Wink vs. Hue Part 2

The Hue Hub like the Wink hub enable you to control appliances around your house using a phone or tablet.

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I found it a lot more stable than the wink and operates a little more reliably with my home automation system. An added incentive to choose the Hue is that it is compatible with Hue Go and bloom, two items on my wish list.

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Wink vs. Hue: Part 1

Being the Home Automation buff that I am, I bought starter kits to the Wink and the Hue.


Each of the starter kits come with a hub and a series of lamps, at a discounted price, targeting those curious about automation. Both hubs support a variety of protocols and can be used to control lamps and appliances around the house. Both of them are compatible with Alexa devices.(Alexa will be covered in a separate post.

The Wink hub I have is the old one. I have not had an opportunity to test the new one yet. The hub can handle several protocols including blutooth, zigbee and zee wave. It can be configured and controlled through an iphone or android. I also found this site for those who want to control their wink devices devices through any browser.

One big plus point with Wink was the excellent customer service it provides. There was a time when a faulty  software  upgrade they provided damaged some of the wink hubs.  When I realized that my hub was one of those affected, I called immediately but the customer service person guided me through the process of sending it to them and having it repaired. The whole process took less than a week and I had my hub back and functioning as new.

The hub has its limitations though. One is that in my experience, it has lost connectivity with some appliances, and I have had to go through the painful process of reconfiguring my devices.

The second is that the device did not allow for local control around this time last year. This means that if you loose your internet connection, you cannot control your devices on your home network.

While using it with Openhab, one could eliminate this limitation by rooting the hub, a complex process that could void your warranty and brick your Wink if things went awry. Openhab does not have official support for Wink as of this writing

My Home assistant system, on the otehr hand had no problems detecting it and could control all the lamps and the wemo switch attached to it.  My wink hub is integrated with my Nest fire alarm which enables me to look.

The wink hub supports MyQ, a wireless protocol for controlling devices like a garage door opener. Chamberlain and Liftmaster are both compatible with MyQ. Unfortunately, though Liftmaster brand is not compatible with Wink. Through Wink, you can check if your Liftmaster door is open or closed.  You cannot open it. In an earlier post, I have covered how I was able to control my liftmaster opener using home assistant.

 

 

 

 

A brief interlude…

 

One of the best things about Home Automation is that my home feels like the Tower of Babel. There are so many technologies and protocols and they almost never play nice with each other. Here is a subset of them

Protocols: Wifi,HTTP, X10, Zigbee, Zeewave, MyQ, MQTT, IR, RF, VOIP, TCP/IP UPNP,..

Media players: MPD, Sonos, Logitech/Daphile, Kodi, Plex, Runeplayer, Volumio,..

Sometimes, innovation begins right at home. I only need to look at things around the house and decide how to make it smarter.

That’s all for now…

 

Media players 2: Daphile

Daphile is an audiophile’s dream. Unlike the Runeplayer or Volumio, Daphile is not supported on ARM devices like the Raspberry Pi or the ARM devices. If you have an old PC lying around, this may be one way to put it to good use.  Unlike the Runeplayer and Volumio, Daphile is not built on the MPD player. It is based on a Logitech Squeezebox platform. As is customary  for internet streaming players, Daphile is accessible through a web interface.

When Home Assistant starts up, in recognizes Daphile and provides simple widget  interface for it.

daphile-widget

However, in typical fashion, My Home assistant has an iFrame for Daphile for more control.

Daphile iFrame.png

In addition, A dash button on my refrigerator has been hacked to play or pause my daphile player.(See my earlier post on dash buttons.)

There are several great features in Daphile. When you sign up for music services such as iHeartRadio or Pandora, they appear on Daphile. Daphile has built-in CD ripping capability, support for shared network drives , DSD playback and lastly exceptional sound quality surpassing any Raspberry pi media players.

One disadvantage is that Daphile does not support wifi for now and will need a ethernet connection.

