Using the Radio Shack 6 in 1 RF Remote
with Infra-Red Direct Control

by David Huras

"These hardware/software components require an outlay of approximately $100 - $200 depending on the type of remote control used and whether or not an I/R Extender is required."


David Huras is a shareware author who develops Home Automation software for X-10 Computer Interfaces (CP290, CM11A) and Universal Electronics Remotes (ONE FOR ALL). This is strictly a part-time diversion and David works full-time as an IS Manager for a large Canadian Financial institution.


Inexpensive PC-based Infra-Red Automation

Automating the transmission of Infra-Red signals to control electronic devices can be achieved at minimal cost (assuming that you have a Windows-based PC that can spare some background processing cycles and also has an available serial port.). In addition to a non-dedicated PC, the approach described here requires the following hardware and software:

These hardware/software components require an outlay of approximately $100 - $200 depending on the type of remote control used and whether or not an I/R Extender is required.

Functionality

With this configuration you can schedule I/R transmissions based on the many scheduling frequencies supported by the LaunchPad program (e.g. Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc.). You can also schedule I/R transmissions in response to a specified condition (e.g. a file is modified, an active/in-active application, etc.). The LaunchPad program effects the I/R transmission by sending DDE Instructions to the INFRA-RED Direct Control (IRDQw) software which in turn sends command directives to the serially attached Remote. Both LaunchPad and the INFRA-RED Direct Control software can be run seamlessly in the background with minimal system overhead. The various hardware and software components used with this approach are discussed in more detail below.

Radio Shack 6 in 1 RF

The Radio Shack 6 in 1 RF Room to Room Remote Control (Model 15-1919) is particularly well-suited to home automation enthusiasts for several reasons:

  1. It supports the 'Serial Execution Protocol' that is supported by the ONE FOR ALL family of remote controls and can therefore be controlled via a serial connection to a personal computer.
  2. It transmits both Infra-Red and Radio Frequency signals and is supplied with an RF/IR Transceiver. This means that the Remote Control can physically reside anywhere in your home as long as you locate the RF/IR Transceiver in front of the electronic equipment you wish to control.
  3. The RF/IR Transceiver is similar to a ONE FOR ALL command center and will impose X-10 commands onto the powerline in response to button instructions that are received via RF transmission from the 15-1919 Remote. This means in addition to scheduling I/R signal transmissions you can also schedule X-10 powerline transmissions (within a single housecode). In addition, X-10 commands can be sent manually by physically pressing buttons on the transceiver itself.
  4. The Plug-n Power (X-10) functions (e.g. On, Off, All Lights On, All Off, Bright & Dim) are clearly labeled on the remote.

 

Special Serial Cable

The Special Serial Cable is required to connect the Remote to an RS232 Serial Port. Externally, this cable looks like a standard cable with the exception of the 3-pin male connector which is used to plug into the 3 slot port underneath the battery compartment cover of the Remote. However, the cable does contain electronics which alter the signal between the Remote and the PC (see the schematic circuit diagram at SerialCable.html for details).

INFRA-RED Direct Control

The INFRA-RED Direct Control software is available for both Windows and DOS. The Windows version is fully Windows 95 compatible. This software can communicate with the Radio Shack 15-1919 Remote Control as well as a wide variety of ONE FOR ALL Remote Controls. Virtually any function that can be performed manually with the remote can be emulated with the software including assigning a Device Code to a Device button and sending extended codes. The software (both DOS & Windows) includes both interactive and batch versions. The interactive version (see screen shot at right) presents an on-screen depiction of the physical remote control and you can simply click on the buttons as if you were operating the remote manually. It also allows the user to set up button macros and extended code entries within a list box. The batch versions accept command line instructions that can consist of a button name or a file-name of button instructions to execute. The Windows versions of the software, both interactive (IRDCw) and batch (IRDQw) support Windows Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE); they will accept and act on DDE LinkExecute instructions from other running applications which can include applications you build yourself, or other applications that support DDE such as the LaunchPad program and Microsoft Excel. This software is available as shareware and can be freely evaluated. See irdcw.htm for additional information.

LaunchPad

LaunchPad is a versatile Program Scheduler that is available in both 16-bit and 32-bit versions for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 respectively. One of its distinguishing features is its ability to send DDE instructions. Although you could automate INFRA-RED transmissions by simply scheduling an invocation of the INFRA-RED Command Line control program (IRDQw) with the appropriate command line arguments, it is preferable to keep IRDQw running in the background as a DDE Server and targeting it for scheduled DDE instructions. This way, the overhead associated with program startup and shutdown is eliminated. To send DDE instructions to IRDQw, you simply configure LaunchPad with an APPLICATION=IRDQW, a TOPIC=IRDQw, and send the appropriate button name (e.g. POWER) or directive (e.g.COMMPORT=2). LaunchPad supports a variety of scheduling frequencies including Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly as well as specific Days of the Week, Month, and Year. This shareware program can be downloaded for a 30-day evaluation period, see LaunchPd.htm for additional information.

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