Those of you familiar with the JDS TimeCommander will feel right at home with the Stargate interface. JDS has added many new features to the hardware capabilities and maintained or improved the familiar Event Manager software. The first thing that I always look at is “How do I set up my devices?”. JDS has gone away from the individual pop-up for each device and now gives us a list to add to. Personally I prefer this method as it lets me see everything I’ve defined already so that it’s easy to find a new device code when I add something to the system.
Similar input screens allow you to define Timers, Time Labels, Flags, Variables, IF Macros, THEN Macros,RCS HVAC, and IR and IO Devices as well as some telephone and voice options.
Stargate retains the familiar “Event” programming interface that has been successful with TimeCommander. You create and event and add IF, THEN statements to it using the event editor. You don’t actually write the code but you can see it as it’s being written for you.
For example, to add a “Then” statement to an event you place the cursor in the event and push the “Add” button on the right of the screen. You’re presented with a list of options. Selecting X-10 device for example gives you the following screen.
Simply select the device and tell it what it should do … push “Add” and a Then statement is added to the event in your schedule.
So, what’s new in Stargate (that’s different from TimeCommander). Well the hardware looks a lot different … it’s a wall mounted panel instead of the little black box. Instead of adding on IO cards etc. Stargate comes with 16 Digital Inputs, 8 Analog Inputs, 8 Relay Outputs, ASCII Input and Output (4 serial ports), Two-way Telephone Control, Built in intercom and interactive voice response features. The software lets you program all of these devices and features into your schedule thus providing almost unlimited possibilities for your Whole House Control system. An IR expander can add full IR capabilities to the system.
Perhaps the most powerful feature of Stargate is the Downloadable Firmware. What this means is that when JDS upgrades the system, rather than sending out revised chips for you to install in the panel, the new code can be downloaded from the internet and installed in minutes. This keeps you up to date without the hassle of hardware modifications. Stargate is a powerful controller and designed to be mounted in the control closet of your Automated House. At a cost of $999, Stargate is a bit more than the price of adding on the expansion products to a TimeCommander and TeleCommander but there are advantages to the Stargate (upgradable firmware and voice options to name two). This is definitely a contender.