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Promotional Freshmeat X10 Firecrackers 165

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the one-more-chance dept.
Paranoid noted that Freshmeat (hi Scoop!) is now doing an x10 Promotional Offer for those of you who missed your chance when we did it. You pay $6 shipping, and you get all the required parts to turn on your house lights from your command line. Or a TCL GUI. I just ordered a set for my gf- these things really rock. I've got my lava lamps rigged up in my room, plus a motion detector in my bathroom so I don't kill myself before I get my contacts in first thing in the morning.
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Promotional Freshmeat X10 Firecrackers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    From what I've seen, these Firecracker things are transmit only. So, you can run around controlling things by banging out commands, but what about reception? Being able to send from a computer has been possible since the early 80s with their CP-290 (little box with 8 buttons on top)...

    I realize this may not seem important at first, but it gives you LOTS of possibilities. Being able to sense darkness and trigger lights all over the place is definitely a Good Thing. It beats the hell out of lat/long daytime calculation too, since those don't always nail your personal definition of "night"... besides, what about days when a storm rolls in and it gets REALLY dark? Or a solar eclipse, you get the idea.

    So, to geek out even more, check out the two way side of the X-10 force and see what you can imagine. How many people can honestly walk up to their house, have a bunch of lights come on (via a motion sensor relay), and say "those things are powered by Linux"?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Electronics Now, August 1999

    Expandable X-10 Controller, Page 31
  • While I haven't recieved my Firecracker kit, I did order one of the ActiveHome kits from them few weeks ago, and part of that days deal was the HawkEye motion sensors. A bit of Linux hacking with perl and the XTEND X10 Linux driver, and I setup a motion-sensing webcam. Whenever there's motion it snaps off an image - could be used as a primative form of security I guess.

    I'm moving shortly, so I'll have to figure out more stuff to do with it all in the new place.

  • Check the latest version - Bottlerocket 0.04b6 has no problems that I can find with dimming or brightening only a single device.
  • They do have modules that talk back (so you can check that they did what you wanted them to) But they cost quite a bit more. Personally, I haven't had any trouble yet with lost signals, and if I do, I'll just send every command twice...
  • I did something similar with my guinea pig cam page [], only I have it set up to control the brightness of the lamp by his cage from the web page.
    I'd rig up something to let people give him treats via the web, but he'd probably explode.
    This X10 stuff is addictive - soon I'll probably have the whole house wired!
  • for what appears to be a totally unrelated reason (I hope) the server I had the static HTML of that page on crashed :-)
    If you want to see the Guinea Pig, try here []...
  • He hasn't seemed to mind the changing light levels.
    Part of the reason I have the light only go up or down one level at a time is to give him time to adjust so he isn't startled. If he starts to look annoyed, then I'll disable the remote control on the light...
    It has been funny to watch how his behavior changes depending on the light level:

    Bright - Stretches out and sleeps (basking?)

    Dim - runs around and eats

    Off - Curls up and sleeps

  • I'm planning on trying to see if the wall switch will control a flourescent light if a normal light is hooked up as well - From reading X10's web page, it looks liek it will either work, or wrech the wall switch unit...
  • I ordered some last time, and they came broken. The controller works sometimes, and the plugin part works all the time, but the lamp part just doesnt work at all. Oh well, least it was only 6 bucks ...
  • Do what I did, go to bigfoot (, and sign up for an address there, then add a procmail filter to delete all mail to that address. (It just forwards the mail to your real address)

  • my HTTPX10 thing that was recently slashdotted... Or maybe I should setup CVS and put all the stuff there?
  • Posted by edinct:

    I took advantage of the X10 promotion at Slashdot and made the misake of giving them my email address. For the next 6 days they sent me the same advertisement every day. Email did not stop it. I needed to call them by telephone to get them to stop.

  • It's used the exact same way as a credit card, except that it deducts straight from your checking account. All the convenience of using a credit card without any of the worries about running up a debt.

    I still have my parents' credit card for emergencies, but for personal use I only have a Visa check card tied right to my account up here at college. Check cards are wonderful things.
  • by echo (735)
    The transciever module is preset to module 1, but DOES accept remote on and off codes.

    The other modules, a lamp module, recieves on off dim and bright codes.

  • That this particular deal isn't any good anyway,

    Followed by:

    because $6 is a good deal for the handheld controller that comes with it

    One or the other please!

    Sure, the 24 hour deals do tend to be more like 24 years, but so what? I ordered one to go with the kit I already have as well. I'm using the new remote and reciever to control xmms. The firecracker will most likely end up in use as well (perhaps as a smart repeater to the other phase of my house wiring.

    At any rate, I got my order within the week with no problems. Perhaps you should cancel the order, and then re-order.

    To be fair, I have heard of occasional handling screw-ups on their part. I guess you're one of them.

  • is incapable of dimming a unique device - it can only dim an entire room of lamps at once.

    You have to send a unit on command followed by the dim/bright command to select a specific unit. The Bottlerocket docs imply otherwise, but that's what it takes.

    Buyer beware: X10 Powerhouse drives this market, and drives it poorly.

    Sadly, your critique is all too accurate. A few next to zero cost improvments would yield a much better product. Check out comp.home.automation, there is occasionally talk there about a project to make a superior X10 like setup based on PIC chips.

