Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hack to fix bug in the BLAN Homeseer plugin

For some reason a couple versions back the BLAN plugin stopped updating the value with the status of a monitored device changed. At least as far as switching the value back to on when the device comes back online. The following script looks at all the devices with location2 set to BLAN and sets the value based on the status string. I have an event set up to run it every 10 minutes.

' Hack to make Blan devices have a status value
' call from a set or value changed event
Public Sub statusBlan(ByVal refID As Object)
    Dim status As String = hs.DeviceString(refID)
    Dim oldVal = hs.DeviceValue(refID)

    If (InStr(status, "Offline") > 0) Then
        hs.SetDeviceValueByRef(refID, 0, False)
    ElseIf (InStr(status, "Online") > 0) Then
        hs.SetDeviceValueByRef(refID, 100, False)
        hs.SetDeviceValueByRef(refID, 50, False)
    End If

    Dim newVal = hs.DeviceValue(refID)

    If Not oldVal = newVal Then
        hs.WriteLog("statusBlan", "Fixed value of BLAN device " & refID & " with status of " & status & " from " & oldVal & " to " & newVal)
    End If
End Sub

Public Sub fixBlan(Parms As Object)
    Dim label As String = "fixBlan"
        Dim lowBatVal As Double = 100  'start at 100% max for low battery value
        Dim dv, dvLowBat As Scheduler.Classes.DeviceClass
        Dim EN As Scheduler.Classes.clsDeviceEnumeration = hs.GetDeviceEnumerator  'Get all devices

        If EN Is Nothing Then
            hs.WriteLog(label, "Error getting Enumerator")
            Exit Sub
        End If

        Do  'check each device that was enumerated
            dv = EN.GetNext
            If dv Is Nothing Then  'No device, so quit
                hs.WriteLog(label, "No devices found")
                Exit Sub
            End If
            'hs.WriteLog(label, "location:" & dv.Location(Nothing) & ":location2:" & dv.Location2(Nothing) & ":InStr:" & InStr(UCase(dv.Location2(Nothing)), "BLAN"))
            If InStr(UCase(dv.Location2(Nothing)), "BLAN") > 0 Then  'Only work with devices in location BLAN
                'hs.WriteLog(label, "ref:" & dv.ref(Nothing) & ":Address:" & dv.Address(Nothing) & ":value:" & dv.devValue(Nothing) & ":location:" & dv.Location(Nothing) & ":location2:" & dv.Location2(Nothing) & ":device name:" & dv.Name(Nothing) & ":type:" & dv.Device_Type_String(Nothing))
            End If
        Loop Until EN.Finished

    Catch ex As Exception
        hs.WriteLog("Error", "Exception in script " & label & ":  " & ex.Message)
    End Try
End Sub

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Multiple hubs or all in one?

I've been seeing this question posted a lot lately as people have been taken in by the Echo Plus ads. I ususally reply with something like
The starter kit with a bridge and 2 bulbs + Echo 2 is actually cheaper than the Echo Plus. You can do way more with it and it leaves you open to add an Automation hub later without having to relink all your Hue stuff.  And a link to the article The Amazon Echo Plus Is a Horrible Smarthome Hub
(Note it looks like the V1 starter kit is getting hard to find. The V2 kit is $20 more making the total cost $20 more than the Echo Plus though you get an extra bulb so the "hub" is costing only about $10 really.) 

Problem is hub, like "works with Alexa", is a vague term these days. I've heard it used for anything from a bridge from something like a Z-Wave network to WiFi, like Homeseer's Z-Net, up to a PC like I use running home automation software and connected to multiple networks of multiple protocols. BTW as someone pointed out Ethernet hubs are yet another thing. Pretty no one uses them anymore but in case some misguided person mentions them you can find a good over view of Ethernet hub vs switch vs router here.

As for what you need, it depends on what you want to do. Again what people call automation is anything from an Echo controlling a WiFi device (which is really just remote control) up to systems that learn on their own. Kind of like drones that way. It is all about interoperability now. I think the best way to look at it as like your entertainment setup. If a Smart TV does everything you need that is fine. You might have wasted some money but if you are OK with that then it is still fine. If you want surround sound then you are going to need a receiver / home theater system linked in some how. Same with if you want to stream stuff your TV does not have an app for or the app sucks or you just do not trust the TV apps to be maintained then you want a streaming box like Roku. Same with DVR, Blu-ray.... So if you want full control of your Hue stuff you want their hub/bridge. Plus once you have the Hue hub you can link it to multiple things. For instance you decide later you want some Z-wave stuff and add a SmartThings hub. You can link the SmartThings hub to the Hue "hub" as well and control your lights directly from SmartThings or Alexa. You could connect the bulbs directly to an Echo Plus but then you could not control them with SmartThings. Or connect them to SmartThings and still be able to control them from the Echo but in both cases you lose features you get with the Hue "hub". Same if you add a Harmony "hub" in as another control interface.

