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For some time I have been using a Home Security System, which came with a PC control program. The interface to the security system is a basic RS232 serial link. This works fine, however the problem is that you are restricted by the fact that the serial cable is a must.
Since the Security System is physically located in the vicinity of my home gateway, I wanted to see if I could use the existing home network to link the Security system to my PC. It's 2007, so this should be simple! Right? In fact it is. And once done, I found out some additional features, which on their own are quite fit to justify the effort spent.
To make the Security system IP-enabled, I used a cute little dongle-style module. Serial connector on one end, Ethernet on the other. It is based on the 'Xport' module and supplied by Gridconnect - they even have a WiFi version!
This module supports DHCP and comes with a simple build in web server to set it up. As a result, it was straightforward and easy to get it up & running. I simply configured it to behave exactly the same way as the serial connection it was replacing: 9600 baud, start and stop bit etc. Remember those days?
The Security System's PC program could only talk to the outside world via COM ports. Thus the missing link was some piece of software, which would glue a COM port to the TCP/IP stack in my Windows Vista PC. Mentally preparing for at least a few evenings of software fun, I fired up Google. Shortly afterwards, I concluded that the Serial Port Redirector from FabulaTech could do exactly what I was looking for. Reading lots of positive feedback and finding it would support Microsoft Vista -important since it is driver type software- made the next step easy. The coffee was still warm!
I downloaded a copy of Serial Port Redirector (version1.5b) from the FabulaTech website , installed it, fired it up, entered the COM port number to redirect, keyed IP address of the module and it simply worked! Once installed, whenever the PC is booted, the Serial Port Redirector hides in the background until some program sends data via the redirected COM port. This would prompt the Serial Port Redirector to establish the link over IP, shuffle the data around and once the sending program would close the COM port, the link would be disconnected again. Not that I'm not confident about today's software goodies, but the "pick 'n mix" approach I used for this setup doesn't exactly come with a satisfaction guaranteed warranty.
What turned out to be even more interesting is that with this setup I could now also manage the Security System from my notebook anywhere on the road, as long as I had Internet access. Next, I'm going to hook up my home PABX, another one of those devices with just a serial interface!
In all, FabulaTech's Serial Port Redirector does the job well and reliable. Moreover, installing was a breeze. Really, no fun at all!Wytze Hoogslag