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  Version 1.1.1 is now posted
Posted by: Dean Roddey - 01-13-2004, 09:57 PM - Forum: Announcements - No Replies

Charmed Quark Software is proud to announce the 1.1.1 release of CQC (The Charmed Quark Controller), its Windows based, distributed control and automation software suite. CQC provides a secure, network distributed, highly integrated, software based control and automation solution, based on commodity personal computer and home networking hardware.

What's New in 1.1.1

This is a 'minor' upgrade of the 1.1 version, but it does offer some very useful new features and fixes a few small but annoying bugs. The most significant changes are:

- Driver Packager. Charmed Quark can now package CQC device drivers into a single 'driver pack' file, which the user can easily import via the administrative client. This takes care of an ongoing issue where drivers arrived between official releases but there was no clean and simple way to get them to users. The new driver packing system will allow us to put such drivers up on the web for easy download and import, so that they can be made available as soon as they are ready. With more third party drivers coming along, this is becoming more and more important.

- Theta Dreadnaught Driver. A new driver for the monster sized Theta Dreadnaught amplifier. This amp has a serial control option, which this driver supports, allowing it to be turned on and off, the surround buss activated or deactivated, and the status of the amp monitored.

- Extron System 8+/10+ Driver. Andy Swingler has provided a driver for the popular Extron System 8+ and System 10+ A/V switchers. These are pretty full featured switchers, and this driver provides good control of it's features and provides plenty of information from the devices as well.

- Lexicon MC-12 Driver Updates. Eric Bariax's Lexicon MC-12 driver is updated in this version, providing some performance improvements and access to more device data.

- Per-Device IR Repeat Count.Some IR blasters support a 'repeat count' which simulates how long the user would hold down an IR remote button in order to get the device to see the signal. Some devices are more 'twitchy' and will do the command twice if the button is held down too long, and some need more repeats or they won't see the signal. So you can now set the repeat count per-device, which will allow you to deal with either type of device. It will default to a repeat count of 2, which should be fine for 99% of the time, but just in case you can adjust it.

- Special Actions Button. The interface designer provides a new special actions buttons that allows you to invoke a set of system defined actions, as apposed to user actions, such as exiting the current interface or invoking the blanker window.

- Kiosk Mode Support. CQC's Interface Viewer program, which is a dedicated program for viewing the CQC interfaces you draw, has always been basically a good way to support a kiosk style interface for CQC, since it has a full screen mode that completely covers the screen with no title bar or borders or anything. However, you could always double click on the background to exit full screen now. It now has a /Kiosk parameter that puts it into kiosk mode, in which case you have to provide system admin credentials to get out of full screen mode. So, lock up the keyboard and mouse, and run the interface viewer in kiosk mode, and you have a nice little touch screen kiosk for your automation system.

CQC's interface designer allows you to create systems of link interfaces (or to overlay multiple smaller overlays into an area of an underlying interface), so your kiosk can provide a navigable set of interfaces that show status information and allow the user to initiate the actions you've configured. And, since CQC is secure, you can limit which users can get to which of the navigable screens, control which aspects of the system they can modify via the interface, and even control the range of movement on things like volume control widgets based on user level.

What's Coming Up

The major feature in the next version, which will be 1.2, is going to be the extension of CQC's powerful device control model to GUI applications, a la Girder but better because it will be built into a powerful integrated front and back end. So you HTPC folks can have a single system that provides the two way active GUI, the powerful distributed back end architecture, great two way device control, security, powerful macro capabilities, and application control all in one highly integrated package.

