Mac Daniel's Advice

Using the X10 System with Your Mac

Evan Kleiman - 2001.10.03

Q. What can I do to make my room even more like its from Star Trek?

A. With the growing popularity of the latest Star Trek installment, Enterprise, TNN's now somewhat over-showing of every great Star Trek movie, and now the re-syndication of Star Trek: The Next Generation, more and more people are growing to love Star Trek again - me, for one. More and more people are wanting their lives and houses to be more like Star Trek as well.

Last week, we discussed making your room a lot like Star Trek by putting in your own X10 system. This week we'll discuss using motion sensors and scripting to have even more control over your room. One of the coolest things in the "Star Trek Room" is voice-command. "Computer, lights!" is possible. First, you need to set up your software to use scripting; AppleScript is, of course, the preferred way to do this, and almost all of the available applications for X10 support this protocol. My favorite applications for this are either X-Tension or SmartHome, by Smarthome.com, both available at X10's Web site. Both of these programs are set up different ways.

Once you have your scripts set up, it's time to let the speech magic begin. First, enable Speech Recognition on your computer. Next, make an alias of your script and drop it in the "Speakable Items" folder. Now you can just say "lights" or whatever - basically anything you name the program or script - and your script will run and do whatever you've programmed it do for you.

Next, we can use motion detecters to make your computerized room seem even more computerized and Star Trek-like. First, to make the motion detecters work, you need to buy a motion detector. As usual, you can find these little delights at the usual bevy of places such as x10.com, eBay, Smarthome.com, and others. Once you get one, aim it at your door (or whatever opening you'll normally be coming through), and you'll now be able to turn on your lights or run any script by walking into the room.

Another cool thing you can do with your new X10 setup is run TV or video cameras through your computer for a type of security system. If you've ever been to X10.com's Web site, you've definitely heard about (or at least seen a picture of) it's "number one" xCam2 system. This system consists of cameras, receivers, and TV or computer control boxes. You add a camera to any area you wish to view on your TV or computer and then hook 'em up. Each one, like your lights, has an individual X10 address. All you do is hook up the cameras and hook up a TV transceiver module, just like you hook up your VCR, and you can watch it on your TV - just like you watch a tape or DVD - and if you want to, you can even record it to your VCR and watch it later, just like you do with a regular, normal, expensive security system.

Also, another cool thing you can do is link up your Xcam2 system with your computer, using many of the different types of supplied software available at X10 's web site, along with some of the hardware which will work with the more modern DV Macs.

Now that you have set up more of your Star Trek room it's time to play with it and have some fun. Next week: how to be getting Scotty and Jean Luc Picard in your room, or not.

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