Getting the basics right.

Last time we talked a little about my background, summarising my stance on home technology, and detailing the general impatience I have at getting this sort of futuristic wizardry up and running. In this post I’m going to document my experience of getting started with HOOBS; the all-in-one, user-friendly ‘out of the box’ program put together, it would seem, to assist people just like me.

Let’s dive straight into it.

So we begin here -www.hoobs.org- to download the latest and greatest version of HOOBS (an acronym for Homebridge Out Of The Box System). My first impressions of the site are very positive; bright, but not overcrowded with information. I’m very quickly at the point on-screen where I need to be, and I’ll be using the most recent software version of HOOBS at the time of writing; v.1.1. HOOBS have impressively hit over a thousand downloads of the software already, all in a little over 45 days since they began! The download page helpfully details the key differences between the original version of the software and the new and improved update. It makes it crystal clear that the software image should not be unzipped after downloading so, as I want to get off on the right foot, I comply!

The next part of the procedure is totally routine to me as I’ve done it so many times before during the period I had using Home Assistant. You may recall that I’ve had multiple microSD card failures whilst running Hass.io or Hassbian, so I know how to format and flash an SD card. Muscle memory, you might say. Now there are two options here for you, dear readers – one unfathomably simple and the other fairly easy:

The simple, no worries version is this one: Go back to hoobs.org and scroll down to ‘HOOBS on MicroSD’, click ‘buy now’ and, well, that’s it! At a cost of €13.90 (around £12.08 in UK coinage), you get a pre-loaded 8Gb MicroSD card along with an adapter, plus case to protect both. Once received it’s simply a case of placing the MicroSD in your (compatible) Raspberry Pi and powering it up – it’s that easy. If you’re a ‘Noob’ like me and you want to minimise potential issues in formatting, burning the image, or anything in-between, this is the solution for you.

Alternatively, if you’re a glutton for punishment and you enjoy a bit of learning on the job, you can do all of this part by yourself. In the grand scheme of things, this is admittedly one of the easier elements of setting up Homebridge but do remember that this blog is really reaching out to those folks who, like me, are fascinated with home technology but don’t have the knowledge base to back up that interest. It really is starting from scratch. This second option assumes you have either purchased a suitable brand new MicroSD card or that you’ve formatted an existing card correctly using something like the excellent ‘SD Formatter’ program, which is freely available from the net. We now need to get the downloaded HOOBS image on to our MicroSD card, and we do that by using a really good program called ‘Balena Etcher’. It’s another free to download program from the net. If you’re working with SD/MicroSD cards then you’ll need this program at some point in your life. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve used it since I began using Home Assistant all those months ago, and I love it. It’s a case of simply selecting the image you’ve just downloaded from HOOBS, then choose the drive you wish to add it too (be very careful to select the correct drive here), and then simply clicking the ‘Proceed’ button. I’m using a SanDisk class 10 microSD card for this job, and I’m hoping that it will have some longevity while running HomeBridge in the Raspberry Pi 3B (RPi).

 

With the image successfully burned to the MicroSD card, it’s now time to insert it into my RPi. I already have an ethernet cable connecting it to my router just to keep things as simple as can be, and without the perceived added hassle (whether accurate or not) of having to configure WiFi. So, ethernet cable in – check. Power cable goes in – check. Lights dancing away in a frenzied fashion on the RPi? Sure are. I feel that I must remind you all at this point that my knowledge falls some way short when I’m working with all of this home technology stuff and you’ll, therefore, need to accept the descriptions of procedures, hardware, and software that I give with that firmly in mind. I’m very easily bamboozled with technically slanted terminology so, if you’re reading this as a ‘Noob’ too, I’d hope that you appreciate the simplified nature of some of the language used here. I’m not dumbing down my language specifically to help you – it’s the phrases and words I use to describe what I’m doing already. I’m just glad if it helps someone!

What happens next? Well, that’s simple too; just visit HTTP://hoobs.local and you’ll be greeted with an attractive looking login page. To start with it’s simply a case of entering the default username and password: ‘admin’ and ‘admin.’ That’s it! HOOBS is installed, and you’ll hopefully now be looking at the desktop panel, giving an overview of the Server Status offering the user valuable information, including whether HomeBridge is actually running, along with the uptime of the server. There’s more information displayed further down the Status tab which may or may not be of interest to you, and I shall let all interested parties reading this to work out for themselves which category I fit in!

There are three further tabs that sit alongside the ‘Status’ header; ‘Plugins’, ‘Config’ and ‘Accessories’ – but more on these later. You’ll notice on the ‘Status’ tab that the left-hand side of the screen is dominated by a QR code – the popular two-dimensional barcode invented way back in 1994 but, as far as I am aware, only gaining traction in the mainstream arena over the last 5-6 years or so. This code (or the three-block code directly below it) is fundamental in adding Homebridge into your Home application on your iOS or Mac devices. How you set this next part up is entirely up to you. The easy to understand instructions on the hoobs.org website suggests that you ‘tap the add button’ in the top-right corner…’of your Home app in iOS, selecting ‘add accessory’ and then inputting the three-block of code I mentioned previously. I have to say that I didn’t bother with any of that (here I go again, off-piste!), as I simply tapped on to ‘add accessory’ (after pressing the ‘+’ symbol in my Home app) and then scanned the aforementioned QR code through the scanner window now displaying on my iPhone. It worked instantly and immediately displayed my Homebridge Hub (at least, that’s what I’m calling it.) in a default room. If you’ve followed HOOBS instructions or mine, and you’re seeing the same results I’m describing, congratulations! How easy was that? If you revert to the ‘Status’ page of HOOBS, you’ll see that Homebridge is now running and a satisfying green check mark is displayed to show all is well.

I have to say, I’m loving the simplicity of how this looks and feels. Dare I say that it all seems too easy? Famous last words, I’m sure! So what comes next? You’re probably as eager as I am to get things integrated, right? One step at a time, folks – things are likely to get a bit tougher from here on in. We now turn our attention to all of the shiny smart home gear that I have scattered around my abode and what I hope to integrate with HomeBridge via the brilliant HOOBS. In my next post, I shall be attempting to add my Yeelight smart bulbs. These have served me very well, and I’ll be delighted if I can get them up and running, and most importantly, controlled via my iOS Home app. Over the coming weeks, I’ll also be looking to add my Xiaomi products, Yi Cameras and Sonoff devices, which were all ‘tasmotised’ previously to enable control by Home Assistant. After that, let’s see. I’m very much hoping to take up some of your suggestions for products to install so please do get in touch with your ideas.

Until next time, Happy HOOBing!

2 replies
  1. Miguel Ferreira
    Miguel Ferreira says:

    This is incredible — and as you begin to integrate gadgets, your product will quickly become the defacto homebridge go-to for plugins, and troubleshooting. I can see this becoming bigger than the reddit sub if done right as it could easily bring i the mainstream.

    Good job, I’m happy you’re working on something that will add simple pleasures of home automation to the lives of many without the expertise often required.

    Congrats!

    Reply
    • cdafforne
      cdafforne says:

      Thanks, Miguel! Glad you’re enjoying the series so far. It’s early days yet but here’s hoping my experiences aid others who are trying to achieve a similar goal. It’s important to remember that HOOBS is a vehicle to allow easier setup, configuration, and running of Homebridge. The individual components which make it up are open source and free to download.

      Let us know how you get on with setting up your own Smart Home!

      Reply

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