Home Automation Improvements!

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 9:47 am


I went on a home automation improvement kick recently! The changes include:

OpenHAB – I switched from Misterhouse to OpenHAB for home automation. Why? OpenHAB has a cleaner codebase, more active development community, more efficient event-driven model, increasing device support, a better UI, charting, and a functional mobile client. I completed most of the conversion in a few hours, and further lingering issues within few days.

WeeWX – instead of WView for my weather station. WeeWX uses the same DB format as WView so all the historical data is still present. WeeWX has a more active development community, lacks a rainfall bug that was plaguing me in WView, and supports MQTT (see below) allowing me to get weather station data from WeeWX to OpenHAB.

MQTT – an IoT (Internet of Things – another buzzword) message bus becoming more common in home automation. It allows publishing of data and subscription to data channels, decoupling devices enough to make it easier to connect devices lacking explicit support for each other.

DoorBird – a video intercom, motion-sensing doorbell with a documented local (non-cloud) API and hard-wired power (no batteries to worry about). I integrated it into my OpenHAB instance – here are example instructions.

Garage door automation – I added garage door controllers and sensors, so now when I ask “did I remember to close the garage door?” after driving 30 (or 300) miles I can check, and close it if I did forget.

More intelligence – Decorative lights come on at dusk instead of a fixed time, adapting to the season automatically. The container herb garden on the back porch skips drip irrigation if it has rained more than 0.2 inches in the last 24 hours. A reminder is pushed to our phones if the garage door has been left open for more than 30 minutes. If motion is detected on the front porch, a photo is taken by the doorbell camera and archived.

Whew! I have a few more ideas too, but I better wait a little bit and have a burn in period before making more changes.


lvmcache doesn’t support snapshots yet

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 5:51 pm

Watch out – lvmcache doesn’t support snapshots yet! I discovered this when my backup system tried to create a snapshot of a filesystem to back up after I enabled lvmcache on it.

I removed the cache pool logical volume (disabling lvmcache for the volume) using lvremove, and will re-visit once lvmcache’d volumes have snapshot support (since snapshots are very important for consistent backups).

Background on lvmcache – it is a new LVM feature that uses dm-cache to cache blocks for slower storage (like a HDD) on faster storage (like a SSD) for faster access.


Workaround to Drupal 8.1.x “Call to a member function get() on a non-object” error

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 2:53 pm


Trouble getting Drupal 8.1.x development branch to install due to the following error or similar?

PHP Fatal error: Call to a member function get() on a non-object in Drupal.php on line 285

There is a workaround – go to your site’s /core/install.php URL directly.

SplashID Safe mobile sync corrupt your password DB?

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 2:26 pm

SplashID Safe icon

Was your SplashID Safe database corrupted with many duplicate and non-ASCII character entries?

It happened to me multiple times when syncing between the mobile and desktop SpashID Safe clients – so I created a script to remove the entries, reducing my DB size from 2500 entries back to the actual 900 entries.

I put the quick script on GitHub in case anyone else finds it useful. It is based on linuxsquad’s Convert-SplashID-to-KeePassX scripts.

(I started using SplashID Safe during the PalmOS days and have not since switched – though I’ve considered KeePass and KeePassX.)


Fed up with FedUp? or Upgrading from Fedora 18 to Fedora 20

Filed under: — Stormwind @ 10:04 am

I like the concept and convenience of over-the-network upgrades with minimal downtime, but FedUp (Fedora‘s new official method) did not work quite right for my Fedora 18 to Fedora 20 upgrade without some hackery.

Here is what I had to do to get the upgrade to work:

  • Moved the FedUp cache directories off the /var filesystem (hosted on RAID1 LVM) and into the root filesystem (which required expanding my root filesystem size by reallocating space from elsewhere) and modified FedUp to use the new directories. See Common Fedora 20 Bugs and Bug 1045168 Comment #33 for a workaround.
  • Added missing LVM kernel parameters to the System Upgrade grub boot section so the upgrade could see the other LVM hosted filesystems. See Common Fedora 20 Bugs and Bug 974000 for more info.
  • Added missing startup kernel boot parameters to the same System Upgrade grub boot section so it would start the upgrade process instead of booting to a login prompt. See Bug 1038863 for info.
  • Otherwise I followed the FedUp directions, then after the upgrade completed I tested services and fixed up configs and file permissions that had been changed during the upgrade.

