TweetFollow Us on Twitter

PowerKey Pro 600

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Tools of the Trade

PowerKey Pro 600

by Christopher Hall

This is not your father's powerstrip... A look at the latest in computer automation technology

Figure 1. Sophisticated Cicuits' PowerKey Pro 600.

That Special Morn

It's a special holiday morning and gift wrapping is flurrying as the gadgets and gizmos are ripped open by eager hands. As the children shriek over their eMates and the adults wince at their credit card bills, what should an intrepid Mac System Administrator find as his gift but... a power strip?

"They couldn't get me a tie or cummerbund or something else I don't need? My gift's another power strip?" our heroic Mac loyalist laments ungratefully. With a brave eye, he slowly opens the elegant biodigradable cardboard box to look at Sophisticated Circuits' newest toy, the PowerKey Pro Model 600.

Rummaging thru the box's contents, our Holiday Geek wonders, "Why would a power strip have such a strange ADB cable? And two RJ-11 phone jacks? And software?" Rushing to his Mac, he excitedly installs the software, shuts down, and moves all of his power cords from his brain-dead power strip to the suddenly fascinating PowerKey.

Perhaps this happy scenario will be repeated for many users this year, because the PowerKey Pro 600 is one of the most useful geegaws a Macintosh-using Inspector Gadget could receive. Under the mild-mannered guise of a handsome power strip, the PK Pro 600 hides a powerhouse power controller with all the smarts needed to control its six outlets from your Macintosh by keystroke, schedule, telephone or AppleScript.

What Can It Do - The Basics

As an intelligent power strip, the PowerKey Pro 600 can do simple and useful tasks; even merely starting up the Mac can be enhanced. Older Macs which lack "soft" power (that is, keyboard power on, such as a Power Mac 6100 series lacks), can now enjoy that convenience. Furthermore, if a system has many peripherals to be started up before the CPU (such as hard disks with a lengthy spin up), setting the CPU's outlet with a delay allows true one-touch startup.

Starting up or shutting down on a schedule, as well as saving energy by powering down an idle Mac's monitor, is also easy with the PowerKey's very well-designed software.

Setup and Use

Setting up the PowerKey is a breeze. The hardware requires nary a moment of thought to properly hook ADB, the phone and the power cords together, while the software requires little more than a reboot and some preference setting. Sophisticated Circuits has wisely given a switch for each outlet, the ability to disable the switches and, for the careless scripter who PowerKey's his Mac into not being able to boot, a simple hardware override.

Figure 2. Hardware Setup of the PowerKey Pro.

The PowerKey Editor is the interface to the PowerKey Extension, the background-only application that does the real work. A simple Schedule window shows all the events created for a given PowerKey. Considering that multiple PowerKey Pros can be daisychained over ADB, this control is appreciated for complex power control needs, such as an array of web servers.

Figure 3. The PowerKey Schedule.

Controlling your system by events is quite easy. A PowerKey event consists of a trigger, which can be modified by qualifiers and actions. For example: At 9AM on Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu and Fri, not between Wed, Oct 1, 1997 and Tue, Oct 7, 1997: start up the computer. In other words, it's easy to set up your Mac to boot every weekday, but the week you're away in the Virgin Islands.

Figure 4. The Event Editor.

It is just as easy to create events that toggle any device's outlet, such as your modem or printer.

Event Triggers

The PowerKey has two general types of triggers: time triggers and system triggers. Time triggers are used to create automatic or repeating events while the system triggers actuate on certain types of computer or phone line activity.

Time triggers include: Once Only, Repeating, Days of Week, Day of Month.

System triggers include: "Power On" Key Pressed When Phone rings, Phone Tones Heard, When Hot Key Pressed, When system is Idle, When Power Returns, At Shut Down, When System Crashes, and When Timer Expires.

Figure 5. Triggers.

Event Qualifiers

Qualifiers refine how and when a trigger activates; all of a trigger's qualifiers must be true for the trigger to fire. For example, a When Phone Rings trigger could have qualifiers that allow it to work only after business hours and on weekends. Qualifiers vary depending on the type of trigger, but include: Time Range, Date Range, Days of Week, System Idle, How Started, and System Running.

Event Actions

The PowerKey has a very useful range of actions. In addition to the expected Switch Outlets, Start Up Computer, Shut Down Computer, and Restart, the PowerKey supports Execute Script, Execute QuicKey, Type a Keystroke, Wait, Open File, Quit Application, Mount SCSI Devices, Answer Phone, Add to Log and External Actions.

