Posted on November 20th, 2022
It's time to be human... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Again. The shooting at the Colorado Springs nightclub "Club Q" last night is yet another in a string of violent attacks on marginalized communities. And it's like... I just don't get it. LGBTQ persons are not made to feel welcome in general society, so they carve out a space where they can enjoy life for even a short time away from general society... and that's not good enough? Senseless violence has been out of control for as long as humans have existed. That's just fact. But the hatred behind the violence is quickly reaching unsustainable levels as the weapons to act out violence keep getting more powerful. Dozens of people can be cut down in an instant by a single individual, and pretty soon that's going to be the only thing we have.
• Let's Go Brendan! This GQ "Iconic Characters" series is always great. But this one? Oh wow...
I want... quite badly... for Elizabeth Hurley to get one of these.
• Todd! If you are not watching So Help Me Todd on Paramount+, then you are missing out on one of my favorite shows on television. It almost makes me forgive Paramount Network for canceling Magnum P.I. (which, thank God for Peacock TV and NBC, is actually returning despite it all)...
Skylar Astin is a gift, and this show uses him to maximum effect. So COLOR ME SHOCKED that CBS actually renewed the show for a second season! Yay!
• Big Animation! Floor 796 may very well be the coolest thing I've seen in my browser in a minute...
Worth a visit if you like looking at cool stuff!
• I'm Batman! And here's what I wish I would have had to post when Kevin Conroy passed...
A lot of people... like a lot a lot... have Kevin Conroy as "their" Batman. This will go on for a while.
• SHIT! And here we are again. Apple's HomeKit... which has always been HomeShit... is still a pile of shit. And Apple doesn't fucking care. It is absolutely outrageous how there are known issues plaguing the system and Apple doesn't even acknowledge that there are problems. A company worth billions of dollars, but they won't fix it or offer any solutions. For me the biggest problem is that Automations tied to timed events (like sunset or a time of day) don't fucking work! The event arrives and nothing happens. Which is shitty, because I have all kinds of things set up. Like turning my outside lights off and on. There are hundreds of threads on various forums with people trying to find a way to get their timed Automations working. Some things work... for a while... but the overreaching problem of HomeShit being garbage can only be addressed by Apple. And, once more for the people in the back, Apple doesn't fucking care.
And now back to your regularly scheduled Sunday antics.
Posted on November 18th, 2022
This is Part Deux of removing all the dead INSTEON smart home crap from my home and replacing everything with Thread smart home devices.
Back in the day INSTEON was the best fit for my smart home setup. It was clunky and weird and didn't always function as expected, but it was cheap and mostly worked (or not... turning my bedroom lights on and off also turned my living room lights on and off, and I never got that figured out in six years). The bad thing about it was that interacting with it was awful. I had to buy a pricey programmable ISY-994i hub to replace the INSTEON hub that barely worked. THEN I had to buy a modem to connect it to my network. THEN I had to pay for a service which would allow me to use Alexa for voice control and interact with my devices remotely from my phone. THEN I had to write literal programs to get everything working as I needed.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Apple's initial efforts with home automation was something they called "HomeKit" but it was actually "HomeShit" because you couldn't do shit with it. And there weren't many devices that worked with it anyway. I frickin' hated it so much that I completely scrapped the test gear I bought and started over with INSTEON.
But that was 2016, and Apple has come a long way in six years. Most importantly, they joined the Matter Smart Home alliance which will allow all Matter devices to communicate with each other (so it doesn't matter than HomeShit can't get automations working to save their life). And the network behind Matter is something called Thread.
Thread is actually pretty great, because it does all the work by itself instead of relying on a central router hub to handle everything. Devices designate themselves as either router leaders, routers, or endpoints to build a self-propagating, self-healing mesh network. And that's it. Except if you want to access your Thread network from outside your local network (such as the internet), you also need a "border router." Apple's HomePod mini works for that, so I'm good to go.
Any device that's connected to wired power routes traffic, which includes all 26 switches in my home. Needless to say that with so many routers my Thread network is rock-solid.
Which brings us to Eve, the company making most of my devices, including my light switches.
