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Friday, 30 November 2012

New Home Automation App for Windows 8 and Micasaverde Vera

One of our favourite developers Martin Millmore of Millesoft has been busy lately, Ian recently wrote about a new Tunerfree app for Windows 8 and Windows RT now Martin has released a Windows 8 & Windows RT app for Vera Home Automation called Home Controller.
You can see the app on the Microsoft site here.

For those of you that don’t know Vera and VeraLite are low powered router type devices which act as the primary controller for your Z-wave Home Automation devices. The one user interface that has been missing for Vera is a Windows desktop application. Home Controller has a free 7 day trial and is priced at $5.99.

You can find the thread on the Micasaverde forum for Home Controller here. Which is where you should post your feedback.

Millesoft also have a Home Automation add-in for Windows Media Center called Power Controller MCE.

Home Controller for Windows 8 & Windows RT:


Home Controller is the premier home automation controller for Windows 8. It works with the MiCasaVerde Vera home automation server to allow you to take control of your whole house from one easy to use screen. Bring all of the power of the MiCasaVerde controller to your screen, to control your Z-Wave devices where ever you are.
We are so confident that you will love this software that you can try it out for free for 7 days, then buy a license at the special introductory price!

Supports the following devices:

Dimmer Switches
Heating and Cooling controls
Window covers
Humidity sensors
Temperature sensors
Light sensors
Power meters
and any other devices controlled using the same protocols.
Also features auto local/remote switching, and supports accounts with multiple Vera servers.

  • Z-Wave control
  • MICasaVerde Vera integration
  • Home automation

If you are interested in purchasing a MicasaVerde Vera Z-wave system or any Z-wave home automation devices, or are looking for a consultant to help you with your own project, you can contact me as I am an authorised dealer and can supply to you these products at slightly cheaper prices than the main UK Z-wave online stores.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Major mControl update coming soon

Products - mControl Banner

Via Embedded Automation - We are setting up to release a major revision and it includes the following: Release date is scheduled for 1st week of December.

• Major Feature added – 24/7 Surveillance system:
• Continues recording of IP cameras
• RTSP camera support • H.264 MP4 recording of all camera
• Transcoding of mpeg/mjpeg camera to h.264 MP4
• Camera streaming to clients enhanced
• Steaming playback of recordded surveillance video
• Simplified scheduler to setup recording
• URL Rewrite Authentication/Authorization
• Added persistence setting for drivers
• Added logic for notifications for Email/SMS:
• Added central location for SMTP and SMS settings
• Added support for multiple email/SMS account notification
• Added custom body and subject to email/SMS action
• Added email/SMS forwarding camera url action for quick view
• Added support for TekMar - A high efficiency HVAC system
• Added Simplified Chinese support
• Added EnOcean support – wireless lighting and sensor protocol
• Room controller
• Low voltage control
• Light sensors
• Temperature sensor
• Door/Window sensors
• Occupancy sensors
• Thermostats
• Other combination devices
• Enhancements:
• Added Zwave locks through VeraLite
• Windows and door sensors support through VeraLite
• Fix Thermostat through VeraLite

and other minor bug-fixes.

I am interested in the VeraLite additions and fixes, hopefully these will resolve the issues I reported to mControl support.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

How to control Vera Z-wave devices and run Vera scenes from the command line .CMD

In my last post I looked at integrating mControl with VeraLite. The next thing I wanted to setup was to be able to control Z-wave devices associated with Vera and run scenes that I’d setup in Vera via the command line on the Windows 7 Home Theatre PC.


Why control Vera Z-wave devices and scenes from the command line you may ask? So I could program my Logitech Harmony universal remote control to be able to run these .CMD files with a little help from AutoHotKey installed on the HTPC. So for example I have added additional custom buttons to the Harmony remote’s LCD screen for my Watch Movies activity, so I can control the lights in the room via the Harmony remote at the click of a button.

