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chromecast is good but... 2018-09-08 20:56 UTC
I'm really liking the Chromecast devices. My son gave us one for Xmas a few years ago, and I plugged it into a TV in my daughter's room. She didn't really use it. Recently, we got on of those Aker Nebula Mars projectors when it went on sale (more on that later, I suppose) and the older lightweight Chromecast is a perfect partner for it. So I got a more recent "Chromecast Ultra" for my daughter's TV - something of a waste, since the TV can't display the big resolution of the new Chromecast, but anyway - I have the new device plugged straight into a wall outlet, instead of the TV's underpowered USB port, because the new ones need more juice. This naturally creates a situation where the Chromecast can be on and active while the TV is off. Thanks to the CEC feature of the TV, when you start casting something, the TV automatically turns on - slick!

All that is great until it's time to go to sleep. There is apparently no way to make the Chromecast turn off the TV, and when it's not casting, it likes to show really cool pictures in its "ambience mode" which look great, but when you're trying to sleep, it would be much nicer to have the TV off, or at least showing a blank screen. You can certainly grab the remote control and turn the TV off (and maybe you can do it by touching the TV somewhere, but it's way up on a wall and she can't reach it) -- but now that's the *only* reason you need the remote - to turn the TV off. If not for that, we could stow away the remote somewhere so it's out of the way and won't get lost.

So, I set off on a mission to try to figure out how to turn off the TV with the Chromecast, or at least get it to stop showing cool pictures. I learned that if I had a Google Home speaker device, I could simply say something like "Google - turn the TV off" and it would make the Chromecast send a command to turn the TV off. Without the Google Home device, not so much....

GooglePerson12:16 PM
Thanks for contacting us! My name is GooglePerson. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about Chromecast.

Me12:16 PM
Hi - and thanks!

GooglePerson12:16 PM
Hi, You! I can see that you are looking at this article, Cast video from Chromecast-enabled apps to your TV. Can you tell me more about what's going on?

Me12:16 PM
I have set up a chromecast ultra with a TV that support CEC control

Me12:17 PM
If the TV is off, and I start casting, the chromecast turns on the TV with a CEC command (I suppose - anyway, the TV turns on automatically)

Me12:17 PM
that's great. But what I want to be able to do is to turn the TV off using a CEC command from the chromecast

Me12:18 PM
I can't find any way to do that. I'm using the Google Home app on android and ios

Me12:19 PM
Turning off the TV would be ideal, but my real goal is simply to get the screen to be blank, because the TV is in a bedroom and keeps me awake when the screen is on

GooglePerson12:19 PM
Do you wanna do it through voice command on your Google Home app to turn off the TV?

Me12:20 PM
I would prefer not to use a voice command - but it would be interesting to see whether it worked or not - does the Android Google Home app accept voice commands?

GooglePerson12:20 PM
It doesn't. Actually what the Chromecast can do right now is just really turn on the TV but turning it off through is not supported.

Me12:21 PM
That's pretty much what the support website seems to indicate as well.

GooglePerson12:21 PM
It's actually a feature of your TV that if your casting to your Chromecast, the CEC feature of your TV will trigger the TV to turn on.

Me12:22 PM
I see

Me12:22 PM
Can I get the Chromecast to show a blank screen instead of (or during) ambience mode?

Me12:23 PM
Also - I have to ask, I'm reading that if I had a Google Home speaker device, that I could use a voice command to turn off the TV

Me12:24 PM
Does that mean that the Chromecast is sending an off command to the TV over CEC?

GooglePerson12:26 PM
Chromecast receives commands from the casting device. So normally, with a regular TV that doesn't have a CEC feature, when you cast to the Chromecast, the Chromecast is going to receive it but it's not going to turn on the TV. But on your case since you have a TV that has that feature, the CEC triggers the TV to turn on once you cast something to your Chromecast.

Me12:27 PM
Yes - that makes sense - but how does the Google Home speaker send the command to turn off the TV that the Chromecast is attached to?

GooglePerson12:29 PM
That is actually a feature of the Google Home. However with the Chromecast device, all it knows is to cast to the TV.

Me12:29 PM
If the answer is simply that Google does not allow a user to activate CEC based commands unless the user has a full Google Home speaker setup, that's a valid answer -- I don't like it, but at least I could stop searching to try to find the answer

Me12:32 PM
Assuming the answer is "yes", can I ask about how I can blank the screen display (without turning off the TV) when I'm not actively casting?

