General Questions
  1. What is the Home Control Assistant (HCA)?
  2. Does HCA have to run on my computer 24/7 for it to work? Is there any "downloadable" interface so I don't have to leave my computer on all the time?
  3. What is the difference between HCA Limited, Standard, and Plus?
  4. How do I get started with HCA?
  5. Where is my design file stored?
  6. How do I make a backup of my design file?
  7. Can I install HCA on multiple machines?
  8. Where can I find out more info and get answers to my questions?
  9. What hardware types does HCA support?
  10. Is there a place where I can get examples and share my work?
  11. Do I have to register my copy of HCA? Do I have to do that on all machines it is installed on?
  12. What is the latest version of HCA?
  13. How do I know what version of HCA I'm running?
  14. What's a "point version"?
  15. I want to use my "acme" devices and it doesn't look like HCA supports those. What can I do?
  16. How do I get the latest HCA version?
  17. Is there a way to print my design?
  18. I forgot my remote access password. What do I do now?
  19. I forgot my HCA Cloud account password. What do I do now?
  20. I've made a mess. How do I start over?
  21. My voice assistant has stopped working. What do I do to get it going again?
  22. Can I have more than one design file?
  23. Is there a limit on the number of things – devices, programs, etc. – in my design?
  24. What are the rules on what I name my objects – devices, programs, rooms – in my design?
  25. How often do you update HCA?
  26. What voice assistants does HCA support?
  27. Are there any additional costs besides the software purchase price?
Terminology questions
  1. What is "Checkbox control"?
  2. What is the "current" schedule?
  3. What is "Development mode" and "Control mode"?
  4. What is a "device"?
  5. What is the "display pane" and the "Design pane"?
  6. What is a "display background"?
  7. What is a "friendly name"?
  8. What is the "HCA Calendar" and how do I use it?
  9. What is a "home mode"?
  10. What is an "interface"?
  11. What is a "group"?
  12. What is a "keypad" and what is it good for?
  13. What is "Power track" and what can I do with it?
  14. What is a "Protocol Bridge"?
  15. What is the "Ribbon", "Category", "Panel", and "Button"?
  16. What is a "room", a "folder", and a "display" and how are they different?
  17. What is a "schedule" and a "schedule entry"?
  18. What is "stand-alone" mode and what is "client-server" mode?
  19. What is a "trigger"?
  20. What is a "two-part name"?
  21. What are "variables"?
  22. What is a "Visual program" and what is the "Visual Programmer"?
  23. What is the "Visual Scene Editor"?
Client-Server Questions
  1. I use HCA Plus. Does that mean I must use client-server?
  2. Can I run HCA and the HCA Server on the same machine at the same time?
  3. If I'm running the HCA Server do I need to have a client connected for it all to operate?
  4. How do I set a remote access password?
  5. What's port forwarding and why do I need to know about it?
  6. What is the "HCA Cloud" and do I need to have an account?
  7. How do I test to see if the HCA Cloud can contact my server?
  8. The HCA Cloud can't contact my server. What do I do to resolve that?
  9. Is the HCA Server a Windows Service and if not can it be made into one?
Usage Questions
  1. How do I make a program?
  2. What is the log? And why are there three of them?
  3. What are "Network devices" and how do I use that tool?
  4. Can I have my HCA design send me an email or SMS when something happens?
  5. How do I figure out if a program I created is working?
  6. Can I get a list of all my "friendly names"?
  7. In my display of my devices, some have red boxes around them. Why is that?
  8. What is the "Design Inspector" and what does it tell me?
  9. What is the "Alert Manager" and how do I use it?
  10. What is an Icon theme?
  11. Can I add use my own icons with HCA?
  12. What is the "Visual Program Debugger" and how do I use it?
  13. How do I schedule a device?
  14. How does HCA know Sunrise and Sunset?
  15. Can I schedule a program?
  16. Can I schedule a scene?
  17. Must I use the Visual Scheduler to create a schedule?
  18. How do I configure the visual scheduler to change how the schedule displays?
  19. My schedule doesn't seem to be working as expected. What can I do?
  20. How do I use weather data?
  21. Can I create my own applications that interface with the HCA Server?
  22. How do I view and change variable values?
  23. How can I turn on or off a light when something moves?
  24. How can I automatically turn off a light after a period of time passes?
  25. What is a HTML Display and how do I create one?
  26. How can I tell when a device last reported or was used?
  27. All my variable names are confusing. Is there a smart format of naming to use to avoid confusion?
  28. Why do some actions at devices appear to never get to HCA? Are there reasons (collisions, low signal, etc)? How can these be improved?
  29. How do I stop the log viewer from jumping to the bottom when a new entry is added as I scroll about?
Insteon Support Questions
  1. Where did my 2413U PowerLinc go? What can’t I connect to it?
  2. What can I do with Insteon linking and can HCA build links between devices?
  3. What is the "Visual Scene Editor (VSE)"?
  4. What is the Insteon "Multi-Way wizard"?
  5. What are the tabs at the bottom of the VSE for?
  6. In the VSE why does one device have a red box around it?
  7. Why can't I use the Visual Scene editor with some of my Insteon devices?
  8. What is a "Linking table" for Insteon devices?
  9. I can't read the linking table of my wireless device. What can I do?
  10. How do I replace an Insteon device that stopped working?
  11. How can I replace my failed PowerLinc and why it so hard to do so
  12. How can I get a list of all the Insteon links in my design?
  13. The Insteon Device Replace Wizard failed part way through, and now some of the links are with the new device and some with the old. Now what?
  14. The Insteon PLC Swap Tool failed part way through, and now some of the device links are with the new PowerLinc and some with the old. Now what?
General Questions

What is the Home Control Assistant (HCA)?

HCA is an integrating platform for home automation. It contains facilities to control most common automation gear and provides tools that let you construct a solution that meets your needs. Unlike some "control only" software, HCA provides tools for creation of schedules and handling of events in ways that are designed and implemented by you. Right "out of the box" HCA can't do anything. As you work with the HCA user interface you create a solution that HCA uses to handle your home automation gear in the ways you want.

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Does HCA have to run on my computer 24/7 for it to work? Is there any "downloadable" interface so I don't have to leave my computer on all the time?

Yes, HCA must run 24/7. But it isn't a resource intensive program so a very small Windows computer works great with HCA. There are many new "small footprint" machines (no fan, a SS drive, and can be used without monitor, keyboard, mouse) that work well with HCA. With the client-server capabilities of HCA, you can run the server on one of these type machines and connect to the server to build your design from your more powerful computer that you use for other tasks.

There are no downloadable interfaces that can do all that HCA needs and with the cost of one of these small footprint machines only 2 or 3 times the cost of one controllable switch, there really isn't any reason not to use one.

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What is the difference between HCA Limited, Standard, and Plus?

A table that shows the differences is on the support web site. In brief, HCA Limited allows only a small number of devices, schedules, and programs. HCA Standard contains most of the basic HCA operations but is limited in connectivity – it doesn't support remote access from mobile applications or voice assistants. HCA Plus has it all.

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How do I get started with HCA?

The best place is the Getting Started Guide. Over many months we have continually improved this guide as we answered user's questions and we gathered feedback. While technical support is available to help answer questions, the Getting Started Guide contains all the best information.

We will be honest, HCA isn't one of those kinds of programs where you can just "mess about" and figure it out. It is like a sharp knife. It works great when you have the skills to use it but makes a mess when you don't. The Getting Started Guide, User Guide, and HCA 101 Videos help you acquire those skills.

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Where is my design file stored?