The little dash button that could

The Amazon dash button is a useful gizmo available from Amazon for $5 to purchase something you use regularly from Amazon. However, with an ingenious hack, it is transformed into a WiFi switch to control devices or lights around the house. The usefulness of the dash button has been a topic of debate in the home automation community. Those who are not fans of the button cite the following criticisms.

  1. It is too expensive at $5. (Sometimes they are available on sale for $1).
  2. It has a maximum usage of about a 1000 clicks.
  3. It does not have a replaceable battery.
  4. There is a delay of about 10 seconds for the message to be sent after the button is pressed.

However, in my experience, it does have it”s uses. I bought a few of them when they were on sale at $1. I have used them around my house in several places, in conjunction with Home Assistant including

  1. Opening and closing my garage door, For this, I use two buttons, one to close it and open to open it.
  2. Staring or stopping my media player.

The 10 second delay is not a big factor for these operations as I do not use these buttons all the time. Secondly, the shelf live for the buttons are not a big factor for the same reason. Ben, of Bruh Automation has provided a useful tutorial on integrating dash buttons with Home Assistant. I also need to acknowledge Jon Maddox for providing the  code for this integration.

 

 

 

My own PBX(phone system)

While a phone system is not part of my home automation system. it is an immensely useful utility that is part of my house. However, you can monitor activity on your phone system from your home automation system. As of this writing, only Openhab has an add-in component that can directly interface with Asterisk. Home Assistant does not have any official support for interfacing with Asterisk, but I am optimistic about future releases ,as Asterisk support is a requested feature.

Think about it! You can build an entire private branch exchange in your home with an old computer and some used phones you can pick up on Ebay for about $20 a pop. If you live in the United states you can add a Google Voice trunk and make free calls within the US and Canada.  I dedicated one (now discontinued) HP stream mini, a mini (good looking) PC as my PBX server. There are many free PBX linux distros like Asterisk, Free PBX and Incredible PBX.

Asterisk, the original PBX is an open source framework that allows building of VOIP. Free PBX and Incredible PBX and several others are both built on Asterisk. I chose Incredible PBX as it has excellent documentation and a vibrant forum. Ward Mundy, its lead developer has a very informative and active blog.

My home phone system is a mix of Nortel, Polycom and Avaya phones(soon), and is incredibly convenient to call into meetings when I work from home.

Based on Ward’s recommendation I purchased a $5 account on the Simonics gateway  for Google Voice.  After this I was able to setup Incredible PBX through the gateway to Google voice and since then, the PBX has been 100% reliable.

There were challenges in connecting my older Nortel phones with PBX as these were not SIP phones but used a Nortel specific protocol called Unistim.

Connecting with PBX phones also proved a challenge but this link helped facilitate the task. Ward Mundy does recommend using Avaya phones. I will post an update when I attempt to integrate these phones with my PBX.

 

iFrames in Home Assistant

Home assistant provides two ways to interface with other web pages on websites or on other servers. One is by the use of typical HTML link that most of us are familiar with. The other is by the use of iFrames that allows the embedding of a page inside another.

Sometimes a small feature may be one of the deciding factors in choosing a tool. A year ago, there was no easy way to link to an external site or page from OpenHab.(I am unsure if they have added the feature now.) The ability of adding an iFrame displaying another web page within a page is a big win for me. I have several iFrames in my setup.

As an AEM Architect with experience in building large content management systems and web sites I would not recommend using iFrames in commercial applications. Having said that, they work well with Home Assistant.

In my earlier post I described the MPD server. When Home Assistant is started, it detects all MPD players on the home network. It also provides a small widget to easilycontrol the player and displays status information for the player as shown below.

Now, by using an iFrame I can provide the detailed Rompr interface within Home Assistant for more fine-grained control.

Rompr.png

This gives my home automation system the best of both worlds. While some purists may not agree with my configuration, I see my home automation system as one holistic system that uses the best of all tools. It helps me to search and integrate the best tools available into my system.