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Six Linux home automation clicks

Long before people were talking about the Internet of Things, Linux-based home automation systems were available. Here are some of today's most interesting Linux-powered home gadgets.

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Topic: Hardware
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1 of 6 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Google's Nest for your home

is well worth the cash.

Why? Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett stated, "Google's acquisition of Nest affirms the growing strategic importance of the idea of the connected home. It also shows that Google increasingly believes in hardware/software solutions, such as Nest has built, rather than just building operating systems for other manufacturers to implement in smartphones, Chromebooks, and TVs."

So what in terms of gadgets did Google get? Well, for now, not that much. At this time, Nest only offers a smart thermostat, the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat and a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector, the $99 Nest Protect.

These devices may not sound that exciting, but with remote smartphone control and the Theromstat's ability to control "smart-grid heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) devices," Nextmarket expects Nest to sell 200,000 units a month in 2014. For the HVAC business, this is big business.

As for Nest Protect, I predict it's going to have a great future for one reason alone: No low-battery chirps. Hallelujah!

Google is also expected to add a lot more devices to Nest's Internet of Things (IoT) family.

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2 of 6 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

The Return of Chumby

Chumby, one of the first home IoT devices powered by Linux, or by any other operating system for that matter, appeared in 2008. This product went unsupported for over a year, but recently Chumby, a cute touchscreen gadget that looks like an alarm clock, has risen from the grave.

During its hiatus, you could still use a Chumby as an Internet music player, and yes, an alarm clock. Today, the company promises that it has over a thousand applications. Some of these apps — a San Diego Zoo Webcam? — are not really apps at all. Others, like a bandwidth monitor that lets you see what your internet connectivity looks like from your router, are more interesting.

Accessing these new apps wil run you $3 a month. The old Chumby models will work with the new services. If you want a new one, the Chumby One, which looks like the old model, will run you $79.99. The Chumby 8, which is more streamlined and comes in red and black costs $99.99.

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3 of 6 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Ivee: Talk-to-me home automations

The Ivee Sleek by itself doesn't look all that impressive. Looks aren't everything.

Once you connect the $200 Ivee to your wifi network, you can use it not only to tell time and listen to music, but to control other smart devices such as those from iControl; Staples Connect; Lowe's Iris ecosystems; Nest thermostats; Locktron and Goji locks; and Belkin and Philips Hue smart lights

Ivee's more than just a control center for your house. You can use voice commands to not only run your other devices — "Turn on the A/C." — but to ask questions about the weather and the stock market. Ivee, shades of Her's Scarlett Johansson, will also talk back. Alas, Ivee's not half as engaging as "Samantha."

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Ninja Blocks for DIY fans

Say you don't want a ready-made device — this is Linux after all — No worries! The $199 Ninja Blocks is built around a BeagleBone Single Board Computer (SBC). It includes an Arduino-compatible controller as well as sensor inputs for devices such motion detectors, locks, temperature and humidity sensors. The package also supports wifi and 3/4G

This package provides wifi control of sensor inputs like motion detectors, contact closures, temperature and humidity sensors, and pushbuttons. With the Ninja Blocks application programming interface (API), you can take readings from a variety of devices and send them orders either over a wifi connection or from a smartphone.

Make no mistake about it, Ninja Blocks is for someone who's both a programmer and knows his orher way around devices. If that's you, I think you may just love this gadget. If it's not, try  SBC first. If you have fun with that and you're ready for a challenge, check this device out.

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The Linux-powered WeMo Crockpot

Yes, I said a crockpot, and that's what I meant! The $130 Linux-powered WeMo Crockpot makes a mean beef stew. Of course, this device is only part of Belkin's WeMo home automation family.

WeMo is the technology behind a family of devices, all of which can be controlled from any Android or iOS powered smartphone or tablet. Besides the crockpot, which has me hungry now, you can also use WeMo to control lights, cameras, and other electrical devices.

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Lights, Music, Q!

Last, but not least, there's Belleds Technology's Q. The Q is a Kickstarter project that integrates wireless smart LED bulbs with streaming music. It's designed to "Q (queue) music and send lighting Qs (cues) from the same smartphone app."

Hey those are their puns, I'm just quoting them!

This is a combination of a wifi router, LED lights, and music streamer that makes a neat toy for producing your own light shows. As someone who used to run light shows for concerts and theaters, I think this is incredibly neat. Check it out, you just might agree with me.

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