It’s been about six years since I’ve done any crime writing and I’m considering getting back into it. Takes up a considerable amount of time so I don’t think I’ll be able to post nearly as much as I used to.
Any thoughts? Anybody give a shit?
It’s been about six years since I’ve done any crime writing and I’m considering getting back into it. Takes up a considerable amount of time so I don’t think I’ll be able to post nearly as much as I used to.
Any thoughts? Anybody give a shit?
Just a quick and dirty demo of what I can do using the power of the Amazon Echo, IFTTT and Homeseer.
There are several ways to control it. Alexa is limited to single statements and using IFTTT “triggers” and is also limited to whether IFTTT is being laggy or not. It’s usually pretty stable but I’ve seen stuff get delayed for quite a bit longer.
Using Tasker and Autovoice on my phone I can speed it up as well as chain commands but this works well enough for me. Amazon keeps improving the stuff you can do that’s geared toward home automation so I expect it to get easier and more complicated at the same time if that’s possible,
So in Part I I touched on most of the hardware I’m using and some of my software. I keep coming across stuff I missed and I’ll mention some of that here.
So on to how all this works together. Down among the creepy crawlies that inhabit my garage and basement along with my son’s defunct 1990 Firebird lives the brains behind my house. Homeseer. It’s a piece of software that I’ve been using since 2000. I have tried probably 50 or 60 different packages over the years and also some dedicated hardware solutions (such as the Wink Hub) and not a single one of them can do everything that Homeseer can. Nothing even comes close. Unfortunately that also means a bit of a learning curve. You can just set up the hardware, the software and a few plugins and actually have a pretty decent automated home but for the depth of control I like it takes a bit of time (16 years worth lol)
Homeseer is extended using plugins (as well as VB scripting if you want). The plugins I am currently using are
BLGarbage (this just helps to keep things running smoothly)
BLRF – for X10 RF signals
Blue-Iris – controls and receives information from Blue Iris, which is running on a PC in my bedroom. This is the heart of my CCTV security.
EasyTrigger – better event triggers. More on events later.
HSTouch Server – for touchscreen clients including Android and iPhone smartphones, windows clients (my Asus touchscreen) and tablets.
JowiHue – Sends and receives information to my Hue Bridge. This is the part that failed in the video in part one. That or the bridge itself. It definitely is not as reliable as Zwave lighting and while the Hue lights are cute they will end up being replaced.
NetCAM – Allows for snapshots of my network cameras. Now that I’m using the Blue Iris plugin I’ll be retiring this soon.
Random – Using this with some of the other plugins and text to speech so that when Homeseer talks with us it will use different phrsing and words and not always sound the same. I haven’t really done much with this yet. Never enough time.
Restart – Allows me to restart Homeseer if needed without having to remotely log into the server.
RFXCOM – I touched on this one earlier. It pulls in info from my Oregon Scientific weather sensors (including the ones that aren’t connected to the base station due to compatibility. Some of the sensors have died over time so I have replaced them with cheaper ones, which the base station doesn’t read. I upload all of my weather data to Weather Underground and WeatherBug. The software that I use for that (VWS) sends most of the info and I use a VB script to send the missing info that RFXCOM picks up. RFXCOM also receives the RF signals from my old X10 security sensors that I haven’t repleaced yet.
SCBULLET – A pushbullet plugin. I have it set up but not doing much with it yet as far as notifications
Tasker Plugin – There is so much I could say about this. I saw a quote from someone on the Homeseer forums that goes something like “Tasker, for a Home Automation enthusiast is like hitting a drug addict in the face with a big bag of crack”. Tasker is awesome. When I go to listing some of the things I’m able to do we’ll touch on Tasker.
TextSeer – a simple receiver for sending controls to homeseer over the web. While I can use JSON to do the same thing, TextSeer allows me to use HTTP GET with my BBS software and other stuff. It makes it very simple.
UltraGCIR3 – this allows me to control my IR stuff. TV, receiver, etc.
UltraMon3 – Monitors stuff on my network. I have this running but don’t really use it as much anymore. I have switched to a more robust set of scripts and local control over each computer in the house.
VWS – pulls in the info from my weather station.
weatherXML – Weather information but much more than that. Alerts, maps, etc.
