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Author Topic: IDEA - A different type of computer timer  (Read 4873 times)
jovejupiter
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« on: January 14, 2008, 07:37:41 AM »

I have an idea for a hardware/software unit which I can't find on the market anywhere. Although donation coder is a software development forum I thought that someone might like to pick it up.

I often leave my computer running on "autopilot", performing various downloads, recording audio or video items off-air via a TV tuner card for timeshifting and so on.

I prefer not to leave my computer on all the time as this wastes energy, so I get it to switch itself on from cold using the BIOS timer and switch itself off again using a software shutdown utility.

Unfortunately the BIOS timer is limited to either a single event on a specified day or the same time every day.

I'd like to be able to get the computer to switch itself on from cold at different times on different days, or even at different times during the same day.

So the idea is to build a small timer module to fit into a spare 3.5 or 5.25 inch drivebay. (ideally a 3.5 inch version as this could be fitted into either)
It would be wired into the motherboard in place of the normal on-off switch. (most motherboards seem to connect to the power switch with a simple 2-pin connector)
The unit would include a normal on-off switch for non-timer use.
The unit should be programmable to switch the computer on (i.e. electronically press the on switch) at a number of preset dates and times. (a two week 8 event timer would be the bare minimum but as memory is cheap these days a 256 event 1 year timer or better would be ideal).
There would be no need for the unit to switch the computer off. There are loads of freeware timer and shut down software products available which could do that. (if the unit were to switch off the computer by electronically hitting the power switch it would cause all sorts of potential data corruption problems)
If the user makes a mistake and programs the unit to switch the PC on when it is already on, then it should not have any effect at the programmed time (pressing the on switch on a PC which is already running would probably switch the machine of, make it hibernate, reboot or similar)
A very desirable enhancement would be to link the unit to the computer, probably via USB, and to provide a windows program to set the timer. If this also included a simple shutdown program the whole thing would be self-contained. (date, on time, off time, specific days, every day, weekdays only etc)

So, any takers?

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wr975
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2008, 08:54:52 AM »

A hardware based solution? AFAIK "Coding Snacks" is software only...


Auto power-on and shutdown (shareware) can handle multiple "wake-up" events (cold-start).

http://www.lifsoft.com/


A real gem in this department is "D-Shutdown" (freeware)

http://dimio.altervista.org/eng/

It has real unusual event triggers to start an action (put computer to sleep, start application, ...) Like, if you downloaded less than y MB in z seconds or CPU usage is less than y percent in the last z seconds or pixel whatever changed color.

It can also wake up your computer (cold-start).

Example:

D-Shutdown to hibernate my computer when a video encoding process ended (CPU less then ten percent in 1 minute).
Another D-Shutdown task to power on the computer at 7:30 am.

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jgpaiva
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2008, 11:06:26 AM »

Dshutdown's page has some cool freeware! cheesy
And DShutdown itself is pretty good work too.

Just to clarify, though, DShutdown only alows for 2 kinds of "wake up":

Quote from: DShutdown's help file

18. "WAKE ON LAN" to switch on one or more remote computers that support this function. The first time you select this option, the remote computer has to be on, otherwise DShutdown won't read the Mac-Address of the remote computer and it will issue an error message.

19. "WAKE UP" This option "wakes up" your computer from a hibernation or similar state, such as "suspend to RAM". It can be used as a simple alarm clock or to have a complete shutdown also when the local computer is in a suspended state.
Thus, i think it can't wake the computer from a cold start. (which makes sense, since not all computers have that BIOS timer that jovejupiter mentioned).
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wr975
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2008, 06:20:58 AM »

Well, for me hibernating is "cold" as the power is completely off (unlike standby).  Wink



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jovejupiter
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2008, 06:49:16 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions.

I wasn't aware that you could set a software timer to automatically wake a computer from hibernation at a preset time. I thought that in hibernation the computer was completely powered off so that nothing was running (apart from the clock which is battery powered). Looks like I was wrong.

Of the two suggestions DShutdown is free but limited to one scheduled event, although that could be the same on different days.

Auto Power On and Shutdown looks far more versatile in that you can schedule a range of different events, which can either be one-off events or regular events. I've downloaded the trial version and so far it looks like it will do what I want. I'll probably buy a copy.

I generally prefer to start from a clean boot as Windows seems to have a habit af gradually "unravelling" as it runs and if I hibernated every time the system might develop problems over a period of weeks. However, If I schedule a reboot, followed a few minutes later by hibernation, this would reset the system to a clean state each time.

One thing I'm curious about......
I've seen figures suggesting that when a computer is in hibernation it uses about 1% of the power it would use if it were running normally. The CPU fan is off so presumably the CPU isn't powered. I assume that most of the rest of the motherboard is unpowered in hibernation, so how does the computer keep track of when to switch back on? What is using the 1% power?
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wr975
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2008, 08:23:07 AM »

Quote
I've seen figures suggesting that when a computer is in hibernation it uses about 1% of the power it would use if it were running normally. The CPU fan is off so presumably the CPU isn't powered. I assume that most of the rest of the motherboard is unpowered in hibernation, so how does the computer keep track of when to switch back on? What is using the 1% power?

The autoshutdown site has a nice FAQ about this: http://www.lifsoft.com/power/faq.htm

With standby (save to RAM) your system is using some energy, with hibernation (write to disk) the system is completely powered down (that's why it's unaffected from power loss).

Quote
computer keep track of when to switch back on?

Each motherboard has a battery so your BIOS won't forget settings (like date, time, configuration... and when to wake up). Just need to mention: This wake-up setting isn't supported on every motherboard.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2008, 08:26:28 AM by wr975 » Logged
zacharyliu
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2008, 10:30:43 AM »

Couldn't you just configure your computer to turn on when it gets power, and just use a standard plug-in timer?
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chedabob
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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2008, 10:17:37 AM »

If you create a task in the Windows Task Scheduler, it will turn on your PC. I had a pesky backup program that kept turning my PC on every day at 5pm to perform a backup Sad
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jovejupiter
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2008, 06:36:16 AM »

I've now been using Auto power-on and shutdown for a while and it looks good. My computer now switches itself on and off at various times during the day. It surprised my wife the first time she saw it do this, leading to a frantic call to me at work to tell me that my computer had started doing strange things all by itself.

I don't know of a way to get the computer to turn on automatically when it gets power.

I tried using the Windows Task Scheduler in the past but it insisted on getting me to log on each time - I need the computer to get up and running on autopilot.

Thanks for all of the advice. Another success for Donation Coder

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tinjaw
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« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2008, 08:39:48 AM »

I don't know of a way to get the computer to turn on automatically when it gets power.

It is a setting in almost all BIOSs in the Power Management section. I don't remember what it is labeled and I am at work right now so I can't open the BIOS, but it will be something like On Loss of Power or On Return of Power. The options are usually

  • on
  • off
  • last state
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