Home Control Assistant Newsletter for July 5

Have you looked over the version 16 release notes? Lots of changes that you can incorporate into your designs right away.

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Icon themes
One of the less understood features of HCA are “Icon Themes”. Let me try and spread some light.

I will start first with the icons themselves. Each icon is in a file in the PNG format. The PNG format allows the icon image to blend into the background display. Next, the icon for an object – for example a lightbulb, or a ceiling light - can be available in three representations: an image to use when the object is ON, another image for when it is OFF, and a third image when at a level between 1 and 99%.  If HCA needs a representation and it doesn’t have one then it chooses another representation. For example, if a device is at 50% and there is no “dim” representation available, it uses the “on” representation. Similarly, if an “on” representation is needed and there isn’t one, it uses the “off” representation and HCA shows the device is “on” by some other method, for example, by showing the label text in a different color.

An “icon theme” is a group of icons that are all the same size and similar properties. The icons for each theme are in a folder with the theme name. They are installed in the HCA documents area as sub-folders of the “Icon Themes” folder. The reason for putting them there is simple: they are in your area and not the read-only system area so you can modify the theme by adding icons, editing icons, or deleting icons.

For icon sizes, HCA installs three differently sized themes: 36 pixels by 36 pixels, 54 by 54, and 110 by 110. If you use Windows Explorer, you can see these subfolders in the “Icon Themes” folder as “Theme_36_36”, “Theme_54_54”, and “Theme_110_110”.

In addition to these sized themes, there are “G” themes in each size. Again, in Windows Explorer you will see subfolders named “Theme_36_36_G”, “Theme_54_54_G”, and “Theme_110_110_G”

What’s the difference between the “G” themes and the non-G themes? The “G” themes have an important property. Just about every icon for a device has both an ON and OFF representation and the OFF representation is always in “grey scale”. 

While the non-G themes have both ON and OFF representations for some icons, they don’t have two representations for every icon. Also, the method used to show ON and OFF representations is done differently than the “color” and “gray scale” method of the “G” themes. In the non-G themes, the representations use the physical aspect of the device to show on and off. For example, a desk lamp that has a glow for ON and no glow for OFF.

So why all these themes? So you can choose what you like and what works best for your application. For every room, folder, and display you can select a theme for use in both development mode and control mode. This lets you choose how many icons you want to see at once.

I use a smaller theme for displays that have lots of icons – “all devices” display for example - but use the larger 110 sized icons for individual rooms. The choice of theme is made by opening the properties of a room, folder, or display and making your selection on the “color and theme”.

The good news is that the graphics person for HCA has made sure that the same set of icons for devices, programs, and groups exist in each theme. This makes it possible to have a display, for example, that uses the 110 sized theme and change it to the 54 sized theme. Since all the same icons are in both themes, it all displays the same just with smaller icons and more displayed.

However, you may create your own icons and put them in one theme but not go through the bother to make up the same icons in the three different sizes for each theme. This means that if you switch from one sized theme to another. Some icons may not be in the new theme and HCA “helpfully” substitutes a different icon for what it doesn’t have.

A few final points about themes. You can create your own icons and add them to a theme. Just make sure that you make them the correct size for the theme, or it may display oddly. And if you have the desire and expertise, you can create a completely new theme with your own personal set of icons.

Lastly, above I said that HCA ships with the same icons for devices, programs, and groups in each theme and that is indeed a fact. But there are some additional icons that are in some themes but not others. The 54 and 110 themes have the “blank” icons. These are icons that you can annotate with text over the icon. They would be too small in the 36 sized theme. Also, there are a set of “weather’ icons useful for displaying weather info but they are only available in the 110 sized themes. Watch out for this if you use these icons and then change the theme for a room, folder, or display to a smaller size.

The online dictionary I use defines feedback as “information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

I need feedback from each of you to improve this weekly message product. What do you want me to write about each week? In some weekly messages I have gone into depth on one aspect of HCA. In others I have opened the mail bag and talked about recent support issues. And sometimes I highlighted a user’s application or taken you through the development of an application from some cool use. And sometimes I wax philosophical.

What would you like to see? What aspect of HCA puzzles you? A bet a lot of hands get raised on that! Want more philosophy of program development? Well, maybe no hands on that.

Anyway, please drop me a note and give me specific suggestions on where you want this to go.

V17 Open beta now available - beta 17 now available
The HCA 17 open beta this week gets a new release:17.0.17. Want in? All you need do is to enter your HCA registration code into the
online form as usual, and the resulting page contains a link to the beta page for download. The beta zip file password is the same as your V16 password. Please read fully and carefully the build notes. One suggestion: If you are using SmartThings or Hubitat you really should get on board with the beta as there is new stuff heading your way that needs this beta version.
Want to watch instead of read?

If you are interested in watching some videos about how HCA and Insteon can work together, George De Luca, a HCA users of a few years and technology video creator, has started to add HCA videos to his channel. He has a good knowledge of HCA and its ins-and-outs.
His channel can be reached at: While I’ve offered him some thoughts on the videos, his opinions and advice on using HCA are his own. If you have questions about something you see, ask them in the video comment section and you may see a video with an answer.

User-to-User forum

An HCA User who wanted to set up a forum for user-to-user communication. I'm passing this on, but please know that this is not a HCA company project and I will not be spending much time there so I don't know how this will work out. Here is a link to what he set up.

Want to take the next step in automation? Want to get started with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and control HCA by voice commands? Even if you are a long-time user of HCA, the Getting Started guides have all the info you need on client-server, mobile applications, DDNS, and voice assistants.

All of the
Getting Started Guides are available on the support website.
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