X10 to Z-Wave Home Automation Upgrade

I recently started upgrading my Home Automation system from X10 to Z-Wave. The reason for this was reliability and less susceptibility to interference/failure (caused by CFL bulbs and general power fluctuations in the system).

In short; I bought an Aeon Labs controller, a few appliance modules to get started, and a lighting controller to see how reliable Z-Wave can be with CFLs.

Anyone who uses X10 knows it’s pretty easy to get light switches with X10 integrated. Z-Wave, however, is the opposite. Other than single gang switches you’ll be hard pressed to find anything. Since I needed a 2-gang switch I had to find another solution. The main 3 I came up with were:

1) Vitrum – These are all made-to-order switches shipped directly from the factory in Italy. I have to admit that they do look beautiful, and with an integrated Z-Wave module you can’t really go wrong… or can you? Considering a 2-gang switch costs upward of £170 before you take shipping into account, it certainly is an expensive solution.

Vitrum

Vitrum 2-Gang Switch

 

2) Fibaro Dimmer – These are small modules which can be retrofitted to ANY switch. This gives a far wider choice in regards to style or changes later. The only issue is that each module only supports one physical button. It is possible to connect the second button on a 2-gang switch, but it will only trigger another Z-Wave module (no actual load).

Fibaro Dimmer

Fibaro Dimmer Module

 

3) Fibaro Relay Insert – Small retrofit module which supports 2 outputs. Since it’s a relay both outputs are on/off only. This module also requires a neutral wire which is not very common in the UK.

Fibaro Relay

Fibaro Relay Switch

 

I ended up ordering 2 Fibaro Dimmer modules to use in one 2-gang switch. I intend to write a full review of these once I have finished testing them.

Dell PowerEdge SC440 Server Upgrade

After giving me many years of faithful service, my Dell PowerEdge SC440 was starting to show its age when it came to virtualization and general media processing. Instead of buying a new machine, I decided to give it a new lease of life ;)

CPU – Upgraded to an Intel Quad Core2 Q6600 (2.4GHz)

This seems to be one of the few processors supported by the motherboard. The stock HSF is huge and so should be fine.

RAM – Upgraded to 6GB ECC

Although the manual states a maximum of 4GB, it has been reported that up to 8GB can be used. Please note that not all RAM works. It seems to have something to do with the number of memory chips on the stick. I ordered a 4GB kit (2x2GB) of Crucial CT2KIT25672AA667 (photo showing number of memory chips below) to use along with the 2GB which came with the server.

Graphics – Installed ATI Radeon 5450

Unfortunately there is no 16X PCIe slot on the 440, and the 1X, 4X, and 8X slots are all capped at the end. The plastic at the end of the 4X slot needs to be melted off in order to make the card fit. I used the 4X, rather than the 8X slot, because the 8X had plastic dividers and therefore required more plastic melting. I’ve also heard of some people not being able to get their cards working in the 8X slot, and those who have find that it’s limited to 1X.

To melt the end of the slot:

  1. Heat the tip of a knife on a cooker flame until it’s red hot. Don’t use a candle to heat it because you won’t get it hot enough.
  2. Cut into the plastic and slowly push the knife down. Careful not to slip and bend one of the pins, or worse still, slice the motherboard :p
  3. Repeat steps 1. and 2. until there is a sufficient gap for your graphics card.

If you’re worried about the hot plastic getting onto the pins, you can place the end of an old ram stick at the edge of the slot for protection.

     

Voila, the server is resurrected for use as an ESXi/Proxmox machine or even a HTPC (though power usage is a little high at ~80W idle and just over 100W load).