I used to do some programming for Universal Remote Control
and they have some pretty advanced programs, but not sure how available their stuff is to the general public outside of purchasing a system.
There are many other companies doing the same, probably a bunch that are much more advanced than URC, too. Bose probably has a bunch of home automation stuff, too.
Once some hardware to control the lights, power outlets, alarm system, or whatever, you'll use either the program that comes with it, or go in search of a third party or open source application to manage how "HAL" should respond when you get home.
If you have a cable or satellite provider for your TV service, then check out their DVR programming options. FE, I have Time Warner and I can use my android phone to look at, add/modify any of my upcoming recordings.
Good luck, and don't let anyone tell you your project isn't worthwhile!