Happy Friday. Thank goodness for the weekend.
If AI wants to be helpful, the ability to noise cancel/filter out the ❌ichigan fight song from the TV broadcast would be something a whole lot of people in Ohio would be interested in right now.
It’s that wonderful time of the year where I get reminded of all the places I’ve ordered in the past 20 years. What did stores do for Black Friday sales before email?
Things are still a little wonky with the transition. I ended up having to change nameservers again, because the ones I had wanted to use wouldn’t accept any custom CNAME records for some reason, even though they work on other domains I manage there. So just need to wait for the SSL on this now.
In the process of moving my wordpress blog over to micro.blog. It’s a process. The biggest thing is the DNS. Nameservers were changed, and new nameservers aren’t allowing me to add all the necessary records to use my custom domain yet. But I’ll get there someday.
Not that I expect there's a lot of people reading this blog, but I apologize for the long time in between posts. It's been crazy busy in other aspects of my life, and this blog always gets pushed to the back of the line.
Fish tank update. Nothing much. I think the fish population is declining, which is desired. There were just too many fish before. I've cut back food to much more reasonable level, and I've noticed fewer new fish appearing. As a result, water changes are much more measured now, getting closer to the mythical occasional 15% water changes. I'm still changing water, usually about 30-40% every 1-2 weeks, but that's better than the 50-60% I was needing to do weekly. So, we're getting closer to a better balance. Algae hasn't been much of a problem, but it still requires scrubbing/scraping regularly. But otherwise, no big changes are best.
Smart home update. So here we go back and forth between stuff. I tried HomeKit again. Third time's a charm, right? Nope. I've pretty much given up on HomeKit. It's just unreliable, things fall off all the time, and it's just way more hassle than any benefits it theoretically could provide. I appreciate the local nature, but when it's less reliable than literally everything else in the house, that's pathetic.
I upgraded to the Hubitat C-8. It's fine I guess. I wiped and reloaded my previous C-7 and use it just for LAN integrations that might be problematic so it doesn't take down the main hub. I share the devices using the built in hub mesh mechanism. It seems to be working quite well. Most of my automations are in Hubitat, but I am setting scenes using Home Assistant as it's easier to set up and make any changes. I am using the Lutron pico buttons in Home Assistant instead of Hubitat. They seem to work faster there. I also have removed the kasa power strips from Hubitat as it just didn't work that well. So all that is controlled via Home Assistant where I have had exactly one problem, due to an update, which was resolved in less than 24 hours and has been rock solid so far.
I replaced the wifi system for what I hope is the last time in a while. The eeros I had were ok, except they would occasionally wig out and reboot themselves. Sometimes it was just a 5 minute downtime which is inconvenient enough when it happens during the day on con calls, but sometimes it required extraordinary measures such as completely unplugging everything for a few minutes, and then trying to bring them on in the proper order, and then inevitably a lot of wifi devices needed to be rebooted to get them working again. So, it could be quite a production. The new system has been running for a few months, and so far it's been fine. I'm not really enamored with the new system's app or web page. It's slow, and seems to not work fully. The page that shows connected devices is blank, for example. But I have a lot of devices connected, and so far it's held up with good speed and pretty good coverage. Knock on wood.
So, I was making a transition to being more HomeKit oriented for the smart home. Hubitat was having issues, and the capability of redundant multiple standby hubs in HomeKit was appealing. So, I started to build out routines, swapped some items from Zigbee to HomeKit compliant Thread based ones, and was trying to make that work.
Long story short, it didn't last long.
It seems that every time there is a network interruption, like upgrading the router firmware, or an update to the HomePods themselves, things just completely go bonkers and I end up spending hours trying to get stuff back online and working. It doesn't matter how much redundancy and backup hub facilities you have if they just all break with an update or a passing change in the network infrastructure. Things needs to come back online once whatever it was has passed. Network is upgraded and comes back online, it should start working within seconds, not hours. If you upgrade the HomePods, or they automatically update, things should come back online in seconds or I'd even let minutes slide, but not hours.