As an event is constructed, a natural language representation is crafted in the Event Editor Dialog, making the PowerKey one of the simplest-to-use scripting tools available.

Figure 6. Actions Types.

The Not-So-Basics

Remote Control

If that were all the PowerKey could do, it would be useful, but the PowerKey is designed to really shine as true remote control for your system's power. Listening in on the phone line, a PowerKey Pro can do any event based on the phone ringing any number of times, hearing certain touch-tones (DTMF) for security codes, or even distinctive-ring patterns. It was tremendously useful to teach my PowerKey to boot my Mac in any number of different startup configurations. Because an AppleScript (or QuicKey or Frontier script) can be part of an event, altering what software was active at reboot is relatively simple. With a phone call on a distinctive ring (short - long - short) and the entry of a code, my personal Mac can reboot for Apple Remote Access, fax reception, or a quickie web server with never a conflict over which application deserves the serial port. When it's been idle for 20 minutes, the System reboots to the preferred working configuration. As an added bonus, if the Mac was started up or rebooted over the phone, the monitor doesn't need to be powered up, so a nickel's worth of energy is saved.

The only minus with the telephone control is that the PowerKey doesn't understand ISDN lines or PBXes, but that is a small issue; having a dedicated line for computer control can be wise for a mission critical server.

Server Control

No Mac OS server should be without a PowerKey. (Apple, are you listening?) The Server Restart Option, a standard feature of the PK Pro 600 (and an option on the PK Pro 200) is a System Administrator's dream. When a server hangs, the When System Crashes trigger can be set up to restart and make life good again; when the utility company decides to take control of your server's life blood, the When Power Returns trigger can also reset whatever's needed. Many a dollar and much SysAdmin sleep can be saved by this automation. When combined with the secure telephone control of your server, a SysAdmin might actually be able to never touch the server physically except to replace hardware.

Mac-less operation

A Macintosh is needed to program the PowerKeyPro, but a useful feature is that a unit's scheduled events can be programmed at a Macintosh and then placed anywhere. Any Outlet switching action triggered on scheduling or telephone interaction is fully usable.

The User Timer

The PowerKey "pings" the Mac every 10 seconds to determine if the Mac is running; it if fails, the When System Crashes trigger can be fired. Conversely, a mission critical application that must be up and running 24/7, such as a webserver or database, can set the PowerKey User Timer to count down to a restart. As long as the User Timer is reset by the application, the PowerKey serves up power. If the app crashes and cannot reset the User Timer, the PowerKey can restart the Mac and a script or startup alias can have the mission critical application back without a System Administrator's action. Bravo, Sophisticated Circuits. Not only does every Mac OS server need a PowerKey, but every Mac-based info kiosk. (This feature can be implemented without AppleScript by sending an Apple event using Event Class 'PKPr' and Event ID 'Tick'.)

Custom Actions

If the actions the PowerKey Editor offers aren't quite enough, you can write your own External Action. External Actions are nothing more that HyperCard XCMDs. To make the External Action available to the PowerKey software, the compiled XCMD must be placed in a file of type/creator: Xtrn/PKPr and placed in the the PowerKey Folder in the the Preferences folder. After a restart, the new External Action will appear at the bottom of the Action Selector List.

Beeper

A simple PowerKey external, Beeper, plays your beep sound through the Mac's speaker. Beeper takes only one parameter, the number of times to beep the speaker. This code is available on the PowerKey installation disk.

#include<HyperXCmd.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <A4Stuff.h>

static void  xcmd_param_to_string 
              ( Handle param, char *str, short max_len );
static long  xcmd_param_to_num ( Handle param );

pascal void main ( XCmdPtr pb )
{
  // Setup base registers so we can access global variables.
  EnterCodeResource();

  pb->returnValue = nil;  // Setup return value field of pb

  if ( pb->paramCount == 0 )
    SysBeep( 0L );
  else
  {
    long    n, count;
    
    count = xcmd_param_to_num ( pb->params[0] );
    for ( n = 1; n <= count; n++ )
      SysBeep( 0L );
  }
    
  // Restore base registers before we return
  ExitCodeResource();    

}

static void xcmd_param_to_string 
              ( Handle param, char *str, short max_len )
{
  SignedByte  state;
  
  if ((param == 0L) || (str == 0L))
    return;

  state = HGetState (param);
  HLock (param);
  strncpy (str, *param, max_len);
  str [max_len] = '\0';
  
