Author Archives: Jason

Home Automation with Digital Door Locks

For the next post to my Home Automation Series, I’ll share about what I’ve done with automating the Main and Yard doors for my apartment.

The initial requirement was simply to have a keyless way to unlock the door, and just so happen that there are further integrations possible, I took it a step further. Here are the details.

My initial use case was to be able to unlock the door without keys, but yet secure. After some research I arrived at the Samsung Digital Locks. Specifically I bought the two SHP-DP728.

This lock supports the following methods to unlock the door

  • Fingerprint
    • works fine for most grown ups, doesn’t work well with children
  • PIN
    • a rather smart implementation that it will randomly force you to key in prefix numbers first before the actual pin. This is so that there is even “oil prints” distributed around the keypad
  • Proximity Card
    • the unit came with 2 credit card size, 2 mini card size, and 2 key tags; straightforward tap and unlock
  • App via bluetooth
    • needs to register the phone first via the app, then use the app to unlock. It doesn’t go by proximity, meaning it will not unlock just because your phone is near.
    • I was told that once the Z-Wave module is installed, bluetooth does not work; however it didn’t seem so.
    • To use bluetooth function with this lock, I needed to install the sHome app on my iPhone and setup was quite straightforward. The use of the app wasn’t so good though, I’ll have another post to share more details about it.
    • The short of it is I am able to unlock the door from the app, but that’s all.
  • Automation via Z-Wave (needs add-on module, **ask for EU/I chip**)
    • connects to my Homey, and the possibility becomes unlimited
    • as Homey is primary built for EU market, the Z-Wave module needs to be of the EU band as well
    • For my installation by Hanman, I requested for the EU/I module, as I’ve been told it provide fine grain details to the lock operations, e.g. the Z-Wave trigger can be distinguished on how the lock is unlocked, with a fingerprint, card, opened from inside etc.
    • The module is installed after the lock is installed, and a firmware update was necessary for the module. Both of my modules were supposed to be updated before they brought to my place, but one didn’t work and had to be re-flashed once more on site.
  • Manual Key (override)
    • in case everything else fails, or when battery runs out, this is the override to unlock the door

Another important aspect for me with this lock is the way you would open the door. The lock need to push/pull according to the same direction the door opens and closes. Hanman site describes this really well, here. Bottom line is, you’ll want a natural feel to the direction of opening the door.

Installation by Hanman was professional and nicely done, the installer came with the right tools to  accurately drill the necessary holes in the door and door frame to fit the unit. He then showed me how to do the necessary setup, and that’s about it. The rest was for me to figure out.

I’m generally quite pleased with this lock and would recommended it. I do want to remind you to check out that it is a unit that is compatible with your door, in terms of fitting, as well as the direction of opening.

Taking it further – Here comes the real automation bit

The automation I’ve done is basically two main use case
A. When a door is unlocked, Homey will announce it. This is particularly useful when we are not constantly watching the door.
B. When me or my wife gets home, the door will unlock automatically. This is rather complex to setup, and I’ll need another blog post for that. It incorporates a motion sensor, Google Wifi, IFTTT and of course, Homey.

After the digital lock is installed with the Z-Wave module, the next thing to do is to install the Samsung Z-wave Locks plugin for Homey. The plugin is written by the good guys at Automate Asia, where I bought my Home Automation Solution from.

Pairing of the Digital lock with Homey was straightforward, just like pairing any other Z-Wave devices. Bring the Homey near the lock and start pairing. To know if it’s successful, and if the module in the lock is truly EU/I, there’s a bit to do.

Basically, the acid test to determine if the chip is EU/I, is that if you set a flow as below
When… “Unlocked from back”
And…
Then… “Speech > Say Hello

The key part is “Unlocked from back” as a non EU/I chip will not be able to distinguish that action. So, a successful test is when you open the door from the inside, Homey will say “Hello”

That’s it for the first use case, you are free to create more flows to have Homey say different things based on how the door was unlocked. 🙂

Do you have other ideas? Do share! Have Fun!

2019 Home Automation with Homey & Google Home

I recently move into a new apartment, and I took the opportunity to dive into some Home Automation. This post shares some of the things I’ve done, and will write more around the details.

The overall solution, I adopted the approach my friend, Vicardo, shared with me, that devices can be controlled by Voice, Smartphone App, and Manual. Voice and app will be the primary methods, and as a fallback, there must be a way to manually trigger the action, e.g. switch off the lights, roll up the blinds.

(Full post on my complete bill of materials to come soon…)

Let’s start with some of the uses cases I have, and then I’ll mention the components involved in each use case. It’s important to note that the core controller I’ve chosen is the Homey.