So, I'm back to Hubitat as the main thing. Some changes from before are I disabled the native HomeKit integration and installed a community integration that pushes necessary items to Homebridge, and then on to HomeKit. It seems to be much more stable based on a month or so with it. And Hubitat has largely fixed their issues, which honestly, seemed to be related to the HomeKit integration being active. (The new Hubitat C-8 is still going through quite a bit of growing pains, though, so I'm holding steady with the C-7.)
But I also started playing a little more with Home Assistant. I've created a couple dashboards, integrated it with Hubitat using some community add-ons, and it's been great. The dashboards are more configurable than the standard Home app screens that you get with Apple's app. And it can integrate with the ecobee thermostat and Netatmo weather stations. These are cloud integrations, unfortunately, but they seem to work fine so far. And the dashboards are much more functional and aesthetically appealing than the Hubitat ones out of the box. Hasn't been too hard to get to where I am with it. I have not done anything to create automations in it as of yet, and not sure I'll need to, but the dashboards and adding in the needed integrations have gone pretty smoothly.
So, that's where I am right now. HomeKit has some things in the background that I'm not using much. Hubitat seems to be pretty stable. Home Assistant is working well for my limited use cases. Homebridge continues to be a rock. Kind of a Frankenstein-ish setup, but if you consider I'm not doing much with HomeKit, then it's actually really just Home Assistant and Hubitat. Mainly using sensors and other equipment that could be used with other systems like SmartThings or directly into Home Assistant if I ever get that far. I think I'm settling in, at least for a little while.
Unamused pooch waiting impatiently for the human to finish getting groceries.
So this is another smart home update, because that seems to be what I do in my free time these days, when I get it. The HomeKit integration from Hubitat is ok, and I'm using HomeKit more and more for day to day control. Most automations are still in Hubitat, but I'm experimenting with the HomeKit ones. Not as configurable or powerful as Hubitat, but something that makes some sense.
Hubitat is a single device. A single point of failure should anything happen to it. HomeKit is the framework that Apple uses. It uses a more distributed management. I have a few HomePod Minis and an Apple TV. Any of them can be the "hub" that all the HomeKit devices and integrations connect with. When one is tagged as the hub, the others go into standby. If the one tagged goes offline for whatever reason, one of the other ones takes over the hub duties. No action required on my part. It's actually kind of slick.
Also, Hubitat has gone through some pretty bad updates as of late. It got to the point where I'd have to reboot it twice a day. For some reason, it just completely wigged out. And when it got to the wigging out part, my network went down. I can't say the Hubitat caused it or what, but one time I shutdown just the hub and the network returned to normal. So, that's pretty damning evidence. The most recent couple of firmware updates seem to have largely resolved this. But it has left me kind of leery of trusting the brains to a single device that has had issues.
Another thing I've done recently is install a Homebridge hub again. Along with a Hubitat plugin/app I can operate my Hubitat connected Zigbee locks via the home app now. Since Hubitat is trying for HomeKit certification and Apple rules prevent "barrier" devices from connecting to anything other than HomeKit hubs themselves, they were not allowed to be shared directly via Hubitat. Homebridge, which is not certified or even trying, has no problem with this. I can also expose the Ring cameras to HomeKit with Homebridge. It's not great. The lag is very noticeable, the quality is less because it requires re-encoding the video on the Homebridge itself, and it's dependent on an internet connection to the Ring api/dashboard. But, it's there. Just not ideal.
I installed a HomeKit enabled garage door opener for one of the doors, too. Something I've had for about two years and just never installed. Probably will add another one for the other door since it seems to be working well. I could get a model that works with all doors in one thing, but it's more expensive and frankly, unnecessary. It has 3 ports, all which will show up in HomeKit even when one is not in use.
I've also started looking into HomeAssistant. Open source home automation project. It's much more complicated than HomeKit or even Hubitat, but it does seem much more configurable. And if I can figure out the dashboards and such, much nicer looking than Hubitat. Downside is remote access, which requires a subscription. But if I get rid of Hubitat, then it's a wash. I don't think I'd subscribe to both. Anyway, it's running in a docker container on a cheap Intel mini PC I picked up, which, with a coupon, was less than what Raspberry Pi 4 devices are going for these days. Faster to ship, too. And HomeAssistant can connect to HomeKit as well. So it could potentially be a replacement for the Hubitat if it came down to it. Hook the Z-Wave and Zigbee devices into Home Assistant instead of Hubitat, expose to HomeKit, go from there.