All of your design – devices, programs, and all the configuration – is stored in a file with file type ".HCA". That file can be placed anywhere you want on your disk, but most users store it in their documents area – same documents area where you store files from Word or Excel – in the "HCA" sub-folder that was created when you installed HCA.

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How do I make a backup of my design file?

Making a backup of your design, like making a backup of all files you create, is a good idea. Find the file you open in HCA – the file with type ".HCA" – and copy it to someplace safe like a USB drive.

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Can I install HCA on multiple machines?

Yes. You can install HCA on as many machines as you personally own.

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Where can I find out more info and get answers to my questions?

The HCA Support site is here and the support contact form is here. But do first look at the user guide and technical notes and the YouTube channel.

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What hardware types does HCA support?

HCA has built-in support of Insteon, UPB, X10, IR using the Global Cache IR interfaces, Phillips Hue, and Nest thermostat. In addition, you can add to HCA support for the Ecobee and Venstar thermostats and tp-link plugs, switches, and lightbulbs. HCA also supports the whole home wireless from WGL. But that's only the start. HCA contains facilities that you can use to interface with any device that communicates over a TCP/IP or serial connection.

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Is there a place where I can get examples and share my work?

HCA does have the ability to export and import pieces of your design. A new system for sharing work is in-progress but not available at this time.

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Do I have to register my copy of HCA? Do I have to do that on all machines it is installed on?

You should register your copy of HCA either through the software or online here. If you don't do that then you will not be able to download the bug-fix releases and get discounts on major version upgrades. You need only register once for each major version and do so on the machine where you are running the HCA Server. Installs on your 2nd, 3rd, 4th machines don't need to be registered as they will be used to connect with your HCA Server.

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What is the latest version of HCA?

That can be found from the support web site here.

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How do I know what version of HCA I'm running?

From HCA, click on the help icon – the "?" – at the right end of the ribbon then select "About" from the menu. From the HCA Server application, select "Help – About" from the application menu.

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What's a "point version"?

"Point version" is that name we use to describe the releases of HCA between major versions. It is called that because the number after the decimal point is changed on each "point version" released. For example, the first point version after 14.0 is 14.1.

A "major version" is when the number before the decimal point changes. For example, the current major version is 14, the previous major version was 13. Registered users can download point versions at no cost. And while downloads of major version releases are not free, if you are registered for a HCA version you get a discount on the next major version.

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How do I get the latest HCA version?

If you are registered, go here and enter your registration code and you will be directed to a page containing a link to the point version download page a password to decrypt the zip file containing the installer. Follow that link to the download page and then download the zip file, unzip with your password, and then install.

Your registration code was either in the download email if you purchased online or it was on a sticker on the package if purchased from a reseller.

There are two possible errors you can receive when using the point version page and you should read over what it says. It could say that the code you entered was never registered. In that case just go to the online registration form and register with your code. Then go back to the point upgrade page and use your code again to get the download link and your password.

If the point upgrade error says that the registration code is invalid, check that you have carefully entered it and try again. If all else fails, contact technical support and tell them your registration code and when and where you purchased HCA.

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I want to use my "acme" devices and it doesn't look like HCA supports those. What can I do?

HCA has the ability for you to create HCA programs that augment the built-in device support to "implement" new device types. This may or may not be something that you are able to do as you will need to understand the new hardware, how to communicate with it, and what commands it uses for its operation. Sometimes the needed info is easy to find and sometimes not. There is a technical note that can help get you started.

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Is there a way to print my design?

Yes. Even though a HCA design is very graphical,the essential elements of it can be printed. Open the application menu – click on the "bubble" at the left end of the ribbon – and select Print. In the sub-menu, use "Printout Setup" to select those elements of your design you want in the printout.

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I forgot my remote access password. What do I do now?

The remote access password can't be retrieved from your file. All you can do is to start HCA and load your file. If using client-server and you can't start HCA and connect to the server because you have forgotten the password, shutdown the HCA Server the start HCA and load your file. Once you have HCA running, select from the ribbon "Design" category, "Security" in the "Home Configuration" panel. Press the "Clear" button next to the Remote Access password and then enter a new password.

If you are using a voice assistant, you will be prompted to perform a HCA Cloud update operation so it knows your new password.

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I forgot my HCA Cloud account password. What do I do now?

If you have updated your cloud account as part of version 14, the cloud account will have your email address and there is a "lost password" option where you go to login. If that doesn't work or you have an account created prior to version 14 and you have not upgraded it to include an email address, contact technical support and include your cloud account user name.

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I've made a mess. How do I start over?

First off, don't panic. All is probably not lost. You can just create a new design file and begin again by adding your devices and creating new programs. But rarely is this necessary.

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My voice assistant has stopped working. What do I do to get it going again?

Many things must happen for your voice assistant to connect to your server to carry out your commands so there are several places where things can go wrong. Check in this order:

  1. Is the HCA Server running and do you have your design file loaded?
  2. Do you have a connection from the internet on the computer running the HCA Server? Start a browser and try going to some web site.
  3. From the server application menu perform Tools – HCA Cloud Update
  4. From the server application menu perform Tools – HCA Cloud Access Test
  5. If step four fails, then check your router port forwarding. Does it correctly point the port the server is using (default is 2000 but you could have changed it) to the IP address of the computer running the server?

Also check any firewall settings. In almost all cases, the problem is either the port forwarding or a firewall blocking the connection. There is a technical note that may help as it discusses port forwarding.

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Can I have more than one design file?

Yes. There is no reason not to make a new file is you are trying an experiment with new features. Just remember that HCA or the HCA Server can have only one file loaded at a time and that file is the file it uses to run your design.

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Is there a limit on the number of things – devices, programs, etc. – in my design?

No. For HCA Standard and HCA Plus there are no limits on numbers of devices or programs.

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What are the rules on what I name my objects – devices, programs, rooms – in my design?

While there is no length limit on names of things, your names can't include any of these characters:

[ ] - : $ (Left square bracket, right square bracket, dash, colon, and dollar sign).

In general, it isn't a good idea to have names that are very long. It just makes things harder as you locate them in the HCA UI.

In addition, no two objects in a folder or room can have the same name. Its ok if they have the same name but in different folders. For example, "Den – Light" and "Kitchen – Light" is fine, but you can't have two "Den – Light" objects.

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How often do you update HCA?

We try and produce a major version once a year and minor versions every quarter. Minor versions contain mostly bug fixes but sometimes feature improvements as well.

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What voice assistants does HCA support?

HCA Plus has support for Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. There is also a method that makes designated elements in your design available to Apple HomeKit and so can be controlled by Siri. The Getting Started guide takes you through all the steps to working with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. In addition, there are technical notes that provide additional information about Google Home and Apple HomeKit and Siri.

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Are there any additional costs besides the software purchase price?

It depends. If you do not use voice assistants or have programs that respond to events from cloud connected devices like the "Ring Doorbell" or the NEST thermostat, then there are no additional costs.

A cloud account and a subscription are needed for voice assistants and cloud connected devices. The cost of a subscription is $2/month paid annually. The first 30 days after an account is created is free so you can try it out.

Remote access to your HCA server using the Android and iOS apps don't use the cloud so they don't need a cloud account to function.

This application note describes all this in greater detail.

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Terminology questions

What is "Checkbox control"?

Checkbox control is the catch-all name for a set of tools in HCA that makes it possible for you to get a lot of function out of your automation solution without a lot of work creating programs. The topic is large and is covered in this application note.

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What is the "current" schedule?

