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Promotional Freshmeat X10 Firecrackers

CmdrTaco posted about 15 years ago | from the one-more-chance dept.

News 165

Paranoid noted that Freshmeat (hi Scoop!) is now doing an x10 Promotional Offer for those of you who missed your chance when we did it. You pay $6 shipping, and you get all the required parts to turn on your house lights from your command line. Or a TCL GUI. I just ordered a set for my gf- these things really rock. I've got my lava lamps rigged up in my room, plus a motion detector in my bathroom so I don't kill myself before I get my contacts in first thing in the morning.

cancel ×


He he (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809360)

Don't miss your chance.
Limited Time offer.
While supplies last!!!
Order in the next 60 minutes...

they *almost* rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809361)

For $5.90 USD, I have no regrets. But it ain't perfect. Specifically, I decided to put the lamp module on the other side of the apartment (and probably on a different fuse from the transceiver/appliance module); it wouldn't respond to commands there. And the dimming feature isn't very good even when the module is in range / on the right fuse / whatever. But I sure didn't get geek gear like this for mood lighting (yuck!).

But, to be fair, the serial port pass through design seems to work well. I have a serial mouse and have noticed *no* problems since adding the firecracker inline with the mouse. Cool. Now I just need to go buy some more appliance modules from Radio Shack.

Re:Deja Vu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809362)

True, claims the "special" offers end at midnight. But in reality, they never end. I have been interested in X10 gadgets for about 3 months now. I finally broke down 2 weeks ago when i saw the posting on about the Free Firecracker deal.. As opposed to other users, I received my firecracker package in about a week ( UPS Ground Shipment ). Granted the deal is like buying a barebones PC. Its enough to make it work. I was really impressed with the unit. I live in two story house and used the lamp module on the other end of the house and it works great. The dimming feature rules.. My wife really digs that. Next I plan to integrate Linux into the picture with complete home automation.. Most of you probably dont know, but some of the trade magazines for Home Automation are writing some good articles about Linux and the many uses with home automation ( x10 )... To sum it up, if you are interested in X10 then you cant lose with a $5 investment like the firecracker promotion...

the statements expressed in the posting above represent the opinions of the postee and in no way represent the viewpoints of or ... thank you and have a slashdot day..

Broken lamp modules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809363)

When I got my kit the dimmer didn't work correctly either. It wouldn't respond to any commands although the transciever/appliance module did. You just have to mess with it a little. Unplug the lamp module and plug it back in. Try the same with the transciever module. At first I thought my kit was a dud too, but now it works as advertised. I don't really know a lot about X-10, maybe they have to do some sort of initialization. I know some of the other X-10 stuff is this way. I also went out and bought a X-10 wall switch. Had the same problem. Got it working in a few minutes. It's cool though, cause now I found the perfect light intensity for those nights of coding ;) .

No need to beat the system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809364)

Go to, and get a 6 pack of lamp modules for $30. No need to pester your friends.

60Hz/120V, US/Canada style outlets.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809365)

Where are you? Netherlands? I'm not sure the lamp modules would even plug in..... what do your receptacle outlets look like? Are you 60Hz/120VAC? The X10 protocol might not even work over there. Perhaps that's why...?

Re:Deja Vu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809366)

The package will get there eventually. I ordered one a week before my friends did and they got theirs and I just received mine yesterday. The package comes with one lamp module however the receiver also acts as a appliance controller so you get to control 2 things..not one. The lamp modules in bulk ( 6 of them for $30 at are $5 each so why complain about paying an extra $1 for the remote, receiver/appliance controller and the transmitter?


Re:The one thing I didn't like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809367)

I ordered it, and then had my name removed from their mailing list via the link on thier web page...haven't gotten any mail since....


Re:not delivered yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809368)

>> early one X10-related piece of junk e-mail per day.

if you would take the time to scroll to the bottom of one of these, you would see a nice big glowing link that says someting along the lines of "click me to stop getting these damned things". its just like all the other spam ive ever gotten at least.

Does it bother anyone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809369)

that Slashdot is now a totally commercial entity and yet it still has a .org domain?

Anyway, those X10 things are bullshit. Who cares about turning on their lamp from their computer. I spend so much fricking time in front of my computer that the lights in other parts of the house are only used by my wife and she could care less about using a computer to control them.

Sometimes geekyness goes too far. you have to know your limits.

Re:These things are TX-only, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809370)

Ya, firecracker is 1-way only. The ActiveHome starter kit has 2-way communication to the computer (although the lamp modules are receive only, and don't transmit anything, you can still use the remote, or motion sensors, to send info to the computer) They sell the activehome thing on for $50, but I got some email from them with a link to a page that sells it for $40... and they had some 12% (?!) off deal which cut it to about $35... and they were giving away a keychain remote, and a motion sensor... so I bought it. Do these guys actually make any money?

I'll put the motion sensor in the computer room, so it can greet me when I walk in, dial up for me, and announce how many new emails I have. :)

My Firecracker Kit is in the Drawer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809371)

I ordered the $5.90 Firecracker kit some weeks ago. I received it this week, and apparently can't do anything with it.

It included one serial port RF transmitter, one "PalmPad" Remote RF transmitter (basically a hand held remote), and two electrical outlet Lamp Modules.

The two transmitters send RF to a (not included) transceiver, which passes it on to the wiring for the lamp modules. I didn't think I could lose by only spending $5.90, but wow.

That was a mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809372)

Must have been a packing mistake; call them up. They'd probably send you a receiver module for free.

Re:North America 1 - World 0 -- YEP!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809373)

Get over it! You don't hear us griping about promotions in Europe.

