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HomeSeer + Apple TV

For the past couple years, I have  been running Homeseer as a home automation platform to control a number of Z-Wave switches. It works well, and probably my only complaint is with the remote app – which occasionally seems unable to reach my HomeSeer server, it’s inability to customize the user interface without spending a bunch more money on a designer application, and it’s inability to connect to some  home automation devices with spending more money on plugins.

Recently I purchased a 4th generation Apple TV.  I liked the Siri/HomeKit functionality, it’s Apple Music functionality, and also the way it displays availability of movies on iTunes and Netflix.  I was also interested in getting HomeSeer working with the Apple TV, so that we could use Siri to turn lights off and on. HomeSeer has voice control functionality built in, but requires a microphone connected to the server – which would be limiting as to where voice commands could actually be used, and not sure I like the idea of microphones around the house that are always on.  Using the Siri functionality built into my iPhone and into the Apple TV seemed like a much better approach.

Here’s the hardware that I’m working with:

  • a Raspberry Pi 2 – connected to home network via ethernet
  • HS3
  • Homeseer SmartStick
  • Apple TV 4th gen, 32G 
  • iMac – late 2013 model
  • Home app – installed on my iPhone
  • Eve Elegato app – installed on my iPhone

To get HomeSeer communicating with the Home or Eve Elegato apps, it’s necessary to use a bridge application that translates the requests between them.  There is a GitHub project called HomeBridge.  HomeBridge requires Node.js to be installed. There is also a plugin that HomeBridge requires,  homebridge-homeseer-plugin.

I followed the Install Homebridge on OSX documentation on GitHub to install Node and Homebridge.

Next I installed the homebridge-homeseer plugin

npm install homebridge-homeseer-plugin

Then, it was necessary to edit a config.json file – located in my home directory in a hidden folder called .homebridge

The username in the bridge section can be anything – I just left the content of another sample config.  The username and password used in the accessories sections needs to be a valid user from within HomeSeer, with the appropriate permissions to the specific accessories.  The on_url & off_url have a querystring parameter called value, that needs to match the specific switches – the details are available in homeseer device management, in an advanced tab, along with a device or reference ID, that is used for the ref parameter.  The 8 digit pin is displayed in the terminal window after you start homebridge, as well as the port number that it is using. The pin number is also used later when setting up the Home and/or Eve apps on the iPhone.

Here is the content of my config (modify as  necessary):

{
"bridge": {
"name": "Homebridge",
"username": "CC:22:3D:E3:CE:30",
"port": 52733,
"pin": "###-##-###"
},
"description": "This is an example configuration file with all supported devices. You can use this as a template for creating your own configuration file containing devices you actually own.",

"accessories": [{
"accessory": "Http",
"username": "xxxx",
"password": "xxxx",
"name": "Espresso Machine",
"on_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=9&value=255",
"off_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=9&value=0",
"can_dim": "False",
"http_method": "GET"
}, {
"accessory": "Http",
"username": "xxxx",
"password": "xxxx",
"name": "Garage Lights",
"on_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=33&value=99",
"off_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=33&value=0",
"can_dim": "True",
"http_method": "GET"
}, {
"accessory": "Http",
"username": "xxxx",
"password": "xxxx",
"name": "Living Room lights",
"on_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=7&value=99",
"off_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=7&value=0",
"can_dim": "True",
"http_method": "GET"
}, {
"accessory": "Http",
"username": "xxxx",
"password": "xxxx",
"name": "Bedroom Lamp One",
"on_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=12&value=99",
"off_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=12&value=0",
"can_dim": "True",
"http_method": "GET"
}, {
"accessory": "Http",
"username": "xxxx",
"password": "xxxx",
"name": "Bedroom Lamp Two",
"on_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=32&value=99",
"off_url": "http://###.###.###.###/JSON?request=controldevicebyvalue&ref=32&value=0",
"can_dim": "True",
"http_method": "GET"
}]
}

Next I launched Home – it wasn’t immediately picking things up, so I then tried Eve, which I found easier to set up initially.

In Home, it was initially displaying that no remote services were available.  This means that HomeKit functionality wasn’t actually working from the Apple TV 4.  Here’s what I did to resolve that:

1. Sign out of iCloud on ATV

2. On another device that can manage your iCloud account (I used my iPhone 6), navigate to the devices section, select ATV and select forget this device.

3. Log back into iCloud on ATV and enter a new two factor authentication code as prompted.

4. Wait.  Go mix yourself a cocktail, or go walk the dogs… and then launch the Home app again on your iPhone. (I only had to wait 3 or 4 minutes before HomeKit appeared in the iCloud section of the ATV, but on the Apple support forums, other users had different experiences).