In HCA you can have many schedules and there are ways for you to swap between schedules. But only one schedule is the schedule that HCA watches to see if it is time to carry out some action. That is called the "Current" or "Active" schedule.

Think of a ferry schedule. There is a "Weekday" schedule for Monday to Friday and a "Weekend" schedule for Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday the "Weekday" schedule is the current schedule. On Sunday the "Weekend" schedule is the current schedule.

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What is "Development mode" and "Control mode"?

The user interface of HCA can be configured for two different modes of operation. In "Development Mode" the HCA window has a ribbon with many buttons for all the things you can do, a "design pane" on the left of the window naming all your rooms, folders, and displays and the devices, programs, groups in them, and a "display pane" on the right showing the icons for the selected room, folder, or display. In this mode you do the work of creating your design.

"Control Mode" is an alternative view that has none of the tools for modifying your design – so no ribbon – and only shows a set of pages with icons on those pages. From these pages you can control devices and programs but not modify them. The design and contents of those pages is for you to create.

To enter Control Mode, press the "Control User Interface" button in the "Control" ribbon category. Unless you have created your own home display, the Control UI shows an icon for each of your rooms, folders, and displays. A tap on an icon opens a page showing the devices, programs, and groups in that room or folder. A short tap on an icon toggles it on and off. A long tap on an icon opens a control panel for that device where you can set a level or press a keypad button if the device is a keypad. This is a large topic and there is an entire user guide chapter for it.

To exit control mode and return to development mode, tap on the "house" icon in the upper left corner of the window to open a control panel which contains a button to return to development mode.

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What is a "device"?

A device is the HCA term for the object that represents a controllable unit in your home. For example, an Insteon switch, or a UPB keypad, or a Phillips Hue lightbulb. While most real-world devices are represented by a single HCA device, some real-world devices are represented by more than one HCA device. For example, an Insteon I/O-Linc when added to your design creates two different devices: One for the input and one for the output.

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What is the "Display pane" and the "design pane"?

The HCA window is devided into two sub-windows. The one on the left is called the "Design pane" as it shows all the elements of your design. The one of the right is called the "Display Pane" and shows the contents of a room, folder, or display.

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What is a "display background"?

A display, when viewed by HCA, can have a background that shows behind your icons. For example, you could use as a background the image of a floorplan. Then you can move the icons for your devices to locations on the display that correspond to where they reside in the real-world – a kitchen light placed in the kitchen.

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What is a "friendly name"?

When speaking to a voice assistant it is best to use easy to say and easy to remember names. When creating devices names, it is often better to be descriptive. For example, a name like "lights on deck north side" might be a good device name but not the best name when speaking to Alexa or Google-Home. Perhaps a better voice control name would be "North Deck". That kind of name when referring to the device, program, or group, when using a voice assistant is called a "Friendly name".

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What is the "HCA Calendar" and how do I use it?

The HCA Calendar is a tool where you can assign each day of the year to one of eight categories. In a program you can test to see if today"s day is one of these categories. For example, you can use the calendar to assign holidays to a category and in programs that you have run every day, test to see if "today" is a "holiday category" and perform different actions if so. You can also create programs that run on the transition from one category to another. For example, a program that sets your house up for a vacation period. The calendar is configured by use the "Calendar" button in the "Home Configuration" panel in the "Design" ribbon category.

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What is a "home mode"?

At any given time, your home is in some state: You are away, you are home and awake, or you are at home but asleep. As part of "checkbox control" you can configure your devices to respond differently when the home is in one of these states and configure what happens to a device when transitioning from one state to another. For example, what happens when you leave home. This is an area that can get complex so there is an application note on it with more information.

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What is an "interface"?

An interface is what HCA uses to send and receive messages from devices that talk the same protocol as the interface. For example, HCA uses the Insteon 2413 PowerLinc as the interface for Insteon devices. HCA uses a PIM (Powerline Interface Module) to communicate with UPB devices, etc. HCA can support up to 8 interfaces simultaneously, so you can have different types of devices in your home and control them all from HCA.

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What is a "group"?

A group is a set of devices – called group "members" - that you can operate on as a single unit. For example, you could have three lights in a room. You can control each independently. But you can create a group and make each a member of that group. All three still can be controlled independently, but you can also operate on the group as you would a single device. An action on the group affects its members. For example, turn the group on and all three devices go on.

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What is a "keypad" and what is it good for?

Using the HCA tools to construct displays you can create the pages that show your design in a client. This lets you only show those rooms, folders, devices, programs, and groups that you want to show. You can also choose the "home" page for each client. And that"s great because you can customize each client to the user of it. But it is still a "field of icons" and pages for someone to navigate.

With a keypad, you can get a keypad like image on the screen which has buttons that a user can "press" to cause HCA to carry out actions such as starting a program or controlling a device. This may be much easier for some less-technical users as they access your home. Because HCA keypads are so configurable, there is an entire User Guide chapter for it.

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What is "Power track" and what can I do with it?

One of the things that HCA does is to keep track of the state of your devices – if they on, off, or at some level. Since it knows the power consumption of the device at 100% then it can keep track of the power usage over time for the device and for the room that contains it. HCA also creates charts showing energy usage over various time periods. This is all in the "Power Track" ribbon category. But you must first tell HCA the wattage of your devices. This is done on the "Power Track" tab of the device properties.

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What is a "Protocol Bridge"?

A protocol Bridge is a tool in HCA to receive commands from one Protocol, translate it to a similar command in another protocol, and transmit it. This can be used, for example, to control a UPB or Insteon device with an X10 motion sensor. Protocol Bridges are explained in the user guide Protocol Bridges appendix.

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What is the "Ribbon", "Category", "Panel", and "Button"?

These are the names of the user interface items in the HCA window. At the top of the HCA window is the ribbon - some would call it a toolbar. It has several tabs and each of which is called a "category" as they have commands that are related by major function. Within a category there are one or more panels - a box around a group of buttons. A panel groups together commands - each started by a button which are similar in function or use..

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What is a "room", a "folder", and a "display" and how are they different?

Just like files you have on your disk, each element of your design is "stored" in a folder or room. While folders and rooms are used for organization – same reason you put files in various folders rather than putting them all in one big pile – a room has additional properties that a folder doesn"t have.

A room has another use besides organization. Like a device, it has a state where the room is either "on" or "off". How a room is determined on or off, and what operations can be done with a room can be complex. There is a technical note that discusses this.

A folder is strictly used for organization and unlike a room had no additional properties and is never "on" or "off".

A display is, as the name implies, used for display purposes. You can create a display and place icons on it for devices, programs, and groups from different folders or rooms. For example, you may have rooms for the kitchen, library, great room, and bedroom. You can create a display called "First Floor" and put icons from all of these rooms on that display. This may help you visualize all your devices in a way that makes sense to you.

Some versions of Windows have something similar with what it calls "shortcuts". You can place "shortcuts" for files on your desktop. The files reside in various folders on your disk but the main Windows desktop is like the HCA display with "shortcuts" to those files.

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What is a "schedule" and a "schedule entry"?

A "schedule is a list of "schedule entries". A "schedule entry" contains the time and date when a device is controlled or a program starts. Think of a "schedule" like a ferry schedule. It is a list of times. Each schedule entry specifies a time and what happens at that time.

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What is "stand-alone" mode and what is "client-server" mode?

The HCA application (HCA.exe) can be used in two ways.

It can have your design loaded, all interfaces needed attached to the computer running HCA, and it all just works. You make changes to your design and save the design file locally on your machine. You must leave HCA running 24/7 for it to do its job. HCA Limited and HCA Standard can only operate in this manner. This is called stand-alone mode in that you have one computer running one application which is HCA.exe.