And so I guess we'll see how it goes over the long haul. Hopefully the little quirks with HomeKit will work themselves out as I attempt to get my home "smart" again.
Posted on November 2nd, 2022
After the long, slow death of INSTEON (which is ongoing), I knew that I would have to make an investment in new smart home tech. This would involve replacing all my smart light switches, water leak sensors, door and window sensors, and the garage door opener. But which way to go? There's still a lot of possibilities to choose from, and you never know which one of them will die next. It's enough to drive you crazy because serious money is involved. So much so that I actually considered going back to a "un-smart home" and just manually doing everything.
Fortunately, the "Matter" smart home standard was announced, and this time it had the backing of all the major tech companies. Finally. I was all-in on the idea of open interoperability between all smart devices, so I decided to wait and see what came of it. Then, back in early October, the standard was released. As were some devices which supported it.
Matter is based on the "Thread" communication protocol, which has been around for a while. It's low-power, has excellent range, and is very fast. There are other benefits as well (such as being self-healing and not requiring a hub) so that was the direction I decided to go.
Unfortunately, to get started, I was dragged back into the world of Apple's HomeKit (which I have been calling "HomeShit" because it's just been so awful for so long). Surprisingly, Apple's smart home offerings have vastly improved. Many of the things that were missing (and there was a lot) have been added. It's still far from perfect (there is basic functionality which is still missing... like being able to construct automations for simply things like making switched turn back on if they are accidentally turned off). So, yeah, I don't have the ability to code complex cool things like I could with my ISY994i hub (which is still amazing to this day!) but at least I can do stuff like ADD A GARAGE DOOR OPENER.
Also unfortunate? Having to buy a HomePod mini. I wrote a while back about the horrendous experience I had with the original HomePod (long story short: it was shit, support was heinous, and I returned it). But Matter/Thread requires a "border router" to act as a gateway to the internet, so I spent the $95 to make it happen. The first thing I did was switch the voice for Siri to "Australian Male" because it's still the voice that gets be the closest to having HAL run my life (like he did in 2001: A Space Odyssey). The guy sounds like he must be the best-looking man on the planet, which gives me a bit of a complex, but he is still a pleasant way to interact with my home (sometimes I ask him about the weather just to hear him talk).
The first devices I ordered were the biggest hit... light switches... because I want every last switch in my home to be "smart."
At first that was going to be Lutron, because they are the "gold standard" but Lutron isn't built on Thread so I went with Eve Smart Home for most of them. The switches are ungodly expensive. And difficult to find. Fortunately I got a good discount and was able to find 26 of them, so it wasn't as horrendous a hit as I thought it would be (but still, $1000 out of my savings).
The lights in my living room and dining room are smart lights by Philips Hue. They require always-on power, so a simple on/off switch won't do. You need an always-on switch which can be programmed to control Hue lights. For these I went with Brilliant. They aren't built on Thread, but they can be upgraded to support Matter. Eventually. Maybe.
Now, I am letting an electrician install all the switches (they are deep and I want somebody who knows how to pack wires into an outlet box), but I did have to replace a couple of my INSTEON switches, so I temporarily installed the Eve switches until my electrician can get here. They are fantastic. Thread is blazingly fast. You tell Siri to turn the lights on and the task is completed before he's done telling you that he did it! This is a huge leap from INSTEON, which would have noticeable lag from when you asked Alexa to do something and it actually happening.
When it comes to the Eve door/window sensors, they are okay. Fast because they're on Thread. But, from what I can tell, they don't have breakage detection, which is a step down for me. Fortunately, I can rely on sound alerts from other devices to alert me about this, but it's still a bit of an oversight.
The Eve motion detectors are not as good as my old ones. They seem to have very narrow range and are slow to relay motion despite being Thread devices. I'm not sure if this will improve when I have more Thread devices installed so it can relay faster... or if this is a limitation of the device itself. I hope the former rather than the latter. Otherwise I'm going to have to shop for another solution.
One more thing I did that I've always wanted to do is install under-cabinet lighting. I went with Nanoleaf because it was built on Thread... and it was cheap. From what I can tell, the current crop of Nanoleaf products will not be upgradable to Matter, so I may have to replace them eventually. Unfortunate, but it only cost $30, they are blazingly fast, and they work very well with HomeKit. And they look great (even though you can't really tell in this photo)...
