Home Control Assistant Newsletter for September 6

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
The Library, part 2

I hope that last week’s discussion of the library – and my story – helped you understand why HCA 17 has a big concentration of new features in support of the library. I expect that in the next year many new features and hardware support will be “added to” HCA though library packages. So let’s talk about the changes.

Programs can now be marked as read-only
There is a new property of a program that marks it as “read only”. That means if you attempt to make changes HCA warns you that it can’t be done. The idea here is to mark programs that come from the library read-only so you are less likely to inadvertently change them. This is important for seamless upgrades.

Program signature
In addition to a program being marked read-only, when importing a program HCA captures a “signature” of the program. That is a computed value that will be different if the program is changed. Again, this is all about warning you if you are about to upgrade a program that you had made changes to and so lose those changes.

Program upgrades
This is where many of the changes have been leading up to. I’ll explain this as an example. The Hubitat package started out as dimmable and non-dim devices. Then support was added for locks, sensors, and recently for shades. Even if you didn’t need support for locks, many other changes were made to better capture useful device information. Each change was done by a library update.

The goal is that HCA detects the availability of a new version of a package you are using, and reports it to you. Then, if you decide to accept that new version, it upgrades the programs already in your design in a manner that doesn’t affect any connections in your design to the packages being updated. That is, the program implementation changes, and you get new features and bug fixes, but nothing else in your design that depends upon those programs gets disrupted.

Library version
While not of immediate interest, HCA 17 adds significant resources for better handling programs that require a specific HCA version. Up until now any version of HCA would allow you to download packages from the library that contain features your version of HCA doesn’t support. This is now better handled. This will become important as we go along.

Import now better handles dependencies between library packages. Some packages require others to have been already imported. Previously it was up to you to read the comments saying this, and then do the import in the correct order. Now those dependencies are explicitly listed, and import enforces them. Even more importantly, as you assemble your design from library imports, the import is now smarter about handling these dependencies. For example, if package “A” required package “B” and you had already imported “B” because it was useful to you, when you import “A” it now correctly builds the necessary references between the new “A” package and the existing “B” package.

Existing library package upgrades
Every package in the library before V17 has been looked at and, if needed, improved to use new HCA features to make it better and easier to upgrade. In short, the entire library content has been updated.

New library packages
In addition to the major changes to Hubitat and SmartThings, the first of the new post-V17 packages will be available. One is called “Auto Annotate” and the other “Do By Tag”. Both implement techniques that I discussed in previous weekly messages, and now they are in a form that is much easier for you to use. They are not yet in the library, but  you can read about them at the links.

Connection to the online HCA cloud account
Now this is all great stuff we can agree, but like life, there is “no free lunch”. To access the online library for download you now must have an HCA Cloud account and a valid subscription. Think of it as your "library card".

Simply put, this is to help pay for the development time for all the new work that happens outside of HCA itself. Updating these library packages to add new functions and correct problems is a programming project like any other and we want to ensure we can keep doing this.

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.

V17 Open beta now available - beta 27
The HCA 17 open beta this week is new: Release 17.0.27

Please remember after installing to carefully read the release notes for the changes in this build and previous builds if you skipped any. This beta makes some incompatible changes from version 16 so know what you are doing.

Want in on the version 17 beta? 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.
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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