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dirknerkle
06-18-2011, 09:34 PM
I've been asked a few times how I do this, so I thought it might be a good idea to post it in the event others find it useful.

I once used the parallel port for a little while but found a better source in the PC that was not directly connected to the PC's logic board and therefore, a lot safer. I use one of the PC's internal spare power plugs that's intended to power a hard disk drive or floppy disk drive. The red wire has +5v, yellow has +12v and either black wire is ground. No strings or mirrors or special code. It's all readily available stuff. Here's how it works...

1. The PC's CMOS is set to automatically power on the PC at 4:00 p.m. (from about November 22 to January 7th).

2. When the PC powers up, voltage is available on the spare hard disk power plug. This voltage turns on a CRYDOM SSR that can handle up to 40A.

3. The CRYDOM SSR then lets power go out to the lights. (Actually, since I use two circuits, I have two of the Crydoms...)

4. The built-in XP Windows Scheduler module is set to start Vixen at 4:15pm.

5. Vixen's own scheduler is set to start the show "program" at 4:30 p.m. and repeat it until 10:30 p.m.

6. The Windows Scheduler is set to run Windows' "shutdown.exe" module at 11:00 p.m. This closes all the apps and powers the computer off.

7. When the computer goes off, the power to the CRYDOM SSRs stops and they turn off power to the lights.

chilloutdocdoc
06-18-2011, 09:59 PM
That sounds like a great method to start things up! I'm not sure if my computer has an auto-boot but I'll have to check into the BIOS settings. Thanks for the great tip

erm213
06-18-2011, 10:19 PM
Very cool. A few things to note. Depending on your OS version, Windows scheduler, has the ability to wake up a windows system for a scheduled task. Note the system must me suspended, and not shut down. The scheduler also has a setting to stop a job after it has run a specified amount to time if the job is still running. Obviously, dirknerkle's method works very well, this was simply meant to be informational.

Erik

mattrob
06-19-2011, 12:37 AM
I have not tried this myself, but for those using laptops (like myself) without the power supply option, one of the USB jacks should output 5 volts at a low current (around 100 mA). My rather brief research showed that a typical Crydom SSR pulls about 10 mA, the USB jack should be able to switch the SSR. I think most USB ports are only powered when the laptop/computer is on (please correct me if I'm wrong).

dirknerkle
06-19-2011, 08:36 PM
I have not tried this myself, but for those using laptops (like myself) without the power supply option, one of the USB jacks should output 5 volts at a low current (around 100 mA). My rather brief research showed that a typical Crydom SSR pulls about 10 mA, the USB jack should be able to switch the SSR. I think most USB ports are only powered when the laptop/computer is on (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Yes, it should work from an USB port, too although laptops sometimes are a bit finicky with power saving issues that can shut down ports it thinks are not in use. If that happened, the Crydom would shut down as soon as it loses the trigger voltage... not a good thing... The bottom line with a laptop is (1) be sure it's on A/C power to run your show and (2) turn off all power-saving features on the laptop when it's on A/C power.

underdog
06-20-2011, 06:40 PM
This is great information! I've been doing some automation planning myself, this will give me some ideas. I'd like to know if you've ever have experienced a power outage mid show? (My intuition tells me that the computer wouldn't wake back up without an index finger!).

I'd encourage others to share what their doing. Thanks

dirknerkle
06-20-2011, 07:24 PM
This is great information! I've been doing some automation planning myself, this will give me some ideas. I'd like to know if you've ever have experienced a power outage mid show? (My intuition tells me that the computer wouldn't wake back up without an index finger!).

I'd encourage others to share what their doing. Thanks

All my PCs are on UPS's so they just keep running (up to about 1/2 hour) and if the mains come back on during that time, all is good. But yes, a major power outtage would normally throw a monkey wrench into the whole shebang. It's hard to automate every possible situation...

dmcole
06-20-2011, 07:31 PM
1. The PC's CMOS is set to automatically power on the PC at 4:00 p.m. (from about November 22 to January 7th).

The Compaq Deskpro EN (circa 1998) doesn't support this fancy-schmancy feature ... which is why God invented lamp timers. ;-) ...

