Voice Command – Bali Blinds + Wink + Alexa + IFTTT

I could not find a comprehensive page that could help me with getting Alexa to talk to Bali Blinds. Hopefully this helps you. Here are the steps to I did to get voice command to work with your binds. What I have (things you need):

  • Blinds Motor + Remote – They look like the ones in this manual (AutoView). You need to access to the following buttons:
    • button in the hole in the back of the remote
    • button on the blinds (see manual, it’s a fairly well disguised button)
  • Wink Hub 2 (instruction will probably work for Wink 1)
  • Online accounts:
    • IFTTT account
    • Wink App on your phone
    • Alexa device (echo or dot)

Here are the steps:

  1. Clear connection to the blinds: you will lose your remote control function with this step
    1. Wink App > Wink Hub > Setting > Z-Wave Controls > Exclusion Mode
    2. Press button on binds for 3 second until blinking
  2. Connect to Wink and Blinds
    1. Wink App > Wink Hub > Setting > Z-Wave Controls > Inclusion Mode
    2. Press button on binds for 3 second until blinking
    3. Blinds will move up/down a bit, and it’s now connected to the wink
    4. You can now control the blinds in Wink (but the commands are reversed; up is down, and down is up).
  3. Add your remote back: you still need the remote, because wink works only as on/off switch. It’s still much easier to control the blinds with the remote if you want a specific height.
    1. Reset your remote
      1. Press and hold button in the hole on the back of the remote
      2. Let go after all the flashing lights going through several colors
    2. Connect remote to Wink: result of this step is that Wink / Blinds / Remote will be on the same network (but the remote is unconnected to the blind)
      1. Wink App > Wink Hub > Setting > Z-Wave Controls > Inclusion Mode
      2. Press and hold button in the hole on the back of the remote for 3 seconds (flashing green lights)
      3. You should now see the remote in Wink, but connecting to the blinds is not an option in wink (you can connect to Lutron devices though if you want to re-purpose the switch to a light).
    3. Connect remote to blinds (you have to do this via build-in button-commands on the blinds and the remote).
      1. Press and hold button in the hole on the back of the remote 1 time
      2. Press and hold the button on the blinds for 3 seconds (flashing green)
      3. Blinds will move up/down a bit, and it’s now connected to the remote.
    4. At this point, blinds should work via wink app (but in reverse) and remote should work (as they did before).
  4. Add Voice Command
    1. Wink
      1. Add short cut
      2. Create a short cut called “blinds up” and “blinds down”, but make sure the action associated with the opposite action in Wink (remember Wink command is reversed for blinds; “blinds up” shortcut should link to blinds down command, which in real life will bring blinds up). If you have a group of blinds that you want to control together, you should put them in a group, and link the short cut to the group.
    2. IFTTT
      1. My Applet > New Applet
      2. “this”: Amazon Alexa > Say a specific phrase, and enter your phrase (you would be ask to grant IFTTT access to Amazon)
      3. “that”: Wink Short Cuts > select the shortcut you created in Wink (you will be ask to grant IFTTT access to Wink)

You now have voice commands to your blinds, and the little 2 button remote will continue to work. Once it’s working, everything works pretty well. However, home automation should be easier than this to set up. Everything is poorly documented, and you have wrestle 4 platforms together (blinds, wink, alexa, IFTTT) just to control the blinds. Give me your thoughts and input in the comments.

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Running Your Own Server

In the age of cloud server, hosting your server has never been cheaper. Chances are you already are paying for web hosting of some sort from places like bluehost or hostgator. However, have you ever thought about tinkering with apache or PHP settings, you might consider python or Ruby. Chances are you can own your web server at around the same cost as what you are already paying. The cheapest server I found is Amazon AWS with reserved instance you can pay as little as $4 a month for your server.

In this post, I will focus on Rackspace and Amazon. There are quite a few others out there, feel free to post you 2 cents in the comments. However, please be aware, this is NOT a article meant for businesses considering where to host you server.

Rackspace

Pros:

  • Service and Support – As a beginner admin, you might run into quite a few issue that you have no idea how to deal with. Rackspace’s support, via chat or via ticketing, is great. Sometimes you catch them on a slow night, the tech staff can be very helpful. With amazon you can expect at least 12-24 hour turn around.
  • Great Interface – The admin interface is extremely friendly. Their offerings are simple, and you can easily point-n-click to backup your server.

Cons:

  • Price – As I mentioned it is not cheapest. It is good to play with a beginner server for a few months (and use their support), and once you know your way around switch to a cheaper provider.

Amazon AWS/EC2

Pros

  • Price – This is the greatest selling point for me. You can get a server with Amazon as low as $4 a month (or even $0 for the first year). It took me a few month to realize the biggest saving is found in a “reserved” instance. The more you pay up-front and the more years you lock-in (1 or 3 year), the cheaper it gets.

Cons

  • Complicated Interface – AWS console is quite overwhelming at first glance. They offer quite a lot of services, and a wide range of server types and sizes, and it will take you a few read to understand which server is best for you.
  • Bandwidth – EC2 does charge you outgoing bandwidth. You should definitely setup billing alerts to prevent you from getting a large bill, cause script-kiddies has taken over your server.

Here is a google doc spreadsheet that summarizes the pricing on low end between the 2 services. You can see full pricing info for rackspace and amazon (be sure to look through on-demand and reserved instance) for yourself.

