They work originally, but end up emitting a loud buzzing sound when selected later on. At this point I can't recommend them.

I tried hooking up the water sensor to the X10 Powerflash interface yesterday. The interface did not send a signal when water was detected briefly. This is the second apparent failure of Powerflash units: another doesn't seem to detect the audio signal from our front door bell. I am trying to use Mode 3. I haven't looked into this much. The web page says that older units don't work in mode 3, but I remember knowing that when I ordered the devices. Perhaps I was shipped the wrong kind anyway.