Alpha Centauri 2

Community => Recreation Commons => Topic started by: Rusty Edge on November 22, 2018, 09:43:16 PM

Title: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 22, 2018, 09:43:16 PM
I started this thread to discuss Smart Home technology. So that everybody could compare notes and learn from mistakes and benefit from one another's research.

There are some black Friday bargains around. We are sliding into it after primarily wetting our feet with the SkyBell HD. My wife loved it while it worked. The color night vision in HD was amazing. I'm trying to get it working again. That said it's a perfect metaphor for smart home stuff in general, from what articles and reviews I've read. Some of the tech is amazing. Most of it eventually has dependability issues. Sometimes that's when the free trial subscription runs out.

I have a Samsung Smart Things hub ordered ( it's versatile, and will boost  the range. I suspect that is the challenge connecting with the SkyBell.), and a dimmer switch, too. My wife has an Echo coming that was free with some other deal she was working. So hopefully, she'll  soon be able to bring up the lights by voice command to walk to the bathroom.


I suspect the next upgrade will be a thermostat, before the winter is over.   More on that later.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on November 22, 2018, 09:58:55 PM
So hopefully, she'll  soon be able to bring up the lights by voice command to walk to the bathroom.

Movement sensor is too much old tech? ;)
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on November 23, 2018, 03:40:28 AM
What's a smart thermostat do a regular one don't? 

I get the doorbell thing, really, for the camera, but a lot of the voice stuff is what's the point? 

Some of the phillips lightbulbs that let you set programs for while you're away on travel look nifty, with the color change crap being a silly bonus. 

About the 'smartest' thing we have is the fish tank light.  It simulates sunrise/sunset, moon, etc.  I CAN hook it to a weather station to simulate the weather as well.  And for all that, it can get REALLY annoying if I miss a feeding time by an hour and need to set the lights up so they can eat.  I have to power cycle just to get it to recognize the remote imputs again, but it goes right back to schedule with one press after I'm done altering temporarily. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 23, 2018, 07:46:32 AM
So hopefully, she'll  soon be able to bring up the lights by voice command to walk to the bathroom.

Movement sensor is too much old tech? ;)


Thanks for playing! Actually, I had been contemplating smart home upgrades for some time, and I wanted to get something my wife could appreciate on a voice command to start with, once she told me  a couple of days ago that we were getting an Echo and to start researching products. Frankly, I didn't even consider it before you posed this question. Now that you have, I think that yes, you are right, because motion sensors seem to be some of the most reliable aspects of these smart home gadgets. So that may well have been cheaper and simpler.


Well, normally.  The fixture in question is a Waterford chandelier with 9 lights. I don't want to mess with the ceiling junction box. The thing is heavy and expensive and they don't make them any more. So replacing the chandelier is out of the question, too. Unless you replace the switch with a smart one, the thing probably turns off every time the cleaners clean the faceplate. Same if you put in those Phillips brand smart bulbs Uno mentioned.


But as I proceed, I will ask myself if a simple motion sensor can do the job. Now I'm wishing I had that kind of thing with my basement lighting. I normally only go down the basement once or twice a day , but I nearly always enter or leave with my hands full .
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 23, 2018, 08:08:39 AM
What's a smart thermostat do a regular one don't? 

I get the doorbell thing, really, for the camera, but a lot of the voice stuff is what's the point? 

Some of the phillips lightbulbs that let you set programs for while you're away on travel look nifty, with the color change crap being a silly bonus. 

About the 'smartest' thing we have is the fish tank light.  It simulates sunrise/sunset, moon, etc.  I CAN hook it to a weather station to simulate the weather as well.  And for all that, it can get REALLY annoying if I miss a feeding time by an hour and need to set the lights up so they can eat.  I have to power cycle just to get it to recognize the remote imputs again, but it goes right back to schedule with one press after I'm done altering temporarily.


Good questions, I'll get back to you with general answers later Friday when I have more time. By general I mean features of device types, not specifics about which brand does what.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on November 23, 2018, 08:30:56 AM
No worries. :danc:

But as I proceed, I will ask myself if a simple motion sensor can do the job. Now I'm wishing I had that kind of thing with my basement lighting. I normally only go down the basement once or twice a day , but I nearly always enter or leave with my hands full .

The movement sensors we have here in my condo block are a godsend in some ways. There's a burglar gang invading the county, and the lights in the parking lot passage and house front automatically pop up when someone/thing passes by. Very discouraging for persons with less noble intentions.
For the ones we use in the stairwell, I discovered we could 'program' them separately per floor. Since my bedroom window is next to the stairwell, I of course let it program to a short cycle compared with the ones on the other 2 floors.

Regarding voice-operated light sensor, you could also ask yourself if using your voice while loaded with stuff AND climbing a stair will have it recognize your voice command.
I can only compare with the voice tech used at work, but when out of breath for whatever reason (or even having a severe cold) it doesn't work too well.
Then again, the voice tech at work uses unique voice profiles programmed in for each operator. I don't know if the run-of-the-mill stuff used in domestics does the same thing, but instead simply reacts to a more wide-band audio signal, whoever the source is (a dog for instance, or mother-in-law visiting).
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 23, 2018, 07:31:28 PM
What's a smart thermostat do a regular one don't? 

Potentially a lot. Reliably, perhaps little.


A smart thermostat can be a little Alexa/Google home, so it can become an intercom station, a weather station. It has a motion sensor to know when you're in the room. It can have remote wireless thermostats in various rooms. It can analyze your home and away patterns and adjust accordingly to save energy. It can analyze your temperature variation within the home and make reccomendations. It can know when you're 10 mins or whatever away from home and adjust the temperature. It can prevent the baby sitter or whoever from changing it. It can work with smart vents, smart window shades, and smoke/CO detectors to , say, turn off your air conditioning during a fire. Or turn off the furnace when there's CO, and turn the fan on if you wanted.


And of course, do this over the phone, internet, or by voice command. 


That's the potential. As to what works with which, and stays online, or works automatically, or with a 24 hour security service subscription,  rather than simply texts you to do it.... remains to be seen.



What I know is from reading articles on the internet and wading through comments on product reviews, for what it's worth.  Okay, back to putting up lights.

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 23, 2018, 09:54:31 PM


I get the doorbell thing, really, for the camera, but a lot of the voice stuff is what's the point? 



As one reviewer wrote "It makes me feel like Judy Jetson!"  I imagine others feel like their favorite Star Trek characters in the privacy of their home, or movie directors calling for "Lights! Camera! Music!"  But really, unless you're blind, it's probably not nescessary. You'll just do what you've always done.

 I could see myself using a voice command when my hands were busy or messy - eating or typing or cooking. Aside from not being able to handle the heat in the kitchen, and asking for air conditioning,  I'm not sure what kind of multi-tasking I'd do.  I try to be in the moment rather than multi-task, at least I remember everything I've done. I'd probably use voice commands more often when my phone is charging or I can't find my glasses.

My hope is that the intercom aspect works well. I'm frequently on a different floor/room  from my wife when she wants to tell or ask me something, and with my impaired hearing and no line of sight to read lips, communication can be a challenge sometimes. Also, I would enjoy having the system read me and audiobook when I go to bed, rather than straining my eyes on a screen. Yes, I could do that now, but I'd like something more robust than a kindle speaker when I take my hearing aids out at night. When I'm sleepy enough I could say "ECHO, stop" or something without moving, and not have to fumble around the night stand or turn on a light to shut down the device, both of which would make me more awake.  Back to Christmas lights.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 24, 2018, 12:03:51 AM


Some of the phillips lightbulbs that let you set programs for while you're away on travel look nifty, with the color change crap being a silly bonus. 

About the 'smartest' thing we have is the fish tank light.  It simulates sunrise/sunset, moon, etc.  I CAN hook it to a weather station to simulate the weather as well.  And for all that, it can get REALLY annoying if I miss a feeding time by an hour and need to set the lights up so they can eat.  I have to power cycle just to get it to recognize the remote imputs again, but it goes right back to schedule with one press after I'm done altering temporarily.


I'd be interested to see what you could do with those lights.  I've read about people having troubles when they connected too many smart devices.  In that regard having each bulb connect, rather than an entire circuit, is something to avoid when I can.


Your aquarium lighting sounds pretty cool!
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on November 24, 2018, 08:10:20 PM
Thus far I only really see people making music light shows with the thing, both christmas and Halloween, but I'm sure there'd be prop things I could do with them. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 25, 2018, 07:59:44 PM
Thus far I only really see people making music light shows with the thing, both christmas and Halloween, but I'm sure there'd be prop things I could do with them.