  • Lights Automation
    • I have all my living room, dining room and master bedroom lights automated. This allows me to control the lights as groups, e.g. when leaving the apartment, I can power off the lights with a single control. Or I can define a scene for movie time and it will power off all lights except and keep a selected few on.
    • Device – MCO Home touch panel switches
    • Connectivity – Z-Wave
    • Controller – Homey
    • (more details coming…)
  • Balcony Zip Blinds Automation
    • I have my entire balcony installed with ZipBlinds. I use the blinds to block out rain, or when fully lowered, I can let the living room aircon run and cool down a bigger area.
    • Device – MC2 Altex SecureZip (with Somfy motors)
    • Connectivity – RTS
    • Controller – Homey (Connexoon is optional; which I’m not using)
    • (more details coming…)
  • Apartment Front and Yard Doors Automation
    • I have installed electronic locks by Samsung. It has an added z-wave module which allows integration with Homey for some controls.
      • When door opens – Homey announces the door is unlocked
      • When door closes – Homey announces the door is locked
      • When I get home – the door is unlocked
    • Device – (Lock) Samsung SHP-DP728 with Z-Wave (EU/I) addon module
    • Device – (Motion Sensor) Aeotec MultiSensor 6
    • Device – (Wifi) Google Wifi
    • Advanced Integration – IFTTT
    • Connectivity
      • Lock to Homey > Z-Wave
      • Motion Sensor to Homey > Z-Wave
    • Controller – Homey
    • more on the basic setup of this lock
  • Aircon automated control
    • I discovered the Ambi Climate in late 2018, and found it to be really effective to nicely control the room temperature. The most important part for me is that I no longer wake up in the morning to an overly cold room which I dread to crawl out from under the blanket. Now I always wake up to a nice comfortable temperature.
    • Device – Ambi Climate
    • Connectivity – Wifi
    • Controller – not required, but integrated with Google Home for voice commands
    • (more details coming…)

There’s much more to share, watch out for more posts on the Home Automation topic.

Further topics I’ll be writing about.

  • How naming convention affected my voice control of aircons
  • Deep dive into – Lights Automation
  • Deep dive into – ZipBlinds Automation
  • Deep dive into – Electronics Lock Automation
  • Deep dive into – Aircon control Automation

Solution – iPhone Apps are not syncing with iTunes after a restore

So you have got a new iPhone; you did a backup of your old iPhone and restored it to the new device. Everything seems to be working except that Apps are not installing. You try to re-sync with iTunes but nothing changes.

Looking at the Apps tab in iTunes shows that the Apps will be installed. So the question is when? Seems never right?

Well, it happened to me recently when I was doing just the same thing for an iPhone I was migrating. I even tried to restore a second time, but it didn’t matter.

I then stumbled upon the “Restrictions” settings, funny enough it was disabled. The original phone had restrictions turned on and Apps installation disabled. Just in the off chance of a bug here, I enabled restrictions, just to make sure all options are set to enabled, and turned off restrictions again.

Right after, I did another sync with iTunes, and all the Apps started to install.

There you have it, there’s a bug in the process. Maybe it was specific to my situation, where the source was an iPhone 4 with iOS6 and the target was an iPhone 4S with iOS7.

Nevertheless, here’s an experience I’ll share, in case if you encounter a similar issue.

My first Quadcopter

RC Toys has come a long way since I started in 1988. I’ve always wanted a flying RC toy. Didn’t have much success with my old plane “Challenger” which had less than 10 flights, out of which only 2 were successful. Then a couple of years back, I tried a simple RC helicopter which also didn’t do well.

BT_Skywalker_Green

Now, I’ve discovered the rather “crash proof” Skywalker by BT Toys. I first came across it outside of Sim Lim Square. There’s an RC shop which is just between SLS and Burlington Square. Someone was flying it to promote the toy. That shop is known for exorbitant pricing! So I started searching around.

I came across Toys RC on facebook, and promoting the Skywalker for S$69.95. I contacted them and had good response and once the stock was in, I was notified for a very quick and seamless pick up. The seller is nice and he actually carries lots of other RC products. Here’s one of his websites. You and also purchase additional batteries and charger from him at a reasonable price.

The Skywalker is literally a quadcopter in a cage. Due to this unique design, there’s a few ways to play with it. This Youtube video shows it all.

I give this a 2 thumbs up!

  • The cage gives me a bit more confident in flying as I don’t have to worry about crashing
  • The running mode lets my son get the hang of the 3 modes control
  • The 2.4GHz controller is fantastic as it allows multiple skywalkers to be flown together
  • The USB charger is so convenient to use

With more practice, I can start to fly the more grown up copters 🙂

Goodbye Logmein Free? Or Not?

Today I received an email from Logmein, stating that for Ignition users, we can still continue to use the App to remotely access our computers, even after the 6 months free trial of Pro. Interestingly I do not find the same information at their website. I do however, find their community forum where thousands of users have expressed their respond to the demise of Logmein Free.

