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Showing posts from July, 2016

Sonos Control with the Amazon Echo - How I did it

I've had my Amazon Echo for a year or so and one thing that I've wanted ever since I purchased it, is to be able to use voice commands to control my Sonos speakers.  I waited patiently (OK  not patiently) for Sonos skill to appear on the Echo but it still hasn't come.  I was encouraged when Sonos announced it was going to focus more on voice but still nothing.  Isn't there any way to control my Sonos with my Echo?

Yes - sort of.

WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart because the solution is not trivial.

So, I found a project on github that uses another project on github combined with a custom skill on
the Echo via a web service hosted by AWS Lambda.  OK, that was the easy part.  I knew that going in.  That's why, initially, I waited.  There must be an elegant solution out there.  I searched and waited and searched again and waited again.  Finally I decided to give it a try.  If it worked it would be really cool.  If it didn't, well I'm no worse o…

My Smart Home - SensorPush

I am an efficiency nerd.  I love to use technology to make my life easier, better, or to save money.  I live in the Phoenix area of Arizona so it gets REALLY hot here.  Well, I had noticed that my garage would always seem to be hotter in the summer than outside.  I didn't think much of it the first couple years in my current house but this year it hit me.  The garage is always super hot.  The master bedroom - my bedroom - is right over the garage.  The master bedroom gets pretty warm as well - especially in the summer.  Is there a correlation?  How would I find out?

Well, I had a temperature sensor that I was using to measure outside temperature.  One of those Accurite indoor/outdoor temperature monitors.  Actually, I have two of those.  So I took the outdoor sensor from the one in the master bedroom and put it in the garage.  Now I could see what the temperature was in the garage and compare it to the outside temperature.  I found that my suspicions were correct.  It would often…

My Smart Home - Insteon

There are a lot of smarthome devices and suppliers out there.  They all do things differently and have different devices that they're compatible with.  With all those choices out there, how do you pick a good one?

For me it came down to one question, "How many work with Windows Phone?"  At the time I started, the answer was pretty simple - Samsung Smartthings or Insteon.  Samsung was pretty new with Windows Phone support and with smarthome tech in general and Insteon was well established and even sold their stuff in the Microsoft Store.  They also had one more big advantage, they have a controller for ceiling fans.  With the way my house is set up, that actually is a big plus for me.  So, about a year ago, I ordered my starter kit:  an Insteon Hub that came with 2 plug in on/off switches, a leak sensor, an a motion sensor.  I also ordered a wall dimmer switch.

Installing it was an adventure.

Hooking up the Hub was a bit of a pain since they recommend plugging it right i…

Moving to the Rachio Sprinkler Controller

I am horrible with plants.  I've decided that I have a reverse green thumb - any plant I touch dies.  I don't know what it is but I have a past littered with the corpses of plants that had the misfortune of depending on me to take care of them.  My lawn is no different.  I have a good quality sprinkler controller and have scheduled watering but my lawn looked like was barely hanging on.  Obviously, I need help.  That's where Rachio came in.

A while ago a couple of the circuits in my sprinkler controller stopped working.  The result was that my front yard and a spot in my back yard stopped getting any water whatsoever.  I had to water them manually.  I tried to make it work for a long time but, as I stated above, my talents do not lie in that area.

I was on the web and I stumbled upon Rachio.  I don't remember if I found it on Amazon or read an article on a tech web site but I was intrigued.  Here was a controller that you could control from your phone, would adjust yo…

Creating a Smart Home - Starting with the Amazon Echo

A little more than a year ago, my smart home began.  It sounds odd to say it that way - especially because I had no idea that I was actually beginning something.  I was buying a neato, techy thing and that was it.  I had no idea that it would grow into the beginnings of a "Smart Home."  Now the question is how far will it go.  I really don't have an answer for that.

But let's rewind a bit. A couple of years ago, Amazon announced the Echo.  I was intrigued.  It looked fun - not useful but fun.  I liked the idea of a personal assistant you can talk to.  I liked the idea of it telling jokes or the news or weather.  I liked the possibility of it expanding to other things.  I really like that it was half off for Amazon Prime customers.  However, I still thought that $99 was a bit steep for a toy so I held off.  I held off for a few months.  Then other people started getting theirs and the reviews started coming in.  Most were positive.  It was cool, it was fun.  I don…

Moving from Windows Phone to Android

The hardest part about moving to Android from Windows Phone was admitting that Windows Phone was not meeting my needs.  This was really hard because there is so much to love in Windows Phone.  I love the live tiles, I love the Cortana integration (especially how it automatically reads texts to me in the car via my Bluetooth car stereo), and I love the way it works.  In fact, I had tried out Android for 4 months and ended up coming back because of the things that Android just didn't do.

No live tilesNo unread count on phone, text, or email tiles on home screenNo reading texts via Bluetooth in my carLack of seamless integration with my Microsoft services (email, calendar, etc.) So I gave the phone back to my wife.  She used it and was OK with it (although she missed a lot of the same things I did) until the camera lens cracked.  We don't know how it happened and there's not a scratch on the rest of the phone but the camera was unusable.  Well, this was unacceptable.  We look…