Home Control Assistant Newsletter for October 11

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Time to look a bit deeper into V17
I’ve written in past weeks about the changes to the library, debugger, and programs. Those changes are significant. But this week I want to expose some of the other changes that are not “earth shaking” but are the kind of things that just make your life better regardless of the complexity of your automation design. I’ll touch on several of these items and all the details are in the full release notes. If you want more information, please go there.

Auto Backup
I know I sound like a chipmunk announcing its territory with my constant “Make a backup” mantra. (There is a chipmunk near my office and it can go on and on in a very repetitive manner for hours). Even with all the repetition I get the “my hard drive died” email several times a month. HCA 17 has an auto backup feature that makes a copy of your design file to a folder of your choice every so often. “So often” is configurable. Even if you don’t have a networked drive you can write it to a USB drive you leave plugged in. Look for “Auto Backup” in the “Tools” ribbon category.

Log configuration
“The Log is your friend” (OK, now I am indeed repetitive again as I have said that many times). The problem with the log is it can show too much. Each device and program has a “Log” tab where you can turn off logging for that object and that works well. In V17, just open the log viewer and right-click on a line in the log and if it references a device or program then the popup menu shows “Stop logging receptions from this device” or “Stop logging transmissions to this device” or similar for programs. This is a quick way to change the logging for something you want to just “shut up”.

There is one more item in the log you should know about and it can help answer the question, “Why is that light on?”. In older HCA versions if a client controls a device all you would see in the log was a transmission to that device. You didn’t know what caused the transmission to happen. In V17, open “Log Usage” from the “Tools” ribbon category and look for the checkbox option that says “Log client actions for devices / program control”. Now you get a log entry that says if a client – think Alexa or Google Assistant – made a request that resulted in a device or program control.

This one can seem like a “for fun” option but I’ll tell you why it I realized something important about my own home design. In the Daily report (“Tools” ribbon category “Daily report Setup” button) statistics are now provided on the number of programs executed, clients controlled, and client connects. There is also a count of the number of messages sent to and received from each interface. I was shocked at the numbers. In one day last week I had 11,113 program executed. Yikes! What was that all about? I investigated it and found it was mostly due to my Hubitat sensors that auto report a lot. Why was this important? Because I didn’t realize that logging was enabled for some of my programs that handle that, and the log was getting huge. That slowed down client connects which I had attributed to my slow network, but it wasn’t that at all. I did some log tweaking and things were better. OK, it was also sort of “fun” to know how much work my HCA was doing.

Trigger report
I know that printing is about the last HCA feature that gets used, but my memory isn’t what it used to be and sometimes it is a way to remind myself exactly how the design is constructed. To help with that in V17 there is a new section of the printout that shows all the triggers in use in your design sorted by type and what they apply to. Up until now there was no way to ask, for example, what programs start when HCA loads the design, or what programs have expression triggers, or who the heck triggers on a reception of “that” keypad button. Now those questions have answers. Look in the system menu – click on the HCA “bubble” at the left end of the ribbon – and select “Print” and then “Printout Setup”.

HCA Consulting
Next week I will talk about a project that I took on for a HCA user as part of “HCA Consulting” I do. The task was to craft a “control panel” for his home to make it much easier to view the state of what’s going on, monitor his greenhouse and leak sensors. 

Did you know about HCA Consulting? While HCA does provide unlimited support, it isn’t unlimited in what I can spend time on. Found a bug or don’t know how a feature works? That I can  answer. Have a specific piece of hardware to integrate or a need help to design an algorithm? That’s not HCA support but HCA consulting. The way it works is we discuss what you want to do, agree on some price and then the work gets done. Expensive? No, not at all. The command line utility for sending commands to the HCA Server was done this way by a user who really wanted it. So it was built for him at a nominal cost with the understanding that it would be released to everyone as well. Got a project? Drop me a note and we can talk. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

HCA Server machines
We still have available Windows 10 small footprint computers that are perfect for running the HCA Server. We do all the updates for you - yes, even the big Windows 2004 update, install HCA, and get it all ready for 24/7 operation. And with the HCA design backup/computer move tool, getting up and running only take minutes after you get this new machine. Want more info? It's all on the website HCA Server Computer page.

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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