Texecom Ricochet Expander

Since getting my initial Texecom system installed I’ve been thinking about what I can do to expand the number of sensors. When I first put it in it was a straight swap for a much older ADT installed system which had a lot of wired sensors, so whilst this meant I didn’t have to run any cables it also meant that I was stuck with what was already there. This was pretty good on the whole, but I decided I wanted some more permanently installed smoke alarms and also some more sensors towards the back of the house.

I was able to wire in the smoke alarms directly, helped in part by some building work which meant I could hide the cables behind some new plaster work. However, the back of the house is a long way from the panel and there isn’t any easy way to run wires.

The obvious solution is to use Texecom’s own ‘Ricochet’ wireless sensors. I had looked at these when choosing the system and I was quite impressed with it because it seemed quite advanced (eg using a mesh network approach). You can buy panels with it built-in (the Premier Elite 24-w, 48-W etc) but these weren’t suitable because they didn’t have enough wired zones available. So that’s why I got the normal 48, but it means that to use Richochet you need an expander.

There are various expanders available, including simple wired zone expanders as well as the wireless ones. There are two wireless ones and the only difference is the number of sensors supported – either 8 for the 8XP-W or (you’ve guessed it) 32 for the 32XP-W. The latter is quite a bit more expensive so I found an 8XP-W on ebay for a reasonable price (about £40) although it’s around £65 new:

texecom-ricochet-premier-elite-8xp-w-gcd-0001-1140-p

After all the effort I have gone to so far to keep everything tidily inside the main steel casing it is a bit irritating to start having extra boxes on the wall. However there doesn’t really seen to be an alternative short of having the Ricochet box somewhere else in the house on the end of a wire.

Installation is pretty simple – just a matter of wiring up a 12V supply from the main panel, and connecting it in to the network connectors on the panel. The 48 panel only has one of these, but the connections are quite flexible and you can have various devices in serial and parallel. The main keypad is also connected to this. Here is a picture post-installation:

IMG_20160501_220534

There’s a small amount of configuration to do in Wintex, but make sure that you have uploaded it back to the panel before doing anything more. The key thing to do (which I missed intially) is to switch on the radio / Ricochet options in the ‘Edit Account Details’ screen and ‘Panel Info’ tab:

accountdetails

Once you’ve done all this then the expander should be available  for use. If you look in the zones screen you should see the wireless zones appear as such, with the code ‘XP1’ referring to the first expander and each device labelled ‘D01’, ‘D02’ etc:

zones

Once this is all done you can start adding devices. This turned out to be the most frustrating part of the whole thing and this is due to the fact that Texecom have changed the procedure for doing so and it is not very intuitive. The main thing to say here is to read the manual which comes with the expander very carefully, as this does spell it out.

The first thing to say is – ignore completely the ‘Learn Ricochet’ option in the engineer’s menu, as this will cause you no end of trouble (I learned this the hard way) and the manual tells you not to. What you have to do is firstly switch the sensor into learning mode. I used a PIR and a shock / door contact sensor and the procedure is different for each. The instructions tell you what exactly to do.

Then you need to select the zone that you want to program using the keypad from the engineer’s mode. So for my first zone, I selected ‘Zone Setup’ and then scrolled to the first wireless zone which is listed as Zone 009 XP01,01. There is a detailed flowchart in the manual which you have to follow exactly, and the bit where I got stuck was that you have to press ‘reset’ when the zone is displayed, then the screen shows ‘learning…’ with a countdown. Some of the sensors (the ‘autolearn’ ones) only will teach in for a brief period after powering up. So I’d recommend standing by the panel and snap the battery in to the sensor as soon as you see the ‘learning’ message.

The other tip is to install the ‘Ricochet monitor’ software alongside Wintex (as usual from the Texecom website). When you have an active Wintex connection you can call this from within it, and then it shows you a nice graphical representation of your sensors plus loads of diagnostic information. My network is pretty simple – 2 devices – but if you had a complex one I’m sure that this would be very helpful.

Now it’s all in and working I’m pretty happy with it. I may well expand the system with some more sensors in due course and there is a really good range of them including smoke detectors. I’d recommend getting the 32 zone expander if you can find it for a good price just to be on the safe side because you could use up the 8 quite quickly if you have a big system. the other thing I’m interested in is the range, as I have a garden shed which would benefit from coverage.

ComPort+ Update

As per the last Texecom post I had installed the new ComPort+ PCB into the spare header on the alarm main board. This in conjunction with the new v3.01 firmware gives another serial port. There is obviously a demand for this for Texecom to do it, although I would have thought for most people two would be enough! Still I am very grateful for it, because I have found a need for just this.

As described in previous posts, I have the GSM board installed on one port, and I have been using a second for configuration and monitoring using Texecom’s Wintex software. This is probably worth a post of its own, but it is an extremely useful and comprehensive software package which Texecom have as a free download and makes configuring the panels very easy.

I have also been experimenting with home automation integration. I have a Vera Lite which I bought a couple of years ago and I use it in conjunction with a number of Fibaro  devices (mostly the in-wall dimmer units). I haven’t really made the most of these yet although they have been handy for dimming some lights and linking together table / wall lights. Someone on the Vera forums gave me a copy of a plugin he had written to integrate the alarm, so that you can read the status of the various sensors in real time and also trigger events based on whether the alarm is set or unset. This uses another serial port, so now I can have the GSM dialler, the Wintex connection and the Vera connection all at once.

I must say that overall I’m not hugely impressed with the Vera – it is rather out of date now and quite slow in use. In particular the response to the events from the alarm is rather delayed. The UI is rather old fashioned and although they have done a newer one it is not reported to be working brilliantly and in particular does not work with the plugin. I have been in contact with someone lately who is using Homegenie which I haven’t come across before and which looks very interesting. So I’m going to look further at this although I’ll need a USB Z-Wave stick to test it out.

The other change which I’d recommend is that I have changed from using the small USB converter board to a simple cable terminated in header connectors to the pins. I probably should have done this the first time, but it means that there is more space inside the casing now. I used these but there are numerous other examples on ebay. However it’s worth noting that these are not FTDI based and so can’t be used with the flasher board.

USB serial

For reference the colour coding is:

Red – VCC
Green – TXD
White – RXD
Black – Ground

So when connecting to the Texecom the order is:

Pin 3 – Black
Pin 4- Green
Pin 5 – White


	

Using Fhem for Heating Control

Having discussed in previous posts my hardware approach to heating control I’ll now talk about the software.

The key to the whole system is FHEM which is a real discovery. As I’ve found before with the hardware, the Germans seem to have really got to grips with home automation. This system is open source and very mature, having been around for quite a long time and now being up to version 5.7. The problem is that at least initially it doesn’t appear particularly accessible or easy to use, but this is rather misleading. With a bit of effort invested you can get the system working well and it is incredibly flexible.

There is a good community supporting it, although it is predominately German speaking. Most of the documentation is too, but Google Translate has proved very helpful in navigating the forums and the wiki .

I won’t go into the basic setup, but you will need some kind of server (I am using a fairly old but extremely useful HP Proliant Microserver) and a suitable operating system. There are various ways to install Fhem which are detailed on the website and elsewhere.

So once you have a working Fhem system you can access it via a local URL and then the fun begins!

The basics are to get the interface installed and working. Fhem does have automatic mechanism for detecting and installing devices, which is based around a set of configuration files, they key one being fhem.cfg. In my case I am using a CUL device (as in previous posts) but there are various other ways of doing it. Some people have used the official MAX controller although it’s not much cheaper than the CUL and some difficulties have been reported. There are some other ways of getting CUL firmware onto cheaper devices but I haven’t explored these as yet.

What I really like about Fhem is that its basic structure supports a whole range of different devices (see the documentation for details) but it has a common approach to dealing with them. Also, whilst it is mostly based on configuration files the standard front end UI whilst basic is very effective.

So once you have a basic Fhem system up and running and your CUL or equivalent device has been detected – what next?

First thing to do is register all the MAX devices and pair them with your system. You will need to do this using the ‘learn’ mode on the devices and also by setting the CUL device to listen out for new devices.