The way that this works, is you teach your Harmony remote a keyboard command like Ctrl+Alt+A you then have an AutoHotKey script on the HTPC that waits for this keyboard command, once detected the script runs your .CMD file that sends a HTTP request to Vera to do something, like turn on a light. You can read more about setting up AutoHotKey and programming the Harmony remote on a previous post here. Scroll down the blog post and look for the part entitled: Logitech Harmony remote control.
Below is an example of what’s in the AutoHotKey script:

IfWinExist Untitled - Left Lamp On
    Run C:\Lights\Run-CMD.vbs C:\Lights\Lounge-On-Left.cmd

Getting started:
You will need to install and setup Wget on your HTPC first. I installed wGet on to my Windows 7 HTPC, I also had to add the path of where wget.exe is located which on my x64 PC was C:\Program Files (x86)\GnuWin32\bin in to the Windows Environment Variables PATH. To do this right click Computer from the start menu and select properties, then select Advanced System Settings and the Environment Variables button, under system variables scroll down to PATH click Edit and add in the path to wget.exe be sure to separate with ;

So now you have setup Wget you can look at creating some Vera HTTP commands.

Turning a Z-wave device on and off

Here is an example HTTP command which turns on my Lamp (Left) device in my living room. You need to know what your DeviceNum is?

wget --delete-after ""

There are two ways to work out the device number, you can go to the Vera UI in a browser find the device in question, click the spanner icon and then go to the settings tab. You can see that this Lamp (Left) device is ID 3 and DeviceNum=3 in the above HTTP string to turn on this device.


The second method of listing the ID numbers for all your devices and scenes in Vera is to use the URL below, which displays a page of XML with all the information in it. Change IP-Address for the internal IP address of your Vera box.


This example HTTP command turns off the Lamp (Left) device:

wget --delete-after ""


SetTarget&newTargetValue=0 = OFF

SetTarget&newTargetValue=1 = ON

To test your Vera HTTP commands you can just run them in a browser and the Z-wave device should respond. Obviously you need to change the IP address to the IP address of your own Vera unit.

Once you have confirmed that they work you can create the .CMD files and just paste in the whole HTTP command. I won’t tell you how to create a new .CMD file as you should know how to do that. If you double click the .CMD file the HTTP command should be sent to Vera and the Z-wave device respond.

Run a Vera scene

In this example we are going to look at a HTTP command to run a scene in Vera. Again first you need to know the scene number of the particular scene you would like to create your .CMD file for. My scene is called “Lounge On” if I look at the scene in Vera I can see its number is = 1


Or if I look at the XML code from the URL I mentioned above, I can see this:

<scene active="0" name="Lounge On" id="1" room="1"/>

So now I know the ID number of the scene I want to create a .CMD file for, I can use the HTTP command below, note I have the number 1 at the end: RunScene&SceneNum=1 If my scene had an ID of 5 I would change this to be RunScene&SceneNum=5 etc.

HTTP Command to run a Vera Scene:

wget --delete-after ""

So what I ended up with was folder on the HTPC with all my .CMD files in it to run various scenes and turn on/off various devices.


If you want to know more about how to setup AutoHotkey and program your Harmony remote control to be able to run these .CMD files then as I already said you need to read my previous post here. Ignore all the stuff about mControl Soap commands and the Amulet voice remote, the part you need to follow is entitled: Logitech Harmony remote control.


Using the command line with your Home Theatre PC to send HTTP requests to your Vera Home Automation box, enables you to use your programmable universal remote control like a Logitech Harmony, to turn on and off Z-wave devices and also enables you to run scenes in Vera. When setup correctly it works perfectly and at the touch of a button on your remote control you will be able to initiate pretty much anything you have configured in Vera. Why spend extra money on a Z-wave compatible remote control? When you can program your existing Harmony remote to control Vera via your HTPC.

