For about two years I’ve been using Embedded Automation’s mControl (version 2). It’s worked well though the main reason I continued using it was simply the cash I invested in it. However, since I don’t have a stand-alone Windows system running any more I’ve been using mControl within a virtual machine on my Mac.
Running the virtual machine has resulted in a significant reduction in overall performance of the Mac. In addition, updates for mControl 2 were few and far between. In fact, the updates I ran were considered beta versions. Even the release of version 3 has yet to occur. I’ve grown tired of waiting, I’m not sure I want to invest in a new version if it will be updated as infrequently as the previous version, and the system performance cost for running the VM has been too much to continue.
I’ve been looking at using Shion Online for some time. It’s a Mac home automation package that also has an online service, which will cost $9.99/month once it leaves beta. While I’m not thrilled at the idea of paying almost $10/month to do something that I could already do with mControl for no extra cost, I also realize that Shion Online may be worth the cost if the program will be updated on a regular basis. Note that only the mobile access capability involves a fee. The Shion application for OS X is available for free. Even though I think the UI needs some work it does have a lot of potential if customized further via its AppleScript support.
I’ve already shut down the virtual machine and have Shion handling home automation tasks. There are several things that I’ll need to recreate in Shion, but basic device control is in place and I’ve even worked out how to get it to send notifications via growlnotify.
Updated 07/19/2011: I should point out that while I didn’t care for the performance hit involved in running the Windows 7 VM on my Mac this was not a failing of mControl, Fusion, or even OS X itself. Though Fusion actually improved performance over VirtualBox on my Mac, I think it’s essential that I mention that the system is an iMac with a Core Duo processor with the maximum installed RAM of 2 GBs. Obviously, no Mac is going to do a great job running a Windows 7 VM within OS X Snow Leopard using only 2 GBs of RAM (1 GB dedicated to each OS). It did run it well considering the hardware that was available.
So far, I like using Shion. There are certainly some more features I’d enjoy seeing added but it looks like it could work perfectly as a replacement, once I get the mobile app up and running. Paying about $10/month for mobile access won’t be a deal breaker. Most home automation packages are expensive ($100 or more). If Shion continues to be updated along with the mobile app then the cost won’t necessarily be more than I might pay for other programs (that aren’t necessarily maintained on a regular basis).