Cinemar needs your feedback on Insteon

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Cinemar needs your feedback on Insteon

Postby mcascio » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:29 pm

As many of you know, Cinemar has invested quite a bit of time and money into Insteon. Many customers have reported they weren't happy with the existing MLinsteonPLM plugin. While some have blamed Cinemar, I think any developer who has worked with Insteon's protocol and sparse documentation can more than sympathize with us. But I don't want this discussion to be based on this. We want to move forward and provide a good solution.

I think one of the early mistakes we did make was allowing users to add/remove lights directly from the plugin rather than just controlling - this added a substantial amount of development hours to the project and without proper docs or support - it was nearly impossible to know how Insteon was supposed to work and what we were supposed to send. The only reason we did this was because Smarthome's own software was unable to successfully do it well. I think we came pretty close with our MLLighting Insteon Driver but it fell short in swapping out dead links.

HouseLinc 2 and an updated PLM was recently released. This product seems to be a step in the right direction, but I think due to early design decisions in the network, it still falls short in telling outside programs the status of linked switches. It's funny how most people just want their 3-way lights to be inSync.

While Cinemar could continue to develop a robust solution for managing links, it will continue to take a considerable amount of time, and we still have yet to see an updated SDK. There are companies like Insteon and ISY that this is their entire product line, for Cinemar, this is just one of a hundred plugins that we have to maintain.

From what we've heard, ISY does a good job. We have a unit in-house now that we have started some early testing. But we really wanted to see HouseLinc 2. Again this is a bit further than the last version.

With all this said, here's what we are thinking:
1) Revert back to our original MLLighting Insteon PLM Driver
2) We should be able to support the older PLM and newer model
3) For adding lights and not getting too crazy, I think our plugin does a good job of cross linking automatically basic switches and all the buttons on the KeypadLinc. It took me I think 1 to 2 hours to add 30 lights successfully without a hitch.
4) For larger jobs, utilize HouseLinc2 or the ISY files to import their lights into MLLighting. Then allow users to control devices and groups based on those imports. In the case of ISY, the plugin would send commands through the ISY as well.
5) Internally, Cinemar has to manage setting variables for 3 way switches and possibly even the switches on the wall when commands do not originate from the physical wall switch (not sure why Insteon doesn't do this automatically)

Just looking for feedback from users. I don't think we can expect users to spring for either HouseLinc 2 or ISY - so I think this is somewhat of a cross blend.
Last edited by mcascio on Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby DaveB » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:34 pm

Wrong Thread?? :wink:
Thanks!

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Postby mcascio » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:49 pm

Itunes...Insteon...what's the difference? :)
Now moved to Insteon. ;)
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Postby bhiga » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:50 pm

(yay, now it's in its correct home)

I have HouseLinc 2 and the new PLM (as well as the old PLM-Serial).

I have moved from using MLInsteonPLM to using HouseLinc 2 for managing devices and links.

It's not perfect, but it's way better than the original HouseLinc and I find it easier to use than MLInsteonPLM for most things.

Priority-wise from the MainLobby side, highest-first, I want:

1. Status of Insteon devices - lights primarily. Status of other devices (Thermostat controller, etc) would be nice too though.

2. Control of Insteon devices

3. Some kind of integration with ISY and HouseLinc 2 for managing devices. I don't want to have to maintain a database in the MLServer plug-in and a separate one in HouseLinc 2 and/or ISY.

4. Adding/removing/cross-linking devices

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Postby mcascio » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:56 pm

Brandon,

Did you ever get a chance to play with the MLLighting Insteon Plugin? Or did you just use the MLInsteonPLM version?

Like UPB, we allow users to import the UPE file. All configuration is done in their software. We just import them and allow control.

You can add UPB lights, but obviously at some point things can get out of sync.

I think part of the issues with Insteon has been the high failure rate of earlier versions. Users were forced to swap dead switches in and out - being left with dead links. I think nowadays, these issues have disappeared with the newer revisions. I have yet to have a newer rev fail. So even using our plugin to add lights, 3-way lights and keypadLincs works fine.

