Late at night, you realize that you left the kitchen lights on. Instead of trudging downstairs, you reach for the remote control next to your bed, press a few buttons, and go to sleep. With MouseHouse Electronics’ MouseHouse 2.0 Macintosh Starter Kit, you don’t have to be the chairman of Microsoft to have everything in your house at your fingertips.
The MouseHouse home automation system is based on the industry-standard X-10 USA’s ActiveHome interface, which sends commands to modules that let you control a wide variety of electrical devices. Although there are more advanced systems on the market, X-10 uses your home’s existing electrical wiring, so you don’t have to rip apart the walls to install it.
MouseHouse’s ActiveHome interface plugs into any grounded wall outlet; it connects to the Mac’s serial port using a supplied cord and adapter. The MouseHouse software lets you program the interface to turn lights and appliances on or off whenever you choose. Because the interface has its own memory, your Mac doesn’t even have to be running when MouseHouse sends commands.
The MouseHouse starter kit comes with an ActiveHome interface and one lamp module. (X-10-compatible modules are widely available at stores like Radio Shack and on the Web.) The kit also includes a handy key-chain remote and a universal remote that works with most popular consumer audio and video equipment. With either remote, you can send X-10 commands to an included plug-in transceiver that transfers the signals to your home wiring. You can even program a series of commandssay, dim the lights, turn on the TV, and turn up the heatto begin with the press of a button on the remote.
The MouseHouse application software does an adequate if uninspiring job. For example, editing module names is more cumbersome than it should be, and setting lighting schedules by entering separate on and off times is a chore; sliding controls would be faster and simpler. There’s also no way to troubleshoot the interface without running a series of AppleScripts.
Unfortunately, MouseHouse 2.0 isn’t as hands-free as the Windows version of X-10 USA’s ActiveHome software. However, we avoided some of the Mac software problems by running the Windows counterpart on a Mac using Connectix’s Virtual PC 2.0.