FACTS! FAX! 026 (08/10/96)
come across several references regarding the use of computers, to control home appliances,
but few hard facts. Can you tell me how easy, or difficult it would be to connect
my computer to various devices as Iím interested in the idea of home automation.
What extra hardware and software do I need, and how much does it cost?
can be done, but conventional home and office PCs do not have any facilities to
control external equipment, other than standard computer peripherals. You will
need a controller card. This fits into a spare expansion slot on almost any IBM
compatible PC. It acts as an interface
between the PC, and the outside world, usually via a switch or relay board,
that can handle the higher voltages and currents needed to operate mains-powered
virtually no limit to what can be done, with the right software. For example,
you could use your PC to control central heating and security systems, switch
lights on and off at preset times, even wake you in the morning with an alarm
call and a cup of tea. PC control of systems and machinery is commonplace in manufacturing
industry, however, this is not an area the home PC market been overly concerned
with to date, so there are no simple off the shelf solutions. There are several
useful books on the subject: Micro Interfacing Circuits by R.A.Penfold, and
Microcomputer Interfacing by Joseph J Carr, are a good place to start. Theyíre
both available from specialist book shops, or Maplin Electronics, who also
market a range of PC controller and switch boards, with software. Prices for
controller boards start at around £80.
Maplin Electronics (01702) 554161
have a well-specified 486/100 PC that I would like to upgrade with a CD ROM
drive. However, I understand a new system with even greater storage capacity is
about to be launched. Should I wait, or buy a CD ROM drive, even though it
could soon be obsolete?
probably thinking about DVD or Digital Versatile Disc, which has around six
times the capacity of current CD ROM discs. It is coming, and one day it could
even replace CD ROM, but that will take several years. Right now CD ROM drives
are exceptionally cheap. Fast 4-speed models, suitable for the thousands of reference,
games and multimedia titles currently on sale, are being advertised for as little
as £40 in computer magazines. You will also need a sound card, they cost from
around £25 upwards. If youíre handy with a screwdriver you can easily fit these
components yourself, or have your local PC dealer to do it for you, for a small
fee. Why wait any longer?
reference to your reply to the reader with poor eyesight, looking for a high
contrast monitor (Sites for Sore Eyes FFF 10/9/96), are you aware of a product
called Compulenz? This fits over the front of the monitor and magnifies the
whole screen. Itís available from Specialist Optical Source Ltd, (01753)
based on Sony Trinitron technology provide contrast rivalling high quality
black and white monitors. Having used Appleís Trinitron-based Macintosh colour
display I could not go back to using a conventional monitor. Apple also provide
a free extension with all Mac PCs, called CloseView, which magnifies the
contents of the screen. It can also invert the display -- white on black -- for
too have had problems adapting to a PC screen, after changing from an Amstrad
PCW, with a green screen. My solution was to continue to use PCW Locoscript, in
its advanced PC form. A feature of this software is to allow the user to choose
the colours for the background and text. After lengthy trials I have found
green on black -- the same as the PCW display -- is the most satisfactory.
to everyone who contacted FFF with suggestions and tips for making PC screens
easier to read.