Archive for September, 2013

Adventures in HA – Part Zero

Posted: September 27, 2013 in HA, Hacking and playing, Hardware

Over the last few years I’ve occasionally stuck my toe in the Home Automation (HA) world. Generally I’ve then retreated quite rapidly as the costs, complexity and/or general chunkiness of the components put me off.

More recently I managed to get a cheap X-10 controller and plug-in switch which I had rigged up to turn on and off the Xmas lights. It was running a very early beta of an open source piece of software called HomeGenie. While this was fine for a simple on-off solution, it wasn’t without issues, mostly related to X-10 itself.

I’ve always preferred the concept of a mesh based radio network as used by Z-Wave and ZigBee. However, the price of the sockets, sensors and controllers has always been stupidly high for casual users to play with. While new controllers like NinjaBlocks, SmartThings and Almond+ appearing it seemed that the price point for entry might just be falling.

Granted, it might also be because I’ve got a job that ‘requires‘ me to stay abreast of technologies like these, and they do seem to be relevant to the business, so I do need to order these things to play with…. so it’s a lot less of a gamble now…

Anyway, eBay is also your friend, so I’ve managed to procure an Aeon Labs Z-Stick 2 controller and a simple on/off socket.

I’ve successfully used HomeGenie to control the Z-Wave socket from various mobile devices, much to my daughter’s delight. However, while the software has come on leaps and bounds since I first tried it, i still feels a little ad-hoc.

Time to look at the alternatives. At least until I can justify buying a Vera Lite 😉


Posted: September 27, 2013 in Watching

Just finished watching Banshee. I have to say that it was a superb series and I’m looking forward to the next season.

Give it a look if you get a chance.

Living With A Pebble

Posted: September 27, 2013 in Hardware

So I’ve had the Pebble watch for a couple of months now, and I have to say that I like it. Seeing the next generation of ‘smart watches’ appear in crowd-funding sites and then announcements by Samsung and Sony make me wish it did a bit more, but realistically, there’s a limit to the practical uses of a smart watch.

As someone who drives nearly everyday, the ability to glance down at my wrist and see who is calling (not having ear pieces and/or modern phone-pairing vehicle) is very useful. As is the ability to quickly see the contents of a SMS. To be honest, I do exactly the same when at my desk or in meetings… it saves me fumbling around to try and get my phone out, only to find that it’s another junk text or call.

Battery life is Ok, they originally stated 7+ days on a charge, I think I get a good 4 and occasionally 5 days, but I’ve never really bothered to check. Paranoia sets in so I tend to put it on charge because I can’t remember when I last did it! Without an indicator of some kind to show power levels, it can become hit and miss to whether or not I’ll make it home before it goes flat.

The use of proprietary physical power connector is probably the only downside. Using Qi wireless or standard micro-USB would make life easier, especially when I travel/forget to charge it, but I understand why this wasn’t done. Maybe version 2 could use these instead?

Overall I like it and I’m glad I got one.