You might also want to read "Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Hub?"

Monday, September 18, 2017

I must be missing something

Seems like the world is following in the footsteps of a Rube Goldberg comic.
For instance I've seen posted, multiple times now, people putting Echo Dots in their cars to stream music despite the fact it need to use their phone's data to stream. Why not just use the phone?
Another example is one going around of people BUYING the OLD (no longer made) IR to X10 interfaces and a Harmony hub to control X10 devices from their Alexa! I mean you can get a version 2 SmartThings hub for $50 and Z-wave switches as cheap as $25 for a single or $37 for a double outlet so why buy a Harmony hub for $75+ (more if you want it with the remote) PLUS for another $30-$50 to control up to 16 devices max? Not only more cost, unless you have many devices to control, the extra hops make it more error prone, X10 itself has serious issues with many modern things interfering with it's power line signals and if anything breaks you are probably going to have to dig up a used replacement on Ebay and hope it works.
Let me be clear, I used X10 for decades generally working fine till around 2010 when it started driving me nuts being generally being flaky. And automation is my thing so I have all the test equipment and such. I'd often spend a day back then running around with test equipment, plugging and unplugging stuff while monitoring signal levels, tracking down what device was messing my signal that day. In the end I had noise filters on almost as many devices as I controlled. Insteon tried to keep things going by adding RF connections into the X10 mix but it did not help my set up stability at all. Either because of legacy X10 stuff in the mix or something else I could not see. In 2014 I finally decided to try one of the new hubs and never looked back. So it boggles my mind people are still trying to work with X10. It is like someone trying to explain how a PDA and a flip phone are better than a cheap smart phone. BTW a nice write up on the diffs between Insteon, Z-Wave and ZigBee can be found here. Note the chart at the bottom showing what the top 10 security company support. You really want to keep what devices are going to work with your next hub since odds are you will be upgrading at some point.
I can even see stuff like this Google Home built from a Raspberry Pi as a learning project but don't tell me it is a cheap Google Home. $54 for the kit is cheaper than a Google Home but assumes you have a Pi 3 you do not need for anything else or you need to add another $50 to that and what you end up with is not near as easy to use as the $100 - $129 Google Home. Rumor is there a Dot like Home in the works that will be as cheap as the $35-$50 Dot. So if you want a Home instead of an Echo but have an issue with the cost, you might want to just wait for that.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Arris cable modem issue / securing your home network

If you have an Arris cable modem, especially if you have AT&T internet you should read this. It shows why you ALWAYS want a router between you and your cable modem.BTW TWC uses Arris too but unclear at this time is have same bugs.

To check to see if your modem is exposed even it not an Arris

The easiest way to check is to go to Steve Gibson's ShieldsUP and see if any ports are responding on your cable modem.
Check "All service ports" then a custom port scan on port 49955 61001 49152 8080

You want to see all green

Stuff to fix / check

Lastly if you have never changed your routers password or see ports open in the above tests from a browser go to the Arris web interface
Change the password if still using the default. (Basic settings -> login settings). Make it something random and at least 12 characters.

On LAN Settings Enable UPnP should be unchecked. (Allows stuff to open holes in your firewall.)

I would turn off the WiFi on the modem if you have any other access points. All WiFi should be encrypted no matter what provides it or be ahead of any router you use to protect your devices.

If you have something you need to access outside the home like a webcam first find and add your router to the reserved IP list so its address will not change.

Add a port forward at the modem to the router the cam (or device / PC) is on

If you have multiple cams / devices / ports you can forward a range like this.
You will then need to forward each port to the correct cam / device on your router. That is diff depending on brand and even version so you will need to goggle that bit if it is not obvious from the router's interface. Look for something that says port forwarding. For instance on a Unifi router the instructions look like this.