Re:The one thing I didn't like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809374)

Mmmm... where is the link on there web page that removes you from the email list?

I haven't received any junk email yet, but I'd like to avoid it.

Thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809375)

misspelled link in article... 'nuff said.

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809376)

They deduct straight from your checking account.

You are quite the clever crook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809377)

I can imagine that if you ever got caught for your scam, you would say "hey, i wouldn't have bought it anyways". You know, the same line you use when you steal software.

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809378)

My check card has visa on it. I used it to order the firecracker kit and it worked perfectly. I also use it to pay my monthly internet account.

Wow they sure are getting a lot of advertising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809379)

Geesh these X10 people are getting advertising. As other people have mentioned, the "LAST DAY" and other such claims of X10 are _TOTALLY_BOGUS_. Indeed I get a little suspicious when a company operates with such blatantly false advertising (not that I actually want them to end their deals...the longer the better...but it is simply a outright lie to claim a deal ends TODAY! when it actually goes on for weeks).

However just a couple of coveats:
-The firecracker kit is fairly lame. If you really want to do this pay $50 and get the ActiveHome kit (AND IF YOU ORDER TODAY YOU GET XXX AND YYY!!!!) and a couple of modules. It includes a send and receive computer interface, and a separate module that controls the system outside of your computer, allowing timed events and the like without depending on your computer.

-The firecracker kit takes a long time to get to Canada (odd that I ordered it after saying the above...but I did). I ordered on June 21st and am still waiting. Mind you three weeks isn't THAT bad, but it isn't good by any means. This is pushing the limits.

-Apart from what someone else said I find their customer service subpar. After placing a followup order for some modules I decided I wanted to add an ActiveHome kit. Being in Canada I have to pay an extra $10 USD per order so I wanted it added to the previous orders. Two emails sent on the Sunday, July the 4th that I placed the order and then again on Tuesday, July the 6th were totally ignored to this point, so obviously the addition didn't make it. And everytime I try to CALL in the change I am told "Oh, that database is being updated right now so I can't access it...". To say this has pissed me off is a gross understatement.

This is a sleazy company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809380)

What's with the ads all over ZDNET's site showing pretty girls with bare shoulders and ads for the XCam in high resolution color? Most of these chicks look like they are working in the San Fran sex circuit...

But to cut to the chase-- Their electronics is crap. If they would spend 10% of what they spend on advertising making a product that can send back a confirmation on the power line that it actually did what it was commanded to do we would have a product with some value. As it is - well, maybe the device turned on and maybe it didn't. Who knows.

This is one company I would like to see out of business.

Re:These things are TX-only, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809381)

Look at the catalog on the website. They have two ActiveHome combo deals, one at $100 and the other at $150; I personally found the $100 deal to be better for me.

BTW, always compare prices with SmartHome ( I've found they have better deals on many items.

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809382)

Credit cards are wonderful tools, much like fire. Also like fire, they're dangerous when you don't use them properly.

I've had tons of success using credit cards. My rule for using them is simple: Never charge more than you have in the bank, and pay off every statement in full. You won't have the high interest charges, you can take advantage of cards that give rebates, and when you're adding up your receipts (in Quicken, or whatever) you get a good idea of your own spending patterns.

Of course, you'll need some self-control for this. Free money is a big temptation. But if you can handle it, it's a great advantage.

Better deals are available (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809383) has ibm home director(essentially activehome renamed) for $9.89! I plan to get both this and the firecracker, and use the firecracker in my laptop and the cm11a(activehome) on my main box

Re:Serial Port... works fine w/ mouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809384)

It's inline with my serial mouse (a Logitech cheapie with a wheel). No problems at all.

Further X10 hacking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809385)

This months issue of "Electronics (somethingorother)", a hardware hobbyists magazine, has a cover story on this very device. The article describes the technology quite thoroughly. Included are plans on how to build your own, much more fully functional, remote control. For the hardware types (of which I am not), this might be a good thing to pick up.

Sorry I can't remember the name of the magazine. Anyone else know?

Re:Can't plug it in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809386)

You don't have to use the computer to control the lamp module. You can use the remote.

This is evil! - Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809387)

It is good old USA capitalism in action. I see nothing wrong with \. making a buck while providing a service. If you have a problem with this perhaps the People's Democratic Republic of Linux is a better place for you.

These things are TX-only, right? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809398)

From what I've seen, these Firecracker things are transmit only. So, you can run around controlling things by banging out commands, but what about reception? Being able to send from a computer has been possible since the early 80s with their CP-290 (little box with 8 buttons on top)...

I realize this may not seem important at first, but it gives you LOTS of possibilities. Being able to sense darkness and trigger lights all over the place is definitely a Good Thing. It beats the hell out of lat/long daytime calculation too, since those don't always nail your personal definition of "night"... besides, what about days when a storm rolls in and it gets REALLY dark? Or a solar eclipse, you get the idea.

So, to geek out even more, check out the two way side of the X-10 force and see what you can imagine. How many people can honestly walk up to their house, have a bunch of lights come on (via a motion sensor relay), and say "those things are powered by Linux"?

Re:Further X10 hacking (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1809399)

Electronics Now, August 1999

Expandable X-10 Controller, Page 31

Bottlerocket (1)

Pathwalker (103) | about 15 years ago | (#1809401)

Check the latest version - Bottlerocket 0.04b6 has no problems that I can find with dimming or brightening only a single device.

