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Home Automation article in Macworld

I wrote an article about home automation with XTension and Indigo for Macworld magazine a few weeks ago. It's out now, in the September 2005 issue, starting on page 64. It's part of the "Old Mac, New Tricks" feature; which includes other nifty things you can do with a spare Macintosh. I hope that you enjoy it.

Here are clickable links to the products mentioned in the article:

  • Smarthome, Inc.

  • X10 Corp

  • PowerLinc USB

  • PowerLinc Controller

  • XTension

  • Indigo

  • Comments


    hi - thanks for the home automation article -- big question though - does my Mac have to actually be "on" or can it be in "sleep" and somehow wake up just for the events that I want automated and after the event has been activated can it go back to 'sleep' and wait to awake for the next automated event? I don't want my Mac just running on and on wasting energy, etc.

    thank you!

    Gordon Meyer

    Hi, Jackson -- If you don't want to leave your Mac turned on, then you can use Indigo to program Smarthome's PowerLinc Controller unit. (It has some built-in memory, as mentioned in the article.) However, it's pretty limited, and some folks who try it aren't very satisfied with this approach. It's not possible to keep your Mac asleep, it won't wake for serial-port activity, and it would take too long anyway. The amount of energy your Mac uses when awake is minimal and nearly every home automator does indeed just leave their system on. (With the monitor turned off, or you can use an iBook as I do.)


    I'm with you about the Big Island Yo-Yo ... I loved it! I wish someone would write a hack so that it could be used with OS X. I have an old mac I keep around just for it.


    I have an old house that I'm about to renovate ... it has an old hardwired security system in it. Any thoughts on whether I can use it and control via smart home software?

    Gordon Meyer

    Hi, Larry - Many hardwired alarm controllers have support for X10 built-in. This allows you to send and receive X10 signals when the alarm system changes state. (Sometimes, they don't advertise that they're using X10; they just include a few "lamp modules" so you can have the lights turn on during an alarm condition and don't tell you the technology behind it.)

    If yours doesn't, it probably wouldn't be too hard to replace the console with one that does. They're not too expensive, check out for some of the options.

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