The mControl application with Windows Home Server allows you to control your home from Internet Explorer or Windows Media Center. The system works by connecting your WHS to your electrical system and then transmitting signals through your home wiring to modules and switches that control lights and appliances. Through simple Macros you can control and monitor lights, HVAC, irrigation, music and even your cameras and surveillance. All this being said, what do you do once you have a light plugged into a module? Do I really need WHS to turn a light on and off for me? Well tonight I am going to walk you through adding some Macros to your mControl Windows Home Server while explaining some of the advantages of WHS with mControl.
Before I left on vacation two weeks ago I wrote an article that explained how I installed the mControl Add-In to my WHS. I bought a few modules to connect lights in two of my bedrooms and could control these lights via Internet Explorer from any computer in the house. My thought was that even though we have a separate alarm and monitoring system I knew I would feel better with some lights going on and off during the evening. The alarm and police would keep someone from staying in the house, and drinking my beer, but would not keep them from trying to get in causing some damage. This is where WHS and mControl take over. I figured if I could program mControl to turn the lights on and off then it would always look like someone was home. I could have gone low-tech but those little cheapie light timers are not good if there is a power outage and even the dusk to dawn timers are predictable.
After the install I spent about 30 minutes playing with mControl Macros (while driving my wife nuts with lights going on and off) and let the program run while we were gone. While were in Florida WHS turned the lights on and off and simulated someone being home. I even connected to WHS from Florida and could see which lights were on and off. I liked it so much I bought more modules (sorry wife) this week and have future plans to expand control to other parts of the house and even outside. I want mControl to control the house when we are home too so future articles will explain how I do this easily and with very little money.
By the way, you can read the article I wrote showing the easy installation of mControl at:
As a refresher, mControl is an Add-In that you install on your WHS that controls modules and other communications devices within your home. mControl is the software and not the control modules.
There are three components to a basic system:
- The mControl software Add-In on your WHS
- A USB device (PowerLinc modem #2412U) that sends your WHS mControl signal to your house electrical wiring
- A module plugged in to the house electrical that controls a light or device (add as many or as few as you want, I got two to start)
These three parts are all that you need to begin. Before I started this project I thought it would be really complex but I was wrong!
The diagram below shows how you can connect to mControl via your PC, Internet Explorer, Mobile client, Extender or XBOX 360.
mControl on your WHS
One Beer (optional as always)
mControl and Smarthome
As I mentioned earlier the Add-In and the device modules are from different places. I downloaded mControl from their web site at http://www.embeddedautomation.com/EAHAmControl.htm
I live in Southern California and there is a place that sells modules close to my home called Smarthome. I bought my modem and two modules from http://www.smarthome.com/_/INSTEON/_/23b/land.aspx. mControl is compatible with INSTEON devices so to keep it simple I just bought those types of products. mControl can work with other devices but I will not talk about those in this series. The basic INSTEON modules are easy to use and run about $30. Some of these modules switch on and off and can even have dimmer options. Smarthome also sells outlets, wall switches, bridges, keypads, touch screens, sensors, remotes, thermostats, sprinkler controls and even infrared controllers. Make sure you choose INSTEON type devices.
Why do this?
Imagine opening Windows Media Center (WMC) and playing a DVD which triggers the lights to dim and turns on your Surround speakers. Image being able to turn off your sprinkler system from work when a sudden rain blows in. Image the energy savings from exact control of your lights. These ideas just scratch the surface of what mControl and your WHS can do at home!
Mental note: A lot of “normal” automatic light controls do not support CFLs. INSTEON makes modules that support fluorescent lights!
Your options are limited only by your imagination and budget. Unfortunately I am limited in both so let me get back on topic.
Lets set this pig on fire!
What is a Macro?
According to the mControl manual (p. 165) there are three parts to mControl macros:
- Actions – each macro has one or more actions. These are the set of commands executed by mControl for the macro once it becomes active. They are executed in order, as defined in the Macro List page.
- Triggers – each macro has one or more triggers. Once anyone of these triggers becomes true, it will initiate the macro’s actions.
- Conditions – each macro has one or more conditions. All conditions for a trigger must be true for the complete trigger to be true.
What does this mean to us? Well lets walk through a Macro together. I have deleted all of my existing Macros and I am going to start over.
Triggering a Macro using Time
Lets create a Macro that I used while I was on vacation. I want to turn on a light at 8:00 PM and have it turn off at 11:00 PM.
You can access mControl through Internet Explorer or through Windows Media Center. I will use IE8 in this article and WMC in the article for next week.
Mental note: I would not suggest using the WHS Console interface for mControl until you feel VERY comfortable with mControl. IE8 and WMC are nicer interfaces anyway!
Log in to your WHS via IE and click on the mControl for WHS link and open that beer.
Once you connect to your mControl you will see all of the Zones (rooms) that you created during the last article. You will also see the devices for each Zone. I have two devices (with more on the way) so we will use a Macro to control these two modules.
Navigate to the “Settings” page, select the “Automation” option and select the “Add Macro” option.
Enter the information required to create the macro, including:
- Name – the name of the macro
- Zone – the zone to assign the macro within
- Display in Zone – to enable the display of the macro within the zone
- Image – the image to associate with the macro
- Press “Save” to save the macro
Select “Add Trigger” to add a trigger to this macro.
Enter the information required to create the trigger, including:
- Name – the name of the macro
- Press “Save” to save the trigger
Select the Condition Type to be the “Time of Day” condition (use the plus and minus buttons), which is the condition which will be required to come true to enable the trigger:
- Hour – the hour within the day when the condition is true
- Minute – the minute within the day when the condition is true
- Valid Days – the days in the week on which the condition is true
- Command – randomness, in minutes, to apply to the condition (optional)
- Press “Save” to save the condition
Once you click on Save you should see the following screen:
Click on “Back” and it will take you to the Macro Details screen. Click on “Actions”. We need to tell the macro what modules to operate.
From the Macro Details screen, select the “Actions” tab and “Add Actions” to the macro. Continue to add actions as required. I am going to add two actions, or light commands, for this macro. You create one Action for each module. Click on “Save” after each one and add additional Actions as needed.
I am now going to add my second Action. As you can see below, this module is a dimmer switch (the system already knew) and I can adjust the brightness of the light. I am using 50% for this value.
Here are what my Actions look like when I am finished.
Click on “Home” and you should now see your Macro in the Zone View as show below:
I repeated the same steps to turn the lights off at 11:00 PM and make sure the boxes are checked to enable the macro as shown below:
Once everything is complete you will see your macros in the Zone View as show below:
The mControl manual gives detailed data on all of these steps however I found the manual hard to understand. The company says that they will be revising the manual soon so keep checking back with them for the next release.
The screen shots make it look complex but the process actually goes quickly. It takes a little practice but once you get the hang of it you will be setting up all sorts of different macros. With the on and off switches you can control any appliance so you could find uses of this for outdoor fountains, lights, monitors, and fans.
Next week I will show you how to install the WMC Client on your PCs so you can use mControl from within WMC.
I would like to give a big thank you to Ted at Embedded Automation for the assistance and the approval for the graphics and text for these articles. I would also like to thank Andrew at Using Windows Home Server for helping me coordinate these articles and helping me publish each week.
See you next Friday night.