Re:This is a sleazy company (1)

Pathwalker (103) | about 15 years ago | (#1809402)

They do have modules that talk back (so you can check that they did what you wanted them to) But they cost quite a bit more. Personally, I haven't had any trouble yet with lost signals, and if I do, I'll just send every command twice...

Mine came broken (1)

nlucent (168) | about 15 years ago | (#1809407)

I ordered some last time, and they came broken. The controller works sometimes, and the plugin part works all the time, but the lamp part just doesnt work at all. Oh well, least it was only 6 bucks ...

Spam from X10! (1)

gavinhall (33) | about 15 years ago | (#1809410)

Posted by edinct:

I took advantage of the X10 promotion at Slashdot and made the misake of giving them my email address. For the next 6 days they sent me the same advertisement every day. Email did not stop it. I needed to call them by telephone to get them to stop.

Check cards rock. (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 15 years ago | (#1809411)

It's used the exact same way as a credit card, except that it deducts straight from your checking account. All the convenience of using a credit card without any of the worries about running up a debt.

I still have my parents' credit card for emergencies, but for personal use I only have a Visa check card tied right to my account up here at college. Check cards are wonderful things.

Re:Deja Vu (2)

sjames (1099) | about 15 years ago | (#1809413)

That this particular deal isn't any good anyway,

Followed by:

because $6 is a good deal for the handheld controller that comes with it

One or the other please!

Sure, the 24 hour deals do tend to be more like 24 years, but so what? I ordered one to go with the kit I already have as well. I'm using the new remote and reciever to control xmms. The firecracker will most likely end up in use as well (perhaps as a smart repeater to the other phase of my house wiring.

At any rate, I got my order within the week with no problems. Perhaps you should cancel the order, and then re-order.

To be fair, I have heard of occasional handling screw-ups on their part. I guess you're one of them.

Re:Deja Vu (2)

sjames (1099) | about 15 years ago | (#1809414)

is incapable of dimming a unique device - it can only dim an entire room of lamps at once.

You have to send a unit on command followed by the dim/bright command to select a specific unit. The Bottlerocket docs imply otherwise, but that's what it takes.

Buyer beware: X10 Powerhouse drives this market, and drives it poorly.

Sadly, your critique is all too accurate. A few next to zero cost improvments would yield a much better product. Check out comp.home.automation, there is occasionally talk there about a project to make a superior X10 like setup based on PIC chips.

I think the X10 idea could be much improved by making devices ACK their commands, and make them transmit an equivilant command when they are controlled locally. Making all devices capable of reporting their status when interrogated would complete the picture for the protocol.

I like your suggestion for a wall recptical that screws into the wall. They should also make a lamp socket 'bypass adapter' so a wall mounted controller doesn't have to listen to commands through a hot incandescant filament. (many have complained about lights that will turn on but not off by remote).

The wall controls on velcro can probably be forgiven since they target retrofiting to an existing house. It would be nice if they made an equivilant unit that mounts in the wall for those who want to do it right though.

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (2)

sjames (1099) | about 15 years ago | (#1809415)

Credit cards are safer. If someone makes an unauthorized (fraudulant) charge to my credit card, Visa is motivated to investigate and resolve the issue since I still have my money. The question to them is would they would rather be out the money, send me to collections and maybe never see the money, or not pay the person who submitted the charge. It's much cheaper easier, and less risk for them to simply not pay on that charge and let the person who submitted it sue me if they don't like it. (And people commiting fraud probably don't want to go to court)

With a check card, your account is debited already, the bank is out nothing. It's cheaper for them to do nothing and let you sue the person who submitted the charge if you don't like it.

I'm not fond of credit debit personally, so I pay the full balance every month. For people who have a credit abuse problem, there's always American Express. With them, the full balance is due every billing.

Re:These things are TX-only, right? (2)

sjames (1099) | about 15 years ago | (#1809416)

The ActiveHome starter kit has 2-way communication to the computer

That kit is very useful. Take that, heyu (linux X10 app) a perl script, and xmms and you have a really nice MP3 jukebox w/ remote control.

Deja Vu (2)

tgd (2822) | about 15 years ago | (#1809420)

Need it be said that this is not a special offer? That this deal has been available every day since it was posted on here two weeks ago? That their deals NEVER end "TODAY" as they like to proclaim? That this particular deal isn't any good anyway, because you only get one free X10 module, and more are going to cost you $15 a piece?

Does it really need to be asked if Slashdot and Freshmeat are getting kickbacks from these obvious advertisements in the guise of stories? Need it be pointed out that articles that have been paid for in magazines are typically identified as such with "PAID ADVERTISEMENT" printed on the page?

So run, fellow lemmings. Run fast and buy these, because this time they really do mean today's the last day. Yup. Bet the deal won't be there tommorrow.

I ordered a kit three weeks ago because $6 is a good deal for the handheld controller that comes with it, and I've already got piles of X10 units. Three weeks, haven't seen the item, haven't been able to get anyone on the phone that knows if its been sent, or why it hasn't if it hasn't been sent.

Terrorize your neighbors with X10 controllers (5)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 15 years ago | (#1809422)

I used to live in an apartment court. One day I was putting in X10. I stood at the window and hit "all lights on" for each of the house codes A through P, trying to see if anything went on, so that I could avoid using a neighbor's house code. I didn't see any lights go on, but as I hit one house code I heard a loud scream of terror! I guess having a light go on when you think you're alone could be scary.


Re:No need to beat the system (1)

aqua (3874) | about 15 years ago | (#1809423)

FWIW, every one of these home-automation sales sites has had the most horrid and annoying HTML design; bright clashing colors, badly adjusted fonts, animated crap, etc. It looked a lot like most of the rest of the web, so I assume they're establishing themselves well. :)

Can't plug it in (1)

Leidolf (5519) | about 15 years ago | (#1809424)

The serial module won't fit on my serial port because of the way IBM designed this computer. The serial port is too close to the edge of the computer for me to plug in this fat module.