One last thing

You actually want to have a couple routers. One for your PCs and phones and one for all the rest of your stuff like Blu-ray players, cams, TiVos, home automation hubs .... All the things that might not be all that secure. As an added measure you set that router's firewall to only allow those things you KNOW need to call out to the internet to do so. There have been a lot of reports lately for instance of webcams being shipped with malware on them. If they can not call home or be connected to directly from outside they can not be used in bot nets or as platforms to attack your other devices.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Multiple Harmony Remotes - updated

My goal was to add a Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote to my Logitech Harmony Ultimate All in One remote with hub. Looked simple, since the remote / hub combo on sale was almost the same price as either alone I got the bundle and figured I'd use the second hub in the bed room to control the TV and window AC unit in there. As an added bonus that would give me backups should the main hub or remote go out. From my basic research this all seemed doable. As it turns out:
You can add multiple remotes to a hub BUT only one can be of the touch screen type like the Ultimate or Elite. This chart tries to explain that but I did not get it the first time through. If you try and add a second touchscreen remote it just replaces the first one though both show in the app and no error is given. (In fact even after I moved the second Ultimate remote back to the second hub it still showed in the desktop app as a third remote till I removed it.) What you need is a special remote, the Logitech Harmony Smart Control Add-On Companion Programmable Remote for Harmony Ultimate Hub. This pretty much works. Since there is no screen and only 3 activity buttons you are limited to 6 activities (short and long press of each button) and just basic controls. At about this point it hit me that the hubs do most of their controlling via WiFi instead of IR so I set up the second hub with the remote it came with and cloned the devices and activities from the first set to it I might be good. Unfortunately controlling devices from 2 hubs can cause state confusion in the hub like I've seen when using the original remotes with the Harmony. Plus I should note here my Onkyo receiver, Roku and Fire TV can be controlled by either hub but my TiVos, Blu-Ray players and HDMI switch can not.

Mapping on Companion remote is not quite right either for my Roamio OTA. For example in TiVo control mode, the MENU button on the Companion remote does not map to the TiVo button like it does on the touchscreen. In fact it, EXIT and DVR are not mapped at all. I mapped MENU to TiVo to match the touchscreen and Exit to Advance since Advance is only on the touchscreen on the Ultimate remote.
[update oddly when I added old Roamio Pro the MENU button was mapped to TiVo on both remotes]

To do this mapping it needs to be done from the phone app.
Select you hub
Select the MENU button in the upper left corner.
Select the Activity you want to customize
Select Customize remote
Select the remote you want to customize.
On the picture select the button you want to remap
Select the device you want it to map to and then the command on the device (you have choice here of mapping short or long press)
Press > at top of page to save (will say syncing)
you can repeat to map other press here if you wish
Press > at top of page to continue which gets you back to button selection
If done mapping select > (which seems to sync again) takes you back to remote select
If done select < to get back to activity select
Select < or > to get back to settings
Press X in upper right corner and it will sync one last time.

Another issue was I have 3 security camera consoles and 3 other PCs I like to be able to swap to via my remotes that are on a HDMI switch leading into the receiver. I was able to setup activities for each. Adding to the TiVo, DVD, Roku and Fire TV though that makes 10 activities which is no problem on the touchscreen remotes but the Companion only lets you map 6. So I though why not use the above to make the 6 PCs 1 activity and map the number buttons to control the switch. This seems to work fine.

One last note. My HDMI switch is a Monoprice 8X1 Enhanced Powered HDMI Switcher w/ Remote and is great. I've had it installed for 4 years now without an issue. For some reason the Harmony hub keeps turning it off even though it is set to never be turned off. I finally went in and remapped the power toggle command to the OSD command on the original remote which actually does nothing with this model.

One other note. The day after I got all the above nice and sorted lightning took out my Onkyo. So I did a patch around till I can get the Onkyo fixed. I thought I'd just stick 8 of the 10 devices on the switch but I was then depressed to find the phone app did not seem to let me do this. Fortunately I remembered seeing you could select more than 3 devices for activity in the desktop app and that indeed did work. I keep finding other bits you can only do in either the phone app or the desktop app. So before giving up you should always try both.

Update: 9/1/2019

Note you should also look at this post about the firmware changes and how to get it working again with Homeseer.

Also if you are looking for a remote to carry about you might want to look at You will most likely need to manually teach it all the IR commands, it does not do macros, Only does 10 devices and only does IR but you can hang as many remotes as you wish off the hub so you can have one in every room and it has a much longer range then the Harmonies. There is a newer model that is supposed to have more range and controls 18 devices but I have not tried it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hue lighting vs Z-Wave - you probably want both