There will also be a number of device drivers coming up over the next month, which will be distributed via the new driver packaging system above, so you won't have to wait for version 1.2 to get ahold of them. THese include:

  • NAD T762 A/V Reciever. Andy Swingler is looking to take this on as his next driver.
  • Marantz VP12-S2 Projector. Eric Bariaux is working on a driver for this projector.
  • Lutron 3003/4000 Lighting Systems. I have a serial module for these two systems coming and it should be fairly easy to get this driver done. This will allow CQC to control those residential 3000 and 4000 model systems.
  • Denon 3803 A/V Reciever. I have one on the way and it will be nice to get this popular reciever, which is very inexpensive to have such a good control protocol, under control.
  • Denon 5900 Player. Same here, a universal player with a good control protocol.
  • CenterStage CS-2 Scaler. A relatively simple protocol, but it's good enough for what it has to do. This is a pretty widely used scaler, so it will be good to get a driver in place for it.

As always, if you do a good driver for CQC, and let us ship it with the product, I'll give you a free copy. ANd if you keep it updated in future releases (which mostly will just be a matter of verifying it's still happy), I'll give you the upgrades for free as well.

If you really want to use CQC, but need drivers for your devices and cannot do them yourself, please consider shipping us the device for a few days so that we can do the driver for you and return the device. We want to support as many devices as possible and want to do whatever we can to make CQC a useful tool for your automation needs.

Test Drive It

CQC comes with a 30 day trial period. So just download the Zip file (Download link on the left of the main web page), unzip it, read the release notes, look at the Get Started section of the web site which will give you an overview of how CQC works and want it can do for you, and then install it and use it unencumbered for 30 days. At any time during that period you can purchase a license and upgrade your trial version to a licensed version without any interruption.

CQC is a networked product, so the license is for your network, and only applies to the machine on which you run the CQC Master Server. You can run as many other clients or servers as you need and your network capacity allows. So give it a spin and see what it's like.

If you have any questions, you can e-mail us at support@charmedquark.com, or better yet sign up with our support forums (link is at that bottom of the main web page), and start a discussion of your issues and questions. This way, other users can benefit from the discussion, and other old timers can help you out if I'm not immediately available. We look forward to your feedback, whether happy or brutal, since it's the only way we can understand what works for you.

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  Version 1.1 is now posted
Posted by: Dean Roddey - 12-26-2003, 12:09 AM - Forum: Announcements - No Replies

Charmed Quark Software is pleased to announce the release of version 1.1 of CQC (Charmed Quark Controller), their Windows XP/2K based control and automation system. The 1.1 version is now available for download and purchase. You can download it and try it for 30 days without any restrictions. At any point during that time, you may purchase a license and convert your trial version to a license version without any interruptions. CQC is a fundamentally networked product and the purchase price licenses the CQC Master Server for your network as a whole, and you can run as many clients or servers as you wish.

The 1.1 version introduces one major new feature, and a number of others which just couldn't be slipped into the 1.0 release under the wire. The release notes describes the details of the bugs and features added in this release, but here is a brief description of the major new features.

Protocol Description Driver. In the 1.0 release, there were two ways to interface CQC to a device. C++ device drivers can be done, but those are only available to Charmed Quark. User written device drivers have been done in the CML language, which is CQC's powerful built in, object oriented language. CML is also used to write user control macros, and it's general purpose nature allows you to get even the most complex devices under control; however, it's very generality has proven a bit much to bite off by less technical users.

In order to make it easier for end users to create their own device interfaces, an alternative method is now available in the form of the Protocol Description Language. Instead of writing your own driver, you will describe the protocol in a text file, and a generic driver will use that description to drive the communcations with the device. The protocol description language currently supports serial and socket based devices.

When creating CML based drivers, the driver developer uses the standard CML graphical IDE to do the development. This powerful debugging environment is a huge boon to driver debugging. However, this is not a possibility for protocol description based drivers, so a specialized graphical test harness is provided for testing protocol language based drivers offline before installing them on CQC.

