Monday, March 28, 2011

xPL SageTV Plug "out"

This weekend, I started work on a new mechanism for controlling SageTV via xPL since my original Java based plugin no longer functions on Win7. It's a plug "out" instead of a plug-in since it runs outside of SageTV as a separate app. It communicates via TCP sockets with the SageTCPServer plugin. I've got it working with multiple clients and also forwarding osd.basic messages to the SageInfoPopup plugin as my old plugin did. It seems to work well so far, however, oddly, it crashes on XP but doesn't on Win7. I'm going to continue testing for a while before releasing it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SageTV Server Upgrade

After dealing with Server 2003 on the DVR for the last two years, it's time to move on. It had all sorts of idiosyncrasies that desktop OS's don't have to deal with - such as having to hunt down drivers for audio and hacking in bluetooth drivers, but one of the main irritations was that certain software won't install on server OS's. I've made the jump to Windows 7 Pro and have been gradually installing bits of things. Unfortunately, one thing that one make it is my xPL plugin for SageTV. The plugin is written in Java and relies on the xPL4Java package. xPL4Java doesn't work on Windows 7 for whatever reason and I've spent a few days unsuccessfully trying to get it working. Now, my Chumby control screens for SageTV will be on hold until I figure out a different method of control (I have an idea). Given this, I will probably be abandoning support for my xPL Plugin for SageTV.

While I'm leaving behind the SageTV plugin, I'm considering getting the SageTV 7 upgrade. Since it has new plugin architecture, I would either have to re-write the xPL plugin or abandon it. Hopefully, it will be a seamless upgrade.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Solar Update - 1 Year of Green Electricity

It's been a little over a year since our solar array went online. So far, it's exceeded the estimates I made (using my spreadsheet in this post) for every month. Even in rainy, cloudy December, it beat estimates - just barely. This month, I don't think we'll reach estimates as it's been an unusually rainy, cloudy March. Right now we're about 140 kWH short with 9 days left - and today it's been non stop rain.

In spite of the rain (we do need it badly though), we've been extremely happy with the investment. In one year, we've used 8,821 kWH of electricity with 5,796 kWH being provided by the panels. Over 65.7% of our power was provided by the sun. Our electricity pricing is tiered based on usage, where tiers 1 (<370 kWH) and 2 (370-480 kWH) are the lowest priced and most reasonable. Before solar, we were consistently in tier 4 (730-1100 kWH). With solar, we hit tier 3 once - in that cloudy December. We hit tier 2 in January. Every other month, we've been in tier 1 usage. From an investment perspective, the electricity savings have returned approximately 8.3% 9.1% tax-free, relatively risk-free and effort free! Can't complain about that. Plus the tax credit for 30% of the net cost (cost less California rebate) is coming in real handy right now as I'm doing our taxes!

If you're thinking about going solar, I strongly encourage you to really look into it. Get a few providers to come out & give estimates. Use my spreadsheet linked above. Think about it as an investment - like buying a stock - but solar provides a higher dividend that's tax-free and essentially risk-free.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Panel Builder Screenshot

I've finally had time to actually use Panel Builder. As I've been creating screens, I've been trying out new UI elements. The screen is actually generated by a PHP script. The script customizes elements based on what Chumby is making the request. For example, if my nightstand Chumby requests the lighting page, it automatically goes to the master bedroom lighting screen, but the family room Chumby will see the FR lighting first. All requests from the Chumby pass an option containing the requesting Chumby's device name. You can access this from PHP using:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gesture Control in Panel Builder

I've been playing around with gestures to control actions in Panel Builder. Here's a demo of what I've got working right now. It's very simplistic, only taking into account 4 directions of swipes. Although if you make diagonal swipes, both the horizontal & vertical action are executed, but I'll probably filter that out and make diagonal swipes unique actions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Doghouse Labs Announces Our First Donor...Ever

I'm pleased to announce that Walter Krämbring of Sweden has become our very first donor. Walter's been a major contributor over on the EventGhost project and has been a big proponent of xPL over there ever since I polluted his mind by releasing the xPL plugin for EventGhost ;) Despite not having access to Insignia Infocasts, he donated the incredibly generous amount of $50 to the project. Since the $25 threshold was met, as promised, I will add in a feature to add a webcam view to Panel Builder. I will also put in a slide show screensaver which I think will be great feature. Furthermore, I plan to use $20 of Walter's donation to "Pay it forward" by purchasing a Silver membership at I don't need or use the benefits of the membership, but I'd like to show my support for CT as Dan aka electron has built a great Home Automation community over there and invested a ton of his time & money.

Once again, thank you Walter Krämbring!