Here is a photo of my Logitech Harmony’s LCD screen with some custom buttons to control Z-wave devices like my lights and fireplace.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Home Automation with Windows Media Center (mControl V3) integrated with VeraLite

I recently purchased a Micasaverde VeraLite Z-wave home automation gateway device, this is a small low powered router like box that becomes the primary controller of your wireless Z-wave network. Z-wave devices are things like plug-in lamp and appliance modules, replacement wall light switches, door contact sensors and PIR motion sensors, sirens, smoke alarms, key fobs and hand held controllers and more. VeraLite can control all of these types of Z-wave home automation devices, you have unlimited options for scenes, rooms, timers, events and notifications. You can read more about Vera3 and VeraLite here.

mControl by Embedded Automation is an excellent PC based home automation software suite similar to products like HomeSeer. Embedded Automation also offer a low powered embedded device called mStation, which unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to try out.
I have been using the mControl software for a few years now and recently upgraded from version 2.1 to their latest version 3. mControl is more comprehensive than Vera as, it can control many more types of home automation systems and devices. Some information from the mControl product page:

mControl v3 is the next generation of Embedded Automation's award-winning Digital Home Software platform. In addition to providing all of the features and functionality of mControl v2, mControl v3's platform provides many new advancements:
  • Built-in support for Embedded Automation's mBee line of ZigBee wireless technologies
  • mControl Editor - universal browser-based configuration and administration interface
  • Advanced surveillance with N-up camera display - allowing real-time streaming of standard and hi-definition IP cameras (using popular streaming standards)
  • Native iPad/iPhone App - free download from the Apple App Store mRemote (with Module Maker) - integrated remote control interface with device editor allows integration of virtually any serial, IP or infrared (IR) device
  • Enhanced mobile user interface - optimized for smart phone browsers
  • Data Logging infrastructure - captures history of status and events for analysis and when used with Embedded Automation's mChronicle utility, allows data to be sent to cloud databases for advanced analytics and charting
  • Enhanced database allows for device and macro reuse, and nested zones
  • RESTful API provides a simplified method for building apps around the mControl engine
  • Many other core and driver enhancements ... more to come
For home owners, mControl v3 provides unrivalled value for home monitoring and control - without expensive and awkward plans. mControl v3 also provides our partners a scalable platform for advanced solutions. From making your personal home a better place or deploying an energy management solution to a range of homes, mControl v3 is the foundation for the Digital Home.

The reason why I got in to using mControl is because of their brilliant Windows Media Center MCML add-in. This allows you to control your home from all the TV screens in the house. When I changed my primary Z-wave controller to VeraLite I was keen not to lose this functionality, I did try to integrate my existing mControl V2.1 installation with Vera but I came across some issues that I was unable to resolve, Embedded Automation support recommended I should upgrade to V3 and now everything is working. I have to say the guys at the Embedded Automation are very good and always answer my questions, which is more than I can say for the support at Micasaverde which seems to be lacking and I did not always receive a response from them and when I did it wasn’t that helpful. The upside is that the Vera user forums are much more active than the mControl ones and the expert users on the Vera forum are great and really helped me out with setting up my Vera installation.
    First we will take a look at the mControl Media Center add-in that I see on my TV screens and then I will discuss how I integrated VeraLite with mControl.
    It is possible to run scenes that have been configured in Vera from the mControl user interfaces, this screen shot shows some of the Vera scenes I have added in to mControl for example Goto Bed, Arm Doors and Disarm doors, when I click Run on one of these, mControl sends a HTTP command to the Vera box for it to run the scene.


    I am also able to control Z-wave PIR sensors via the mControl interface, remember all these Z-wave devices are associated with the VeraLite box as the primary Z-wave controller, yet using the mControl Vera Luup Driver we can still use the mControl interface and have it send HTTP commands to the Vera box to control these devices and scenes. On this screen shot you can see I can Arm and Disarm my porch PIR sensor and the current status of that sensor is displayed. I can also turn on and off the Porch light which connected to a Z-wave wall switch module.


    This is the Living Room zone, the lamps are connected to Z-wave plug-in dimmer modules and the electric fireplace is connected to a plug-in appliance module. The scenes you can see in this screen shot (Lounge On, Dim Lounge 75, Dim Lounge 50, Dim Lounge 25) are actually scenes I have created in mControl Editor rather than scenes that are in VeraLite, but most of my scenes are now configured and setup in VeraLite rather than in mControl.


