I just wanted to let everyone know that the Charmed Quark Controller, a PC based, distributed home/hometheater software product, has now entered its beta test phase. It was previously in preview over the last year, and only a select group of testers were providing early feedback. But it is now available to anyone to download and try out, no registration, no copy protection, etc... The major new features in this release are: 1- User Drawn Interfaces. You can know draw your own custom interfaces. CQC offers a very powerful GUI via which knowledgeable users can interact with and configure the CQC system. However, for other members of the family or guests, this interface would be considered both too complex and/or too dangerous. User drawn interfaces can expose just those features of the controlled system that are relevant to the particular user or situation, and even power users often just want a specialized interface for particular circumstances. 2 - User Security. Previous versions of CQC have been completely open systems, in that anyone who could log onto a machine with CQC installed and visible to them could do anything that they wanted. This is clearly not acceptable for a home control system, so this version introduces user accounts and security. You can read the CQC Security backgrounder for a quick overview. 3 - Generic Serial Driver. Traditionally, CQC has required a dedicated device driver for each device (or protocol if multiple devices share a protocol.) Though dedicated devices are always optimal, and required in some cases to access advanced functionality of complex devices, the new generic serial driver will allow you to describe the protocol of your device in a text file, and CQC will then use this file to manage the device. This should open up CQC to many devices for which a dedicated driver is either not immediately forthcoming, or really not worth it due to the simplicity of the device protocol. Such devices won't have a dedicated client GUI interface, but they will be controllable via CQC macros, device field I/O operations, or user drawn interfaces. 4 - Look and Feel. You will notice a massive change in the look and feel of CQC in this new version. CQC builds on top of Charmed Quark's CIDLib C++ Frameworks, which provides its own custom GUI windows, so the work required for rework was massive, but has paid off handsomely. Many improvements to the GUI architecture of CIDLib were achieved along the way. The new look is XP based, but it goes beyond XP in many ways. Because all of the windows are custom windows, it will look this way under Windows 2000 as well. 5 - Leeza Serial Protocol. The first device to be controlled via the new Generic Serial Driver is the Leeza, so a protocol file for this device is shipped with this new release. It doesn't handle every bit of information provided by the Leeza. The Leeza protocol is not very good, and providing access to all of the information would be too piggy. But it covers the important stuff for day to day control. The only feature missing that is required for a 1.0 release is an IR blaster driver, but the RedRat driver is underway right now and should be available in a couple weeks. With the new generic serial driver and the IR driver, users should be able to configure CQC to control almost any devices that they have. If users contribute back their IR/serial protocol files, they will be added to the next release, increasing the number of devices supported out of the box greatly over time. I've also now installed bulletin board software so that we have a centralized place to discuss CQC. It is not a general forum like this, just a place for users to discuss CQC issues, get help, exchange tips, etc... Just click on the Forums link at the top of the main page. So drop by the Charmed Quark web site and download the beta and try it out, and give us your feedback.