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Linux Home Automation

Written by Neil Cherry
My first home automation (HA) project included an Atari 800XL, a Heathkit X10 interface, and the “Build the Home Run Control System” article series from Steve Ciarcia’s Circuit Cellar column (BYTE, 1985). I was forever hooked on HA. Eventually, I built Circuit Cellar’s HCS II (Circuit Cellar Ink, 1992). I still provide support for it at The Open Source HCS Project ( One day, while reading the Usenet comp.os.minix newsgroup, I saw a post about Linux, a Unix-like operating system (OS) for the Intel Inboard 386-AT. A short time later, I picked up a used Compaq 386SX PC, loaded Linux on it, and I had a multitasking, multiuser OS on my home computer. I wrote some software, connected my HA interface, and started a webpage with all the information. I eventually became the librarian of all things Linux and HA. Since then,  Linux has been ported to several different systems from small, yet powerful, Raspberry Pis (RPis) to IBM mainframes, and from bare-bones systems to every service, tool, and language imaginable. And, at the base of everything, is a common interface and toolset. While a distribution may put things together a bit differently, at the heart of the system, the tools and interfaces are the same. Currently, I have several Linux systems in my home including laptops, Wi-Fi routers, network storage, media players, and servers. I also have one Windows computer for testing and support, but I mainly run an X server on it to access my Linux resources. And, of course, I have my HA system, my main Linux server, and MisterHouse (MH), an open-source HA program written in Perl ( In addition to my Linux resources, I have a mix of X10, INSTEON, Z-Wave, ZigBee, 1-Wire, web-based controllers, serial, USB, and Ethernet I/O. My home is more like a lab, but my wife has strict rules: It must work and must look professional. The web-based controllers and the HCS II can operate as a stand-alone system, but they lack certain fea
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Linux Home Automation

by Neil Cherry time to read: 3 min