    Kitchen zone, in here I have a Z-wave dimmable wall switch connected to the main ceiling lights, I also have a plug-in Z-wave appliance module connected to my LED lighting that is in the kitchen. See my previous LED Lighting project posts for more about that! You can also see a Patio Door sensor, this is a Z-wave door contact sensor that can be armed and disarmed, if the door is opened whilst the door sensor is armed a Z-wave siren in the house will sound off at 90DB. Also if it’s night time when the armed door is opened, all the lights inside and outside the house will automatically turn on, I also receive email notifications for events such as these. Again you can see more mControl created scenes (Kitchen On, Dim Kitchen 75, Dim Kitchen 50).


    One new development since using VeraLite is that using a Foscam add-in for Vera I am now able to use the motion detector on the outdoor Foscam IP camera and trigger scenes in Vera upon motion. This means I have a new Camera Sensor device showing, I was unable to do this with mControl. On this screen shot you can see an appliance module for the LED lighting in the garden, the Security Camera which the live feed can be viewed on the TV screen, and the new Camera Sensor device which can be armed / disarmed.


    Master bedroom, not much going on in here, just a plug-in dimmable lamp module.


    Likewise in the Kids Bedroom.


    Activities – These scenes or macro’s as they are called in mControl are all scenes created using the mControl Editor rather than in VeraLite.


    Here’s a few screen shots of the new mControl V3 mobile webpage:

    There does seem to be some limitation with the mControl Vera Luup Driver here, as you can see below there are no buttons to Arm or Bypass security sensors, but I can do this in mControl for Windows Media Center no problem. Hopefully Embedded Automation can resolved this.




    Embedded Automation as of mControl V3 now have native iOS applications for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

    One thing to note if you are an existing mControl V2.1 user with mPanels, mControl V3 does not support mPanels and my desktop software mPanel has stopped working.

    mControl V3 – VeraLite integration

    I previously had installed mControl V2.1 on to my WHS V1 server, that version of mControl had a proper WHS add-in for the console. Version 3 of mControl no longer supports WHS console and therefore I have lost the WHS Console add-in for mControl. This is not a big deal however. The new mControl V3 applications are based on SilverLight so they open in the browser now.


    mControl Editor

    The mControl Editor is used to setup and configure mControl, this is where you can created your zones (rooms), configure mRemote which is a software remote control, IP Cameras, Devices, Macros (scenes) and more.


    mControl Service Manager

    The service manager is where you setup and configure drivers. You can see from the screen shot below mControl and control allot of different systems, like Rako, Lutron, Somfy, ELK alarms panels, Insteon and more.

    Before I got my VeraLite unit, mControl was being used as the primary Z-wave controller using the Z-wave Controller driver and an Aeon Labs Z-stick 2 USB dongle. Since VeraLite is now my primary Z-wave controller I have no need to use the Z-wave Controller driver in mControl and I have sold my Aeon Labs Z-stick.


    What I am using now in the mControl Services Manager is the Vera (Luup) Driver and I will take a look at this now and how you set this up. You can see the Vera Luup Driver is using HTTP to send requests to the primary Z-wave controller aka the VeraLite box. I am also using the WMC (Windows Media Center) Controller, this allows me to automatically dim and brighten lights when I play / pause video content in Media Center but that’s another blog post I think.


    If you click to Configure the Vera Luup Controller you will see this dialogue. All you need to do in here is specify the internal IP address of your Vera box and then save and restart the mControl Server service.


    We can now start adding devices and scenes in to mControl, but first we need to get a list of these devices and scenes that are already setup in the Vera. To do this enter this URL in to your browser, where the IP address is the IP of your Vera / VeraLite box.