The tile installer hasn't put in my backsplash yet, so please ignore the mess!
So... so far, so good.
I am still a bit dubious about HomeKit, as it's lacking professional-level scripting and still won't link to things it needs to, but the good thing about Matter is that I will be able to eventually swap out the HomeKit app for whatever comes along. But I really hope that I don't have to. From what I understand, Matter will force Apple into fixing HomeKit and adding the functionality people need (a scripting language would be nice!). But, we'll see. If nothing else, I love Thread and am excited for the possibilities with Matter.
Posted on March 7th, 2018
I have spent the past 35 years falling in love with everything Apple. It started with the Apple ][ personal computer and continued through the Macintosh then continued right up through the iPhone. I jump head-first into whatever Apple releases, and I've loved it.
But recently things started to change.
After waiting way, way too long for Apple to release a new "Pro" Mac, they came out with a steaming turd in 2013 which looked pretty, but was overpriced and lacking the things that pro users need. Then... THEN... they did the exact same thing with their MacBook "Pro." And it keeps going... they standardized on an expensive Thunderbolt peripheral port, then abandoned it... they developed the brilliant MagSafe power adapter, then abandoned it... Apple TV can't stream worth a crap, even in its 4th generation model, and the remote is horrific... their mice are built to pit and deteriorate... the list goes on and on, and it's nuts.
And the software side isn't much better. MacOS X has developed so many problems that it feels as though it's been abandoned. They dumped Aperture, their photo cataloging software, after luring people into adopting it. They screwed up iMovie so much that a once-joyful program to use is a frustrating joke.
But the final straw for me was HomeKit.
I've long obsessed over home automation, so when I bought a home where I could install home automation devices, I went full-throttle. Apple had been developing their own home automation ecosystem, called "HomeKit," but it was tough to find any devices. And so I held off until HomeKit devices were released.
Then it happened. Schlage released "Sense" HomeKit-enabled door lock. So cool!
Until I got them, that is.
The locks are great, but the HomeKit functionality is garbage. It never works reliably, and half the time I can't even connect... despite having AppleTV's within 6-feet of them (HomeKit uses AppleTV as a hub). But that's not even the half of it. After all my waiting, HomeKit was laughably incapable and feature-poor. Tons of devices weren't supported... or even available if they were supported.
I immediately regretted buying HomeKit locks, and never bought another HomeKit device. And ever since then I've been dying to replace my locks, but couldn't bring myself to walk away from the hundreds of dollars I spent on them.
Schlage has released a WiFi interface which allows you to control your locks without having to use crappy HomeKit...
If your locks are set up with HomeKit, you have to reset them to factory defaults and start over again. If you don't, you can't connect them to the WiFi Adapter. Also... they will start screeching an alarm if you try, which I found out the hard way (sorry kitties).
Your lock has to be within 40 feet of the adapter (just like HomeKit, since both use Bluetooth connections). This was no problem for me, and I was able to use one adapter for both my locks (it supports a maximum of two).
It works as advertised. Once you set up a Schlage account as a gateway between the locks and your phone's Schlage app, you can control your locks remotely and see their status. Access is blazingly fast and reliable compared to HomeKit. Every once in a while I'll get a bit of a lag, but at least I can always connect.
Then there's the ability to ask Alexa if a door is locked... and then lock it if it isn't (for security reasons, you can't unlock a door via Alexa). I don't know how handy this would be, but it's nice to know it's there. Except when it's not. Because no matter how many times I link and unlink and re-link the skill, Alexa tells me the lock can't be reached... even though both locks show up in my Smart Home list. I've sent an email to Schlage customer service for help... fingers crossed.
And so... good bye to the massive failure known as HomeKit. And good bye to the seventy bucks it cost me to rectify this disaster. But, hey, at least I didn't have to spend hundreds to replace my locks!
My hope is that one day Apple will just bag HomeKit and buy out a company like INSTEON so they have an integrated home automation system that works. Heaven only knows they've got the cash. Until then, I'm just glad to be rid of that one piece of home automation that's never worked for me.
