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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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Jandy 7620 2018-04-07 21:04 UTC
I used the iAqualink extended server outage as the impetus to finally take a step to rid my network of that device. I looked at several alternatives. The Jandy 7620 RS Serial Adapter was the first to arrive in the mail, and so I ran with it. I plugged it into my pool's main panel by way of some 4-wire alarm cable, and then plugged a new Raspberry Pi 3 B+ into that. It was really easy to set up and right now it's running the pool. I've implemented most of what I'll need and still need to work out a way to manage the RS panel's built-in scheduling system, but I believe the functionality is there.

If I was starting over, I would seriously consider the aqualinkd project that only requires a very cheap hardware connector and probably does everything I want.

And if I was going to recommend a system to a friend that did not want to write any code, I would probably recommend the Autelis. I actually got one of them in my frenzied state, but I haven't taken it out of the box (I would have if it had arrived before the 7620). Looks like it has a built in local web control interface - nice. I would probably recommend it over the 7620 - it's cheaper and has better connectivity options. It requires its own power supply, which could be limiting, but with the 7620, you pretty much need a computer attached, so the power issue still exists. The RP 3 B+ supposedly supports Power Over Ethernet (which is why I bought it) but apparently you still need to buy a separate "hat" for it which doesn't seem aavailable yet..
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iaqualink down 2018-04-04 16:22 UTC
Well, I was ashamed to admit it, but I do have one entirely vendor managed automation device, and that's the "iAqualink" pool controller module that manages all the devices that make our pool work - the pumps, the lights, the valves, the heater, the salt chlorine generator, etc..

The iAqualink device is a black box on my local network - it starts up, gets an IP address via DHCP, and then sets up a back channel for clandestine communication to the iAqualink cloud service. To control it, I use their phone app or website to interact wtih the cloud service and send/receive data to the device. The device that sitting right here on my home network...

Anyway, I happily used the system for almost 4 years now without much to complain about other than the principle of the thing, and my inability to integrate it into my larger system. But as of yesterday, their cloud service has been down -they took it down for a 3 hour maintenance window yesterday morning, and it hasn't been back up since. As a consequence, I don't have much control over my pool (I do have some, but it's pretty stone-age button pushing on the main panel).

Anyway - case in point, concerning the dangers of vendor-managed home automation devices, and this is even without the privacy concerns. I'm looking into alternatives. They will all cost hundreds of dollars at a minimum, plus a bunch of my time (I don't mind the time part - I actually insist on it of course). But at least it can be done, or apparently it can. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to address this when the pool was installed in 2014.

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Radio Thermostat Company of America - CT50 2018-03-15 13:01 UTC
I got the Radio Thermostat CT50 thermostats in and they were very easy to set up on a private-not-internet-connected network, and then access via their well documented RESTful HTTP API. There's no security at all, but that doesn't matter because of where they are. I'm not sure how to set up security, but maybe it's possible.

Getting them working with the rest of the system was very easy. I didn't use the perl module I mentioned earlier because I decided to go down one level and use a REST client perl module in order to access more API calls than the dedicated module exposed. I guess I should really extend and propose changes to the dedicated module - maybe soon. Anyway, the main thing that was missing for me was the function to set the date/time on the thermostat - something that drove me batty with the Insteon thermostats. It was very easy to do on the CT50 -- but really you only set the day of the week, the hour, and the minute. This means that they can be close to a minute off after you set them (if you set them at say, 09:59 at 09:59:59, then the real time changes to 10:00:00 one second later, the thermostat will be 59 seconds behind. Whatever)

Like most thermostats, they have a "heat" mode and a "cool" mode - like some, they also have an "auto" mode that will choose either heating or cooling as needed. Right now I'm simply in "cool" mode because it's kind of hot outside here. Adapting my simple user interface to include the complexity of the thermostat is kind of tricky. I added a command for "cooler" that takes the current temperature, subtracts 2 (with a floor) and then sets a temporary target on the thermostat to that new temperature -- the otherway with "warmer" - but it's not always obvious whether it will be necessary to switch the mode or not to comply with the request. I guess I'll figure that out later, and maybe just wind up in "auto" all the time.

The thermostats are programmable on a weekday basis and I don't plan to create a user interface to do that on my phone - I'll just use the existing touch screen interface for that part.

RTCOA bucks my initial gloomy prediction about home automation - you *can* offer a device with user-friendly vendor cloud-based management *and* have it easily function on a private-only network and hook into a custom user-controlled system. Totally crushing on them right now.

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more on thermostats 2018-03-06 22:50 UTC
So... I'm still thrashing on thermostats, but today I feel optimistic about the Radio Thermostat CT50 - so much so that I ordered two of them off Amazon. The company publishes an API that is locally callable over http, and I don't believe it's necessary to have them connect to the vendor (although it's possible). There is even a perl module in CPAN for the API. I feel sort of stupid for not seeing these earlier. I will post an update once I have them installed. I plan to create a dedicated WIFI network that does not have internet access and put them on that.

I also looked and (and ordered and received) a discuss (0) permanent link

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