    You will then see a page with XML code, from this page you can find the ID numbers of the devices and scenes in Vera, so for example I am going to add a device in to mControl for my Lamp (Left) in the living room. If I find that device from the XML code, I can see its device ID number is “3”

    <device name="Lamp (Left)" altid="2" id="3" category="2" subcategory="0" room="1" parent="1" status="0" level="0" state="-1" comment=""/>

    Adding a device

    Armed with this information I can now add a new device in to mControl for this lamp. Go to the mControl Editor and click the Devices tab and click the New button, you will then see this dialogue:


    From the Adapter drop down menu select Vera Luup Controller


    Under the Module drop down menu you can select the type of Z-wave device that you are configuring, you can also select scene from here to run a Vera scene. As we are setting up a dimmable lamp module in this example, select Dimmable Light.


    One thing I really don’t like about Vera is the lack of the ability for users to pick and change device icons which is highly frustrating. However you don’t have that problem in mControl, select the desired icon for your Z-wave device, I picked the lamp icon.


    Enter a name for the new device and enter the devices ID number in Vera, as we already established the ID number for this particular lamp module in Vera is 3. You can also adjust the Dim/Bright by % the default is 20%. Click OK to create your first Vera device in mControl.


    The new device is then added to the list of devices. If you select the Zones Associated tab you can then associate this new device to a zone or room. This lamp is in the Living Room so right click the Living Room zone from the pane on the right and select Add Device Shortcut.

    You should be able to test your device from this screen, click the On / Off / Bright / Dim buttons etc does the lamp respond correctly?


    Adding a scene

    To add a new device into mControl that can run a Vera scene, you would do the following:
    First you need to find out what the scene ID number is in Vera? I have an existing scene in Vera called “Lounge On” I now want to create a new device in mControl that can run this scene.
    Use that URL I gave earlier to load that page with the XML code on it, then find the scene from the list. As you can see my “Lounge On’ scene is ID number “1”

    <scene active="0" name="Lounge On" id="1" room="1"/>

    Now from the Devices tab in the mControl Editor select the New button again.
    Again name the device, select Vera Luup Driver, this time under module select Scene, choose an icon and specify the scene number – in this example its “1” Click OK


    The new device to run the Vera scene is then listed under the device tab, again we can associate this device to a zone as before. Test the device by clicking the Apply button to run the Vera scene. The Vera scene should then be executed.


    If I open the mControl Windows Media Center add-in you can see the two new (Test) devices I have just created are now visible in Media Center.



    As you can see for Windows Media Center users mControl is a great product, even for none Windows Media Center users mControl is still a powerful PC home automation system. I am very happy with mControl V3 and glad I upgraded from mControl V2.1 now that the Vera Luup Driver is working properly and this has enabled me to integrate my VeraLite Z-wave network with the mControl user interfaces. I just hope Embedded Automation have plans for an XBMC add-in?

    If you are interested in purchasing a MicasaVerde Vera Z-wave system or any Z-wave home automation devices, or are looking for a consultant to help you with your own project, you can contact me as I am an authorised dealer and can supply to you these products at slightly cheaper prices than the main UK Z-wave online stores.

