In the Pirkinning (if you don't get the reference don't blame me for lost time)

Home Automation has always been a curious craving of mine. Having the ability to have lights turn on and off, blinds open and close, home theater come to life, and more all at the press of a button has become more of a reality than ever. Granted I don't have all those items described working or have the parts to do so but I've finally begun to get somewhere with it.

Prior to the fire I had an ISY controlling a single Insteon device and a WeMo Switch. This time around I mistakenly ordered the Insteon 2413U PLM to get started and realized it wasn't the model that paired with the ISY. Since I hadn't ordered the ISY yet I began looking for alternatives. I tried several software platforms trying to stick with free, ideally open source, options whenever possible.

Fast forward to near present day
By late 2014 I had gotten the INSTEON 2413U working with iSmartenIt on a Raspberry Pi. I used the Pi and software with the ZBPLM as well which allowed the use of a Zigbee bulb I had picked up. During the first six months I got to make a few discoveries (some of which I had already known) about various devices I had in my collection. By this point I had a fair investment into Insteon devices but kept my options open. Affordability is always a concern but I want reliability, relative security, and flexibility so nothing terribly proprietary. This also moved me away from the Pi as my host for the software. For tinkering the Pi is great but for power, speed, and performance you can't beat a NUC or other small form factor PC. Even a modern Celeron will easily outpace the Pi since it'll support 4GB or more RAM (4GB is *plenty* typically) and a real SSD of some sort, not a flash card which often have far fewer write cycles than a typical SSD.



A couple mistakes along the way
I won't say the ZBPLM was a mistake because it allowed to me try Zigbee while working with Insteon but it turns out the ZBPLM is powerline only and not dual band (with RF) like other Insteon devices (though the Zigbee part is RF). More of a mistake was getting an Insteon ToggleLinc (I'm getting closer to yanking it out). I wanted a dimmer switch that looked like a normal switch. Well, ToggleLinc is powerline only too! Makes connectivity a pain in the ass but I have a fairly solid work around. The last hardware mistake was getting the Insteon Hub 2245-222. Talk about a piece of crap! Fortunately I got it at the beginning of the year at an introductory price. That particular Hub pretty much *requires* cloud connectivity which isn't ideal for controlling your home AT home. Some automation software can talk to that hub but the hassle is not worth the time.

Fast forward through most of 2015
For the most part I was content with iSmartenIt on the Raspberry Pi. It worked with my Insteon devices. It supported pairing which is great because the normal pairing prodedure is dumber than it needs to be and it allowed to schedule device actions and create custom sequences. The most limiting factor was it really only supported Insteon (and Zigbee with the ZBPLM). During the time I used the software I made repeated attempts to use other software either on the Pi or on another Linux machine. I went back and forth trying to get OpenHAB 1.7.1 and 2.0 (alpha, beta, whatever) going. Tried HomeGenie with pretty much every beta and posted in the forums. Insteon never worked with it. OpenRemote hadn't seen an update in forever so it was scrapped from the project table. HomeSeer runs on Linux but support for various protocols required non free plugins and the interface was a kludge.



Now the end of 2015
Through persistence and IRC I had already been camping in #openhab and for humor's sake tried /join #insteon. Lo and behold the channel had been created by "swiss" and we chatted. Managed to turn him on to OpenHAB which he had working rather promptly. Color me jealous but he then helped me out and I discovered through his help the absolute simplest of mistakes! All the information *after* a statement in the main config file had to be deleted. That was it! (This issue was resolved in the 1.8 series) I was on my way with OpenHAB. Kept iSmartenIt running for another week or longer while I played with OH and finally swapped the PLM and am now on my way to a virtually limitless home automation! So if you're new to home automation or Insteon start with a 2413U and OpenHAB. Once you've configured everything you'll find nothing compares. If you have questoins hop onto irc.freenode.net and join #openhab and #insteon. People will be happy to help!

2016 and keep moving forward!
I haven't had the money to add more Insteon stuff yet but I have added a Particle Photon with a DHT11 running MQTT and played a bit more with MQTT. It is a great protocol for getting things done on the cheap and while the DHT11 aren't the most accurate you can get several for less than $5. Get one of the better ESP8266 Boards (coming soon!) and whatever sensors you like. The sky is the limit with OpenHAB. In addition I have integrated a few devices of my choice with the Amazon Echo. The ability to give limited control to my devices is far more secure than most cloud based options. Usually all or nothing. On top of all that I have started using OpenHAB at work as well! Being able to remotely turn on the air compressor and monitor the temperature in the store is handy. At least until we get a real thermostat of some sort. My future plans are to have automated switches at work as well to create scenes for entry and exit. To infinity and beyond! (That's not trademarked right?)

Oh so recently Amazon had a CRAZY good deal on a 4 pack of Insteon 2477D paddle style dimmers so I got those added in to my system. Only quirk that is easy to overcome is making sure the switch is on at full load (not dimmed or off) when adding to the system and they'll work flawlessly. Being dual band means I don't have to do any trickery like that cursed ToggleLinc mentioned above.

2017 stuffs
Hey, look... OpenHAB 2.0 is out. And guess what, it bites. At least for most people. If you've ended up here reading about my experiences with OpenHAB, Insteon, or home automation with Linux in general then you'll want to know my stance on 2.0. I don't recommend it yet! OpenHAB 1.8.3 still rocks. You can use the 1.9 bindings if something in them has been updated since 1.8.3 that you want to use. The configuration is straight simple because it's strictly text files. 2.0 is a mashed up mix of discover this, create that, edit this and you're more frustrated than ever. The discovery feature is half ass because not EVERY binding is properly supported in 2.0 (thus you use a 1.9 binding) and configure it in the 1.* style but that style isn't the SAME as it is in a working 1.* installation!

Beyond that, I'm looking forward to adding in some Insteon Micro Modules soon. They're small enough to fit behind existing switches and just a few bucks less than a full blown switch. Not to mention the preferred switches are paddle style and you can't aesthetically put one everywhere!

Some more goodies for anyone passing by: I'm more than happy to share what I've learned to better things for the good of man even if I get nothing in return but thank you to anyone using the Amazon links or allowing my few hopefully not annoying ads.
When the page is ready I'll have links to my items and descriptions in OpenHAB as well as a putting up my Arduino examples here and there.

Fall 2017 - the Zwave experience
Okay, so I finally took the plunge and got some Zwave devices. And when comparing to Insteon with the PLM.... well, what a joke! Many Insteon users have the crappy hub or possibly an ISY controller with the serial PLM and that can leave a bad impression. The USB (technically USB to serial) PLM on a modern PC with OpenHAB blows those out of the water. So what's wrong with Zwave? RF only. Many Insteon devices are dual band meaning they use powerlines AND RF to talk to each other and repeat signals. Zwave is only RF and in my house we use rock wool insulation which butchers RF and hampers the range on Zwave. At 40 feet line of sight I couldn't connect to the GE switches I had bought. The plug in module in the same room as the USB Zwave adapter picked up but couldn't be moved further away. Devices so bad I won't make Amazon links to them!! I moved the home automation system to the attached garage where the switches were and after power cycling them several times I was able to get them both detected. Not even *close* to Insteon ease of linking. Oh, and these are ALL Zwave Plus devices so they're better right? Nope!

So beyond that I've finally migrated to OpenHAB 2.* and it wasn't without a fight. I had to run (and still do) snapshots rather than official release to get everything to run stable. And we're closing in on 2018. I should divide this into another page or two because there's so much! Oh, did you want to hear about the WiFi fan? You probably don't. Trust me. That piece of crap is going back.