I've read that the Phillips lights can be rigged with smoke detectors so that they flash red whenever there is an alarm.

**************


I guess that's a Segway for smart home fire alarms. https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-smart-smoke-alarm/#the-competition

Wirecutter- [ " We believe a smart smoke alarm is the most important safety device currently available for the connected home, one even smart-home skeptics should consider. A smoke alarm, smart or not, should alert you to potential danger, but a smart alarm can do this even when you’re not home. For most people, that makes it worth the price premium.
Also, smart alarms address one of the biggest problems with regular smoke alarms—that they can stop working without you knowing about it. According to a 2014 report, almost a quarter of all home-fire–related deaths in the United States from 2007 through 2011 occurred in homes with nonfunctioning smoke alarms. Most smart alarms let you silence “nuisance” alarms either through the app on your phone or via a button on the device (rather than pulling the battery out), so you’re less likely to end up with a nonworking alarm in your home. " ]


Actually, they just updated their recommendations about a week ago. On the cheap, you can buy a Roost 2nd generation smart 9V battery for $35 which will notify your phone when the detector it's in goes off, or the battery is low. It should last 3-5 years.
 
For full smart home applications, they reccomend the Nest Protect. On the plus side- ["We tested all the currently available smart smoke alarms and have no hesitation in recommending the second-generation Nest Protect as the best smart smoke alarm you can buy. It’s the simplest to install, easiest to use, and most reliable of all the models we tested, with a sensor design that detects both slow- and fast-burning fires while cutting down on false alarms. It also has the widest array of useful smart-home interactions for added safety and protection. It’s the only smart smoke alarm worth considering, unless you really want a HomeKit– or Z-Wave–compatible alarm."]

The down side is that because the thing works as a motion sensitive night light, if the Nest isn't set on the lowest light setting, or hardwired, it eats pricey lithium batteries.

Well, I have hard wired smoke alarms about 10 years old. One in the basement and one on each floor.  Actually, I was researching with an eye to replacing them with smart detectors about now, the trouble was that One of the CO alarms went off while we were away, scaring the house-sitter. So we replaced everything with old tech rather than wait. Well, not everything. I forgot about the one in the basement.  I have the Samsung Smart Things hub, so I have another option.


["The First Alert’s Onelink Safe & Sound is a good-looking if huge device (6.8 by 6.8 by 2.6 inches). Expensive and only available hardwired, its big selling point is an Alexa–enabled omnidirectional Bluetooth speaker. It makes sense to have your voice assistants in speakers in your ceiling rather than in black cylinders on the coffee table, but existing wiring for smoke alarms tends to be in hallways or areas where people don’t hang out. If and when the promised AirPlay2 and multiroom Alexa grouping arrives, it will be more useful as a speaker. Onelink S&S is the only HomeKit–compatible smoke alarm, plus it will connect to some existing wired interconnect systems. Its glowing LED ring turns blue when you’re talking to Alexa, red when muted, and flashing red when it detects danger. It also works as a night-light with an ambient light sensor. There is no early warning for an alarm, just a siren followed by a voice and location warning after about 30 seconds. You can silence certain alarms from the app or a button on the top of the device. There’s no self-testing feature, but you can test it through the app.]


Well, I guess we'll see how we like these Echo devices. The basement is short on outlets because the walls are cinderblock. An Alexa/Echo intercom station could prove useful, and if so a cieling mount makes more sense.   





Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on November 26, 2018, 04:43:16 AM
I don't think they are smart, but the fire alarm/detectors in one of the buildings at work are the most hilarious thing I've ever heard.  I forget the specific phrases, but it is this extremely british voice asking if you wouldn't mind kindly clearing out of the building.  If it weren't for the flashing lights, I don't think it would register as 'alarm' at all. 

Back to the thermostat...None of that really would help our situation.  We're literally a set a temp and let it hold family.  I have 3 adults and 2 teenagers.  4 different sleep schedules in the house.  There is, quite literally, not a time when someone isn't in the house, and approximately 3 hours a day where no one is awake.  So, even the sleep/wake/away schedule of a regular thermostat doesn't do much for us. 

Theoretically, if I were to get smart vents and shutters and a thermostat in every room it might help individual rooms feel better, but my lord, that's a lot of investment and devices trying to operate.  I frankly wouldn't trust wireless for that and am not about to rewire the house for it. 

Motion sensor anything would go haywire with the cats. Though I am curious to put a trap camera in the back yard just to see what all is lurking outside. 

The doorbell is interesting.  As is a few of the security camera options.  But I don't need those "smart" either.  And the whole commercial of remotely unlocking the door for the fedex guy to shove your package into your house, FORGET IT.  Not interested.  I'm quite happy with the UPS surepost stop solution to that problem, and ship everything possible UPS to use it.  Considering buying one of their addresses even. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on November 26, 2018, 05:44:00 PM
I'm quite happy with the UPS surepost stop solution to that problem, and ship everything possible UPS to use it.  Considering buying one of their addresses even.

You mean buying a postbox in their local office?
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on November 26, 2018, 06:38:20 PM
I'm quite happy with the UPS surepost stop solution to that problem, and ship everything possible UPS to use it.  Considering buying one of their addresses even.

You mean buying a postbox in their local office?

It's an actual street address, not a PO box.  Though functionally about the same.  It's just more 'prestigious' to have a non-po box address if you're a small business.  Which I'm kind of working towards. 

https://www.theupsstore.com/mailboxes/personal-mailboxes (https://www.theupsstore.com/mailboxes/personal-mailboxes)

Mostly for small businesses.  I don't trust people to not steal packages left on my doorstep, for instance, so if An Unorthodox Halloween has this mailbox at the UPS store, I have packages delivered to that address where someone is always there to sign, and pick them up on my way home. 

Presently, I use the UPS surepost service to do the same thing, but it only works with UPS deliveries.  Renting the mailbox address would allow me to do the same with all carriers. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on November 26, 2018, 09:28:15 PM
So, does using this service means your incoming parcels are kept in the general storage room, or in a private vault to which the staff has access?
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on November 26, 2018, 10:02:55 PM
Well, you'd have a PO box for letter to cell phone sized things, but the packages are behind the counter, only staff can get them.  I just show my ID and they grab my packages.  I get emails and/or texts (you can configure your preferences) when something arrives. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on November 27, 2018, 02:36:17 PM
Got it.
It's just I was looking at a pic of how small those ups postboxes were, and how one usually uses such a service/office to receive large(r) parcels that wouldn't fit in the postbox home.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on November 28, 2018, 08:19:12 AM
Well, I have a motion sensor switch on my basement light, so now all I have to do is manage the door without letting any cats escape. Works like the garage since we got the new opener. Life is marvelous! If my hands are full coming up the stairs, I don't have to worry about the switch, it will turn itself of in time. Right now I have it set at 15 minutes. I make more trips a day into the basement than I thought. It's not just the place to store fishing stuff, luggage, and holiday decorations. The freezers, clothes line, and wine supply are down there too. Plus some other stuff. Thanks, Geo!

I've wired the smart dimmer switch on the chandelier. I'll try to set and sync it up tomorrow.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 06, 2018, 07:02:25 AM
The smart switch I chose was the Lutron Casetta. The set up and sync was easy. It has a remote control too, I gave it to my wife. She enjoys turning the light off to save energy, I like having more light both as an antidepressant during the short days of the year, and to help me see without glasses.  Working on the light switch resulted in a round of light fixture cleaning on my part. Dusty glass and smudged screens are the kind of thing that bugs me. Linking with my Smart Things hub was easy. Aside from testing, I haven't found a use for the phone control, but the upgrade makes my wife smile, and would prove useful for interior lighting as part of a security system. It's getting our feet wet.

******

Less easy was setting up the Samsung Smart Things hub. The reason is the box tells you little, except download the app. Simple! Trouble is there are different versions of the app, and different versions of the hub, and different authentiation procedures, and until I got the right combination of those, I was fantasizing about destroying the hub with a sledge hammer. Not that I own such a hammer, but I would gladly have bought one for the specific purpose of destroying the accursed hub. I chose to adjourn and start afresh the next day. I prevailed.

*******

I want to get a remote controlled plug. I have chosen the Wemo mini. The advantage is that these things are wide rather than blocky, and don't block the other receptacle in the outlet when you plug it in. The job I have in mind is simply to inerrupt the power supply of our wireless printer, to start a reboot. Apparently it shuts down over time to conserve energy, and cycling the power gets it working again.

