Home Control Assistant Newsletter for August 30

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Let’s begin with a story

Over the next several weeks I plan to introduce HCA version 17 to you. But before I do, I wanted to tell a story that will – promise! – have relevance to the V17 changes.

I have been helping an HCA user who has done a great deal in their home with Insteon. Lots of devices and keypads. While a great builder and “imaginer” of what is possible with automation, some aspects of networks and software take him to his technical limits. As such I have been helping him through some of the more difficult aspects of setting up HCA to do what is wanted.

Until recently it was an all Insteon installation, and for the most part that worked well. Recently he started a home improvement project of adding an extensive “water feature” to the patio, and wanted to be able to control lights and pumps. Insteon was not going to work as there just were not the kinds of devices available that would work reliably outside.

We investigated lots of different options and finally discovered a TPLink dual plug that is designed for outdoor use and is Wi-Fi. Outdoor coverage of Wi-Fi is good, so it looked like a winner. Here is where the HCA question happens: Can HCA control it so it can be added to programs and schedules?

If you are a long time HCA user, pause a minute and consider how HCA has changed over the years. First it supported X10. Then along came Insteon and UPB and those where added. Then Phillips Hue lights and NEST thermostats. All of this was built-in to HCA. If that support needed to be improved or changed, a new release of HCA was needed. But then something interesting happened.

What happened was that HCA programs got increasingly more capable. Subroutines, coroutines, expressions, local variables, parameters, programs that return results, and the list goes on. Because of all those changes, suddenly support for new device types could be added to HCA. Not by changing HCA.exe but by creating HCA programs to add that support. This was first used to add support for TPLink then LIFX, Ecobee, Sonos, and now Hubitat and SmartThings, plus new weather providers. 

OK, back to my water feature building friend. All that was needed was to go to the online library, download the TPLink package and his “perfect for the job” device was working. To me that is darn cool. And if that support needs to be improved, it can be done simply by downloading a new version of the TPLink package.

What’s the bottom line of this story? This HCA user doesn’t really care about many of those HCA program improvements I mentioned above. He has created some HCA programs and that’s super but local and global variables, program parameters, and subroutine calls, aren’t something he uses. But all that stuff is very important to the packages he added to get support for the new TPLink device. He also has an Ecobee thermostat and support for that was also via a library download.

And that’s the bottom line in V17. As I introduce the changes to you – and even if you are not on the open beta you can go read the latest beta release notes and see the over 100 changes listed – many may seem to you as “I don’t need that” or “I don’t understand that” but that is only part of the story. Many of those features are used in the packages you will download from the library in the coming months. Did I mention that all the library packages are about to be refreshed and new ones added?

I wrote a while back about how we all need to stop being so “protocol hidebound”. Just because you use a lot of UPB or Insteon doesn’t mean you must use only items from those protocols. Take a chance and broaden your outlook and start to integrate the devices that do what you need. Like my friend who use of all Insteon ended because of the new TPLink devices that did what was needed.

There are big changes coming, not just to HCA but the whole way that HCA and the online library are integrated and how you access it. Some may be to your liking and others perhaps not. HCA is on a trajectory for major changes over the next years and this is the start.

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 26
The HCA 17 open beta this week is new: Release 17.0.26.

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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