\dmc

DennyMo
06-22-2011, 09:12 AM
Which Crydom SSR do you use?

boyelroy11
06-22-2011, 09:39 AM
I had PM'd Dave about this, and he is using a part number that is no longer supported by Crydom.

In looking through their catalog, I have found a couple that should work fine: D2450 and D2425. Each has a 3-32V DC control side, and 24-240VAC switching side. The D2450 supports 50A, the D2425 supports 25A.

HTH
Bruce

Edit: Here is Digikey's listing for the D2425: http://search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail&name=CC1080-ND

N7XG
06-22-2011, 10:16 AM
Hi,

Just do an ebay search on 40a ssr. You will have many to pick from. I seem them as low as $6.00. You will also need a small power supply (wall wart) to fire the ssr's.

After talking with Dirknerkle in May I decided to take the plunge. I purchased a refirb PC for 100 bucks that supports the cmos power on and am in the process of building my ssr boxes that I will use in my display. What I really like about this solution is that during the day the display is completely powered off.

Anyway, thanks to Dirk for a wonderful solution.

Dean

boyelroy11
06-22-2011, 10:30 AM
Good tip on the ebay search- I found some 25A ones for $4 each used: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=370390203864&fromMakeTrack=true&ssPageName=VIP:watchlink:top:en

Thanks
Bruce

bcstuff
06-22-2011, 11:08 AM
Dave,
Just out of curiosity, how do you have the Electrical panel to Crydom SSR to Outputs setup. Do you have a separate junction box that is fed through the Crydom?

dirknerkle
06-22-2011, 12:50 PM
Dave,
Just out of curiosity, how do you have the Electrical panel to Crydom SSR to Outputs setup. Do you have a separate junction box that is fed through the Crydom?

The panel is not in a convenient location for me to use it directly so instead, I use a couple existing 15A outlets in my garage (two different circuits) as the source power.

I drilled two holes through the side of a common plastic outlet box and mounted the Crydom in the bottom.Through one hole I ran a 6' extension cord rated at 20A to the Crydom and common to the cold side of the outlet, outlet ground to plug ground. The extension cord plugs into one of the 15A circuits. The "out" side of the Crydom connects to the HOT side of the outlet. Through the other hole, I ran the low-voltage DC trigger connection to the Crydom's trigger inputs. When the trigger current is applied, turning on the Crydom, it lets current flow to the two outlets on top of the box. I have two of these units, one for each circuit.

N7XG
06-22-2011, 01:46 PM
Dirk,

I see more pictures in the works <g>

Dean

Helenaguy
06-30-2011, 09:48 PM
I would really like to figure out how to make my computer start up at a scheduled time but not sure my cmos supports that. But is it bad to leave power to your control boards on all season? I left power to my 2 boards (Franks Ren24) for the whole time my display was up. Do you risk burning things out if you do that? Or is it more of a safety thing?

dirknerkle
06-30-2011, 09:55 PM
I would really like to figure out how to make my computer start up at a scheduled time but not sure my cmos supports that. But is it bad to leave power to your control boards on all season? I left power to my 2 boards (Franks Ren24) for the whole time my display was up. Do you risk burning things out if you do that? Or is it more of a safety thing?

I don't think it necessarily wears out your gear as much as it's just safer if the power's not on. I know that at my house, I'm not there during the day and I feel better knowing that the power to my show is off for 17 hours of the day and on only during showtime.

A lot of folks use common mechanical timers to power on their PCs so if your CMOS doesn't support it, there are other ways to get it done.

N7XG
07-01-2011, 01:22 PM
I think you best bet would be to go to one of your local schools music department, hire a bunch of teenagers, keep them supplied with Mountain Dew and give each of them a on/off switch. No fancy wiring.

Just imaging Dirk's house, 150 kids each sipping on a can (green) of Mountain dew, and flipping a switch in time with the music. In the back yard a bank of "porta potties"

Where will this hobby take us next.

Dean

IdunBenhad
07-01-2011, 04:21 PM
Hi:
I've been off for about a month or so and was just able to get back on today.