Common applications

I was just talking to a guy about which is a better fit. He said wall switches because most of the lights in his house a single switch controls all the ceiling lights in a room. Could be as many as 6 bulbs on switch so he is saying wall switches are cheaper. Wiring wise, my home is just the opposite. So is my shop though my barn is wired like he described. My barn is wired like a office with sectional fluorescent lighting because you do not want to step on something sleeping in a shadow. Other than the barn and some outdoor lights almost none of the lights are multiple bulbs. Almost every one is controlled by multiple switches. My house and shop are both very open plan with vaulted ceilings and 2 to 3 doors on almost every room. My living room for example has 4 ceiling lights and a fan light combo. Only 2 of those ceiling lights are on the same circuit and all of them are wired to 2 to 3 switches so you can control them from related entrances. Any home designed to be energy efficient would be done similar since you do not want to be turning on all the lights when you just need one and you do not want to have to cross a dark room to turn on a light. But even if your room is wired with 6 bulbs on a single switch, being able to control that group lights individually or as group like adding Hue bulbs would do would be seem to be an added feature over the wall switch as well.


First if you are looking at smart lighting I'd kind of assume you have, or will get, some sort of home automation hub. Not long ago I replaced several hubs, including a SmartThings, awhile back with one huge Homeseer server that oversees all 3 buildings. So the real question is never a Hue vs a Z-Wave hub. Hue is an add on not a central controller any more than Nest or Echo is. You can sort of do some limited stuff but again if you are reading this you have probably already out grown those limitations. Personally I have most my controlled lights linked with motion detectors so the lights come on when I enter and off after 10 minutes of no detected motion. I can also control them using Echo Dots around the house and a few are also linked to local z-wave and Hue remotes. Another advantage of Hue is they can be controlled by multiple controllers since it is in effect a WiFi enabled device when the Hue hub is used. Note the SmartThings hubs can talk to the Hue lights directly but people seem to have less issues using the hub instead.

So bottom line, the only bits that differ between using Hues or not are the Hue stuff and the wall switches. If you have even 1 Hue light you are probably going to have the Hue hub so it is really a non factor after the first bulb but lets looks at your example of a first time Hue install 2 bulbs on 1 switch:

  • 453761 Hue Lux 60W Equivalent A19 LED Personal Wireless Lighting Starter Kit sets you back $40 and that is really all you need to turn them off and on via phone, Echo ect. You just leave the switches on. You can turn them on locally by flipping the switch off and back on. Now this brings up what I see as the only real downsides to Hue.  1) if you turn them off at the switch they are off and 2) they all come on if the power goes out and back on. Though a flash outage or brown out does not seem to flip them on. 
  • if you want local dimming or to be able to turn them off locally add a 455394 Hue Wireless Dimmer Kit, 1 Dimmer and 1 Hue White Bulb at $35 yes but note what does yield you an extra bulb to use else where too. So you really need to compare that to 2 wall switches which would be $5 more. Plus the Z-wave dimmer only will work with certain bulbs. If you want dimmable you really out to go with Hue.
  • Lastly if you have family that forgets and flips switches off add a Mitzvah Family 1007 Magnetic Switch and Outlet Cover for Toggle Switches, 6 Pieces at $20 that works out to $3.33 EACH
  • Now after you have the hub I found 3 packs of 455295 Hue White A19 LED Bulbs for as little as $22. Looks like on Amazon right now the best prices are on 2 packs for $18 but also watch for 3 packs. Always good to grab extras when they are cheap.
  • Or you could get a Hue bulb with remote + the switch cover $38.

Note assumes you have usable bulbs for the switches already. If not you need to factor in at least $5 a bulb for the wall switches as well and their might be issues with dimming them.

Also some other bulbs work with Hue. For instance I have a GE Link Smart LED Light Bulb, PAR38 Floodlight (3000K), 90-Watt Equivalent that seems to work find with Hue though its short neck and wide face limit the fixtures it will work in. I got it for just $14 though on sale.

Now you could get something like the GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb, LB60Z-1 for $17.50 but then you have all the same issues as the Hue bulbs and none of the advantages. Plus each bulb is twice as much.

If you start talking 3 way you are looking at more like $60 per circuit going with wall switches. $80 for a 4 way ect. Plus I ran into issues with a 3 way setup for example where the only bulb that would work was an incandescent because it needed a trickle current through the bulb like the old X10 stuff did.  

All the above said I still like wall switches for specialty lighting like track lighting or even flood lights as even the white Hue floods are still on the pricey side at $22+ each Same with their 468926 Hue White Ambiance E12 Candelabra 6 Watt Connected LED Bulb. In both cases the applications generally call for 2 to 4 bulbs and in the case of floods I want something brighter than 60 watt equivalent. Not to mention they are not rated for outdoor use.

