Do these exist: "Instant on" or very rapid start CFL???

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On 6/9/2011 11:12 PM, Robert Green wrote:

Bobby, I can understand how signal processing and amplification can improve the proper detection / triggering from X-10 controllers, but I can't understand how it could help reduce the false triggering from noise such as CFL-generated EMI.
If the receivers in each X-10 module have frequent false triggering from noise, as mine most certainly do whenever the fluorescent lights are turned on, they remain susceptible to false alarms / triggers even if the controller signals are amplified.
The receivers still suffer from a poorly designed X-10 signaling code design, and rely on millivolt-level amplitudes of the 125 KHz signal to threshold their detectors. In this regard, they should remain as vulnerable to noise as they were originally, despite the boost in signal strength for the controller signals they receive.
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had
XTB
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If you're unfortunate enough to have really noisy CFL's and other gear, they probably need to be put behind a filter. They come in a form that looks like an appliance manual and can be had on sale from Ebay for $5 each (list $20).
I've been looking at this problem with other posters for a long, long time and I believe what you are seeing is not triggering from noise but a) either a collision that corrupts a valid X-10 signal or the very annoying tendency of the "local sense" circuitry to turn the module back on because it interprets the flashing of the CFL bulb (as the trickle current builds up in the CFL power supply caps) as someone jiggling the local switch in an attempt to turn on the light. Art T. referred to how to defeat this problem, although the cure has its downsides, some serious.
To really understand the X-10 noise problem it takes something more than a scope. You need to be able to interpret X-10 commands frame by frame. There are devices like the Monterey Powerline Analyzer,
http://www.smarthome.com/4814/X10-Powerline-Signal-Analyzer-XPSA/p.aspx
to see that there are noise corrupted frames from loud noise sources, but as much as I've tried to prove under laboratory conditions that an X-10 unit can read "noise" as a properly formatted X-10 command and execute it are very slim indeed. The encoding, while primitive in terms of modern electronics, makes it very difficult to generate a valid code from noise. I didn't always believe this, but smarter minds have convinced me over the years that inadvertent turning on of equipment, which does happen, has a source other than noise taking the shape of a valid X-10 command.
I've searched for the Holy Grail of the noise-created command it and have even gone so far as to purchase a Lynx meter that can dissect an X-10 frame down to the individual bits - the ones compliment level used to create an X-10 bit that is used to create the X-10 frame.
http://www.smarthome.com/1153C/LynX-10-PLC-interface/p.aspx
I've been just as perplexed as you have been about where the F^CK all this noise and these spurious turn ons (and offs) were coming from. Unfortunately a scope can't easily show X-10 signals in the way that the Lynx, Monterey or XTBM meters can.
http://thisautomatedhouse.com/XTBMReview.html
They dissect each cycle, read the bit, read the power behind each bit, read the noise level at the time the command transmits, etc.
When I had collisions it was because I had multiple TM751 and RR501's on the line and they would not always synch. They could (and did) collide and the resulting frame could be interpreted as a valid command. But IIRC, both Jeff and I did extensive testing with noise sources and they never generated a single valid X-10 command. I looked for weeks creating a special test bench to "listen" to the noise that the Cellet charger (Bruce Robin of CHA found the tiny Cellet, a legendary imp from X-10 hell - the charger, not Bruce!) . Isolated from the rest of the house by triple filtering, I let the Cellet sing and sing its X10-like noise. Nada. Only when I put an X-10 transmitter on that test circuit did I see fragments of legitimate commands - but still no true "phantom" commands. When I put a second transmitter in the circuit I began to see what looked like phantom codes, created out of noise but were really two signals collided and being corrupted with noise at the same time.
Noise can interfere with commands but it can't create them. X-10 expert and creator of several landmark X-10 devices and software, Dave Houston in CHA explained it to me several times before I began to understand it. I'll try to Google up what he wrote back then about the X-10 encoding methods and the creation of spurious yet valid commands from noise.
When the X-10 signal is decoded and boosted by the XTB-IIR it put onto both phases at 25V through the use of enormous capacitors in the repeater that you just can't fit into wall modulers. With that sort of signal, EM interference becomes mostly a non issue. I'm betting that with a little detective work, an XTB-IIR and *maybe* some plug-in filters for the really bad noise sources, your system will work like it was designed to.
There are some insanely noisy devices that transmit noise right at 120KHz and they have to be eliminated or filtered if they are plugged into an outlet that's very close to the circuit panel. I'm guessing (based on what everyone else who's tried one reports) that you'll see almost all the problems you've noted drop away when any stragglers go behind filters, which you can get in bulk on Ebay for $5 each. Those filters, on your worst noisemakers, could significantly improve the performance of your other line carrier devices, too.
X-10 is like any other home enhancement endeavor. There are tricks, tools and tips that can make the difference between a hack job and a pro installation. XTB's, filters and an X-10 signal meter are now what it takes to be a player. It's just like CAT5 and CCTV work needs good crimpers, tools, testers, different meters, pliers, testers, etc. There's a minimum ante to get into the big game. X-10 is *mostly* plug-and-play but changes to the nature of home electrical equipment have required some adaptation. I am just incredibly glad I didn't have to ditch $1K plus of X-10 gear and have to select a new protocol and rewrite all the code that enables security lighting, motion detection, etc. Gawd, the amount of work the XTB saved me is just frikkin' enormous. The reliability it has returned to the system makes it now a 99.9 sort of proposition when it was almost 50/50 before the XTB. Would a command make it thru? No one could say for sure. Now, it just works. Every time.
Whenever I buy anything new that plugs into the line, I check it out on my X-10 meters to see if it's a serious noise emitter. Usual suspects are UPS's, cheap plug-in chargers, laser printers and of course, CFL's. If it's outrageously bad I take it back because all the noise usually equals "bad or cheap design."
Second tier offenders are dimmers, shoplites, LCD TV's and a few other oddball items here and there. But there has not been anything I couldn't second source in a quieter model, from UPS's (avoid APS and Belkin) and CFLs (The N:vision brand from Home Depot are cheap, come in several color temps and have withstood the test of time. The GE spirals did not.)
I've got an enormous X-10 installation and being able to extend its life for a few hundred bucks has turned out to be a very good investment seeing how slowly other HA protocols are evolving. I have lots of lines of code in my automation controller I'd be loathe to rewrite for some other language. I have X-10 modules and capacities that are yet to be duplicated by any other protocol. And most important, no other protocol comes close to X-10's price point.
I can't speak for Jeff but I'll bet he'd take back a unit if it didn't work out for you. For anyone teetering on the brink of yanking their X-10 because of reliability problems, this is something they owe it to themselves to try.
Sorry to sound like such a salesman but I've seen poster after poster in Comp.Home.Automation get one and go "WOW! This changed everything!" If you're X-10 is flaking out, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try. Seeing is believing. My wife, a saint for putting up with X-10's devilish nature for 10 years made this remark: "It just works." Anyone with a flaky system knows how important that is to spouses who don't necessarily share our love for gadgets. Well, mine anyway!
-- Bobby G.
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However, many X-10 modules and switches are susceptible to spikes. X-10 even notes this in some of their online documentation. Usually, the spikes turn things on but I had an old fluorescent fixture that nearly always turned one of my lights off whenever the fluorescent was switched on. You could see arcing in the fluorescent switch each time as well. I replaced it with an Insteon switch which handled it with no apparent problems.
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NNTP-Posting-Date: 30 Apr 2001 19:18:25 GMT X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.08 [en] (X11; U; SunOS 4.1.4 sun4m)
There were several recent threads regarding a light that randomly turned on.
After all of the usual insistance that there had to positively be a generator someplace with the same code, etc., I quit reading them and decided to let the dust settle.
Now that the dust is gone, I would like to add to the confusion by pointing out that the WS467 wall switch (and I suspect it's variations, as well) does indeeed "randomly" turn on. Specifically, under the correct conditions, a WS467 can "glitch" on due to a power spike from a large bank of magnetic ballast fluorescents on the same circuit, large motor, etc.
And filter caps across the 78566 chip, resistor change in the "button" line nor MOVs do not help.
The solution is actually quite simple, once it is figured out.
The 78566 chip in the WS467 contains 2 unused pins (pin #8 and pin #9) who's function is unknown to me. However, manipulation of pin #9 can cause the WS467 to turn on the light.
After discovering this, I have since tied pin #9 to -v and the "random" light turnons have stopped.
My personal preference is to install a 10K 1/8-1/4w resistor across the top of the ic between pin #9 and pin #18. A hard wire will probably be ok, but not acceptable standard practice when dealing with bidirectional I/O pins.
--

