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August 2009
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October 2009

Serial to INSTEON Interface

If you have an alarm system, weather station, or something else with serial input/output that you want to integrate into your home automation system, SeriaLinc might be just the thing you need. It's a tool, so be prepared for rolling up your sleeves and doing some of the work yourself, but being able to bridge RS-232 and INSTEON is a great development. It's nice to see that more and more specialized INSTEON modules are becoming available.

Built-in INSTEON modules

One of the hassles of DIY automation is that while it's easy to control lamp lighting, automating built-in lights involves replacing switches. That's not hard, but it's a barrier, particularly if you don't like the design or feel of automated switches. An alternative is to use an inline relay. If you have an INSTEON-based home, then the LineLinc series is well worth a peek.

Home Automation notifications using Prowl directly

I've previously written about Prowl, the generic push notification app for iPhone. Initially designed to work with Growl, it now has grown to allow direct access. There's a whole bunch of plug-ins available, so now it's easier than ever to tie the excellent Prowl into your home automation system, from your platform of choice.

In a related note, for an example of how to use the direct access via AppleScript and XTension, see Sending PROWL iPhone Alerts from XTension.

Wating for the Shoe Phone

I'm a big believer that fiction shapes the future in a multitude of ways. In some cases, I believe today's product designers are basically implementing the fantastic worlds of their youth. Two examples caught my eye this week:

Lockheed has developed a large airship that floats in position for intelligence gathering. Right out of science fiction, see Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) - Gizmodo for a peek at the forthcoming war machine.

Also recently announced, Nissan is addressing the safety problems of nearly silent hybrid vehicles by making them sound like flying cars in the movie Blade Runner. See this LA Times article.

Personally, if a hybrid car sound like the flying cars on The Jetsons (sound file link) I'd so buy it.

Get your SnapScan mojo

Dave Price was kind enough to tip me off about Document Snap, a handy resource for ScanSnap owners. Actually, it looks like a nice site for anyone who wants to reduce the paper clutter, but because of my personal infatuation with the ScanSnap, that's what caught my eye.

Thanks for the link, Dave!

On a related note, the DevonThink public beta versions continue to emerge at a decent pace. I've only sampled the new software briefly, but I'm looking forward to the impressive list of new features.

My TiVo HD is blind, but only in the dark

This is the strangest technology problem I've had in a long time. I recently got a new TiVo HD and I've discovered that its remote control doesn't function, but only in the dark. During the day, or if there are lights on in the room, it works perfectly. But as soon as its dark, it goes blind. About 90% of the commands from the remote are never detected.

I've had a TiVo since 1999, so I have several remotes left over from previous models. I've tried them all, with the same batty and extremely frustrating results.

So I finally swallowed my geek pride and called TiVo customer service. It turns out that this particular TiVo model is sensitive to IR interference. If another device is transmitting IR, it can get confused. In my case, the culprit turned out to be the Wii sensor bar. Covering it with a thick cloth pretty much resolves the problem. (Although the TiVo still isn't as responsive as the Model 2 it replaced.)

The nice TiVo tech support person said that an XBox 360 and some models of TVs can broadcast interfering IR, too. I'm betting that X10-to-IR or any kind of IR repeater could also be a problem. So if you're suffering with a blind TiVo, start covering potential sources of interference and see if it helps.

Fixing a black screen Ceiva

The other morning I found that my new wireless Ceiva picture frame (read this for background) was turned off, instead of showing a fresh batch of photos as it's configured to do.

I unplugged it, and it sprung to life showing a splash screen, a brief flicker of the Ceiva light on the front, then quickly shut down again. Try again; same result. Oh crap.

Long story short, I resolved the problem by disconnecting the wireless adapter and then turning on the frame. The frame started up and began showing the photos it had downloaded the previous day. Then I reconnected the Wi-Fi dongle and held the buttons to force the frame to retrieve new images.

Problem fixed, at lest for now.

A new utility for Mac Bluetooth proximity detection, and more

Phone Amego is new utility that integrates your Mac with iPhone (or other Bluetooth phones) and Google Voice. I'm especially interested in its ability to trigger scripts based on a device's proximity. This means it could be used to provide the solutions described in Your Mac Knows When You're Home.

There's every indication that Phone Amego, despite the illiterate spelling, will be a solid application too. It's from Sustainable Softworks, makers of many fine network related Mac tools.

For an overview of Phone Amego, see TidBITS iPod & iPhone: The Macintosh/iPhone Mind Meld.