Research update: what about Ikea's TRADFRI lighting

It does look like it might be an affordable alternative to Hue once it is more supported given the prices I hear people are finding. Right now comparing the Ikea site prices to Amazon's Hue prices Hue is slightly cheaper. Alexa, HomeKit and Google Home support is supposed to be coming soon.If you are hardcore DIY there is a SmartThings hack out there to get it to work. And Homeseer looks to have a plug-in in the works. So it might be a question of waiting or taking a risk that this will work for you some day but it is not ready for the average consumer yet. Note Ikea does not have an outdoor option yet but they do have a track lighting one. Though again at $20 / bulb that can get pricey real quick. Their candelabra option LED bulb E12 400 lumen is a cheaper than Hue $15.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quick work around to Google Home - IFTTT bug

If you want to set up a take a memo applet like my Take a memo you have the problem that the created date is not getting added to the sheet. To get around this you need to add a trigger to the sheet. To do this open the script editor

Paste this in the script editor
function onEdit() {
  // Use start & stop to time operations
  var start = new Date().getTime();
  var active = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSheet().getDataRange();

  // We want the size of the sheet, so will select ranges across and down the
  // whole sheet. Cannot use getDataRange(), as it selects only occupied cells.
  var numCols = active.getLastColumn()
  var numRows = active.getLastRow();

  var stop = new Date().getTime();
  var timeToMeasure = (stop-start);
  //Logger.log("Sheet is "+numCols+" by "+numRows+".");
  start = new Date().getTime();
  var cell = active.getCell(numRows ,3);
  cell.setNumberFormat("MMM/dd/yyyy").setValue(Utilities.formatDate(new Date(), "CST", 'MMM dd yyyy HH:mm:ss'));
  //cell.setNumberFormat('MMM dd yyyy HH:mm:ss');
//  cell.setNumberFormat("MMM/dd/yyyy");

  var stop = new Date().getTime();
  var timeToStore = (stop-start);  

 //   Browser.msgBox("Sheet is "+numCols+" by "+numRows+"."
 //                 +" ("+timeToMeasure+"ms to measure, "+timeToStore+"ms to store.)");

Run the script so it will ask you permission to link by clicking on the run icon.

Now open the triggers editor
Add a trigger like this
Now when IFTTT adds a row to the sheeet (or any edit is made) at time stamp will be placed in column C of the bottom used row.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

First Look: Google Home is still a work in progress

Google Home is not quiet as polished as the Amazon Echo For instance the Echo will search your network for devices while the Home you have to tell it which devices. Homeseer is not supported yet even though it is listed on their web site. Though the Home plug-in for Homeseer is supposed to be ready soon.

The main thing that I bought it for is the one thing it does do that Echo does not. Pass a string to IFTTT. So you can for instance make an applet to log your dreams or ideas you have. And the recognition seems a bit better than Echo too. But do not get too excited because not all actions take a parameter. For instance you can not set up an applet to run any event you say. You still have to do one for each event. Hopefully that will get sorted when the Homeseer plug-in for Home gets released.

Update 8/8/2017

Unfortunately Homeseer still is not linking but I have to say I'm liking this name your own trigger phrase feature more and more. It basically lets you add skills using IFTTT as long as you just want to send a message some where. For instance I used to have an IFTTT applet set up so when I'd add a to-do via Alexa it would get added to my Remember the Milk inbox. The problems were at first that meant using some extra channel to get it from the Amazon list to Remember the Milk. In my case Twitter which meant I got a DM notification every time. Then Remember the Milk got a skill about the same time the trigger word "remember" seemed to stop working. So for example, instead of "Alexa, remember, pick up milk" it became having to say "Alexa, tell Remember The Milk to remind me to pick up the milk at 5pm". I would still need to clear out my Amazon to-do list. Todist on the other hand has a much less polished interface than Remember the Milk BUT it interfaces directly with Amazon so anything I do in my Amazon shopping and to-do lists syncs without any plumbing on my part. So now I can say  "Alexa, add 'pick up the milk' to my to-do list" and get it added without all the notifications.

Now compare that with Google Home. I just create an IFTTT  applet that lets me say "Hey Google, remind me to pick up milk" and it adds it to my Todoist inbox with a priority, due now and a couple tags. The phrasing just flows. Like the memo one above it is nice to be able to pick my own trigger phrase. Note to call an IFTTT from Alexa directly like that you have to say "Alexa, trigger [phrase]" and [phrase] just tells it which applet to run and it does not get passed on. Plus Google Home seems to be better at transcribing text than Alexa. For instance for testing I tried to add "convert homeseer counters to objects". Google got it right. Alexa transcribed it as "for home seer counters".