    If you are having other problems with a FedUp upgrade, you may want to browse the FedUp bug list to see if any apply and if workarounds have been posted in the comments.

    Hope this helps!


    GNU parted partition alignment warnings – solution

    Filed under: — Stormwind @ 9:25 pm

    Getting those pesky “Warning: The resulting partition is not properly aligned for best performance” messages when creating partitions on your new 3TB-4TB disk using GNU parted under Linux?

    Start parted with the “-a optimal” command line parameter to tell parted to use optimal alignment!

    /sbin/parted -a optimal /dev/sdd

    Thanks go to this post on Ask Ubuntu!


    How to Quiet a Garage Door and Opener

    Filed under: — Stormwind @ 5:18 pm

    GarageDoorOpenerOne of our garage door openers died of old age recently – it was an old builder-model (in other words, as cheap as the builder can get) chain drive opener that was incredibly noisy. I took advantage of the opportunity to reduce the noise made by the garage door opener and the door itself especially since there is a room of the house above the garage.

    Here’s what I did in order of increasing cost and effort:

    1. Oil the hinges, springs, pulley bolts, etc of the door. I used standard household oil (don’t use WD-40, it is technically not a lubricant). Don’t mess with the springs – it is dangerous, only trained technicians should adjust springs. (more info)
    2. Replace metal door rollers with nylon rollers. I bought two 10-packs of these nylon rulers.
    3. Install vibration isolators between the garage door opener and the ceiling. I used the RSIC-GDS Motor Kit from PAC International.
    4. Replace the noisy garage door opener with a quiet opener. I bought a Sommer Direct Drive garage door opener which is very quiet. I’ve also read good things about the LiftMaster 3800 Residential Jackshaft Opener.

    After making all of the above changes, we believe the garage doors are about 75% quieter than before!

    Hope this helps someone!


    Fedora 16 Upgrade

    Filed under: — Stormwind @ 2:24 pm

    I upgraded our server to Fedora 16 from Fedora 14 recently, so I thought I’d continue my tradition of posting the solutions to the problems I encountered to help others.

    Two major changes in Fedora recently increased the difficulty of this upgrade: the switch to grub2 from the grub legacy bootloader, and the switch to systemd from Upstart and SysV-style init.

    I used the PreUpgrade method once again to reduce downtime and avoid burning a disc.

    References to read first:

    1. How to use PreUpgrade
    2. Common Fedora 16 bugs



    New Weather Station!

    Filed under: — Stormwind @ 11:45 am

    The new Vantage Pro2 Plus weather station worked, recording about one inch of precipitation during the recent rainfall! Now I just need to get the USB interface working and wview set up to analyze the results.

    We installed the weather station up on the roof along with the new Wineguard HS-1000 omnidirectional HD antenna, which is also working well. Dropped cable over a year ago – Netflix + other streaming + broadcast is good enough and costs a lot less!

    I hope to combine the data from the weather station (including the UV and solar radiation sensors) and the TED 5000 whole-house energy monitor to correlate temperature and other weather changes with energy usage and solar PV power generation from the solar arrays also on the roof.

    Update: Success!  The weather station is online (after much fighting with hardware and interfaces)!  Check out Wumple Weather and station KTXAUSTI146 on the WeatherUnderground.


    Hit Games Developed in Austin

    Filed under: — Stormwind @ 6:09 pm

    64px-Texas_flag_map.svg I recently heard from a friend that past (and maybe present) West Coast game industry executives view Austin as developing no successful titles generating significant profit and/or receiving critical acclaim.

    I want to convince them otherwise, so here’s the a partial list of hit games developed in Austin:

    Know of more titles, or any additional information to add? Add it to the comments! (As long as the info is public, that is…)

    It would also be great if we can also get some rough sales and revenue numbers for each title.

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