X10 – While X10 is very old, not 100% reliable and a bit outdated, I still have switches and motion sensors that have worked for the last 16 years. In the past I’ve used the X10 CM15 controller, the Applied Digital Ocelot (I think this one died due to a lightning strike several years back) and am currently using a TI103 X10 controller. One of the reasons I am moving over to Zwave is that even though I have a coupler wired into my breaker box and another one plugged into my dryer the X10 does not always seem to send the signals to the switches and other appliances. For instance, if you open my side door (which we let the dog out of at night) my side and front porch lights come on and will then turn off after 15 minutes of no motion. My front porch is Zwave and always immediately responds. The side porch is X10 and sometimes it’s immediate, sometimes it’s four or five seconds and occasionally it just never switches on. That’s a no-go as far as I’m concerned for an automated home. It’s also the reason I don’t want my shit cloud controlled. When you hit the light switch it should just immediately come on. There should never be a delay.
XBMC – I use Kodi on my bedroom PC occasionally and this allows me to control it when I do. More on that…
Z-Wave – I used to use an Aeon Labs Zwave controller but updated last year to a Homeseer Zwave Smartswitch+
Kinect – This plugin is actually running remotely on the Asus touchscreen in my living room.
Alexa plugin – I mentioned that Homeseer has Echo support built in. It does. What this plugin does is allow me to use ANOTHER instance of Alexa on my bedroom PC without having the Echo in there. It runs remotely like the Kinect plugin. I can have as many instances of this as I need. With it getting warmer there will be stuff we’ll be working on in the garage (where my Homeseer server is) and I will probably install Alexa on that too. The only caveat to having software instances of Alexa rather than the Echo or Dot is that it doesn’t support media (Pandora, etc) but there are workarounds for that.
I think that’s all of the plugins I am currently running so here are some of the things the system does.
There are currently two (really three) voice recognition systems at work in my house. One is Alexa. As seen in the video and countless other ones on Youtube the recognition is awesome and there is a lot of stuff you can do. “Alexa, tell Domino’s to order my Easy Order” worked great last night when it was just me and Tootsieroll eating dinner. Obviously I can also control my lighting, TV and somewhat my thermostat. It does have it’s limitations though. I currently have 581 devices attached to Homeseer. Not all of those are hardware obviously. Some are virtual devices that control other ones. The Echo (Alexa) can control stuff that is able to be specifically controlled by Off, On, Dim or it can set heating or cooling to a specific temperature. You can’t chain commands with it.
The second voice recognition system I use is Homeseer itself. I have a little piece of software running on each PC and laptop called HomeSeer speaker. It acts as a remote text to speech client for Homeseer and can send announcements to all or specific clients. I can also turn on the recognition so in addition to “Alexa”, “Jarvis” lives in my house. With Jarvis I can tell Homeseer to turn on the air in 15 minutes and set it to 72. Or I can set the virtual device “Alarm” to “home” in twenty minutes. There really isn’t much I can’t do with Homeseer Speaker. The problem with Homeseer Speaker’s voice recognition that I’ve found over the years is that it sucks balls. It’s an awesome idea and a great back end but the implementation is so fucking awful it’s basically unusable. That’s why, even though Google Now and Alexa work through the Internet, I use them anyway.
That brings me to the third one I mentioned above. I use Tasker on my Nexus 6 as do my wife and youngest daughter. My oldest has an iPhone so she’s shit out of luck. With Tasker and a couple of plugins I can say “Ok Google, turn on the TV, change to FireTV, lock the front door (yeah, I found one on eBay that hopefully will be here soon) and dim the living room lamps”. Yeah, that’s where the awesome sauce kicks in. Can’t do that shit with Alexa. It does mean that your phone has to be with you but who doesn’t always have their phone. Or does it? On my todo list is adding Tasker to the two Nexus 7s in my house so we don’t have to have our phone with us. Oh by the way, my Moto 360 is also connected to Tasker through my phone so as long as it’s in range and they are both connected to wifi, I can just talk to the watch like Dick Tracy.
Some of the other things Homeseer does?
If it’s between November and March and the temperature is under 59 outside the heat kicks on the a specific setting, It’s a little lower at nighttime. From May to October it’s the air that kicks on but as I mentioned earlier, only if the windows are closed.
When you open the door to the basement stairs the lights kick on in the stairway as do the ones in my basement and garage. If it’s the garage door the same thing. They cut off after fifteen minutes, IF no motion has been detected. If I flip the lights on, off, on they are overridden and will stay on until I cut them off.
