No matter what happens to automation system interfaces in the future … I think the touchpad is here to stay. You just can’t get much more convenient and everyone seems to understand how to use them.
Nobu In Wall PCs
TouchLinc from SmartLinc is one of the more affordable pads on the market for controlling a home automation system and I found it quite easy to set up. If your X-10 controller is capable of IR and Hardwired control etc. then the TouchLinc should be able to control A/V systems as well as most of the other equipment in your home.

You can get the latest version of the software from the SmartLinc website and setup is fairly straight forward. There is no online help available with the software so you must refer to the small Owners Manual that comes with the TouchPad. The pad itself has 3 connections to make. Power, PC Serial Port (for programming) and 4 conductor telephone cable to your powerline interface (TW523 etc.). The panel can be mounted to the wall or there is a nice stand (optional) that comes with it for tabletop use. Alternatively, a 6 conductor phone cable can be used to supply power and x-10 communications.

The main screen has 6 Icons (these can not be customized). Lights / Audio / Video / Temperature / Clock / More (See picture above). Pressing an icon takes you to a submenu where the command buttons for that set of devices are displayed. The “More” button allows you to add more (up to 16) submenus. Here is the Temperature Menu for example.

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Each menu item can be one of the following commands. ON/OFF/DIM/BRIGHT are selected by tapping on the left / right side of the buttons or holding same.

* ALLON – Turns on all lamps on a housecode
* ALLOFF – Turns off all devices on a housecode
* APPL – X-10 Appliance module (On/Off)
* CLEAN – Disables screen for 30 seconds to allow cleaning
* DROPIN – Run Stand Alone application (.sal file) … the clock is an example)
* KEYPRS – Sends housecode and unitcode but no On or Off (used for fast triggers of events in HouseLinc or other controller)
* LAMP – X-10 lamp module.
* MENU – Calls a submenu
* MACROF – Sends Off command to house / unit code no matter where you press the button (Macros)
* MACRON – Sends On command to house / unit code no matter where you press the button (Macros)
* PREDIM – Turns compatible device to preset dim position.
* SCENE – For hardwired trigger of scenes defined in HouseLinc
* X10DEVICE – Drops in X-10 devices which have been predefined in HouseLinc

wpe3.jpg (8779 bytes)Each command is programmed by selecting a few options and filling in a few boxes as shown here.

Drop-in applications provide more flexibility to the system by allowing programmers to write custom routines. A good example of this is the clock application which shows the time and date when the icon is pressed. It would be nice if SmartLinc had a library of these applications on their website for download.

You can also set up message screens that pop up when an X-10 code is detected on the powerline. This is handy for providing confirmations of events or warnings. When the TouchLinc receives the defined X10 code, it beeps and displays the message that was programmed into the system.

Once you’ve finished programming, you need to save your settings and download to the TouchLinc via the serial connection. Programming is stored in non-volatile memory, so it will remain intact, even if your TouchLinc is disconnected. That’s about it … ready to roll. The touchscreen itself is quite sensitive and seemed to respond reliably. For just under $400 this is a powerful addition to your home automation system.