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Adding mControl to Windows Media Center with Windows Home Server on a Friday Night

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It is 7:43 PM on Friday night and my living room light just turned on automatically. Why is that worth mentioning? I installed mControl on my Windows Home Server just over a month ago and each day mControl and WHS turn lights and equipment on and off in my home. WHS and mControl initiate macros that tell Insteon modules in my home what to do for each device I connect to them. While the macros are great for regular operations I often need to override lights or equipment. Since I often use Windows Media Center (WMC) throughout the house I want to access mControl in WMC. Tonight I will show you how to add the mControl Client to your Windows Media Center PC.

mControl and WHS

Background

The mControl application with Windows Home Server allows you to control your home from Internet Explorer, the WHS Console 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.

You can read my previous mControl articles at:

Installation of the mControl Add-In and WHS Setup

http://moviesgamesandtech.com/2009/05/16/adding-mcontrol-to-windows-home-server-on-a-friday-night/

Creating mControl Macros

http://moviesgamesandtech.com/2009/05/30/mcontrol-macros-with-windows-home-server-on-a-friday-night/

Adding More Modules

http://moviesgamesandtech.com/2009/06/14/adding-an-mcontrol-module-to-windows-home-server-on-a-friday-night/

mControl Review

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:

  1. The mControl software Add-In on your WHS
  2. A USB device (PowerLinc modem #2412U) that sends your WHS mControl signal to your house electrical wiring
  3. 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.

Network Diagram

mControl and Smarthome

As I mentioned in previous articles, the Add-In and the device modules are from different companies. 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 (or compatible) type devices.

Equipment Needed

mControl on your WHS

Windows Media Center

One Beer (optional as always)

WMC and WHS

Thank you to mControl for permission to use this picture.

Download

When you downloaded the mControl files for WHS you should have had one large folder with all of the mControl Windows Installer Packages. We are looking for the ClientsAndAddins folder. If you cannot find the file you can download the entire package again at:

http://www.embeddedautomation.com/EAHAmControl.htm

I still had a copy of the original download so I will copy the ENTIRE folder to my WMC Vista machine. You MUST copy the entire folder because the set up process needs access to the EUL and Readme files.
mControl Build Folder

Once you have the file on your WMC Vista machine we can start the installation.

Lets set this pig on fire!

Installation and Configuration

Now that we have copied the folder to the WMC PC we have to open the Firewall to allow this PC to access mControl on the WHS. If you do not do this prior to starting the Installation you will NOT see your WHS in the Configuration Utility. You can actually finish the installation without finding your WHS so please make changes to the Firewall prior to installation of the WMC Client.

mControl Installation instructions for the WMC Client can be found at:

http://www.embeddedautomation.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1393

Following the instructions I open the Windows Firewall. If you are running another Firewall program you may need to make the changes in that program.

Windows Firewall

Because mControl is already installed on WHS we just need to open three ports on the Vista PC so it can talk with WHS and mControl.

Click on Change settings.

Click on the Exceptions tab.

Click on Add port.

Add a Port

According to mControl the following ports need to be allowed:

  • Port 29990 (TCP) – used by mControl internal web server and browser/media center clients
  • Port 29994 (UDP) – used by mControl service to send messages
  • Port 29995 (UDP) – used by mControl clients to send messages

Mental note: Make the name the same as the Port number to make future recognition easier.

Add the three ports making sure to enter TCP or UDP protocols as shown above. Each port must be done separately and should look like this:

Add a Port - TCP and UDP

Now that you have added the three port exceptions, close all of the Windows Firewall windows and navigate back to the ClientsAndAddins Windows Installer Package (WIP).

DO NOT INSTALL THE FULL VERSION OF MCONTROL (Win2K_XP_Vista) ON THE CLIENT MACHINES. Your WHS is the mControl server and any additional machines are clients. If you try and install a full version it could change the settings on modems or modules and cause issues. Trust me. Seriously.

Double click on the WIP and click Run. Vista may give you Continue or Allow messages during this process so stay at the PC during the installation.

Open File - Security Warning

Click on Next as the process continues.

mControl Clients and Addins for MCE

As the installation process continues, mControl will use the Firewall ports you opened to find the mControl on your WHS. You may see additional equipment on the list so just set your WHS as the default. If your server is NOT here then chances are you did not configure the Firewall port Exceptions properly.

Set Default Server

Now that you have selected your WHS as the Default Server the installation is now complete and you can click on Close to exit the installer.

Installation Complete

mControl in Windows Media Center

Lets verify that the client installed properly and works correctly.

Open WMC and scroll to Online Media. To the left you will see the program library.

Windows Media Center

You will notice TWO versions of mControl.

Why? According to mControl: “We have two icons (mControl for IE, mControl for VMC) – these are just two different user interfaces that work with Vista – so the user can use what he/she prefers.”

I have noticed three distinct differences between these two interfaces:

  1. The round “mControl for Vista” icon the system does not ask you for your IIS password.
  2. The round “mControl for Vista” is for running existing devices and macros and not for creating or adding new macros.
  3. The square “mControl HTM UI” is similar to the Internet Explorer interface.

Click on the “mControl for Vista” icon.

WMC program library

Below is the Vista interface:

WMC Vista interface

If you want you edit and create macros you should use the “mControl for HTML” interface. You can also use the WHS Console to add macros!

mControl HTML interface

Be prepared to enter your User name and Password if you use the HTML icon.

Password Login

Below is the HTML interface:

HTML interface for mContro

Conclusion

With WHS I can sit in front of my plasma connected to WMC I can access my DVDs and pictures. A year ago I would not have thought I could also control my lights, speakers and even sprinklers from my WHS with mControl. And, according to mControl, I am just scratching the surface of home automation. The Windows Media Center client for mControl makes the whole experience of controlling your home worth the cost.

Thank you mControl and thank you WHS!

I have really enjoyed writing the mControl series of articles. I have two more mControl articles to write about in the next few weeks and then I will get back to other great WHS topics.

Viva WHS! Seriously.

See you next Friday night.

Timothy Daleo

Timothy Daleohttp://usingwindowshomeserver.com
Timothy Daleo is a Project Resource Analyst and Oracle Applications Trainer in Pasadena, California. In addition to financial analysis, Tim has been developing training materials since 2003 and supporting direct projects through various auxiliary databases since 2005.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Tim, Thank you for the series using Mcontrol. I just ordered the software 2.0 and usb modem and a single light control.

    looking forward to adding a 220V relay to control my pool and spa pumps after reviewing your series

    looking forward to more (Friday nights)

  2. They make some good 30 amp relays and modules. Please post back once you get one and get it working. I am going to install the irrigation controller on WHS for this weeks article. I want people to know there are other control options.

  3. Hi – I appreciate this step-by-step instruction! I went through all settings, firewall as well, ports are open, can access mControl from the vista machines Internet Explorer, but not from the VMC. Both apps are there, but the roud one says: unable to launch mControl MCML, the other one (HTML UI) misses an internet connectoin (!) – but there is one. Other online media runs well from VMC.

    Any suggestions?

    THX a thousand

  4. You did run the "ClientAndAddins" Windows Installer Package, right? It is in:

    mControl v2.1 Build 3391 >Clients_and_Addins

    You must run that WIP on the machine from which you want to access the mControl WMC.

    Let me know,

    Tim

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