Client-Server mode is different in that HCA is split into two parts.

The "Server" has a limited interface but takes your design and "runs it". That is, it communicates with all your interfaces to send and receive messages, watches the current schedule and does things when the schedule says to do them, handles events that start programs, takes weather observations, handles requests from voice assistants, etc. In short, when the server is running everything happens that your design is configured to do.

Applications collectively called "clients" connect to the server and provide a user interface that you use to control and modify your design. Its actions are carried out by sending messages to the server. Typically in this mode the server runs on one computer and the clients on other machines.

There are many different clients that the server can talk to and they have different capabilities. There is an Android client, iOS (Apple) client, and a Windows client. Each of these can control the elements of your design but can't make changes to it. These clients are said to be "read-only clients".

You can also run the HCA application as a client to the server. In this case you can use all the features of HCA to make changes to your design. HCA when used this way is said to be a "read-write client"

When using client-server, the server must be running 24/7 for your design to operate, no clients need be connected to it. Some clients can be connected 24/7 if you want, but they don"t have to be.

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What is a "trigger"?

When used with a program, a trigger is some event that causes the program to start. There are many kinds of triggers including message reception, weather events, change to the state of a device, etc. In each case, if that event happens then any program that has that trigger is started. More than one program can trigger on the same event.

Triggers are also used with devices as well as programs. In the case of device triggers, it can be used to "bridge protocols". For example, if a UPB device has an X10 trigger and the X10 address is a motion sensor, then when the X10 motion sensor sends an ON, HCA will trigger the UPB device and turn it on, when the motion sensor sends an OFF, HCA will send a UPB OFF to the device.

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What is a "two-part name"?

When a device, program or group is selected in the UI, a "two-part name" is used to refer to it. That name is composed of the folder or room name followed by a dash character then the device, program or group name. For example, "Den – Light".

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What are "variables"?

Variables are pieces of state that you can use when creating programs. For example, when you do a task you may make notes as you go along. What time you put the cake in the oven, or the number of guests coming to dinner. In HCA those "notes" are called variables and can contain numbers, dates/times, yes/no and text. There is a Variable Inventory viewer where you can see all your variables and what values that the currently contain.

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What is a "Visual program" and what is the "Visual Programmer"?

In HCA a "program" is a set of actions that is started when some event occurs. That event could be the receipt of a message from a device like a keypad button press or a motion sensor report, or a certain weather condition occurs, or a voice assistant asking to "turn on" something. When the event is received by HCA, if there is a program that triggers from that event then that program starts. Its set of actions comprise what the program does.

In HCA it is called a "Visual Program" because unlike a traditional programming language you don"t write the program in a computer language or as a text-based script, but programs are "drawn" in a visual manner using a drag-and-drop approach.

The Visual Programmer is the tool used to create programs. There are several terms used with the Visual Programmer and they are labled in the picture below

  1. The programming canvas. All the elements of the program are shown here. You can scroll the canvas if your program is larger than the window
  2. The status line shows the action of the element that the cursor is over. In this example, the cursor was hovered over the Test element
  3. The tools panel. The tools are - from upper left to lower right:
    • Cut to the clipboard
    • Copy to the clipboard
    • Paste from the clipboard
    • Undo the last operation
    • Zoom in - make elements larger
    • Zoom out - make elements smaller
    • Find usage of an object or variable
    • Find Next
    • Enter a mode where elements can be connected
    • Start a wizard to build sections of your program
    • Label elements as to what they do
    • Show variable usage in the program
  4. The element list. All elements that can be used in a program are shown here. To add an element to the programming canvas, click on the element you want and drag from the list and drop on the canvas
  5. The validate button checks for problems in your program like unconnected elements or elements without their properties set.
  6. The Begin Here element. All programs have one and it is where the program starts and then continues from element to element following the arrows.
  7. The arrows that connect from element to element. From test elements they are labeled to show which direction to go based upon the outcome of the test.

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What is the "Visual Scene Editor"?

The Visual Scene Editor is a tool used for Insteon devices to build links between them in an analogous manner as when you manually link them together following the instructions from the manufacturer. This is a big topic with an entire User Guide chapter devoted to it.

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Client-Server Questions

I use HCA Plus. Does that mean I must use client-server?

No. If you don't need the features of client-server but do want all the facilities that HCA Plus offers, then you can use HCA Plus in stand-alone mode. In fact, if you don't need what client-server offers we recommend that you don't use it but rather work with HCA in stand-alone mode.

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Can I run HCA and the HCA Server on the same machine at the same time?

Yes. We recommend this as one of the steps in the Getting Started guide, as this is a good test of client-server that doesn't involve your network.

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If I'm running the HCA Server do I need to have a client connected for it all to operate?

No. The server has everything it needs to fully run your design. No client needs to be connected for the server to do its job.

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How do I set a remote access password?

Select from the "Design" ribbon category the "Security" button in the "Home Configuration" panel.

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What's port forwarding and why do I need to know about it?

When a client wants to connect to your server running in your home it needs to know the IP address of your home. Even though your home may have many different computers in it, your home has a single IP address. Your router then has the job of passing messages that come into your home to the correct computer – the one running the HCA Server. This is done using router configuration called "Port Forwarding". There is discussed in the Getting Started Guide and in this application note. Without port forward being correctly configured, connections to the server from clients like voice assistants will not operate.

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What is the "HCA Cloud" and do I need to have an account?

The "HCA Cloud" is that portion of HCA that doesn't run on your own computer but rather on another computer located in a server farm someplace in the world. For connections to be made between your computer and the HCA Cloud you will need to have an account. There are some aspects of HCA that need a cloud account and others that don't. This is a large topic and is covered in this application note.

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How do I test to see if the HCA Cloud can contact my server?

From the Server application menu select ‘Tools – HCA Cloud Access Test". If this fails, then try "Tools – HCA Cloud Update" then perform the test again.

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The HCA Cloud can't contact my server. What do I do to resolve that?

Check in this order:

  1. Is the HCA Server running and do you have your design file loaded?
  2. Do you have a connection from the internet on the computer running the HCA Server? Start a browser and try going to some web site.
  3. From the server application menu perform Tools – HCA Cloud Update
  4. From the server application menu perform Tools – HCA Cloud Access Test
  5. If step four fails, then check your router port forwarding. Does it correctly point the port the server is using (default is 2000 but you could have changed it) to the IP address of the computer running the server?

Also check any firewall settings. In almost all cases, the problem is either the port forwarding or a firewall blocking the connection. There is a technical note that may help as it discusses port forwarding.

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Is the HCA Server a Windows Service and if not can it be made into one?

No. The HCA Server is just another Windows application. It is not a service, so it must be started like any other Windows program. There are many ways to automatically start the server when Windows starts. An application note describes this.

Because of various implementation issues, the HCA Server can"t be made a Windows service.

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Usage Questions

How do I make a program?

Programs are the heart of HCA and creating one is a multi-step process that begins not with HCA but in your head. First you need to know what you want to happen when the program runs. That sounds easy, but it may not be if the action is complex. If what you want to do can be broken down into a series of parts it is best to approach creating programs in the same way, with not a single program but multiple programs. Next, you should consider the timeline: What is to happen and in what order? It may help you to write it down or draw a picture.

When you finally have the general idea then it is time to create a program using the "New Program Wizard". In the "Design" ribbon category, press the "Program" button in the "New" panel. This wizard contains steps where you name the program and give it an icon. The actual construction of the program doesn't happen here. After you complete the Wizard, open the program's properties, and on the "Visual Programmer" tab is where the action takes place.

