Home Automation

I’ve slowly crept into implementing home automation because there are so many competing and not necessarily interoperative devices and technologies.

There is no single communication standard, though it’s often possible to hack your way through making something work (to a degree) with other devices. So far, I have a minor jumble of TP-Link , Belkin WeMos, a Honeywell WiFi thermostat, a security camera, Amazon Alexa, two Dots, an open/close sensor, motion sensor , Sonos and now a Samsung SmartThings hub. SmartThings will recognize the WeMo switches, motion sensor and open close sensors, Sonos speaker, but not the TP-links (without running an intermediary communication server) or camera. For the camera, I can use any of three apps, including one that sends recordings to home server. I’m hoping add a Ring doorbell soon.

A jumble. SmartThings was a recent addition, so I’m hoping to narrow the list of 8 different apps used to control other “things” down to a smaller number.

Just having bought the SmartThings hub, I haven’t yet delved into the Smartthings community much to see what additions other people have come up with. Siri doesn’t yet play much of a role in my home automation, though it will start up Plex on the AppleTV. The journey has started.

Plex

I have a Plex server (PMS) running on a Mac Mini with the content housed on my Synology server. The content is viewable in and outside the house (external access requires a Plex Pass) on a number of different devices. I had given some thought to adding a computer running Ubuntu 16.04 to be a secondary server in case the first has problems. I’ve used Plex for several years and thought the process shouldn’t be difficult, but I’m not that knowledgeable about Linux.

I keep much of the Plex media content on the Synology backed up to an external drive. Though you can add/delete/move content on the external drive while connected to the Linux computer, Plex can’t “mount” the drive for use without running with privileges more than as a logged in user (as ‘root’).

I checked the Plex forums for this issue as there are plenty of people running Plex on Linux, so this should be a common need. I found a more ‘how to’ solution on YouTube and was able to add the media libraries to Plex from the external hard drive. Then, you typically need to set up a port forward on your router to direct the Internet (public IP port) streaming requests back to the internal IP address and port of the computer running the Plex server. Since I already had this set up for PMS#1, I thought it should be a simple matter to add a new port forward to PMS#2 in my router. What I didn’t appreciate is that although I know the external public ports need to be unique (two Plex servers, each needs to have distinct public ports), the internal port forward for both needs to be to the same port and the manually configured port in the settings for Plex then needs to be the same as the public port you setup in the router. Confused? I was. But the folks on the Plex forums had the answers I needed.

Now I’m up and running with two Plex servers, both of which are accessible outside my home network and a little more knowledge about networking and Linux.

Logitech Harmony Remote

Like most anyone, you’re bound to have remote controls that multiply in number overnight. We had eight: TV, receiver, HDMI switch, Apple TV, FireTV, Chromecast, DVD to VCR, Cable. Set up was super easy if you know the model/brand of your devices.

Then set them up, develop your modes (TV, Watch Apple TV, etc) and the remote switches to the right input for the devices you selected. No more jumble of remotes and I have a few more spare batteries after taking them out of all the remotes!

Super cool.

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