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XTension adds support for UPB

A couple of weeks ago, users of XTension, the venerable home automation application for Macintosh, were surprised by the announcement of support for UPB (Universal Powerline Bus) devices. Mac support for UPB has been non-existant until now, so this is an interesting development and brings the number of controllers that XTension supports to a whopping 17; but still none that speak INSTEON.

For details about the UPB version, which is in private beta, see the XTension wiki.

Will Obama save home automation?

For decades, home automation has tried (and failed) to reach mainstream society. TechWorldNews looks at the situation in Home Networks: Home Automation: The Unfulfilled Promise and expresses hope that President Obama's energy policies might finally provide the impetus for the technology to succeed on a grand scale. But I think this analysis is missing the point; it's not a technology issue, it's an ease-of-use puzzle and the latest tech has far, far to go in that regard.

Home automation on the rise, maybe

IQ Online speculates that home automation will see an overall rise by 2011. DIY home automation is seen as a growth area, where pre-installed systems are likely to stall. The report is here: Home Automation To See Healthy Growth - IQ Online.

However, their notion of "standards-based" home automation shouldn't be confused with an open, documented protocol. Instead, they are licensed, controlled implementations. For that reason, I don't see Z-Wave or ZigBee becoming that which causes the tipping point.

Book Review: Secrets of Masonic Washington

The Secrets of Masonic Washington: A Guidebook to Signs, Symbols, and Ceremonies at the Origin of America's Capital by James Wasserman is one of copious books that examine the manifestations of masonic and esoteric symbology in Washington, D.C. However, the book takes a fresh approach that makes it more interesting and practical than most of its genre.

Written in the style of a walking tour, Wasserman's book is filled with maps and beautiful photographs. The discussions are clear, cogent, and just the right length for reading while you're standing in the location being described, but the photography makes the book appropriate for arm chair tourists too.

Unlike many authors in this subject area, Wasserman is careful not to impart Freemasonry on persons and objects where history is unclear on their actual relationship with the fraternal order. This refreshing approach also permits Wasserman to offer observations about memorials and architecture that feature esoteric symbolism that is not directly tied to the Order. Thus he avoids becoming too much of a Masonic booster, and makes the book more interesting across the board. For example, a lovely photo of the Second Division Memorial includes a discussion of its central design element which echoes the Ace of Swords from the Tarot deck.

Overall it's a high quality book, both in content and production, and it's inexpensive price at Amazon makes for an easy buying decision. If this topic interests you, I think you'll enjoy it too.

Z-Wave options for the Mac

The website CEPro offers an overview of Z-Wave automation for Mac. I'm glad to see several options listed, the Mac has been completely bereft of Z-Wave based automation software for far too long.

But I have to admit I'm a little skeptical of how many of these actually exist, or are of acceptable quality. Don't get me wrong, I have many Z-Wave modules in my home and really like them, it's just that I haven't yet found home automation software that works with Z-Wave in the same way that X-10 and INSTEON-based applications do. I'm currently using Vera, but it's a struggle.

If you've tried any of the Mac packages mentioned, or others, I'd love to hear from you.