Logmein_Ignition

I’ll probably just hang around and see what happens in 6 months. I’ve already got a few other alternatives to use, such as Splashtop, Teamviewer & VNC. And while going through the forums, I discovered Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop, which I’ll find time to try out.

Logmein Free no longer available

end_of_logmein_free

I’ve been a user of Logmein Free for many years now. At the peak of my usage, I even bought the App on the iPad. It’s still the most expensive I’ve ever bought from the Apple App Store. As I logged in today, I received a notification that Logmein Free is no longer available. Due to my loyalty, I have been granted 6months free subscription to the paid Logmein Pro.

This is quite sad as I like their service, and it has been a reliable method for me to access my home PCs remotely. Some months back a limit was imposed on the number of PCs I can access remotely for free. Looks like that is not enough, and Logmein has completely done away with the free service.

Free is always appreciated. However this is for personal use and I don’t need any of the pro features (although they are great in a real support environment). At this rate, I will probably have to say goodbye to the service by the end of the 6 months.

20140203: There’s an update to this right here

Review : Jabra Revo Wireless

I recently invested in my first pair of over-the-ear headphones, after much research and testing, I decided on the Jabra Revo Wireless.

I had very specific requirements which helped to narrow down my choices, and the Jabra Revo Wireless succeeded on.

  • Bluetooth capable, and must support multipoint connectivity (simultaneous connection to 2 devices at the same time over bluetooth)
  • Must have a decent voice call quality, especially for the mic. Really hate to constantly repeat myself because of poor noise isolation.
  • Comfortable over the ears cups
  • Good music quality
  • Leverages the IOS headset battery meter; so I can see how much power is left in the headset
  • Integrates well with IOS and Android

Some nice to have features, which I really like, and the Jabra Revo Wireless supports very well

  • backup wired connection via 3.5mm – this allows me to keep using the headphones even after the battery has gone completely flat; and also enables me to use the headphone with inflight entertainment systems
  • charge via USB – this is particularly important especially for travellers; the icing on the cake here is that the Jabra Revo Wireless will act as an USB audio device. Works on both Mac and Windows; the Jabra Revo Wireless will show up in the Audio device list for both input and output!! How cools is that!?!

Call performance is very good, among the best of bluetooth devices I have used.

Multipoint works very well, though I must add that when there are 2 devices connected, there will be some lag in the audio. So, if you are watching a video, or playing a game, the sound will be about half a second late. I’ve validated that this only occurs when multipoint is in action.

Overall, this is a great headset and I am very pleased of my investment.

How to enable VMware Horizon View Client to support multi-monitor connection with RDP?

I have recently encountered this where my customer needed to connect to virtual desktops using RDP. The requirement is that the session had to support multi-monitors on the end device. He had all the right settings in the View Pool, but on View client, it was not showing the option for multimonitor. If the display protocol was changed to PCoIP, the multimonitor option would appear.

So, the requirement is that on both the View Desktop and View Client, at least RDP 7.0 must be installed. Details here.

You can find RDC 7.0 for Windows XP & Vista here. Windows 7 comes with 7.0 out of the box.

To validate if you already have RDC 7.0, one simple way is to launch mstsc.exe, and see if the “Display” tab has the check box to.

This is an example where multimonitor support is not available.

mstsc_no_multimonitor

 

The next image is MSTSC that has been upgraded to RDP 7.0 on the same Vista Computer. The option will be enabled if Windows detects more than one monitor. In this case, there’s only one monitor, and so the option is greyed out.

MSTSC with Multimonitor

Self Service Support with VMware

One thing I’m impressed with VMware support is the huge database of KB articles. VMware KB does not only contain articles relating to issues, but also include best practices, supported configurations, etc. One KB which I access the most is the article that lists the TCP/UDP ports used by various vSphere products.

Now, personally I find the search function sometimes a little short. My favorite is to use google (as is millions of people out there). So, how can we use google to search VMware KB? I do that all the time. The answer is simple just include a google search keyword, “site:”. So specifically to find VMware KB articles using google search simply just do this…

Google > site:kb.vmware.com my search topic keywords

This way, google search will only give you results from the site kb.vmware.com.

Hope this is useful for you 🙂

Working with VMware View & PCoIP – Teradici Support

It’s been a while since I posted, and with my latest role in VMware, I hope to have good best practices to share with all of you out there. The first tip I’d like to share is that if you work with VMware View and PCoIP, it’s a very good idea to sign up for a free account to access Teradici’s support site. There are lots of good information in there which some are not found in VMware KB articles.

The URL to the Teradici’s support site is http://techsupport.teradici.com. Sign up is selfservice and you’ll have access in no time at all!

In the site, you’ll find articles on optimizing your setup for best performance, firmware download for Teradici Zero Clients, articles relating to issues and symptoms and how to resolve them, etc.