Updated 10/20/2017

Still can not get Awair or Homeseer to link.

I did get Harmony linked but I can only link in one of the hubs. By default you have to start everything "ask harmony to" as in "Hey Google, ask harmony to turn on hulu". If you want to just say "turn on hulu" like you would do with Alexa then you need to create a shortcut. Note if you have a Chromecast linked by default "turn on Hulu" will try and stream to it. Also when you set up short cuts use the mic to input the shortcut or it may not work. This is a bit more of a pain to set up but it does let you choose what device to play what on though since Fire TV seems to be unsupported in might not make that much difference. Unfortunately you can't just create a shortcut like the "Remind me to" one above but at least you can create a simple one like "to do list" which will bring up the Todoist app which will prompt you from there so you do not have remember which app to bring up and how.

I should probably note here too in order to change the friendly names in Google Home you currently need to unlink and relink Harmony. There is not edit. In Alexa you can edit the names names now of smart home devices, groups and scenes. Scenes is were you will find the friendly names for Harmony activities, channels and devices.

Updated 12/31/2017

After seeing posts in the Homeseer Facebook group claiming it worked with Home I decided to give it another go. This time I did get Homeseer to link accounts and import 83 controls which is short to all of them. It still seems to not grab room info. IIt appears to have pulled in about half of the Hue lights and dimmers (for some reason) on the house hub and none from the shop and barn hubs which my Homeseer knows about. No groups but the all lights on hub. So about 10% of the Hue "things" Homeseer shows. This is fewer than Home pulled from SmartThings months back. (I still have SmartThings hubs for some legacy stuff and experiments.) It does appear to have imported in most (maybe all but hard to tell with so many and the diff in interfaces) Z-wave Switch Binary devices from the 4 networks connected to my Homeseer, my Nest thermostat and virtual devices. It did see the Lifx bulb but not the Ranchio, Harmony hubs, Sonos speakers or Onkyo that are WiFi controlled by my Homeseer. One more point. While linking stuff to rooms I ran into a few problems. When adding a new room the rooms got double added some how. I had to go back and remove the duplicated rooms that had no devices in them. Sometimes adding devices to a room did not save either and I had to go back and link them again. Also it appears you can only add a device to a room. That is fine for filtering lists but if you are grouping for control, which is the case here, that makes it not very useful.

BTW Awair still asks for your login and then just goes back to the devices screen with out error or linking. Tried Lifx and TP-link for first time now that I have a devices to test with and it imported fine. Thought my Nest account was linked but was shows as not so relinked it without issue. Note it took me 3 tries (that Google Home said it understood) before I could turn up the heat on my Nest Thermostat. "Tell Nest to set the temperature to 70" did not seem to actually do anything despite it saying it was doing it. "Set the living room temperature to 70" did seem to work but it could be it just took that long for the first command to make it though all the hops.

For added fun I thought I'd try relinking my Hue account to Home to see if that would allow Home to see the other hubs or just switch hubs to get control of the shop lights. Unfortunately it gets all the way to the final step and flashes a quick message about failing to update. After doing this a few times it did actually update despite the error. But it still only sees the house hub. I'm guessing because when you log into the Hue web interface you can only view one hub (like the official Hue app) and Google goes though the cloud instead of talking directly to the hubs like Alexa does.

Updating devices list

You can now (Dec 2017) say "sync my devices" to Google Assistant (on your phone, Google Home, etc) to refresh all of your smart home services. For example, if you have Philips Hue lights and WeMo outlets, Google will pull the full list of your devices from those services. You can also just refresh a certain category, with something like "sync my lights."

Others thoughts

Granted the landscape is changing fast but here are some articles of where things were at times.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Added Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, 8 Zone 2nd Generation

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, 8 Zone 2nd Generation, Works with Amazon Alexa

I bought mine the end of May when they were $50 off which made it as cheap as any of the other I was looking at and it was a done package unlike many of the others. Though some of the others, like OpenSprinker options, looked like they might do more IF you can put in the time. For instance you will probably want to mount it outside which means getting a water proof case. You can get the Rachio Outdoor Enclosure, for 2nd Generation Sprinkler Controller for the Rachio but will need to use something generic for OpenSprinkler like Orbit 57095 Sprinkler System Weather-Resistant Outdoor-Mounted Controller Timer Box Cover. You will also need from valves and a manifold. You can go with something mostly preassembled like Orbit 57253 3-Valve Heavy Duty Preassembled Manifold but the downside of this is the valves have connectors that are proprietary so you are locked in. I went with Orbit 57280 Female Pipe Threaded Auto Inline Sprinkler Valve, 3/4" that left all my options open down the road. I also used unions to make them simple to swap out. I also added a dump valve at the bottom so I can easily drain the system in the winter.

