Friday, September 23, 2016

Netomity - Opensource Home Automation System - .NET / C# / Powershell


Netomity is an extensible device communication and automation system written in .NET and configured via Powershell. It's uses include home automation and lighting control but is certainly not limited to that. It is supported on any platform that support .NET Core ( Windows, Mac OS-X, Linux, etc )


Netomity currently has support for the following hardware interfaces with more planned in the future.



  • Written in .NET / Powershell
  • Local Web access
  • Unique language to describe devices and actions
  • Smart objects: Doors, Lights, Motion, Photocell etc.
  • Optional “Mainloop” programming, for more complicated control
  • Optional “Event driven” programming, for complex actions when a device state changes
  • Time of day on and off control
  • Delays for time off
  • Idle command, device will return to "idle" state
  • Map one command to another with optional source and time
  • Good hardware support with more coming
  • Very easy to add new hardware drivers
  • Much more

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cable (and Optical Media) Free for 4 Years

Our family has been cable free for close to 4 years now and just wanted to share how we did it.   I advocate cloud based technologies in the business and aside from the privacy concerns (which dont get much better with local storage anyway) it has worked out well personally.

It all started when we simply got tired of paying for channels we dont use, paying/leasing for local content storage devices, frustrated with poor quality content and commercials our kids were exposed to, and wondering why content needs to be live when almost 100% of our viewing was DVR'd previously.  We simply wanted entertainment "our way".

While cord-cutting it isnt necessarily either the cheapest or easiest way to get access to content, we are reminded of the quality of entertainment difference when visiting a Cabled friend.  We have access to almost all movies / series / music / YouTube commercial-free, on-demand instantly, curated, beautiful HD quality, and accessible via any device in our house or in our possession. 

It started for us in 2010 with Roku, possibly one of the best initial cord-cutting devices ever produced.   Having convenient access to Netflix on-demand was a huge benefit alone at the time with an unexpected ability to curate the shows made available to our younger daughter via restrictions on the watchlist.   Soon after Amazon instant video augmented our Netflix selection with pay-per-view content that wasnt available anywhere else.  In the months following, we used cable-tv less and decided to give it up completely shortly after.

We now enjoy our Roku and Chromecast boxes on every TV giving us access to Netflix / Amazon VoD / Hulu Plus / Vudu / Ultraviolet / Google Play / NASATVPandora / SmugMug.   

Sports / News / Olympics - Anything that we need to view live or not available via internet content delivery comes over Broadcast HDTV.   We simply use the existing Coax wiring in the house to provide that to all devices that need it.    We watch the news every morning, saw most of the Olympics, and watch a few other sporting events on occasion (Football / NASCAR).    If I have the urge to watch something not available, I usually head to a pub and enjoy the event with others ;)

After a week of research I selected the ClearStream 2V  antenna for our Attic.  This simple looking antenna had great reviews and I have to say works extremely well over the 4 years we have owned it.    In north Charlotte we pull in over 30 stations (some even in Greensboro) and the HD quality is absolutely fantastic!    In fact, aside from some BlueRays, watching an NFL game in uncompressed Broadcast HD will blow your mind compared to the compressed mess that is available via TimeWarner.

To setup the antenna direction I initially used a few online services such as AntennaWeb, but found that the easiest method was simply placing the antenna on the rafters, taking a small HDTV upstairs (something similar to this that I got for $50 at target once), and rotating the antenna slowly watching the screen to achieve the best mix of channels I needed.    There are a few stations that I could not pull all in together and thought if I cared that much about Broadcast TV I would eventually purchase an additional antenna and combine them in the attic at a different direction.

In conclusion,  we don't have any media stored locally whatsoever.  We dont even have a DVR, although at times we may have a cached movie on an Android device. 

  • I will mention though that if distributing an antenna to multiple TV's or via long > 40ft distances I would highly recommend using an amplifier as close as possible to the antenna.   You want to get the amplifier close to avoid amplifing noise generated from the long cable run.  I re-used an existing Motorolla Cable Amplifier which surprising works well in the Broadcast HDTV frequency range as well. 
  • It didnt dawn on me till much later after purchasing a few movies from VuDu that you can get them far cheaper by buying the UV codes from various websites such as
  • Old Rokus still support a "BETA" front-end for Netflix which restricts the selection to just movies from your watchlist if you are into content filtering for young kids.  This option is available from the system / netflix screen.
  • Vudu is the only cross-platform (Roku / Android / PC) downloadable movie format of the services I listed.   We tend to buy movies only from here although Google Play is a close second.
  • Get a surge-suppressor for the antenna in case of lightning.  Place it near a ground (green wire) somewhere between the antenna and the point at which it enters the house wiring.
  • You will need approx 4Mbps per TV if watching 1080p simultaneously

Monday, July 1, 2013

Thunderstruck from the Cloud

So there we were enjoying this weeks Family Movie of "Fiddler on the Roof" when all-of-a-sudden a lightning bolt stuck so loud it shook dishes in the house and all our UPS devices cried themselves awake from their year long slumber.     Power was restored after a few seconds, our Roku TV suddenly stopped, I could smell a faint smell of smoke, and thus began our new life without internet.

Needless to say there was a brief moment of panic at the smell of smoke, but years of electrical  experiments led me to recognize the distinct smell of "magic" electrical smoke and calmed everyone down saying that it was probably just a component blown in an electronic device.

I started to take mental inventory of what I thought could go wrong and what was indeed wrong.   I have installed many home automation / av systems spanning almost 15 years and learned long ago to install a whole house Surge Suppressor  everywhere I go.   Other than the a temporary (I thought) knock-out of the Roku nothing else seemed awry.

