Hardware

Build your own iBootBar for less than $50?


Earlier this week, I posted my review of the iBootBar from Dataprobe. It is an enterprise-grade remote power strip that allows you to cycle the power of connected devices from your LAN or from the Web. It is a very cool device; however, it is also pretty pricey at $485 to $745 and has more functionality than most home users would ever need.

In the discussion from that post, a couple of members (12AX7 & JamesRL) suggested other ways to perform power management tasks like rebooting. So I decided to see if I could recreate the functionality of the iBootBar using some things I have lying around the house.

x10_2

Here is what I used (from left to right in photo):

1. X10 RF remote

2. X10 appliance module

3. X10 transceiver unit

4. Basic 6-outlet power strip

Total cost of these items? Around $50 online.

First, I plugged the X10 transceiver unit, which sends the X10 signal through the electrical wiring of the house, into a wall outlet. Next, I connected the power strip to the X10 appliance module which I had plugged into the wall outlet.(BTW, you have to use the X10 appliance module instead of the X10 lamp module in order to support the power strip's 3-pronged plug) Then, I plugged my router, modem and switch into the power strip. Next, I made sure that the X10 remote and appliance module were set to the "house" code. Then, I took the remote upstairs to try it out.

Because the remote is RF, I was able to cycle the power to the modem, router and switch from the first and second floors of the house.

So with about $50 worth of stuff that I already had lying around, I was able to duplicate "some" of the functionality of the iBootBar.

Of course, this solution is limited to use at the same location as the equipment and doesn't provide you with any power monitoring tools. However, if you need a quick and easy solution to cycling the power on a device like I did, this method works very well.

If you need true remote power management capabilities for your networking, stick with the iBootBar.

Have you put together other similar hacks to solve problems like this? If so, we'd love to hear about them.
7 comments
kkopp
kkopp

One small note... I've used these for quite a few years. They don't always work well through certain power bars. I suspect it is because of the filtering that the better ones do. Plug the controller unit directly into the wall outlet, and do the same to the other pieces if you can, or get one of those really cheap power bars to use.

techmail
techmail

The network-aware version of the X10 PC software is under $100. If you have a PC that's always on-line, you can accees it via the internet and control your X10 devicres remotely.

gkheisler
gkheisler

X-10 has a ActiveHome PC based setup which can control the X-10 devices. They have starter kits are around $50. There is a guy selling the basic kit for $20 and the deluxe kit is $50, If you have an old win98 box, put VNC Remote Control Software on it. Plus with this setup you can control the multiple outlets.

todd
todd

... into the power bar. The transciever just needs to plugged in anywhere in the house. In fact using a good bar will make the X10 resitant to noise generated by the equipment being controlled.

A50MHzHam
A50MHzHam

If you have a decent surge suppressor with some RF filtering built in, then yes, of course, the X10 signals will be filtered out or distorted enough that the receiving module won't be able to decode them reliably, or at all. I just have to plug the module directly into an unfiltered outlet, and plug the filtering power strip into that. My big ups has a ferroresonant transformer in it, and lots of elaborate filtering, and nothing gets through it. I also have typical 2-phase wiring in here, and X10 signals from a circuit on one phase don't make it to the other phase very well. I bought an X10 repeater module at a swap for $45. It has a neutral wire and two hot wires which you connect to breakers on both phases. Works great! People have reported using 0.1 or 0.01 uf capacitors rated for 600v connected phase-to-phase but my solution works well.

A50MHzHam
A50MHzHam

You can get an IBM Home Director starter kit for $5-25 on eBay. We used one when we had a twitchy router. We wrote some Perl code to ping the router every 30 seconds. If no reply, ping every 10 seconds for about 5 tries. If no reply, send X10 commands out the serial port to the Home Director to turn off the appliance module the router was plugged into. Wait for a little bit. Turn the app module back on and wait about 90 seconds for the router to power up. Start pinging again. Works like a charm. I now control the bench lights and other stuff all over the house from my pc.