Topic: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

I would like to get feedback for an Idea.  Has anyone considered using Outlook  to trigger events in a NION?  The Outlook Calendar is an intuitive and easy to use interface that most people are already familiar with.  Since outlook allows custom forms to be developed and VB script to be written it seems plausible to create a scheduler to trigger events in a NION.  Add the far reaching capabilities of calendars on an exchange server, and it seems as though you would have a powerful event scheduler.

My basic idea (this is a simplified process it can obviously be made more complex)  for the process would be:
1. User creates and event in outlook
2. Using a custom outlook form they select from a list of commands (derived from a database) they can send to the NION when the event occurs. 
3. The commands to send are written to a database with the outlook event id. 
4. A VB program running in the background would constantly be looking for when the next outlook event occurs. 
5. When an event occurs the commands to send would be read from the database and sent to the NION using Telnet RATC via the VB program.

The objectives would be:
A. Easy to Use and User Friendly.
B. Does not require outlook to be running for an event to trigger.
C. Flexible enough to send any RATC command.
D. Background VB program is reliable and stable.

I do not know much about VB scripting in outlook (or in general), but this seems reasonable.  I am just trying to think of a simple solution that does not require a ControlMatrix, but is more powerful/intuitive than the built-in scheduler.



Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

I've found the Nware's scheduler quite capable and straightforward, especially if you are familiar with cron. No ControlMatrix required. I once built a front end to the scheduler that allowed the user to create scheduled events that could be 'targeted' to recall any previously stored presets. Perhaps this is similar to what you are trying to do, if so all the user needs to use is Kiosk.


Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

Let me add a sidebar to this thread.

This is a topic that is never covered as well as I would like during the MM Seminar, so it is common for people to not realize that there are two parts to the Scheduler, the Scheduler itself, and the Schedule Generator.  Connect the output node of the Generator to the input node of the Scheduler, emulate, and you will see that it can be much more intuitive.


Make it intuitive, never leave them guessing.


Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

While I agree that the NWare Scheduler + Schedule Generator is good, and useful, and fully understand its capabilities, I am looking at some ideas beyond what is typical, more towards a merged AV/IT integrated solution.  A. Has this been done before? (Don't want to reinvent the wheel), B. Is it plausible, and C. How could it be executed.     

My idea stems from the fact that most of our resort clients use outlook to schedule events, say, for example the Event Coordinators add a Calendar Event that a live concert will be held in restaurant x at 7pm.  They could add the "Sound System" as an attendee, which would send an e-mail to the sound system administrator. 

My program would simply allow the sound system administrator to select that outlook event and use a custom form to turn off the zones in restaurant x.  Now if we zoom out and look at the complexities of typical resort and the quantities of events that occur on a macro scale Outlook seems to make more sense then the NWare Scheduler.

Also think of the fact that an outlook appointment has a start and an end so rather than creating multiple one shot triggers you could restore all your controls when the event ends, or even have multiple scenes running at specific times within the bounds of an event.


Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

Sorry, I've never used Outlook. What do you mean by 'custom form'? I could see something like a web page built with some sort of scripting language(PHP, Perl, etc) as a front end for cron or maybe at. You could build something like a RATC client daemon that stays connected to a RATC service and sends requested commands. The scheduled events then send their commands to this daemon via IPC(pipe on the local file system). You could get fancy adding a database to store more complicated event options and automated emails confirming or report errors with the execution of events.

Sounds fun...


Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

I think this is a very interesting idea JRG. I am not aware of any instances that this has been done, but I do not see any reason it could not be done.

I also do not see any reason that this could not be made to work. Rather than even using any of the scheduler stuff in NWare, I imagine that the Outlook Exchange server could be set up to initiate a telnet session with the NION system and pass the appropriate commands via RATC and then logout and terminate the telnet session as events are required to happen.  (I guess it could probably stay logged in if you wanted to...)

The real benefit to this sort of integration is that in these organizations everyone already knows how to use Outlook and it is already installed in everyones computers.

This is an interesting solution to the control situation in these environments.

Josh Millward
Burnt Orange Studios


Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

Just an Update. I downloaded Visual Basic 2008 Express, and have successfully created an interface that connects to outlook gets appointments and then allows you to assign NION commands to the appointment.  When the appointment occurs, the program opens a telent session and sends the commands to the NION!

Its a good start, I am now looking into implement the form into outlook, as programming in outlook is not as easy since it does not use VBA for custom forms it uses VB Script which is a slightly different language.

Once I develop it further I will post an update with screen shots.


Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler


Is there a good reason you're hooked on using Outlook.  It seems like you're driving around the block to get the mail (pun intended).  In other words, if you're already having to write something in VB, why not just write the scheduler itself?  Outlook is a very large install package to do a simple task.




Re: Microsoft Outlook as Event Scheduler

The primary reason for using outlook is two fold.
A. Most people area familiar with the UI and use the program on a daily basis and already have it installed on their desktop.
B. The tie into the exchange server makes it very powerful.

AMX and Crestron both have tie-ins to Outlook for these same reasons.

Also, as of last week I have successfully implemented a version of this on a project.  It works flawlessly.  I saved many hours of programming in VB by being able to do simple queries of the outlook database, rather than re-creating the scheduling portion in VB (which I did consider doing).   Initially the connection to Outlook seemed daunting, but in the end turned out to be easiest part of the programming. 

The client has been extremely impressed with the results. My firm is currently working on marketing the software as it can be easily configured to talk to any RS-232 or Telnet device.

Here is how the end product works:

1. User creates appointment in Outlook
2. Using a custom form within the Outlook appointment form the user creates Scenes, and then selects which commands to send when each Scene occurs.
3. The background VB program reads the Outlook calendar finds appointments with scenes and then sends the commands when the scenes occur.