*******

I've made a few more attempts to resync the SkyBell, once to my phone and once to the hub. I suspect I'll have to sync it to my phone first, and then it will complete syncing with the hub. Sometimes I just don't feel like standing outside to do it, sometimes I don't want to activate the doorbell chimes, because holding down the button for a minute is how you start the process, and that activates the chimes and drives my dog crazy. So I'd rather my wife was out when I do this. Maybe I'll have to try re-synching from my wife's phone before I give up. If I can't get it running again, I may be researching Ring doorbell ( which is now owned by Amazon Alexa/Echo) vs. Nest ( which is owned by Google Google Home). I'm not interested in Apple Homekit Siri. Apple isn't so compatible with other brands, and their product line isn't so extensive. I hope that's because they're trying to get things right.. We'll see. I was thinking Nest was the best doorbell, but Ring has some newer models again.

******

While I'm pleased that this is the best I've balanced the HVAC in years, there's still room for improvement. Also, in the summer, which side of the house the sun shines on is a factor. While we are retired and home most of the time, and the cats are home almost all of the time, the upstairs is mostly unoccupied for 12 hours or so every day. I think that the "ecobee 4 " smart thermostat is the best tool for my situation. It will make recommendations, and with some smart vents it can experiment and try to solve the puzzle, taking into account weather, time of day, and occupancy. There area few smart vent companies. Alea makes a nice one, but they are strictly in the pre-order stage. You can pre-order them at 1/2 price of about $125 each when bundled with a hub.  Keen is in production, and you can get 3 vents with a bridge and sensors for just under $400 list. Flair has a lower price ( under a hundred $) but only has one size smart vent available. Everything else is backordered.

So, the way things normally work, I do the researching, and my wife does the shopping. I found a bundel of 4 new Keen vents our size with damaged packaging at a discount. The Keens will work with the ecobee sensors and the Smart Things bridge, so there are big savings to be had there. So, we'll see if these 4 smart vents and the thermostat arrive as advertised. The ecobee 4 is equipped with echo. So we'll have that "intercom" feature.

While I'm waiting for the Echo Dot to arrive to set up that system, and the thermostat, remote sensor, and smart vents, I intend to replace the cable to the thermostat, because we are a wire short. Yes, there are work-arounds that disable the fan control in the system, but compensate for the wire, but after looking into it, why risk these circuitboards? Time to upgrade the system to current standards.


Maybe they'll make smart vents to fit our other vents in the next year or so.

******

I'm hooked on this basement motion sensor switch now, and want to install stupid 3-way motion sensor switches in the hallways. Only I'll set the timer at 5 minutes rather than 15. Should be easier bringing in groceries.   Once the Alexa-Echo system is up and running, I intend to add another Echo, probably a Spot on the second floor, and the hard wired First Alert Smoke/CO detector with Echo in the basement.


***************







Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on December 06, 2018, 02:11:17 PM
Less easy was setting up the Samsung Smart Things hub. The reason is the box tells you little, except download the app. Simple! Trouble is there are different versions of the app, and different versions of the hub, and different authentiation procedures, and until I got the right combination of those, I was fantasizing about destroying the hub with a sledge hammer. Not that I own such a hammer, but I would gladly have bought one for the specific purpose of destroying the accursed hub. I chose to adjourn and start afresh the next day. I prevailed.
I find any semi heavy object will substitute in times of real need (or fury) :p

Quote
I want to get a remote controlled plug. I have chosen the Wemo mini. The advantage is that these things are wide rather than blocky, and don't block the other receptacle in the outlet when you plug it in. The job I have in mind is simply to inerrupt the power supply of our wireless printer, to start a reboot. Apparently it shuts down over time to conserve energy, and cycling the power gets it working again.

Check the printer's manufacturer's webside for any possible firmware upgrades.  It might have one that could fix this...

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on December 06, 2018, 02:33:50 PM
I have our printer on an outlet that's wired to a switch for this reason. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 10, 2018, 03:56:42 AM
Less easy was setting up the Samsung Smart Things hub. The reason is the box tells you little, except download the app. Simple! Trouble is there are different versions of the app, and different versions of the hub, and different authentiation procedures, and until I got the right combination of those, I was fantasizing about destroying the hub with a sledge hammer. Not that I own such a hammer, but I would gladly have bought one for the specific purpose of destroying the accursed hub. I chose to adjourn and start afresh the next day. I prevailed.
I find any semi heavy object will substitute in times of real need (or fury) :p

Quote
I want to get a remote controlled plug. I have chosen the Wemo mini. The advantage is that these things are wide rather than blocky, and don't block the other receptacle in the outlet when you plug it in. The job I have in mind is simply to inerrupt the power supply of our wireless printer, to start a reboot. Apparently it shuts down over time to conserve energy, and cycling the power gets it working again.

Check the printer's manufacturer's webside for any possible firmware upgrades.  It might have one that could fix this...


It would have been worth the price of the hammer and hub for the joy of smashing them, but it seems to be functional now.



We've been using the printer too often lately for it to shut down, but I updated the drivers, I think. I can't be entirely sure, because it kept bombarding me with opportunities for free trials and auto ink refills and other special offers, rather than an "update complete" notice. I eventually exited the program. We'll see if it works better now.

Thanks, E_T
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on December 11, 2018, 05:17:12 AM
There is a difference between Drivers on your computer (which might be an issue as the Wake-On-Lan might be in it) and the firmware to operate the hardware of the device (which in this case, is the Printer).  The problem sounds like it's not getting a Wake-On-Lan that wakes it (it doesn't really turn off, just goes into sleep mode).  That or it's not going into sleep mode properly, which might require power interrupt to correct. 

Typically, you have to download the firmware and, IIRC, have the printer physically connected to the computer (not on the Wifi, but could through your router - depends on printer) for the firmware to be installed onto the device.

Usually, Drivers for Windows are handled by your Windows Update (you do have it set to download Recommended and Important Updates as well as your Critical Updates??) as the manufacturer partners with Windows about those.  But sometimes, you have install them yourself (due to being part of a software suite that is bundled with the Printer).
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 13, 2018, 11:59:05 PM
There is a difference between Drivers on your computer (which might be an issue as the Wake-On-Lan might be in it) and the firmware to operate the hardware of the device (which in this case, is the Printer).  The problem sounds like it's not getting a Wake-On-Lan that wakes it (it doesn't really turn off, just goes into sleep mode).  That or it's not going into sleep mode properly, which might require power interrupt to correct. 

Typically, you have to download the firmware and, IIRC, have the printer physically connected to the computer (not on the Wifi, but could through your router - depends on printer) for the firmware to be installed onto the device.

Usually, Drivers for Windows are handled by your Windows Update (you do have it set to download Recommended and Important Updates as well as your Critical Updates??) as the manufacturer partners with Windows about those.  But sometimes, you have install them yourself (due to being part of a software suite that is bundled with the Printer).



Thanks E_T.

That's sort of what I figured. It seems like it goes into a deep sleep when you don't use it every day or so. Normally, I handle updates through PCMatic. When I did try updating the printer drivers this week I had to connect my laptop via cable. It seems to be working fine for my wife now, but not at all for me. I think I'll let well enough alone, and move on to more productive things. It's seldom critical when I want to print something. Most likely it's simply a recipe. I can walk back and forth, or fire up a tablet to get the recipe if need be.


I'll pass on the smart plug for now.

************

As for wiring motion sensors in the hallway, that was more of an adventure. Lessons learned-

1) Use the accursed smart phone to photograph the wiring before I start changing things around.

2) Always wear my reading glasses when reading directions. Otherwise, I'll see what I expect to see, rather than what it actually says or depicts.

3) While these motion switches aren't smart enough to converse with a smart phone or router, they do require programming. I have a feeling that all of this smart home stuff is primarily a test of perserverance. The usual procedure when it doesn't work is start over from the begining, again and again.

4) You can't use two motion sensor switches on a three way circuit. It doesn't tell you this on the package of the Maestro 3-way motion sensor with built in dimmer switch. It's deep in the instructions.  You can rewire one of the existing switches and change the programming on the fancy switch, or you can use a fancy switch plus a Maestro dimmer to replace the two 3-way switches. I went with the re-wire one existing switch and re-program the new one option, as I really don't care about dimming, I want motion-on.

Even so, I'm delighted to have this set up. The lights come on if I'm walking to the bathroom, the laundry, the garage, or the basement. Really handy when my arms are full, and I'm watching for sneaky cats bent on exploring the forbidden zones behind the closed doors.

*****

I still haven't attempted the re-sync SkyBell. I intend to try that tomorrow.

*****

The EcoBee 4 and Keen smart vents have arrived. So has the Echo Spot, so I'll set it up first. It seems the EcoBee comes with a C-wire converter in the kit. So, I'll use that rather than replace the cable.  Maybe I'll set up the Spot tonight.