CML is still the prefered mechanism, because of it's power and flexibility, and some devices might be too complex to handle with the protocol description language, but this new protocol language based driver should allow many more people provide device interfaces, since most devices are consistent and simple enough to be handled this way. As always, if you do a quality driver for a device, and contribute it back to Charmed Quark for distribution in the product, you will get a free copy of CQC. If you keep the driver updated in future releases (usually just a matter of validating it still works ok), then you will get those upgrades for free as well.

Zoned IR Support. Until now, CQC has only supported 'open air' blasters, which just blast out into the open air and address any devices that their signals happen to reach. As of this release, the CQC IR architecture now supports zoned IR blasters, so that you can address specific devices for IR blasting events. This is particularly important when you want to control more than one of a given type of device. With an open air blaster, they would all respond to the signal the same. With a zoned blaster, each device is addressed via a cabled blaster that sticks onto the front of the device in most cases.

This version includes a driver for CQC's first zoned IR device, the Global Cache GC-100. The GC-100 is actually a multi-function box, which is ethernet based which is very nice. It can include variable numbers of zoned IR blasters, sensors, and contact closures. CQC will sense the available features and adjust accordingly. The sensors allow you to read whether a device's front panel is putting out light, i.e. whether it is on or off.

Also included in this version is support for the Home-Electro Ira-2 IR receiver, which is similar to the IRMan. Both devices allow you to train CQC to invoke user configured events based on particular IR remote button presses. CQC already supported the USB-UIRT, RedRat2, and IRMan.

Lexicon MC-12 Driver. An early cut of the MC-12 driver was included in the 1.0 version, but this version includes a much improved version which is more robust and includes more features, and supports the V3 MC-12 software. This driver is provided by Eric Bariaux at www.tinsys.com. CQC also supports the Lexicon MC-1, and eventually Eric's driver will probably become an integrated driver that supports the MC-1, MC-8, and MC-12.

HD Leeza Driver. At the time that the 1.0 release came out, the HD Leeza's firmware was still in a pretty early stage, so the driver was fairly limited and not terribly robust. In this version, the HD Leeza driver has been updated to work with the latest, 5.5.55, firmware, which is more robust and provides more information.

Denon 3800 DVD Player. The Denon 3800 is one of the least expensive serially controllable DVD players, and it has a full and robust protocol, so it is a great choice for people who want to create a highly controllable system. Generally speaking, only the most megabuck DVD players provide any external control capabilities. David Hays provided this driver, and it is based on the new protocol description language.

Variables Driver. This driver doesn't support a device, it just exists to allow you to define any driver fields you want. The driver will then create this list of driver fields, and you can use them as network wide variables which can be used in your macros to maintain state information above and beyond device state information. For instance, you might want to define a 'mood' for your control system, and have all of your macros react to the current mode. So you could define an enumerated field in the variables driver, with say values of Party, Night, Day, and Evening, and you can set this field any time and any subsequently invoke macros can react to the current mode by reading this field and adjust their actions appropriately.

Volume Control Widget. The user drawn interface system has a new rotary volume control widget which allows you to adjust the value of numeric field with small ranges (32 to 128), such as volume fields. It works like a standard rotary volume knob, with a small red LED that you can drag around the center of the knob to set the value.

Because CQC is inherently secure and account based, you can also set per-user type limits on the volume control widget. So you can allow, for instance, system admins and power users to have the full range of control, but limit normal and limited users to a max of -5db. This kind of account based security is a powerful feature of CQC not found in other products. Access to drawn interfaces is also controlled by user account type.

There are also some important bug fixes and smaller improvements, but those are the highlights. If you have any questions, please let us know. We always want to hear your feedback, even when brutal. Feel free to take advantage of the trial period to download it and try it out. The uninstaller will remove the product without any danger of destablizing your system, because CQC does not install or modify any system files. So it is safe enough to try out.

If you are interested in using CQC, but find that even the new protocol description language is more than you can handle, consider shipping us the devices you want supported and we will do the driver for you in exchange for being able to get the device under control. We will normally need it for a couple weeks plus shipping in either direction.