In this FAQ the various parts of the Visual Programmer are named and shown what they do. When constructing a program, you drag elements from the element list onto the canvas and when you drop them, their properties dialog opens and you can select what that element does.

To connect elements together you can click on the "arrow" tool in the tools panel and then click on the icon you want to create an arrow from, and then click on the element that will be the next element. An arrow is drawn between the two with the arrow head point at the "next" element in the program. Click on the background to leave connecting mode. Note: There are other ways to link elements together and the user guide explains them all.

The Visual Programmer is such a large topic that there is an entire User Guide chapter for it as well as videos in the HCA 101 course.

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What is the log? And why are there three of them?

The log is a record of everything that happens while HCA runs your design. It records all signals sent and received, the actions of all programs, when errors happen, and more. It is the first place you should go to when you are trying to determine why something isn't working the way you want it to.

There are three separate logs. You can use these in whatever way you want. You can use one log for each interface – if you have multiple interfaces – or have a log that shows only program actions, etc. It is all configurable. Log configuration is done from the "Tools" ribbon category and is documented in the Tools chapter of the user guide.

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What are "Network devices" and how do I use that tool?

In your home you probably have many devices that wirelessly connect to your network when they are in range. Most notably and useful for this, your smart phone or tablet. HCA has a tool that can send a message periodically to see if those devices respond (called a "ping"). You can configure what happens if they do or don't respond. Some users use this to see if everyone has left home and so change the home mode to "Away". There are many ways to configure this tool and it is opened from the "Design" ribbon category, "Network devices" button. Since this tool is so configurable, an entire user guide chapter describes it.

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Can I have my HCA design send me an email or SMS when something happens?

Yes. HCA programs can use a messaging element that can send email, SMS, or MMS messages. You first must configure messaging so that HCA has a mail server to work with. This is done form the "Tools" ribbon category, "Messaging" button in the "Visual Programmer" panel.

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How do I figure out if a program I created is working?

The log is your friend. Unless you disable logging for a program, the log shows each element in your program as it is executed. For the Test element it shows the path taken – "yes" path or "no" path. There really is no better way to see what you program does than the log.

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Can I get a list of all my "friendly names"?

Yes. Open the application menu – click on the "bubble" at the left end of the ribbon and then select "Print" in the popup menu and then "Printout Setup". One of the printing options is to create a list of friendly names. This can be useful in learning the names used when talking to a voice assistant.

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In my display of my devices, some have red boxes around them. Why is that?

When HCA sends a command to control a device how do you know that the device received the message and responded to it? Some types of devices send a message back as an acknowledgement receipt of the command (not so oddly, this is generally called an ACK message). Some types of devices don't work that way but in some cases HCA can send them a second message asking for their state and verify that they did get the message and responded as expected. Some types of devices don't support either type of confirmation.

When controlling those devices that do support some form of command confirmation, HCA can retry sending the command if it doesn't respond as expected. Perhaps sending the command again will get the message through.

Finally, if HCA tried and can't confirm the message was received and acted upon then it shows that device with a red box around it, or in the Control UI and in a clients, by showing the label below the icon in red text.

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What is the "Design Inspector" and what does it tell me?

The Design Inspector is like your fault-finding mother that watches everything you do looking for faults that she can comment on. Your HCA design is very interconnected – a program can refer to a device in an element. If you delete the device the program element is now no longer valid, so the program can't start.

The Design Inspector looks for those sorts of problems and many others as well, and reports them to you in the "Control" ribbon category "Troubleshooter" panel. The icon labeled "inspector" shows green if no problems are found, yellow if some potential problems are found, and red is serious problems are found. In addition, it shows the count of these problems in that ribbon panel. To see the messages that detail the problems found, click on the inspector icon. Sometimes the inspector finds things it considers problems but you may not think them as problems, so you can "check them off" in its list and it will stop reporting that particular problem.

You can configure the inspector, so it stops looking for a whole class of problems, by using the checkboxes on the "Inspector Setup" tab of the inspector dialog.

The important note about the inspector is that it performs what is called a "static analysis" of your design. That is, it looks for problems in your design at a given moment in time. Another tool called the "Alert Manager" looks for problems that happen over time.

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What is the "Alert Manager" and how do I use it?

In the previous question, the Design Inspector and it's "static" analysis was described. The "Alert Manager" is its companion tool. Unlike the Inspector, the Alert Manager looks for problems that happen over time. For example, if a device didn't respond to a message, a weather observation failed, a program made an error, and lots more.

The important point here is that the Inspector looks at your design at one snapshot in time and the Alert Manager looks for and records problems that happen as HCA runs your design over days, weeks, and months.

The Alert Manager has many different ways that it can be configured as some kinds of problems it finds may (or may not) be serious in your design. You get to decide for each kind of problem – called an "Alert" – how HCA responds. It can just log the problem, or it can start a program and that program could, for example, send you an SMS or email.

The Alert Manager is a big topic and information on it is in the Troubleshooter User Guide chapter.

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What is an Icon theme?

An icon theme is a collection of image files HCA uses to show icons in rooms, folders, and displays. In a theme, all the images must be the same size. For any room, folder, or display you choose one of the themes to use. This effects what icons and what icon sizes you see when viewing the contents of that room, folder, or display in the display pane of the HCA window.

To select a theme, open the properties of the room, folder, or display and on the "Color and Theme" tab choose the theme for that room, folder, or display.

To change the theme for new rooms, folders, and displays you create, open HCA Options and on the "Color and Theme" tab choose the theme to use. If you want to apply that selection to all existing rooms, folders, and displays, there is an "Apply" button in that dialog for that.

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Can I add use my own icons with HCA?

Yes! HCA supports icons in image files of all the usual types. PNG file types are the best as they have a transparent background. You can add image files to an icon theme by just placing the new image files in the theme folder. Just make sure that the image is the same size as other images in the theme. HCA ships with themes that have images sized 36 by 36, 54 by 54, and 110 by 110.

The name of the image file becomes the name of the icon when icons are selected in the HCA UI. If you have multiple representations of the image – an image when off, when on, when dim – name each representation image file with the same name but suffixed with "_On", "_Off", or "_Dim".

After you add an image you must either restart HCA or use the "reload all themes" button in HCA Options on the "Color and Theme" tab.

If you add a new image to one theme you can add that same image to other themes as well but you don't have to. However, if you have displays that use different themes, then your added images are only available for the displays that use the theme you added them to.

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What is the "Visual Program Debugger" and how do I use it?

The Visual Program Debugger is a way to track down problems in programs. It has ways to cause programs to halt when they get to a given element so you can examine state and also control the flow from program element to program element. This is a big topic and has an entire user guide chapter for it.

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How do I schedule a device?

First make sure that you have a schedule to add an entry to. If you don't yet have a schedule, press the "Schedule" button in the "New" panel in the "Design" ribbon category.

To schedule a device there are several ways to do it. You can right-click on a schedule in the design pane (the left pane that shows all the objects in your design) and select "New Schedule Entry" from the popup menu. This starts a multi-step wizard where you choose what kind of schedule entry to create – should the device go on at a selected time, or go off at a selected time, or go on at a selected time then off at a selected time – and what device to operate on. Other steps in the wizard have you set the date and time and what happens to the device.

You can also right-click on a device and select "Schedule" from its popup menu and that starts the same schedule entry wizard. In the first wizard step it will have already selected the device to work with.