I assumed we would survive the experience unscathed, but the lingering smell of burnt capacitors was telling me otherwise.  I headed to my AV closet where I then saw my Ubuntu Server Monitor with a "disconnected icon" on the tray indicating something terrible has happened with my wired network.  I glanced at my primary gigabit switch and found the link lights pulsating with weird levels of intensity that I had never seen before indicating this one has seen its last days.  Following the path I looked at the Asus RTN-16 router no longer indicated any ethernet link lights.   Going a little further noticed the Timer Warner Ubee modem was completely dark without a single glowing indicator of life and a faint trail of smoke rising from its vent.  Overall, I was surprised to see that the surge could travel from the Coax into and across my CAT5 network destroying everything in its path.

With the knowledge now that lightning had entered my house via the Coax cable carrying my internet signal, I was still puzzled as to how it got around ground block located in the service box.  Well the next morning I found the answer to that question real quick.   The cable running from the service box into the house was obviously added (not to code) by the previous home owners as it ran along the edge of the house, behind a gutter, and into a crawlspace vent.   Upon inspection of this coax wire I found that were it had touched the gutter it was a fusion of exploded metal and charred plastic.  Evidently the lightning must have struck the gutters / water in them and decided to make the leap into my Coax to get to ground.  
I re-ran a new RG6 line from the service panel into my electrical closet, bought a new cable modem, replaced the switches and router, however, the signal strength isnt good enough to link up now.  This is indicating to me that something may have happened beyond the service box on my house.   Feeling defeated I called TW for a service appointment which by now is already booked out till Sunday evening.

It made me realize just how much of our life was on the cloud now: No Internet, No VoIP home phone, No Streaming TV service, No Movies, No Music, and No online gaming.   At least our board and card games still work ;)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beautiful Flying Robot

Just wanted to share what I consider to be an amazing effort of robotics.   The robotics researchers at UMD have perfected the ability to fly a self-contained robot using mechanics of real birds.

I have been watching various groups over the years experimenting with similar designs that either could only flap their wings in tandem or prototypes that were attached to an external power source.

Watching other birds in the video interacting with it is truly impressive!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hybrid and Electric Cars -- Are they worth it?

Since the introduction of Hybrid cars in the US market with the Honda Insight in 1999 and release of plug-in electric car GM Impact EV1 in 1996, I have long considered the benefits of owning one.   The promise and perception of high MPG and helping the environment has been extolled for years since.  Does this really add up to being beneficial to owning one?

Fuel Savings (aka Save me money):

In order to understand the fuel savings we need to factor both the initial and recurring costs of operating the car.   Lets model out two choices available on the market today for my 50 mile daily commute:

  • Chevy Volt
    • MSRP: $39,995
    • Recurring:
      • Cost per day: 
      • Cost per year:
        • $3 * 5days * 52 weeks = $780.00
  • Hyundai Veloster
    • MSRP: $17,999
    • Recurring:
      • Cost per day:
        • 50 gas miles = $3.70 @ 31 Mpg = $5.96
      • Cost per year
        • $5.96 * 5 days * 52 weeks = $1550
    • MSRP: $22,000
    • Recurring: $770/year
Obviously the plug-in EV gets better recurring costs, but factor in the initial price difference of $22,000 and I would need to drive the Chevy Volt for over 28 years to start saving money!

Environmental Impact:

According to Wiki North Carolina electricity comes from 62% coal fired plants, so lets look at the environmental impact for both of the cars listed above:

Volt 21,070Kg  vs Veloster 5,400Kg for the year == Shocking isnt it!  The car obviously burning fossil fuel is far less harmful to our environment.


I am publishing this out to the internet in order to get feedback to help catch any errors in my logic and will happily adjust anything that is brought up.   However it seems quite clear that buying a PlugIn Hybrid car in NC is a huge logical mistake.

Interesting Reading:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

ToneMatrix - Mini Flash Web Sequencer

Just stumbling around the WWW this morning and ran across this cool little Flash based audio sequencer called "ToneMatrix" created by Andre Michelle:

A melody that I created this morning:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pytomation 1.0 Released

We are pleased to announce the 1.0 release of Pytomation.

Pytomation is an extensible open source automation system written in Python. It's uses include home automation and lighting control but is certainly not limited to those functions.

Pytomation features include:
        - Written in Python (Multiplatform)
        - REST API
        - Unique language to describe devices and actions.
        - Smart objects: Doors, Lights, Motion, Photocell etc.
        - Regular python programming in Mainloop for more complicated control.
        - Easy interface to web browsers and other technology.
        - Time of day on and off control.
        - Delays for time off.
        - Idle command, device will return to "idle" state.
        - Map one command to another with optional source and time.
        - Good hardware support with more coming.
        - Very easy to add new hardware drivers.
        - Local Telnet and Web access.
        - Good documentation complete with examples.
        - Much more.

Pytomation currently has support for the following hardware interfaces
with more planned in the future.

        - Insteon / X10 (2412N, 2412S)
        - UPB (Universal Powerline Bus) (Serial PIM)
        - JDS Stargate (RS232 / RS485)
        - Weeder Digital I/O board (Wtdio/RS232)
        - W800RF32 X10 RF receiver (W800/RS232)
        - Arduino Uno, digital and analog

        - Z-Wave (Aeon Labs) DSA02203-ZWUS
        - CM11 X10 control
        - Others as requested.

Download links and documentation are at the bottom of the web page.
Please use the mail list for help at  this time, information about
subscribing can also be found on the home page.

Downloads, docs and mail lists

Cheers and enjoy.