In the case of HouseLinc2 or ISY as the device manager, the users would want to only utilize their program for adding / removing...then import back into MLLighting - just like we do with UPB.
Last edited by mcascio on Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby DaveB » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:57 pm

Hey now I will answer the question; I like it and see no reason not to try it. I still liked the concept of having all lighting under a common "master" area. I allows people with more than one type of lighting group there lights accordingly. I think that overall, it will be a great move forward.
Thanks!

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Postby mcascio » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:04 pm

I'd like to move any interested users back to the MLLighting Insteon Plugin and learn what is and isn't working. Anyone who has purchased the MLinsteonPLM plugin is elgible too.

The one issue I think exists is that if some sends a command to turn off a 3way switch, that it does turn off one of the switches, but leaves the other on. Again, really something I thought Insteon should have handled internally, but I think we can manage it on our end through an internal database that knows which switches are linked together.

I'm assuming this is how ISY might manage correct statuses as well. Since there doesn't be away to program the switches to do this automatically when not controlled from the switch.
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Postby DaveB » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:14 pm

Looks like I may need to plug my PLM back in and fire up the serial port... :wink:
Thanks!

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Postby fnkpet » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:56 pm

I feel like an insteon vetran so ill weigh in.

I have 100+ devices, had a PLC, have 2 PLM's, and now an ISY99 controller.

Im always looking for the next thing to makes this work right.

I purchased every plugin ML put out. Im currently using MLLighting with the plm plugin. Not the stand alone PLM plugin (though I bought that as well).

Dont even remember why I didnt go 100% stand alone PLM. Something wasnt working........

I also have smartlic (Insteon software) although not the new version. FYI I think Powerhome is a better piece of software for managing links - they have a new version that supports PLM. http://www.power-home.com/

Anyway - I dont expect you guys to manage links / unlinks / groups. To your point there are companies that do only that (and they have struggled as well),

While it sucks to have to buy another piece of software I think people need to bite the bullet and do it. Your co is never are going to have as robust a system and getting the links clean is HARD.

So what Do I want from MLServer?

Just to be able to turn off and on my devices and groups. Get correct status of all devices, and 'react' (run some code) based on status changes.

Oh and I want to be able to light up a keypad button.

I am using the isyplugin beta bob released and am moving all my lights to that, so far working great (not 100% migrated)

Additional beneifit to ISY is that it is standalone hardware/software. So if my MLServer goes down my programs still run. Also web acessable.

Too many times have we been away and the landscape lighting (for example) got stuck 'on' cos MLServer had froze or the computer had shut off.

Thanks

Frank

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Postby mcascio » Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:59 am

DaveB wrote:Looks like I may need to plug my PLM back in and fire up the serial port... :wink:


Dave,

Since you are an excellent tester, perhaps you can test just using our MLLighting Insteon plugin and adding a few lights. Just making sure they are added properly and status is reporting correctly.

I'll have to check the wiki and see what's there in regards to creating a 3way lighting setup, but it's pretty easy to do.

We'll have to do more debugging, but I believe the buttons on the keypad linc status are only known when the button is physically pressed.
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Postby windrockwater » Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:13 pm

I also have tried a few of the cinemar insteon plugins with mixed success (PLC and PLM). I haven't done much with any programmatic lighting for months now out of disgust and failure. But i am willing to try again. I also have the ISY and will download the ISY plugin with high hopes. I was impressed with the ISY.

I have had some trouble with (more of) my insteon switches lately. Some 3 way switches don't function, some paddles don't respond at all, etc. I have reset them with no luck. So of 30 switches i am up to about 5-6 replacements which really blows. But i am not about to abandon all 30 so i will try again as i have for 3 years to automate them.

I am tired of investing in hardware and plugins. But hopefully we can get something successful working. My opinions and needs match fnkpet's.

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Postby mcascio » Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:25 pm

windrockwater,

I think all of us early adopters are in the same boat.

I'd recommend switching out any dead paddles and bad switches. Again, this probably the main reason why the software side needed to be so robust. If a switch was never replaced, you wouldn't really need to do to much to your setup once configured.