Dean, you forgot that Dirk will throw in all the lutefisk those teenagers can handle. Can't you see it? Mountain Dew and Lutefisk. TO DIE FOR!!!!

Back on the subject: I use a mechanical timer and the "boot up on power on" functions in XP and the bios. In two years I have had not had a bootup/power down failure, but I always thought I was living on borrowed time. Dirks solution is neat.

I'm like Dirk, I have an aversion to leaving the computer run 24/7 with no one around to monitor it.

underdog
09-13-2011, 04:19 PM
I thought I'd bump this thread, checking in as the season approches, any more ideas? It's nearly time for the Halloween guys, anyone have some automation suggestions?

barnettd
09-13-2011, 05:29 PM
Sounds like an excellent way to set everything up so it all powers up and down with the computer. I never even thought about doing something like this. Now I am going to have to try and duplicate this system you set up.

Thanks again for your good ideas!

Dave




I've been asked a few times how I do this, so I thought it might be a good idea to post it in the event others find it useful.

I once used the parallel port for a little while but found a better source in the PC that was not directly connected to the PC's logic board and therefore, a lot safer. I use one of the PC's internal spare power plugs that's intended to power a hard disk drive or floppy disk drive. The red wire has +5v, yellow has +12v and either black wire is ground. No strings or mirrors or special code. It's all readily available stuff. Here's how it works...

1. The PC's CMOS is set to automatically power on the PC at 4:00 p.m. (from about November 22 to January 7th).

2. When the PC powers up, voltage is available on the spare hard disk power plug. This voltage turns on a CRYDOM SSR that can handle up to 40A.

3. The CRYDOM SSR then lets power go out to the lights. (Actually, since I use two circuits, I have two of the Crydoms...)

4. The built-in XP Windows Scheduler module is set to start Vixen at 4:15pm.

5. Vixen's own scheduler is set to start the show "program" at 4:30 p.m. and repeat it until 10:30 p.m.

6. The Windows Scheduler is set to run Windows' "shutdown.exe" module at 11:00 p.m. This closes all the apps and powers the computer off.

7. When the computer goes off, the power to the CRYDOM SSRs stops and they turn off power to the lights.

macebobo
09-13-2011, 07:13 PM
Okay, I'll bite. This is all really creative, but one question that I can't get out of my head is "Why?" No disrespect, but I just am having a hard time seeing the benefit. -- John

dirknerkle
09-13-2011, 09:50 PM
Okay, I'll bite. This is all really creative, but one question that I can't get out of my head is "Why?" No disrespect, but I just am having a hard time seeing the benefit. -- John

Hey, John. Good questions. Here's why I do it:

First of all, it's Safety.

I don't like to leave the power on to the controllers 24x7 when they're only needed 6 hours/day. During the day there might be some curious neighborhood kids running around and if I'm not home to monitor things, I sure don't want dangerous electricity running out there where they might get hurt -- even if I've put locks on the controller boxes.

Secondarily, I don't want to feel tied to the show every day. During the Holidays I might like to do some Christmas shopping on the way home and I don't want to be forced to drive home, turn everything on, and then backtrack to go out shopping. It's quite a bit out of the way for me to do that so I know that as long as my house has electricity, the automatic on/off thing will take care of it and I don't have to worry about it. It gives me freedom to do other really fun things such as meet my wife for a nice pancake/waffle dinner (pancakes and waffles = nature's most perfect foods!). Or if one of my kids needs help, or if I get stuck in traffic on the way home -- on a snowy day, I might take me 2 or 3 hours to get home.

I can only answer for myself, but those are my reasons.

macebobo
09-13-2011, 11:54 PM
Hey, John. Good questions. Here's why I do it:

First of all, it's Safety.

I don't like to leave the power on to the controllers 24x7 when they're only needed 6 hours/day. During the day there might be some curious neighborhood kids running around and if I'm not home to monitor things, I sure don't want dangerous electricity running out there where they might get hurt -- even if I've put locks on the controller boxes.