The manual balancing of the air vent dampers was too good to be true. The fan developed a squeak, which is an indicator of back pressure, from what I've read. So, I started experimenting and eventually opened all of the dampers to get rid of it. I think the 3 ceiling fans on winter setting and direction are really making a difference this year in the evenness of the air temperature and comfort. In fact I'm thinking about adding one over the kitchen table, the only suitable place left that doesn't have one. But I think I'll wait until there's a nice looking smart one available that's EcoBee compatible.

******








Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on December 14, 2018, 02:02:20 PM
I take it you don't have pets wandering the house that would set off the motion devices. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 14, 2018, 09:12:11 PM
I take it you don't have pets wandering the house that would set off the motion devices.


Maybe. We have 4 housecats and one lapdog.   The package says pets won't set them off. That wasn't the case with the original installation attempt, even when I programmed it for the lower sensitivity setting.

Then again, I think that I probably gave the switch an electrical enema when I miswired it, and magnetized it's inards or something, because while the light sequences indicated that I had reprogrammed it, nothing happened. The settings remained the same. It wasnt till I removed the switch and tossed it in a bag overnight that it reset to default, and worked properly when I tried to re-install it.  Simply cutting the breaker wasn't doing that.


So far, it doesn't seem that the cats and dog are setting it off now that it's actually on the low sensitivity setting. I brought groceries and things in and I really appreciate it. It was worth the trouble to me.


*****************


I got redirected to Mother-in-law duties, so I'm behind in my time table. I'm about to resume home smartification.

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on December 15, 2018, 07:46:05 PM
Is there a system in the making for having your smart stuff linked to the meteo forecast and close your shutters if severe enough weather comes in?
Or simply when the sun sets of course. ;)
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 15, 2018, 07:58:37 PM
Is there a system in the making for having your smart stuff linked to the meteo forecast and close your shutters if severe enough weather comes in?
Or simply when the sun sets of course. ;)

There are smart widow blinds, some of them are solar powered, some use batteries, and some need house current.  One brand  can be linked to the Ecobee thermostat, which takes weather and time of day into account. Another brand works with the Apple system.

No smart shutters that I've seen, so far.
******************

I just installed and set up the Ecobee thermostat. One of the best instruction books I've ever seen! It was a good kit, too. The only thing I had to do over was enter the registration code a second time on the website, because it didn't recognize it the first time.


Now I'm going to see about adding the smart vents to the system.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on December 15, 2018, 10:16:59 PM
Rusty's on the left coast, I doubt storm shutters are even a thing over there.  The only automatic ones I've seen were ugly as hell, like little garage doors. 

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 15, 2018, 10:32:47 PM
Rusty's on the left coast, I doubt storm shutters are even a thing over there.  The only automatic ones I've seen were ugly as hell, like little garage doors.


Actually I'm in Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburbs, but not too many miles from Lake Michigan. Close enough to moderate the temps about 6 degrees F vs. Madison. Strangely, if a lake is big enough, it seems to lift or deflect tornados. Shutters are strictly trim and style in these parts.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 16, 2018, 12:24:54 AM
Okay. Keen Smart Vents.

As I said, I got a great deal on the vents. They may not be the best ones out there, but they were in stock. Not backordered or pre-ordered or whatever.

It looks like a well designed product. The trouble is that the instructions are a slip of paper that says "Download our app!" The hardware is easy to figure out. It requires a smart bridge, but it's compatible with the ones by Samsung and Apple, too. Selling points. It also integrates with Nest and ecobee thermostats. More selling points. It requires thermometer sensors, but you can use the ones from ecobee. Another selling point.


What you don't know until you download the darned app, is that to use the Samsung bridge, you have to use that app instead. The vent wasn't easy to find on the Samsung Smart Things app, but if first you don't succeed, start over, start over again. But the Samsung bridge doesn't seem to integrate with ecobee or Alexa/Echo. An internet search reveals that the way only way for the Keen vents to work with the ecobee thermostat is with the Keen bridge and the ecobee sensors and the ecobee app. It would be nice if they would explain that on the website or box when they say "Now works with ecobee!"


Are we seeing a pattern here? I think so. It would be great to know the actual hardwire requirements and compatibility before I actually purchase a product. While I appreciate that printed materials won't be as current as an app, I don't think that it's too much to ask that you update your website or post your installation instructions on it. 


So far the things that are easy to install have been the -

*Lutron Caseata smart dimmer, with bridge and remote control.

*The Echo Spot

*The ecobee4 smart thermostat & remote sensor. ( this thing was a delight. )


Challenging installation/linkage is associated with-

* SkyBell HD video doorbell

*Lutron Maestro 3-way switches.

*Samsung Smart Things hub. ( To be fair, this hub is meant to be an all-in-one device, using multiple types of radio signal, however, I have the Lutron hub and am about to get the Keen hub, too. It hasn't simplified things much, as yet. )
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 16, 2018, 01:04:15 AM
I should add that the one smart vent that I installed appears to be smart enough to operate itself. Opening when the furnace is on, and closing when it isn't.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on December 16, 2018, 04:31:18 AM
It functions in relation with humidity/co2 levels then?
Sounds like something you could use in the bathroom too.

I noticed my toilet room (cubicle actually) activates when leaving the door open while visiting it.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 16, 2018, 06:41:14 AM
It functions in relation with humidity/co2 levels then?
Sounds like something you could use in the bathroom too.

I noticed my toilet room (cubicle actually) activates when leaving the door open while visiting it.


Perhaps, the main thermostat displays temp and humidity and whether the areas are occupied.  I assume the remote uses an infrared sensor to determine temp and occupancy. That's what the light switches use, infrared sensors to detect motion. 

In the 1990s I had a fan in the barn on a hygrometer control.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on December 16, 2018, 06:39:49 PM
Rusty's on the left coast, I doubt storm shutters are even a thing over there.  The only automatic ones I've seen were ugly as hell, like little garage doors.


Actually I'm in Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburbs, but not too many miles from Lake Michigan. Close enough to moderate the temps about 6 degrees F vs. Madison. Strangely, if a lake is big enough, it seems to lift or deflect tornados. Shutters are strictly trim and style in these parts.
Do you sometimes get Lake Effect Snow storms?
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 16, 2018, 07:12:03 PM
Rusty's on the left coast, I doubt storm shutters are even a thing over there.  The only automatic ones I've seen were ugly as hell, like little garage doors.


Actually I'm in Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburbs, but not too many miles from Lake Michigan. Close enough to moderate the temps about 6 degrees F vs. Madison. Strangely, if a lake is big enough, it seems to lift or deflect tornados. Shutters are strictly trim and style in these parts.
Do you sometimes get Lake Effect Snow storms?


Rarely, because the wind doesn't normally blow that direction. I expected lake effect snows from my experiences living in PA and working in NY. We do get the "Panhandle Hook," and the "Alberta Clipper" here, though. But generally speaking, the winters in WI are colder and dryer and darker than winters in PA. In central PA a couple of 18 inch blizzards a year are normal, so are a number of thaws. In WI, a week to 10 days of sub zero temps are normal, and it stays below freezing most of the winter.


They do get both heavy snows and tornados around Racine.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on December 16, 2018, 07:25:12 PM
A couple years ago, flying in over Nova Scotia late december, I was really surprised to find the land snow free.
I had thought winters were almost always linked with heavy snowfall in that part of the world.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 18, 2018, 02:06:21 AM
What's a smart thermostat do a regular one don't? 

What I've seen so far. The thermostat is in a hallway in the middle of the first floor. The remote sensor is on the end table between our easy chairs in the livingroom, where we spend most of our time. The report with recommendations won't be ready until it's been in use a month, but I can check the app or the thermostat and see what the temp is at both the sensor and the thermostat. The thermostat also displays indoor humidity, and outside weather according to the internet.

Anyway, the thermometer senses where we are and keeps that area the target temp. The other area is usually about 2 degrees different, so I see the potential for savings. Two more sensors are on their way, I'm planning on putting one in the basement and the other on the second floor. When I get the bridge I'll put one smart vent in the basement and the others in the downstairs bathroom and guest room, both of which are close to the thermostat. The living room, kitchen, and upstairs bedroom have other vent sizes, so I can't make them smarter yet. I tried to change the temp by voice as a test today, but it didn't work for whatever reason. I may have misphrased the command. I may not have things set up properly yet. I didn't have time to troubleshoot that today, but I'm sure I could change the temp from the app.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 21, 2018, 02:31:55 AM
My parts have been arriving.
I easily installed the Keen Smart Bridge. Added 2 Ecobee "bee" sensors, one in the 2nd floor master bedroom, and one in the basement. I had one smart vent in the hallway. Today I put one in the basement, one in the first floor bathroom, and one in the guest bedroom, which is where the cats loiter.