If it’s nighttime and motion is detected outside by any of my motion detectors the flood lights and porch lights cut on until no motion has been detected. Same thing if Blue Iris detects motion on the cameras. Lights on. When I open the side door at night the porch lights come on and then go off fifteen minutes after no motion detected. If the front door is opened at night the foyer light, front porch lights and driveway floods come on and then will turn off fifteen minutes later if there’s no motion. That’s particularly useful when I leave for work at 6:15am and my hands are full.
When the washing machine is in use and then stops (watts in use) it tells everyone in the house, hey, the clothes are finished. Put them in the dryer. Once it has been out of use for a period of time it completely cuts the power to the Zwave switch. You know that most appliances still use a minute bit of power even when not in use. Not my washing machine. Or my daughter’s monitor for that matter, which she tends to leave on. Eventually most of my appliances will be hooked to Zwave switches as well. Even if I just save 50 cents or a dollar a month when you have 50 items running, TVs, monitors, washer and dryer, etc…it all adds up.
If motion is detected in the house when we aren’t at home it sends the wife and I email alerts along with pictures. If the basement windows are opened it sets off and alarm and starts flashing lights around the house. If my CO/Smoke detector in the kitchen (the only connected one I have so far) goes off it of course sounds, but my basement alarm sounds, all the lights start flashing off and every speaker in the house starts shouting shit about fire or carbon monoxide and it also sends us emails and text messages.
When I get close to the house my driveway and porch lights come on at night and the system announces Daddy’s home. It drives my dog nuts.
If we are on vacation and motion is sensed anywhere outside random lights go on and all the outside lights go on. It also sends the obligatory emails and text messages along with pics.
I’m in the slow process of writing a series of Alarm Events so we can set an alarm when we leave to trigger other events.
I have a counter set so it has started tracking when we change the HVAC filter and it will tell us when it needs to be changed.
Less automation but more information, Homeseer scrapes my BBS for info and I can see who is logged in, how many calls I’ve had and other various info. It also pulls in a few RSS feeds so I know when the last show has been updated and I can download the torrents, pulls in horoscope and also news feeds. It’s supposed to read me the top headlines when my alarm is dismissed in the morning and also tell me if it’s a holiday but I’m debugging that I guess.
If there’s a NOAA weather alert for the area it announces it to everyone.
That’s most of the items currently. 90% of it happens whether there’s internet connection or not.
I have a streaming music server on a Raspberry Pi and my entire music library on an NAS. It runs Subsonic, a streaming server. It doesn’t get much use but that’s mainly because I have set up obvious clients for everyone. Unlike Pandora, iHeartRadio, Play Music or Amazon, no internet needed. There are clients but I just mainly use the html interface and can cast it to any of my chromecasts oh by the way.
There are a thousand other things my automated home does and can do that I can’t think of at the moment but the stuff above gives a good general idea anyway.
Some things in varying stages of completion I have that will be added shortly include,
I’ll try and post more as I finish each project.
SO I’m a big gadget geek. As far as phones, while there is nothing wrong with Apple products my personal preference is for Android. The platform is much more extensible and I can do 1,000 more things with my Nexus than I ever would be able to with Apple. But…this isn’t about that.
I came across and article this morning entitled “The Perfect Smart Home: What our editors are using” over at Android Central, one of the sites I frequent. Each of them lists what they are using in their smart home and why. The question I had when I read the article is what about each thing makes their house smart? Each of the items, in itself, is pretty neat and I own several of them. The problem is that by themselves none of them make the house smart, at least not by my definition of the word. There are a couple that come pretty close, mainly Smarththings, but even that has it’s limitations. Most of them are limited by being able to connect to the Internet, for starters. What if you lost your internet connection? Most of the folks using these products are shit out of luck, including if you use Smartthings. From their web site:
Any locally executing SmartApps or Device Type Handlers still send events to the SmartThings cloud. This is necessary so that the mobile application can accurately reflect the current state of the devices, as well as perform any cloud-required services (e.g., sending notifications). In the event of an Internet outage, the events will be queued and sent to the SmartThings cloud when Internet is restored.
So what am I using? First off, bear in mind I’ve been using Home Automation for 16 years now and have used some really good (and some really crappy) products. For the most part I try to get things off of eBay or cobbled together from the parts that seem to inevitably collect around the desk of a gadget enthusiast.
