Flic buttons and Home Assistant

Flic buttons are Bluetooth-powered smart buttons that can be used to control other devices via their smartphone apps (Apple, Android), or using any number of integrations they provide on GitHub: https://github.com/50ButtonsEach/.

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Flic buttons, my next adventure

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new about my experiences with home automation, largely because I haven’t done anything new in a few months. I’ve been busy, and at the same time, things are working as expected, so I haven’t come up with new ideas to test or dreamt up something else to automate (much to my husband’s relief).

That said, I’ve been thinking about replacing our hacked Amazon Dash buttons with something purpose-built. While the hijacked buttons work well-enough, there’s a noticeable delay between button press and response, and their battery life is quite finite. Also, there’s only so much one can do with vinyl tape to make the Dash buttons less of an eyesore.

Enter Flic, one of the only “smart buttons” available right now, and the only one I’ve found that doesn’t require its own hub. Fortunately, they offer a Linux SDK, so I can associate the buttons with one of my Raspberry Pis, rather than a smartphone (alleviating a common complaint about the product). Since the SDK requires exclusive use of a device’s Bluetooth controller, I benefit from having two Pis, and this project is simplified because the Pi I intended to use with the Flic happens to be the one whose Bluetooth isn’t in use.

My first project is to configure the Flic button to toggle the lights on our Christmas Tree. The lights are connected to a SmartThings outlet, which turns up in our Home Assistant instance thanks to MQTT, but Home Assistant is only accessible to my husband and I, while any of our guests should be able to turn on the tree. 🎄

With your own authoritative DNS, dynamic DNS is easy

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about using nsd3 to run my own nameservers: “Authoritative DNS with redundancy, using nsd and Debian Wheezy“. That post focused on the public-facing benefits of running my own nameservers, notably the flexibility it gives me with regard to record types and update frequency.

As I’ve added more and more services to the Raspberry Pis running on our home network, the flexibility I have has demonstrated another benefit: assigning a domain name to the network’s ever-changing IP address. Time Warner doesn’t offer static IPs for consumer accounts, which presents a challenge to using our router’s native VPN functionality. To make it convenient to connect to our home network from afar, I’ve employed an open-source script and a custom DNS zone to provide dynamic DNS via my own servers.

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Give me a Raspberry Pi and I’ll want 12

For quite some time, I avoided acquiring any Rasbperry Pis. I already have four VPS, and I genuinely wanted to avoid expanding the number of Linux instances I was responsible for. My hesitation was for good reason; less than a month after acquiring my first Pi 3, I found a reason to add a second to our home network.

To be clear, I’ve nothing against the Raspberry Pi; I simply knew that my addictive personality would compel me to find ever-more uses for the devices, compelling their multiplication.

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My latest Home Assistant configuration

In the month since I first posted about how I am using Home Assistant, I’ve made a number of improvements to my configuration. These changes were mostly focused around usability–removing clutter from the interface and simplifying the layout–without losing any functionality. Two changes in particular really simplified the default view, making our light groupings more manageable and less overwhelming.

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Perhaps I was being paranoid…

At the time, someone asked why my post in response to the Orlando nightclub shooting didn’t support comments or WordPress.com likes. The answer is simple, sad, and a bit insidious: given the subject, I was concerned about the response, and any undue attention that those interactions might draw.

Absurdly pleased

I installed a GE switch that supports Zigbee, so the painful florescent light in our kitchen doesn’t glare at me any longer without recourse.

I’m absurdly happy about being able to control a built-in light from Home Assistant.

I’ve also learned that GE’s Zigbee line is far more reliable than Leviton’s Z-Wave products.