In addition to the multi-step wizard there is the Visual Scheduler which uses a drag-and-drop method to perform scheduling. To use the Visual Scheduler choose the "Schedule" ribbon category and then drag and drop devices onto the scheduling canvas. Then click on a marker in the ribbon "Add New Schedule Entry" panel – markers for On, Off, Dim, Scene, and for thermostats and IR devices – then move the cursor to a location on the time bar and drop it to create a schedule entry.

When viewing time bars in the visual scheduler, markers that show on the right side of the bar are for sun time relative schedule entries – sunrise, sunset minus 20 minutes etc. - and markers on the left are for absolute times- 6:00pm, 11:30am, etc.

Sunrise and sunset for today are show by small orange markers on the time bar.

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How does HCA know Sunrise and Sunset?

HCA calculates sunrise and sunset from your location. To get an accurate result you must set the time zone on your computer appropriately and set your location. Press the "Properties" button in the "Design" ribbon category, "Home Configuration" panel. Chose the "Location" tab and enter your location by your zip code. For non-US locations choose manual setup.

If your home is on a hill or in a valley or blocked by trees or buildings, you can adjust the calculated sunrise and sunset to compensate for this in the location dialog.

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Can I schedule a program?

Yes. Programs, just like devices and groups, can be scheduled.

First make sure that you have a schedule to add an entry to. If you don't yet have a schedule, press the "Schedule" button in the "New" panel in the "Design" ribbon category.

The key point is that when you schedule a program to be "ON" at a given time the program is started at that time. When you schedule the program to be "OFF" the program is started at that time. In both cases the program is started.

The difference is that in the "ON" case the program is started by an "ON" trigger and when scheduled off, it is started by an "OFF" trigger. You can test for these starting triggers in the program using the Test element and do different actions based upon the outcome of the test.

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Can I schedule a scene?

Yes, but you really are scheduling a device that is part of that scene.

First make sure that you have a schedule to add an entry to. If you don't yet have a schedule, press the "Schedule" button in the "New" panel in the "Design" ribbon category.

Suppose you created with the Visual Scene Editor a scene called "movie time" and that scene effects three devices: "Theater – Electronics", "Theater – Ring lights", and "Theater – Sconces". To schedule "Movie time" to happen at a selected time, you should start with one of the three devices in that scene and on the step where it wants to know what action to take you can select the scene by name. When the schedule entry happens HCA activates the scene which controls all the devices in the scene.

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Must I use the Visual Scheduler to create a schedule?

No. You can also create schedule entries by using a multi-step wizard. Right-click on a schedule and select "New Schedule Entry". Or right-click on a device name or icon and select "Schedule" from the popup menu.

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How do I configure the visual scheduler to change how the schedule displays?

The visual scheduler with all the time bars can get overwhelming so there are several ways you can configure it to display in a more manageable manner. The Visual Schedule can display in a time bar manner, or by a list, or by a simulation of the schedule. The most common settings are in the "View" panel of the "Schedule" ribbon category. For all the details about scheduler configuration see the Visual Scheduler user guide chapter.

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My schedule doesn't seem to be working as expected. What can I do?

Let's start with schedules in general. HCA can have multiple schedules and within each schedule there can be multiple schedule entries. One of the schedules is called the "active" or "current" schedule. That schedule is the schedule that HCA watches to see when it is time to do things. In the "Control" ribbon category you will see the name of the active schedule in the "Schedule" panel. You can use the dropdown in the ribbon to change the current schedule. Make sure that the schedule you want to be current is shown in the ribbon.

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Next, open the HCA Status dialog – "Control" ribbon category, "HCA Status" button, "Tools" panel. This will show what HCA thinks are the next schedule entries to happen and when they are to happen.

Finally, make sure that the schedule entry is naming the right device and has the options you wanted. Right click on the schedule entry in the design pane and select "Perform Now!" to have the action of that entry happen right now to confirm.

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How do I use weather data?

Weather data can be very useful in an automation design. For example, not running sprinklers when too windy or too hot. Before doing anything with weather you must configure a provider. HCA supports several different methods for retrieving weather data from your own private weather station or from a national provider like Weather Underground.

We recommend that you use Weather Underground even if you have your own weather station. Most home weather stations have a method where you can "publish" observation data from your station to weather underground. You can then easily create an account with them that lets you publish your data and also retrieve the data and forecasts. There is an application note on working with weather underground.

In HCA weather data can be directly used in a program using the "Weather Test" element. Programs can also be triggered by weather events using a "Weather Condition Change" trigger.

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Can I create my own applications that interface with the HCA Server?

Yes and in many ways! There are so many different ways for you to interface your own work with HCA that we created several application notes on this. Briefly, you can have HCA read data from a file your application creates, connect to the HCA Server using a documented interface, use HCA Objects from applications that use VBScript that run on the same computer as the server, or even interface hardware like the Raspberry Pi using the HCA Cloud. There are many possibilities for you to explore. Here are several application notes to get you started.

Interfacing your applications with HCA

HCA Server Protocol

HCA User Classes for device support

HCA Cloud developer access

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How do I view and change variable values?

Open the "Variable Inventory" dialog from the "Control" ribbon category, "Variables" button in the "Tools" panel. Each variable is listed in the left list. Select the variable you want to change and its current value displays in the right side of the dialog. You can change that value and then press "Save changes".

Remember that in HCA variables can contain numbers, text, date-time, or yes/no values. HCA tries to figure out what type of data you entered and sets the variable after converting to that type. For example, if you entered "Hello there", HCA would set the variable to that text string. If you entered 42, then HCA would set that variable to the number 42.

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How can I turn on or off a light when something moves?

This seems like a simple question, but it can get complex! The basis of the answer is to use a motion or occupancy sensor that sends a signal that HCA can receive. You can create a program that responds to that message and controls the device that way. Or you could use the "checkbox control" features and designate that the room is on or off based upon the motion sensor and have devices in the room follow the state of the room. The Checkbox control application note has lots of information on this

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How can I automatically turn off a light after a period of time passes?

The best way to do this is to assign an "auto off" to the device. Open the properties of the device and on the "Green" tab there is a method to configure an auto off. As you will see in the dialog, it really doesn't need to be an "Auto Off", it can be an "Auto dim down" as you get to choose the percentage to go to after the selected number of minutes. Also, there are methods you can configure that cancel the auto off by an action of the user at the switch. It's all on the "Green" tab.

There are three possible "auto off" setups. This lets you use a different amount of time until the device goes off at different times of day. For example, longer during the day and shorter at night.

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What is a HTML Display and how do I create one?

Like any other display, you can create a new display using the New – Display Wizard. An HTML display renders what is seen using HTML. This could be HTML you created or it could be a URL from someplace on your local intranet or from anywhere on the internet.

If the HTML is from a local file, and not a URL, then the same file can be shown each time, or a new file could be created and shown by processing a template file and replacing placeholders in it with current data.

HTML displays allow you to integrate into what you see in the HCA display from a variety of sources. This is a large topic and the displays chapter of the User Guide has more information.

If your HTML display uses images or a style sheet, then there are some considerations you should plan for and these are in an application note.

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How can I tell when a device last reported or was used?

Not directly. The log shows all the messages sent to and received from the device so that is one place for you to look. If what you are trying to do is to make sure that a device "is heard from" on some schedule – once a day, once a week, etc. – then there is a way to have HCA do that for you.

One of the types of Alerts that the Alert Manager can be configured for is an "overdue device". There are up to four sets of devices that you can configure – placing some devices in one set and other devices in other sets based upon how often they should be heard from. Each is given a time period where all the devices in that group need to have a message received from them. If the message doesn't happen within that time period, then HCA shows an Alert for that and you will see that in the Alert count in the ribbon. You can also create a program that runs when that Alert occurs and have it send a message via email or SMS.