Some of the other bits:

Dixon BA776 Brass Fitting, Adapter, 3/4" GHT Male x 3/4" NPTF Male
Dixon BMA976 Brass Fitting, Adapter, 3/4" GHT Female x 3/4" NPTF Male
Homewerks Worldwide 1-in dia PVC SCH 40 Union
AMERICAN VALVE 1-in PVC Sch 40 Socket In-Line Ball Valve
LASCO 1-in Dia x 3/4-in Dia PVC Sch 40 Bushing
LASCO 1-in Dia x 3/4-in Dia PVC Sch 40 Adapter (not pic on website is 3/4 to 3/4 as of this writing)
Charlotte Pipe 5-Pack 1-in dia PVC Sch 40 Tees
LASCO 1-in Dia 90-Degree PVC Sch 40 Slip Elbow
1-in x 10-ft 450 Schedule 40 PVC Pipe
Yardsmith Yardsmith Zinc Goose Neck Hose Connector
Blue Hawk 0.6-in x 43-ft Plumber's Tape

In the end 4 zone's worth of plumbing will set you back another $150 or so.

Some screen shots

This is what the web dashboard looks like
There is a ton of info here. The calendar shows the days it is planning on watering, weather info, several types of histories and your zones. clicking on a zone lets you set a bunch of parameters to dial in the best water usage calculations. Note it only calculates water savings with fixed schedules with weather intelligence enabled. Flex gives you the best saving and moisture optimization but it also kind of makes it hard to compare since it has no idea what your old schedule was. What you need to do is look at how much water you are using per minute in the watering history. In my case that appears to be about 2.15 gallons per minute (my zone 4 uses about 1/3 the gallons/minute the others do but lets keep it simple). Say my old system watered each zone for 10 minutes a day every other day. So at the end of 8 days it watered for 40 minutes times 4 days or 160 minutes. At the end of 8 days you can see how many minutes it watered, take the difference and multiple that times you gallons/minute to see what you saved. Granted it would be nice if they let you input that in your preferences so they could calculate it for you.

You can even add a customized sprinkler type. I found the Precip Rate for a soaker hose in one of the forums.
Note it appears you can only edit a Custom Nozzle via the phone app and can not remove them in either interface. Otherwise the phone app has similar functionality though the layout is different.

One thing I should point out is the blue icon in the lower right. This brings up a remote for manual control.

This is mainly useful in the phone app for testing and turning off the sprinklers when you are in the garden doing stuff.

Why would I want this over a simple timer setup?

The big thing is Flex watering that takes weather, soil type, sprinkler type and area covered into account. Instead of watering a zone for a set amount of time then the next, it calculates how much water should be needed given all the factors them divides that into sub cycles and rotates watering the zones to reduce run off. This might make getting accidentally hit by unexpected watering more likely but should reduce water usage and keep the plants at optimal moisture levels.

Then there are all the integrations.

First off you can link into a near by PWS weather station. If you have one that can upload data to PWS Weather you can tie it straight in. For instance for Netatmo or if you have a Meteobridge. I have my Meteobridge connect Davis Vue linked. They suggest using a pro station near by but out here in the hills that station could be flooding while I'm bone dry and vice versa. There were a few personal stations within a mile or so of me but since I have 3 weather stations online I know how accurate mine are being.

Alexa has a skill to talk directly to it so you can override the watering. With flex watering this can come in real handy. It also supports Google Home.

It talks to Nest which it is supposed to turn on the sprinklers if your Nest Protect senses a fire.

Of course there is IFTTT integration which lets you talk to lots of things. 

Homeseer can talk to it directly with the ultrarachio3 HSPI plugin. The plugin creates 55 devices (with 8 zone Rachio) that lets you monitor and control everything. Note triggering a Homeseer event via IFTTT versus this plugin appears to be about 10 minutes behind the plugin. So the plugin might well be telling you that watering has stopped before IFTTT has told you is has begun. 

It also talks directly to SmartThings. Detailed instruction for that can be found here.

I'm not seeing anyway to make it work Vera. It is a Wi-Fi interface though so that is pretty much expected. Same goes for the closed Lowes Iris system. Rachio does have a public API though so you could probably cook your own if you have the time.

