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Setting Up Text-to-Speech in Home Assistant from Scratch

In this blog post, we will set up text-to-speech (TTS) in Home Assistant using Node-RED. This is a powerful feature that allows your smart home system to announce important alerts, messages, or notifications. If you’re new to Home Assistant, it is an open-source home automation platform that focuses on privacy and local control.

First, let’s enable text-to-speech for Home Assistant.

Enabling Text-to-Speech in Home Assistant

  1. In Home Assistant, go to the File editor.
  2. Add the following code snippet to your configuration.yaml file.
- platform: google_translate
cache: true
cache_dir: tts_cache
time_memory: 300
service_name: google_say
base_url: http://<IP:PORT_OF_HOME_ASSISTANT>

This snippet enables text-to-speech using Google Translate as the platform. It also caches some of the sentences to speed up the process and sets up the google_say service.

Don’t forget to replace <IP:PORT_OF_HOME_ASSISTANT> with the IP and port of your Home Assistant instance.

  1. Save the changes and restart Home Assistant.

Now that we have text-to-speech enabled, let’s use it in Node-RED. Continue Reading

Using NFC tags in Home Assistant – Never forget bin day again!

This blog post is based on a transcript from a YouTube video that demonstrates a practical example of using NFC tags and Home Assistant to help you remember to take the bins out.

Do you often forget to put your bins out on the curb for collection? In this blog post, I will show you how to use NFC tags and Home Assistant to create a simple reminder system so that you never forget to take the bins down again.

NFC Tags and Home Assistant

Near Field Communication (NFC) tags are small, passive chips that do not require power. They can be activated when they come into contact with a compatible device, like a smartphone. In this example, we’ll attach an NFC tag to a bin and use Home Assistant to create an automation that reminds us to take the bins out.

Here’s an overview of the process:

  1. Attach an NFC tag to the bin.
  2. Register the tag with Home Assistant.
  3. Create automation in Home Assistant using Node-RED
  4. Set a reminder cycle for the bin collection day.

Continue Reading

Automating Gates with Home Assistant

It has been over 4 years in the making, but the new front gates on the farm are installed, wired, connected, and now I can open them from anywhere! Alright, let me rewind. In October 2018, we started thinking about rejuvenating the front street side of the farm, as it had a fence and gate from the 1970s, had never been maintained and was just neglected. I started my research with the gate itself, as that seemed to be the most complex due to my requirements, which included:

  • Remote opening via a FOB, or remote control. This should work from as long a distance as possible. Driving up to the gate should be as seamless as possible with minimum time waiting at the gate for it to open, and the house itself is about 100 meters from the gate.
  • Keypad entry with a PIN for guests, regular deliveries (such as gas trucks), and when we need to.
  • Remote opening via Home Assistant, so I can both open from my phone and use it in automation scenarios.
  • Powered via solar as that is all we have down near the road.

The journey took me through a lot of various companies and products, but I ended up deciding on the gate openers from BMGi in Queensland. Not only did they have a great product that could do all of the above (with slight modifications), but their support was amazing. All of my nerdy questions over a whole year were patiently answered. The gates themselves were custom made, but due to a perfect storm of Australian pandemic lockdowns, labour shortage, material shortages and more, it took almost two years to have them made. So, finally, a couple of months I could install it all (with help), and now it is amazing. It works perfectly as intended and I couldn’t be happier. And of course I made a video about the whole journey. Watch. Enjoy.


Saving money and the environment with home automation

Stemming from a small issue of leaving doors open I got a simple idea which could save both money and the environment. Yes, a bold claim so let me explain.

We have a cottage we rent out on Airbnb. That is all great, and we meet some lovely people that come to visit. However, for some strange reason, people will turn on the air conditioning in summer to cool the place down, but then leave the door open so all the cold air goes straight out. In winter the heater mode will be on the reverse cycle air con, and again the door open. Why? Really good question, but we have seen it at least 20-30 times. Not only does that get expensive (heating/cooling the outdoors), but what a waste of energy as well.

To fix this issue I deployed a simple solution using an Aqara door sensor, and a Sensibo air condition smart controller. Now the air con turns off if the door is open for more than 15 minutes. Job done.

Check out the full video for all the details.

Measuring Air Quality with Home Assistant

Good air quality is one of those things you take for granted until you don’t have it. Many places have degrading air quality due to pollution or natural disasters and Australia is no exception. Even here on the farm in the middle of nowhere we are impacted. A few years ago, bush fires were so bad that the smoke from hundreds of kilometres away came our way and ended up affecting us so badly we had to drive to the coast for a few nights. On top of that my other half is asthmatic and is affected even worse. For that reason I wanted to have an early warning system for the farm, so we would know the air quality was deteriorating before it got critical.

I got hold of an air quality sensor that monitors the level of particles smaller than 2.5 nanometers, CO2 levels, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, temperature and humidity. Below is the journey, which didn’t quite go to plan. Enjoy.