    I think the X10 idea could be much improved by making devices ACK their commands, and make them transmit an equivilant command when they are controlled locally. Making all devices capable of reporting their status when interrogated would complete the picture for the protocol.

    I like your suggestion for a wall recptical that screws into the wall. They should also make a lamp socket 'bypass adapter' so a wall mounted controller doesn't have to listen to commands through a hot incandescant filament. (many have complained about lights that will turn on but not off by remote).

    The wall controls on velcro can probably be forgiven since they target retrofiting to an existing house. It would be nice if they made an equivilant unit that mounts in the wall for those who want to do it right though.

  • Credit cards are safer. If someone makes an unauthorized (fraudulant) charge to my credit card, Visa is motivated to investigate and resolve the issue since I still have my money. The question to them is would they would rather be out the money, send me to collections and maybe never see the money, or not pay the person who submitted the charge. It's much cheaper easier, and less risk for them to simply not pay on that charge and let the person who submitted it sue me if they don't like it. (And people commiting fraud probably don't want to go to court)

    With a check card, your account is debited already, the bank is out nothing. It's cheaper for them to do nothing and let you sue the person who submitted the charge if you don't like it.

    I'm not fond of credit debit personally, so I pay the full balance every month. For people who have a credit abuse problem, there's always American Express. With them, the full balance is due every billing.

  • The ActiveHome starter kit has 2-way communication to the computer

    That kit is very useful. Take that, heyu (linux X10 app) a perl script, and xmms and you have a really nice MP3 jukebox w/ remote control.

  • The more expensive modules (such as the Leviton decora wall switches) do transmit local commands.

    Cool! The last I saw, only the SwitchLinc did that, and was not actually shipping. I'm glad to hear that situation has improved. Could you give me model numbers?

    STATUS is as good as an ACK really, since the computer can relay remote commands, and then poll to make sure it happened.

    So much for my major objections.

  • Being a serial port doo-hickey, the firecraker won't be much fun for you, unless you have a DOS card with the optional serial port card.

    There are two X-10 solutions for the Mac.

    1) Mousehouse [] or [] to get the hardware & software from IBM.

    2) XTension from [] or [] for software & hardware.

    Both have CM11a or Lynx X-10 versions and free demos. XTension is $89.95 with a mac cable, Mousehouse is $69.95 plus $10 for a mac cable.

    The XTension website has some great tutorials about X-10 and your Mac.

  • Lets hope this gets moderated up! has two excellent deals right now.
    I got the IBM Home Director Starter Kit for $10. includes RF transceiver/appliance module, 6-in-one RF-remote.. (controls TV, VCR, your lights, plug more), a computer interface (The bi-directional CM11!!) and a light module.
    Also for $15 I got the expansion kit which has 3 light modules, an appliance module (3-prong!), the very cool plug-in controller (Its fast and very reliable) and a wall switch light module.

    Shipping was $4. I ordered mine at 3pm one day and it showed up at my place of work at noon the next day. I was VERY impressed.

    I love it. For $30 its far better and more useful than buying lots of the firecracker deals (which is what I was doing until I found this)

    The IBM kits sort of remove the need for the firecracker kits. The firecracker appliance modules are one-way and they don't respond to on/off commands on the wire. They ONLY take on/off via RF. The only good thing from those kits are the lamp modules.

  • by tgd (2822)
    Need it be said that this is not a special offer? That this deal has been available every day since it was posted on here two weeks ago? That their deals NEVER end "TODAY" as they like to proclaim? That this particular deal isn't any good anyway, because you only get one free X10 module, and more are going to cost you $15 a piece?

    Does it really need to be asked if Slashdot and Freshmeat are getting kickbacks from these obvious advertisements in the guise of stories? Need it be pointed out that articles that have been paid for in magazines are typically identified as such with "PAID ADVERTISEMENT" printed on the page?

    So run, fellow lemmings. Run fast and buy these, because this time they really do mean today's the last day. Yup. Bet the deal won't be there tommorrow.

    I ordered a kit three weeks ago because $6 is a good deal for the handheld controller that comes with it, and I've already got piles of X10 units. Three weeks, haven't seen the item, haven't been able to get anyone on the phone that knows if its been sent, or why it hasn't if it hasn't been sent.
  • by tgd (2822)
    Make up my mind? Maybe state it better. :)

    I meant its not a good deal as a starter set, you can't do much with it. I bought the ActiveHome set with like 12 modules, the multi-remote, motion sensor, etc... about a year ago. This is a good deal at $6, because the handheld unit is a good deal for $6 since I've got all the stuff on it. Not such a good deal if you're just turning on your lava lamp...

    I'm shifting most of my home automation crap over to custom Dallas Semiconductor 1-wire networking... X10 is a nice gimmick, but not being able to query the status of a module sort of limits its use. Plus after replacing the control panel on my window A/C with a bunch of the Dallas 1-wire "transistor"-type devices and a handful of relays, now instead of just turning the A/C on via my voicemail system I can turn it up or down. :)

    Once I get some software able to talk to those nifty Java iButtons, I'll be able to do even more cool stuff. GOtta love 1-wire. :)

  • I used to live in an apartment court. One day I was putting in X10. I stood at the window and hit "all lights on" for each of the house codes A through P, trying to see if anything went on, so that I could avoid using a neighbor's house code. I didn't see any lights go on, but as I hit one house code I heard a loud scream of terror! I guess having a light go on when you think you're alone could be scary.