    Thursday, 4 October 2012

    Add a YouTube TV icon in to Windows Media Center plus YouTube TV setup

    Following on from Ian’s recent post here about a new YouTube TV user interface at I wanted to set this up on my HTPC’s around the house and also configure our Android and iOS mobile devices for use with the Mobile YouTube website, where you can browse YouTube and then select videos via the mobile device and then send them for playback on the HTPC / TV.
    This works pretty well and I am glad I set it up, my wife also agrees and out of all the many audio visual and home automation things I have built in our house, this is the one feature she has said she actually likes LOL. As she can now browse YouTube on her Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 tablet and send her Thai music videos either to the TV in the living room or to the TV in our bedroom, and have the sound play out of the speakers in the room. This is the downside for me though as I am now listening to more Thai music hehe.
    First things you will notice is that does not work in Internet Explorer and you get a YouTube 404 not found page, you have to use Google Chrome on the HTPC. This meant I had to download and install Google Chrome on to each of my HTPC’s as I usually just use Internet Explorer on the HTPC’s.
    Once I had Chrome installed the next thing was to add an icon in to Media Center to launch YouTube TV in the Chrome browser. I just wrote a blog post here about using a utility called Relaunch to do this. So following that guide you can create a new icon in Media Center for YouTube TV as shown in the below screen shot:
    You can download the YouTube .PNG image I used for the icon here from my SkyDrive.
    New YouTube TV tile in Media Center on the Extra’s menu
    OK so now that you have a way to launch YouTube TV from Media Center we will take a quick look at the new YouTube TV user interface.
    Main menu:
    Gaming Menu:
    My Subscriptions:
    My Uploads:
    Search Results:
    As you can see the user interface is pretty nice! And its certainly much better than previous 10 foot UI’s from YouTube like the XL and Leanback ones.
    Now I am going to take a look at some of the setup and settings.
    The first thing you need to do is sign in to your YouTube account
    When you select Sign In you will see the screen below, open another browser tab and go to
    You will then see this page, enter the code in and click Continue.
    You will then see this screen, click Allow Access button.
    You will then see Success! You can now close this browser tab and return to the YouTube TV page.
    You should now be signed in to YouTube TV
    The next thing to do is pair your mobile devices, in our case we have a Samsung Galaxy Tab and an iPod Touch.
    Note: Sending YouTube videos from the Android and iOS YouTube native apps to your HTPC / TV doesn’t seem to be possible. Rather than using the YouTube app you have to use their mobile site instead.
    You will then see this screen, which gives you another code and suggests going to on your mobile device. However I am going to do it slightly differently as I had some issues with the same device getting paired twice and found this to be a better way of pairing your mobile device, read on..
    Now pick up your mobile device and go to the mobile YouTube website. This is the URL for the YouTube mobile website :
    The following screens are taken from the Android tablet:
    Instead of going to as suggested above, I found it better to open on the mobile device, navigate to a video and then click the small TV icon with a play symbol on it, the select + Add YouTube TV
    Now you see this screen, enter the Pair code you were given on the PC and name the TV, i.e. where is this HTPC located in the house? In this example I am pairing the Android tablet to YouTube TV running on the master bedroom HTPC. So I called it “Master Bedroom TV”
    You should then be connected to the TV, in this case the Master Bedroom TV. You can see I can also select to play videos to the Living Room TV as well.
    So now when I pressed play on this video, it did not play locally on the Android tablet, instead it played on the Master Bedroom TV screen. You can see in the above screen shot that you have pause / play / skip controls and you can move the playback slider to jump forwards or backwards in the video.
    Repeat this process for all your mobile devices you wish to pair.
    If you then go back to the YouTube/TV user interface on the PC, in the settings, you can see the number of devices that have been paired. If you click in to this….
    It lists the paired devices you can also disconnect all paired devices from this screen.
    Overall this seems to work very well, you need to first ensure from Windows Media Center you click the YouTube TV icon to launch YouTube TV in Chrome, you can then pick up one of your mobile devices and navigate to the mobile website, I created shortcut icons on the Android and iOS home pages for quick access.
    You then simple browse YouTube on the mobile device and find a video you wish to play, you then click the small grey TV icon with the play symbol in it and you get a menu where you can choose the TV screen to play to and it then plays on that TV and you have some basic transport controls on the mobile device.
    Some times the mobile device does disconnect, if you let the mobile device go to sleep and then turn it on again you may find its disconnected and you have lost your connect, I was using my Regular MCE remote control anyways with the HTPC so I could still pause and play the video in YouTube TV. I’m not sure how you get the mobile device to reconnect to the currently playing video on the TV once the connection has been lost?
    Another problem I don’t like is the videos on the TV never play in proper full screen mode, I always have two grey bars either side as shown below. If I use a mouse I can bring up some other controls at the bottom and there is an icon that looks to be a full screen button but it only changes the grey bars to big black ones instead.
    Also sometimes the mouse cursor stays slap bang in the middle of the TV screen and does not disappear.
    So that’s it, give it a go I think you will like it, its certainly the best YouTube viewing experience we have had on the TV’s and its even better now because we don’t even have to navigate around a YouTube interface on the HTPC which usually sucks, we can do it in the palm of our hands!