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Howdy, fellow X10'er! Too bad we didn't meet sooner because I think I could have helped save your sizable-sounding investment in X10 gear.

Unfortunately, there are wildly varying brands and designs of CFL's. GE's gave me NO end of trouble. Then Marc Hult of CHA suggested the N:Vision line of bulbs from Home Depot and suddenly, no more noise. That simple change made a world of difference. While many noisy CFL's can be cured by 5A line filters, it's much, MUCH better to switch to a brand of bulbs that isn't spewing EMI like Mt. Vesuvius during an eruption and that don't require filtration.

X10 makes switches that can confirm their position to a central controller. Zigbee has been "just around the corner" for at least 10 years now. It's a good idea - and home automation will take a quantum leap when manufacturers build automation interfaces into their appliances - but it's been a long time since the promise of Zigbee was made.

You probably do need to invest in some X-10 line filters and look at trying different bulbs. Pick up and scope an N:Vision bulb from Home Depot. I have two X-10 meters, the Monterey and the XTBM (well three, the Elk, but it is rather primitive) that allow me to read noise levels in millivolts near the AC zero crossing where the signal "resides." The worst offender was a Cellet cellphone charger that put out pseudo-X10 signals continuously, corrupting nearby transmissions and blocking far away ones. Second worst was a shoplite that had tested "OK for X10" when I installed it (no noise or signal attenuation) but that began to "sing" very loudly at 118KHz once the bulbs started darkening at the ends.

behavior.
Politely beg to differ. I can't stress enough how my whole, huge and at the time entirely unreliable X-10 installation came right under control as soon as I put the XTB-IIR in at the panel. The wife gained in two ways: The X10 signals just plain worked now and since I was rearranging the panel, I was able to add three new grounded lines to the kitchen. It's as close to magic as you're likely to get. (-;
Up until I discussed the shortage of breakers in my panel with Jeff (to add the XTB-IIR coupler/repeater/amp) I did not know about "dual skinny" breakers. I got a number of those, rebalanced the panel and added four new circuits altogether. Now my wife could operate a microwave, the toaster oven and a hot plate all at the same time without blowing a breaker. Win-win!
Check it out, I am sure you're be blown away if you add one to your system. It sounds like a guy like you could even assemble your own. Jeff "kits" those DIY units even better than Heathkit so that there's no mistake, even with tiny, unmarked diodes.
http://jvde.us/xtb/xtb_reports.htm
-- Bobby G.
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On 6/10/2011 12:09 AM, Robert Green wrote:

Thanks Bobby for your great insights and elaboration regarding X-10.
At one time quite a few years ago, long before fluorescent lighting and other issues degraded my X-10 system, I had a very workable arrangement here, and used it without complaints for perhaps 2 decades or longer.
Over the course of the last few years, I have moved a lot of my branch circuits over to a transfer panel for a standby generator, removed the phase couplers and amplifiers and some filters I had added, and essentially removed most of my X-10 components except those within very close proximity to one another.
I have no doubts whatsoever that proper filters, additional amplifiers, careful removal of the worst offending noise sources, etc. could tame my system. I just no longer have an interest in doing any of this, and I do have many hard-wired Ethernet devices doing the specific things I need to do with little or no problems.
I've had commercial and ham FCC licenses since the 1950s, and have built 35 Heathkits in total, as well as spent most of my professional career as an electrical / electronics engineer, so the technical aspects are comfortable and familiar. I attended classes with Irv Reed, who (quite famously) co-developed the Reed Solomon coding methods (at MIT / Lincoln Labs) still used prominently to mitigate bit errors in communication channels, and still feel up to the task of analyzing and designing such things. In the case of my own X-10 EMI as well as the more troublesome wideband EMI that compromises my shortwave and AM reception, I have learned to live with it. Even if I am willing to invest the time and effort and money, my neighbors still create a lot of powerline and near DC to 20 MHz trash as well.
I entirely agree that Zigbee has been far too long in coming although there are some devices out there. Hardly a replacement for X-10 at this point. And Insteon appears to have gained enough traction and solved enough problems to be the real contender at this stage.
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Many of the problems they have solved have been of their own creation. Most, if not all, of their switches, modules, computer interfaces, etc. are now on the third or fourth iteration since Insteon started, with many of the newer features and fixes making older ones obsolete.
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I'm worse that a reformed smoker when it comes to preaching XTB. I really was just about to dump a lot of time and effort spent with X-10, CPUXA, HomeVision, etc. because the signal propagation became so unreliable. Even WITH couplers, repeaters and every other thing I threw at it, eventually including a futile "feudal" system of RF transcievers control items local to them (electrically speaking) because that was the only way to counter the horrendous amounts of line noise besides filters, and even then the "Did Not Turn On" events were getting to be the norm. Totally unacceptable.

That makes you, as I suspected "an early adopter" who likes to keep up with current technology. Lots of vendors were selling X-10 gear in the 1980s. It also makes you vulnerable to having some of the noisiest "first edition" gear out there, as was the case with so many CFL bulbs and the parallel electronic ballast technology for fluorescent tubes. The early CFL lamps were very X-10 unfriendly. The very early CFLs I bought, Chinese-made "Lights of America" $10 bulbs were like miniature broadcast stations, they were so noisy they could pass beyond a normal X-10 filter with ease.

You are not alone in describing the devolution of your X-10 system. There used to be only two defenses to the problems X-10 experienced with its new neighbors (switched power supplies, mostly) on the home powerline:
One was extensive filtering which gets a little tiring after the tenth one is installed. Filters comes with as many problems as it solves. )-:
The other was decentralizing - the feudal approach. The constant failing of remote signaling leads to disconnection, module by module. I call it the feudal approach because it parallels the way the Vandals sacked Rome and destroyed the remarkable lines of communication and commerce of the Empire from the outside in. Far reaching outposts are abandoned and central command devolves into local "stronghold" garrisons that are situated and act in a way favorable to staying alive. But I digress . . .

Then you're probably NOT a candidate for the XTB. The optimum point seems to be in the first stages of X-10 disconnection, where you stop using it for things that are going to piss you off like outside lights that burn all day because X-10 signals are iffy. You've moved into the next stage: you've converted critical (I assume) functions that used to be X-10 into hardwired Ethernet devices, inherently more reliable and manageable but IIRC, orders of magnitude more expensive than X-10. Has that changed?
I've gone all out and attached an XTB to my all-housecode transciever and to some other critical transmitting gear so I could indeed go back to "plug and play." That's more than most people would do - for them an XTB coupler repeater might suffice but I'm a PC builder and there's a lot of EMI running around my house and I wanted the lights to just work. And for PLC, the commands always get through now. It's just like it used to be in 1985 when I pulled all the light switches and converted them to X-10.

I apologize if it sounded like I was impugning your CV. It's infinitely superior to mine. In getting to know Jeff and several other designer/builders of X-10 gear I've realized that it does take highly specialized gear to make sense of the X-10 signal. You obviously know that the X-10 signal is not just an bit train without any error correction whatsoever. It's primitive but it's there and it seems to be enough. Take a look at Jeff's pages - you'll be able to appreciate the quality of the units, the thought that went into building them and his ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.

Obviously. (-:
I'm sure you have the IQ, but even the smartest guys who design and still maintain X-10 systems for a living own X-10 specific meters and analyzers. From what I was told a long time ago (hence very unreliable!) you need a scope with digital storage and even then you'd have to count hex to decode what you were seeing. Analyzers like the Monterey do all that grunt work (alas with no easy recordabilty until now for me*) and present a decoded (or not) human understandable display of what commands were sent and, depending on the meter, a lot more. You can read the strength of each bit in a single frame. The noise level at different "windows" of the AC cycles, the frequency of that noise, whether the frame you were measuring was the first frame, the second frame, or a repeater-enhanced second frame. Why would you care? Well, when two transmitters collide, a bit by bit voltage map will show that and give you a relative idea how far from the meter each device is. Meters can detect many other conditions that the best ham radio operator in the world would have to laboriously decode manually. That's why the X-10 meter has been invented over and over again in so many different formats!
What I am trying to say is that unless you have some pretty specialized tools in your radio shack, investigating serious X-10 problems isn't very easy with a scope, even if only you need to drag it to a few different outlets or get 100' long extension cords.