  • FWIW, every one of these home-automation sales sites has had the most horrid and annoying HTML design; bright clashing colors, badly adjusted fonts, animated crap, etc. It looked a lot like most of the rest of the web, so I assume they're establishing themselves well. :)
  • The serial module won't fit on my serial port because of the way IBM designed this computer. The serial port is too close to the edge of the computer for me to plug in this fat module.

    Now I'm stuck with this stuff I can't seem to use. Any thoughts on how I could fix this without breaking my computer?

    - George
  • I got mine quickly and it works just as advertised. Easy to install. Unfortunately, I have a small apartment with a rolling chair and everything is in easy reach. This was nothing more than a cheap gimmick for me although YMMV. I have my lava lamp connected to it as well as a lamp that I can dim from my computer. Still neat.
  • Well when ordering the product, there was a list of states in which they had presences in, where customers would be charged the tax. Texas was another one.
  • When I first saw this on /., I thought "hey, that's cool!" and ordered one. It took a while to get here (about two weeks) but it finally did, and it performed as advertised. I even decided to buy some more stuff from them (which has NOT arrived yet).

    I *did* get spammed, but I went to their "remove" address, and was promptly removed (look at the bottom of the email.)

    But then I saw the story on slashdot *again* Then I saw it on freshmeat.... which was posted on slashdot... again... I mean, don't you guys think that's enough? It's getting to be pretty blatant advertising. What's the point of that? Not trying to be a jerk, but at this point it's simply not news - it's just an ad.
  • by Booker (6173)
    Well, one thing that may be happening is that you have the transceiver and the lamp module on a different pair of phases in your house. Try putting the lamp module in an outlet which is on the same circuit as the transceiver, and see if that works. If so, then the problem is that you're not getting coupling across the phases. The lamp module should still work on 1/2 your circuits. :) You can fix this with an inexpensive capacitor, see the x10 website for how to do this.

    And for the person with the blinking fluorescent lights, the web site specifically says that these things dont' work with fluorescent, because they need the current path across the filament in an incandescent bulb.

    Granted, none of this stuff was in the instructions that came with the modules... but Linux folk are supposed to be good at ferreting information from the net! :)
  • Yes, it is a horrible website, and it is damn near impossible to find what you're looking for. And you gotta love the porn-star babes on the banner ads, eh? :) But... eventually... the information is there.
  • A couple people were complaining that this only served the US/Canada market... this is probably because there are different power standards in various parts of the world.

    However, I found a page (in the netherlands) which explains some of this, and gives tips for modifying the modules to work on 220V. All disclaimers apply, and the site is here [].

  • Well, for one, the modules I received don't have the CE Mark, so they couldn't be sold in the EU.... even if they'd work with the power distribution system over there.
  • The problem is not so much with multiple circuits, but with different phases. Three wires come into your house, let's call them A B and C. All of your 120V circuits are either across A and B, or B and C. If you put your transceiver on an AB circuit, and the lamp module on a BC circuit, it may not work. There are ways around this, and sometimes it works just fine anyway. Look on the support page on - hard to find, but they explain it pretty well.
  • All but the newest Macs have serial ports, actually they have two (neither one encumbered by a mouse).

    So, all I need is a DB-9 to Mac serial adapter and I'm good to go. Until then, I'm having fun with the remote (my 'cracker came in yesterday's mail).

    I really like the replacement outlets they have at Rat Shack. No need to have wall warts all over the house....

    -- Dirt Road

  • Now I find out that Slashdot was payed to make the post.

    Paid, huh? Ok, fruitcake, where is your proof?

    Even if /. was given a kickback, so what? There are a lot of us who think that this sort of thing is cool. I ordered two of the kits, and now I'm hooked. Just put in order at for a buncha crap.

    Just because you're poor, or boring, or just plain paranoid, doesn't mean that the rest of we readers are, so bugger off and go back under your rock.

    A host is a host from coast to coast...

  • I was charged Texas sales tax.
  • They look lovely and all. Some of the people's comments seem a little worrying, but it doesn't affect me as I have the pleasure of living outside the US, in the UK. One of thousands who live in the UK who probably would want one, if possible.

    Well? What about us?
  • I ordered one of those firecracker kits
    during the last slashdot promotion and got
    it two days ago. Not being sure what to
    do with it, I hooked up a small lamp to the
    web, here [].

    So now a request to turn on/off the
    light can pass through the internet, over the
    firecracker kit's radio link, then through my
    apartments power grid to the X10 device, which
    toggles the light. It's kind of a crazy way
    to activate a light, but it works fine and
    is kind of amusing.

  • Glad you had fun. It's amazing (and amusing) how many people keep turning on and off my light.


  • But that doesn't matter much to most of us, because i doubt the passthrough works under linux anyhow - device locking and all.

    FWIW, I had this concern because I have a Palm Pilot I use with the PilotManager software on the same port as my Firecracker.

    My unscientific stress-test was to bring up the RocketLauncher TK front-end to BottleRocket, and PilotManager. I set PilotManager to do a full sync including the backup conduit. Then I started turning lights on and off from RocketLauncher while the backup was in progress. It worked fine.

    Some sites I've read, though, have cautioned against trying this with a modem or mouse. Don't know. I've got an internal modem and a PS/2 mouse.