GooglePerson12:32 PM
I agree with you. However, the best thing that I can suggest you is to get in touch with the manufacturer of your TV because what you're asking is not really a feature of Chromecast anymore.

Me12:34 PM
(I know you're probably dealing a number of frustrated Chromecast customers on this issue -- I feel like I should let you know that instructing the customer to contact the manufacturer of the TV may not be interpreted as a helpful recommendation)

GooglePerson12:34 PM
Currently, there is no way for you to get a blank screen if you're not casting. By default, what you are really going to see are the pictures.

Me12:34 PM
OK - thanks for the clear answer on that as well

Me12:35 PM
I really appreciate the time and responsiveness. If you have anything else that I should know, I will certainly be glad to hear it. Otherwise, I believe I should let you move on to the next chat session.

GooglePerson12:37 PM
I understand. However, as much as I wanted to give you a definite answer, that is beyond my scope since CEC is not a feature of the Chromecast and that goes with the TV already. But I appreciate you raising this concern and we will try to further investigate on this issue relating to the CEC feature of the TV.

Me12:37 PM
Thanks very much GooglePerson - have a great day (or evening, etc., which ever applies)

GooglePerson12:38 PM
Is there anything else that you'd like me to further assist you with?

Me12:38 PM
We've covered everything - thanks again

I feel kind of bad for stressing on this, but it's just that the Chromecast is **so close** to being an ideal controller for the TV and substitute for the remote - it's sort of maddening that the one thing you can't do is turn off the TV or somehow make it stop showing things. The Chromecast devices have been around for quite awhile now, and they're not free (they're not real expensive, I guess) - just seems like a feature they should have by now. And I'm definitely not getting a Google Home voice assistant speaker simply so I can turn off the TV without a remote.

Anyway, whatever frustration the Chromecast Ultra creates with its inability to let you sleep, the regular old Chromecast makes up for when it's attached to the Nebula Mars. The Mars has an unexplainably old and underwhelming version of Android on it, and so rather than deal with stone age media apps, it's much better to use something else to send video to it through the HDMI port. The Chromecast (not Ultra) is low power and runs off the USB port of the Mars, so the whole operation can be completely mobile and battery powered for quite a while (using the Mars' beefy battery) -- assuming you have wifi in place so that you can cast stuff to the Chromecast. Or you can plug the Mars in and power the whole thing of course. And when you shut off the Mars by closing its lens cap, the Chromecast shuts off too!

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mozilla deepspeech 2018-07-18 23:14 UTC
I mentioned the mycroft voice assistant device a while back - I haven't done too much with mine yet - I did write a skill so that it could do things on the local home automation system - basically as simple as setting up the security and getting it to send/receive Zero MQ messages.

In my first post, I wasn't aware that it was sending voice commands to the cloud to get converted to text -- I think the way it worked is that all voice recordings were being submitted to the cloud service under a single account -- the cloud service was google at first, and now they're supporting a Mozilla Deepspeech server.

You also have the option to run a deepspeech server in your house - keeping all the voice data local, so of course that's what I wanted to do.

There is a python program called deepspeech-server that will create a web service for deepspeech installed on a local machine.

It apparently runs much faster if you have an Nvidia GPU based video card that deepspeech can use for computational purposes (in which case you would install "deepspeech-gpu" -- I don't have one, and it's slow, but not much slower than the cloud-service call it used to be making.

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how to keep guacamole fresh looking 2018-07-12 00:45 UTC
Do you ever buy fresh guacamole at the grocery store in a plastic tub, and it's really nice and green looking, and so you eat some of it and then put the lid on the tub and put it in the refrigerator for later? But then a couple of days later, the top of the guacamole has turned brown and has little puddles of brown liquid in it?

Yeah, I usually pour off the liquid and eat it that way too, and it tastes pretty much the same. But did you know you can keep it green with a piece of food wrapping?

You probably guessed that it's the exposure to air that causes the problem - after all, it sat in the store for a while, right? But it was filled all the way up to the lid. So - now after I eat some, I take some wax paper (my favorite, but plastic wrap works too) and tear it into a shape that will cover the guacamole - if the tub is square (it always is around here), I make a rectangle, so that a portion of it can be folded upward to make it easier to grab when I want to eat more. Stays as green as it was when I bought it!