This is a good method to use for battery powered devices to make sure that they have not "gone dead".

Alerts are configured from the "Setup" button in the "Alerts" panel in the "Tools" ribbon category.

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All my variable names are confusing. Is there a smart format of naming to use to avoid confusion?

Well, no, not really. But that isn't to say that devising and using a consistent naming convention will not help you as your HCA design grows. While you can use just about anything in HCA names, that doesn't mean that you should just choose anything. A design that has variables called "var1", "var2", or "x", "y', "z" will not really be helpful when you come back to that program six months later to update it for new hardware.

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Why do some actions at devices appear to never get to HCA? Are there reasons (collisions, low signal, etc)? How can these be improved?

This is the hardest problem with any of this stuff. The problem is that sometimes the computer sends a signal to a device and that signal doesn't get through or a device sends a signal to the computer and it doesn't get to the computer. Why? Could be noise on the power line – if it is a power line signal – or a distance or interference problem – if it is a wireless signal.

What you need to be is a detective, and like detectives in the real-world, work slowly and methodically and keep notes.

Have you checked the log to see if HCA sent or received the message at the time you expect? Is the interface for those types of messages connected and working? Can you control other devices of similar type? That tells you that HCA is working, and the interface for those types of devices is working.

Next is the device working? While we never like to "blame the hardware" sometimes devices do stop working and you need to ensure that it really does work by sending it a message using an alternative approach – perhaps by a keypad or a linked device.

Can you control the devices at some time and not others? Many times we have seen problems happen only at night because other devices are on only at night and were causing power line noise – less expensive CFL and LED bulbs are an excellent source of power line noise. Wireless devices can be interfered with by other wireless devices.

And two control signals are never the same. The same signal at 8pm may not be the same signal at 10am. We have seen cases where from the HCA UI the device was controlled fine but not through a program because the program ran at a different time.

Another option, if you think it is related to noise or signal attenuation, is to move the device to a new location – easy for wireless or plug-in devices and harder for wired-in. Or plug the interface into a different circuit.

The bottom line is that there is no magic answer to problems like these, just hard work in tracking down the possible issues and eliminating them one at a time.

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How do I stop the log viewer from jumping to the bottom each time a new entry is added as I scroll about?

At the lower right of the viewer window is a push-pin icon. Click on it to "pin" the viewer. This stops new entries from being added and the viewer jumping to the bottom. Click the pin again to unpin and the viewer is refreshed to show all new added entries.

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Insteon Support Questions

Where did my 2413U PowerLinc go? What can’t I connect to it?

First off, if you are just getting started with the 2413, make sure that the device drivers are loaded for it. This usually happens when you connect it to the computer but if it doesn’t, go to the SmartHome web site and on the 2413 product page download the user guide and it shows how to install the device drivers.

If you have lost contact, pull out the USB cable from the computer and then power down the 2413 and count to 10 then plug it back in. Then connect it to the computer again. That may then make it possible for HCA to connect again. Use the “Connect” button in the interface dialog to try to connect.

If that doesn’t work, make sure you are using the correct port number. Yes, the 2413U is a USB device but the device driver that is installed for it created a virtual serial port. Open the Windows device manager and look under ports for “USB Serial Port” to find the port number. If you have lots of ports, take note of what is listed and then pull the 2413U USB cable from the computer and the display should refresh. Then plug in again and it will refresh again. See what new port got added and that’s the one.

In HCA you can also choose as the interface type the 2413S model and it will also work.

If the 2413U seems to disconnect from the computer at random times, On Windows machines there are power settings. Some of which in the more aggressive modes will power down the USB sub-system. Make sure that doesn’t happen. Make sure the computer doesn’t power down to stand-by or hibernate mode.

If none of that works, you may need to use a powered USB hub. Plug the 2413 into that and the hub into the computer. On some machines I have found this is necessary. SmartHome confirms that some computers need this for continued 2413 operation.

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What can I do with Insteon linking and can HCA build links between devices?

Insteon devices can be linked together as you know. In the documentation that comes with each Insteon device, SmartHome provides information on how to do that. Those instructions describe what we call "manual linking" because you must physically go to the devices to put them into linking mode and press "set"" buttons. For the most common devices – switches, modules, keypads – HCA provides the Visual Scene Editor which does the same thing as "manual linking"". But that’s all it is doing. It’s just doing what manual linking does with less moving around your home. There are some devices that the HCA VSE doesn’t support so you must use manual linking with them. There are also linking features that HCA doesn’t support so you must use manual linking in those cases as well. Think of the VSE as a supplement to manual linking not a 100% replacement for it.

But that’s just Insteon linking. Press a button "here" and control happens "there".

Then there are HCA programs which are totally different but can yield similar behavior in your home. For example, you could link a keypad button with a module. Press the button and the module goes on. But you could also create a HCA program that triggers off that keypad button press and sends to the module to turn it on. Same effect but done in a different manner.

So why do one and not the other? Because HCA programs can do many more things. For example, press that keypad button and it turns the light on but it also turns it off after a delay. Or it turns the module on at 20 percent if between 10pm and 6am and at 100 percent any other time. Things like that.

Linking can do some things. Programs can do more. And you choose the vehicle to implement what you want based upon what is possible with each tool.

If you want to setup a keypad button so that you press it and 20 seconds later a light goes off, that can’t be done with linking. You would need a program to do that. But it is very easy to create that program.

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What is the "Visual Scene Editor (VSE)"?

Insteon devices can be linked together as you know. In the documentation that comes with each Insteon device, SmartHome provides information on how to do that. Those instructions describe what we call "manual linking" because you must physically go to the devices to put them into linking mode and press "set" buttons. For the most common devices – switches, modules, keypads – HCA provides the Visual Scene Editor which does the same thing as "manual linking". But that's all it is doing. It's just doing what manual linking does with less moving around your home. There are some devices that the HCA VSE doesn't support so you must use manual linking with them. There are also linking features that HCA doesn't support so you must use manual linking in those cases as well. Think of the VSE as a supplement to manual linking not a 100% replacement for it.

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What is the Insteon "Multi-Way wizard"?

The Multi-Way wizard is a tool to build links between each device in a selected set of Insteon devices. This makes them all linked together, each one controlling the others and each one responding to the others. In this way when you control one – tap on its paddle – then all the devices in that multi-way are controlled the same. The Multi-Way wizard is limited to working with Insteon devices and each device must be capable of both sending and receiving. This means switches in a multi-way are ok, but modules are not.

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What are the tabs at the bottom of the VSE for?

An Insteon device can appear in multiple scenes. It could be the controller of one set of devices and it could also be a responder to other devices. One device may appear in many scenes. Each tab of the VSE represents one scene that the device appears in. You can find that device by looking for the device with the box around it.

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In the VSE why does one device have a red box around it?

The Visual Scene Editor is concentrating on one device at a time. When you started the VSE you either selected "VSE" from a right-click popup menu on a device or you started the VSE from the ribbon and named a device as the controller or responder. That selected device is the device it is concentrating upon and it highlights that device with a box in all the scenes it participates in.

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Why can't I use the Visual Scene editor with some of my Insteon devices?

Unfortunately, there are a broad set of Insteon devices and there was little standardization in how linking between them works. That's not to say there were no standards, just that the standards were left way too loose and poorly documented. HCA supports the most common Insteon devices in the most common linking arrangements. But it doesn't support them all. Think of the VSE as a supplement but not a replacement for manual linking.