As I mentioned, I've had much better success with the newer revs. The last Dimmer I installed (Ver 3.3) doesn't make a click sound when you press it and it seems much more rock solid of a switch. It also doesn't have the extremely bright led. So I think they may have finally nailed their hardware down to a certain degree. Insteon is standing behind their products and will most likely replace your switches even if they are out of the initial 1 yr warranty period. I think they double the warranty period. I still have a batch here that are defective and a couple more that have been flaky. I also have some newer ones still in the box that I'd want to replace with later revs rather than putting into the wall only to possibly fail in hopes of never replacing them again.
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Postby mcascio » Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:33 pm

BTW, does anyone have a comprehensive list of the latest REV # for Insteon Products?
> Dimmers
> Relays
> KeypadLincs
> Timers
> Icon on/off
etc.

I noticed one of my KeypadLinc came with an engraved Scene A buttons. Which look nice, but they won't match my others and there's no way AFAIK, to customize the text on the buttons now.
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Postby mcascio » Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:57 pm

Does anyone have any experience with integrating ELK and Insteon? I'm guessing ELk doesn't allow you to program Insteon through their system...but I just want to confirm.
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Postby bigDvette » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:24 pm

Ooh, I can't help but add my .02.

I too have used the PLC plugin, 2 PLM plugins and I've tried linking manually and using the plugin and the net result is that I think the plugins are simply bad at telling you when something was successfull and figuring out what to do.

I used to notice that I had to monitor the PLM database to see it was creating valid links to devices to ensure that as I linked I was getting a solid link the PLM.

I agree this has not been a cinemar only issue, but a hardware issue.

The problem with the PLM is that it is stupid. It doesn't manage state, it doesn't retry and all it really is is a listener and sender.

The reason the ISY works is that it is a hardware device. When you build links it completely understands the protocol (difficult and as Mario says, it is their business more than it is Cinemars), it understands failure and it allows you to EASILY create links for 3-way, 4-way, KPL buttons ...

With the ISY plugin you have to manage all this state and keep a database to tell you when to poll a 3-way device, blah, blah, blah and it is slow. So slow it makes it so your programs have to wait for complex scenes to be created.

The ISY on the other hand is fire and forget. Tell it to turn on a light and it turns it on. It doesn't know that a physical device has another device as a slave (to Marios question / point of whether it knows this and keeps them in sync), that is what a group is for or a scene as the ISY refers to it.

It is the transparent and ease by which it allows you to create scenes that makes it so much superior. Essentially I don't turn on devices any longer, I only turn on scenes. A scene may only have 1 device in it in some cases, but I only turn on scenes. When you turn on a scene, what you get back is an updated status for all lights in that scene so if you are using devices as indicators, you get back device status.

Many of us are working on actually figuring out group status and Bob has worked some of this in to his plugin. Group status actually allows you to run around a room and turn on a bunch of lights independently at the switch and each time a new status comes in it looks at what other devices are related to that device and which scene they are in and sees if all the devices are at the levels defined by the scene and therefore, you could also choose to only use scenes as indicators in your program.

So, what I'm trying to say is that the reason the cinemar plugins are so hard to get working is because:

1) They are poor at creating scenes / groups reliably.
2) When something is wrong in the scene, it is nearly impossible to fix it without starting over.
3) Without reliable scenes, it is very difficult to keep KPL buttons and slave switches in sync physically and through the software.
4) ISY allows you access to the scenes you create that physically create the 3-way link without you having to create another group on top of that so that Cinemar understands the group therefore keeping traffic down.

Lastly, the PLM plugin works reliably for what it is written to do, but it does have a polling problem for status and if you are just trying to turn on and off devices it works. However, trying to "fake" groups by turning devices on and off independently just makes everything slower and more prone to error.

If you want it to be rock solid, use the ISY and Mario, ELK is using the ISY. There are actual variables the ISY creates that link a devices or scene to an ELK ID and the file from the ISY is exported and then imported to the ELK which becomes a subscriber to the ISY much like Bob's plugin. It evidentally works great just like Bob's plugin.

I'm using Donald's plugin, which also works great!


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