mControl v3 Upgrade


Embedded Automation has officially released version 3 of mControl. There are several changes including new modules that can be purchased individually to additional features. Based on what I’ve seen it appears that the Base version, available for $170, includes almost everything that version 2 came with.

I wasn’t thrilled about the price until I learned that owners of previous versions of mControl can get an upgrade discount of $150, cutting the price down to only $20! Tonight I submitted my request and mControl 2 license and plan to purchase the upgrade as soon as the discount is available under my account.

For more information about upgrading there is a guide available on their store product page.

Updated 10/04/2011: Last night I purchased my upgrade license, which was only $20 after the discount. The only problem I had was applying the new license. I had to delete the license key file that I used with the beta version before I could re-install mControl 3 and apply the new license.

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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ASUS EeeBox PC as a Home Automation/Media Server


I recently acquired an ASUS EeeBox PC (EB1006). My goal is to set it up to serve media, manage our home automation systems, and some additional security roles. I’m hoping this will be the last major change to the home automation setup for a few years.

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Dropping Shion for mControl (But Shion is a Great Option)


I’m shifting back to using mControl (Windows) and dropping my recent use of Shion (OS X). However, it’s not because of problems with Shion. The program is very good and Chris, the author, was very helpful in getting the iOS app working for me.

The reason I’m not going to be using Shion is simply because I recently acquired an ASUS EeeBox PC. More details about why I’m making this change will be included in a future post.

Home Automation with Shion Online


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.

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mPanel Discontinued, iOS Device Support for mControl Planned


Embedded Automation announced via its forums that it is discontinuing the mPanel device partly due to supply issues. The part of this announcement that I’m interested in is their planned support for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices. Many mControl users have been hoping for an iPad app since the device first hit the market.

According to the announcement it will probably not be released before mControl 3.

mPanel Announcement

Updated 08/18/2011: A few weeks ago I started using the mControl 3 beta along with the freely available iOS app. I’ve been using the app on my iPhone and it works well, though sometimes it can take several seconds for it to connect to my server. It works just as well through a VPN into my home network.

Using iTunes with mControl


Despite my lack of luck with the mControl text-to-speech driver I did manage to get the iTunes beta driver to work. Setup required a lot of troubleshooting and in the end the only way I could get it to work was to dump all songs into only one playlist. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to play only one song at a time so instead I set a delay of two minutes after a song starts to play. After two minutes iTunes receives another command to stop playing the current song.

It could be a simple matter of not understanding the commands that are available but for now I’ll stick with this setup as I don’t have very many uses for the music. To handle the sudden delay I’m considering editing the MP3 files by cutting them down to two minutes with a fade-out.

Note: I was using Winamp in conjunction with a command-line interface (Clamp) but it didn’t work perfectly and I was not thrilled that Winamp seemed to have updated itself automatically.

Using Growl to receive text notifications from mControl (and Windows 7)


Being able to control my home automation setup remotely is critical but I also wanted to receive event notifications from the computer on my phone. The solution is relatively simple, especially if you have an iPhone.

I installed Growl for Windows. To send notifications from the command-line I downloaded growlnotify from the same site. The final component is an app for the phone that can receive Growl notifications over the Internet. In my case I chose Prowl for iPhone but there are other services available.

To avoid receiving Growl notifications you don’t want (such as application events that don’t need to go to your phone) you can set the priority of the message with growlnotify and then configure Growl to only forward notifications of a certain priority to your mobile device.

This is especially useful if you have alarm events setup or reminders. For example, sometimes I forget to put the trash up at the curb so mControl is configured to send me a notice on the appropriate morning for trash pickup.

Text-to-Speech in mControl


I’ve tried to use the text-to-speech beta driver in mControl but it just doesn’t seem to work. It may be that something required to make it function just isn’t present or may be broken in the beta release of mControl that I’m using. It’s also possible that just didn’t do something properly in the setup of the driver. Regardless, nothing I did seemed to work so I went back to a command-line tool I had tried previously.

In a previous post I mentioned psexec.exe, which I used to get this to work in the “Run App” component.

The command-line application I’m using is saystatic.exe (or you can use saydynamic.exe). It’s a free tool available at Included below is an example of how I’m using it in “Run App” in conjunction with psexec.exe:




-i 1 c:\folder\saystatic.exe “Hello world.”

Updated: 08/25/2011: An important step, which is mentioned in one of the sources credited in a previous post, is to set the mControl service to interact with the desktop.

Tonight I started working on re-establishing text-to-speech integration in mControl 3 (beta). I don’t think they have a TTS driver available for this version, at least not yet. I just tried to get it working the way it was in my mControl 2 setup. It took a while but I was finally successful.

I am getting a frequent warning about interactive desktop messages for a process that appears to be related to mControl 3 license management. So far, I’ve been able to ignore them (they don’t have any interactions available anyway).

The moment I had text-to-speech working in a macro I realized it wasn’t using my custom voice (due to the user level that I had psexec.exe set to interact with Windows). I came up with a solution, though it’s not the most elegant. On the automation server I created a new, standard user account. After setting up the account I logged into it, set its text-to-speech voice to the custom voice, saved the changes, and then logged out. The final step was to add the user credentials to the psexec.exe parameters. After making these changes I was again able to use the custom voice with psexec.exe within the account I typically use.

In the new setup I didn’t include saystatic.exe directly within the psexec.exe parameters (as part of the macro). Instead, I created a batch file that contains the call for saystatic.exe along with the phrase to speak, and then referenced that from within the psexec.exe parameters. This works out a little better because not only are the parameters within the macro shorter but I can also make some changes from the batch files without having to edit the macros themselves.