Using Indigo 7 for Home Automation with a Mac

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Back in 2013 I moved from using a very good Windows program called mControl for home automation control over to Indigo for Mac OS. mControl worked great for my needs then but I didn’t want to dedicate an additional computer to the home automation and video recording tasks since I usually left my iMac running anyway.

Indigo looked like an excellent choice and over the years and it has indeed proven to be a great software package for home automation control from a Mac. I realized that even though I’ve blogged about some of the things that I’ve done with Indigo I haven’t really mentioned my overall experience with the software.

It’s now on version 7 and though the cost has risen this is largely due to improved software support and the inclusion of the required licensed technology needed to control Z-Wave compatible door locks. Indigo is very extensible; one can find a number of community-built plugins and it also supports scripting via Python.

I wouldn’t recommend it for someone that isn’t very tech savvy; there are other consumer appliances more suitable for basic home usage, but if you want to do anything more than have a few automated tasks (for example, anything that requires a good bit of logic and virtual devices or variables) you’ll need something like Indigo.

At our house I do use a Wink system and it works fine there but it’s not capable of doing much more than running a few automated tasks; consumer appliances (usually cloud-connected) currently don’t offer very much in this realm. But at the apartment I’m still using Indigo and have moved into some more advanced home automation interactions.

With Indigo I now have several actions that are dependent on the status of other devices, virtual devices and variables. I’m also using some Bluetooth proximity detectors to provide additional enhancements and in the past I’ve done some more interesting things that I currently don’t have setup.

I highly encourage anyone with more than a passing interest in home automation, and a Mac that you’re willing to leave powered on all of the time, to look into Indigo. The initial cost may seem high but when you consider the basic cost just to purchase a consumer appliance hub such as Wink or SmartThings, and then potential issues with any of your existing equipment, you may find that the savings aren’t really there in the long run. Indigo works with X10, Insteaon and Z-Wave devices as well as some other devices that don’t use those protocols.

Scheduling Automatic Modem and Router Power Cycling Using a NetReset NR-1000US

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Back at the house the cable modem and router usually operate just fine but every now and then something hangs up and unfortunately it’s not always practical to go by to reset the gear. And asking a friend to do it for me, even when they’re eager to do it, just seems unfair.

So I searched for a device on Amazon.com, as usual, and sure enough someone has a product that is intended for exactly this need. The NetReset NR100US, which cost about $45, can be set to automatically reset the power to both outlets on the device using a set delay between them. It will turn off one outlet for a minute, turn it back on, and then a minute later do the same for the next.

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Slowing Water Leakage in a Bathtub (Severe Weather Prep)

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We’ve had a threat or two of a hurricane in our area over the summer and into the fall so more than once we filled up the tubs to store water for flushing the toilets and rinsing things. The largest tub in our place can hold a lot of water but unfortunately it had a slow leak at the drain that over the course of several hours was too severe.

Fortunately I found a very simple solution: electrical tape.

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Building a seal around the drain and the drain cap slowed the leak to a point that I couldn’t even tell if it was leaking any more.

Easy Replacement Cap for a Blitz 6.5 Gallon Water Can

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A few years ago I purchased a Blitz 6.5 Gallon Water Can just in case we had a major hurrican that would knock out power at the house. Though I did fill it a couple of times we did not end up using it (yet).

But one day I lost a cap to a gas can and was in desperate need to replace it. I discovered that the water can’s cap would fit perfectly and so that’s where it ended up. Of course, once used on a gas can it simply wouldn’t be good to use on the water can again.

This year I decided to bring the can to our apartment to prep for hurricane season but unfortunately it still lacked a cap.

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DEWALT DCST920P1 20V MAX 5.0 Ah Lithium Ion XR Brushless String Trimmer

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The trimmer finally died… I suppose it was at least partially my fault as I did very little to care for it properly though on the other hand I’m not sure it ever functioned well. In any case, when I retrieved the trimmer from the shed and tried to crank it after several attempts I determined that it finally had given up. Gas was leaking out of the engine case.

I detached the trimmer attachment from the motor and tossed the motor. Perhaps some future yard sale shopper will benefit from the purchase of an inexpensive trimmer head along with a tiller and edger.

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Home Automation: “The dryer has finished drying your clothes.”

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While most of the things that I can do with my home automation setup are only of interest to myself on occasion I manage to add something that my wife also thinks is useful. This is one of them.

A while back I decided to add the ability for the home automation system to know when the washer has finished washing clothes and to make an announcement. This worked well though the module itself appears to have been damaged and is no longer communicating. Before that module failed I managed to find a way to sense when the dryer has finished. This was accomplished using an Aeon Labs Energy Reader that I purchased from Amazon.com (of course).

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The unit is a Z-Wave device with two clamps, which is typically intended to be used at a breaker box. It wouldn’t have been able to properly sense current flow if I had just placed the clamps around the power cable for the dryer; the clamps need to be over individual wires that are normally within the cable sheath. However, on my dryer the three wires are individually accessible for a few inches before they enter the main sheath and are then covered.

It was just a matter of placing the clamps around two of these cables. Fortunately, as with the washer, our dryer is low-tech and doesn’t draw any power while not in use so setting up the sensing thresholds in Indigo was relatively easy (actually easier than setting up the washer). Though the washer module is not currently working the dryer notifications still continue to work.

Using a Zubie Key: A Year in Review

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Almost a year ago I purchased a Zubie Key, which is a device that can be used to track the location, and monitor the status, of a vehicle through a vehicle’s OBD-II port. This device has a built-in cellular connection and requires a yearly subscription fee of about $100. My motivation at the time was to integrate it into my home automation setup, which I actually did by connecting it to the IFTTT service combined with text message notifications that my home automation software can receive and process.

A year later I am uncertain whether or not I will continue to pay for the service. Mind you, it is not bad and has lived up to my expectations. But with daycare and various other child-related costs I’m not sure that it’s worth (that suddenly more valuable amount of) $100.

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