Secondarily, I don't want to feel tied to the show every day. During the Holidays I might like to do some Christmas shopping on the way home and I don't want to be forced to drive home, turn everything on, and then backtrack to go out shopping. It's quite a bit out of the way for me to do that so I know that as long as my house has electricity, the automatic on/off thing will take care of it and I don't have to worry about it. It gives me freedom to do other really fun things such as meet my wife for a nice pancake/waffle dinner (pancakes and waffles = nature's most perfect foods!). Or if one of my kids needs help, or if I get stuck in traffic on the way home -- on a snowy day, I might take me 2 or 3 hours to get home.

I can only answer for myself, but those are my reasons.


Thanks Dave! I knew I would get a great response from you. I can see the safety issue, I guess I've gotten crotchety in my old age - Let 'em get zapped, they'll only do that once! ;)

I just leave my computer on all day, broadcasting Christmas music and promoting the show. But, I am glad this works for you. -- John

dirknerkle
11-30-2011, 07:07 PM
So in a nutshell, here's how I automate my show...including an extremely simple graphic...

Hardware
I mounted a Crydom 30A SSR in the bottom of a normal, 2-gang outlet box, and a grounded GFCI outlet inside the same box. I used simple speaker wire to carry the 5vdc trigger voltage from the PC to the SSR. In the PC, the trigger voltage comes from an unused diskette drive plug. When the PC comes on, power is immediately available to the diskette drive plug which then turns on the SSR, which allows 120VAC power to go out to the lights. That's my "mains switch." It is fully grounded and with the GFCI, it affords protection to everything outdoors. The circuit itself is a 20A circuit with a circuit breaker on my main power panel. If you wanted to compartmentalize the power so everything doesn't go off in case of a GFI at a mini-tree, you could skip putting the GFCI in the same box as the Crydom SSR and put multiple GFCI's out in the yard in multiple locations.

Setup
The tricky part is in designing the rest of the setup, and you have to think this through kind of carefully.

First of all, I take the computer off my network. No Windows update, no automatic backups from the server, nothing is going to bother it.

Secondly, I set the computer's CMOS to automatically start the computer at 4:00 p.m. The show doesn't start until 4:30, but this gives all the controllers a half hour to get to operating temperature, something that I've found to be helpful in our cold climate.

Third, I set up Windows scheduler to start the VIXEN.EXE module at 4:05pm. This gives the PC 5 minutes to boot up (it takes a lot less than that, but I give it plenty of time to stabilize and sit there running idly.

Fourth, I use Vixen's Programs feature, so I know exactly how long each program is. My target is 59 minutes plus so that I can restart the program every 60 minutes. (I actually have 3 programs this year -- different songs, different orders, and they run on different days, but the shortest of them is 59:23 and the longest 59:51, so in every case, the program will end before the next program begins exactly 60 minutes later.)

Fifth, I use Vixen's Scheduler to start the show at exactly 4:30 p.m. and to repeat the show every 60 minutes until 10:00 p.m. Because Vixen won't terminate a show in mid-run, the show that starts at 9:30 won't stop when 10:00 rolls around, but Vixen also won't start a NEW show after 10:00 p.m. either. These settings assure that the show will end by 10:30 (actually, 10:29:51 to be exact with the longest of my 3 different programs).

Sixth, at exactly 10:31, the Vixen Scheduler starts my final sequence (not a program this time) which is a sign-off sequence for the day. Each day has a different sign-off, one for each day of the week. The message is the same, but the music is different. These sequences range from just under 2 minutes to about 4:30 so I know that the show will be completely done for the day well before 10:40p.m.

Seventh, I set up Windows Scheduler for a 2nd event to happen at 11:00 p.m. It uses the Windows shutdown command such as: shutdown.exe -f-s. The -f "forces" any open applications to close (i.e. Vixen) and the -s parameter tells the shutdown.exe program to shut it all the way down and power it off. When the power to the PC goes off, the power to the diskette drive goes off, which turns off the Crydom SSR and power is removed from all the main outside lines.

So there you have it. Since I fired the show up I've only touched the computer once since -- to turn the monitor off. Won't touch it again until January 7th, when the final show runs, and instead of signing off with the daily final sequence, it a show final that says the show will be dark until next Thanksgiving, when a new show will begin. The music for that one is quite reflective and the lights go dark for the final time that night.