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Showing posts from 2018

You May Soon Be Able To Back Up Your Insteon Hub

A little while I wrote that the Insteon Hub was the Achilles Heel of Insteon.  Why?  Because you can't back up your configuration.  If your hub dies you have to start all over.  It is both frustrating and time consuming - especially if you have a lot of devices and custom scenes.

Well, I've just heard (unofficially) that Insteon is working on a fix for that.  I don't have any sort of release date or other information but I have to say it makes me happy to hear that Insteon is taking their customers' concerns seriously.

Thank you Insteon!

Smart Home: Amazon Updates Alexa-Enabled-Groups To Work With Insteon Switches

I like Insteon and I really like my Amazon Echo.  Having them work together is the best thing that ever happened to my smart home.  However, they don't always work together perfectly.  I have run into my fair share of glitches and gotchas - enough to be pretty frustrated on occasion.  That said, it always warms my heart when a bug gets squashed.  That's why I'm writing today.

One of the issues that I've had is with something called Alexa-Enabled Groups.  This allows you to link a group of lights with an Echo device and control them without requiring a room name.  For example, you could say, "Alexa, turn on the lights" instead of "Alexa, turn on the lights in the kitchen".  Maybe that's a little thing but it just makes things flow more smoothly.  The problem is that I couldn't set this up with my Insteon switches.  It worked great with my Hue lights but my switches were registered as switches with Alexa so I couldn't create a group.  It …

Backing Up with Cloudberry

For the last couple of years, I've been a happy customer of Crashplan.  A backup service that saves my data to the cloud in almost real time.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they decided to discontinue their consumer product.  My options were to pay more for their commercial solution or find something else.  I decided to find something else.

Why do we need backups?

As a prelude to my choice, I wanted to start with why I need a backup solution at all.  I mean why was I paying Crashplan more than $60 a year to back up my data?  Why would I do that when there are options like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive or iCloud, etc.?

So here's the deal, there are two kinds of services out there that people see as backing up your data.  There are file synchronization services (OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.) and there are backup services (Cloudberry, Crashplan, Carbonite, etc.).  What's the difference?

A backup service backs up your data.  Maybe to an external hard drive or to the…

Echo Plus - An Unfair Review

Due to an unfortunate issue with my Insteon Hub, which is a nice way of saying it died, I've started the process of reconsidering how I will continue to build up my smart home.  Can I find something with all of the strengths of Insteon and none of the weaknesses?  How hard can that be?  Not as easy as I had hoped.

My primary candidate is the Echo Plus.  Not because it's as full featured as Insteon but because of its integration with Alexa.  The smart home is many things to many people, but for me it is 3 primary functions:

Integration with Alexa:  Controlling lights with my voice is far more useful that I first imagined and has become my number one feature of my smart home.Device-based Scenes/Routines: Having multiple devices turn on the same light.  For example, a switch on one side of the room and a keypad on another.Time-based Scenes/Routines:  Having lights turn on at sunset or my garage fan start up in the afternoon heat has made things easier. Just about any smart home s…

Insteon: Fanlinc Review

I've had my Fanlincs running for almost a year now and they work great.  However, there were some gotchas installing them so I thought I'd write up a little review to shed some light on the subject.

I have two combination light/ceiling fans hooked up to one switch (it's the way my house was wired). It was frustrating to try to manage which lights were on and off and which fans were running by pulling the chains all the time. Especially since the fans are multi-speed so you have to pull the chains multiple times. It also didn't help that most of the kids and even my wife are too short to do it comfortably.

So I bought two Insteon FanLincs to solve my problem.

The install was pretty easy - looking up which wires were ground, light, and fan on the ceiling fans took the longest. The only tricky thing after that was fitting it into the light fixture. It was a pretty tight squeeze.

NOTE: Before I put the FanLinc into the housing but after I had it hooked up and the power o…

Nokia/Withings Steel HR - Long Term Review

About a year ago, I reviewed my newest smart gadget, the Withings Activite Steel HR watch.  I'm happy to say that's it's been over a year and my watch is still going strong.  I still wear it every day and I still get a bit of a rush when it vibrates and tells me I've met my step goal.  So, after a year, what more can I say?

Wear and Tear

If you wear a watch every day, it gets banged up a bit.  I wear it when I exercise, I wear it to work, I wear it to bed (for sleep tracking), I wear it to church (it looks good with my suit), etc.  I've banged it on walls and railings, I've submerged it many times, I've had kids play with it and dogs chew on it.  In short, I have not babied my watch.  What has been the result?

The watchband is still going strong.  It looks as good as when I bought it and has no discernible signs of wear.  I'm really surprised because I tend to wear out watch bands so this has been a definite plus.

The watch face is scratched up.  I'…

Smart Home: Philips Hue

Creating a smart home can be fun.  I've used my Insteon switches and Amazon Echo to control Christmas lights, movie lights, night lights, and just plain turning off and on lights.  But there is one thing that I couldn't get from Insteon - color changing lights.  How cool would it be to have your lights be able to change colors!  I decided I wanted to try them out.
Of course, if you're looking for smart bulbs that change colors, there are quite a few options out there.  I looked them over an decided to play it safe.  Philips has pioneered the segment and gets good reviews so I saved up my nickels and dimes and purchased a starter kit with the second generation Hue Bridge and 3 color changing bulbs.
My first problem was setup.  I have an Insteon hub already and a networked TV, BluRay player, Wii U, Roku, VOIP Phone, and probably a couple others I'm forgetting.  My router hooks up to a 5 port switch to hook up all of my devices and it was full.  Not only that, all of my …

Insteon Hub - The Achilles Heel of Insteon

A couple of weeks before Christmas, my Insteon hub died.  There were no pyrotechnics or alarms and to the disappointment of the TV generation, nothing exploded and no people were thrown across the room.  What did happen is that I tried to turn on some lights with my Amazon Echo and it told me that it couldn't connect to the Insteon hub.  That's weird - so I took a look at it.

The Insteon hub is a plain, white, square device with a single light on the front that is green when all is well and red when there's a problem (usually a network issue).  I looked at the hub and the light was off.  That's new.  I unplugged it and plugged it back in.  Nothing.  I hit the reset button (which I had never before used).  Nothing.  It was dead as a doornail.

This was quite a surprise.  My hub had served me well for over two years.  Even worse, the two year warranty had expired a couple of months before.  Bother!

However, all was not lost.  All of my Insteon switches still worked.  All…