Before I go into my set up we need to touch on why I don’t think a bunch of awesome gadgets make your house smart and what does. To begin with, it’s the controller. To have Home Automation, as opposed to Home Control, your house needs to do shit without you necessarily directing it to. All of your stuff also needs to work together. For instance, if one of us turns on the AC and there is a window open my house (HomeSeer) immediately turns it off and says something to the effect of “There is a window open, I have turned off the HVAC. Shut the windows and try again.” Eventually I’ll add logic which will cut it on once the window has been closed but for now we have to tell HomeSeer to turn it on once they are shut.
Here’s a quick video I shot right after I ready the article.
So here’s the hardware I’m using and then I’ll go on to describe what each piece does and how it fits together.
In my basement:
Zwave door/window sensors on all the windows and the back door. Zwave light switch in the basement and a couple of GE Link light bulbs in the garage as well as the basement stairs.
Aeon Labs Zwave energy monitor directly attached to the breaker box.
In the living room:
Honeywell Zwave thoermostat
Xbox 360 Kinect (minus the Xbox360 which is put up on a shelf somewhere) connected to an Asus touchscreen laptop.
Foscam IP camera
Two of my last four X10 Window sensors.
Various Zwave motion, security and environment sensors.
Almost forgot, a Wink Hub (like Smartthings) and the only thing it still controls, a Quirky Pivot Power Genius
In the Kitchen:
Zwave light switch for the sink lights
Chromecast Audio attached to a pair of speakers that sit on top of the cabinets.
mounted on the wall next to my light switches a Nexus 7 with a few things running, Homeseer HSTouch software, Google Play Music (to cast audio to the speakers) and IP Webcam Pro which in turn is picked up by Blue Iris, as are the rest of my cameras in the house. I’m actually going to be replacing this with an old iPad at some point soon.
In the bedrooms I have mixed Zwave and X10 lighting, another Vizio TV that’s controlled by a Global Cache itach IR controller, various X10 and Zwave motion sensors, door/window sensors, etc. In my laundry room there’s a GE Link bulb and a Zwave appliance switch plugged in to my washing machine and then the wall. It monitors energy consumption as well as some other stuff that I’ll touch on in part II of this article. Yes, I’ve managed to write so fucking long that I just decided I should split this up into two parts.
There’s a Wemo switch hooked to my upstairs Wifi Router (there’s another on in the basement. due to wifi connections I had to create two networks. The second one is basically just working in Access Point mode). I have it controlled through IFTTT and in turn, Homeseer (which also allows for built-in IFTTT integration).
Another Chromecast attached to my bedroom TV and a Chromecast Audio on my bathroom speakers. Once I get the Echo Dot I’ll stick the Chromecast Audio upstairs for the girls.
So how does all this crap fit together and what can it do? You’ll have to wait for me to finish typing Part II.
I love coupons and deals. Hey, if I can save a buck or two that’s usually a good thing particularly if I’m in a situation where I can see the goods beforehand. Groupons, not so much. Now, for services they seems to be ok. I’ve purchase meals ahead of time and concert tickets once. Goods however? They are currently 0 for 2 and I’ll just go stick with eBay if I can find a really good price.
A couple of years ago a pretty good deal on a CCTV DVR came across so I picked it up. It’s one of those where you have to supply the hard drive. Not a big deal as I had them in abundance at the time. Anyway, when it arrived it wouldn’t even power up. I had to ship it back and wait for it to get there to get my money back. At least with Amazon if you ship something back they credit the money to your account as soon as they receive the info that the shipping company has it, or that’s been my experience.
Anyhow, right now I really don’t have any extra money but a pretty awesome deal came across for a projector and screen. I read the reviews on the same on over at Amazon as well as a couple of AV forums I lurk at and they were pretty good. It was a great deal considering the screen (most likely a heavy cloth tarp) was included. I went ahead and put it on a credit card. I can always pay it later.
Said projector arrived today all by it’s lonesome. I’ve emailed Groupon waiting for a response but they don’t normally do any kind of swapping out or anything like they. They are really just the middle men in the deal. I figure they will offer a refund and then I need to decide if I want the refund or not. I can get it from Amazon for $20 less without the damn screen and just “borrow” one from they school or something.
Either way, that’ll most likely be the last thing I purchase through Groupon.
Updated 3/9 – Received an email overnight fro Groupon. Apparently most orders ship separately. That’s all the info I received so maybe I’ll get the screen soon.