Well, you're clearly out of my league. (-: Maybe Jeff will chime in and talk about all the troublesome installations he's tamed. I realize you've taken another path with Ethernet and I believe that some form or wireless Ethernet home automation solution will dominate the market - the "highway" is already built and is usually power-failure protected and standalone (no PC required). Until X-10 for Ethernet appears, I'm going to stick with X-10 for lights, fans and other non-critical appliances. For the rest of the stuff, I've got a HomeVision expansion board with relay and sensor chain channels. Not quite as plug and play as the Ethernet but sufficient to monitor and execute criminal (oops, I meant critical!) functions in the house. Since Ethernet is workable world-wide, it's going to overtake any proprietary protocol. Why build another highway when so many layers of the OSI network are already built, usually with enormous overcapacity (at least 1GB nets in the house, anyway)?

I'm amazed they survived the recession. Lots of similar "modern living" stores folded during that time. I've been stranded by companies going out of business before. Their proprietary nature gives me pause. But I agree, they seem to be the only contender out of many that appeared around the year 2000, except for hoary old CeBuS (cough) that still has defenders throughout the world but that never lived up to the hype.
Sorry if I offended you. My proselytizing is better aimed at people who haven't yet converted away from X-10. Maybe that number is shrinking because a lot of people have disconnected back to ground zero or who just use a minitimer to control some lights when they are away
-- Bobby G.
*I've set my XTBM meter up in front of a small, focusable B&W minicam (less than $20) that is recorded on the fourth channel of my CCTV recorder. This way I can call up the video and play it in slo mo, reviewing all the commands received in the last week. I can also see real-time readings of X-10 from any TV in the house.
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On 6/12/2011 2:07 AM, Robert Green wrote:

This was the same stage I reached Bobby, but with less effort on my part to really solve the problem. I just "gave up" and concluded that the X-10 hardware was better suited for a different era.

A lot of X-10 hardware I added to my system came from the X-10 web site and their many enticing offers. They often sold "buy this and get that free" or "buy two and we will give you two more" types of deals and I am a total sucker for discounts, rebates, etc. I wound up buying and installing at least 20 more X-10 items during that period, most of which worked fine until the fluorescent lighting and switched power supplies began to multiply in my home.

I particularly began to experience severe signal attenuation as I began using power strips, or otherwise loading my branch circuits. I attributed this to shunt capacitance but may not be correct in this assumption. I briefly played with different power strips, but as I got less control of distant devices, my solution also became more localized (and thus less useful).

I am really beyond an X-10 line carrier solution. I have also unsuccessfully tried other power line carrier devices, including intercoms, CCTV surveillance cameras, and Ethernet extenders, and not a single device I have tried works reliably when my fluorescent lighting is turned on. Some of it does not work even when the fluorescent lighting is turned off.

No apologies needed Bobby, and I was merely trying to make the point that I am not over my head with this stuff, and have spent a lot of hours with logic analyzers, DSOs, spectrum analyzers, and much home built RF gear, and find the X-10 problem to be much better solved with other methods rather than X-10. I sincerely do believe that all the false triggering of my lights whenever the CFLs are turned on is entirely a noise issue, and that a longer code or better protected code would minimize or prevent this problem entirely. There are no collisions of actual X-10 in this situation since no deliberate X-10 transmissions are being sent. The X-10 receivers are totally responding to the noise and interpreting it as if it were X-10, and my lights come on all over the place with regularity and relatively annoying frequency within seconds or minutes after certain CFLs are switched on manually in other parts of the house.

I agree and I have never brought any big guns into this problem solving. I fundamentally say that turning on a noise source causes frequent false triggering, with no X-10 traffic, and thus I must either reduce the noise or improve the receiver / detector. Deliberate X-10 triggering is an entirely different matter, also suffering from severe probability of detection versus false alarm rate issues. In this latter case, SNR is indeed an issue, and power density per bit, SNR across bits, frames, etc. would be meaningful to measure and talk about, but my most severe issues were entirely false triggering with no X-10 traffic present. This is what prompted my comment regard code design / code length / protection bits / etc. in the common situation I experience where random lights turned on very often but only when CFLs where pumping out noise.

Bobby, your comments and suggestions regarding X-10 are very insightful, and no offense of any kind is taken. I also hope my comments are not seen as offensive in any way. My lack of enthusiasm has mostly to do with the timing of any X-10 improvements, which for me would have made sense perhaps a year or two ago, but now seem pretty irrelevant. I have disconnected and removed many devices, and still own and use a few localized X-10 systems where they continue to work reliably.

This is a very ingenious and inexpensive alternative to a DSO or logic analyzer. What a clever approach!
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It's certainly true that X-10 didn't age very gracefully. But there's not much in the world that even COULD make the transition to a different "electronic" era. AM/FM radios still work, but not TVs. Think of all the dead audio and video formats (I have *both* kinds of "video disc" players I'm keeping for antique value). X-10's design is remarkable in a number of ways and uses some pretty clever techniques to do its magic.
Many of its problems come from features other HA systems don't even have, like local sensing when a user turns a lamp switch on. I suspect that's the circuitry that's most vulnerable to line noise and spikes. Some even come from its biggest "feature" - its low cost. People who didn't know what X-10 was were buying it because of their early voucher deals. Rather than pay the programmer who developed their obnoxious pop-under ads, they basically gave away their inventory as a loss-leader. Or so some wags in the industry say. I once calculated from some of their filings that there are up to 2 *million* X-10 users (or should I say owners of X-10 equipment?) out there. People found out the hard way that it didn't "scale up" well in a quite insidious way. Every transmitter is also a signal sucker so the more X-10 devices you have, the more signal degradation you experience. Reminds me of some government projects I worked on. (-:

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That's a predictable pattern. As offensive as their ads were, they were effective. Who didn't have one or two lights that had switches at the far end of the house or in inconvenient places? Who wouldn't risk the very little money it took to get one starter kit and see that the stuff was, indeed, close to magic for some intractable electrical problems? From there, X-10 just took over the house because they kept sending me vouchers that basically rained nearly free equipment for almost a year.
I began using X-10 when there were still photographic darkrooms. I had the room lights hooked up to two appliance modules, one B1, the other B4. With a belt RF transmitter, I had to press the two buttons in sequence to get the lights to turn on. Very handy and because it was so cheap, piggybacking two (or even more) modules to make a "security code" of sorts prevented someone in another room from accidentally activating the lights when the paper safe was open. Also extremely useful in preventing "spike ons" - I've never had a spike turn on two piggybacked modules and unfortunately, after a storm, it's a crapshoot what's going to come on by itself. HomeVision now supervises restarts after a power blip, but I still piggyback critical items ever since I came home to find the X-10'ed vacuum cleaner had been running all day. )-: What a stink - the bag, of course, was almost full for maximum stenchability.