So, the smart home continues to be somewhat of a moving target. But the pace has slowed down a lot. Not getting lots of new devices or anything. Just tweaking and playing with how the ones that are currently installed are being utilized and automated with what system. I'm getting to a decent place I guess. Time to start thinking about what's next.
The dog is generally good at home and pretty loving of everyone. At the vet, it's a completely different story.
I bought a snow blower a few weeks ago because 1) I'm getting older and shoveling snow is a pain in the back, literally, and 2) because I could. I thought for sure that would mean we would not have any appreciable snowfalls the rest of the winter since I got one.
Today, it is snowing pretty much all day according to the weather reports. It's not a lot of snow, but it could end up being a few inches. It's been going on for a few hours now, and we have 1-2 inches, and it's predicted to continue for the next 4-5. So we could end up with an appreciable snowfall.
Based on my original theory, this means possibly one of two things.
- My snowblower, which I have not turned on yet, is actually broken upon arrival and won't work, or
- There actually is no correlation between me owning a snow blower and the weather events affecting me.
I really hope it's not the first one...
Past winter fun by a dog with a stick.
- My snowblower, which I have not turned on yet, is actually broken upon arrival and won't work, or
The smart home is pretty much stable in terms of new things. Just minor tweaks here and there. One thing I did over the holiday break was to swap in Lutron Caséta switches and add a Lutron Smart Bridge Pro. Yes, it is another "link" to account for. But the little device connects directly to Hubitat, and it works very well. One of the added benefits to the Lutron system are the pico remote devices. Just little button controllers. But with these little button controllers, I can actually program them using Hubitat. So I can have them do control any of the automation or scenes that I program in Hubitat, even when the target devices are not Lutron switches, etc. Just really handy. I've been putting these little pico devices all over.
Another plus is that I finally have all interior lighting hooked up to smart switches now. The 3 way and 4 way lighting I had were causing me fits. The electrical setup was not conducive to using the standard Enbrighten Z-Wave switches with add-ons. I just couldn't use them without some rewiring. But with the Lutron setup, I can just replace the secondary and tertiary switches with pico remotes, and I have the 3 way and 4 way setup that I did before.
Another change that happened over the holidays was I installed the new HomeKit integration in Hubitat. It's currently in beta, but it's working fine. I didn't like HomeKit before because the devices were 1) expensive and 2) limited in options. Most old HomeKit stuff worked via bluetooth or wifi. Bluetooth is limited in range and in my opinion, a silly protocol to use for home automation. Wifi just adds more and more of my wifi network that I primarily use for movies, music, work, and basically anything else these days. I didn't want to tax the wifi network any more. With more recent Apple devices like the HomePod Mini and AppleTV 4k, they added "Thread." Thread is smart home automation system, similar to what Zigbee or Z-Wave does on dedicated "connections." But it's more modern and performs a little better. Problem is, again, device choice and price.
With the new integration, I can pull the cheaper and more diverse devices into HomeKit and see them in the Home app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. One thing the Hubitat did not do great was the dashboard. Yes, it has a pretty flexible setup, but it looks dated without diving into more coding than I care to attempt at this point in my life. I just want it to work well and look nice. The Amazon Alexa app is worse. It's expected that voice would be the only way to control devices, and that a dashboard wasn't necessary. You can simply ask Alexa if something is on or locked or whatever. It's just not how I want to work.
There are some limitations to the HomeKit integration from Hubitat. Apple does not allow devices like locks, garage door openers, or the like operate over a hub like this. All my current locks are Zigbee and cannot be controlled via HomeKit, directly or indirectly. I might be able to do something with virtual switches or something, but I need to think through it a little more. My garage door opener doesn't connect to Hubitat anyway, so I'm ok with that limitation right now. And "LAN" devices are not allowed. I only have one LAN device, an outlet, connected to Hubitat that cannot be integrated to HomeKit. It's not really something I care about right now. All my other "LAN" devices are connected directly to HomeKit anyway. Lutron, Hue, and ecobee connect to HomeKit natively, so we're all good there.