You can do this by selecting ‘pairmode’ on the Fhem screen for the CUL device:

pairmode

This then sets it to listen for a short period of time, and you then need to set the devices to pair. What exactly you do depends on which device you have, and you’ll need to check the instructions. However, for most of the thermostats I think you have to hold down the ‘boost’ button for a few seconds and then it begins a countdown, which stops again once the pairing is complete.

You will then see the MAX devices appearing in your Fhem screens. The screen for each looks something like this:

maxscreen1maxscreen2maxscreen3

This screen demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of Fhem, depending on who you are. For me this is great – lots of details, loads of options to play with etc. On the other hand you might think it looks overcomplicated and intimidating… in which case this probably isn’t for you.

All Fhem devices have settings (via the ‘set’ button at the top) and the pick list shows you what variables you can set. The ‘readings’ section shows the enormous amount of data you can extract from what is in reality quite a simple device. This includes the weekly ‘profile’ for each device – ie the combination of settings and times throughout the week. This is different for each individual thermostat which is good from a flexibility point of view, but not so good for consistency and ease of programming. There are solutions to this which I will come to in future.

So you should now be able to pair up all your thermostats, and the Fhem screens will allow you to see the measured temperature and make some changes. However, this isn’t much of a control system on its own and I’ll come to what I’ve done to tie it all together in future posts.

I know I’ve kept this quite general but please post comments or questions and I’ll try my best to answer them. There is a lot of info on the Fhem forums / wiki which are a good place to start if you are stuck.

Firmware flash – success!

After having some very useful discussions with a few people (special thanks to ComTexeStarter) I came to the conclusion that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with my initial approach – ie using the FTDI board – and that the reason it hadn’t worked was down to software problems.

So I tried again today, the main difference being I was using a new laptop with a clean install of Windows 10. The driver for the serial port was automatically installed, and the Texecom firmware flasher picked it up as a ‘USB-COM’ cable as before. I took a deep breath, pressed ‘Flash’ and…

IMG_20160319_173540 - Copy

Success! Everything worked perfectly and the process was complete in about 3 minutes. Following this (as per the manual) I factory reset the panel by removing all power and then powering on whilst holding down the ‘Reset defaults’ button on the main panel PCB.

This caused a bit of a racket with the tamper alarms going off and you then have to enter the default code (1234). Once it settled down, I used Wintex to restore a backup of the configuration data taken a few days ago and the panel is back to normal. You also need to change the firmware version in the configuration screen so that it resets all the new settings to sensible defaults. If you don’t do this you can get some odd behaviour.

ComTexeStarter has been doing some great work on understanding what the programmer PCB does – and the answer seems to be, ‘not much’. Here is my (rather blurry) photo with their annotations (NB this is the correct version, I had previously posted an earlier one with different resistor numbering):

1000-HDC-back

Most of the components and the chip seem to be concerned with feeding 12V to JP2 pin 1 which we think is used to power one of the older Texecom (non-USB) serial interfaces and so is redundant for the USB ones. This means that it should be possible to do the firmware flash with just the UART plus a few resistors to set the panel to programming mode.

ComTexeStarter has worked hard on this and has come up with this schematic which separates off the chip and the 12V supply (in the red box) from what is actually needed to do the programming:

1000-HDC-schematic

Given that this is now a reverse engineered CDH-0001 this has been christened the 1000-HDC!

It’s quite obvious that Texecom have been churning these out for years (certainly since 2005 – date on the board) at a time when USB cables were rare or unavailable. They could almost certainly redesign their panel PCBs to support programming just from a USB cable which would be a lot cheaper and easier. Maybe they will do so in future.

The other thing I did whilst I had the panel open was install one of the new ComPort+ boards into the header pin sockets.