Now I'm stuck with this stuff I can't seem to use. Any thoughts on how I could fix this without breaking my computer?

- George

Re:Deja Vu (1)

wynlyndd (5732) | about 15 years ago | (#1809425)

I got mine quickly and it works just as advertised. Easy to install. Unfortunately, I have a small apartment with a rolling chair and everything is in easy reach. This was nothing more than a cheap gimmick for me although YMMV. I have my lava lamp connected to it as well as a lamp that I can dim from my computer. Still neat.

Re:Hmm... this is a little odd... (1)

wynlyndd (5732) | about 15 years ago | (#1809426)

Well when ordering the product, there was a list of states in which they had presences in, where customers would be charged the tax. Texas was another one.

Now I don't know what to think... (2)

Booker (6173) | about 15 years ago | (#1809427)

When I first saw this on /., I thought "hey, that's cool!" and ordered one. It took a while to get here (about two weeks) but it finally did, and it performed as advertised. I even decided to buy some more stuff from them (which has NOT arrived yet).

I *did* get spammed, but I went to their "remove" address, and was promptly removed (look at the bottom of the email.)

But then I saw the story on slashdot *again* Then I saw it on freshmeat.... which was posted on slashdot... again... I mean, don't you guys think that's enough? It's getting to be pretty blatant advertising. What's the point of that? Not trying to be a jerk, but at this point it's simply not news - it's just an ad.

RTFM :) (2)

Booker (6173) | about 15 years ago | (#1809428)

Well, one thing that may be happening is that you have the transceiver and the lamp module on a different pair of phases in your house. Try putting the lamp module in an outlet which is on the same circuit as the transceiver, and see if that works. If so, then the problem is that you're not getting coupling across the phases. The lamp module should still work on 1/2 your circuits. :) You can fix this with an inexpensive capacitor, see the x10 website for how to do this.

And for the person with the blinking fluorescent lights, the web site specifically says that these things dont' work with fluorescent, because they need the current path across the filament in an incandescent bulb.

Granted, none of this stuff was in the instructions that came with the modules... but Linux folk are supposed to be good at ferreting information from the net! :)

Re:RTFM :) (2)

Booker (6173) | about 15 years ago | (#1809429)

Yes, it is a horrible website, and it is damn near impossible to find what you're looking for. And you gotta love the porn-star babes on the banner ads, eh? :) But... eventually... the information is there.

X10 outside the US/Canada (2)

Booker (6173) | about 15 years ago | (#1809430)

A couple people were complaining that this only served the US/Canada market... this is probably because there are different power standards in various parts of the world.

However, I found a page (in the netherlands) which explains some of this, and gives tips for modifying the modules to work on 220V. All disclaimers apply, and the site is here [] .

Re:EVIL!! This is evil! (1)

JerkBoB (7130) | about 15 years ago | (#1809434)

Now I find out that Slashdot was payed to make the post.

Paid, huh? Ok, fruitcake, where is your proof?

Even if /. was given a kickback, so what? There are a lot of us who think that this sort of thing is cool. I ordered two of the kits, and now I'm hooked. Just put in order at for a buncha crap.

Just because you're poor, or boring, or just plain paranoid, doesn't mean that the rest of we readers are, so bugger off and go back under your rock.

A host is a host from coast to coast...

Re:Longish Wait on the phone ... (1)

benbean (8595) | about 15 years ago | (#1809435)

I was charged Texas sales tax.

And what about the rest of the world? (1)

a_LAN (8653) | about 15 years ago | (#1809436)

They look lovely and all. Some of the people's comments seem a little worrying, but it doesn't affect me as I have the pleasure of living outside the US, in the UK. One of thousands who live in the UK who probably would want one, if possible.

Well? What about us?

Ok - so now I have a lamp on the web (1)

jab (9153) | about 15 years ago | (#1809437)

I ordered one of those firecracker kits
during the last slashdot promotion and got
it two days ago. Not being sure what to
do with it, I hooked up a small lamp to the
web, here [] .

So now a request to turn on/off the
light can pass through the internet, over the
firecracker kit's radio link, then through my
apartments power grid to the X10 device, which
toggles the light. It's kind of a crazy way
to activate a light, but it works fine and
is kind of amusing.


Re:Deja Vu (1)

Pudding Yeti (9773) | about 15 years ago | (#1809439)

But that doesn't matter much to most of us, because i doubt the passthrough works under linux anyhow - device locking and all.

FWIW, I had this concern because I have a Palm Pilot I use with the PilotManager software on the same port as my Firecracker.

My unscientific stress-test was to bring up the RocketLauncher TK front-end to BottleRocket, and PilotManager. I set PilotManager to do a full sync including the backup conduit. Then I started turning lights on and off from RocketLauncher while the backup was in progress. It worked fine.

Some sites I've read, though, have cautioned against trying this with a modem or mouse. Don't know. I've got an internal modem and a PS/2 mouse.


Mail monopoly; Reliability (1)

edhall (10025) | about 15 years ago | (#1809440)

The reason usually given for the USPS monopoly on first-class mail is that another company could come in and "cream skim" the lucrative routes and leave the USPS to handle rural and other more expensive routes, raising the overall cost of USPS mail (since they must, by law, deliver everywhere). Of course, they could eliminate the flat rate for first-class postage, like they do for parcels, but no senator or representative wants to vote for something that will penalize his/her state vs. more densely populated states.