So, that was my end of year vacation. Cleaning up things (the office looks transformed now), playing with HomeKit (still some things to arrange and see what works best for me). But I felt good with what I was able to accomplish while taking a break.
We’re pretty much assured of not getting much snow this winter as I just bought a snow blower (electric). You’re welcome. (Also, backyard cam spotted a fox(!) last night.)
Um, Amazon’s algorithm needs some tweaking.
So it's the end of the year. Again. I have no idea where the year has gone. Lots of changes in various things (which I won't go into) and yet a lot of things stayed the same (COVID). But we made it! So, happy holidays, and may the new year bring you peace, happiness, prosperity, and whatever else new years are supposed to bring you.
I don’t have any allegiance or interest in the football team, but Coach Niumatalolo is a class act, and it’s disappointing he was fired.
The Thanksgiving holiday was good. I was able to visit family and catch up on things. Involved a lot of driving, but it was fine. The better half approved of the music playlist this year, so that was a huge plus.
About a week after returning from the holidays, I contracted COVID. This is my first time. And I have to say I'm not a fan. I'm fully vaccinated and boosted and all that, and it still sucks. Not hospitalization/ventilator level of suck, but it still sucks. The residual effects are still with me. Sinus issues, coughing, and the fatigue. I could nap several times a day (and have today). Anyway, I'm slowly recovering from that.
And that's about all the energy I have for a quick update. Here's a dog.
Interesting to see people flock to micro.blog and Mastodon given what’s happening on that other site. Fascinating. Need to find more accounts to follow on both to improve my feeds…
So, I started playing with home automation and such a couple months ago. SmartThings was the hub system I used to connect all my Zigbee and Z-Wave devices together to create these automations of turning lights on and off, fans on and off, mood lighting and scenes, etc. But…
SmartThings is going through a transition from a mostly cloud based solution through its hub to running a lot of the automations locally. This sounds great in theory, and it is. However, the transition to the new drivers, apps, etc. has been less than ideal. It’s been kind of bumbled, dates changed (earlier and later), and you still need to have a cloud connection in order to get to the hub for any reason, even if you’re on the same network. So it’s still dependent on the cloud. And there seems to be increasing number of issues with their online component. No idea if it is related to all the migration activities or not, but it was frustrating.
So I’ve moved to Hubitat. It’s a local first solution. It tries to do everything locally, including connecting to the hub to manage it. Remote access is available for a subscription, but it’s completely optional. Other than the optional recurring subscription as a cost, it sounds like a great solution. And for the most part, it is. Not a whole lot of devices officially support it though. But, that didn’t stop the company or the community at large from writing drivers to interface. It’s been wonderful.
Some things I’ve gained are local access to my Hue hub, a kind of Netatmo integration to see my devices (this is a cloud integration, unfortunately), and dashboards that allow me to arrange/group devices and other things however I want.
What I lost was a connection to the fridge, which I never used, and connection to my garage opener.
Overall, it’s a net win. I’m happy so far with it, even if it is a small player in the space. The community is fantastic, and there are frequent updates, which you can choose to apply or not.
Other that that, not a whole lot going on lately. The weather has been fantastic, for any season and just amazing for November. Today I installed a squirrel feeder. Wife wanted to fill the bird feeders, and they never end up being mostly bird feeders with the squirrels. So I’m hoping that installing a dedicated squirrel feeder (with dried corn and peanuts and such) will save the bird feeders for the actual birds. It took the furry critters a little over 2 hours to actually find it, but they seemed to make a dent in the food in it. Here’s hoping this works.
And with that, here’s a dog, taken today as I was trying to photograph squirrels.
Based on my experiences this week, when on an airplane (or anywhere with lots of people in confined spaces/close quarter), please don’t be an inconsiderate jerk and have a conversation on speakerphone.