Getting the Ecobee and Keen apps integrated was a bit more difficult, but I forgot one of the passwords. I seems to be coming down with a Christmas cold, the gift that keeps on giving. So I plead cold medicine. It's one of those things like assembling furniture, if I ever do it again, it will go much more quickly. It wasn't infuriating like some of the other procedures, more trial and error rather than do it over and over. I didn't really understand the instructions, but again, that could be cold medicine, etc.

On the voice command front, I did succeed in getting Alexa to report the temperature to me after she figured out that we had an ecobee. In didn't think I needed to explain that to her since the ecobee 4 is an Alexa device, but maybe the software hasn't been updated since the ecobee 3 and 3 plus. Didn't try to change anything because the temp was comfortable and variations  between the four zones were minimal. Haven't had an issue with my sick voice and Alexa yet.


*****

We have had two incidences of cats triggering the hall light motion sensors, but it seems to take a few of them moving in the hall simultaneously to do it.
 
****************

So, that leaves a) SkyBell re-synchronization ( but with a cold/allergies/whatever, I don't feel like going outside), and b) installing the Onelink smart smoke/CO detector in the basement once it arrives. What's smart about it? It has Alexa integration. It also listens for other smoke detectors, and joins in/notifies my phone when they go off. Oh, there's also c) a wireless blueray/DVD player to set up.  From there I want to try things and see how they work for a while before any more add-ons and integrations.





Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 21, 2018, 05:56:43 AM
I thought that this article was particularly good- https://www.the-ambient.com/guides/best-smart-home-hubs-360 (https://www.the-ambient.com/guides/best-smart-home-hubs-360)

[Smart home hubs buying guide – everything you need to know
We demystify hubs and find the best way to control your home

If you’re creating your ultimate smart home, the chances are you’ll need a smart home hub. When you’re blending devices from a bunch of different manufacturers, you’ll quickly want to get them all working together, and preferably all controllable within one app.
Anyone who’s got fed up of delving into separate apps to control their home will appreciate the benefits smart home hubs have to offer. However, the reality is a little less clear – and a lot of companies aren’t giving you the whole story. In fact, hubs can take many forms; you may already own a smart home hub, and in a dramatic end of season twist, you may not need to buy anything at all.
Read on get clued up about all things hub.

What does a smart home hub do?
Smart home hubs help get your tech working together. If you’ve got smart bulbs from three different manufacturers and want them all working in the same room, controlled as one, you’re going to have to use a hub of some kind.
In addition to that, remote access is a problem that hubs can solve. If you want to turn your heating on from the office before you return home, or schedule your lighting when you’re on holiday, you’re going to need something to offer remote and secure access to your stuff… essentially something that has a Wi-Fi connection so it can communicate with your smartphone. ]

The article goes on to review and compare the various competing hubs and hub alternatives.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on December 21, 2018, 04:10:02 PM

We have had two incidences of cats triggering the hall light motion sensors, but it seems to take a few of them moving in the hall simultaneously to do it.

They're ganging up to see what is needed to drive (you) the electronics nuts....
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on December 21, 2018, 04:55:10 PM
My take is it's Tom and Jerry crossing the hall simultaneously, chasing eachother.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 21, 2018, 09:57:29 PM
Yeah, never misunderestimate  the possibility of cats in cahoots. But when it happened, they scrambled in various directions, as if they'd been caught trying to open the door into the forbidden basement or garage or something.


*****


Thermostat/vents - The temp here in the occupied living room is our target  temp of 66 ( no smart vents ). The unoccupied basement smart vent is closed, and it's at 65. The upstairs bedroom is unoccupied and 67 ( no smart vents ). The hallways in the core of the first floor are unoccupied and 67, and the smart vent in that hallway, in the bathroom along that hallway, and in the guest bedroom at one end are all closed. The ecobee thermostat is in this hallway. I have the thermostat, the hallway, bathroom, and guest room organized as one room named "hallway," although I could subdivide them with more sensors. According to my wife, everything is comfortable. Since I'm sick, I have no idea based on how I feel.

That's pretty much all I can do with available vents, unless I bought one more for the basement, and we're only down there for extend time once a month, and for that I can open the 2nd vent by hand.  Beyond that, potentially are smart blinds. They could be a factor in the living room and upstairs bedroom. Or a ceiling fan in the kitchen. There are dampers which are hard wired into the ductwork, but while I like wiring, I despise both plumbing and sheet metal work. If it's not an emergency, I'd probably hire a pro. Or I can wait for smart vents to become available in my other duct sizes.

I'd say at this point, a kitchen ceiling fan makes the most sense, and would be the most likely. I might wait for approppriately sized smart ones, though.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 23, 2018, 03:39:41 AM
So far, so fine with the thermostat & vents.

*****

The Onelink safe & sound arrived today. Easy enough to install, a little less easy to synch, simply because the language is vague. "Do it in the app" Fine. Is that the Onelink app, or the Alexa app? Well actually, there's an Alexa submenu in the Onelink app, but you got to find it first. But these things seem to be written by people who think everything is intuitive.

If you ask me "just download the app" is a step backwards from a printed quick start guide. You're saving trees and the environment, but I think theses apps are a drain on my RAM and battery. At least the app should have a prominent set up tab.
 
That brings me to another point. Downloading stuff seems to lead to pop-up ads that can mask the spots I need to find and click.  SO-trial and error. But it's hooked up, Alexa plays music, does math and metric conversions according to my tests on the smoke alarm.


I should have an effective intercom system now. The Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, and my phone app all work well enough. The challenge is the ecobee and the Onelink.  I checked the manufacturer's website and the Onelink is supposed to usable for communications. The ecobee says communications enabled on the Alexa ap. The Onelink unit appears on the app, but doesn't have a communications line to toggle on or off.


Communications come in various forms. With the app, Echo Spot, and Echo Dot you can call people in your address book, although I've disabled that with the exception of my wife's cell phone. Then there is the drop-in feature Alexa device to Alexa device. By naming them by location and device ( bedroom spot, living room dot, hallway, and basement link) you can speak room to room. I've had trouble with this regarding the ecobee and Onelink. The third type of communications is announcement, to all devices. Ex, "Dinner is ready" "Where are you?" "Help me unload groceries." The ecobee recieves those, the Onelink doesn't.   I'll experiment some more tomorrow, and if that doesn't work I'll e-mail customer service.

Okay. The ecobee now sends and recieves announcements, but "Drop-in is not supported on this device. Use the Alexa app."
Announcements are good enough for my purposes, since there is another device on the first floor.

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on December 23, 2018, 08:55:32 AM
I should have an effective intercom system now. The Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, and my phone app all work well enough...

Hang on a minute, it's coming (from the right)...

"Computer! Locate wife!"
;st
 "Mrs Edge, your presence is required in..."
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 23, 2018, 06:41:28 PM
I should have an effective intercom system now. The Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, and my phone app all work well enough...

Hang on a minute, it's coming (from the right)...

"Computer! Locate wife!"
;st
 "Mrs Edge, your presence is required in..."

LOL!
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 25, 2018, 11:40:04 PM
There were complications.

There was a software download for the Onelink. When I tried to use it, our wifi router crashed, and the onelink wouldn't reconnect after it rebooted. Did some online research, and that pointed to deleting the device from Alexa, the app from my phone, resetting the device to factory settings, and starting the install process over again. Well, the software part only.


Now it is working as advertised, and since that's why I bought it, I'm happy.
*******************

Replaced an under the cabinet light in the kitchen. In the process I found a faceplate I could use on the hallway switch. So I'd call those projects complete.


That leaves 1) the doorbell resynching. I think I'll just remove the apps and start from scratch again in that case, too. The weather is supposed to be in the 40s on Thursday.


2) The HVAC system. It's working nicely, but I can see room for improvement. The upstairs is usually empty 12 hours a day, and it is a few degrees warmer. It's only 2/3rds of the width of the house, the rest has a high ceiling in the living room where we usually are. So a lot of  the warm air ends up there anyway. I've been experimenting with shutting them off manually and opening them when I go to bed. The temperature is more even this way, and I don't think the furnace runs as much.  Most of them are behind furniture, so it takes some effort. I'm thinking about ordering smart vents that haven't been made yet. I'd need to adapt the ducts to fit, but I think smart vents would work well there.