Posted on November 27th, 2017
Honestly, I don't condone violence (well, except punching Nazis in the face, because that's what Captain America would do)... but I have a deep-in-my-soul feeling that everybody at Apple who is involved with the colossal fucking failure that is their "HomeKit" home automation technology should be executed.
By firing squad.
Without a blindfold.
It's the only way that tech companies are going to learn that you can't unleash half-baked, non-working, pile-of-shit tech on an unsuspecting public without paying the consequences...
I can run my entire home from my iPhone... except my locks. The only thing I can do with my locks is either remote-lock or remote-unlock. Because apparently anything more complex than that overwhelms HomeKit and it just goes non-responsive. My whole lock goes offline until I can get home and hold my phone next to the lock, thus bypassing HomeKit entirely.
The only thing I have that's Apple HomeKit enabled is my locks. The only home automation I consistently have trouble with is my locks. And I don't blame Schlage, because anything you submit for HomeKit has to be approved by Apple.
This is squarely on Apple's doorstep, and somebody needs to die.
And if Steve Jobs was still in charge, somebody probably would.
Posted on June 24th, 2017
Hope you're enjoying those lazy, hazy days of Summer, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Munneh! But, yes. By all means. Let’s invest our money in coal. Soon-to-be-obsolete coal that nobody is going to want when there are going to be far cheaper, cleaner, and more efficient ways to get our energy...
I mean, we could bring this technology to former coal towns and train the workers there for jobs that will actually matter. But, no. Because coal. Uh huh...
The sheer idiocy involved in killing off the American worker by our politicians is just astounding. We're not going to be competitive in the global job market, and we did it to ourselves by electing assholes who are more interested in fleecing taxpayers for the benefit of coal executives than creating jobs for ex coal miners.
• Kens! And so This happened: Mattel released 15 new variations of Ken Dolls... aka Mr. Barbie...
And no, your eyes are not deceiving you... there are Ken dolls with a man-bun now. I can't fathom the parent that would buy their daughter (or son, for that matter) a doll with a fucking man-bun on it, but since society is hell-bound anyway, here you go. As if that weren't enough, the Kens are available in three body types: Original, Slim, and Broad. Because heaven only knows we don't want to cause body identity issues in our children. Their dolls have hipster man-buns now, and that's enough fucking trauma for childhood.
• MMMMMMEAT! Clearly God wants everybody to be vegetarian, and this is His solution... OH, LOVELY: THE TICK THAT GIVES PEOPLE MEAT ALLERGIES IS SPREADING. From the tick's perspective, I'm guessing that people taste like chicken.
• White! "Being white in this country, I should just shoot myself." — Somebody please hand her a gun. Because this racist fucking waste of space shouldn't be raising kids... let alone be allowed to join society...
No matter how many times I see bigoted shit like this, I remain amazed. Not that assholes such as her exist... but that they feel so confident in their racist bullshit to act this way in public.
• Hope That Helps! Ben Palmer released video from one of his shows and it is everything you'd hope it to be...
Watching him troll on Facebooks is one of the reasons I am happy that Facebook exists.
• HomeShit! You know, I understand that companies can't release a winner every time. There are going to be some duds, even for the most inovative of them. I get that. Honestly I do. But Apple's HomeKit is such a festering pile of shit that I cannot fathom why in the hell they don't scrap it and start over or fix their stupid crap so it will actually function reliably. Thank heavens the only thing I was stupid enough to trust to Apple's failed system is my door locks. I wanted them on a completely separate system from the rest of my home automation for security reasons and, hey, it's Apple... right? What could go wrong?
I never dreamed the answer to that question would be everything. Apple should just do everybody a favor and kill off HomeKit instead of continuing to pretend that they give a flying fuck about home automation.
Dis be da end, everybuddy.
Posted on December 26th, 2015
If you take away one thing from Home Automation Week (now in Part Nine of Seven Parts!) it should be to avoid Apple's HomeKit home automation platform like the plague. It's no secret that I think it's utter crap in its current form, and the fact that automation companies aren't really flocking to the platform is a sure sign of "too little too late."
