Moving from mControl 3 (Windows) to Indigo 6 (OS X) for Home Automation

Indigo-6

The Short Version: I moved VPN, home automation control, and video recording from an ASUS eeeBox PC (Windows) to my iMac (OS X Mountain Lion). VPN was changed from PPTP to L2TP using iVPN to control the server. Video recording is with the same program (Vitamin D Video Pro) using the same license. mControl was dropped and I’m now using Indigo 6 to control everything.

For home automation control I’ve been running mControl over the past few years. The development team rarely updated the software but rather than invest in a different package I went ahead and upgraded to version 3 when it was released. The software was running on an ASUS system I had setup at the house for managing home automation and security video recording.

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Upgrade Impressions: Replacing MacBook Pro and ASUS Eee PC Hard Drives with Seagate Hybrid Drives

Early last month I replaced the hard drive in my ASUS home automation PC with a Seagate Hybrid Drive (1 TB, 5,400 RPM, 2.5″). Since then I’ve noticed a slight improvement in performance.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to replace the drive in my work laptop with a Seagate hybrid drive as well. I was so impressed with the performance boost and wake-from-hybernate speed that I decided to purchase two drives for home use (one for my laptop, which is a mid-2012 13″ MacBook Pro and one for my wife’s laptop that is probably a 2010 13″ MacBook Pro).

For the personal laptops I purchase two drives (Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s 32 MB Cache 2.5 Inch Solid State Hybrid Drive ST750LX003) from Amazon for around $100 each.

I’m very impressed with these hybrid drives. I never expected to see a noticeable improvement in performance. It’s comparable to the difference experienced when adding a significant amount of RAM to a system. Even my wife’s older MacBook Pro seems a bit faster.

Plugable USB 2.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

USB-Ethernet-USB2-E1000

Several months ago I lost some network ports on different devices due to a power surge from a nearby lightning strike. Unfortunately, one of the devices that took a hit was the ASUS system I’m using for managing home automation. After the surge I configured the system to use wifi but it was struggling to keep up with network traffic (the system does more than just manage my home automation setup).

After I while I decided to purchase a Plugable USB 2.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. It’s worked great ever since and as far as I can tell I haven’t had any new problems with the system (and bandwidth has clearly improved over the wifi connection). The device retails from Amazon for about $25.

Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router N900 Media Stream (EA4500)

Linksys-EA4500

A while back I purchased an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station to serve as our primary router and wireless access point. Though initially impressed, I learned that this expensive device wasn’t capable of fully permitting incoming PPTP VPN connections. In addition, it didn’t provide many configuration options. To work around this problem I purchased an ASUS wireless router and instead used the Airport as a wireless access point.

The final work-around resulted in two network devices where one could have worked just fine (I continued to use the Apple Extreme instead of only the ASUS wireless router because the Apple device offered better wireless range). I wasn’t thrilled with this setup and wireless covered was still lacking so I added a new device to my wishlist for Christmas, which I received.

We’re now using a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router N900 Media Stream (EA4500). I was impressed with this model beforehand when my in-laws changed their router to one of these and I had a chance to work with it a bit. Since setting up our router I’ve removed the ASUS wireless router and the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station.

There are several features I haven’t used yet such as the ability to connect an external hard drive. The following are a few things I’ve learned about this router since installing it.

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mControl 3 Activation Problem – License File

Our house experienced a power surge caused by a nearby lightning strike that damaged one of our A/C units along with a few other devices. Today I figured out that it damaged the network ports on the Airport Extreme Base Station along with the ethernet port on the ASUS system, which is my home automation server.

Fortunately, the ASUS box also has wireless so I was able to shift all of the network services over to the wifi adapter. I had to re-establish the built-in VPN server, among other annoyances. Since the ethernet port was no longer usable I decided to disable it in Windows 7.

Well, that caused a stupid problem.

mControl 3 has activation. I’m not a fan of activation.

I noticed the service was no longer working and wouldn’t start. When I viewed mControl’s log I saw the following message every time I attempted to start it:

The Installation Code of the license file does not match with Code 2. Please contact your System Administrator.
mServer License Code=Hacked/Hacker, Ver=.

My version isn’t hacked. I paid the commercial price (less because it was an upgrade from a previous version that I had also paid for). At first I thought that perhaps the license information was damaged but then I remembered that I had disabled the ethernet port and I noticed that there were some entries in the log during the activation check that hinted toward a check of the network device.

I re-enabled the built-in ethernet port. Sure enough, the software passed the activation check and started up. It seems to use a hardware identifier that’s part of the network card for activation.

 

 

 

 

Waking Wireless Speakers from Standby for Audio Output (Windows 7)

I recently purchased a set of wireless speakers, which I’ve connected to my ASUS EeeBox PC. They work well but I have encountered a problem that is common to wireless speakers – they go into a standby mode and require a few seconds to initialize. For playing music this isn’t a problem. However, using the speakers for text-to-speech can be a problem as the speakers may not initialize before the computer has finished speaking. In addition, Windows text-to-speech output doesn’t seem to have a signal strong enough to wake up the speakers anyway.

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Upgrading an ASUS EeeBox PC EB1006 Hard Drive (and Copying Partitions)

I still had about 70 GBs of free space on the ASUS. However, I needed more free space to add movies, or more likely, add my wife’s music to its iTunes library.

Rather then spend money on a new hard drive this month I decided to re-purpose an external, portable drive. Typically, the small portable drives are nothing more than a drive enclosure with a 2.5″ SATA hard drive. The ASUS drive was somewhere around 150 GBs. The USB external drive was 250 GBs.

I didn’t take photos of the process, but the actual drive swapping isn’t very complicated and I’m sure there are already numerous guides available on the Web.

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