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ecowitt WH2320E 2018-07-10 03:33 UTC
For Fathers' Day, I asked for my present to be a weather station that I would integrate with our home automation system. I did some research, but not a lot, and noticed that pricing for those systems is all over the place. I'm still not sure why, but I assume it has to do with accuracy and performance at the extremes. I didn't want to spend thousands of dollars, while at the same time imagining how cool it would be have a system in place that could have kept up with Hurrican Harvey. I dunno.

Despite the long geek legacy of personal weather stations, I found myself once again bombarded with vendor/cloud managed devices and little to no information on local data sharing and configuration. I'm certain that most of the established vendors are still supporting local control - they would have to affirmatively remove it from their systems to not have it, I think, but wow - nobody seems to talk about it anymore.

I found no alternative to contacting the vendors prior to purchase to see if local control was possible. I wound up going with the Ecowitt WH2320E - it was comparatively cheap, had the key features: a decent set of sensors, wireless communication with the console, solar power for the sensors, etc.. The vendor was extremely responsive and was up front with me that local control wasn't really supported, but that they would help me through it. And they did!

So now the Ecowitt console is connected to my localized IOT wifi/vlan network (with no internet connection) and one of my controller services connects to it via TCP every 16 seconds and gets the current readings from the sensors. The interface is all hexadecimal and not user friendly, but it's really fast, which is something I'm not used to with these IOT devices - especially the ones wtih full featured HTTP APIs.

The WH2320E is designed to interface directly with Weather Underground and a few other services, but of course that can't happen at my house, because it's not on the internet. Instead, my controller service reports the data to Weather Underground about once a minute. I would tell you the station handle, but that would be tantamount to putting my address up on the Internet - Weather Underground shows all their stations on a map (of course they do).

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insteon 2018-04-07 21:23 UTC
In about 2014, I went with a full-house Insteon makeover, replacing pretty much every lightswitch and a bunch of other stuff, and adding some door openers and motion detectors. I use the "Power Linc Modem" - something like that - attached to an Intel NUC computer, and my code attaches to the PLM via a USB cable - it might be USB to serial - I have to check.

It worked great for a long time, but recently it seems to have been degrading - lights don't go on/off when they're supposed to, mainly, and I think maybe the PLC is showing its age and is unable to transmit at the same power that it did when it was new. This irritates me quite a bit - I can replace it (but I'll ahve to re-associate my entire house with the new PLM, which is some work).

I'll complain most bitterly about the thermostats (I wrote an earlier dedicated hate-post about those) and the "light bulbs" - these are LED light bulbs with Insteon functionality built in. First, the two light bulbs I have seem to have degraded themselves to the point of rarely working, but maybe more importantly, the premise is bad - there's no way to turn them on or off without sending Insteon commands to them (OK you can always turn them off by unplugging them of course). This caused untold frustration for my wife, who only recently has been accessing the app to control things.

What I still can't understand is why there's not a smart light bulb that couples with the lamp touch capcitative sensor technology that you can use to turn on and off lamps by touching them (provided they have metal surface which attaches to the capacitative sensor). These touch sensors have been around since at least the 1980s. I have tried a couple of times to make one of my own by Frankenstein grafting a sensor with an Insteon in-line switch, but never got comfortable that I could really do it without creating a fire hazard of some sort.

Another thing I don't like too much about Insteon is that I've been unable to find a dedicated Insteon thermometer (note, not thermostat). Seems pretty basic, but it's just not there, as far as I can tell.

That apparent deficit got me looking at the world of Z-Wave, which I guess I might have considered in 2014 before I put all this Insteon stuff in. But... The API documentation for Z-Wave is pretty sparse and it seems tilted toward a commercial-only approach, albeit with multiple vendors. In 2014 (OK, I did consider it) the paucity of documentation and open code seemed like a complete non-starter for me, but since then there have been a few developers who have pushed into the space - likely requiring reverse engineering, etc.

A while back, I picked up an Aotec Z-Stick, which was completely useless until I bought a Z-wave compatible device, which I did recently - the Aotec Multi-sensor 6, which includes a thermometer and other stuff. I have high hopes, but I'm a little apprehensive that I'm stepping into a lot of work trying to read the thing from a perl script. Hopefully not.

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