  HSetState (param, state);
  
  return;
}
    
static long xcmd_param_to_num ( Handle param )
{
  long    num = 0L;
  char    temp [256];
  char    *s;
  
  temp [0] = '\0';    
  xcmd_param_to_string (param, temp, 255);
  s = temp + strspn (temp, " ");
  CtoPstr (s);
  StringToNum ( (StringPtr)s, &num);
  
  return num;
}

AppleScript and The PowerKey Pro

Although able to run any OSA-compliant script, the PowerKey itself is scriptable, so any event can be scripted and executed. The Core Suite's Standard Events are supported (Get Data, Set Data, Quit Application) as well as PowerKey's own suite.

execute: execute a specified event
execute reference

Class application: An application program

Elements:
unit by numeric index, by name
Properties:
version string [r/o]
timer integer
log file specification [r/o]

Class unit: a PowerKey unit

Plural form:
units
Elements:
outlet by numeric index, by name
event by numeric index, by name
Properties:
name string
serial number integer [r/o]

Class outlet: an outlet

Plural form:
outlets
Properties:
name string
level integer

Class event: an event

Plural form:
events
Properties:
name string
serial number integer [r/o]
owner type class
enabled boolean

Scripting the PowerKey is simple, whether one uses AppleScript, Frontier, or QuicKeys. A simple (and rather useless) script to flash Outlet # 6 on is

on |pause|(length)
  local endTime
  set endTime to (current date) + length
  repeat while (current date) < endTime
  end repeat
end |pause|

on flicker(cycles, delay)
  repeat cycles times
    tell application "PowerKey Extension"
      set level of outlet 6 of unit 1 to 100 - (level of outlet 6 of unit 1)
    end tell
    |pause|(delay)
  end repeat
end flicker

Calling the above script could look like the following:

flicker(4, 1)

Third-Party Integration

The PowerKey has inspired some third party tools and integrates well with others. Acme Technologies offers PowerGate, a CGI (Common Gateway Interface) to the PK Pro, thereby allowing the PK Pro to be controlled securely from the web. Pacific Coast Software also offers a freeware ACGI, SiteMonitor, available at

http://www.pacific-coast.com/st_pages/Product_Dist/sitemcust.html.

Maxum Development's PageSentry is also an excellent fit with a PK Pro. PageSentry checks to see if a web server if up by requesting a page from the server; upon an error, it notifies the administrator. With the addition of a PowerKey Pro 600, PageSentry can merely activate a PowerKey Script to restart the web server. If WebSTAR (or whatever server you use) is set to launch at startup, the web server is back up and serving pages. Notice that this technique requires a Mac to handle the PowerKey, but the web server could be of any flavor: Mac, WinNT, Unix, or BeOS.

Real Uses

The PowerKey has some very special uses. Offering a level of one touch power control and scriptability is a very empowering aid and a blessing for the differently abled. (In fact, it's handy for those of us with more powered peripherals than we might really need.) A PowerKey Pro or three and some diligent scripting can allow the control of almost any electrical thing around someone with limited or nil mobility. Interesting uses can also include turning appliances on and off with your cordless phone, a script, hot key, or even speech recognition, scheduling a computer's startups and shutdown, as well as leaving the monitor off until needed.

Even though I know of no one currently using a PowerKey Pro to do this, having a group of routers controllable via a PowerKey Pro could allow routers to be power cycled so they can properly ping their seed router. The possibilities for creative System Administration abound.

One Year Later

It's a blizzardy New England Sunday afternoon and our snowed-in, yet still intrepid Mac SysAdmin is snug at home surfing the 'Net when the peaceful whine of the monitor's flyback transformer is shattered by a dreaded pager vibrating off the desk. The pager shows an notification from the Southeastern region's sales manager that the Florida sales force's main database is down during the weekend upload of sales figures. Ms. Manager wants it up right away no matter that Mr. SysAdmin's house can't see out of the 8 foot drift and a snowplow is considered a mythical beast.

He calls Ms. Manager and calmly assures her that the database will be up if there is power to the Mac and asks her to call right back if the system isn't up in 5 minutes.

Our System Administrator has little to worry about -- his PowerKey Pro 600 is ready.


When not whipping out articles, Christopher Hall, christopher@macconnect.com, is senior consultant for the chrysalis group/the Software Brewing co. of Memphis, TN and has been consulting since 1985. He is also selling a lovely home in Memphis which would cost $415,000 if it were in California. (3 BR, 2 Bath, pool, ethernet, cheap ISDN, $140K OBO.)