  • Off-topic:
    The reason usually given for the USPS monopoly on first-class mail is that another company could come in and "cream skim" the lucrative routes and leave the USPS to handle rural and other more expensive routes, raising the overall cost of USPS mail (since they must, by law, deliver everywhere). Of course, they could eliminate the flat rate for first-class postage, like they do for parcels, but no senator or representative wants to vote for something that will penalize his/her state vs. more densely populated states.

    I've used X10 for a number of years, and have noticed that they work much better if you have non-conduit wiring as opposed to wiring in metal conduit (like in many apartments and businesses). There seems to be higher signal attenuation in the latter case. Also, stuff like computer power supplies and compact fluorescent lamps seem to inject enough noise into the line or lower line impedance enough for the low-frequency RF X10 signals to lower the reliability of devices close to them. So plan accordingly.

  • How many possible house codes are there? I know of people using these things as burglar alarms. How easy would it be to simply park out front of the home/business(yes, business running X10 as an alarm system) and simply keep turning things off?
    Is there an X10 dialer/pager? I have read about the "heyu" program which had endless possibilities. A quickie bash script and heyu I am thinking of making customers Linux servers automate the office, as in dimming lights, simple entrance monitoring, or using that XCAM as web CAM?!
    This X10 stuff seems REALLY REALLY neat but it seems to easy to defeat or messed with by anyone with $ 20.00 remote control.
    I definitely want, descibed in heyu docs, my workstation to wake-up monitor and greet me when I enter the room.
    If the heyu program works like is says it does X10 people ought to buy or give the author a great big thank you check.
  • How reliable is Firecracker? Does it make sure that the device did recieve the command? Or does it just send out a commmand and hope that the device got it?
    Can you extend the Firecracker device from the serial port, say 25' or so, to maybe get better transmission quality by mounting high on the wall or more centered in covering space? I mean most serial ports are on the back of large metal enclosure that puts out alot of frequencies interference. PC's are well known for limiting FM radio reception.
    I seriously would like to offer this simple low-cost automation solutions for commerical customers. And most all of my commerical customers have at least one Linux based server.
    This X10 stuff has really intriuged me, I hope this discussion isn't too old to get some response.
    How about temperaturing monitor with X10? Many of my Linux servers in the field are legacy equipment with no temperature monitoring at all and those 486DX4-1x0 will completely burnup and die without a fan.
    Is there OEM or aftermarket X10 hardware? I've seen that IBM and several other companies are reselling as thier own.
  • I would bet that maintainers of Freshmeat are saying "Cool! I'll put on this machine and that machine..." but hope thier not getting any real monitary kickback.
    Why would anyone premise need more than one Firecracker, other than cover more physical space?
    I really want to hear some estimates or accounts of reliability about this. If I set someone up are they going to tell me that it sometimes turn off the porch lights but not all the time like its supposed too? Its there a percentage I could quote, that it works 80-90% of time?
    I wanna hear some testimonials of accuracey and reliability. I have heard the modules can get confused and stop respond for several seconds. Though he seemed to be pressing the control buttons to fast, trying to find the light we wanted to control on an unmarked remote control.
  • I've gone postal before... In my employment transistions I worked for a trucking sub-contractor for US Postal Service delivering mail from a major bub to local postal offices. I actually made really good money, starting out at like $25/hr@38hrs a week. Though schedule sucked, starting work at 3:30am really got old. But there was always, at every office I delivered to, mail laying in loading dock, stuck in the scales, piled/swept into corners, flying out my cages into creavices of the trailer, flying out of cages during windy days, and so on... Only just before or during an postal office inspection would these items possibly resorted or worse trashed.
    Postal deliveries are 50/50 at best. Lets just say I read lots magazines I never subscribed too... And always someone else's copy of Playboy for few days or carefully examing Columbia Record packages... :) I always blame the post office for my late payments!

    - Jeez, I'm rambling, bored on a Saturday night, a crying shame...
  • I really hope /. is not making from there news posts. The banner ads are annoying enough. Now if they are sellings news space, then I must ask how much? How many hits a day this place get? How many impressions, as web banner people call it, would that be?
    Jeez, now that I think about it /. ought to be one of the most expensive places to place a banner add at? Guaranteed auidence that has some money to play around with and more likely to be savy enough to do online purchasing...
    Of course alot of /.'ers are probably filtering the banner ads anyways...At least I did for awhile but turned it off because a friend of mine did win a $3000 PII 400 machine from a banner ad promotion...
    BTW - Didn't the X10 promotion have almost nothing to do with /. anyways? Wasn't, I as re-read it, soley offered to Freshmeat?
    AND is Freshmeat a truely seperate entity or a RedHat operation?
  • I got mine a few days ago, and it was an enjoyable experience putting the stuff into use.

    However, X10 seems to be determined to make sure everything they manufacture is less than ideal.

    Take for instance the CM17a "Firecracker" itself. From the outset, it sounds good. Serial port dongle with passthrough means you don't lose a serial port and you don't have to run wires to the wall socket, right?

    Unfortunately, it comes without the long thumbscrews usually found on dongles - using the CM17a as a passthrough dongle makes it possible for a formerly tightly secured serial device to fall off the back of your computer at the slightest agitation.

    But that doesn't matter much to most of us, because i doubt the passthrough works under linux anyhow - device locking and all.