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Yep. I had a bunch of power strips that very, very ironically were labeled X-Ten that completely absorbed X-10 signals. Stopped 'em dead unless the controller/transmitter was plugged into the same outlet or the power strip was plugged into an appliance module. It took an enormous amount of detective work (and shelling out $320 for a Monterey analyzer) to finally figure things out.
It also takes a known monomaniac like me to *care* enough to run down the intermittent problems that plagued me. I learned how many things can affect X-10 transmission. One of my favorites was the CFL you could turn on, but not off (because the noise it emitted on blocked any remote commands). That's why there are so many sites that list the potential X-10 problems. I wouldn't recommend it for non-techies. It looks easy but isn't. But I can set up systems for people who need it and don't care at all how it works. It's *very* useful for people with disabilities.

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I can assume from your radio operations that you may have a level of EMI that's beyond what most of us see. A long time ago when I was a police reporter, the *thing* to have was a Bearcat programmable police scanner (at a time when the Regency 10 channel crystal unit was king). I brought my new toy over to my ham friend, we programmed in all the local channels. Worked fine. We programmed one channel to match his new handheld VHF portable. Every time he keyed that stinking radio up near the Bearcat, it lost all its programming. Reprogrammed, it worked fine, but if he was just a few feet away, whap! All gone. From that experience and from hearing my girlfriend's radio, TV, telephone AND record player all emitting signals from the three HUGE AM radio towers across the street even when turned off, I realized radios can do some strange things when near by.
In a perverse way I am glad so many people have given up on X-10. I've been able to buy huge assortments of modules on FeeBay for 10 cents or less on the dollar. More for me!

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I'm relieved. I can be *very* insulting when I try. (-:
There's no doubt that hardwiring is preferable to X-10 control wherever it's possible. I've switched over things to HomeVision's relay controllers if the item's critical. With all the problem paths on the X-10 troubleshooting tree I'd certainly be tempted to go in another direction if I were starting over. Some things that X-10 did weren't really suitable for such a slow protocol. Temperature sensing was one and motion detection another. Those two functions put too many commands on the line and collisions became inevitable. However, for straight up load control, nothing comes close to the price range and assortment of available gear. There's no fear with X-10 that the company might sink and drag its protocol down with it. It's in the public domain now, which is GOOD for standards, at least IMHO.

I'd love to see what an analyzer says is going on. Do you have any two way modules? What kind of transmitters/controllers are you using? Live anywhere near the DC area? (-:
Did I mention monomania? Every hinky X-10 installation calls to me and my faithful meter, Tonto. Watched too much TV growing up growing up, I guess. Hi, ho, Silver!

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You realize this is torture for a self-taught X-10 detective. (-: Hearing the gruesome details of a crime but not being able to apply my "forensic" tool kit to the crime scene makes me twitch. Actually, you've probably removed all of the offenders of interest by now, so you've reached a sort of "move along, there's nothing to see" point.

and
you've
wireless
"highway"
(no
X-10
any
the
least
out
agree,
year
throughout
just
I totally understand. The time to involve the XTB is before switching over to other solutions but I still think if you've got any X-10 running at all, that you really benefit by boosting the repeated signal from 5 to 25V in almost every case. It's sometimes simply being able to "muscle through" the mire of EMI that wins the day.
While I've never used any of the many firmware features of the XTB-IIR repeater, I know that Jeff has taken great care to eliminate noise issues and make the XTB configurable to various problem installations. In that respect, his XTBM meter shows both the current noise level and the frequency of the transmission, noise or not. That's why I selected it for my CCTV "channel four" - it gives, in a single screen, information that you have to wander around the Monterey's many menu options to see.

This
of
It only took ten years to come up with it! I could have done it with the Monterey much sooner but several things stopped me. For one, the Monterey shows less useful information on the screen at one time, and that's a serious consideration for "televising" the data. I can't push the Monterey scroll button when I am looking at the signal display on the downstairs TV. Also, at $320 for a device that appears out of production (but still in stock in some places) I wasn't willing to risk the Monterey's existence leaving it on all the time. It's still the best portable diagnostic X-10 tool on the market because of all its functions but Jeff's meter is what I would recommend to anyone but a monomaniac like me. There have been times when knowing the exact strength of each bit of the X-10 frame has been useful in figuring out what was wrong.
As nice as the playback capacity is, I would much rather have a meter that could log all the X-10 related "stuff" (noise, legit commands, collisions, fragments, etc) to a text file for search. I tried fooling around with OCR's the video but OCR is hinky enough without trying to read characters from an NTSC source using CCTV resolution. Oh well.
When the XTBM came out, I convinced Jeff to add a backlight option so that it would be easily readable via camera and bought one of the first assembled units. Since the XTBM is much cheaper and much more easily repaired, I thought it would be the perfect device to leave on 24x7. So far, so good. (-:
Now I have to convince him to build something to "sniff" X-10 RF signals because on occasion I've been badly tripped up by the little rubber buttons on the PalmPad series of transmitters sliding under the edge of the button hole and getting stuck ON. The missing tool from my X-10 detection kit is something that could determine where a rogue X-10 RF transmission was coming from. Someone recently suggest that Dave Houston's DIY all housecode transceiver was able to read RF signal strength and could be repurposed as an X-10 specific RF meter, but it's outside my skillset to modify something like that to be an RF sniffer.
-- Bobby G.
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On 6/13/2011 11:30 PM, Robert Green wrote:

Thanks again for your insights and comments Bobby. To answer your question, I do not own any 2 way X-10 devices. My X-10 devices were almost entirely light control, with some outdoor motion detector spotlights which could emit X-10 codes to turn on indoor lighting when motion was detected. I had several appliance modules to switch heavier loads, some pocket RF transmitters to remotely control things, controllers all over the place, some with built in timers / clocks, and not much more. My total investment in X-10 was, at most, a few hundred bucks. It was very easy to walk away from it financially, but I do miss the ability to control everything.
X-10 owners like us are likely to be "control freaks" to some extent, and having a system which acts randomly and erratically defies our "authority". It is frustrating to see the system mis-behave, and even more so while our significant others scoff and smirk and complain when lights begin to randomly turn on, turn off, or not light at all.......... It was extremely easy for me to eventually "pull the plug" on X-10 as my CFL and other noise environment took over control...
I had a long and happy run with X-10, and was indeed an early adopter, probably late 1970's if I had to guess up until the late 1990s for the truly useful and reliable operation. I would call that a success, and thus I had no problem taking it down. Some stuff still remains, and I occasionally look at the Insteon stuff and think about starting over again.
Then I take a deep breath and put down the Smarthome catalog and come to my senses...........
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Please trim your posts or top-post.
Thanx ------------- "Smarty" wrote in message

Thanks again for your insights and comments Bobby. To answer your question, I do not own any 2 way X-10 devices. My X-10 devices were almost entirely light control, with some outdoor motion detector spotlights which could emit X-10 codes to turn on indoor lighting when motion was detected. I had several appliance modules to switch heavier loads, some pocket RF transmitters to remotely control things, controllers all over the place, some with built in timers / clocks, and not much more. My total investment in X-10 was, at most, a few hundred bucks. It was very easy to walk away from it financially, but I do miss the ability to control everything.
X-10 owners like us are likely to be "control freaks" to some extent, and having a system which acts randomly and erratically defies our "authority". It is frustrating to see the system mis-behave, and even more so while our significant others scoff and smirk and complain when lights begin to randomly turn on, turn off, or not light at all.......... It was extremely easy for me to eventually "pull the plug" on X-10 as my CFL and other noise environment took over control...
I had a long and happy run with X-10, and was indeed an early adopter, probably late 1970's if I had to guess up until the late 1990s for the truly useful and reliable operation. I would call that a success, and thus I had no problem taking it down. Some stuff still remains, and I occasionally look at the Insteon stuff and think about starting over again.
Then I take a deep breath and put down the Smarthome catalog and come to my senses...........
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wrote:
[snip]

When I tried Insteon, it was MUCH WORSE than X10. Often, a device would work the first couple of times, until I added another device. Then it would get weird. I'd never know if pressing a button would do nothing, turn the desired device on, turn another device off, or something else. It keeps behaving as it was about start working, something a lot worse than not working at all. I tried it about a dozen times, in different rooms (including one where a limited X10 system works almost perfectly). Smarthome still owes me about $90 (failed to credit returns).
--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.us
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again.
That's too bad about not getting a credit. They've been OK with me, money-wise. Much of their stuff, like the solar powered CCTV camera I bought, were laughably poorly made and barely functional. Still, they survived where the Sharper Image, IIRC, didn't.
Insteon wouldn't have been the choice I would make to replace X-10 simply because of the "sole source" problem. The problem they had with their first runs of dimmer switches and relatively large loads flashing convinced me (living in a house with fragile but still serviceable cloth covered wire) I did the right thing. Torque old wiring around enough and you're asking for a lot of fishing, drilling and plaster work. Nothing I hate more than a wire breaking without enough left to even wire nut a pigtail. I'm not in a position to alpha, beta and gamma test a manufacturer's new product line. Not if I am paying for the stuff, anyway.
Zwave showed some promise but I don't hear about it much anymore. UPB seems to still be alive but nothing appears to have the market share that X-10 does or the same low price per load. Ethernet control is probably the way HA will eventually go. The wired and wireless "transport" layers are all public protocols and cheap as dirt now for 24 port hubs. Cable is mostly standard and not hard to pull, device numbers virtually unlimited, collision detection and avoidance built in.
Smarty's right. What's not to like? A lot of A/V devices are coming with Ethernet ports. Laptops come with wireless networking and I'm assuming that everything's on one or two chips now. As TV's, game systems and disc players come with networking built-in, the stoves, furnaces and washing machines of the world will follow. IIRC, you can already buy networkable refrigerators. Ethernet will probably drive out the proprietary HA protocols in a decade. It's just too ubiquitous to conquer.
-- Bobby G.
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Did you remove the homebrew X-10 couplers and other devices from your system? In particular, I remember a picture of a modification to a dryer that you showed to comp.home.automation years ago via a url.
But sounds to me, based on the sparse info provided, that your INSTEON issues were caused by incorrect/conflicting programming of the individual devices rather than primarily signal problems.
There are two solution that I know of and have used to successfully install INSTEON: 1) Either be very careful, and accurate, and methodical, and take notes while manually and individually programming the devices using Smarthome's instructions, or 2) Do all the programming through an ISY controller. www.universal-devices.com
For anything but a very small or toy system, I'd recommend installing an ISY despite its added cost. I have about 70? INSTEON devices at this point. In two decades of experimentation, updating and reconfiguration, I never, ever had X-10 working as dependably, or quickly, or flexibly or powerfully as INSTEON. That includes INSTEON RF vs X10 RF. Issues faced by early adopters have been resolved by SmartHome in my experience and ISY. And despite what some comp.home.automation participants post here, INSTEON is not exactly a closed proprietary system (Witness: ISY).
On alternate days I sometimes consider replacing the hard-wired Homebrew/Centralite lighting system on the first floor with INSTEON (but on the next, not ;-) The T0-D0 list keeps getting longer, not shorter).
All things INSTEON can be controlled at anytime and from any place with internet or 3G connection using my iPhone and eKeypad ( www.eKeypad.net), which also can also serve as the internet interface to security cameras and Elk M1G home controller.
My iPhone is always with me so I can (almost) always control most everything. No compelling need for expensive and obtrusive in-wall touch screens, PC monitors and other HA-specific hardware interfaces.
Slick as a whistle and also no unavoidable need for PC-based software such as Homeseer. But the ISY does competently and non-competitively co-exist with HS and the HS plug-in is mature enough to not be an issue.
HTH ... Marc Marc_F_Hult www.ECOntrol.org
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On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 13:53:45 -0400, Marc_F_Hult
[snip]

