Author Topic: Home Automation  (Read 733 times)

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Offline Variety of Cells

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Home Automation
« on: August 05, 2018, 07:03:44 PM »
Thought it might be nice to have a thread to talk about home automation and how unnecessary it is, but at the same time how cool it is, and how now I'm a little obsessed with it. 

I've had some TPlink wifi bulbs and a couple wemo outlets for a while now.  They work alright for the most part.  I have one outlet hooked up to my window air conditioner so I can turn it on before I get home and cool down the bedroom.  And having lights I can dim from my phone is kind of cool.  But the outlets and the bulbs use different apps, which is annoying.  Especially since they take a while to load.

But then wemo released a firmware update and now the plugs work with apple homekit, which is a faster app.  Then I started to wonder if there was a way to get my TPlink bulbs to connect to homekit too.  My boss at work informed me I could buy a raspberry pi and run something called homebridge to do just that.  I have 0 experience with linux or anything of that sort, so I knew I was going to be in over my head.  But my boss convinced me it would be a learning experience that I could eventually apply toward my job, so I jumped in.

Installing the OS wasn't bad.  The whole process took me about half a day.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, just a lot of fiddling around with tutorials and teaching myself a little command line.  I was prepared for it to be a multiple day affair, but thankfully it wasn't.  Now I only have to use one app, and I can control it with my voice if I so feel like it.

My next step: Getting some wifi light switches and a wifi bulb for my desk lamp.  My wife will never ever use an app to turn on the lights.  She just won't.  But if she turns off the light switch then I can't turn them on from the app.  My solution: wifi light switches.  So she can still hit the switch to turn things on and off, but I can control those switches from the app. 


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2018, 08:02:02 PM »
I learned Linux way back when it was first developed, to run the first email servers for our department, back before the wold wide web was a thing.  Ran on a 486 PC, replaced an old sun work station.  Been close to setting up a raspberry pi on my 3D printer a few times but never got around to it.

I looked into wifi light switches when I moved into this house so I could turn on my outside lights when I'm getting home late, but went with solar powered motion activated LED lights attached to the back of the house.  I see there are a lot more of the wifi wall switches now, and a lot more that don't need a vendor specific hub for them to work.

Only home automation I have is a honeywell wifi thermostat, and I use the phone app way more than I thought I would, if I'm coming home early I can start cooling down the house before I leave work, of if staying late tell it not to cool down at the normal time.

I do need some kind of automation for the lights on the stairs to the 2nd floor.  There is basically no built in lighting for it, only a ceiling light near the landing on the first floor, and a wall sconce in the hallway on the 2nd floor.  So I put in a strip of LED lights to light up the steps, but the best setup I've found is a remote control outlet with the button on the wall at the top of the stairs.  Thought about programing a arduino with 2 motion sensors, one at the top and one at the bottom to turn them on and off automatically.  What I really just need to do is search for a remote control outlet with 2 remote switches.



Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2018, 06:02:56 AM »
Nothing to say except I personally have no interest in it, but it's been very helpful for my father, who has fairly reduced mobility.


Online The Lurker

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2018, 06:42:42 AM »
The only problem is that IoT stuff generally has a notorious lack of security.


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2018, 07:15:49 AM »
Yes, security is an issue with a lot of these devices.  Hackers are going after them more and more as a way into your home network.

Another good reason to make sure you keep the firmware on your home router up to date, and learn how to set it up for maximum security.  I just replaced an old but still working fine router just because it would no longer be supported with new firmware updates.  And that's another reason against buying combined modem+router devices, routers need updating and possibly replacement more often than modems.


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2018, 08:28:34 AM »
So my automated lights in my apartment had not been responding very well, and it was getting annoying to the point where the automation was less useful than a light switch.  I concluded that upgrading my router was the next step in the troubleshooting process, so I purchased a Nighthawk R7800 based on the good reviews at smallnetbuilder.com.

But what I also found out from an article online is that I can run ethernet directly from the box that connects to the fiberoptic cable, instead of having coax run out of that box to a crappy modem/router provided by verizon.  Verizon doesn't tell you about it because they want you to rent their modem and use the coax for TV some day (something I'll never do). 