Next step move my Davis soil moisture sensors to match the new zones and get the main unit better sun exposure. That will let me better tweak the settings and monitor for problems.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nest / WiFi Adventure

I've been merging my IoT and AV class C networks into 1 class B network so the automation can talk to the home entertainment devices easier and bring back order to my IP addresses for better filter of what has access to what. For the most part it has just been tedious updating the info close to 200 devices. While I was reconfiguring the house WiFi APs (Access Points) , I set them to enable roaming (AP swap you off to closest AP automatically) which in the case of Unifi APs assumes WAP2 encryption. Most devices handled this just fine but others had a real problem with it. For instance my wired (AC powered) Nest Protect continued to work fine but the battery powered one and the thermostat, in the house, both switched to the shop network I had not changed yet. So technically they were connected but not with enough signal to actually work. Some devices just reconnected no problem while others required a reboot, reconfig or, as in the case of the Nests, flat out refused to connect. So I've had to forget the roaming / zero hand off setup and use a configuration that support multiple encryption methods.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Note to self, NEVER make changes within an hour of bed time.

Went to move my house Z-NET onto the new network as the last thing before bed. Almost 3 hours later I'm back online. 😞 Part of the problem was according the the user forum all I needed to do to update the IP was restart Homeseer. When I did that it asked to install and update which I decided to do. Unfortunately I moved my instance to a SD awhile back to improve performance (the logging was killing the drive that also was recording security cam footage) and it seems the upgrade was confused and wiped most of my install and put a new instance on the old drive. Fortunately having a paranoid bent I backup my Homeseer instance every time the server is restarted so I was able to get a list of the files still in the folder newer than my back up saved off. Then I copied the files in form the new instance and finally the saved files back in. That sorted. I think at least. But it did not find the new IP for the Z-NET. Not surprising since I'm moving from 192.168.* IPs to 10.* IPs. After a bit of file scanning I found the IP needs changed in \Program Files (x86)\HomeSeer HS3\Config\Z-Wave.ini so after changing that and a restart I'm finally back in biz. Time for bed.

Friday, March 3, 2017

New Amazon Echo Skills!!!

I went into the Alexa app to link to my Harmony since the Harmony / Homeseer link has been a bit iffy lately and OMG the stuff that has been added since I last looked! 23 PAGES of just smart home / automation type skills alone. Wireless Tag even has a skill now.  I hear Vera is planning to have a skill soon. They look to be one of the few that does not have a skill already so they better get moving.  I only have my Harmony, Nest, SmartThings (as backup Hue channel) and Homeseer devices linked up. The Wireless Tag skill is only useful for changing settings and how often do you need that? That gives me 109 devices connected to my Echo now. Note if you want to trigger Homeseer events you still need to use the IFTTT skill. One complaint though Amazon still does not seem to realize their success yet. When you go into a group to assign devices for instance, they appear to have no order to them which makes grouping a few of 109 devices a bit more of an adventure than it ought to be. I did get a group created to turn on every connected light in the house and shop so I can turn them all off or on. I already have an event setup to turn on all exterior lighting which brings the up in groups. Can't wait till dark to see what the lag time is and if they all come up at once. I also created a group called fan since it could not seem to deal with Mbed_fan as a name. Having to rethink names of some of the Harmony linked devices too so I can avoid confusion.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Quasi Nested Ifs

It seems basic nested IFs are something that still alludes most home automation without programming. Funny considering the Time Commander Plus did it way back in the X10 days about 2 decades ago. Though granted some might call that interface programming. Anyway one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to post about how Homeseer almost does it via WYSIWYG and that requires some space and preferabley at least one picture. While Homeseer still can not do something as simple as
IF alarm armed and IF door opens OR motion detected then trigger alarm
They can fake it with
IF alarm armed and IF door opens OR IF alarm armed and IF motion detected then trigger alarm
Which looks something like this
The closest you can come on most is to use a "mode" like "Away". On a Vera hub for example you would create a "Scene" that IF door opens OR IF motion detected then trigger alarm and tell it to only run in the "Away" or "Night" modes. No big deal you might say but if you are dealing with something that does not match one of the state modes (Away, Home, Night and Vacation) like for example soil moisture and rain forecasts when controlling a watering system it can get complex real quick on the systems I've tried if you are not a programmer.

Yet another project blog

Probably a bit late to start this one as I'm already on my 10th plus home automation hub so this will mainly be Homeseer related stuff but since that connects to damn near everything that does not leave much behind. Plus I need a place to store tricks and tips so I can find them again later when I need them without searching Google for hints to the final solution. For a view of what I have tried over the years look at my Home Controller Compare sheet.

I'll back fill with some of my relevant Facebook postings as I have time / find them.