Archive for June, 2010

Shion 3.0α4

June 20th, 2010

Shion 3.0α4 is now available.

Please read the following release notes carefully.

This is an early alpha release for Shion 3. This software is still very much under construction and has some very rough edges. In no particular order, some of the current major issues:

1. The RemoteBuddy interface remain unimplemented.

2. The DVR, Bluetooth, GPS, and camera devices have not yet been implemented.

3. The menu items leading to Shion web pages remain incomplete, pending the completion of the new Shion website.

4. Networked controller support (SmartLinc, EZServe) is not present in this release.

5. Sprinkler support is currently missing.

6. Changes in the device configuration from the preferences panel (modem & controllers) require an application restart to take effect.

7. (Shion 2 Users) You will need to reenter your devices, as the migration code is not yet complete.

This release introduces the following improvements:

1. Better support for PowerLinc 2414U & CM15A controllers.

2. Improved Shion Framework for hardware device communication.

3. Temperature trigger support. (e.g. “Execute snapshot “All off” when temperature drops below 70 degrees.”)

4. Improved Shion XMPP dialog support. (Requires Shion Online account.)

Note to testers: A lot of effort has been spent improving the performance of the CM15A and PowerLinc 2414U controllers. Please post a comment or send feedback if you continue to experience problems with these devices.

This alpha release is not intended for production use and is mainly intended to solicit feedback on the direction of the product. This release has been tested with the PowerLinc 2414U, PowerLinc 2412U/S, CM11A, and CM15A controllers.

Please submit any feedback in the comments below.

Shion 3.0α3

June 9th, 2010

Shion 3.0α3 is now available.

Please read the following release notes carefully.

This is the initial alpha release for Shion 3. This software is still very much under construction and has some very rough edges. In no particular order, some of the current major issues:

1. The RemoteBuddy, XMPP dialog, and other non-GUI interfaces remain unimplemented.

2. The DVR, Bluetooth, GPS, and camera devices have not yet been implemented.

3. The menu items leading to Shion web pages remain incomplete, pending the completion of the new Shion website.

4. Networked controller support (SmartLinc, EZServe) is not present in this release.

5. Sprinkler support is currently missing.

6. Changes in the device configuration from the preferences panel (modem & controllers) require an application restart to take effect.

7. (Shion 2 Users) You will need to reenter your devices, as the migration code is not yet complete.

This release introduces the following improvements:

1. Better support for Mac OS X 10.4 and PowerPC configurations.

2. Improved Shion Framework for hardware device communication.

3. Snapshot support for thermostats.

4. Initial AppleScript support. (Refer to the AppleScript dictionary for details.)

Note to testers: A lot of effort has been spent improving the performance of the CM15A and PowerLinc 2412S controllers. Please post a comment or send feedback if you continue to experience problems with these devices.

This alpha release is not intended for production use and is mainly intended to solicit feedback on the direction of the product. This release has been tested with the PowerLinc 2414U, PowerLinc 2412U/S, CM11A, and CM15A controllers.

Please submit any feedback in the comments below.

Shion 3 & custom web interfaces

June 1st, 2010

I’ve received a few queries over e-mail about Shion 3 and support for custom web interfaces in light of the impending release of the Shion online service later this summer. I’ve responded over e-mail, but figured that I should post some comments here as well.

First of all, to give some background, the scenario I’m addressing is one where a Shion user creates a custom set of PHP pages (or web framework of choice) that they host on a local machine (running Shion) to expose a web interface for devices like an iPad. Mr Flibble, a UK-based Shion user, has done exactly that.

I want to state unequivocally that I have no problem with Shion 3 users deciding to create their own web interfaces in lieu of subscribing to the Shion online service. Shion 3 will continue to support the AppleScript functionality that is used to bridge the Objective-C & PHP worlds. I can’t (technologically) prevent such third party activities without completely ditching the scripting functionality, which I am unwilling to do for a variety of reasons.

Furthermore, I respect the do-it-yourself ethos of the home automation community. Given that the typical member of the current home automation community is pretty technologically savvy, they’re going to build their web interface somehow. I’d rather that they build upon my platform and send me comments about my application instead of submitting that precious feedback to a competitor. The Shion platform is still in its early phases, and I can use all of the comments and suggestions that I can get. :-)

So, if anyone will be allowed to create their own free Shion 3 web interface, how do I plan on competing with a subscription-based online service? Several ways:

  1. Simplicity & reliability: Setting up Shion and a client to connect to each other is simply a matter of entering a username and password. There’s no need to mess with system settings to configure ports, set up and maintain a web server for serving the pages, or worry about forwarding ports and maintaining a dynamic DNS name for use outside your home.
  2. Rich client support: The native Shion clients on mobile platforms will include features and functionality that are simply not present in web interfaces. This includes efficient two-way real-time communication between Shion nodes, location awareness, and AI-assisted user interfaces that learn to present you with an optimal interface based upon location, time of day, and other factors.
  3. Ubiquitous client support: As I’ve mentioned before, my goal is to display a Shion user interface on any device or medium that will support it. Mobile phones and Internet-capable portable devices are the first targets on the list, but I have plans to support Shion on your television, e-book reader, instant messaging client, digital picture frame, and so on. Traditional Web interfaces are nice (and the Shion online service will include one as well), but there are many more options for control that have remained largely untapped by the current crop of home automation developers.

These are admittedly some grand goals, but perfectly attainable over the next year or so. My task is not only to think about optimal web interfaces, but also to think beyond web interfaces to create an environment where users can monitor and control their environments independent of the presence of a web browser. My belief is that as I bring more of these interfaces online, a sufficient number of users will recognize the value provided by being a Shion subscriber to make this a sustainable enterprise.