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In the future you'll be able to walk into your house and say, "Lights on, dim" to set a romantic mood, or "Start Coffee tomorrow morning at eight AM" to make sure you start your day with that jolt of java.  This isn't just the stuff of science fiction.  Home control, to some extent, is here now.

So how good is it?  The most popular is the X-10 ( series of devices.  I've tried some of them, and the answer is that some are pretty good, some not.

Let me say up front that the wireless cameras are not, especially if you have wireless phones or a wireless home network.  The interference from these devices makes the picture almost unviewable, with zig zag visual "noise" and real noise coming out of your speakers.  If you go onto X-10's message board you will find post after post from people who bought these cameras and regretted it (including me). So skip the wireless cameras!

But what about the automatic lighting devices?  Well, these can be pretty handy, especially when you use X-10 remote controls and other devices like motion detectors and the "Active Home Pro" computer program.  The remote controls are great.  Just press a button next to your easy chair and the lights go on or off, or you can dim them.  Our kitchen is so small that the refridgerator covers up the light switch.  No problem: there is an X-10 switch you can literally glue to the wall.  It runs on a battery and will turn on the kitchen light by radio waves.

We also find the portable modules handy for Christmas lights.  Instead of scrunching behind the tree, trying to reach the cord, we just press a button on a remote control.  Much jollier!

Active Home Pro is the most advanced way to set X-10 timers.  We use one all the time for an outside light, and set up special ones when we go on vacation to make the house look lived in.  I have one on the kids' bathroom light that turns it off at 8:30AM every school day.  I tried putting a motion detector on our front door light and it works great.  It just screws into the wall and yuo set it to turn the light on and off wirelessly.

So all in all I like the lighting control units.  When technology is this handy, it's great.  (But skip the cameras!)

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