If you were to ask me how I’d describe my love of smart technology I’d probably say ‘unhealthy’. I’m frequently diving headfirst into what I perceive is ‘new’ or ‘cutting edge’ ecosystems – often without any prior research, and usually without a clear view of where I want to end up with it.
What if you then asked me to give a self-appraisal of what I consider to be my level of expertise in this area? That’s a tad more difficult to quantify. If pushed I’d likely state that I have a ‘low to average skill-set’ topped off with a healthy level of a desire to achieve and a general high interest in tech. The thing is I’ve never had a particularly good attention span and I have, in all honesty, a propensity to look for immediate solutions from others, rather than fully (or properly) seeking answers for myself. The thing is though, I don’t believe for one moment that I’m the only one like this. I’ve shared the pain of many folks like me on smart-home forums – those who seek immediate assistance from experts and leave frustrated when they’re given technically complicated responses. I understand it from both sides of the argument; needing help to ensure you don’t completely mess up your smart-home, and the other viewpoint; suggesting people find their own solutions to the problem. The latter point would, in all likelihood, give the user a far better understanding of how the whole system works. Even though I know in my head that this is the best route to travel, I’m unlikely to change my mindset now.
My latest dalliance into the cloudy waters of smart-home tech involved trying to bring all of my devices under one roof. I heavily immersed myself in the world of Home Assistant (www.home-assistant.io) for a lengthy period switching often between Hassio and Hassbian (and never quite grasping either fully). There was a lot of upsides to using Home Assistant as my Smart Home Hub, which included:
1) Well over a thousand components compatible with the platform meaning many, if not all, of your smart devices would slide right in and be useable through one single interface.
2) The ability to stamp your own personality on the look and feel of the user interface.
3) The potential to install and run the software on a cheap Raspberry Pi with very little outlay after initial purchase and setup.
But with all of these positives come some negatives. I ran Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi 3, and I burned my way through 5 micro SD cards in a little over a year – don’t ask me why as I simply don’t know. As a result, the semi-amusing acronym (often used on Smart Home forums), W.A.F. (Wife Approvement Factor), went seriously downhill, and I mean SERIOUSLY downhill. I also envisaged having an iPad mounted into the wall by my front door to help those who would choose button pressing over voice commands to control devices. Through all of the iterations of my Home Assistant, and also looking at other folks’ choice of wall-based UI, I just couldn’t imagine seeing any of those options displayed by my front door. It looked good on a laptop but was just, at least in my eyes, too finicky and cluttered to be considered useable for anyone visiting the house. This applied especially to those who may not have the prerequisite basic understanding of technology such as this.
One of the major positives to come out of using Home Assistant was the discovery of the superb HomeKit component. This little gem allowed your non-compliant devices to be integrated into Apple’s Home app. I don’t understand the wizardry behind this but I love everything about it as, you see, I’m a bit of an Apple fanboy. I’ve used iPhones since the 3GS graced the shelves of the local Apple Store. I’ve used Macs since before that. You can add iPads, AppleTVs, AirPort Extreme and Airport Express amongst some of the other devices I use currently or have used in the past. The tagline associated with Apple’s products of ‘it just works’ is one which, for me, rings true. Everything just works and, invariably, works together – seamlessly.
And that got me thinking…
Why didn’t I look into using HomeBridge as a stand-alone product? I love the look of Apple’s ‘Home’ App and the simple to use icons it displays for each device or component. Having given my customary minimal glance over the complexities of setting it up and adding components I decided to jump in with both feet. How difficult could it be for someone like me? As it turned out, very, as I struggled massively with understanding the process of installation and setup. I hadn’t even got to the point of installing my devices and that worried me. By some fluke, HomeBridge was eventually installed and I turned to the addition of components which is when metaphorically hit a wall. I’ll refer you back to the first few lines of this post regarding my impatience with following the rulebook. I don’t want to spend hours and hours trawling through pages of technical information which mean nothing to me in the vain hope it ‘clicks’ in my head and I then fully understand what I’m doing with it. I’m more of a visual learner in so much that if someone shows me how to do something I’ll generally pick it up pretty quickly. The upshot is that I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to – even basic adding of bulbs. I was ready to go back to Home Assistant.
But that’s when I stumbled on HOOBS; a superb all in one solution to installing, setting up, and configuring smart home technology.
Once Bobby, the C.E.O. of HOOBS, approached me and suggested that I document my experience of installing and setting up HomeBridge with HOOBS, how could I refuse? This blog will undoubtedly shine a spotlight on some of the trials and tribulations of a ‘noob’ using HOOB, but it’ll also showcase the many success stories, however small, for a novice home-tech fan. If it inspires any of you along the way to click the ‘Download the latest HOOBS’ button then that would be wonderful! I’ll be writing generally on a fortnightly basis with updates on my progress, and I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions on what I’m trying to achieve.