There is a 60% discount on this brand (Alea) if I order before the end of the year. I'll have to discuss it with the Mrs.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on December 26, 2018, 01:20:32 PM
Makes me wonder if a home VAV system wouldn't ultimately be better than all these 'smart' thermostats, vents, etc. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 26, 2018, 06:48:02 PM
Makes me wonder if a home VAV system wouldn't ultimately be better than all these 'smart' thermostats, vents, etc.


Might be. We replaced the furnace and AC within the last few years, and when those things failed we needed them. We were more interested in getting a replacement in 48 hours than trying improve the system. Making things smarter is cheaper than redesigning/overhauling the system, but I think you're right that if a person planned they might be better off with something like that with hardwired dampers and zoned ductwork ( provided they have room to do that )  and the variable fan. From what little I know/have read, that might take a pro to meter things and set it up.

 But then, as you said, between pets and people your whole house is in use, zones aren't a thing. Maybe you could convert only fan and controls and be better off for it.


I will say that ecobee was doing commercial applications, and the beauty of these sensors is that they can be placed where you want. For example, in the bedroom, the sensor is the same level as the bed.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 28, 2018, 10:59:20 PM
We discussed potential expenditures and have decided to conserve cash for a while with the stock markets headed south and Mr. Tariff in charge of things.

Everything is working great, and I'm pleased. I'm opening and closing the upstairs vents manually. We're finding new uses for Alexa and getting better at communicating with her. I've been sick and still haven't gone outside to re-synch the Skybell, but I did remove the app from my wife's phone in anticipation of the start all over approach.

It occurs to me that closing vents to balance the temps has had no effect on the HVAC in terms of fan noise, but doing it by adjusting dampers often did. With that method I would either have uneven, uncomfortable temps, or fan noise and squeaks. As I said, everything is working great.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on December 29, 2018, 12:34:22 AM
This just happened. I'll describe it as a quirk, rather than a twilight zone moment.

I was getting up to do stuff, swap laundry, turn on the inflatable Christmas display, etc. Normally, the Mrs. and I will make requests when the other gets up. Normally this is so as not to disturb a napping lap pet. She asked for a blanket and to turn up the heat.  I said


"Here. Alexa, tell ecobee to raise the temperature to 68 degrees."

[ I'm sorry. I can only raise the temp between 113 and 174 degrees. ]

Mrs."NO!"

[Okay. I'll raise the temperature to 68 degrees.]

When I checked it was 66 at the thermostat and set to 68. Then the heat turned on. When I got back to my chair and checked the app, it turned out that the living room was listed as unoccupied. I looked over and saw that the sensor was blocked by a large medicine bottle and other clutter. So, that explains why she felt cold in the first place. Easy enough to remedy. Meanwhile she looked things up to find out if this was a joke movie reference or something. No, it's the kind of thing she says if you ask her to set temps outside the limits. So, we'll call it a glitch. It simply doesn't make sense in English or metric.

Temps were nicely balanced, though.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on January 02, 2019, 08:59:22 PM
We discussed potential expenditures and have decided to conserve cash for a while with the stock markets headed south and Mr. Tariff in charge of things.

Everything is working great, and I'm pleased. I'm opening and closing the upstairs vents manually. We're finding new uses for Alexa and getting better at communicating with her. I've been sick and still haven't gone outside to re-synch the Skybell, but I did remove the app from my wife's phone in anticipation of the start all over approach.

It occurs to me that closing vents to balance the temps has had no effect on the HVAC in terms of fan noise, but doing it by adjusting dampers often did. With that method I would either have uneven, uncomfortable temps, or fan noise and squeaks. As I said, everything is working great.


Everything is still working well. 1) While in a medical waiting room, I used my cell phone to turn off the chandelier, which the cleaners had left on. 2) The motion sensor lights ( which aren't smart ) only come on when people are present, and the timing is long enough to swap out the washer and dryer, longer in the basement because I spend more time per trip there. 3) The temps are well balanced, and on target where we are. 4) I'm still operating the upstairs vents manually twice a day. It's less than perfect. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes leaning over behind furniture for access affects my balance issues. I think I have discovered a solution. They make vents properly sized for my ducts which aren't smart, but are 7-day time programable for on/off. I could have 3 for under $90. Well, I'd have to trim the faceplates on one side. A cheap smart vent is over $100 each, more if you pro-rate the cost of a bridge. Not that they make smart vents for 2" ducts. 5) Still haven't attempted the SkyBell. The weather should be better in a couple days.


Alexa/Echo-  So we have a functional intercom. My Fire tablet should work as an Alexa device, too, but only when it's turned on. We can use voice to control the thermostat. We can ask it questions. We can have it calculate. We had it play Bing Crosby Christmas songs while we were setting up for and cleaning up after a Christmas party. I like to use "I Can See Clearly Now," by Johnny Nash as my wake up music. I love rain, but that song always makes me happy. There's a lot to be said for starting each day with a song which makes you happy.

What we find most useful is reminders because sometimes we forget, or lose track of time, or nod off. To call my Mom. To take away the cat food before a surgical procedure. To leave to pick the cat up again. You can do grocery lists and vacation lists, too. To make a medical appointment, something I seldom seem to think of during business hours. You can set timers, too.

I have it password protected, so that there's no inadvertent purchases. I like to joke bout the cats ordering Meow Mix, but I don't think cats can say "Alexa."  Alexa is the best Simon says player ever. If you don't say her name first, she ignores you.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on January 02, 2019, 10:56:45 PM
Alexa can make purchases if you so order it? ???
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on January 03, 2019, 12:30:49 AM
Alexa can make purchases if you so order it? ???

Yes. Kindle was made by Amazon to sell books and audiobooks. The Fire tablet was made by Amazon to sell movies, too. Alexa was made by Amazon to sell music, audio books, and pretty much everything else they offer.

We like Amazon. They built a warehouse/distribution center between here and Chicago. Sometimes we get things within hours. Usually we get things overnight, but mostly it doesn't matter because we order stuff that gets restocked monthly, like cat food and protein bars.


**********

Of course Apple has Siri, and they have a smart home product line called Home Kit. Their stuff isn't very compatible with other hardware, but what they have is pretty good, from what I read. I guess that has always been their business plan.


Google Home has smart hubs, too. I guess the activation is "Hey Google" or simply "Google". It's no surprise that Google is best at answering questions. Google owns Nest smart home products. They compete with Amazon in the streaming media market.  Amazon owns Ring.


From what I can read things will probably form around those three voice systems. There are other hubs that use more wavelengths and can link with more products, but don't have the voice interface. I have the Samsung hub for that reason, but it only synchs easily with other Samsung products in my experience.  So while it can work with any of them, I think it will have to do better to catch on. Well, I could see Microsoft's Cortana partnering with Samsung to become a voice controlled smart hub/ line of smart hardware.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on January 03, 2019, 01:16:32 AM
I find a couple of things amusing.

You can set up Alexa to answer to the name "Computer," Star Trek uniform optional. Google is working on hand gesture technology, Jedi robes optional.

https://www.tomsguide.com/us/google-soli-gesture-sensors,news-28946.html (https://www.tomsguide.com/us/google-soli-gesture-sensors,news-28946.html)
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on January 03, 2019, 09:05:17 AM
I just read an article on 5G stuff in the mainstream newspaper here.
Your Google remark was in it. About Alexa, I hope your online security is good enough to discourage a casual hacking attempt. In the same article I read mentioned a smart Amazon speaker recording private conversations and relaying those recordings to others.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on January 03, 2019, 03:51:00 PM
These aren't the kitties that your looking for...
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 04, 2019, 07:39:15 PM
Figured here is as good as any...

We are looking at removing traditional TV services.  Anyone have experience with that? 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 04, 2019, 09:19:53 PM
I haven't had cable TV in 5 years. I stream most of my media from Netflix, Amazon, and network sites. The only thing I've missed out on is live sports.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 05, 2019, 12:38:30 AM
What device do you use to do the streaming?  And how easy is it to find something if you don't KNOW which service it might be on? 

We MOSTLY stream these days, but most the apps we stream are actually on the box the cable company provides.  I have 2 PS4's that can handle the thing, but their menus are not as simple as the one on the cable box, and the cable box automagically searches all services I'm signed up for if I search for a program.  Is there a streaming box that does similar?

I see various live TV streaming options these days too for sports. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 05, 2019, 02:04:32 AM
...aaaaand I now officially have a ticking clock.  TV service ends on the 28th. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 05, 2019, 02:35:54 PM
What device do you use to do the streaming?  And how easy is it to find something if you don't KNOW which service it might be on?