This switch is completely quiet – USW-24-PoE

My Unifi network is at a point where it is maturing rather than expanding. Don’t get me wrong, I am still adding devices where I can and where needed, but I am starting to upgrade as well. One thing that has been on the list for a while is to get a gen 2 switch for the office both so I can use the fun AR feature, but also to get rid of the noise of the gen 1 switch which has its fans on constantly.

Unifi very kindly provided the USW-24-PoE for this upgrade and review, so enjoy. It’s so quiet….


A smart lock that doesn’t need internet nor an app

Every once in a while a new product in the world of smart devices comes along that is just a little bit different. For me it has been the Shelly Wifi module, and the Unifi OS launched with the Dream Machine Pro. These aren’t necessarily things that will change the world, but devices that goes a bit against the grain to create either a better experience or fill in a niche gap somewhere. They are creative approaches to existing issues and solutions.

Recently I was sent two smart locks from Brad at sticklabs.io, a tiny company in rural America. It was a year long process from first contact with Brad until I installed the locks on the farm, but it was worth it. These locks don’t require an internet connection, nor a smartphone app, yet are still considered “smart”. It is an approach to cater for scenarios that are remote and provide access to people that you might never meet in person, yet still need access.

I liked the idea so much I filmed the entire install and setup process, which you can see below. I am very keen to hear your thoughts on how you could use it (or not).

Bluetooth in Home Assistant – It’s easy!!

Although I have added dozens of sensors to my farm measuring temperatures, water levels, light, weather and much more, I have done it all with Wi-Fi, Zigbee and cabling. Until now. I have been wondering about Bluetooth connections for a while, mainly because I was sent some SwitchBot devices by Oz Smart Things. I couldn’t get my head around how it would work with Home Assistant and the Raspberry Pi 4 I use. I thought I would have to somehow install more hardware, until I realised that the RP4 comes with Bluetooth out of the box, and Home Assistant just knows about it. I realised this when the integration showed up automatically a couple of months back.

Because I couldn’t get my head around it, I thought I would document how to do it all, from installing a Bluetooth extension cable for better coverage to using the SwitchBot temperature sensor. It is all in the video below. It is super easy. Enjoy.

Mapping WiFi signals with Unifi and WiFiman

I am up to 15 Unifi access points now on the farm. That is a lot. However, I use the network more and more for various projects and devices, and that includes outside use to a large extent too. At times the signal drops out, gets weak, behaves weirdly or in some way throws me off. I have been using all sorts of (broken) tricks to figure out where the coverage was good and not so good. I even made a video about using the Unifi Design Center, which is a great tool for a building or other defined space. However, it was very limited for outside use.

Based on a tweet by my mate Troy, I learnt about the augmented reality signal mapping feature in Unifi’s WiFiman, which creates a heat map of your Wifi signal strength as you move around.

That gave me the idea to use it outdoors for my farm and figure out where my blackspots are. If you are using the Unifi products and have a UDM/UDM-Pro/UDR/UDM-SE on your network and you have enabled the WiFiman feature, you can also use it. So I made a video about how it all works. Enjoy 😊

I Am Writing a Book! Microsoft Azure in Action – Early Access

TL;DR: I am writing a book, Microsoft Azure in Action, which is now available in early access.

I don’t know about you, but I have goals I want to achieve and barriers I want to break down. It is like an itch that won’t go away. You can ignore it for a while, but no matter what ideas and remedies you come up with to subdue it or make it go away, nothing works like scratching it. I have it like that with writing a technical book. It is a goal I have, it is an itch I need to scratch. In the past 10 years I have started writing a book twice and not finished it either time. And the itch is still there. I have tried coming up with excuses that it probably isn’t for me and that I need to focus on other projects. And the itch is still there. I have told myself that no one buys books anymore, and to stick to creating video content that I am good at and do every day. And the itch is still there.

So, I am at it again. This time I am signed on with Manning Publishing to write a beginner to intermediate book on Azure that covers fundamentals, practical examples and a whole bunch of services and features. Microsoft Azure in Action has virtual machines, storage and networking of course, as they are the foundation of any cloud platform, but also security, DevOps, databases, serverless, performance, big data, caching and much more, is covered.

As important as it is to cover all the most fundamental things in Azure, it is equally important for me to write a book that doesn’t bore you to death. I use humour, amazing diagrams, annotation and any other kind of trick I can find, to make sure the reader has a both educational and enjoyable journey. As I am finding out, writing a book is crazy hard, and I am way out of my depth. I have taken forever to write the first few chapters, as my mental space battles other projects, Lego, procrastination, family commitments and many other things. But it is out now for you to buy in an early access preview, and I need your help. The more people that invest in the book, the more I will feel the urgency to not only get the chapters done on time, but also to write the most engaging and educational book on Azure on the market, just for you.

If you want to get involved by joining the Manning Early Access Program (MEAP) and tell me what you like and don’t like, I’d be extremely grateful for your support.