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What is a "Linking table" for Insteon devices?

Each Insteon device can linked to other Insteon devices. Sometimes you link the device as a controller of other devices – you tap a switch paddle on a device and the module it is linked to comes on. The switch is the controller and the module is the responder. A device like a switch can be a controller as in the example, but it can also be a responder at the same time – tap the paddle on a different switch and our example switch (the controller in the previous example) comes on.

All these links are stored in a table in the device. It is called the "linking table" and HCA can read and write it. There are tools for doing this on the Insteon tab of each Insteon device. You can also read the linking tables from all your Insteon devices at once using the "Network Capture" tool in the "Protocols" ribbon category, "Insteon" panel.

It is very important that you keep HCA up to date with any changes that you make using manual linking as HCA uses the linking table to know what devices respond and how they respond when Insteon messages are received.

When you link a device "to HCA" what you are really doing is to link that device to your PowerLinc. This can make it hard to change the PowerLinc should it fail.

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I can't read the linking table of my wireless device. What can I do?

Wireless devices often have their receiver turned off so HCA's messages to it don't get through. Put the device into linking mode – follow the manufacturer's instructions that came with the device – and while it is in linking mode its receiver will be on. Then start the operation to have HCA read the linking table. When done, take the device out of setup mode or wait for it to time out.

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How do I replace an Insteon device that stopped working?

There is a way to do this, but it isn't as simple as powering the old one off and hooking up the new one. To explain why, first some background.

Every Insteon device has an address. That's the address that is often on a sticker and is a three-part number like xx.yy.zz. Every Insteon device has a unique address. There are no two Insteon devices with the same address as it is assigned during the manufacturing of the device. HCA uses that address to communicate with the device.

When you link two Insteon devices together they exchange addresses. Let's take an example. Suppose you have a device called "Den Switch" and another called "Den Module". You want to link the two so that when you tap the "Den Switch" paddle top to turn on its load, the "Den Module" is sent a command by the switch and it comes on as well. This is standard Insteon linking to create a "scene".

How do you create this scene? You follow the instructions that come with the Insteon devices and it goes like this: Press and hold the "Set" button on "Den Switch" to put it in "linking mode". Then press and hold the set button on "Den Module". When you do that the two devices become linked. In this case, since we started with the switch, the switch is the controller of the module. The module is controlled by the switch.

The way this happens internally is that in the switch there is a table that has the address of the module and in the module, there is a similar table that contains the address of the switch. These two devices are what is called "cross linked". Each contains the address of the other.

If you have followed this so far, then you see the problem. Since no two devices have the same address, if you take the old device out and replace it with a new device then all those links between any of your existing devices and the old device address are no longer valid. In all the devices their tables show the old device address and not the new device address. All those links are "broken".

HCA contains a Insteon Device Replace Wizard that can first get the replacement device into your design and then attempt to update all the other devices that were linked to it to change those links to the replacement device address.

This tool is started from the "Protocols" ribbon category, "Device Replace" button in the "Insteon" panel.

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How can I replace my failed PowerLinc and why it so hard to do so?

There is a way to do this, but it isn't as simple as powering the old one off and hooking up the new one. To explain why, first some background.

Every Insteon device has an address. That's the address that is often on a sticker and is a three-part number like xx.yy.zz. Every Insteon device has a unique address. There are no two Insteon devices with the same address as it is assigned during the manufacturing of the device. HCA uses that address to communicate with the device.

When you link two Insteon devices together they exchange addresses. Let's take an example. Suppose you have a device called "Den Switch" and another called "Den Module". You want to link the two so that when you tap the "Den Switch" paddle top to turn on its load, the "Den Module" is sent a command by the switch and it comes on as well. This is standard Insteon linking to create a "scene".

How do you create this scene? You follow the instructions that come with the Insteon devices and it goes like this: Press and hold the "Set" button on "Den Switch" to put it in "linking mode". Then press and hold the set button on "Den Module". When you do that the two devices become linked. In this case, since we started with the switch, the switch is the controller of the module. The module is controlled by the switch.

The way this happens internally is that in the switch there is a table that has the address of the module and in the module, there is a similar table that contains the address of the switch. These two devices are what is called "cross linked". Each contains the address of the other.

When you "link a device to HCA" so, for example, that HCA can see the transmission from the switch and can keep its state up to date, or you link "to HCA" a keypad button so HCA can do stuff when that button is pressed; what is really happening is that there is a link being built between the PowerLinc address and the device. Just like before, each device is "cross linked" with your PowerLinc.

If you have followed this so far, then you see the problem. Since no two PowerLincs have the same address, if you take the old PowerLinc out and replace it with another then all those links between the old PowerLinc and your devices are no longer valid. In all the devices their tables show the old PowerLinc address and not the new PowerLinc address. All those links are "broken".

Unfortunately, it gets worse. If, through HCA, you want to control a device, HCA, having the address of the device, sends a command to do that. But will the device respond?

For a device to respond to a command sent from the PowerLinc, it must, like all the above, be setup for "cross linking". That means that the address of the PowerLinc must be listed in the device's table to allow it to be a controller of it. If that address isn't in the device's table then the device will not respond to the commands sent to it. The obvious question is: If the PowerLinc can't communicate with the device when it is right out of the box (or a new PowerLinc is being used) how do links get built? They get built in the same way as when linking any two devices.

During the New Device Wizard in HCA it has you put the PowerLinc into linking mode (you don't have to press the "Set" button on the PowerLinc, HCA does it for you) and then asks you to go to the device and press the device's "Set" button. That established the necessary links between the two devices. This is why during the New Device wizard you can't just type in the Insteon address of the device. HCA would have its address but because no cross-linking has been done, the device doesn't respond to commands.

The one small clarification of the above is that older Insteon devices don't need this cross linking with the PowerLinc in order for HCA to be able to control them. But most of the new devices do.

What can you do when your PowerLinc dies? I would start with a deep breath and a nice cup of tea and some quiet time developing a good attitude. Then use the PLC Swap Wizard in HCA. It's on a dropdown menu from the "Insteon" button on the "Interfaces" ribbon category.

What the Swap Wizard does is to have you put each of your devices into linking mode and then it tries to read and correct the devices' internal tables to replace the old PowerLinc address with the new PowerLinc address. This takes time and involves a bunch of running about your home. I agree this is a horrible situation, but we didn't design all this. This is Insteon the way SmartHome created it.

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How can I get a list of all the Insteon links in my design?

HCA contains a tool called the Insteon Network Map that shows in a text form all the links between Insteon devices. From the "Protocols" ribbon category, select from the "Network Map" button in the "Insteon" panel.

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The Insteon Device Replace Wizard failed part way through, and now some of the links are with the new device and some with the old. Now what?

The Device Replace Wizard did the best job it could but due to signal problems and/or missing devices it may not be able to complete its job fully. Unfortunately, all you can do is to rebuild those links in other devices that didn't get adjusted to the new device address. That may make it necessary to reset those devices and rebuild the links.

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The Insteon PLC Swap Tool failed part way through, and now some of the device links are with the new PowerLinc and some with the old. Now what?

The PLC Swap Tool did the best job it could but due to signal problems and/or missing devices it may not be able to complete its job fully. The first step, is to find those devices that you can no longer communicate with and on the "Insteon" tab of their properties perform the recapture address operation. That builds the links that HCA needs to be able to communicate with the device. Then on the "Linking" tab of the device properties you will have to re-link the device – and if a keypad then re-link its buttons and indicators – to HCA. That will re-build those links to the new PowerLinc address.

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