My situation might not be generalizable. I just watch stuff on my laptop. Just recently I bought a chromecast so that I can stream to a TV, but in the past I've hooked my laptop up to the TV via HDMI cable or had a TV I could stick a USB drive in. As far as searching... I'm just googling, usually.

Quote
Is there a streaming box that does similar?

My parents have a Roku that does that. I know that's the idea behind Apple TV and similar options as well.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 14, 2019, 07:35:50 AM
I only know about bundling landlines, cell phones, cable tv and internet and playing the companies against each other, old school. I'm of no use this time.

------------
On the Smart Home front- 
Actually, compared to how hard it was to set up, it hasn't been that much trouble with the power outages. I had to log into the ecobee and turn the Alexa feature on and off to restore voice control to the HVAC sytem, but you can still use the thermostat before you do that. Also, the smart vents and the bee sensors resync themselves when power comes back. I never did get the accursed doorbell resynched. On the other hand, it still functions as a conventional doorbell, and the flashing light which changes colors attracts the eye immediately. It lets you know there's a video doorbell actively dooing something, even though in this case it's simply having fits. 

Winter being what it is, I'm powering the roof cables rather than putting up Valentines Day lighting to ward off the gloom.


Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 14, 2019, 10:35:36 PM
Valentines day lighting? 

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on February 14, 2019, 11:11:58 PM
Valentines day lighting?

Heart-shaped skulls. :P
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on February 15, 2019, 05:03:03 AM
More likely, Skull Shaped Hearts...
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 15, 2019, 06:10:04 AM
Valentines day lighting?

I have some red LEDs for around the widows, front door and transom. Some red light-up plastic hearts with arrows through them to hang in the windows. I have some early white LEDs, too, but they are bluish in a starlight sort of way, so it doesn't look Valentine's day ( well actually they are supposed to be dual color blue or white.) I enjoy the red glow around the windows at night when I'm inside, and the red tint it gives the snow drifts.

The red strings can also turn green, and I have some electric shamrocks, too. But, because the weather has been harsh I didn't swap the Christmas lights. Or just add lights so that I could do the red/white& blue thing for President's Day and put up the electric American flags in the windows. I wouldn't want to be seen as celebrating Trump anyway.

Actually, I haven't had the Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms this year. I credit extra vitamin D and fish oil. So, I haven't had as much of an urge to light. But the weather being as it is, I have greater need to run the roof and gutter cables to prevent ice dams. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 15, 2019, 10:57:49 PM
Would it not be advantageous to procure some of the smart string lights, string them for the December holidays, and alter the color for the rest of winter, taking down after, say, Easter? 

(while the insert holiday C-lights is about as much my thing as making charlie brown characters for halloween, I do appreciate the time and effort involved.  I haven't seen anyone around these parts doing Valentines.) 

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 15, 2019, 11:18:36 PM
Would it not be advantageous to procure some of the smart string lights, string them for the December holidays, and alter the color for the rest of winter, taking down after, say, Easter? 

(while the insert holiday C-lights is about as much my thing as making charlie brown characters for halloween, I do appreciate the time and effort involved.  I haven't seen anyone around these parts doing Valentines.)


 Yes, at least for the windows and door on the front and one side. One thing about these LEDs, they last longer than I expected, even when the wind is beating on them. I kinda like to wear stuff out before replacing it. Probably a farmer's habit.   Well, I've saved money and frustration by finally learning to remove the shrub net lights shortly after the New Year. Normally the snow buries them in January and then the bunnies chew them just to floss their teeth.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 18, 2019, 02:44:43 PM
Because I will soon have an apartment all to myself (no roommates!), I've decided to dip into the smart home thing with a Google Mini and devices that play well with Google Assistant. So far it's been fun and even mildly useful, but not without its complications and headaches.

Useful: I've programmed in a routine so that when I say, "Okay/hey google, nap time," it turns off the lights in my bedroom and sets an alarm to wake me up in an hour. Nice.

Not so useful, an episode from last night...

Me: Hey google, remind me to take out the trash tomorrow morning.

Google: Sure, I'll remind you tomorrow at 8:00 AM.

M: Remind me at 7 am.

G: Alright, tomorrow at 7:00 AM. What's the reminder?

M: Take out the trash.

G: Sure, I'll remind you tomorrow at 7:00 AM.

M: Cancel the 8 a.m. reminder.

G: OK, I'll remind you tomorrow at 7:00 AM.

M: What are my reminders?

G: You don't have any reminders for today.

M: Erase my reminders.

G: It looks like you have 3 reminders.

Which do you want to delete?

The one called "cancel the 8 a.m. reminder" for tomorrow at 7:00 AM, the one called "take out the trash" for tomorrow at 7:00 AM, or the one called "take out the trash" for tomorrow at 8:00 AM?

M: All of them.

G: Sorry, which did you want to cancel?

M: All.

G: I'm still not sure which one to cancel, so here are those choices again: "cancel the 8 a.m. reminder" for tomorrow at 7:00 AM, "take out the trash" for tomorrow at 7:00 AM, and "take out the trash" for tomorrow at 8:00 AM.

(You can also say, "never mind.")

M: Nevermind.

G: Alright, no problem.

M: What are my reminders for tomorrow?

G: You have 3 reminders: "cancel the 8 a.m. reminder" for tomorrow at 7:00 AM, "take out the trash" for tomorrow at 7:00 AM, and "take out the trash" for tomorrow at 8:00 AM.

M: Erase the reminder to take out the trash tomorrow at 8 a.m.

G: Since I don't know which one you meant, I won't make any changes. (I'm really sorry about that.)

M: Cool.

G: Anytime.

Then I went into the phone app and manually erased/set my reminders.

Semi-useful: This whole conversation was recorded, allowing me to reproduce it here.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Elok on February 18, 2019, 03:06:48 PM
It got bored, went on YouTube, and discovered the old "who's on first" routine.  This wasn't a very faithful replication, but as an AI it has a hard time with humor.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on February 18, 2019, 03:47:13 PM
.... Third Base!!
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 18, 2019, 03:56:42 PM
I'll say this, though; I didn't forget to take out the trash this morning.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 18, 2019, 06:33:27 PM
I'll say this, though; I didn't forget to take out the trash this morning.


When I first started reading your anecdote, I could relate it to my Alexa experience setting up a garbage reminder, but then you kept going... Clearly you win.

A voice assistant is handy for reminders, calculations, weather reports, timers, and spellings, I find. According to reviews, Googla excells at answering questions, while Alexa is better at human interface.

My wife mostly uses it for climate control, intercom, and tracking her packages from Amazon. I'm paying for a music service add-on, so I use it.

So Lori, do you have any Nest devices? How are they working out?
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 18, 2019, 06:55:06 PM
I don't have any Nest devices yet. I'll probably get some once I'm in the new apartment, but it'll depend on what management allows. Definitely want a thermostat, if I can replace whatever one they have, and maybe some of the door/window sensors.

Right now I have a smart plug for the lamp in my room and a chromecast for my TV. I can control both through the Google Home Mini, although I've found that it appears to be intentionally difficult to stream media you just plain own. It always wants to create a radio station based on the artist I told it to play or tell me I should subscribe to Google Music. There are workarounds (setting up playlists, giving very specific voice commands), but it's still a little annoying.

I'll also want to get a Roomba (or one of the other robovacs) once I've got my own place, which should work with google, too. And probably more lighting options, either via bulbs or plugs.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 18, 2019, 10:54:08 PM
On the TV front, there's mixed news. 

I did a test run for the weekend to suss out any problems before we drop the cable, signed up for the intended services. 

The good:  The PS4's and the bedroom 'smart tv' both have the search function I was looking for. 

The bad:  One service was Hulu+live, due to some shows hEt specifically wants only being available on the live.  The Smart TV won't allow that since it has an older app loaded on it (and for some reason wont let me upload the current, it has to be via a firmware update).  The PS4's refuse to allow Hulu+Live (only regular Hulu) since it competes with PS Vue service (which doesn't have the channels hEt needs). 

So, I'm back to needing at least one box for the main TV. 

Going through the options, it looks like Apple TV is the best option for us.  Not only is it the most familiar option for hEt, but we have a non trivial amount of content already on itunes it would make readily available. 

(for those playing at home, we're looking at over $100/month savings via this route.  Possibly up to $200, but I've heard they might strap us with data fees after dropping the bundle, so I'm erring on the side of caution.)
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 19, 2019, 03:32:11 AM

I'll also want to get a Roomba (or one of the other robovacs) once I've got my own place, which should work with google, too. And probably more lighting options, either via bulbs or plugs.