But I had to call up verizon to have them activate the ethernet port on the fiber optic box.  I had an hour before I had to leave for work on Friday so I thought I'd try giving them a call.  I ended up waiting on hold for two hours and ten minutes (put my phone on speaker in my breast pocket as I rode my bicycle to work), just to be told by a guy that I would have to upgrade my speed in order to activate the port.  I didn't have time to ask to speak to his supervisor because I had to work, so I gave up and decided to call again on Saturday.  I prepared myself for a full day marathon of waiting on hold and demanding that they turn on the ethernet port because there is no physical reason they can't.  I called, was connected immediately, the lady said "Oh yeah sure, you want to use your own router?  No problem".  Took maybe four minutes, I rebooted my router, and was done. 

So far, everything is working much better with the new router.  So far.  Need to see how things go during different times of day, with different levels of wifi pollution.  My old router was rebooting itself randomly, so I think it was on its way out.  This one seems much better at handling a bunch of low usage devices all connected at once (currently have 23 devices connected to the router).  Plus I don't have the useless verizon modem complicating things.


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2018, 05:10:50 PM »
So my automated lights in my apartment had not been responding very well, and it was getting annoying to the point where the automation was less useful than a light switch.  I concluded that upgrading my router was the next step in the troubleshooting process, so I purchased a Nighthawk R7800 based on the good reviews at smallnetbuilder.com.

But what I also found out from an article online is that I can run ethernet directly from the box that connects to the fiberoptic cable, instead of having coax run out of that box to a crappy modem/router provided by verizon.  Verizon doesn't tell you about it because they want you to rent their modem and use the coax for TV some day (something I'll never do). 

But I had to call up verizon to have them activate the ethernet port on the fiber optic box.  I had an hour before I had to leave for work on Friday so I thought I'd try giving them a call.  I ended up waiting on hold for two hours and ten minutes (put my phone on speaker in my breast pocket as I rode my bicycle to work), just to be told by a guy that I would have to upgrade my speed in order to activate the port.  I didn't have time to ask to speak to his supervisor because I had to work, so I gave up and decided to call again on Saturday.  I prepared myself for a full day marathon of waiting on hold and demanding that they turn on the ethernet port because there is no physical reason they can't.  I called, was connected immediately, the lady said "Oh yeah sure, you want to use your own router?  No problem".  Took maybe four minutes, I rebooted my router, and was done. 

So far, everything is working much better with the new router.  So far.  Need to see how things go during different times of day, with different levels of wifi pollution.  My old router was rebooting itself randomly, so I think it was on its way out.  This one seems much better at handling a bunch of low usage devices all connected at once (currently have 23 devices connected to the router).  Plus I don't have the useless verizon modem complicating things.

Have you used a dual band router before?  One tip to get the most out of it, use different SSIDs for the 2.4 and 5 GHz channels.  That way you can use the 5GHz channels only for the devices you want to run at maximum speed.  I have all my streaming boxes and other stuff like that on the 2.4GHz side because each one only needs 6Mbps or so to run just fine, and my PC and laptop on the 5GHz channel so they can run up to the full speed of my internet service.


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2018, 07:33:54 PM »
Have you used a dual band router before?  One tip to get the most out of it, use different SSIDs for the 2.4 and 5 GHz channels.  That way you can use the 5GHz channels only for the devices you want to run at maximum speed.  I have all my streaming boxes and other stuff like that on the 2.4GHz side because each one only needs 6Mbps or so to run just fine, and my PC and laptop on the 5GHz channel so they can run up to the full speed of my internet service.

My boss has this ridiculous wealth of knowledge about networking, so he has been giving me pointers.  He wanted me to install the openwrt os on my router, but I didn't quite feel comfortable with that.  There is so much about networking that I don't quite understand, and I felt it would be too frustrating when I couldn't get it to work because some obscure box wasn't checked deep in a menu somewhere.

That being said, I do have a dual band router that I have organized pretty well I think.  All my light bulbs and what not are on the 2.4GHz band, with just my phone and my ipad on the 5GHz.  My computers and roku are all hard wired.  I have given all of my light bulbs static IP addresses in the 10.x.x.x subnet range.  10.35.10.x are my computers and raspberry pi.  10.35.100.x are all my light bulbs.  (Those aren't the real addresses, just examples).  The static IPs seem to help with responsiveness, but that could also just be a placebo. 

