Home automation, Orb, and a Nokia 770 Tablet

Home automation software So, I'm using Homeseer (www.homeseer.com) software to do my home automation.  Its interface is web-based, and it's written using .NET.  Because of this, it's (theoretically) easy to add custom pages and the like.  One of the things I've wanted to do is have LCD panels distributed throughout the house to use to control my devices.  Here's a sample screen. Thermostat control Specifically, my first goal has been to control any of the three x10 thermostats in my house from any panel.  Now, there are lots of panels on the market.  However, they're all insanely expensive, and use proprietary interfaces.  So, I've explored the idea of using PCs with touchscreens.  This gets cumbersome, though, because you have to buy a touchscreen, and you also have to store the PC somewhere out of sight, while still having it close enough to the mounted screen. Nokia 770 Well, last week I saw that buy.com (I buy most tech stuff there) was having a deal on the Nokia 770 Tablet.  It was $143.  That's not much for a device with an 800x480 screen that has wifi and Bluetooth, and runs opera.  I thought to myself, "Self, you could run the Homeseer interface right from that device!".  So, I ordered one.  Ajax on the Nokia Sure enough, the 770 handles the Homeseer interface with ease.  You might be asking why it wouldn't.  Well, the thermostat plug-in uses AJAX, so I was worried.  Fortunately, since the 770 uses Opera 7, it does a great job with it!  Here's a screenshot: Nokia 770 and internet radio (Orb to the rescue) Now, in addition to handling my home automation software, the 770 can also play internet radio, which was another need I had.  Well, it sort of can.  Unfortunately, it doesn't support asx feeds, so I thought I was out of luck with one of my favorite stations.  Fortunately, though, I saw another site that mentioned streaming it through Orb.  Since I have Orb installed on my Media Center PC, I gave it a shot.  It worked great!  I just had to set Orb to stream content in .pls format, which the 770 can handle, and I was set!  I connected the 770 to my home theater, and the music sounded really clear.  I was surprised, since I was restreaming the internet radio stream through Orb.  Anyhow, now I can walk up to my touchpad and control my music selection as well as my home automation!  Of course, since I was accessing Orb, I could play a photo gallery on it, since my pics are all stored on the Media Center PC as well.  Here's a screenshot of Orb on the 770: Nokia 770 limitations I wish I could say that the 770 was a panacea.  Alas, I cannot.  While it does have Opera, it's an old version.  Flash is also old (only version 6).  If it had a newer version of Flash, I could have run a third-party Homeseer plug-in called Maestro, which is a really slick Flash interface.  Also, the 770 doesn't have a lot of codec support, as mentioned earlier.  The 770 supports a memory format that's hard to find, so, unless you do buy another card, expect to have issues if you run more than a couple of things at the same time.  Conclusion The Nokia 770 solved my home automation need nicely!  And, since it also did Internet radio, I was able to sell my Soundbridge Radio I had been using, which could pay for two of the 770s!  Life is good!

John West

John West is an independent technology consultant who specializes in using technology to improve business processes.  That means that technology for its own sake isn't worth much; it's value only comes from helping people do things better, cheaper and faster.

That said, he spends way too much time testing cutting-edge gadgets that often come with promises of making things better and faster, but often fail to live up to those promises.  And they usually fail on the cheaper front as well.

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