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Home Control Assistant Newsletter for November 27 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 17.0.48 with new features!
Read about how you can download it.
How to organize: The brain you save may be your own
In previously weekly messages we cranked up the time machine to look back in time. Let’s hit the “go forward” button and look ahead. Where’s Kimberly? Beach bar somewhere in the Exumas. Where are you? Your home office tearing your hair out because you have forgotten an essential fact of your automation system. On that day in the future you need – and really need to do it right now – to make a change to an account or something in your design that has failed or needs updating. While I’m happy with an excellent cocktail and great view, things are not quite so good for you.

Why? Because you didn’t take the time to get organized.

I’ve been on a Team Viewer with many users recently and I see so many HCA designs that really need to be updated so this scenario, at least for you, doesn’t turn out this way. Here are some ideas.

Use rooms
My suggestion is to use an HCA room to hold the devices in that physical room and those programs that work specifically with devices in the room. I have seen a lot of users with one folder called “Devices” and all their devices in there. It’s hard to find things. It could be weeks since you last looked at HCA – it’s just running quietly in the background – and you can easily forget details of what’s what. Yes, it will be tough to rearrange things, but do it once and reap the benefits over time.

Use folders for single tasks or tools
Folders, like rooms, can be used for one specific task or tool. The items downloaded from the library go into a task specific folder. For example, all the programs in the Hubitat implementation are in one folder. You can create your own folders to hold similar sets of associated programs you created. Again, I have seen users with a giant “Programs” folder. 

Create good names
One of the most difficult tasks is to come up with good names. We all struggle with this. The name needs to be not too long but also descriptive. Do not use functional names, use descriptive names. Here is an example from something I saw in a user’s design. They had a two-channel Shelly device and they named the devices “Shelly channel 1” and “Shelly channel 2” rather than “Barn outside lights” for the 1st channel and “Barn inside lights” for the 2nd channel. When you need to change the schedule for the barn outside lights you have a much better chance of scheduling the correct device with good names. With the functional names you need to remember how you wired the devices and what is on which channel.

Rename imported names if necessary
Hubitat, like UPB, imports devices into HCA. Each has its own naming system which may not map well into what HCA uses. After you import them you can rename those imported devices and move them to other rooms or folders if needed. For example, just because Hubitat imports to the “Hubitat Devices” folder doesn’t mean they must remain there. You can rename or move the imported devices in your HCA design and subsequent imports will not duplicate or “mess up” that.

Use Notes
Both the HCA design and individual objects have Notes sections. Use them. The design notes can be viewed and edited by the tool from the “Design” ribbon category, “Home Configuration” panel, “Properties” button.

Notes are a good place to store, for example, your Hubitat account information or the account information of other services you use. Use the notes tab on devices to describe the location of a device you “buried in the wall”. I have heard directly from users how devices have become lost because they can’t remember where they are.

Save installer and rename with _password
Here is a tip from an HCA user I got a while back and I like it a lot. When you download the zip file for the HCA installation, rename the file to include the password. Suppose the unzip password is starship, rename HCA170Plus.zip to HCA170Plus_starship.zip. This way you have the installer if you need it, and you can’t lose the password.

Use new program icons
In HCA 17.0.48 a new set of program icons was introduced. This was done after many team viewer sessions where I saw a giant “field of identical icons” in some users “Programs” folder. By the way, like a kitchen “junk drawer”, we all have a folder where there are programs that just don’t fit anyplace else. I have one of those folders with several programs in it. Many of those programs handle one specific task – mail reception, alert handling, etc – so they live in this “junk drawer” folder. But now with these new icons I can quickly see the program I want without needing to remember its name.

Make a backup
Finally, the best advice is to make a backup of your design file and all its parts. If you haven’t had a computer or disk failure yet, then you are in the queue to have a failure. HCA has a tool to tell you where all the parts of your design are. There is also a tool to do periodic backups of your design file automatically. And please also put on that backup media the password renamed zip file for the HCA installer.
One of the most experienced HCA user has contributed a great new technical note that describes interfacing a device that monitors water usage.

Read all about it in
technical note #706

What I really like about this is that it uses Hubitat to do the device integration and HCA's monitoring, reporting, and advanced control to move it beyond what could be viewed as more of a stand-alone device.
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.
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