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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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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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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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