Setting up an FTP server (Ubuntu 10.04 LTS + pureFTPd)

Here are instruction on setting up a FTP server quickly:

  1. setup a server – I recommend setting up a cloud server either with rackspace or amazon. The instruction here applies to ubuntu 10.04 LTS (should take 2-3 minutes if you already have an account with them).
  2. after server is up and running, install pureftp and admin
    1. sudo apt-get install pureadmin (apt-get would install all the dependencies including the pureftp)
  3. enable virtual user
    1. sudo ln -s /etc/pure-ftpd/conf/PureDB /etc/pure-ftpd/auth/50pure
    2. sudo vi /etc/pure-ftpd/conf/MinUID (change value from 1000 to 100)
  4. restart server (or just pure-ftpd)
  5. access pureadmin
    • linux (probably same for macs)
      1. Open terminal
      2. ssh -X root@ip.address.of.server
      3. sudo pureadmin
    • windows
      1. install Xming (include putty)
      2. run putty:
        • server: ip.address.of.server
        • id/pw
        • Enable X11 forwarding (Connection > SSH > Forwarding)
        • sudo pureadmin
    • pureadmin will add the groups and users (click apply when asked)
    • configure virtual users (hope you can figure the rest out from here). use of sub-directory and fake root will prevent users from accessing each others files.

Netgear Router iPod Touch (or iPhone) unble to connect [workaround]

So, I recently got a iPod touch, but have been unable to connect to a Netgear router (Wireless-N 300, WNR2000v2) unless I use static IP. This is the first clue that there is something wrong with DHCP or routing table, not with WPA or WEP.

I had it setup as a switch rather than a router, and is relying on another DHCP server (DHCP passthru). It turns out you need to turn on RIP Version. This setting is found under “Advanced” > “LAN Setup”. The RIP version is “Off” by default. I selected RIP_1 and apply the settings. Now it works.

The other quirk that I have experienced is that for some routers, if you use WEP, you need to enter the long HEX key, rather than your passphrase for this to work.

Lenovo X301 Lucid Upgrade – All is Well

For anyone looking for reassurance, I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid via the automatic upgrade, and everything for my Lenovo X301 works out of the box. I use hibernation and suspend frequently, they both continue to work without a hitch. Be ware that PHP 5.3.2 might cause some issues with your existing code. The boot time is incredibly fast, especially with the solid state drive.

VirtualBox 3.2 – New Guests Unbootable

I recently installed virtualbox 3.2, and all my old machines worked fine, while I cannot create any new ones. I have ubuntu host 10.4 (lucid) and I’ve been trying to create additional ubuntu hosts. The machine keeps crashing on first boot. Some times I get a kernel panic, some times, I just get stuck on a cursor.

I finally got a hint from this page (apparently Win7 doesn’t like 3.2 as well). The problem is the default harddrive configuration. If you have older virtual machines made under Virtualbox 3.1, you’ll notice that you HD is installed via an IDE controller. In 3.2, the default behaviour is to create your HD via SATA controller. The solution is simple, after going through the “wizard,” before doing the install:

  1. go into your storage settings, and
  2. remove the HD from the SATA controller (you can remove the SATA controller all together), and
  3. go to the CD-rom’s controller, and click on the “+” HD icon, and add the VDI as the “IDE Primary IDE Master.” Most likely your virtual CD-rom is already configure as the “IDE Secondary IDE Master,”

Here is a screenshot of my settings:

Downgrade Firefox to 3.0.x for Karmic Koala

Update 12/23/2009: Firefox + Flash more stable now.

You need to install the following (via apt-get or the gui version from ubunut):

  • flashplugin-nonfree (the usual flash plug-in)
  • nspluginwrapper
  • flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound

Apparently I was the only one that did not the get the memo about installing the above. Now firefox is about 10 times more stable. Please also note, this is 32bit karmic koala (according to some forums 64bit has other issues). Kudos to this article, though it’s for hardy, it fixed my issues in karmic.

After an upgrade to Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala / 32bit) Firefox 3.5 has been a nightmare. Like most people I have come to expect 99.99% uptime for my browser, so Firefox crashing every hour is just not acceptable. I’ve tried:

  • flashplugin directly from adobe (thinking it’s a flash problem, but crash continues on pages with no flash)
  • start a new profile
  • disable all extensions

I’m not sure who to blame, ubuntu or firefox, but the state that Firefox is in is really a downer for anyone using Ubuntu.

I’ve decided to downgrade to firefox 3.0.x. However, it can not be done via apt-get. So, here is a brief instruction on how to donwgrade manually:

  1. Download firefox: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/all-older.html
  2. Extract the files and store it some where (to keep it simple, I put in in ~/home/bin/firefox)
  3. (not sure if this step is necessary, but I did it just for good measure) I renamed ~/.mozilla to some other name as a backup before launching firefox 3.0
  4. Run the firefox script in the folder, /your_path/firefox/firefox
  5. To get all the plugins to work (e.g. flash, mplayer…etc): cp /usr/lib/firefox/plugins/*.* your_path/firefox/plugins

So far it seems a bit more stable. You can continue to keep you firefox-3.5. However, I would avoid firing it up, since it might upgrade your profile.

Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

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