Home Control Assistant Newsletter for June 28

Have you looked over the version 16 release notes? Lots of changes that you can incorporate into your designs right away.

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Why upgrade?
About one or twice a week I get a question that goes like this: “I’m using version X, should I upgrade to the current version”? And I answer with a shorter version of this, but here is the full deal.

There are several reasons to always upgrade when a new version is released.

First, there are a lot of interesting features in each new version. I work with a lot of software packages and sometimes the “major” versions don’t seem so “major” to me. If you look at the
version 16 release notes it is pages and pages long. Lots of new stuff. And you may think “I have what I need now and I don't need anything new” but if you just look a bit closer you will see that there are new features that you would like and can use with almost no effort.

Second, there are bug fixes. No software is perfect. We try awfully hard to make sure the software is as bug free as possible. The developers test in their own homes and there are several testers that use it in their homes. But there are always problems and you know it and we know it. Each major version has fixes for what we know about. Do the new features introduce new problems? I will not be a Pollyanna, it sometimes does. But each new version has had increased stability.

Third, while you may not need to change your automation design, the world is changing around you. The biggest “changes all the time” culprit is the Windows OS. But if you use a mobile app, there is Android and iOS too. Plus, all the changes that happen to all the cloud devices like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Sometimes we must respond to the changes they make. And those changes go only into the newest version.

Fourth, developers, and your long-suffering support person, has to eat. The not unreasonable upgrade cost is a small price to pay for keeping HCA working year after year and for unlimited technical support. I’m hard pressed to think of another software package I use that upgrades for less and provides unlimited support.

Fifth, if you get behind it gets harder. If you stay on version X and the new version is X+3 (or older as I have seen), it can be a challenge to integrate the raft of new concepts. We try hard to make sure that each new version loads and executes designs produced by older versions with no or minimal changes. But there are changes that sometimes are unavoidable. If you had kept up there would have been only one or two things to be concerned about but now there are many. I just helped a user upgrade from a much older version and there were some Insteon changes for multi-unit devices that we had to struggle through. Another user going from V13 was confronted with all the cloud changes.

Sixth, as the
upgrade and support policy says, we support the current version and one back but that’s all. Sometimes I get emails from users needing a new install from a version several back. I don’t even have access to the installers for those. So, then they either must do without HCA, or get the upgrade, install it, and then deal with the changes. And why do they need that new install? Probably because they lost the disk in some machine, so they are dealing with that nightmare simultaneously.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. If you are not using HCA 16 today, please upgrade.

Is it light out?
I have wanted since I started with home automation two things. One a room occupancy sensor that doesn’t rely upon motion – still waiting for that – and a light sensor that I can set the level between light and dark. 

For years I have lived with the light/dark output of motion sensors and I have tried them all. Even with ones that are “configurable” I just couldn’t get what I want. 

Light and Dark are a subjective concept beyond the light entering the room. The room wall color, the number of windows and what the view is from them, and the weather are all factors. Weather is important because cloudy days both reduce the amount of light plus, even with the same ambient light in a room, a dreary view out a window makes the room appear darker.

My ideal “sensor” must have some smarts and take into account lots of factors plus be able to reach a different determination for different rooms.

Well I finally have it. I now have several
Aeotec Multi-Sensor 6 devices in my home. They have a light sensor that reports the “lux level” and, because it can be plugged in to USB power, it auto reports as soon as the level changes. One room has lots of windows and white walls. The other has only a single window and blue walls. How did I find the correct lux level for each room? I sat in the room as day turned to night and when I said to myself “If I was reading I would turn on a light”, that was the time I looked at the sensor output and wrote down the lux value.

I created separate programs for each room with a sensor. The program integrates all the subjective factors described above and determines a light-dark indication. For weather, I add 10% to the “below this lux level it is dark” if it is mostly cloudy or rainy.

I did designate one of the sensors as the “whole house” light dark sensor to handle rooms without their individual sensors. That program for that sensor set a global variable to show light or dark and then I configured the Light-Dark settings in Home Properties to use that variable.

Was it worth it? Well, if that was all I wanted then it isn’t inexpensive. Each Aeotec 6 sensor costs $60 and the
Hubitat hub costs $130. But I will be doing a lot more with the Aeotec sensors in those rooms as they also report temperature, humidity – got a good application for that coming soon – and motion. Plus, I’m using the Hubitat hub for other devices as well. Do I wish I had this in a simpler package for less cost (although how it could consider weather and the view from windows, I just don’t know)? Of course, but after all these years, it’s a bargain to me.

Two tips: Don’t get the Aeotec TriSensor. While less expensive and it has a light level sensor, it can’t be USB powered so it doesn’t auto report often. Second, replace wall receptacles with ones that
have USB power outlets. I used them and they work great. This way you don’t lose an outlet from the sensor power adapter.

V17 Open beta now available - beta 14 now available
The HCA 17 open beta thisweek is staying at release of 17.0.16. Want in? 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.
Want to watch instead of read?

If you are interested in watching some videos about how HCA and Insteon can work together, George De Luca, a HCA users of a few years and technology video creator, has started to add HCA videos to his channel. He has a good knowledge of HCA and its ins-and-outs.
His channel can be reached at: While I’ve offered him some thoughts on the videos, his opinions and advice on using HCA are his own. If you have questions about something you see, ask them in the video comment section and you may see a video with an answer.

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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