Yes, I love the idea of controlling my home with Siri, but Amazon Echo is probably more convenient for that anyway. Yes I love Apple's dedication to privacy and security, but what does it matter if you don't have all the automation options available that you might want? Yes, I love the idea of having absolutely everything tied to a single system instead of being in pieces but, again, it's only nirvana if you actually have all the pieces you need for that one system.
But the biggest reason to completely avoid HomeKit is not what's missing... it's about how what's there doesn't fucking work.
My Schlage Sense door locks are HomeKit compatible. But I never use any of the HomeKit features. Siri is just too fucking slow at unlocking doors to have her do it. I'd rather use a key or punch a code. But even worse than that? HomeKit's remote access features DO. NOT. WORK. My locks are supposed to use my 4th Generation Apple TV to communicate with the outside world, but they don't.
If I'm at work and want to know if I remembered to lock my front door? I'm supposed to be able to ask Siri. Siri asks my AppleTV back home. AppleTV then asks my lock. But unless I'm within Bluetooth range, this is all I see...
Maybe my front door isn't close enough to my AppleTV and doesn't have the range to report what's going on? Possibly. So I check my back door, which is two feet away from my AppleTV...
Nope! And it doesn't matter how many times I reset my AppleTV or login and logout of my iCloud account. NOTHING I have tried has gotten remote access to HomeKit to work for my locks.
My Ecobee3 thermostat? Also HomeKit compatible. Surprisingly, it can be accessed remotely via Siri voice control. Probably because it isn't having to go through my AppleTV and has full WiFi-enabled control via its app. Funny thing is? I'd rather use the app. Again, Siri is a little slow to act... and often gets my Ecobee3 requests wrong for some reason.
So... lesson learned.
If you're going to get something that's HomeKit compatible, be sure that it has its own remote access app that doesn't attempt to route crap through your AppleTV... because, for me at least, it ain't happening.
Which means as much as I love my Schlage locks, if I had known then what I know now, I would have picked a different non-HomeKit solution that actually works remotely as intended. As it is now, the status of my door locks is always unknown unless me and my phone is standing next to them. Pretty useless.
Maybe one day Apple will fix the AppleTV hub remote-access problem. Maybe one day Siri won't be so damn slow to do anything. Maybe one day HomeKit won't be a pile of shit. Maybe. One day.
In the meanwhile, I reiterate... do not be blinded by the Apple Reality Distortion Field when it comes to making decision about home automation. At every turn I've found that the non-HomeKit solutions which can be paired with reliable in-app remote access and a link to Amazon Echo are far, far superior to stuff that's tied to Apple's home automation platform. Yes, having to go through multiple apps and having no unifying system can take a little extra effort at times, but it's not at all a deal-breaker. If you're organized, it's not even that big of a deal. If you have Amazon Echo, I'd argue you're actually better off than using Siri.
I guess not even Apple can hit a home run every time.
But HomeKit isn't even a base hit.
Posted on December 25th, 2015
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!
Welcome to an extension of Home Automation Week at Blogography! I say "extension" because a week has seven days and this is part eight. I guess I should have put a bit more thought into this.
I loathe smoke detectors. I loathe CO2 detectors even more. They're all bug-ridden, noisy, and prone to errors. Then you've got the damn batteries running out all the time which results in running around the house trying to figure out which alarm is "chirping" at you for attention. And God help you if you burn the toast.
Don't get me wrong though... if there's an actual fire in the house... or a CO2 leak... then I frickin' love detectors. But, for the most part? Not so much.
When I was looking into "smart" detectors last year, I was intrigued by Nest Protect. It seemed sensible, secure, feature-rich, and very cool. Ultimately I took a pass on it for two good reasons: 1) Nest Protect wasn't compatible with Apple's HomeKit, and 2) A lot of people were complaining about false alarms and features being turned off and never turned back on, despite promises from Nest.
But then two things happened: 1) Apple's HomeKit turned out to be a STEAMING PILE OF SHIT*, and 2) Nest came out with a "Protect Version 2" that supposedly addressed the many problems people were having. Oh, and the reviews were great...
This is probably Nest Protect v1. I think v2 is not so squared? Very close though.