I have disconnected that well before trying Insteon.

That happened 4 years ago, and was a really unpleasant experience.

I didn't do any programming other than following THEIR (Smarthome's) instructions. IIRC, that involved pushing a button on the module and pushing one on the controller. Maybe there were other settings, but the modules were never reliable enough to try them.

I didn't know about such a device 4 years ago. I'd read about it if I had any intention of trying Insteon again.

Does "small" include 2 modules and 1 controller. That's all I connected and it still messed up.
[snip]

I have had Homeseer. It was a lot of trouble getting around their intentional limitations ("product activation" that assumes you're a criminal).
BTW, I currently have a limited X10 setup (on the side of the house where there's not too much electrical noise). It uses an Ocelot.

--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.us
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...
Some points for folks considering INSTEON to ponder about the information presented by Lloyd in his posts.
1) Based on his description " 2 modules and 1 controller" and "that involved pushing a button on the module and pushing one on the controller" and $90" what he was working with was entirely RF and has nothing whatsoever to do with INSTEON performance over the powerline. Nada.
2) None of the widely described issues I recall or have personally experienced had/have anything to do with the actual hardware he was using. On the contrary, my experience with the RF modules and RF controllers has been stellar. INSTANT-ON = INSTEON. Bang!
3) Lloyd writes that "It" messed up. IMO, the odds are overwhelming that he mis-programmed it. IOW, "He" messed up. Easy to do. Easy to fix if one can follow instructions exactly. And when/if one "messes up", one ****IMPORTANT *** needs to reset the modules to the factory default modules before trying to re-program. Otherwise the subsequent programming of the devices can be effectively cumulative (additive) with the resulting chaos that Lloyd describes.
4) His experience with INSTEON was four years ago, before widely described issues with _powerline_ INSTEON that emerged were diagnosed and resolved.
So it is unclear to me what parts of his description of his experience would usefully inform decisions by someone currently interested in INSTEON.
My dos centavos ... Marc
Marc_F_Hult www.ECOntrol.org
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Oops. I wrote "Lloyd" where I should have written (and meant to write) "Mark".
Sorry... Marc
On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 19:46:23 -0400, Marc_F_Hult