    Also, X10 seems to have an unnatural affinity for little white boxes. Again, this is less than ideal. For a little more plastic and another plug and receptical, they could replace the little white boxes with a box that would seamlessly cover your outlet and stick out about an inch from the wall. Replace the screw in the center of the plate with a longer screw through the device, and make it impossible for a small child to losen the device from the wall. I don't have to explain to anybody how this would be safer.

    I Could go on, detailing the sillyness of the way they laid out this remote controll, or the ill concieved nature of the rest of their little toys, but it's just not that interesting.

    What's unfortunate is that a company so bent on using the lowest cost materials possible to build these devices has cornered the market.

    What you'll find, generally, is that when you try to use X10 devices on more than a casual basis, having several of them in use (like a dozen or so) rather than just a few, that they're disappointingly flaky and unreliable. Aside from having hokey human intefaces all around. A switch plate that velcro's to the wall? geeze . . .

    Oh yeah, and the Bottlerocket linux software, tho X10 says they openly support it, is incapable of dimming a unique device - it can only dim an entire room of lamps at once. This is mostly because the CM17a relies on the computer to generate the signal modulation by twiddling the DTR line on the serial port really fast, and the author apparantly hasn't figured out how to dim an individual device.

    Buyer beware: X10 Powerhouse drives this market, and drives it poorly.
  • Uhh... try an DB9 M-F extension cable?
  • Ordered it last night when I saw it pop up on Freshmeat. :-)
  • Bull! the fact that they dont want to inconvience themselves..... well ya know there is a LAW that you have to accept american currency as payment.

    I say let's jump on their arses... everyone that dont have a credit card.... join my lawsuit..

    I perpose suing X-10 because they are segregating us and making us that decide not to have every purchase tracked and marketed feel like second class citizens!!!

    BOYCOTT X-10!!!! and let's get a class action lawsuit going..... about 10 million sounds like a great number to start!
  • sure.... but you B&O stereo on that dimmer and control the volume that way.......

    Light Dimmer... that's what it's called.. it dont say appliance module on it... but light dimmer... I'm sure you can read stereo and other words in there.....

    Now if you trod down to radio-shack and cough up 12 bucks you get an appliance module.... this will not dim lights unless you put sunglasses on when you press the dim button.

    The bullshit thing is that to get a wall switch that ISNT a dimmer you have to pay almost $90.00USD I guess a relay is mighty expensive..
    X10- nice for a toy....crappy for home automation.
  • And I wonder when companies catch on to that when they are having these kinds of promotions..

    I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for the overseas shipping, but excluding the non USA/Canada web-community is insane.

    And, IMO, shows that said companie(s) don't have a friggin' clue about the net anyway.
    'We have no choice in what we are. Yet what are we,
    but the sum of our choices.' --Rob Grant
  • Well, for the $6 that I paid, nothing has gotten delivered yet a couple of weeks later, except for probably nearly one X10-related piece of junk e-mail per day.
  • I actually have noticed problems w/ the serial module. Specifically my mouse stopped working. Are you using windows? did you reboot after installing the module?

  • I think it makes far more sense to add a small RF carrier to the AC signal and modulate your signal onto that. In fact I am designing such a system and will release the plans under something GPL-like when (if :) I get it working. I am thinking make it an Ethernet-like protocol with lookahead collision avoidance/etc. Something I can run IP on anyways.. But don't hold your breath waiting for it :)

    You might be interested in the GNU/Linux Home Automation Project []. The goals of the project are to produce GPL'd hardware and software standards for Home Automation. Right now the list is down due to technical problems with the mail list.

    Linux Home Automation - Neil Cherry - [mailto] [] - (Text only) htsey/52 [] - (Graphics)

  • But that doesn't matter much to most of us, because i doubt the passthrough works under linux anyhow - device locking and all.

    FWIW, I had this concern because I have a Palm Pilot I use with the PilotManager software on the same port as my Firecracker.

    My unscientific stress-test was to bring up the RocketLauncher TK front-end to BottleRocket, and PilotManager. I set PilotManager to do a full sync including the backup conduit. Then I started turning lights on and off from RocketLauncher while the backup was in progress. It worked fine.

    Some sites I've read, though, have cautioned against trying this with a modem or mouse. Don't know. I've got an internal modem and a PS/2 mouse.

    Under Linux I think we can make the pass through work, but the software would have to written correctly. Under Windows I beleive that once the software has started Windows locks the port. Although the mouse drive may need constant access to the mouse so the mouse port may not be a good choice (I don't know the protocols for the mouse). With the PilotManager software it shouldn't lock the port unless it is using it. And the Bottle Rocket software shouldn't lock the port unless it is using it. So as long as you have only one piece of software running at a time there shouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately I won't be able to test my theory until next week when the Firecracker arrives (my palm 3x won't arrive till the end of the month).
    Linux Home Automation - Neil Cherry - [mailto] [] - (Text only) htsey/52 [] - (Graphics)
  • That's weird. I got mine and it works super keen. I've noticed that the transceiver units cause fluorescent lights to blink annoyingly, but that's solved with replacing it with an incandescent bulb.
    Send it back, say I, bitch righteously. Be prepared to wait though.
  • /* And for the person with the blinking fluorescent lights, the web site specifically says that these things dont' work with fluorescent, because they need the current path across the filament in an incandescent bulb. */