I've used X10 for a number of years, and have noticed that they work much better if you have non-conduit wiring as opposed to wiring in metal conduit (like in many apartments and businesses). There seems to be higher signal attenuation in the latter case. Also, stuff like computer power supplies and compact fluorescent lamps seem to inject enough noise into the line or lower line impedance enough for the low-frequency RF X10 signals to lower the reliability of devices close to them. So plan accordingly.


Re:Deja Vu (2)

alhaz (11039) | about 15 years ago | (#1809446)

I got mine a few days ago, and it was an enjoyable experience putting the stuff into use.

However, X10 seems to be determined to make sure everything they manufacture is less than ideal.

Take for instance the CM17a "Firecracker" itself. From the outset, it sounds good. Serial port dongle with passthrough means you don't lose a serial port and you don't have to run wires to the wall socket, right?

Unfortunately, it comes without the long thumbscrews usually found on dongles - using the CM17a as a passthrough dongle makes it possible for a formerly tightly secured serial device to fall off the back of your computer at the slightest agitation.

But that doesn't matter much to most of us, because i doubt the passthrough works under linux anyhow - device locking and all.

Also, X10 seems to have an unnatural affinity for little white boxes. Again, this is less than ideal. For a little more plastic and another plug and receptical, they could replace the little white boxes with a box that would seamlessly cover your outlet and stick out about an inch from the wall. Replace the screw in the center of the plate with a longer screw through the device, and make it impossible for a small child to losen the device from the wall. I don't have to explain to anybody how this would be safer.

I Could go on, detailing the sillyness of the way they laid out this remote controll, or the ill concieved nature of the rest of their little toys, but it's just not that interesting.

What's unfortunate is that a company so bent on using the lowest cost materials possible to build these devices has cornered the market.

What you'll find, generally, is that when you try to use X10 devices on more than a casual basis, having several of them in use (like a dozen or so) rather than just a few, that they're disappointingly flaky and unreliable. Aside from having hokey human intefaces all around. A switch plate that velcro's to the wall? geeze . . .

Oh yeah, and the Bottlerocket linux software, tho X10 says they openly support it, is incapable of dimming a unique device - it can only dim an entire room of lamps at once. This is mostly because the CM17a relies on the computer to generate the signal modulation by twiddling the DTR line on the serial port really fast, and the author apparantly hasn't figured out how to dim an individual device.

Buyer beware: X10 Powerhouse drives this market, and drives it poorly.

Already got mine :P (1)

Byter (11845) | about 15 years ago | (#1809448)

Ordered it last night when I saw it pop up on Freshmeat. :-)

Internet community exceeds the US of friggin' A... (1)

Guru Meditation (12823) | about 15 years ago | (#1809451)

And I wonder when companies catch on to that when they are having these kinds of promotions..

I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for the overseas shipping, but excluding the non USA/Canada web-community is insane.

And, IMO, shows that said companie(s) don't have a friggin' clue about the net anyway.
'We have no choice in what we are. Yet what are we,
but the sum of our choices.' --Rob Grant

not delivered yet... (2)

jetson123 (13128) | about 15 years ago | (#1809452)

Well, for the $6 that I paid, nothing has gotten delivered yet a couple of weeks later, except for probably nearly one X10-related piece of junk e-mail per day.

Re:they *almost* rock (1)

dirty (13560) | about 15 years ago | (#1809453)

I actually have noticed problems w/ the serial module. Specifically my mouse stopped working. Are you using windows? did you reboot after installing the module?


Re:Mine came broken (1)

Maxwell_E (16977) | about 15 years ago | (#1809456)

That's weird. I got mine and it works super keen. I've noticed that the transceiver units cause fluorescent lights to blink annoyingly, but that's solved with replacing it with an incandescent bulb.
Send it back, say I, bitch righteously. Be prepared to wait though.

Re:RTFM :) (1)

Maxwell_E (16977) | about 15 years ago | (#1809457)

/* And for the person with the blinking fluorescent lights, the web site specifically says that these things dont' work with fluorescent, because they need the current path across the filament in an incandescent bulb. */

You mean there's useful information on that spam haus looking website? :) Besides. Who reads instructions? I figured it out quickly enough, eh?

Re:Internet community exceeds the US of friggin' A (1)

Maxwell_E (16977) | about 15 years ago | (#1809458)

Actually, considering that their product deals primarily with US power... I would think it kind of odd that someone in the UK or New Zealand or wherever hasn't capitilized on the concept by selling a simillar device in their own country. Ergo, it would seem they are doing plenty of business in the US that doesn't seem to necessitate them ramping up a product for every country with different power requirements.

Re:Can't plug it in (1)

Maxwell_E (16977) | about 15 years ago | (#1809459)

Get one of those serial cable extenders that come with serial mice. You know a 25 to 9 pin thingy. Plug it into your 25 pin serial port, voila. If that don't work, run up to your local computer store and buy a 9 to 9 extender.

Here's the trick boys 'n girls. (2)

Maxwell_E (16977) | about 15 years ago | (#1809460)

Here's whatcha do. Ok, so the starter kit costs $5.90. For that, you get the firecracker serial dohickey, a remote, a transceiver unit and a dimmer module. Keen. Hop on over to rat shack and *sound of record skip* $12 bucks for an extra dimmer? You're insane. Tra la la. "Honey, I need your credit card." Order up another kit,(different name on card, only one per person) at the low low super low insane price of $5.90. Voila. Extra remote ($40) extra dimmer ($12) and an extra xcvr ($18). Cha ching. Perpetuate the scam a bit, ask a few friends to help out, pony up $5.90 and voila a third kit.

