Jun 192016


So I spent most of yesterday staring at a computer screen which is definitely not how I prefer to spend my weekends.

When you work in technology there’s an understanding that some portion of your nights and weekends you’ll spend ‘practicing’ for your day job.  If you’re in a startup there’s the added fun that often your job SPANS nights and weekends.  For once though neither of those were a factor, instead I was doing projects for uh.. fun? At least that was the intent.  I’ve been playing around with various IoT techs over the past year and decided I’d take the plunge and look closer at homeassistant.io.

As a little background here’s what I’m running in the house:

  1. A Wink hub.  Attached to it I have:
    1. A pair of Quirky door sensors
    2. A Nest thermostat and CO2 sensor
    3. 3 Dropcams, aka Nest cams.
    4. 1 Phillips Hue light bulb
  2. An Amazon Echo
  3. Two Harmony hubs for media centers (LR, bedroom)
  4. 1 Sonos Play 1
  5. About 5 different Belkin Wemo outlets.

So the Wink hub app controls everything but the Wemo outlets.  Alexa controls the Wemo outlets but not anything else really. The Harmony hub can’t do much besides device on/off or input switching.  I’d tried using Yonomi which is supposed to support all of it,  but found it sort of clunky and hit or miss a few months ago.

On the surface, Home Assistant seems to be able to do a lot.  Not only does it control all these various things but it can pull in data from the internet AND create events based off of data from the devices.  A good example you ask?

“If the Sonos speaker in the Living Room plays a song by Rhianna, make all the lights in the house flash 3 times.”

The promise is there, the potential is there, but frankly the reality is … not quite there.

I first ran into problems loading it up on a Centos vm; you need Python 3.5 or greater to install Home Assistant.  Great, no problem, except RHEL distributions don’t have that except for Fedora.  Ok, build from source here we go… and I had to make sure to leave Python 2.6 in place because system tools like Yum in Centos won’t work with 3.5.  Hurrah.   Once I got it finally installed and started looking at it though the reality is that this is still a very, very alpha product.

  • Alexa connectivity required signing for an Echo developer account and running scripts in AWS Lamda.
  • My Plex media server, while recognized, would never show what was playing.  As it turns out their integration only works if the media is playing locally on the media server- so my Amazon FireTV playing media wouldn’t trigger it.
  • I couldn’t install the Amazon FireTV plugin through Python’s pip system because…*drumroll*… it required Python 2.6.
  • The UI page would get “confused” and not update on/off states if something other than Home Assistant triggered it.
  • I could control my Sonos; but only basic on/off/pause/skip functionality.  WTF.

Summary: It’s not an home automation control panel.  It’s more of a back-end Smart Home programming type infrastructure that needs a good bit more work.    Picture a localized IFTTT for your house and you’re probably closer to the reality of what it’s best at.   I can see a future when we start playing anything from the “movie” library on Plex or from Netflix/Hulu on my FireTV,  the living room lights wood dim and any music playing gets turned off.

On a whim I reinstalled Yonomi and played with it for 10 minutes and found it to be much, much more stable and responsive.  I’ll probably be using that for faster home automation instead.

Jun 122016
Where in the world is Mike?

Well I’m San Francisco, obviously.   Or perhaps not so obviously?  We travel around a lot so it can be hard to say where we are on any given Sunday.  Today though?  I’m sitting at my desk, Cat firmly ensconced in my lap with a stunning view of our high rise neighborhood behind my balcony garden.  The dogs are snoozing on the couch, there’s music playing on the stereo, and coffee maker is squawking as it brews.  It’s so easy to get caught up in what we don’t have and what we haven’t done that it’s easy to forget what […]

Jun 082016

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of storytellers and how they’ve evolved over time.   I’ve been a heavy reader since first grade when I taught myself the basics.  I never really learned how to sound out words, I’d point to words and get someone to say them and I learned to recognize the shape and match it to the word.  Since that day I rabidly read anything I could get my hands on, sneaking authors like Dean Koontz, Steven King, and V.C. Andrews as early as fourth grade.  Like most people who are heavy readers I’ve always wanted to […]

May 222016
I might not agree with myself in a year

But I probably will. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know I’m a big Aisha Tyler fan.  Not literally big; despite what the picture here portrays she’s VERY much taller than me.  Very much.  She crouched down to make me feel better.  The title of my post is a quote from her in fact. I respect her for a lot of reasons. She’s smart, opinionated, has an impressive vocabulary, and has hustle. Lots and lots of hustle.  On top of that she’s probably one of my favorite comedians which is how I was introduced to her […]

 Posted by at 9:49 pm
May 172016
Why do I take so many damn pictures?

Good question! Glad no one asked. It’s definitely not to make money. It’s easy to assume that no one can make money as a photographer anymore with the proliferation of tools that lower the bar of entry, but photography has almost never been about the technical prowess of the photographer.  Instead it’s about telling a story and evoking feelings and that is VERY hard to do well.  Tools like Instagram or Facebook and services like Blurb can go a long way from making a mediocre storyteller into a decent one, but there’s really no substitute for someone with vision.    For […]

May 162016

After a 3 day weekend camping it’s looking like a quiet week this week. I’m looking forward to having tons of time to work on my backlog of photos to process and develop as I’m already 2 trips behind and if I’m not careful it’s going to get even more out of hand at the rate we’re going.

May 022016

Since I’ve posted anything here. I could have held off another 12 days and made it exact but that seems overly arbitrary and a bit OCD.    I’ve fallen into the easy trap of using FB to power my little life stream, but the format there for deep thoughts just isn’t there.  Plus old content is very hard to find. I think I owe myself several posts, and I have ideas for new ones, and I’m going to talk about my hobbies and passions more than work from now on. I think that’ll make it easier to stay engaged 🙂 […]

 Posted by at 1:18 pm
May 172014

Part 1 is here if you missed it. First off let’s agree on this: there is no such thing. The rockstar / high performer will have zero social or soft skills. The rock steady consistent performer probably won’t wow you with their ingenuity. The friendliest most agreeable most likeable person will probably be useless. This isn’t news to anyone; there’s tons of strategies out there where people tell you what characteristics or traits to look for, or guidelines to judge how much a fit is acceptable and still keep the team moving.  I personally don’t believe in either of those […]

Apr 092014

I managed to re-sprain my ankle to some degree this weekend during the Spartan run so I’m less than happy. The trip wasn’t a total wash; I got to play with some alpha tech from work and broadcast a buncha podcasts from everywhere along the way.   If you’re bored give it a listen!

 Posted by at 3:53 pm