Enabling an X10 camera, manually

Hello, I want to use the XC18A wireless video camera in a stand-alone mode without a controller (for the camera to be on when power is supplied to it). I presume
that I must figure out how the X10 controller turns on the camera, and then permanently enable the camera. Therefore, I need to know something about how the electronics inside the XC18A wireless camera work.
The camera must be turned on remotely by some X10 controller over the mains wiring. On the camera's power supply there are switches ("Unit" and "House") which uniquely identify the camera. When the controller contacts the camera power supply, what "turns on" in the camera electronics?
The cable going from the supply "brick" to the camera has 3 conductors: 12v, ground, and another conductor. Does this third conductor get 12v when the "on" signal is received? 5v?
If I had a controller to turn on the camera, I could answer my own question, but I don't.
Thanks,
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The camera section (everything from the female end of its power cable) is *COMPLETELY* ignorant about anything having to do with the X-10 system - It only needs a 6-12 volt input to operate in "always on" mode.

Incorrect. The camera section is always on. The X-10 signal only controls whether the wall-wart sends power to the camera section or not.

Actually, the house and unit switches uniquely identify the wall-wart, not the camera. If desired, you could "rabbit" the end of the wall-wart wire and feed however many cameras you cared to from one wall-wart (within the limits of the wart's output capability) although that would make a mess of your picture unless each camera was running on a separate channel. (four available, access to that setting is through the little rubber plug next to the pivot-arm that holds the lens head on the base of the camera unit - a similar switch is located on the bottom of the reciever/base unit that you plug into your VCR/Computer/TV/whatever it is you're using to view what the camera is showing.)

Nothing. The controller signal does nothing but tell the wall-wart to start sending power to whatever it's connected to. The camera itself is always on, and doesn't have the first clue what "X-10" is - Its on/off state is determined by whether it has power applied or not. The source of that power is irrelevant, and could be the supplied X-10 wall-wart, a battery pack made up of 10 D cells wired in series, an adapter cable from a car battery, the +12V output of a computer power supply, or whatever else is handy and provides 12 volts.
(actually, only about 6 volts are needed to power up the camera section - The first thing the juice encounters as it enters the camera is a 7805 regulator that knocks the 12 volts down to the 5 volts the camera actually runs on, and dumps the "extra" 7 volts as heat, so any power supply that can give you about 6-12 volts at the proper amperage will work just fine)

Third conductor is unused. No idea why they wasted the extra money on the stereo (tip/ring/sleeve) jack/plug when a cheaper mono (tip and sleeve only) jack/plug would have worked exactly the same, but they did.

No controller? No problem - Pull the wall-wart out of the wall, then plug it back in. They default to "on", and remain that way until they receive an X-10 "off" signal. If you're seeing +12v on the end of the wall-wart's wire, it's already on.
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Thus spake Don Bruder:

I'm getting no signal to the TV from the camera, although I see a raster (not noise). The receiver (VR31A) lights its LED, but I get no indication on the TV of a video image. I have matched channels (tried both CH 3 and 4, cycling power for each trial), and camera channels (tried A through D, cycling power for each trial).
I cycle the power by unplugging the wall-wart and plugging it back in (for each of the devices).
Am I missing something?
Thanks,
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Well, I now know you've got exactly the same gear on both ends as I do, so that's a start...
I'm assuming you're wiring the receiver to the TV via co-ax, rather than the RCA plugs? If so, that's one potential trouble-spot eliminated (My first guess would have been swapped audio/video cables on the RCA jacks, but since you're messing with the 3/4 switch, that likely doesn't apply)
Let's see... Fire up *ONE* camera (unplug any others you have) and the receiver with them literally side-by-side. Any change in on-screen stuff when camera is unplugged/plugged in? If not, there are two posibilities: Cable issues, or camera/receiver/both dead. Getting raster instead of noise suggests that the receiver is OK.
Do you have RCA inputs on the TV? If so, try those instead of the co-ax, and tune the TV to take its signal from there. 3/4 on the VR31 doesn't matter with the RCA outputs - It only counts for the co-ax hookup.
Tinker with the antennas on both receiver and camera - They're fairly directional, and slight adjustments can make *HUGE* changes in picture/sound quality - Far more than you'd expect.
What kind of range are you trying to cover? About a hundred yards with clear line-of-sight seems to be the limit for these little guys.
Any metal in a more-or-less straight line between camera and receiver? Doesn't need to be a "solid wall" - 2.4GHz (where the system operates) is surprisingly easy to block. Not as easy as, for instance, satellite reception, but much easier than over-the-air TV/Radio.
FWIW: I'm getting excellent signal from my cams out to about a hundred yards, give or take a bit, but only when the antennas are pointed more or less directly at the receiver. Closer in, the aiming obviously matters less.
No need to power-cycle for channel (either TV or cam/receiver) changes. Feel free if you like, but it isn't required.
Work with one camera at a time - Disconnect all but one. Multiple cameras "powered up at the same time on the same cam/receiver channel will "fight" each other, and in some cases (location/distance dependent) can scramble and/or cancel out each other's signal, leaving the receiver effectively getting nothing to pass along to the TV.
Let me know what, if anything, you manage to come up with, and I'll try to assist.
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-=-=-=-
Don, Thanks for the pointers. Only one camera, one receiver in the house. I've got the receiver and camera on the desk about 2 ft apart. Tried both RF and baseband video connections, neither better than the other. Neither sound nor video are received; raster only. Disassembled the camera, but no obvious cause evident. Wall wart output voltage is correct.
I am going on the assumption that the camera is bad, but it may be something in the receiver, as well. I'll have to find someone who has this setup (are you close to N. California?) so as to do module-swapping.
Thanks again for your help,
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Indeed I am... Butte County.
so as to do module-swapping.
It does sound as if the camera may be kaput, but from here, it's hard to tell :)
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Thus spake Don Bruder:

I was using the wrong power supply for the video receiver module (the PS's look interchangeable, but aren't). Here's the e-mail I received from X10 support: - - - There is no way to absolutely determine if a camera or receiver is defective without a second camera or receiver to test them against. The issue may be as simple as a misplaced power supply - check to make sure that the video receiver is using a D9300 or PR30A, NOT a D9100 power supply - the D9100 power supply is designed for use with the VCR Commander only, and while it supplies enough power to light the power LED, it does not have enough power to actually receive video. - - - All is well. Thanks for your help, Don.
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AHA! That would indeed be a problem! One that I don't have, since I power my VR31 from one of the spare plugs I grafted onto the power supply box of a Tandy 1000 computer (that was already ancient when I gutted it 15 years ago) that serves double duty feeding a stack of old SCSI drives - Rated for 4 amps on the +12V output, it's got more than plenty of juice to feed the stack of drives, the VR31, and pretty much anything else I care to plug into it. (within reason, of course...)
Glad to hear there's a "happy ending" to your tale! :)
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Hi--- a Hundred yards? I thought they were only good for 100 feet max. I'm glad to hear the range.
BTW, you gave a *great* explanation on them. I have a 4 channel automatic switcher and I may be able to use that, using the video/audio lines.
Thanks--- Ron
BTW, I'm curious how the X10 motion activator, which is a stand alone battey powered "station" turns on a VCR 100 ft or so away in the house. I know it's an rf signal, etc, but is there an identification of what motion activated alarm has been activated, then is that sent to the X10 camera, then that rf signal is sent to the house as video and audio, plus a signal to turn on a VCR to record what happened? Thanks a bunch for any info Best :-) Ron
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wrote:

Without a *TOTALLY CLEAR* line-of-sight between the camera and the base, you can forget it past about 125-150 feet. If you've got good LOS, I've heard folks claiming 500+ feet, but I have my doubts on that.
A properly aimed "Cantenna" (Google for it) on both ends of the link, combined with excellent LOS, is supposed to capable of extending the max range to a quarter mile, but I haven't gotten around to trying anything that fancy.

Like the rest of the X-10 stuff, you set the motion sensor to a house/unit code, and the RF receiver module to the matching house/unit code. The RF receiver then retransmits the RF signal from the sensor on the house wires as an X-10 sequence, complete with the house/unit ID assigned to the detector, as well as triggering the on/off function for the socket built into the RF receiver.

If the plan is "When motion sensor says something's moving, start the VCR recording what the camera sees", then the camera's wall-wart is set to the same house/unit code as the motion sensor, so that when the receiver re-sends the sensor's RF signal as X-10 on the house wires, the camera kicks on along with the socket in the receiver. (which is where the VCR gets plugged in)
Motion is seen, signal is transmitted to RF receiver, signal gets converted into X-10 on the house wires, socket turns on, putting power to a VCR set up to start recording whenever power is present, camera sends signal, VR31 catches camera signal and feeds it to VCR, and you get a tape of whatever the motion sensor "saw".
The tricky part of that setup these days is finding a VCR that can be set to "when powered on, start recording" - Although I've read about another module that can be put somewhere in line-of-sight for the VCR, and catches the X-10 signals, then translates them into IR pulses to control the VCR the same as the normal IR remote would do. I've never laid eyes on one of those modules "live and in person", though - Only read about them being available - so I know very little about them beyond their existence and the theory of how they're supposed to function.
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Don Bruder wrote:

Hmmm... how about taping down the 'rec' button on the VCR remote, removing the batteries and powering it via an appropriate PSU from an X10 outlet?
Phil.
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Thus spake Don Bruder:

X10 module UX23A. It receives signals from remote motion sensors (that you place to cover the camera's field-of-view) and triggers the VCR to start recording. The VCR module comes with a cable with little stick-on infrared transmitters that stick to the front of the VCR where the IR receiver is located.
You program the UX23A with your remote control; it "learns" the Record and Stop functions so it can record video from the camera whenever the motion sensor near the camera trips.
I have one of these, but haven't gotten that far to determine how it all works; I'm still trying to get video out of my camera )c:
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Don Bruder wrote:

<snip>
Coming in late....
The original X10 cams actually had only one pair of wires (ie power) from the wart to the cam. These use a normal wall-wart power connector. I believe at some point X10 modified the design with the extra wire so that the camera could always be warmed up...turning on only the RF when the unit is selected. The entire unit, transmitter and power was turned on by the wart when selected. These are the ones I have. The power supplies are VERY cranky. Often, they will not turn off at all. The camera with the best signal then controls what you see at the receiving end...to a degree.
I've not found a solution for this, although sometimes, removing power for several days corrects the issue temporarily. I've pondered connecting each to an X10 appliance module and 'normal' warts...not ideal.
Mine are very temp sensitive...only it's not the camera which is the issue. Frequency control is horrid at low temps...takes several minutes below about 40 degrees for the transmitter to ramp up to the proper freq'...if it ever does. You can watch the process by switching the receiver to different channels. I was able to restore some functionality by switching the receiver and cameras to different channels; but each camera is different in its response to temperature variation, so that's not an ideal solution.
I've finally moved them all inside, which helps the stability; but the 'always on' issue won't go away.
To the OP, I see by the thread that you've solved your problem. Congratulations. I wish there was a better solution for mine. I have one camera which mimics your problem: raster but no video. If I apply some 'percussive maintenance to that one, it comes back for a time. I've opened up the camera section, but cannot find any bad solder joints.
jak
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