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Home Control Assistant Newsletter for May 1 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
Self Help
The last few weekly messages discussed some of the possible transition options about HCA even though we still have a lot of time left. But the Insteon situation has gotten quite a few of you “spooked”. So, I thought this week I would offer up a few ideas on how you can be ready to sort out problems by yourself. What follows are some of the most common reasons users reach out to me.

My computer died, so now what?
First, make sure you have a download of the HCA installer! I don’t have a count, but I have received many emails with the same story: “My hard drive died and I need to get a new HCA install”.

This is easy to do: Just go to the support website current page. Enter your registration code in the online form, press the Submit button and the resultant page has a download link and your password. I strongly recommend you buy a cheap UPB drive and store on it the zip file and all the parts of your HCA design. Also create a text file (yes, Notepad is still a useful Windows tool) and save in it the password to the zip file and your registration code. If your computer does die, you can restore HCA with what you have on that USB drive. And do this TODAY. Do not wait.

Support website:

https://www.homecontrolassistant.com/current.php

Also, give a read to this technical note on how to find all the parts of your HCA design that you need to save:
https://www.homecontrolassistant.com/download/Doc/TechNotes/TechNote_124_BackupAssistant.pdf


Alexa or Google Assistant stopped working, now what?
This one also comes up periodically. I created a technical note that gives step-by-step instructions on how to figure out where the problem is, so no need to repeat it here.

https://www.homecontrolassistant.com/download/Doc/TechNotes/TechNote_131_AlexaSelfHelp.pdf


Something isn’t working, now what?
Unfortunately, too many support requests start off without being very specific. Often I’m only told that “HCA has stopped working”. Not very helpful. When I probe a bit, I hear things like these: Clients can’t connect to the HCA server. Devices are no longer being controlled. HCA won’t start. And the list goes on. The first step is always not to panic. If something worked on one day and then didn’t work the next day, then something has changed. Since you probably didn’t install a new version of HCA you better look elsewhere. Like a three-headed beast you must investigate Windows, Network, and Security. Here is what I suggest.

First, restart your computer. Then make sure that HCAserver3.exe (the “HCA Server”) and HCA.exe are NOT executing. If you are using one of those programs that checks for an application to be working, and if it finds it isn’t running then restarts it, you should disable that “crash watch” program.

Now start HCA.exe and while you do that hold down the keyboard “Shift” key – left or right it doesn’t matter. When you do that this popup appears:




Press the “Yes, Go ahead” button. Now HCA.exe has started but all the normal startup stuff isn’t being done. Your file isn’t loaded at this point and that’s what you want because you can access HCA Options if you need to.

Note that even if you normally use HCA in client-server mode you really should do this. Client-Server adds much complexity and by starting with HCA in standalone mode you eliminate that complexity. This way you can see if HCA loads your file and see if your interfaces connect. In HCA options you can review all the client-server configuration options before you try and use it. Don’t skip this step!

Now that HCA is running, load your file. HCA should do that and then connect to all your defined interfaces. If an interface doesn’t connectand you get an error, then start looking there. If you think one of the interfaces may be a problem, then remove the configuration for that one and start HCA again.

Once HCA has loaded your file and connected to the interfaces you should try controlling something. See what is and isn’t working. Sometimes interfaces stop working due to hardware problems.

Why have we done this? This eliminates all potential client-server issues. If all this works, then we know that HCA can start, your file is valid, and interfaces operate.

Next, if you want to use client-server you must shutdown HCA (File-Shutdown, not File-Exit) and then start the HCA Server. Now load your file. Again, see what is and isn’t working. Have some signal generated in your home and see if HCA responds or wait for a schedule entry to happen. Finally, start HCA.exe and connect to the HCA server.

This is where many problems happen as your network is used to connect the server to clients. Many items in your network really try and prevent stuff like this. Windows has a firewall, anti-virus programs try and stop this, your network router can stop this, and then list goes on. If you are having problems here, there isn’t much I can do because client-server works for many and if it doesn’t work for you then it is something on your computer or network stopping it. 

There are only three tips I can give, and they may not be worth much. First, review the “getting started with client-server” guide on the support website. It has step-by-step procedures for setting things up and it would be a good idea to use that as a guide on what to look for. Second, always check IP addresses to see if something changed. Third, if all else fails, install HCA on a different Windows machine and see if in configuring HCA on that machine maybe you see something wrong on the other machine.

The best advice I can give is to proceed in an orderly manner changing one thing at a time and not “combining steps”.

I do not have a magic wand to fix these issues. I’ve just given you all the help I can in these proceeding paragraphs, so please don’t ask for my help expecting me to have the answers. As much as I would like to wave that magic wand, I can’t.


Support is unavailable, now what?
Sometimes, as this whole HCA project is ending, I may not be available to answer your questions as fast as you would like, so look on the web site. There are lots of technical notes and a big FAQ. Want to know how to configure HCA for sending email? How to create programs that act as devices? How to set up a Geo-Fence? How to create more complex “Parameterized programs”? There are technical notes on all these topics. Look there and you will find many of your questions are already answered.


Technical Noteshttps://www.homecontrolassistant.com/tech-notes.php
FAQ: https://www.homecontrolassistant.com/faq.php
If you are using HCA with UPB devices and also use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice control of them, please drop me a note as there are some developments you may be interested in.
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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