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I would like a way to use my computer to control the lights and appliances in my house.

Does anyone have any good suggestions on how to do this. I would prefer to do this as unobtrusively as possible. Ideally I would like it to be completely hidden.

Bonus points if you know a way to do this with voice control/speech recognition.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Here is a tutorial on controling lights with a computer.

Web store dedicated to home automation products:

One other product solution that mentions light and appliance control:

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Need to compare and contrast options, if possible. For example, some require serial lines running to appliances and some are wireless while some use the power lines in your house to communicate with the controlling device. It would be hard to compare apples to apples, but some of these implementation details are deal breakers for me, like the serial cable running through my house. I would never go for that one. – Kurt W. Leucht Jul 30 '09 at 21:02
Oh yah, I completly agree with you. These are just some of the options out there. I have not heard of a tried and true approach to this question yet, but there are options out there. – Troggy Jul 30 '09 at 21:19

X10 is a costy professional switching system, with quite limited capabilities (no automatic cat feeders or a cat cam for example).

So you might consider playing with Arduino This is a small stand-alone "computer" that can be programmed with ease over USB. The nice thing is that Arduino does not use much power compared to running a full PC. It is so small, you can hide it wherever you like.

From the basic Arduino, you can add several shields to switch appliances. There is a relay shield for 110/220V switching You can make Power-Mosfet shields for high frequency 110/220V switching You can add an XBee shield for wireless control of other XBee switches. There is a big bunch of input shields to read RFID, measure temperature, measure light, sample sound etc.

Pricing is great. Arduino costs around 20$, most shields do a similar price, and if you can solder you can cut on costs even further.

A good source for arduino projects is: They have a nice store too:

Good books on the subject are "Making things talk" and "Getting started with Arduino" If you buy the Arduino starter kit, you have a great set of components to start with automation, and the nice book "Making things talk" is included as well.

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This might be something you're looking for

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You could use the X10 control systems above, and then cause specific application commands to be fired upon voice recognition using e-Speaking.

If your'e cool with programming, you could try writing your own custom program/script to pick up SAPI events based on your own CFG and then attach that to a library to send out X10 Firecracker commands, but that's seems like a bit much.

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I've never used it, but Linux MCE describes itself as something that does all of the above, plus it's free and open source. The introduction video is also cool as hell (the "security" features are awesome).

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If you know perl, or you have some basic programming know-how and think you can follow along, then MisterHouse might be something worth checking out. It can control X10 and some other types of automation hardware, and definitely supports speech-recognition.

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"X10 is a costy professional switching system"

really? X10 is a cheap way to control lights, appliances, and more for the home user. Why not use Arduino and X10 together? Google "Arduino X10"

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You might want to mention who and what you are quoting. – Troggy Nov 24 '09 at 22:46

If you want to do it yourself you can connect a relay board to your parallel, serial or USB port and install suitable software. Parallel and serial ports are not on some computers but you can still use your USB port. There is trial software to control lights by your computer from here:

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good enough but doesn't answer completely – pun Oct 28 '15 at 8:18

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