As far as the spam haus that they are, just hit remove when you get that first message. Big deal.

The upshot of this? I get a super cool toy that is actually useful for dirt cheap.

Beat da system.

Re:Deja Vu (1)

Audin (17719) | about 15 years ago | (#1809461)

is incapable of dimming a unique device - it can only dim an entire room of lamps at once.

as the above dude mentioned, this is false. The documentation is written with a knowledge of the X10 protocol... so...

"commands" in the X10 protocol don't have attached UNIT codes...they only have HOUSE codes. So to address an individual unit, you first get it's attention by sending it an ON or OFF command. Then any DIM or BRIGHTEN command that comes through for that HOUSE code will affect that module.

It's actually a nice system, since it means you can dim/brighten multiple lamps at the same time. (The Firecracker itself can't...but the CM11A can, and hardwired controllers (like Mini Controllers) can.)

I think the X10 idea could be much improved by making devices ACK their commands, and make them transmit an equivilant command when they are controlled locally. Making all devices capable
of reporting their status when interrogated would complete the picture for the protocol.

The more expensive modules (such as the Leviton decora wall switches) do transmit local commands. They also respond to STATUS request commands, and they also support Preset Dim commands (200 levels)... So these features do exist, they just don't exist in $5 modules... :-)

I like your suggestion for a wall recptical that screws into the wall.

If you're not controling a light you might as well use an Outlet Module...which contains one X10 controlled plug and one always-on plug. These are appliance modules, though, so you don't get any dimming. (1)

Wedge (17912) | about 15 years ago | (#1809464)


Re:Internet community exceeds the US of friggin' A (1)

Orion2o6 (19212) | about 15 years ago | (#1809465)

The internet shopping market is primarily based around the economy of the US. Currently the US makes up 1/2 the internet subscribers. It makes only sense that a product such as this be limited to the U.S. especially since they're not produced for the other power rating values (220, etc..)

The one thing I didn't like... (1)

Khan (19367) | about 15 years ago | (#1809466)

...was that they buried the fact that if you get this promotional offer, you are agreeing to allow yourself to be added to their mailing list. This is stated in the RULES section. Now, while I don't mind (most of the time) being added to a mailing list, I prefer to be ASKED up front like when I'm placing my order or something. I filled out their "user survey" and made some remarks about this. But, for $6.00, I wanted to try these things out. They looked like fun. Guess it's time to create another filter for my email ;)

X10 is not a good system (1)

scjody (19861) | about 15 years ago | (#1809467)

Hi there.. you may remember me from such ill-guided critiques as "AIX==LAME".. But this time I do know what I am talkig about. :)

I have worked with X10 before, and it is not a particularity well-designed system. Here's why: It relies on waiting for the zero crossing (AC power is sinusoidal, and so spends a bit of time every cycle fairly near zero volts) and then sends "spikes" to indicate the command. The problems with this are that

  1. Bandwidth is extremely limited and
  2. Noisy equipment on the line can either prevent the transmitting X10 module from seeing the zero crossing, or obscure the codes being sent.

I installed some X10 modules in my house last year, and they wouldn't work when one of my housemates had his computer on. I checked using an oscilloscope and discovered that the X10 module was unable to detect the zero crossing reliably. I tried several modules on both the transmitting and receiving end with the same result.

There's also the whole issue of patents. X10 modules must be licensed, which makes them extremely expensive.

I think it makes far more sense to add a small RF carrier to the AC signal and modulate your signal onto that. In fact I am designing such a system and will release the plans under something GPL-like when (if :) I get it working. I am thinking make it an Ethernet-like protocol with lookahead collision avoidance/etc. Something I can run IP on anyways.. But don't hold your breath waiting for it :)

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (1)

mindstrm (20013) | about 15 years ago | (#1809468)

So what's a 'Check' card? Does it say 'visa' on it? Is it just a secured visa?

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (1)

nd (20186) | about 15 years ago | (#1809470)

Use a check card.

Re:Hmm... this is a little odd... (1)

jaqbot (20264) | about 15 years ago | (#1809471)

If you notice they say something like 5.90 for s/h Sales tax will be added in if you live in ca, tx, ut, az, ga, ny.
they gotta make money off this thing somehow, and they might just be smart enough to use the /. effect to do it. :)

Mailing list (1)

mostejo (20983) | about 15 years ago | (#1809472)

I too orderd the $6 firecracker stuff the first time around. Been very pleased with it so far.

Anyway, as soon as I got the very first email from their mailing list, I immediately did the remove request & haven't gotten another email from them since.

Maybe I'm just lucky. But, someone had a good idea in setting up a hotmail (or other free email account), and designating it as a "spam" account: only use it for these "special offers" that ask for an email address to confirm the order & spam to...

Re:And what about the rest of the world? (1)

adolf (21054) | about 15 years ago | (#1809473)

You limeys with your 220VAC 50Hz power can't use our X10 stuff (and we can't use yours on our 110/60 power). Why not find someone on your side of the pond to buy it from?

Re:Credit Cards ONLY (1)

angelo (21182) | about 15 years ago | (#1809474)

Seriously. I don't even have a credit card (who needs credit?) so I use my check card. It's just as functional, but has a $1000/day limit.

Credit Cards ONLY (1)

ONOIML8 (23262) | about 15 years ago | (#1809476)

Great. I worked my ass off to get out of credit card debt and closed all accounts. Haven't had any problems getting anything I want anywhere else (and I can afford it now without credit cards sucking my wallet dry).