    You mean there's useful information on that spam haus looking website? :) Besides. Who reads instructions? I figured it out quickly enough, eh?
  • Actually, considering that their product deals primarily with US power... I would think it kind of odd that someone in the UK or New Zealand or wherever hasn't capitilized on the concept by selling a simillar device in their own country. Ergo, it would seem they are doing plenty of business in the US that doesn't seem to necessitate them ramping up a product for every country with different power requirements.
  • Get one of those serial cable extenders that come with serial mice. You know a 25 to 9 pin thingy. Plug it into your 25 pin serial port, voila. If that don't work, run up to your local computer store and buy a 9 to 9 extender.
  • Here's whatcha do. Ok, so the starter kit costs $5.90. For that, you get the firecracker serial dohickey, a remote, a transceiver unit and a dimmer module. Keen. Hop on over to rat shack and *sound of record skip* $12 bucks for an extra dimmer? You're insane. Tra la la. "Honey, I need your credit card." Order up another kit,(different name on card, only one per person) at the low low super low insane price of $5.90. Voila. Extra remote ($40) extra dimmer ($12) and an extra xcvr ($18). Cha ching. Perpetuate the scam a bit, ask a few friends to help out, pony up $5.90 and voila a third kit.

    As far as the spam haus that they are, just hit remove when you get that first message. Big deal.

    The upshot of this? I get a super cool toy that is actually useful for dirt cheap.

    Beat da system.
  • is incapable of dimming a unique device - it can only dim an entire room of lamps at once.

    as the above dude mentioned, this is false. The documentation is written with a knowledge of the X10 protocol... so...

    "commands" in the X10 protocol don't have attached UNIT codes...they only have HOUSE codes. So to address an individual unit, you first get it's attention by sending it an ON or OFF command. Then any DIM or BRIGHTEN command that comes through for that HOUSE code will affect that module.

    It's actually a nice system, since it means you can dim/brighten multiple lamps at the same time. (The Firecracker itself can't...but the CM11A can, and hardwired controllers (like Mini Controllers) can.)

    I think the X10 idea could be much improved by making devices ACK their commands, and make them transmit an equivilant command when they are controlled locally. Making all devices capable
    of reporting their status when interrogated would complete the picture for the protocol.

    The more expensive modules (such as the Leviton decora wall switches) do transmit local commands. They also respond to STATUS request commands, and they also support Preset Dim commands (200 levels)... So these features do exist, they just don't exist in $5 modules... :-)

    I like your suggestion for a wall recptical that screws into the wall.

    If you're not controling a light you might as well use an Outlet Module...which contains one X10 controlled plug and one always-on plug. These are appliance modules, though, so you don't get any dimming.
  • It includes two modules, since the Transciever is effectively also an Appliance module.

    Note though that the "appliance module" in the transciever is transmit only, so it will not respond to X10 commands transmitted over the power lines. Not a problem for people just starting out with this one kit, but a bummer if you have other "normal" non-wireless controllers.
  • It's inline with my serial mouse (a Logitech cheapie with a wheel). No problems at all.

    Same here. It's inline with my Logitech Firstmouse+... This only works with the newer bottlerocket program (0.03a), though...the older one didn't save any of the serial port state it would lock up the mouse after it was used.

    The only slightly annoying thing is that the mouse locks when sending a command...but I can live with that until the CM11A HomeDirector interface I orderd shows up...It doesn't have a passthrough, so I'll have to try to get that second serial port (/dev/ttyS2) to work...I had locking problems with it when I tried to use it earlier...grumble.
  • Heheh
  • The internet shopping market is primarily based around the economy of the US. Currently the US makes up 1/2 the internet subscribers. It makes only sense that a product such as this be limited to the U.S. especially since they're not produced for the other power rating values (220, etc..)
  • ...was that they buried the fact that if you get this promotional offer, you are agreeing to allow yourself to be added to their mailing list. This is stated in the RULES section. Now, while I don't mind (most of the time) being added to a mailing list, I prefer to be ASKED up front like when I'm placing my order or something. I filled out their "user survey" and made some remarks about this. But, for $6.00, I wanted to try these things out. They looked like fun. Guess it's time to create another filter for my email ;)
  • Hi there.. you may remember me from such ill-guided critiques as "AIX==LAME".. But this time I do know what I am talkig about. :)

    I have worked with X10 before, and it is not a particularity well-designed system. Here's why: It relies on waiting for the zero crossing (AC power is sinusoidal, and so spends a bit of time every cycle fairly near zero volts) and then sends "spikes" to indicate the command. The problems with this are that

    1. Bandwidth is extremely limited and
    2. Noisy equipment on the line can either prevent the transmitting X10 module from seeing the zero crossing, or obscure the codes being sent.

    I installed some X10 modules in my house last year, and they wouldn't work when one of my housemates had his computer on. I checked using an oscilloscope and discovered that the X10 module was unable to detect the zero crossing reliably. I tried several modules on both the transmitting and receiving end with the same result.

    There's also the whole issue of patents. X10 modules must be licensed, which makes them extremely expensive.