As for Robovacs, we got the Neato X-21 years ago, to help with pet hair and allergies. We were early adopters. I think we had a dog and 2 cats then, now we have a dog and 4 cats. At the time it was Neato or Roomba, and Neato was better for pet hair. We have laminate floors and not too many rugs & mats. Eventually the batteries and the gears in the final drives failed. We found replacement parts and fixed it. Didn't use it much for a few years on account of excessive clutter. Around Christmas I started using it again. It's working great, actually navigating better than before for whatever reason. I don't think it can upgrade software, so it must be the layout of the house, or it just continues to learn. Anyway...

In our house dust accumulates in the corners. It's easy to tell at a glance because of the pet hair, but other stuff is there underneath it, say feathers from washing a down garment, other laundry lint, crumbs, etc. Round vacuums just don't get into corners as well as the Neato, because it has a squared off front, much like a conventional vacuum. It also helps it follow baseboards better. From what I can read that hasn't changed much over the years.

My point isn't really that you should buy a Neato, it's that cleaning situations vary and that you should check things out and choose one that fits your situation. You may be able to buy one that was used a little and somebody decided that they bought the wrong one- too noisy, not enough power, not an aggressive enough brush, swallows too many usb cords OR find an older model that does what you want it to do- and get it much cheaper.


How are you feeling about the move this time?
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: E_T on February 20, 2019, 01:22:59 AM
Do the cats ever ride on it??
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 20, 2019, 02:43:39 AM
Do the cats ever ride on it??

No.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 21, 2019, 01:16:38 PM
My point isn't really that you should buy a Neato, it's that cleaning situations vary and that you should check things out and choose one that fits your situation.

I had a Roomba about 10 years ago when I shared an apartment with friends. It was good, but not great and eventually died. While researching recently, I came across the Neato and found that it compares very favorably to the Roomba. Strongly considering it.

Quote
How are you feeling about the move this time?

Great. I'm gonna have 892 square feet to do with as I please.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 21, 2019, 06:12:29 PM
Awesome! I had an 800 sq ft place to myself before I got married. It was plenty of space without feeling lonely. Enjoy!
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 21, 2019, 08:04:14 PM
Well what do you know? 

Apparently whoever the builder hired (builder out of business now, no record of the sub in my stuff, so I cant go back after the idiots) to install the heater with the remodel did a total hack job, and hid it.  Exhaust run wrong, ductwork done incorrectly, filter too small, and other tech speak from the technician.  Essentially the thing isn't able to move the amount of air it was supposed to due to installation, and that's royally fubarred the furnace. 

So...I'm buying a new furnace. 

It happens to be cheaper to do a smart thermostat than hard wire a new dumb one. 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 22, 2019, 12:13:50 AM
Well, hopefully the thermostat is smarter than your previous technician...
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Elok on February 23, 2019, 12:55:00 PM
I had a Roomba about 10 years ago when I shared an apartment with friends. It was good, but not great and eventually died. While researching recently, I came across the Neato and found that it compares very favorably to the Roomba. Strongly considering it.
I'm trying to remember back to my bachelor days--I know that now, with kids, there's no way in hell I'd be able to keep the floor uncluttered enough for a Roomba to function without a little bottle of robot Xanax, but I can't recall if I was equally messy myself back when it did not, strictly speaking, matter if dirty clothes went in the hamper or on the floor.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on February 25, 2019, 05:11:41 PM
I remember having to do a little vacuum prep before setting the Roomba loose, but I suspect at least at first I won't produce enough detritus to rankle the robot. I've spent the last 5 years basically living out of a bedroom, so my learned behavior is to stuff things in the closet where the vacuum will never venture anyway.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on February 25, 2019, 06:49:39 PM
I'm not a dirty clothes on the floor guy, unless I'm sorting laundry, so I don't know. Might be an issue, because some throw rugs just get bulldozed around and bunched up. Mostly I'm picking up pet toys, and boxes/packing materials from recent deliveries.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on February 28, 2019, 11:32:42 PM
Oh my royal hell. 

So today is D-Day for the TVs.  New cycle supposed to start, only phone/internet. 

Feeling something was going to mess up, I log onto my account to see what's up:

Page overview:  I am showed my correct services!  GREAT! 

But it lists I'm still paying for local TV fees, sports package fees, and a couple other broadcast fees separate from the cable package.  Well, that aint right, I don't have TV, so I click over to billing to summon a chat person. 

The billing page lists I'm still paying for Cable.  WTF!  I get in the chat queue, and open the billing details PDF. 

The PDF lists the cable as cancelled but prorated for half of February.  I specifically cancelled the date at the end of the billing cycle, so the PDF is charging me double for half the month. 

I now have 4 different totals showing on my screen for my bill due in 7 days.    (we use autopay for this normally, I'm only looking because of a ton of shenanigans with the cable bill)

Chat offers me a 5th (and granted correct) total showing on HIS side.  Assures me only THAT will be charged through autopay.  No idea why my side is all fubar. 

Cable bill is going to be anywhere from $60-300...I hate this crap. 

Boxing up their box devices and delivering them tomorrow. 


Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Geo on March 01, 2019, 08:53:39 AM
Chat offers me a 5th (and granted correct) total showing on HIS side.  Assures me only THAT will be charged through autopay.  No idea why my side is all fubar. 

Did you clear your cache before checking on their site? Old data on your computer can do things like that.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on April 04, 2019, 04:29:07 PM
I'm home again and really appreciating my motion sensor lights!
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on May 01, 2019, 03:34:47 AM
/www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/23/how-nest-designed-keep-intruders-out-peoples-homes-effectively-allowed-hackers-get/?utm_term=.8b1b946cfbff&wpisrc=nl_rainbow&wpmm=1

I'm kinda disappointed. I am a fan of the Nest doorbell. Generally, I don't have interior cameras. I don't trust them, I am famous for having a little bandaid  covering the cam on my laptop when I'm not using it. The key thing is that Nest was founded by an ex-Apple guy, so the business model was to protect user privacy by refraining from collecting data. Then it was bought by Google with the opposite model. Nest has been reluctant to adopt the Google methods of security. So, when something somewhere gets hacked, stolen passwords can be tried on other accounts with the same user.

This is a problem. Using two step verification makes the smart home stuff less convenient, which tends to defeat the whole purpose.

I didn't really want to go Alexa smart home, I just sort of backed into it because my wife is a deal hunter and does a lot of business with Amazon, so they gave her a discount she couldn't refuse.  At this point I expect to add more smart stuff in the next 12 months, due to security concerns with an attempted home invasion in my subdivision. Guess I'll go with Ring and not regret it.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on May 01, 2019, 11:32:44 AM
Several months on, they still haven't fixed my cable bill. 

I did end up getting double charged for the cable service in February, then for the internet service in march when they tried to fix February. 

April is listed completely wrong on my end, but I'm again assured their side is fine and it'll be fixed.

Returning the equipment and dealing with people in person at least removed all the extra fees. 

I'm meanwhile looking at buying a modem and returning their modem just to eliminate that monthly fee, and possibly move to a mesh wifi. 

Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Lorizael on May 01, 2019, 01:35:13 PM
/www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/23/how-nest-designed-keep-intruders-out-peoples-homes-effectively-allowed-hackers-get/?utm_term=.8b1b946cfbff&wpisrc=nl_rainbow&wpmm=1

This is why I switched to a password manager awhile back. I've also looked through leaked password databases and seen which of mine are compromised.
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Rusty Edge on May 08, 2019, 03:59:41 PM
https://nest.com/whats-happening/#will-security-updates-be-available-for-devices-of-nest-account-holders-that-dont-migrate-to-a-google-account

I got an e-mail about my Lutron products possibly having disruptions with Nest. What's going on is that Google & Nest are further integrating, which should result in better security and fewer apps for their customers in the long term. I applaud their efforts. Smart home integration can be frustrating, and I look forward to the day when you simply choose Google or Alexa or Apple or  Samsung, and then you buy accordingly and everything works seamlessly.
 
Title: Re: Smart Home
Post by: Unorthodox on May 09, 2019, 08:27:08 AM
The modem thing was a mess.  I was basically limited to the exact same modem we have unless we dropped voice from our plan.  Since hEt still wants the land line, I've got to talk her into accepting a VOIP provider before I can make that move. 

I did end up buying the comcast mesh wifi system however, and its solved most the problems we were having I was blaming on the modem.  As a bonus, my workshop now has a wifi signal.  (it's essentially a concrete bunker, so no surprise I had weak signal before). 

In setting that up I discovered a 'feature' of our modem was to provide a free public wifi signal.  In theory its so guests at your house don't need your password.  I'm thinking turning it off might have as much to do with our objective performance boost as the new mesh signal.