3/10 – Received another update last night that the screen is definitely shipping and I should receive a tracking update soon. That makes me feel better but maybe they should put something in the receipt that says products may ship separately so assholes like me won’t get their panties in a wad.
Seems like such a simple thing. I’ve been trying to find an app that would let me remote control my Nexus 6 and my Nexus wall-mounted tablet from my PC. Not as easy as you might thing.
I checked out VNC first simply because I’ve used it before. No go unless you are rooted. Then did some searching on el Goog and looked into Teamviewer and Airdroid. Both work fine for mirroring and Airdroid will let you control if you are hooked to the PC via USB but that’s fucking useless for what I wanted.
Vysor is a pretty good app and I trust the developer as well. I’ve got it installed for later use but again, you have to have the device hooked to the phone.
FINALLY found one with Mobizen. Initially I thought it would be simply screen mirroring with no control but once you’ve given it admin access in the security settings it works just fine.
So my thermostat crapped out yesterday after 16 years. Luckily it’s the time of year where it’s not a humongous deal. Picked up a Zwave thermostat on sale at Home Depot, which is awesome.
Putting the damned thing in proved to be a trick. Only four wires in the thermostat but the one I got (and most modern thermostats it turns out) require a C wire (common ground.) It won’t power up without that bad boy. I ended up having to get a wire adapter thingy overnighted from Amazon just so I could hook the damn thing up.
It actually wasn’t too difficult fortunately. Got the thermostat wired up and placed on the wall and then had to tackle switching a couple of wires on the control board in the basement. All in all it took maybe 30-40 minutes. Then the fun started.
Somehow my router and homeseer server had turned off in the process which was weird as shit as I didn’t touch the breakers they are on. Once I had everything back online pairing the Honeywell to Homeseer was a cinch. Control from my HA page as you can see from the below pic.
Since I’m using Homeseer’s Amazon Alexa api for voice control that seems to be working ok. Still have some work to do on that though. It’s cool but not something I use all the time anyway. What’s nice is that I can set up heating/cooling schedules on my HA server (in addition to the thermostat itself) or just have it completely cut off during nice weather if I want.
I could really use some help with WP from an “expert”
Currently shadowscope is installed in it’s own subdirectory off of my main site but I have it resolve to shadowscope.com
In order to do that I had to make sure that my .htaccess pointed in the correct direction. Everything seems to work OK. You can get to most of the pages and I can post things. For some reason, ALMOST every time I try to log in to the backend, I have to reset my password. I say almost because for some reason I was actually able to log in this time.
In addition, I can’t seem to connect my site to IFTTT. It used to be, but no longer will let me connect. Same with wordpress.com, I was able to write a post and publish it earlier (the first one of today, about InterBBS games) but it won’t let me save any posts now.
I’m pretty much at a loss and not sure what I need to do to fix it. A simple solution would be to get rid of the .htaccess and make everyone come to shadowscope.com/blog however my site has been up 17 years and I really don’t want to break any existing links in to the site.
Anyone have suggestions please comment, shoot me an email or PM me in Hangouts. I’ve got a ton of stuff on my plate and don’t feel like spending the next two days trying to dig up an answer.
I fixed it. The WordPress Codex has some good stuff here and I ended up having to fix the blog URL in one of the SQL tables in order to get it working properly. Since my site is under /blog and redirected using the .htaccess it was this bit.
In this event, double-check your wp-options table siteurl (WordPress address URL) and home (Blog Address URL) values to make sure they reference the same base externally available address; i.e., http://blog.yourdomain.com. The standard install may set them to your local (internal) host name, such as http://servername
Once I fixed the site URL all seems to be good.
Another Update. I spoke too soon. This is fucking irritating. I can’t connect IFTTT to my site, can log in about once every fifty times or so, wordpress.com loses connection constantly. Ugh. I think I may export all my shit and start over.
So today is the primary elections here in Georgia. I had completely forgotten until a friend mentioned it in Hangouts just a little while ago.
Hadn’t planned on leaving the house until later but I guess I will go out pretty shortly. Have to go to the grocery store and get some fixings for a pork roast anyway, which is much more important than going to vote for any of the clowns on the ballot.
That having been said, I will go vote, today as well as in the general election in November. It’s a civic duty and nobody has the right to bitch and protest if they at least don’t cast their vote.