install
On
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<stuff snipped>

again.
I have four of the dreaded PR511 outdoor floods. They could easily have been a large part of your problem because they can listen and talk X-10 signals and when configured to the max they can put a lot of traffic on the powerline. They are, essentially a two-way module. Mine are in a box in the basement because it turned out cheapo $10 motion detectors plugged into an appliance module worked just as well and more reliably.
Admittedly many people (I am sure we'll hear from them!) run them without a problem. But they are so remarkably configurable it's easy to believe that no two PR511 setups are the same. IIRC, you can have it send four different codes upon motion activation and four more different codes based on dusk/dawn. That's a busload of possible configurations - combine that with its unique ability to sense birds in flight (I had one hell of a problem with house wrens nesting right near the unit one spring and that's when I declared the game over and pulled them, replacing them with Home Depot standalones.
At least now I can sleep comfortably with the knowledge that wherever those damn floodlights go, trouble follows and that they had some role in your weird turn ons. The reason I dumped mine in a box is that I didn't want the lights coming on for every cat, possum, rabbit or squirrel that came near the house. The PR511's complex settings were a real problem for me since I had to climb ladders to change them.
Did you have/use a CM11A? When they were disconnected from the programming PC they could go bonkers and start sending out a flood of bogus codes. Again, some people swear by them but I mostly sweared AT mine. Replaced it with an ADI CPU-XA (which became the Ocelot) but hated the C-Max ladder logic programming so much I bought a much easier to use HomeVision controller, which owner/developer Craig Chadwick still actively supports via a very active Yahoo group.
I find maintenance and design a lot easier when most of the "action" is performed by a central CPU and rely on the Homevision controller to execute complex macros. I tap button "1" on the Maxicontroller three times to "wake up" the house and button "4" three times to put it to sleep. Both commands activate 8 different modules on different housecodes. Tapping "9 1 1" activates the 12" bell mounted on the front porch. HomeVision really "opened up" X-10 in a remarkable way, and it's got digital I/O and Dallas 1 wire sensor support.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/homevision-users
Well, good luck with your system. Too bad we didn't meet sooner. I could have helped prolonged your X-10 agony at least another six months! (-:
-- Bobby G.
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Thanx for all your insight RG! You have a lot of experience and I sit in the same ballpark with X10 as Smarty. I have moved and not even attempted to make more than a few units work. After going through about six different motion detectors wired into standard light switches (not X10) I have realized I may be beating a dead horse to make any X10 units work off any single circuit breaker run. The AC noise here is just brutal and I will need to resolve a lot of it before more attempts are futile.
Once more of my major home construction winds up, hopefully this year, I will want to get these, and more, devices working reliably.
----------
"Robert Green" wrote in message
I'm worse that a reformed smoker when it comes to preaching XTB. I really was just about to dump a lot of time and effort spent with X-10, CPUXA, HomeVision, etc. because the signal propagation became so unreliable. Even WITH couplers, repeaters and every other thing I threw at it, eventually including a futile "feudal" system of RF transcievers control items local to them (electrically speaking) because that was the only way to counter the horrendous amounts of line noise besides filters, and even then the "Did Not Turn On" events were getting to be the norm. Totally unacceptable.
That makes you, as I suspected "an early adopter" who likes to keep up with current technology. Lots of vendors were selling X-10 gear in the 1980s. It also makes you vulnerable to having some of the noisiest "first edition" gear out there, as was the case with so many CFL bulbs and the parallel electronic ballast technology for fluorescent tubes. The early CFL lamps were very X-10 unfriendly. The very early CFLs I bought, Chinese-made "Lights of America" $10 bulbs were like miniature broadcast stations, they were so noisy they could pass beyond a normal X-10 filter with ease.
You are not alone in describing the devolution of your X-10 system. There used to be only two defenses to the problems X-10 experienced with its new neighbors (switched power supplies, mostly) on the home powerline:
One was extensive filtering which gets a little tiring after the tenth one is installed. Filters comes with as many problems as it solves. )-:
The other was decentralizing - the feudal approach. The constant failing of remote signaling leads to disconnection, module by module. I call it the feudal approach because it parallels the way the Vandals sacked Rome and destroyed the remarkable lines of communication and commerce of the Empire from the outside in. Far reaching outposts are abandoned and central command devolves into local "stronghold" garrisons that are situated and act in a way favorable to staying alive. But I digress . . . Then you're probably NOT a candidate for the XTB. The optimum point seems to be in the first stages of X-10 disconnection, where you stop using it for things that are going to piss you off like outside lights that burn all day because X-10 signals are iffy. You've moved into the next stage: you've converted critical (I assume) functions that used to be X-10 into hardwired Ethernet devices, inherently more reliable and manageable but IIRC, orders of magnitude more expensive than X-10. Has that changed?
I've gone all out and attached an XTB to my all-housecode transciever and to some other critical transmitting gear so I could indeed go back to "plug and play." That's more than most people would do - for them an XTB coupler repeater might suffice but I'm a PC builder and there's a lot of EMI running around my house and I wanted the lights to just work. And for PLC, the commands always get through now. It's just like it used to be in 1985 when I pulled all the light switches and converted them to X-10.

I apologize if it sounded like I was impugning your CV. It's infinitely superior to mine. In getting to know Jeff and several other designer/builders of X-10 gear I've realized that it does take highly specialized gear to make sense of the X-10 signal. You obviously know that the X-10 signal is not just an bit train without any error correction whatsoever. It's primitive but it's there and it seems to be enough. Take a look at Jeff's pages - you'll be able to appreciate the quality of the units, the thought that went into building them and his ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.
Obviously. (-:
I'm sure you have the IQ, but even the smartest guys who design and still maintain X-10 systems for a living own X-10 specific meters and analyzers. From what I was told a long time ago (hence very unreliable!) you need a scope with digital storage and even then you'd have to count hex to decode what you were seeing. Analyzers like the Monterey do all that grunt work (alas with no easy recordabilty until now for me*) and present a decoded (or not) human understandable display of what commands were sent and, depending on the meter, a lot more. You can read the strength of each bit in a single frame. The noise level at different "windows" of the AC cycles, the frequency of that noise, whether the frame you were measuring was the first frame, the second frame, or a repeater-enhanced second frame. Why would you care? Well, when two transmitters collide, a bit by bit voltage map will show that and give you a relative idea how far from the meter each device is. Meters can detect many other conditions that the best ham radio operator in the world would have to laboriously decode manually. That's why the X-10 meter has been invented over and over again in so many different formats!
What I am trying to say is that unless you have some pretty specialized tools in your radio shack, investigating serious X-10 problems isn't very easy with a scope, even if only you need to drag it to a few different outlets or get 100' long extension cords.
Well, you're clearly out of my league. (-: Maybe Jeff will chime in and talk about all the troublesome installations he's tamed. I realize you've taken another path with Ethernet and I believe that some form or wireless Ethernet home automation solution will dominate the market - the "highway" is already built and is usually power-failure protected and standalone (no PC required). Until X-10 for Ethernet appears, I'm going to stick with X-10 for lights, fans and other non-critical appliances. For the rest of the stuff, I've got a HomeVision expansion board with relay and sensor chain channels. Not quite as plug and play as the Ethernet but sufficient to monitor and execute criminal (oops, I meant critical!) functions in the house. Since Ethernet is workable world-wide, it's going to overtake any proprietary protocol. Why build another highway when so many layers of the OSI network are already built, usually with enormous overcapacity (at least 1GB nets in the house, anyway)?
I'm amazed they survived the recession. Lots of similar "modern living" stores folded during that time. I've been stranded by companies going out of business before. Their proprietary nature gives me pause. But I agree, they seem to be the only contender out of many that appeared around the year 2000, except for hoary old CeBuS (cough) that still has defenders throughout the world but that never lived up to the hype.
Sorry if I offended you. My proselytizing is better aimed at people who haven't yet converted away from X-10. Maybe that number is shrinking because a lot of people have disconnected back to ground zero or who just use a minitimer to control some lights when they are away
-- Bobby G.
*I've set my XTBM meter up in front of a small, focusable B&W minicam (less than $20) that is recorded on the fourth channel of my CCTV recorder. This way I can call up the video and play it in slo mo, reviewing all the commands received in the last week. I can also see real-time readings of X-10 from any TV in the house.
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