The not-quite Smart home
@ Adrian Tritschler · Sunday, Dec 20, 2015 · 7 minute read · Update at Dec 20, 2015 ·

Perhaps a blog posting of my adventures – or misadventures – with the all encompassing field of “smarthome” and connected technology. It seems to be one of those areas that’s “coming soon” for years, decades even. One of my personal interests while at university was home automation, I’ve got magazine cuttings and project plans dating back to the mid-1980s.

A modicum of interest, a few half-hearted attempts and a lot of reading. Little real action to date.

What have we got? A WeMo starter kit consisting of their controller and two LED lights, one is in the study above me now and is operated solely by the old fashioned wall switch – far easier than getting out the phone, unlocking the phone, finding the WeMo app., opening the app., waiting for it to synch. to the light and then turning the light on. The other light is in the hallway and runs on a scheduled timer, coming on at dusk (or is it sunset) and going off at 10 pm. It seems to work, most of the time. About once every six weeks or so it simply doesn’t come on and we have to restart the app, or restart the controller.

There’s also a SmartTV that gets used for watching a few shows on the ABC or SBS catchup service and some internet TV on Stan – although we get pauses every five or ten minutes with the whirly “buffering” icon.

Music? Well I’ve had an iTunes library for years, ever since I got a click-wheel iPod back in the 2000s, but the music for that is on the Windows laptop or on the iPod, and only I can get to it. What I’d like is for it to be available to the other residents – just like the CDs on the shelf are. I’ve tried to get Plex working, but so far it seems hit or miss, with a library of MP3 music but only half of them show up in the UI.