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

NetNewsWire 4.0.0 - RSS and Atom news re...
NetNewsWire is the best way to keep up with the sites and authors you read most regularly. Let NetNewsWire pull down the latest articles, and read them in a distraction-free and Mac-like way. Native... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.6 - Search and ins...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
ForkLift 2.6.5 - Powerful file manager:...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
Drive Genius 4.1.0 - Powerful system uti...
Drive Genius 4 gives you faster performance from your Mac while also protecting it. The award-winning and improved DrivePulse feature alerts you to hard drive issues before they become major problems... Read more
OnyX 2.9.7 - Maintenance and optimizatio...
OnyX is a multifunctional utility for OS X. It allows you to verify the startup disk and the structure of its System files, to run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance, to configure the hidden... Read more
DEVONthink Pro 2.8.5 - Knowledge base, i...
DEVONthink Pro is your essential assistant for today's world, where almost everything is digital. From shopping receipts to important research papers, your life often fills your hard drive in the... Read more
Backblaze 4.0.1.878 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac.With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Apple Remote Desktop Client 3.8.4 - Clie...
Note: Apple Remote Desktop Client is available only through Software Update (the Updates tab in App Store.app. Apple Remote Desktop Client is the best way to manage the Mac computers on your network... Read more
Merlin Project 3.0.7.39619 - Project man...
Merlin Project is for those of you who are responsible for complex projects. Simple lists of tasks won't suffice. Good planning raises questions about the dependencies of activities on each other,... Read more
Tidy Up 4.1.0 - Find duplicate files and...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more

Carbo - Handwriting in the Digital Age...
Carbo - Handwriting in the Digital Age 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Productivity Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Apple Watch isn't Great as a Fi...
| Read more »
Show the World What You See With Stre.am...
Live broadcasting is getting popular on mobile devices, which is why you can now get Stre.am, by Infinite Takes. [Read more] | Read more »
PhotoTime's 2.1 Update Adds Apple W...
The latest PhotoTime update is adding even more functionality to the handy photo organizing app. Yep, including Apple Watch support. [Read more] | Read more »
Oh My Glob! Adventure Time Puzzle Quest...
Finn and Jake are taking over D3 Go!'s popular puzzle game series in the upcoming Adventure Time Puzzle Quest. [Read more] | Read more »
Earthcore: Shattered Elements - Tips, Tr...
At first glance, Earthcore: Shattered Elements seems like a rather simple card-battling game. Once you’re introduced to skills that will change quite a bit. Even more so once you start to acquire hero cards. But it’s not so complicated that we... | Read more »
Dungeon999F (Games)
Dungeon999F 1.33 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.33 (iTunes) Description: "The game you must play at least once in your life!" "The game with potential of million downloads globally!" ...is what the... | Read more »
Mixels Rush - Use Mixes, Maxes and Murps...
Mixels Rush - Use Mixes, Maxes and Murps to Outrun the Nixels 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Use awesome new Mixels and make crazy combinations to beat the annoying... | Read more »
Battles of the Ancient World II (Games)
Battles of the Ancient World II 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Sword Of Xolan (Games)
Sword Of Xolan 1.0.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.4 (iTunes) Description: Sword of Xolan is an action platformer game that includes the juice of pixel art style. Xolan is a young and brave man who... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! 16GB iPad mini 3 for $349, save $50
B&H Photo has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Price drop on 2014 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros by $200. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799.99 save $200 - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Will iOS 9 Finally Bring Productivity Friendl...
Ah, the irony. From its original announcement in 2010, Apple has doggedly insisted that the iPad remain “simple,” thus arbitrarily limiting its considerable potential as a content creation and... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3719.99... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Apple drops price on refurbished 15-inch 2.2G...
The Apple Store has dropped their price on the Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro to $1609, $390 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz... Read more
Cover For iPhone Helps You Create Beautiful P...
Taking photos, editing and sharing them is one of the things most of people do on their iPhones for fun, especially if they’re users of social media. Unfortunately, many iOS photo-editing solutions... Read more
Password Keyboard 1.0 For iOS Handles Logins...
Pfaeffikon, Switzerland based Power APP has introduced Password Keyboard 1.0.0, their new password utility developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Password Keyboard is designed to simplify... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store which delivers Read more
Technical Project Manager - *Apple* Pay - A...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is seeking an experienced technical PM…manage the rollout of features to merchants for the Apple Pay platform in the US Within this role Read more
Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
Project Manager - *Apple* Pay Security - Ap...
**Job Summary** The Apple Pay Security team is seeking a highly organized, results-driven Project Manager to drive the development of Apple Pay Security. If you are Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.