So, now Siri works on my iPhone, and also on our Apple TV 4!  Yay!  

Issues that I’m still trying to sort out:

  • Dimming lights via Siri 
  • Getting the status to update in the Home app – sometimes I have to issue a command twice to get the status. (update: this appears to have sorted itself out)
  • More consistent – Garage lights seem to only turn off or on once when using Siri, or using the Home app.  (fixed: make sure that the values are set properly for the on & off urls in the config.json file – check the advanced tab in HomeSeer)

I’ve tried a few apps on my phone, Apple’s Home app, Elgato Eve, and Home for Homekit.  All 3 worked – but I found the Home for Homekit app hard on these old eyes….  Eve was nice, and had some nice icons to customize your accessories.  Apple’s Home app is probably the easiest to view – and I liked that I could customize the room backgrounds with my own photos.

Elgato Eve

Home for HomeKit

Apple Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some additional links I found useful.

Cocktails!

Well, that dinner at Wood Work back in June did it!

A few different kinds of bitters are in the cupboard, a couple different vermouths are in the fridge, some new glassware, cocktail shaker, mixing glass, barspoons, jiggers…. and the momentum hasn’t really slowed down! ¬†Waiting for a couple large ice cube trays, mole bitters…

In my¬†bookshelf, I’ve added some books:

pdt-cocktail-book The PDT Cocktail Book (Hardcover)

12-bottle-bar The 12 Bottle Bar (Paperback)

DEATH-AND-CODeath & Co.

I bought hard copies of PDT & 12 Bottle Bar, but wish I had them electronically as well – to search and look up recipes from my iPad or phone. ¬†I bought the Kindle version of Death & Co., but I think it’s still nice to be able to pick up a book and enjoy the original presentation of the books¬†authors. ¬†Wish buying books was like buying new vinyl albums – where they typically include digital downloads.

The 12 Bottle Bar is a great book to start with, if you’re just buying one book. ¬†The recipes are grouped by the main spirit used in the recipes, and contains most of the classic cocktail recipes.

The PDT Cocktail Book and the Death & Co. books are great reading, providing more back story about a couple of important cocktail bars in New York City. ¬†It’s interesting to read about how some cocktail recipes come about, and they provide information and recipes on making syrups and other ingredients used in some of the drinks.

Now we’re also looking at bar cabinets ¬†– something that will store the tools, glassware, and bottles – that opens up as a prep and serving station.

Another ¬†case of both feet ūüôā

More Espresso machine maintenance

Well, I finally got around to getting a replacement control box, and a new pump. ¬†For just over¬†6 months I’ve been making pour-overs (and enjoying them) – while my espresso machine sat idle. ¬†The control box was behaving erratically, I suspect because of¬†excessive heat within the machine. ¬†Then the vibe pump failed around New Years.

So, I replaced the control box with another Giemme¬†RLO 1E/1S/3C/F, and the pump I ended up replacing with a different one – an MG 071 Fluidotech Oscillating Pump. ¬†This pump is a 70W pump, vs. the 52W Ulka vibe pump – should fill a little more quickly, resulting is shorter cycle times, and hopefully, last longer. ¬†Another really pleasing feature, is that it’s SUBSTANTIALLY quieter!

new-pump

Everything was easily swapped out – and after getting the boiler refilled, everything is working great once again!

I think I might tear it down again though in the not too distant future, and see about rewiring the machine so that I can tidy up the wiring, and relocate the control box in the space where the water reservoir was (I have the machine plumbed in, so no water reservoir is required).

I also found a place where I might be able to get the old control box repaired – would be nice to have a backup that didn’t cost so much!

New Garden

Planted
Planted!

Decided to try a bit of gardening this year – and my son Davis and I built 3 raised garden beds, each 3′ x 5′, from cedar 2×6’s. ¬†We also got some large planter pots, 3 of them, that are about 2′ in diameter, and a couple feet tall.

This past weekend we picked up the soil, and Davis and I filled up the garden beds. ¬†Then Tracey and I decided on vegetables. ¬†Here’s what we’ve planted, mostly from seed:

  • Zucchini (green and gold varieties)
  • Radishes
  • Cucumbers
  • Butter lettuce
  • Kale (planted some seed, and also 2 plants from the garden center)
  • Carrots (a multi-color variety)
  • Green onions
  • Jalape√Īo pepper
  • Red Chili pepper
  • Sweet Bell pepper
  • Tomatoes (in one of the planter pots)

While at the garden center, we also picked up some flowers and herbs that we’ve planted in large planter pots. ¬†The herbs are in a big pot by the pizza oven which should be handy ūüôā

Now we just have to remember to water and weed everything!