Coming Home to Windows Server, Part 18

A review of mControl v2 control add-in.
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A review of mControl v2 control add-in.
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Coming Home to Windows Server, Part 18

Jul 6, 2009 11:35 AM, By Eric B. Rux

Figure 1: The installation adds a tab in the WHS console and a new page on your main Windows Home Server website. Click here to see a larger image.

In past columns, I’ve reviewed quite a few add-ins—most of them being of the free variety. This month, I want to tell you about a cool add-in that I found that’s going to really impress you: mControl v2 (Home Edition). This $129 add-in neatly centralizes all of the controls for your lighting, security system, climate control, audio/visual components, and even IP-based security cameras. If you ever plan to automate your home, or currently install these types of systems for a living, you’ll want to take a look at this product. For this review, I decided to connect up a security camera to my wireless network and run mControl through its paces.

The first step was to find a compatible security camera. A quick review of mControl’s website led me to a mControl Summary.pdf that I contained a full list of compatible devices. I drove down to my local Best Buy and found three of the four brands listed. Linksys, Panasonic, and D-Link all had one or more cameras available ranging in price from $99 to $300 and up. Axis, the fourth camera system on the compatibility list was nowhere to be found. I picked up a D-Link DCS-920 and quickly drove home to try it out.

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Figure 2: The simple camera setup screen.

Installing mControl as a Windows Home Server (WHS) add-in is a snap. Simply copy mControlWHS
_Setup.msi to the “SoftwareAdd-Ins” folder on your WHS, and then finish the install from the WHS Console. Another PDF titled “mControl Add-in for Windows Home Server User Manual.pdf” does a great job of explaining the process, so I won’t go into further detail here. The installation adds a tab in the WHS Console and a new page on your main Windows Home Server website (Figure 1).

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Once I had the mControl add-in installed, I then tackled getting the IP camera setup. D-Link includes an easy wizard to help get your camera setup properly. It’s pretty simple, but there are three very important pieces of information that you need to write down in order to get your camera to work with mControl: the camera IP address, the secondary IP port, and the username/password of the camera.

Now that I had the camera setup, I went back to mControl (via the Home Server website), created a new zone called Living Room and added in my D-Link camera model. Actually, I purchased a DCS-920, but that exact model wasn’t listed in the mControl setup, so I choose a DCS-900 hoping that it would be close enough (It was.). Figure 2 shows the simple setup screen for the camera.

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Figure 3: Final results with living room shot on the camera page of the Window Home Server website.

At first, I couldn’t see a picture in mControl, even though I was sure that the camera was working (D-Link includes software to let you view the camera via a web page as well). I looked on the mControl Error Logs tab in the WHS console and noticed a “401 Unauthorized” error as mControl attempted to communicate with the camera. This was the kick I needed to realize that I had not set the username/password in the mControl software. As soon as I did, a nice picture of my living room popped up onto the screen as Figure 3 shows. Success!

I know I just scratched the surface of what this home automation software can accomplish, and I’m really looking forward to connecting something else up. I found mControl super simple to setup and use, and I had no problems with the software. And because it installs onto your Windows Home Server, it’s already running on a computer that is powered on all the time.

Do you use mControl in your house? If so, let me know. Until next month, have fun with your Windows Home Server.

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