UKs 1st Home Automation Symposium

Smart Home Diary

The weekend of January 9th 1998 and Keith Doxey (aka Krazy Keith) flies into Northern Ireland to meet me for what might perhaps be the UK’s first Home Automation users symposium!! His kind wife (Sharon) had bought him the plane ticket for Christmas and he was staying with us at “Hotel McCall”. A serious “lads” weekend lay ahead.

Keith brought with him a briefcase full of projects he had designed and built to show me. In fact it’s a wonder he ever got on the plane with all that stuff – it look liked a hijackers tool kit 🙂

Keith’s main demonstration was of his new system for transmitting Audio and Video sources over CAT5 cable. I don’t want to jump the gun here as Keith is still developing this system but suffice to say it was very impressive! Keep an eye on the Krazy Keith website for news on this system.

Also in “Keith’s Magic Briefcase” was a little circuit to decode the DTMF signals produced by touch tone phones. The board received the tones and then output the corresponding number in binary format using four lines. These lines could be connected to the HomeVision’s digital inputs to give you control of your home via any telephone. Another possible use would be to log all outgoing calls that are dialed.

While Keith was over we also made a few changes to the HomeVision set-up. My HomeVision has sat opposite my AV equipment since I got it so it could control the separates using it’s IR emitter on the font panel. I wanted to move it to the AV rack but when I did it would not operate the TV correctly as it was then out of range. I had a Xantech mini-emitter which Keith kindly soldered a 330 Ohm resistor in series to allow it to be plugged directly into the back of the HomeVision. This mini-emitter sticks straight onto the IR window of the TV. So now the HomeVision is on the AV rack with the rest of the equipment. We also made a change to the video output of my AV amp. It’s now routed into the “Video In” on the HomeVision. Then the “Video Out” is sent to the TVs SCART. Now all the video text output by HomeVision is overlaid onto the TV picture!

I had bought a new video a couple of months ago as my trusty Akai had bitten the dust after seven years constant use. The new Thompson unit (while having a plethora of features – including NTSC record!) did not have a RF output. This meant I couldn’t watch the video on all the TVs in the house as I had been able to with the Akai. Anyway – another one of Keith’s specialties is Satellite and he knew my Pace 508IP could help with the problem. After trying several different ways we now route the output of the video (via its second SCART) into one of the inputs on the Pace. Now we can choose either to have the Pace modulate its own satellite picture or that of the video to the rest of the TVs in the house.

The last change we made was one of the best. I had recently acquired a maxi-controller for my beside which gives me 16 house codes to play with. First of all we taught the HomeVision the IR codes for the Pace satellite receiver. We then wrote a couple of tiny macros. B9 ON now sends a “channel up” command to the satellite tuner and B9 OFF sends “channel down”. Viola – reliable control of the satellite receiver from the bedroom. (I was using the X-10 Powermid for my IR from the bedroom but sometimes it can be a bit of a “black art” to line it up so it works all the equipment) I’ve also added a line to my bedtime macro that switches the Satellite receiver to channel 87 (Radio 5 Live) which I listen to in bed. B10 ON is mapped to switch between modulating the Satellite or the Video output.

This man is very handy! I wonder will he come back and help with the wiring of the new house?

Of course the weekend was not all Home Automation! On Saturday night we went to the early showing of “Starship Troopers” (which I can heartily recommend if you’re into that sort of thing) which left us plenty of time for the Pub. The rest of the weekend consisted of Ulster Frys, Chinese food and lots of bottles of beer. All in all a very enjoyable weekend. I wonder if we could make it an annual event 🙂 Thanks Keith!

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