    I think it makes far more sense to add a small RF carrier to the AC signal and modulate your signal onto that. In fact I am designing such a system and will release the plans under something GPL-like when (if :) I get it working. I am thinking make it an Ethernet-like protocol with lookahead collision avoidance/etc. Something I can run IP on anyways.. But don't hold your breath waiting for it :)

  • So what's a 'Check' card? Does it say 'visa' on it? Is it just a secured visa?
  • Probably not. There is a FAQ [] concerning using a dimmable wall switch with ceiling fans, flourecent lights, etc. and the bottom line is it wont work. The Wall Switch (and presumably the lamp module) are wired in series to the lamp (or other), which means that control signals have to pass through the lamp (or other) to get to the switch. If the (other) is a significant load, the signals get dampened to where the module doesnt respond.

    I read this after installing a wall switch for a ceiling fan. With the light on (fan on or off) the wall switch responds fine. With the light off and the fan on and the wall switch off, the wall switch will respond to turning on , but then wont respond to turning off.

    Oh well, which way to Radio Shack?


  • Use a check card.
  • If you notice they say something like 5.90 for s/h Sales tax will be added in if you live in ca, tx, ut, az, ga, ny.
    they gotta make money off this thing somehow, and they might just be smart enough to use the /. effect to do it. :)
  • I too orderd the $6 firecracker stuff the first time around. Been very pleased with it so far.

    Anyway, as soon as I got the very first email from their mailing list, I immediately did the remove request & haven't gotten another email from them since.

    Maybe I'm just lucky. But, someone had a good idea in setting up a hotmail (or other free email account), and designating it as a "spam" account: only use it for these "special offers" that ask for an email address to confirm the order & spam to...
  • You limeys with your 220VAC 50Hz power can't use our X10 stuff (and we can't use yours on our 110/60 power). Why not find someone on your side of the pond to buy it from?
  • Seriously. I don't even have a credit card (who needs credit?) so I use my check card. It's just as functional, but has a $1000/day limit.
  • There is also a system called CEBus that is sorta like a two-way X-10.

    I saw a neat control box built by IBM Pervasive Computing group at a conference. It was some sort of DSL/modem/router/CEBus control box. Kinda neat, and ran Linux.

    From what I understand there is no direct linux support for CEBus, you have to run the drivers over a JVM, damn licsensing crap.

  • Great. I worked my ass off to get out of credit card debt and closed all accounts. Haven't had any problems getting anything I want anywhere else (and I can afford it now without credit cards sucking my wallet dry).

    But I can't get one of these things. They won't take a check, money order, wire transfer, or cash.

    Well, these guys won't be getting my money I guess.

    Too bad too because I'm about to place an order for several $$$.$$ to $$$$.$$ with either or home automation for the same kind of stuff to use at work.

    Their loss.
  • I placed my order. But something about it confused me:

    If the product is free, and I'm paying a $5.90 "administration fee," how come they added 8.5% California sales tax to the invoice?

    Doesn't sales tax apply to the retail price of an item, not to associated fees for service? So is it free, or is it $6? Yeah, I know, it's a dinky sum regardless, but I still find it a little odd.

    In any case, just a little warning to folks in California who may want to place their order: yer gonna get taxed.
  • I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for the overseas shipping, but excluding the non USA/Canada web-community is insane.

    Don't let your envy get the better of you. 37,000 units (the claimed allotment for the promotion) won't go too far to serve an international market.

    I think the opposite, and say that when giving things away it is only sane to limit the target market.
  • O.K... but is the Linux Software that they have ActiveHome compatable? Will the linux software use the recieve features of the ActiveHome kit?
  • Yeah, good thing I have a Sun box 1 foot to my left. Oh, never mind, his page is totally useless anyways.

  • I hope you explained to your guinea pig why you are exercising its irises. Or do you want us to train him to startle at bright light?
  • Who reads instructions?

    My name is extrasolar and I read instructions.

    Yes, it is sad. Like when I buy a Nintendo game, I read thoroughly through the instruction manual, even the "How to turn your SNES on" section.

    I know the copyright information for my surge protector.

    I even mailed back a spelling error in my monitor manual.

    I need help!

    (Okay, so maybe this is a bit of an exageration. But I do read the manual before playing the game, to make sure I am not missing anything.)


  • I ordered mine a couple of weeks ago, and got it yesterday; it's actually nice, for the sum I paid. My friend whom I share the appartment with also got his. Cool, now we can turn each other's lights on and off...
  • No tax for New York - but, I guess they'll charge you if you live in New Jersey, since they have a branch in Closter, NJ.
  • Sounds like it's time for you to create a fake free email account at yahoo or somewhere like it. All my junk mail goes to one spot because I protect my REAL e-mail address by never giving it out on the web.
  • Or get another antenna module and put it on the other phase. That's what I did, and it works fine.
  • Did anyone else notice all the cookies the x10 site uses? When I ordered, I noticed one cookie has the whole name and address record, and another cookie stores just the full name. Then there's a couple more that look like they are part of the free deal and shopping cart.
  • >>I like your suggestion for a wall recptical that screws into the wall.>The wall controls on velcro can probably be forgiven since they target retrofiting to an existing house. It would be nice if they made an equivilant unit that mounts in the wall for those who want to do right though.

    if it's X10 compatible, I've seen X10 modules that really do replace a wall receptacle (module selection on the front, using one of those rectangular-holed faceplates). Same with wall switches, too, I believe.

