Home Control Assistant Newsletter for September 13

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Version 17

Sometime this week HCA 17 will be released. Unlike previous releases this one is a bit complicated as it involves changes to the HCA Cloud, the online library, the website, and the software itself.

There will of course be an announcement email, but you may want to take some time now to review all the changes.

All the changes and bug fixes are in the linked PDF files. At a whopping 46 pages, these releases are never small.

One good thing to note is that the cost of the update is not changing. Still $50 to upgrade from HCA 16 Plus to HCA 17 Plus. You'r welcome.

The plan is to first update the online library. As I wrote in the last two weeks, this is where you will find many changes, and it will take some time to get it all in place. As such, I suggest you stay away from the library this week until we are ready.

When the library update happens, you need be aware of a very important change: Unless you have a HCA Cloud account, HCA version 17, and up-to-date subscription, you will not be able to access the library. Previous versions of HCA will still be able to browse the library, but not download.

This release has been a huge amount of work. 

The HCA Cloud subscription
I do have some news to pass along: The yearly subscription cost for the HCA Cloud is increasing from $2 a month to $3 a month. This gives you access to Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Homekit, Ring, Lifx, Hubitat, SmartThings, the online library, and much more. We have experienced quite a rise in costs we have to pay each month to Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud services. At $36 a year it still is a bargain. At least I consider it so, and hope you do to. Existing subscriptions will not be affected. When time to renew, the cost will be the new amount.

What do you want from the mobile apps?
The HCA mobile apps (Android and iOS) are basic but they do most of what you need when connecting to your home remotely. We never had any plan to improve them beyond that. The major reason is that the development of mobile apps is something we outsource, and the cost is significant. Our main goals for the apps are solid basic function, and free for HCA users.

Some users have requested app improvements and we are considering a plan to allow users who want those changes to share the cost of their development. HCA Central will contribute a percentage to each feature but most of the funding will be from users. Our plan is this: 

First, we put together a feature request list and get an estimate from our contract developer for each proposed new feature or set of features. Next, we publish information about each proposed feature, its estimated cost, and the schedule for its availability. Those who want to see one of these new app features pledge what they feel is a fair share to its development cost. If enough pledges add up to the development cost, then we will request that you pay your portion and the developer gets to work. We will cover any development cost overrun. 

The first change we are looking at is supporting popup keypads (the ones created from a program User-UI element) on the iOS platform.

If you are interested in this plan and specifically this first change to the iOS app, please drop us a note.

Now a plan you may be considering is this: you want a feature and could let others pay for it and then you get it for "free" as the apps will still be free to download. Sounds like a good plan I know, except it may be a feature you really want and without your pledge it just never happens. So maybe not quite a great idea.

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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