IMG_20160319_172615

You can see it just under mains supply cable, plugged into the header with the (old) firmware version of LS1 v.211.09 on it. It is dead simple in construction:

IMG_20160319_211137

At a quick glance the pin assignments appear to be (reading the pins from left to right when the board is installed – so pin 1 would be rightmost pin on the above picture:

Pin 1 – NC
Pin 2 – 12V
Pin 3 – GND
Pin 4 – NC
Pin 5 – NC
Pin 6 – NC
Pin 7 – NC
Pin 8 – NC
Pin 9 – RXD
Pin 10 – TXD

So if you don’t want to pay £7 for 5 of these boards (like I did!) and you want an additional serial port, I think you could just connect up your UART to pins 3, 9 and 10 directly. There are a couple of other components – the three pin SMD device is marked Z2X and is I think a Zener diode which is connected between to RXD, and has one leg grounded and the other not connected. The same track feeds goes to an SMD resistor (47k) and then to the 12V line. I don’t really know enough electronics to understand why this might be. However given the RXD pin appears isolated from 12V and connects directly to the header I suspect you could connect directly up to them without a problem. I’d be interested to hear if anyone tries it… meanwhile I have 4 more of these boards to get rid of so let me know if you’d be interested in one.

I haven’t tested Com3 yet but I have another UART on order to test it.

Exciting times!

Programmer details

As promised I’ve taken some close-up pictures of the programmer PCB. The chip is a MAX662A and the capacitors are connected to it as per the datasheet. I’m afraid that these aren’t great quality pics because I couldn’t get the light right, I will get some better ones and upload them in due course.

I’ve not done anything to try and work out a schematic or pins assignments as yet. However I am pretty sure that I was barking up the wrong tree with pin 1 on the serial connector. Whilst it does have 12V applied to it via the output from the 662 I don’t think that this is needed for the flasher to work.

I’ve had a useful discussion with someone who makes these cables up and it appears that the key thing you need to make them work is the FTDI chipset on the serial controller – which is presumably what the official cable uses.

I’m going to have another go at flashing the firmware at the weekend so will post the results.

Texecom Firmware Flash – Progress

After a brief detour into heating control I’m back to talking about my Texecom adventures. I will as promised come to the more detailed software side of the heating project soon. However, with the Spring weather coming I’m feeling keen to start taking on some new projects so I’m back to thinking about upgrading my Premier Elite to v3.01 (it’s already gone up from v3.00).

As some commenters have pointed out, one can buy the firmware flash interface from www.cctvcentral.co.uk for a good price at the moment:

Capture

And they also are the only place anywhere that seems to be selling the ComPort+ accessory which gives you an additional serial port output using the on board communicator output.

comport

These need more discussion and I’ll come to this in another post. As you will see I had to buy 5 of them… so if anyone wants one of my 4 spares for a nominal fee to cover costs please let me know.

Anyway I took the plunge and ordered them all, and they arrived last week. The service from cctvcentral was pretty good, as the firmware flasher got damaged in transit and they sent me out another very quickly.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon with the firmware flasher, but unfortunately so far have met with failure.

I connected everything up as per the instructions, and I have learned a few things. First of all, this is the first time I had tried powering the whole panel down and one of the problems doing this is that it sets off the tamper alarm on the external siren. I have a Texecom Odyssey 1 which  I installed some time ago. It is quite smart for a bell box, and one of things you can do is temporarily disable it if you are working on it. You can do this by using the engineer utilities to switch the strobe on 3 times in 30 seconds. This worked quite well, although it resets itself when you put the power back on. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to do any kind of work on alarms without making a dreadful racket.

I’ve also learned that the Texecom firmware software only recognises FTDI serial ports – presumably because that’s what is in the genuine product.

However, on running the software and trying to flash the panel… nothing happens. It just gives an error message saying ‘board not responding correctly’.

I’m a bit stumped by this – I’m sure that the pinout is the same for the serial port and the software recognises it. I’m quite sure that I’ve connected the ribbon cable to the alarm board properly.

The only difference between my home made cable the real one is the first pin – which on the board gives 12V out. Looking at the flash interface, the corresponding pin is linked to a couple of pins on the flash board including a capacitor or two. So it must be doing something… but what? I’m really not sure what I should do about this, as unless I can get hold of a real Texecom flash cable I can’t know what that pin is for.

So all in all, not good news at the moment. I have the flash board… but I can’t use it. And I really do not want to be spending £40 on a genuine Texecom cable after getting this far! I have seen people on ebay selling third party copies which they say do work with the interface, so I might have to resort to getting one of these. It seems a shame though… I’m sure the solution is pretty simple but at the moment I have no way of finding it out!

Any comments or thoughts would be welcome. I will post some hi res pics of the board (including the all-important underside) shortly.