In terms of coming attractions, here are the items currently on the slab:

Device Drivers. There are a number of devices currently in the queue to be supported. These include:

  • Theta Dreadnaught which has a serial control option that can be installed
  • Tira/Tira-2 IR device
  • Centerstage CS-2
  • Anthem AVM20 or NAD T762, according to which one the customer buys
  • Powerlinc USB X-10 controller. CQC currently supports the serial version of this device, but the USB version is also in the list of things to take care of.
  • ZenSys Z-Wave wireless appliance/lighting control. We continue to work with ZenSys to support their technology, which is a wireless and robust replacement for the troublesome X-10 technology currently available for no-prewired appliance and lighting control. The first USB based Z-Wave based devices should be out after the end of the year and we will be working with them as soon as possible.

Features. In terms of upcoming features there is just one big one for the next release (1.2), which will be a new optionally purchaseable feature. This will be a subsystem for controlling GUI applications, which is commonly required by HTPC owners. Currently CQC has a passthrough driver for Girder to allow people to use CQC while maintaining their investment in Girder software application control, but as of 1.1 CQC will be able to manage this functionality itself.

CQC's powerful and elegant architecture for external devices will be extended to software applications, so that a single and consistent mechanism can be used to control applications and devices in a seamless way. You will then be able to benefit from CQC's highly integrated and network distributed front and back end services, big picture control and automation architecture, and provide your HTPC front end, all in one powerful, network distributed package with a single price and a single point of configuration and management. YOu won't have to struggle to understand multiple packages, or struggle to understand how to integrate multiple systems that were never designed to work together.

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  Version 1.0 is now posted
Posted by: Dean Roddey - 11-14-2003, 08:43 PM - Forum: Announcements - No Replies

Charmed Quark Software is proud to announce the 1.0 release of it's Charmed Quark Controller (CQC) product, a network distributed, software based control and automation application suite for the Windows 2000/XP platform. This day is the culmination of a long and challenging process of designing, creating, testing, and delivering a large and powerful software suite, and a decade of general purpose framework development which underlies the CQC product.

So it is not your usual 1.0 release, having been though a very long open beta program. It comes to it's initial commercial release with almost zero evolutionary baggage and with a very mature architecture. Therefore, though this feels to our tired fingers like an ending of sorts, it is really just a beginning, because CQC is ready to move forward quickly to add new optional components and new device support. Look for a number of powerful additions to the CQC family over the next couple 'point' releases.

Feel free to download it and make use of the 30 day trial period to find out of CQC is what you are looking for. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns, and we will address them as quickly as possible. We look forward to hearing your feedback.

* With the 1.0 release, the pre-purchase program has ended, and so the 25% discount is no longer available. The web site now reflects the actual retail SKUs and prices.

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  adding a generic serial driver protocol file
Posted by: Anonymous - 12-01-2002, 07:54 AM - Forum: CQC Support - Replies (44)

I am a very interested person to CQC.
I will try to make a generic serial driver protocol file for Meridian equipment (861 and 800).
To get a good idea of how it works i will try something small first, like changing volume on my 861.

I checked some of the examples, and made something myself.
I tested this with GenSerTest, and it now passes the syntaxcheck.

If i copy it in the driver directory (next to the leeza etc.) i am not able to select it.

I think i have misunderstood something but am stuck now.

Further i have problems understanding the MSGmatching section. Here is a part statemachine. The data the Meridian sends back is always a string. But it does not send back a specific something. It is either 20 bytes long, 10 bytes long, 6 bytes long or 4 bytes long. The first character can be many things.
I think the string does not end with a CR / LF.
Perhaps only a CR, as all the output of the unit stays in the top left corner and overwrites everyting when it is updated. (so when a 20 bute string is displayed, a 10 byte string comes after it, and all characters above 10 are deleted)
Could i just check in the statemachine with a form of the IsASCII expression ?

Thanks, Jaco

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