But I can't get one of these things. They won't take a check, money order, wire transfer, or cash.

Well, these guys won't be getting my money I guess.

Too bad too because I'm about to place an order for several $$$.$$ to $$$$.$$ with either or home automation for the same kind of stuff to use at work.

Their loss.

Hmm... this is a little odd... (1)

Cowards Anonymous (24060) | about 15 years ago | (#1809477)

I placed my order. But something about it confused me:

If the product is free, and I'm paying a $5.90 "administration fee," how come they added 8.5% California sales tax to the invoice?

Doesn't sales tax apply to the retail price of an item, not to associated fees for service? So is it free, or is it $6? Yeah, I know, it's a dinky sum regardless, but I still find it a little odd.

In any case, just a little warning to folks in California who may want to place their order: yer gonna get taxed.

Re:Internet community exceeds the US of friggin' A (1)

Cowards Anonymous (24060) | about 15 years ago | (#1809478)

I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for the overseas shipping, but excluding the non USA/Canada web-community is insane.

Don't let your envy get the better of you. 37,000 units (the claimed allotment for the promotion) won't go too far to serve an international market.

I think the opposite, and say that when giving things away it is only sane to limit the target market.

Re:RTFM :) (1)

extrasolar (28341) | about 15 years ago | (#1809482)

Who reads instructions?

My name is extrasolar and I read instructions.

Yes, it is sad. Like when I buy a Nintendo game, I read thoroughly through the instruction manual, even the "How to turn your SNES on" section.

I know the copyright information for my surge protector.

I even mailed back a spelling error in my monitor manual.

I need help!

(Okay, so maybe this is a bit of an exageration. But I do read the manual before playing the game, to make sure I am not missing anything.)


Geek gear (1)

mircea (28953) | about 15 years ago | (#1809483)

I ordered mine a couple of weeks ago, and got it yesterday; it's actually nice, for the sum I paid. My friend whom I share the appartment with also got his. Cool, now we can turn each other's lights on and off...

Re:Longish Wait on the phone ... (1)

mircea (28953) | about 15 years ago | (#1809484)

No tax for New York - but, I guess they'll charge you if you live in New Jersey, since they have a branch in Closter, NJ.

Re:The one thing I didn't like... (1)

MrChumple (29730) | about 15 years ago | (#1809485)

Sounds like it's time for you to create a fake free email account at yahoo or somewhere like it. All my junk mail goes to one spot because I protect my REAL e-mail address by never giving it out on the web.

Re:RTFM :) (1)

starman97 (29863) | about 15 years ago | (#1809486)

Or get another antenna module and put it on the other phase. That's what I did, and it works fine.

Cookie monster (1)

rread (30318) | about 15 years ago | (#1809487)

Did anyone else notice all the cookies the x10 site uses? When I ordered, I noticed one cookie has the whole name and address record, and another cookie stores just the full name. Then there's a couple more that look like they are part of the free deal and shopping cart.

An ad can be news (1)

jfunk (33224) | about 15 years ago | (#1809490)

This is something that is of interest to a nerd like myself. News for nerds. The fact that it's also an ad isn't very relevant.

If IBM announces Linux support it's news, but it's also an ad. When /. reported on Sony's AIBO it was both news and an ad. That doesn't bother me. The ads tend to be of interest to me, and if my interest helps out /. financially, then that's a *good* thing.

I missed it the first time around and when I saw it this time I ordered one and told my brother to order one as well (he's obsessed with remotes, he has one for his PC). I always wanted to try out X-10 and this gets me into it.

Now I can go to [] and try out some of the X-10 circuits they have there and start designing my own. I can do a lot of tinkering with this.

It was news to me, and so what if was also an ad? At least it wasn't a porn banner.

EVIL!! This is evil! (1)

Silex (34738) | about 15 years ago | (#1809491)

You can't do this! You have to indicate that this IS NOT news, it's advertising! You could get sued for this, you know. Stop it. The first time I saw this article, I actually thought it was legit news. And i even shared it with my friends. Now I find out that Slashdot was payed to make the post. NOT ALLOWED! It's decepsion.

Re:Geek gear (1)

harvmo (35896) | about 15 years ago | (#1809492)

I received mine two weeks ago. I could not find a good use for them. My house is small enough that you can walk over and turn off the light. But, after receiveing endless email from them, I looked around on their web pages and found a light switch for $13. (Of course, I got some free stuff when I ordered it) I have a out building with flood lights for security. But had to walk outside to turn them on and off. Installed the switch, and BAM! Works great from the comfort of my home! Looked at another site for a light switch and they wanted $29...

Re:Longish Wait on the phone ... (1)

timothy (36799) | about 15 years ago | (#1809498)

Why not end the monopoly on the mail? Because the postal service does not exhibit
monopoly pricing. Do you think that your company could (profitably) deliver first
class mail for 33 cents per letter in two days with a pretty damned good deal of

Glad you're not a PW;) ...

I promise not to get into the rant I'd like to, but all I'm asking (in this forum, anyhow), is why prohibit new entrants in the field of first-class mail delivery? "Monopoly pricing" is the pricing offered by a monopoly; Keynesian / Interventionist definitions of monopoly pricing are strictly self-serving and circular. Attempts to deliver mail more cheaply by free-market means have been squashed in the past by the USPS, and *that* is the behavior of a monopolist.

Anyhow, wrong point to belabor in the Firecracker thread, so this is my last paragraph (save the sig) on the matter until it is raised in a more relevant area.

Longish Wait on the phone ... (2)

timothy (36799) | about 15 years ago | (#1809499)

I decided to use the 800 number rather than the online form.

