Our final installment in the HOW-TO Build a Home Automation Server series delves into the software that is available to make your home come to life. The first installment provided an overview of building such a system, and we covered much of the recommended hardware for such a system in the second installment. As mentioned previously, the brain of this system is a clever piece of software called Indigo (see inset).

With Indigo, you first define all of the X10 components that have been installed in and around your home: sensors, motion detectors, lamp modules, appliance modules, door chimes, and on, and on. Next, you define what you want to happen with each device and when. These actions occur because of one of two types of triggers: time/date matches or external triggers. For Time/Date Actions you define (1) a Time/Date Trigger, (2) a Condition, and (3) an Action. The Time/Date trigger can be a specific time, or a time within so many minutes of sunrise or sunset, or a repetitive time every so many hours or minutes. The date can be one or more days of the week, a specific date, or every day. Conditions let you limit actions to only during daytime or nighttime or based upon the value of a certain variable which you also can control. An Action can be either turning a specific device on or off, dimming a light, executing a combination of predefined actions, setting a variable, executing an Applescript, or sending an e-mail. All of these events can be randomized within a specified range of minutes or hours. As you can see the flexibility is virtually limitless. Finally, all Indigo actions can be enabled for use from two other pieces of software: Ovolab Phlink and Salling Clicker. Phlink is a complete telephony server for your Mac. Salling Clicker lets you control many Mac functions including Indigo using almost any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone.

The other powerful component of Indigo is Trigger Actions. Instead of a time and date, these actions are programmed to take place when a specific triggering event occurs. Triggering events include motion detection, darkness or daylight detection, power failure, device state change, receipt of an X10 command, receipt of an email message containing certain letters or words in the subject or received from a particular email address, or a change in the value of an Indigo variable. As with other actions, you can specify conditions for these actions which must be met, and you can define what actions or combinations of actions occur when the condition is met. As mentioned in the first installment, Indigo also can be used to download most of its actions and triggered actions into a PowerLinc Controller which obviates the need to have an always-on computer to manage your Home Automation System.

The only real limitation to Indigo is your imagination. If you’re not that imaginative, then you might want to visit the Indigo online forum which has hundreds of tips and suggestions to get you started. In addition, there is a voluminous script library that supports Indigo, Phlink, and Salling Clicker functions as well as a web interface to virtually all Indigo functions and controls. We’ll save an in depth discussion of Ovolab Phlink and Salling Clicker for next week, but these two software products will make your Home Automation Server something that no PC on the planet can rival … at any price.

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This article has 2 comments

  1. This is awesome

    You do a great job of explaining, and are very informative.

    I do have a question, How do you control the Mac mini from a PDA. (http://www.xlobby.com)

    Example
    1. You come home at night. The driveway sensor tells the Mac mini to turn on certain lights and appliances.
    driveway sensor can also be used for intruder alert
    2. You sit down on your couch, and want to turn off some light that has been inadvertently or purposely turned on. How can you use a PDA to turn this off.

    This might be for the Media Center
    Also with this PDA can you tell the mini Mac with a air port extreme card, and your itunes library to output audio to your stereo located in the living room. This is where you would have a airport express card.
    And just to let you know I could not get a divx HD, or Nero digital HD (H.264) to play on the 1.42GHz PowerPC G4 512MB DDR333 SDRAM. It was very close to playing and I really think a bump in RAM to 1Gig would play.

    [WM: Haven’t been keeping up with the PDA marketplace since I got a Treo 650 smartphone, but … to do this on my Treo or any other smartphone or PDA with Bluetooth, all you need is Salling Clicker. Take a look at their site which explains how to do the couch potato-type stuff as well as how to create Media Center magic tricks with Squeezebox or Airport Express.]

  2. Thank you for all the information. It’s allot of work to write all this stuff and help people out. I really appreciate it. You write in a way that is easy to understand and you’re very detailed in your research and planning too. This helps avoid mistakes. By the way, Radio Shack sells X-10 compatible stuff as well … This is how I found out about it years ago.