Friday, July 20, 2007

SlimServer Google Gadget Control Video

Sorry no audio on the video. The Google Sidebar is on the right side and I show how it can get the status for various zones in the house. Then we switch to the Guest Room zone, which is already playing and shown in the SlimServer screen in the background (to show the communication between the toolbar & SlimServer). The track is skipped using the sidebar and the changes are eventually reflected on the SlimServer screen when the browser refreshes. Then from the SlimServer screen, the track is skipped and the sidebar shows the updated status. Next, we go back to the previous track using the sidebar gadget.

Then the gadget is popped out from the toolbar and placed on the desktop. The volume is adjusted and reflected when the browser refreshes. Tracks are skipped and more volume adjustments are done before the gadget is popped back into the toolbar.

You can see the lag between controlling via the toolbar and the browser showing updated status because it has to wait for the refresh interval. There's a lot going on behind the scenes. When a button is pressed on the toolbar, an xPL message is sent out by SlimServer with the new track information. xAP Floorplan generates an XML file from the track information in the xPL message. Then the XML file is read using getxmlhttprequest in the gadget, and the status is updated almost immediately.

Right now, it just does basic control, volume and power for SlimServer and MediaNet. Below this media panel on the toolbar are various temperatures pulled from StarCOMUltra via COM. The next gadget lower is a simple lighting control and status, also pulled from StarCOMUltra.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Google Desktop Work

I've been adding more automation gadgets to Google Desktop. I've now tied it to starCOMUltra using the COM interface so I can control virtually anything in my system. I'm working on media control and I'll be posting up an updated screen shot soon. It's pretty much like writing ASP pages with a little XML thrown around.

I also picked up a Philips DVP-5982 1080P DVD player from Costco for $60. It's been sitting around while I play around with Desktop stuff.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Using Google Desktop Sidebar for Automation

I just wrote a little Google Gadget to create a small control panel on the Google Desktop toolbar. This gadget sends xPL x10.basic messages to control X10 devices. It requires the DLLs for sending xPL commands via ASP - xpl_asp.dll and xqutil.dll - which are bundled in the gadget. Screenshot showing the gadget on the top of the toolbar.

The .gg file format is just a zipfile. Open it up and copy the 2 DLLs to c:\windows\system32. Register the xPL DLL by opening a command prompt and typing "regsvr32 c:\windows\system32\xpl_asp.dll"

If you already have Google Desktop installed, double click xPL.gg to install it. To edit the gadget and put in your own devices, follow these directions. It's probably a better idea to make the Gadget load the device list from an xml file instead, but I leave that as an exercise for you :)

You can use pretty much any ActiveXObject with Google Desktop. I have another example where I instantiated the starCOMUltra COM server.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Toy - SimpleTech NAS

Just received my SimpleTech 500GB NAS. Rather than do a file server and have a PC running all the time, I decided to get one of these. It comes with 2 USB ports so I can add additional storage via external USB drives as I need space. One thing I wanted was the ability to spin down the drive when not in use. I read a couple places that said it does this, I just need to enable it. It's only 100 Mbit but then so's my home network.

The answering machine continues to perform what HAL is unable to. More shotgun fixes are being offered (try this, try that, try ...), but no diagnosis is being done. In the meantime, I'm testing out Grand Central, which makes HAL voicemail seem almost like my answering machine...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

HAL Pains

My new server has been up & running for a few weeks now and HAL seemed like it was working fine, until I realized it crashes after someone leaves a message. Every other aspect of it works fine - the VR, telephone VR from local and remote phones, the outgoing message & the recording of the message. At some point, after the caller hangs up, HAL hangs itself resulting in this message:

"Program Error

Hal System Serv.exe has generated errors and will be closed by Windows. You will need to restart the program.

An error log is being created."

I have been directed to this thread as a means to debug my problem. I've tried de-installing and re-installing the HAL modem as written and I've even gone as far as de-installing, blowing away all data files and re-installing HAL. It still crashes.

I'm trying to find out what kind of debug options there are in HAL so I can at least narrow down the problem, but I'm not optimistic. Otherwise I wouldn't have been directed to the above thread...

In any case, the trusty answering machine has been turned on for the first time in over 10 years at least. Before I started putting up with HAL crashes, I was using Fax Talk communicator for PC based voicemail. I never had any problems with it like I do with HAL. Too bad the copy I have is an ancient Win 3.1 app.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Random Stuff

My pair of Nokia 770s arrived this week and I've been playing with them on & off. They appear to have some issue with one of our wireless routers, a Netgear. This appears to be a common problem. It doesn't seem to want to connect to it at all, it keeps trying to connect to our Linksys eventhough it's far away. A few places I've been visiting for more information:
Nokia770.com
Internet Tablet Talk
Maemo.org

The 8M RFID transmitters also arrived and I plugged them in and they worked right away. They're in a much smaller formfactor than the 40M and use only one 3V lithium battery instead of 2. The transmitters in the garaged cars come in strong, but the one in the driveway/street parked car isn't quite working well. I've moved the MSS-100 & RFID receiver closer to the front of the house and it's still a little sketchy. I'm going to have to do a little more tuning. I'd hate to have to put an antenna on the receiver.

Finally, I've been doing more Python scripting. Wrote a few scripts to do screen scraping of certain websites, like Craigslist. I'd put them up, but I don't want people copying them and hammering those sites. There's no benefit to me then :)

Monday, July 2, 2007

HA Server Rebuild...Again

I had to rebuild my HA server due to a failure in my current server. It took a while to get everything configured, but it's finally up and stable. It's a Core 2 Duo e6420 running on an ECS mobo with 2 GB of ram. I put in an Antec EarthWatts high efficiency power supply. Compared to the Athlon XP 2800+ box, this one runs only about 100 watts (vs 145) and is considerably cooler. The exhaust air is only slightly warm compared to the Athlon's, which was hot.

I've been having problems with the RFID transmitters, which appear to be failing. However, when I send them back, the seller says they work fine. I've tried putting the receiver on the PC serial port, on an Edgport serial to USB adapter and on a Lantronix MSS-100 serial to ethernet adapter. I tried new batteries, relocating the receiver, etc. This happened 3 times, so I've returned them in exchange for some 8M units. Hopefully those will work better.

I've since relocated the receiver closer to where the cars are using the MSS-100 so that should compensate for the transmitters being 8M instead of 40M. We'll see when I get them later this week.

In the meantime, I'm also waiting for a couple Nokia 770 internet tablets that I wooted last week.