X10.com is a cheesy site that's always doing something annoying with their advertising. There's always a closeout, always a last minute deal, always something going on that's BRAND NEW AND WE'LL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN OMG THE PRICES ARE SO LOW. But that aside, they do have some cool stuff, and the prices are good.

X10 is a powerline network for home control.

I mentioned I'm buying a new house - because it's a new house, I have the opportunity to do some interesting things with the wiring. The sorts of things you can only do to a new place.

One of them in particular, is I want the house to be wired for two-way X10 communication throughout.

I had an apartment a few years ago, where I'd wired up most of the lights in the place with X10. I had the wireless receiver, the computer interface module, and eve a keychain with programmable buttons on it. I had it set so that when I left the apartment, I could press the "All Lights Off" button and *click* all the lights would go off.

Back then what would happen is the keychain would send a message to the receiver, which would repeat it out onto the X10 network. Any device that heard the message would shut off.

But not every device always heard the message - that's the nature of powerline communciations. Noise can get in the way and prevent your signals from getting through.

There was an update to the X10 protocol at one point, that added two-way communication. Not only can you tell something like this two-way lamp module to turn off, but you can ask the light switch for it's current state. This lets a sender retry, finally making for a system that has the potential to be reliable.

That's what I want in the new house.

There are three wires that run through your house: Line, Load, and Neutral. An electrician can run all three wires to a switch, and then run two of them up to the light, or he can run all three of them to the light, and then two of them down to the switch. I don't know the technical term for these but basically it's up to the electrician how to do it, they're both valid.

For two-way X10, all three wires must be available at the X10 module.

Explaning this to the nice lady at the sales office where I'm buying my new house was a challenge. She's not an electrician, and I don't get to talk directly to the electrician, but I need to explain it to them in terms that she can convey to the electrician. Apparently the electricians don't know anything about X10, and this sort of request is just bizarre to them.

So the first time through, the quote came back as thousands of dollars. I said "um..." and managed to convince the sales lady that even if I didn't ask for them specifically to do this it might get wired up that way anyway depending on the whim of the electrician, and all I'm trying to do is influence that whim.. and she went away again and came back with a quote of $170 for the whole house. Nice.

So once the place is up, I'll be ready. I have a bunch of X10 stuff already left over from the apartment, although some of it is quite dated. Some of the X10 switches, like this one, feel super-cheap; but pay a bit more for one of these and you get a nice switch (with the bonus of dimming at the switch and a visible dimming level). But being able to have one of these in the master bedroom and see what lights in the house are on (and turn them off) will be cool. Especially once we have kids. I guess they'll have to learn to sneak around without turning the lights on, or they'll tip off Mom and Dad. :)