  • [2015-12-18 Fri]: WeMo hall light didn’t come on, turned it off then on at the wall, opened the app. and turned it on. Running OK since then.
  • [2013-02-01 Fri]: Probably wasn’t the 1st of Feb, I remember it happened some time early in the month. Around about 9 pm I realised that the WeMo light on a timer hadn’t come on. Ran the app., turned it on, turned it off. shrug “The internet or unreliable things”.
  • [2016-03-08 Tue]: WeMo hall light didn’t come on with the timer, ran the app on the phone an hour or so later when I noticed and it could find the light, was perfectly happy to turn it on or off manually. No reason, no logs, just every couple of months it simply doesn’t work.
  • [2016-03-09 Wed]: Just like yesterday, it didn’t come on with the timer, but after I turned it on manually it turned off automatically when it should. (Then on the 10th and 11th it both turned on and off automatically and appears to have got over whatever problem it had).
  • [2016-03-11 Fri]: Tried to watch an episode of a TV show on the ABC’s “iView” app. on the Samsung “SmartTV”. For unknown reasons they aren’t in alphabetic order so it’s a major undertaking to scroll back and forth through everything until we can find “Jack Irish, episode 2” (the alphabetic listing shows ep. 1 and ep. 5, and the “special extras” for all five, but no sign of episodes 2, 3 or 4, eventually we found a link to episode 2 on about page seven of “recent listings”). Then it was just the same as the last few times we’ve tried to watch anything on iView on the TV – it runs for ten minutes, or maybe fifteen, or thirty, or even forty five and then the screen goes blank and the message “stopped” appears. We can try and tell the app. to start playing, but it starts again from the beginning and the “fast forward” only lets you jump forwards 20 seconds at a time! Three iterations of this getting ten minutes further into the show each time and we’re about ready to chuck it in. Instead I fire up the iView android app. on the phone and watch the exact same show over the exact same wifi, mirrored to the TV display, and we can watch it through without a hitch. Oh well, at least the WeMo light turned both on and off automatically today.
  • [2016-04-03 Sun]: Daylight Savings ended at [2016-04-03 Sun 03:00] this morning so there was an hour of running around the house changing the time on all the non-smart items. You’d think that a Samsung “SmartTV” with full wifi access, a gateway that does NTP and a “Time Setting” set to “Auto” would result in it changing automatically. Of course not, we had to revert it to manual and change the time ourselves. It’s not even as though the date of Victoria’s change to and from Daylight Savings Time have changed for years, so they don’t have that excuse.
  • [2016-04-09 Sat]: WeMo again – but this time it failed to turn off automatically. Exactly one calendar month since the last failure to follow a simple “turn on at sunset, turn off at bedtime” program.
  • [2016-04-10 Sun]: SmartTV ditches half the channels – not to be left out by the WeMo playing up, this evening when we turned on the TV to watch the Paris-Roubaix we discovered that it had a couple of channels up to 7, then 9, then a huge gap to 44 and a bunch more up to 99. No idea what happened, when, or why. Some poking about with the remote and telling it to auto-tune (again) and et voila, the missing channels reappeared.
  • [2016-04-28 Thu]: WeMo again – didn’t turn on. I manually turned it on and it automatically turned itself off at bed time. As always there’s no clue as to why it fails to run on its schedule. At least its only a light and not, say, an automatic tap filling a pool!
  • [2016-05-06 Fri]: WeMo again, but just to be different, tonight it turned on automatically but didn’t turn off.
  • [2016-06-09 Thu]: WeMo again … phew, I was beginning to think that maybe it was working like it was supposed to, but no, it failed again. Failed to turn on at the sunset schedule.
  • [2016-06-24 Fri]: WeMo again, comprehensively this time. Failed to turn off at bed time, but when I ran the app on the phone it couldn’t find either light. Quick fix for the night was to turn it off at the wall – the interface that has worked for the last hundred years. Next day I power-cycled the WeMo box, waited a while, watched a firmware update, waited some more, managed to manually turn on and then off both lights, then waited for sunset. In the evening the timer turned it on and turned it off, but…
  • [2016-07-01 Fri]: Getting a bit ridiculous, WeMo again, timer turned it on but wouldn’t turn it off. At least this time I could turn it off with the phone. Is this supposed to be a production product?
  • [2016-07-29 Fri]: ho-hum, just another Friday night where the WeMo fails to turn off on the timer. Fairly normal fix, find my phone, unlock the phone, find the WeMo app, wait for the app to connect to the network, wait for the app to display the device. Tap, turn the light off.
  • [2016-09-02 Fri]: WeMo timer again, on a Friday night again. This time it didn’t turn on, the fix, once again, to turn it on through the app.
  • [2016-09-05 Mon]: We’re on a roll, last night the WeMo didn’t turn off – and of course it was a night where we’d gone to bed early so it was get up, find my phone, unlock the phone, find the WeMo app, wait for the app to connect to the network, wait for the app to display the device. Tap, turn the light off.
  • [2016-12-05 Mon]: starting to think everything was working, no, of course not. Tonight the WeMo didn’t turn on, but both previous and following nights it worked just fine.
  • [2017-01-09 Mon]: Once again the WeMo didn’t work – didn’t come on with the timer, but came on once I ran the app. and turned it on manually. Who knows how many times it failed over the week or so we were away over the Christmas-New Year break and were relying on it as a security aid…

Last update – [2020-07-17 Fri].

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…The Owner

There’s not much more I can add to who I am.

…The Site

Vanity site? Technology experiment? Learning tool? Blog? Journal? Diary? Photo album? I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…

I experiment. I play. I write and I take pictures. Some of the site is organised around topics, other parts are organized by date, then there’s always the cross-references between them.

Its all been here a fairly long time. Like the papers on my desk, or the books on the bedside table, the pile just grew… and it all grew without much plan or structure. I try not to break URLs, so historical oddities abound.

Long ago it started as a learning experiment with a few static HTML pages, then I added a bit of server-side includes and some very ugly PHP. A hand-built journal/blog on top of that PHP, then a few experiments in moving to various static publishing systems. I’ve never wanted a database-based blogging engine, so over the years I’ve tried PHP, nanoblogger, emacs-muse, silkpage and docbook before settling on Emacs Org mode for writing and jekyll for publishing. But the itch remained… I never really liked jekyll and the ruby underneath always seemed so much black magic. So now the latest incarnation is Org mode and hugo.

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