    I've not checked out the firecracker site, but I've thought about ordering more than one kit just to get extra modules (cheaper?).
  • Some parts of the world (probably includes a few European countries), probably have (to north americans) insane regulations. I'll have to bet something like "Intentionally injecting signals into the power lines is banned" is in the law books somewhere. At least I believe X10 works because of signals over power lines...
  • This is something that is of interest to a nerd like myself. News for nerds. The fact that it's also an ad isn't very relevant.

    If IBM announces Linux support it's news, but it's also an ad. When /. reported on Sony's AIBO it was both news and an ad. That doesn't bother me. The ads tend to be of interest to me, and if my interest helps out /. financially, then that's a *good* thing.

    I missed it the first time around and when I saw it this time I ordered one and told my brother to order one as well (he's obsessed with remotes, he has one for his PC). I always wanted to try out X-10 and this gets me into it.

    Now I can go to [] and try out some of the X-10 circuits they have there and start designing my own. I can do a lot of tinkering with this.

    It was news to me, and so what if was also an ad? At least it wasn't a porn banner.
  • You can't do this! You have to indicate that this IS NOT news, it's advertising! You could get sued for this, you know. Stop it. The first time I saw this article, I actually thought it was legit news. And i even shared it with my friends. Now I find out that Slashdot was payed to make the post. NOT ALLOWED! It's decepsion.
  • I received mine two weeks ago. I could not find a good use for them. My house is small enough that you can walk over and turn off the light. But, after receiveing endless email from them, I looked around on their web pages and found a light switch for $13. (Of course, I got some free stuff when I ordered it) I have a out building with flood lights for security. But had to walk outside to turn them on and off. Installed the switch, and BAM! Works great from the comfort of my home! Looked at another site for a light switch and they wanted $29...
  • I'm sorry, I should have defined "out building". It is a building that is NOT attached to my house. And since this remote building does have electricity, it already contains one of those fancy $1.50 light switches inside this "out building".
    As far as spending $1.50 for a switch instead of $6 for a Firecracker kit, yes! I would do the same if I needed a switch. If you go back and read my original post, I stated that I spent $13 bucks for a remote switch, to turn on/off the security lights in this remote out building that is not attached to my house...from my house.
  • Please excuse my lack of knowledge concerning electricity, as I will admit, I know little about it. Except for the fact that I do not like the feeling I get when I get shocked!
    When we built the out building, actually a small workshop, we hired someone and they put a main breaker on the outside of my home, and connected it to the meter that is on the outside of my house that the electric company reads. This main breaker is enclosed and can be locked. From there, a cable was ran to the out building. This cable then goes to a circuit box with 4 breakers for the outlets and lights. I was not smart enough at the time to run the wire and a switch back to the house to control the security lights. So, for the 6 dollar fire cracker and a 13 dollar switch, I can now turn them on and off! I'm not sure how much wire would run for approx. 150 feet, but I would assume it would not be much more than 20 or 30 bucks. But the labor would take some time.
  • I decided to use the 800 number rather than the online form.

    The wait was mind-numbing: nearly half an hour of "Your call is important to us. We are experiencing longer than normal wait times. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the first available operator. All calls are answered in the order received." I think the frequewncy of the message increased as the wait stretched out, too.

    When I did get a person, I mentioned that I'd been on hold for a long time, but for once I didn't let my temper get the better of me and try to take it out on her.

    She explained that the sales floor closes for the weekend, so all orderes go to her area, which is actually tech support, and that they were two people short (of an unspecified total) in tech support anyhow.

    She asked whether I had an email address to which she could send a reeeipt, and then I provided one ... but a minute or two later, she pointed out that people don't like to provide this sometimes "because of the ..." (she fumbled, and I suggested, "spam?") "Yeah, Spam." So she kindly removed my email address and provided my order number by voice instead. Kudos!

    Delivery time: she said their warehouse was behind on orders, but that it should arrive in under two weeks. Also that they usually ship UPS, but for this deal they're shipping USPS instead.

    I noticed that a CA Slashdotter was charged state tax, so I guess they have some of their operation there, but the woman I spoke with was in New Jersey. Any other states get hit with it?

    As far as this deal goes, well, you never know, eh? I have no home automation stuff at all, and know even less. ;) So this is sheerly an experiment. I read a lot of comments panning the deal and complaining about a few weeks of waiting, but for under USD 6, this seems like a real bargain, since it includes the remote controller. We'll see!

    Good luck to anyone who gets one!

  • The pattern for small companies selling geekware seems to be: get mentioned on /.; deliver the first few orders quickly; then fall farther and farther behind.

    I suspect that this variant of the slashdot effect will be much more persistent than just bogging or crashing a web server. I suspect that the people who are ordering now are in for an even longer wait. Don't bother selecting some "express" shipping option. ;)
  • I ordered a firecracker deal when Slashdot was promoting them (and who cares if Slashdot gets kickbacks)? It took a while to get it, but I did get it via priority mail. I had gotten concerned and called X-10, and I have to say that their customer service is top notch. Although the hold times are on the long side, when the guy answered he was extremely polite, and apologized and told me that the shipping department had gotten a little behind, and If I didn't get it by friday, call and they would ship another one free of charge (as they should). But there was no need for that, because it came that Friday, and came as advertised. I just ordered a DVD anywhere from there. There is a review of serveral of their products on AGN3D [].

"Life sucks, but it's better than the alternative." -- Peter da Silva