The wait was mind-numbing: nearly half an hour of "Your call is important to us. We are experiencing longer than normal wait times. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the first available operator. All calls are answered in the order received." I think the frequewncy of the message increased as the wait stretched out, too.

When I did get a person, I mentioned that I'd been on hold for a long time, but for once I didn't let my temper get the better of me and try to take it out on her.

She explained that the sales floor closes for the weekend, so all orderes go to her area, which is actually tech support, and that they were two people short (of an unspecified total) in tech support anyhow.

She asked whether I had an email address to which she could send a reeeipt, and then I provided one ... but a minute or two later, she pointed out that people don't like to provide this sometimes "because of the ..." (she fumbled, and I suggested, "spam?") "Yeah, Spam." So she kindly removed my email address and provided my order number by voice instead. Kudos!

Delivery time: she said their warehouse was behind on orders, but that it should arrive in under two weeks. Also that they usually ship UPS, but for this deal they're shipping USPS instead.

I noticed that a CA Slashdotter was charged state tax, so I guess they have some of their operation there, but the woman I spoke with was in New Jersey. Any other states get hit with it?

As far as this deal goes, well, you never know, eh? I have no home automation stuff at all, and know even less. ;) So this is sheerly an experiment. I read a lot of comments panning the deal and complaining about a few weeks of waiting, but for under USD 6, this seems like a real bargain, since it includes the remote controller. We'll see!

Good luck to anyone who gets one!


Re:Deja Vu (1)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | about 15 years ago | (#1809500)

It's not that bad.

I got mine today. It includes two modules, since the Transciever is effectively also an Appliance module.

So, for 6 bucks, I got an appliance module, a lamp module, a wireless remote control and the computer interface. Not bad.

Downside is that the computer interface does not work at all on my one computer, and on the second computer it only works if I turn off my HotSync software - which makes it a non-starter.

Anyway, I now have a wireless remote for my lavalamp and the lights in my weight room.


Re:not delivered yet... (mailorder /. effect) (2)

Sun Tzu (41522) | about 15 years ago | (#1809501)

The pattern for small companies selling geekware seems to be: get mentioned on /.; deliver the first few orders quickly; then fall farther and farther behind.

I suspect that this variant of the slashdot effect will be much more persistent than just bogging or crashing a web server. I suspect that the people who are ordering now are in for an even longer wait. Don't bother selecting some "express" shipping option. ;)

Re:Further X10 hacking (1)

Scott-W (43401) | about 15 years ago | (#1809502)

Sorry I can't remember the name of the magazine. Anyone else know?

The magazine is Electronics Now [] .

X10 is good, really. (2)

havaloc (50551) | about 15 years ago | (#1809504)

I ordered a firecracker deal when Slashdot was promoting them (and who cares if Slashdot gets kickbacks)? It took a while to get it, but I did get it via priority mail. I had gotten concerned and called X-10, and I have to say that their customer service is top notch. Although the hold times are on the long side, when the guy answered he was extremely polite, and apologized and told me that the shipping department had gotten a little behind, and If I didn't get it by friday, call and they would ship another one free of charge (as they should). But there was no need for that, because it came that Friday, and came as advertised. I just ordered a DVD anywhere from there. There is a review of serveral of their products on AGN3D [] .

Re:Longish Wait on the phone ... (1)

J. Pierpont (58099) | about 15 years ago | (#1809505)

I was charged the six percent Florida sales tax, too. Oh well.

Why not end the monopoly on the mail? Because the postal service does not exhibit monopoly pricing. Do you think that your company could (profitably) deliver first class mail for 33 cents per letter in two days with a pretty damned good deal of reliability?

Btw, IANAPW (postal worker).


Re:Geek gear (1)

Shadowcaster (58728) | about 15 years ago | (#1809506)

I have a out building with flood lights for security. But had to walk outside to turn them on and off.

Just curious.. why didn't you buy a 89cent light switch, a 49cent box, and a 12cent faceplate and just wire it to inside the door?

Personally I'd rathar have spent the buck and a half on a physical switch than 6 on a firecracker in that instance.

Re:Hmm... this is a little odd... (1)

Vlastyn (61832) | about 15 years ago | (#1809517)

I was charged sales tax as well and I live in NJ. I e-mailed them to ask about this but haven't heard back (in over three weeks).


North America 1 - World 0 (1)

Anonymous Bullard (62082) | about 15 years ago | (#1809518)

I must admit being a little disappointed with /.'s editorial laxness in these promotional cases. (H'uh, it was DirectorTaco himself!?)

A lot of the U.S.-centricity is understandable in the sense that issues regarding U.S. companies - and the "U.S. internet" - have usually some repercussions for the rest of the world as well. Not so with these continentally-challenged promotions.
The geek, geekwannabe and geek-admirer world consists of Planet Earth (propably other planets too, but that's for another thread). If /. feels obliged to carry promotional coverage that is continentally-challenged I can easily vote with my fingers, but please, PLEASE, tag such "news for nerds" as "of North-American interest only!".

Serial Port (1)

floatdouble (62855) | about 15 years ago | (#1809521)

Did any one actualy get the computer interface work on a *nix platform? Using it in between computer and another device...mouse? How?

Radio Shack (1)

PDG (100516) | about 15 years ago | (#1809523)

Just get the starter kit and buy all the other modules from Radio Shack. They are identical. In fact, I didn't realize someone in the house already had them and I was inadvertantly turning their stuff on and off.

PDG--"I don't like the Prozac, the Prozac likes me"
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