And so... I went ahead and bought Nest Protect. Actually, I bought five of them, because that's how many
Setting up Nest Protect couldn't be easier.
Except when it is.
When you first open the thing, they tell you to set it up before you hang it. That way you're not climbing up and down a ladder if there's a problem, I guess. So I pulled the strip to engage the battery and my first Nest Protect told me to "PRESS THE BUTTON IF YOU WANT THE LANGUAGE SET TO ENGLISH!" And so I pressed the button. But apparently not fast enough, because my Nest Protect started speaking to me in Spanish. And wouldn't stop. Fortunately I was able to get the gist of what she(!) was saying and set things up without issue. Removed my old old smoke detector, no problem. Installed the mounting plate, no problem. Hung my Nest Protect, no problem. Tested the unit, no problem. Change the language to English... problem.
Using the iPhone Nest App, I was able to switch to English easily. But then I get a message saying "Changes will take place within a day." Yes... A FUCKING DAY! And they mean it. When I went to work two hours after installation, it was still hablaba español. Kind of ridiculous it should take so long, but okay.
Nest Protect does exactly what you'd expect a smoke/CO2 detector to do... detect smoke and CO2 and then sound an alarm if it finds anything. But Nest Protect goes much further than that...
Nest Protect is available in both battery-powered and power-line-powered options. My old alarms were power-line-powered, so that's what I bought. If the power goes out, the battery back-up kicks in and the outage is recorded, then (apparently) reported to your phone app. I never got a notification when I tripped the breaker for the the smoke alarms, which Nest says I will. If ALL power goes out, I don't see how Nest Protect can notify you because then the internet would be out as well, wouldn't it?
All in all, I'm most impressed with Nest Protect. I haven't had it long enough to know if the chronic false alarm problem that plagued v1 has been truly solved with v2, but I'm hopeful. And, of course, I haven't had an emergency to truly put it to the test, but I'm very much okay with that. What I can say is that all the various features seem to be working as advertised. I love being able to check in on my home when I'm gone and know everything is okay... but I've even more in love with the idea that if there's a serious problem with fire or CO2, my home will let me know.
*I will talk more about Apple HomeKit being a STEAMING PILE OF SHIT tomorrow.
Posted on December 14th, 2015
Welcome to Home Automation Week at Blogography!
I've been dreaming of having a "smart home" for years, but the technology never really seemed "there" yet. It's either been flakey or lacked important features or had some quirk that made it less than ideal. I just couldn't see investing the money for an experience that was less than stellar.
But then Apple decided to get into the game by announcing their "HomeKit" platform and I was convinced that this was the solution I had been waiting for. Apple has a real knack for perfecting technology in a way that's smart, elegant, and simple, and finally they had turned their almighty gaze towards home automation. At last.
And so I waited.
But, other than an announcement, Apple never did shit for the longest time. Third party solutions never came.
Apple eventually got around to improving the HomeKit platform to make it more capable... and a few devices were released here and there... but overall HomeKit has been a failure. I love the security that Apple built into their solution (they really take stuff like that seriously), but that's about the only thing they've done right. Everything else to do with HomeKit has ended up being utter shit. The biggest failing being that all HomeKit devices are local, meaning that you have to be at home to control your home. Their solution for remote access is via Apple TV, but I've never been able to get it working well.
And so I went searching for a new solution.
I looked at every option I could find... Lutron, Wink, SmartThings, INSTEON, Nest, Belkin WeMo... the list goes on an on. There are a lot of companies out there doing home automation, and new ones are popping up all the time.
But which platform to choose?
At first I was convinced that I needed a single-company solution. If everything came from the same company, it would all work together and I'd have the most complete, powerful, and capable system. Right?
Well... not so much.
Every company has their strengths and weaknesses, which made choosing a single source for everything quite difficult. So after a while I decided I'd split my home automation chores between two different companies, focusing on their strengths to get the best system possible. Sure they probably wouldn't play well together, but if I were smart about which company got which devices, I could come up with a split-system that worked well for what I was trying to do.
It was a good plan.
But a plan doomed to failure.
Which I'll talk about in my next entry.