I have one light that is less responsive and takes a while to connect.  Which is a lot better than the 8 lights that it used to be before I installed my new router.  Been switching channels on the 2.4GHz band to try and see if that will help, but no luck so far.  It is the light that is farthest away from the router.  A wifi repeater might help, but it feels so silly to have a repeater for my tiny little railroad apartment.  I think there's just so much wifi pollution in the city.  My boss was telling me about a program that can measure wifi congestion and tell you what channels are the most open.  But I would need a device with a newer wifi card that isn't an iphone, and I don't have one. 


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2018, 11:18:01 PM »
WRT is nice, it's one of the reasons I get ASUS routers, they come with their own version of it.

There are no wi-fi mapping apps for the iphone or ipad?  There are tons of them for Android...

If any of the computers have a wi-fi card, even an old one, there's an old free program called "inSSIDer Home" that will show what channels are being used in your area, might still be able to find it for download.  Most routers have something similar, look for something called "site survey" or some name like that. 

Only use channels 1, 6, and 11 on 2.4GHz, those are the only channels that don't overlap, so using the others in a crowded area doesn't help and causes interference with multiple channels your neighbors might be using.  Hopefully you don't have neighbors using those in between channels.

Another thing about 2.4GHz in crowded areas, don't bother trying 40MHz bandwidth or "auto", force it to 20MHz.  It's mandatory that routers switch down to 20 if there are other strong signals on the adjacent channels, so no point in even trying to use it in crowded areas because the router will constantly be trying to go to 40 and then have to go back down to 20.  That can lead to devices having bad connections.

5GHz was designed with no overlap so you can use any channel at full bandwidth.  What I've found in my house is the higher channels seem to have higher signal strength on the other side of the house, kind of the opposite to what you would expect, usually lower frequencies penetrate walls better.


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2018, 06:29:37 AM »
Ahhhh thank you. I didn’t know that about the 20MHz limit. I’m pretty sure my router is trying to push a much higher number, and like you said, probably getting throttled. I’ll set the limit to 20MHz when I get home. Thanks again for the heads up.


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2018, 07:04:41 PM »
For the 2.4GHz band, my router has three modes: 54 Mbps, 347 Mbps, and 800 Mbps.  Any opinions on which of those would be ideal for a high traffic area with a bunch of low usage devices?  The default of 800 Mbps. 


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2018, 07:43:23 PM »
For the 2.4GHz band, my router has three modes: 54 Mbps, 347 Mbps, and 800 Mbps.  Any opinions on which of those would be ideal for a high traffic area with a bunch of low usage devices?  The default of 800 Mbps.

The maximum speed for a single 20MHz wide channel in the 2.4GHz band is just under 400Mbps, so that 800 must be turning on the 40MHz bandwidth and using 2 channels?   54Mbps is wireless g, I think they stopped making stuff with that more than 10 years ago.

So, I guess I'd go with 347 and see if it improves the connection of any devices having problems.

Just looked a few things up and I guess being able to set the 20/40MHz option is a WRT thing.


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2018, 09:06:24 PM »
Quote from: MartyS (Gromit) link=topic=34263.msg1000187#msg1000187
Just looked a few things up and I guess being able to set the 20/40MHz option is a WRT thing.

Oh, I had an option that was "Enable 20/40MHz coexistence", and it was enabled, so I disabled that thinking it would limit it to 20.  But I just looked it up and it actually forces it to 40, which is not what I want or need.  So I'll have to turn that back on.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2018, 04:01:38 AM by Variety of Cells »


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2018, 09:22:54 PM »
But that doesn't sound like it forces 20, it turns on what should be normal operation with the router switching down to 20 if there are others using the second channel.  Forcing 40 is actually a violation of the wi-fi standards, now I understand why some articles talk about bad neighbors using up 2 channels.

So it sounds like you have to limit your bit rate to force 20 with that firmware?


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: Home Automation
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2018, 06:04:19 AM »
But that doesn't sound like it forces 20, it turns on what should be normal operation with the router switching down to 20 if there are others using the second channel.  Forcing 40 is actually a violation of the wi-fi standards, now I understand why some articles talk about bad neighbors using up 2 channels.

So it sounds like you have to limit your bit rate to force 20 with that firmware?

Yeah I guess so. I’ll have to do more research. But you’re right, the wording is confusing. Without looking it up I would have figured it would do the opposite.