Home Control Assistant Newsletter for September 11 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.

The latest version of HCA is 17.0.47 and its new features are not just about Hubitat - there's more!
Read about how you can download it.
Important note: Last week I offered to help you acquire a great machine to use in your automation solution - a small footprint Windows machine. As I said last week, I am only doing this once and if you want in on this let me know by Wednesday 21-Sep. The details are repeated below this week's exciting and interesting stuff....

When HCA is not in the “driver’s seat”

I had a problem to solve that I used HCA for, and I used a technique that may be useful to you. 

In my case HCA is not the only controller in my automation solution. One part of my automation has a controller turning on and off a device on a schedule. The problem was that sometimes that device would randomly drop off my network – it is an IP based device. For various reasons it wasn’t possible to resolve that problem. Unfortunately, that controller couldn’t monitor the device state, so it couldn’t watch for this and power cycle it to get it back on the network.

So, what did I do?

First, I created a program that runs every minute and pings the device and power cycles it if that ping fails. If the ping gets a response, then it does nothing. The random network disconnects now get detected and “fixed”.

The difficulty was, as I said, the device is on a schedule. I didn’t want HCA, during the scheduled off times, to be looking for a ping response, see the device didn’t respond, and power cycle it.

Here is where the technique comes in that I wanted to describe. I created a program that triggers on the ON and OFF from the device control command sent via that other controller. It’s a UPB command but it would be the same if it was X10, Insteon, ZWave or other. When that program got triggered by an OFF command it then kills the program that does the periodic pings. If it gets started by the ON command, then it starts the periodic ping program. That lets me change the schedule for the device – as implemented by that other controller – and my HCA program doesn't need to know when the on and off times are.

There is only a tiny problem that the experienced reader will see: What happens if HCA restarts during the time that the device should be off? Since the periodic ping program starts when HCA starts, it will see the device doesn’t respond and then do the power cycle. That turns it on when it wasn’t wanted on. Is that a problem?

In my case it doesn’t really matter if the device is on extra hours, but I wanted to do better. I reworked the program that triggers with the ON and OFF command and had it capture the time of that event in global variables. Next, I modified the “starts when HCA starts” program to instead of always starting the periodic ping program to instead check the time to see if it should start the periodic ping program or not. 

The takeaway info here is that sometimes a program gets triggered by an event not to do something, but to know that something else in the automation solution did something. Subtle difference but an important one.
Small footprint computer with Windows LTSC

Years back when I was putting out a different product than HCA, a small footprint Windows computer was shipped with it. I did a lot of research and found what I think was an excellent choice for this: Small, fan-less, fast enough, and low cost. And the real find was that I could get it in quantity with Windows LTSC. That’s a special build of Windows that only does the necessary security updates but not all the feature updates so often. It has some other changes because it is intended for applications that run it 24/7 like video steamers, kiosks, and electronic signs. Just what HCA needs.

Since I have not purchased these in a while, the company reached out to me to try and sell me some new stuff. I was amenable so I bought a new server computer for HCA – mine was an older model - and it works great. Faster responding to inbound signals.

If you would like one of these small Windows machines, set up perfectly for HCA, I can make a quantity purchase of them. The machines have great specs – see below – and I will make a bulk purchase if I get enough commitments. Look over the specs and email me if you want one or have any questions. I’ll do the setup for HCA – install 17.0.47 and all the other Windows stuff - and ship it to you. I will only make this order once as I no longer want to be in the retail business, but these machines are so good I thought I would offer them to you all. Price is $400 and you pay the postage. 

  • 4GB Ram, 
  • 64 GB eMMC (disk)
  • Gemini Lake 41 Series Processor
  • 4 USB Ports
  • Wired or Wireless Network
  • HDMI and VGA
  • Windows 10 LTSC Enterprise
If you are using a version of HCA prior to version 17, you may have questions about the wisdom of upgrading to version 17 given the future of HCA. Here is something to consider:

The support policy for older HCA versions has been changed
 as I can no longer devote time to past version users. Support will only be available for HCA 17 users.

If you are on version 16 or earlier and want to continue using the cloud features and want to be assured that if you have a question that it gets answered, it is indeed time to upgrade.

HCA is fully operational for several more years so the update cost, spread out over that time, is very little. Knowing support is available when you need it is worth it.
Upgrade to HCA 17
Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.
Copyright © 2022 Advanced Quonset Technology, Inc, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp