Log of Changes
My UK HAL Project
My US HAL Project
Current Devices
Useful Links

Home Automation Log

May 2010
Updated current devices.
Sep 2008
After several years I thought I would update the site to reflect my current home automation efforts in the US. These days the home automation is much simpler with so many more devices available off the shelf.
May 2003

A few people have asked about my camera control program, so I have decided to release the program free of charge. All I ask if that if you would like to contribute to its further development you can (via Paypal).

I will be putting the program on the site over the next few days. In the mean time if you are interested in beta testing, just drop me a line.

Note: The BDLCAM program can be used to control several PTZ cameras locally or via the web. The program does not handle the streaming of the video, there are several existing programs that can take care of that bit. I use Ivista, but BDLCAM will work equally well with other programs such as webcam32.

March 2003
Due to time commitments I have not been keeping the log up to date but below are some of the additions.
  Using Toshiba e740 Pocet PC as an additional remote thanks to:
TV Remote from
and PDA-IR extender from
The great thing about this combination is you can use any pronto ccf file, which was idea for me as I already had a Pronto

Note: The only thing I dislike about the TV Remote software is that if you hold your finger on a button it doesn't auto repeat like a real Pronto does. It is a little annoying on functions like volume+/-, I'm hoping this will be fixed in a later release.

Previously I had used MS IIS webserver and asp to control various devices. I decided to create a VB program to allow control of serial devices without the need for a webserver being installed. The program currently works with:

  • Picturetel PTZ-1
  • Picturetel PTZ-2N
  • Sony EVI-D30/1
  • Sony EVI-G20/1
  • Panasonic video conferencing camera

Take a look for yourself at:

  Xbox modification - Won't say too much but just to say X-ecuter2 Pro and XBMP are great.
  Low power FM transmitter added to the main media PC to allow us to listen to MP3's anywhere in the apartment.
27th May 2002
Well the RedRat has been repaired and is on its way back to me, thanks again Chris.
18th May 2002
Had problems with the RedRat aided by me placing the wrong PSU on the unit and toasting a few components, so no IR control at the moment. I wrote to Chris Dodge the who immediately responded offering to repair the unit. Not bad service considering I originally purchased the unit in 1999.
1st Mar 2002
I have now added support for the Tivo remote, this can be seen on the web control panel . This will allow us to access the Tivo remotely and schedule recordings etc.
28th Feb 2002
Added a second Ivista VS800 switch but controlled by my own program not Ivista. This allows me to change the input on camera 4 using the web control panel. The next stage will be to use the RedRat to allow me to set the video or Tivo remotely.
26th Feb 2002
Found another use for RedRat2 from Chris Dodge Now I can ontrol the blinds remotely via the internet. This was achieved by using an IR distribution block as described at
1st Feb 2002
Installed 8 additional comports in US HAL 8 port PCI card from
Camera 4 is now password protected to allow privacy on internal camera
13th Oct 2001
Added some links to n-homelnks.html

12th Oct 2001

Installed .I can see I'm going to have some fun with this unique product that fills a gap that has been in my home automation system from the beginning.
8th Oct 2001
Added links to webcams on main menu
Sep 2001
Added link to a wireless headset with PC integration/voice recognition. This is a very interesting product that could well have a big place to play in home automation.
1st Apr 2001
Updated links n-homelnks.html removed dead links and added a few new ones incl
Feb 2001
HAL goes to America! - In Feb 2001 I moved to the US with my Job. It wasn't long before my apartment in NY was to get its first X10 Device!
7th Oct 2000
Added incoming SMS functionality to HAL. Includes the ability to turn heating on/off update the web pages. I have also added the ability to instruct HAL to initiate a RAS connection for a number of minutes. The intention for this is to enable me to create some live pages using PWS without having to have a permanent Internet connection.
30th Sep 2000
Added a couple of links to the hardware section of the links page n-homelnks.html
15th Jul 2000
Installed RF Keyboard (with built-in mouse) purchased from I have been very impressed with the range of the unit, with HAL in the loft the keyboard appears to work from anywhere in the house.
20th Dec 1999
Added links to n-homelnks.html page including Milford Instruments who amongst other things are a UK supplier of BOBII on screen display unit.
5th Oct 1999
Added SMS facility to HAL. When someone calls the house and we are out the date, time and tel number of the caller is SMS'd to my mobile phone.
4th Oct 1999
Using an alternative PIC chip I have got the UIR device working. Its still a bit of a mess (as you can see) mainly due to having to adapt the circuit from the original 8 pin chip to the alternative 18 pin chip.
3rd Oct 1999
Added port section to n-Current Units page. It maps what devices are attached to what ports.
3rd Oct 1999
Built UIR unit but can not get unit to function!. I believe the problem lies with the PIC chip but have not been able to get the circuit to work.
1st Oct 1999
The Entegra 6 Port Multi-Function USB Hub arrived today (Click here to see the doorbell video capture in action). The unit appears to be a very cost effective way of adding 4 additional serial ports. As I've said before you can never have to many com ports.
30th Sep 1999
Order components for maplins to build UIR to RS232 unit as described at
29th Sep 1999
Ordered Entegra USB 6 port hub (4 RS232 and 2 USB) from
26th Sep 1999
Pressing 9 on Status Screen 2 now displays the snapshot taken when the doorbell was last pressed. The snapshot is overlayed on top of the live video feed. Status Screen 2 (with doorbell snapshot)
24th Sep 1999
Added Doorbell history to Status Screen 1
23rd Sep 1999
Marantz RC5000 arrived this morning, its a great piece of kit as was the service from
23rd Sep 1999
HAL now takes a snapshot of Camera2 when the doorbell is pressed. The snapshot is also uploaded and now appears on the hal-status page.
22nd Sep 1999
Interfaced Cordless Doorbell to Hal via the joystick port. Hal now logs when the doorbell is pressed and automatically switches to the CCTV camera on the front door and displays videofeed status screen on the TV.
21st Sep 1999
Ordered a RC5000 Marantz remote control from
10th Sep 1999
Installed second camera, pointing at the front door. To see latest snapshots take a look at the hal-status page. I've now set to work on modifying our cordless doorbell so that HAL will know when someone's at the door.
7th Sep 1999
Installed the first of the cameras on the front of the house pointing at the road. Updated the code to allow the system to support up to 8 cameras.
5th Sep 1999
Completed code to capture stills from CCTV cameras and upload to hal-status page on the web. The picture in the bottom left frame is connected to the capture device. The camera is currently pointing at the screen of HAL in the loft until I get around to putting the CCTV cameras outside.
4th Sep 1999
Purchased Belkin USB Videobus capture device from PC-World Lakeside (also available form Action). For details of the Belkin and other USB capture device see USB capture devices page.
28th Aug 1999
Added 4th option to the IVR system to allow a forced update of the web by phone. This was done to keep the call costs down. Rather than update the web every hour\day etc, I can now call HAL and request the update. This means that the information will be totally up to date and have the added bonus of keeping the call costs down.
23rd Aug 1999
Setup automated FTP so that the log file containing callerid information is uploaded to the net. In the very near future this will be used to upload the status of the house including pictures from CCTV cameras. My aim is to add an additional option to the IVR part of the system. When selected HAL would instigate an FTP session and transfer status files.
23rd Aug 1999
Added details of USB capture devices to Home automation links page. I intend to use one of these devices to capture video or stills from the CCTV cameras. I am looking at USB in an attempt to avoid IRQ conflicts. With a machine that has 6 com ports IRQ's are a rare commodity!.
22nd Aug 1999
Moved the Hayes Accura modem to the 2nd Tel line and reverted to using PC1 callerid box on the 1st line.
21st Aug 1999
Added Link to UK supplier of Home Automation equipment with on-line ordering facility.
1st Aug 1999
Changed the Status Screen on TV to include callerid history, previously it only showed the last call.
29th Jul 1999
Upgraded the PC running HAL to give more power and flexibility for future developments. Hal is now a 400Mhz Celeron based PC running Windows 98 with 32Mb Ram, 8.4Gb HD and 8Mb ATI Xpert@Play graphics card.
26th Jul 1999
Implemented first IVR module to HAL. The functionality the PC1 CallerID unit and Telephone responder (TR551) have now been replaced with the Hayes Accura modem using TAPI support.
19th Jul 1999
Upgraded the machine that HAL runs on from Windows 3.11 to Windows95 to allow the additional 32bit code required for telephone support. This is pushing the machine to the limits as it is only a 486 25Mhz with 8Mb of RAM and a 240Mb Harddisk.

4th Jul 1999

Although a gave up with the PACE modem some time ago I Finally admitted defeat today and purchased a External Hayes Accura 56K modem. The Exceltel test program along with a few others all worked first time with the Accura. All I can say about Pace is although it appeared to be a very good modem the TAPI support seams not to be as good as the Accura and that Pace Technical support were of little help.
7th Feb 1999
Experimented with Exceltel Teletools free 30 day evaluation. Although I am having problems getting it to play and record wav files using my PACE modem.
6th Feb 1999
Added a link to ExceleTel Teletools- ExceleTel TeleTools™ is a computer telephony (CT) developers tool kit. It lets you easily build telephony features into Windows-based applications.
6th Feb 1999
Wrote a VB5 program ( to help build a database of commands for the RedRat2. Testing has gone well and RedRat2 works with all InfraRed devices I have tested it with.
18th Jan 1999
RedRat2 arrived this morning (thanks Chris). It's very easy to use, I had HAL controlling the TV in a matter of minutes. This little beauty will come in to its own until when I get the Voice recognition working.
14th Jan 1999
Finally got around to boarding the loft, hoping to finish it by this weekend. Should make my HAL setup much neater and easier to work on.
12th Jan 1999
Added a link to Chase Research PLC a UK supplier of multi-port I/O cards (you can never have enough Com ports)
11th Jan 1999
Ordered a beta RedRat2 from Chris Dodge
9th Jan 1999
Updated the HAL code to allow support for the Pace 56 Voice Modem as well as my existing CID unit from Solwise