Meet the Fibaro Wall Plug FWGPF-101

Fibaro Wall Plug

Today I received a Fibaro Wall Plug FGWPF-101.

I shut down my RPi running RasPlex, exchanged the SD card for the one with the RaZberry software on it, booted the RPi and from the RaZberry UI I included the Fibaro Wall Plug (Plug from now on). Within 2 minutes the Plug was ready to play with 😉

Lets have a closer look at what this Plug can do:

– handle 2.5 kW continuous load (resistive load, so watch the cos φ)
– Radio: Z-Wave, 1 mW @ 868.4 MHz
– Range: 30 m indoors
– Dimensions: D x H 43 x 65 mm
– Crystal RGB LED ring which can be used for a number of things
– Measuring momentary and historic power usage
– Local control by a small push button

The first thing I noticed was the very tiny manual: A4, printed on both sides with a very small font. I downloaded the Operating manual as PDF, maximized Adobe Reader on one of my 22″ HD resolution screens and still had to zoom to 121% before i could start reading. MS Word counts > 3100 words on a single-sided A4 – I’ve seen better.

The Plug itself looks great though! The white surface is glossy and the LED ring looks nice too. But the biggest advantage is the size – it’s really small!


3 different Plugs

I took a picture of 3 plugin modules I have and as you can see 4 Fibaro Plugs will easily fit into that box with 4 sockets; Insteon will manage 2 (and 4 with some extra force) but PLCBUS is the big loser here: only 2 will fit.

The first I did was trying to get a feeling about how fast the Plug responded to On/Off switching from the RaZberry UI. Well, what can I say.. comparing it to X-10 or PLCBUS is useless in terms of responsiveness, those 2 will never win. But I also have a Insteon Hub and an Insteon On/Off Module on my desk and I can control this On/Off module from my homebrew Home Automation system. So i tried both Fibaro and Insteon and I’m not sure, but I think Insteon is a little bit faster: the clicking sound of the Insteon module relay seems to have a smaller ‘silence gap’ with the clicking sound of the mouse than the Fibaro Plug. But maybe I’m biased, so I’ll redo this ‘measurement’ in another way 😉

I’ll test this more thoroughly in the next few days, but before I can do that I need to be able to control this new Plug from my system – that’s the only way I can really compare the two. And I’ll add PLCBUS to the competition as well, just for fun.

After that I’ll do some range testing and see how really well (reliable) this Fibaro Plug performs in a real house, compared to those other 2.

Stay tuned!

 

PS, a message for Mr. Essent – my wife’s hairdryer did turn the LED ring of the Fibaro Plug dark orange, while my hobby equipment all stayed in the green zone! 😉

Getting rid of some outstanding issues

I tend to lose interest in things by the time they’re almost finished – that may sound strange (I don’t 😉 ), but it’s the truth and it’s a habit that’s hard to beat. Knowing that I will get something working, doesn’t always mean I will make it that far and complete the whole job. The main reason is that there’s so much more to explore and learn, and that’s the most interesting part of it all; the thrill of learning more each time you start something new, right? In a way, being able to unlock the front door with my smart phone is just a nice side effect…

So while I’m still waiting on some Z-Wave hardware for my RaZberry, I started doing those last bits on some of my earlier projects.

Security system

Getting our security system connected to the rest of my Home Automation system has always appealed to me. With RFXCOM and an Alphatronics interface I did have access to the information of the sensors, but controlling the security system can be very handy too, for example arming it when everybody has gone to bed.
I did some experiments with a Powerlink in 2011, connected the system to my LAN in 2012, tested this with some experimental code, helped others to get things working, but there is where it ended; during a re-shuffle of some Serial-to Ethernet servers our security system was disconnected and I kinda ‘forgot’ about it; however some recent ‘events’ in the neighborhood brought the job of integrating the security system higher up on the to-do list.

Someone was so kind to give me his PowerMax code which has already been tested at various locations and the last 2 weeks I’ve been busy ‘porting’ the VB code to Delphi, testing the code with my own security system and monitoring everything to see if it’s all working OK. And it is… so now it’s time to take the last step and start using that interface. The biggest advantage is that my Home Automation system knows exactly the same as the security system does:

  • Panel Status (e.g. Armed, Disarmed, …);
  • Panel State (Ready, Alarm, Zones in memory, …);
  • Sensor information ( Open, Closed, Motion, Battery Low, ..).

By getting the information directly from the security system itself, it won’t matter anymore if RFXCOM or Alphatronics receiver will miss some packets – now I’ve got 100% correct information. And now I also have several new things I can do with my security system:

  • Arm and disarm the security system from my Domotica system;
  • Arm the system and bypass certain zones if I want to;
  • Control the security system from anywhere and with any User Interface;
  • Disarm the Security system event-based; for example, when someone opens our Nemef Radaris RFID front door with a badge;
  • Arm the system when the front door is being locked.

This weekend I updated my system.

Done!

Nemef Radaris Evolution

Nemef Radaris Evolution

One of those other things that got disconnected some time ago in a 90%-finished-state. While working on a Plugin for the Nemef Radaris, I stopped using the Nemef RF Module from my own system to test the Plugin, and I never started using it again afterwards. A big loss? Well, the Nemef Radaris doesn’t need a HA system, it works completely autonomously (for obvious reasons), so in some way we didn’t really miss the ‘Domotica link’.. today I finished some loose ends in the code and it’s working 100% now.

Next!

Web interface

Web Interface

I’m very bad at creating nice-looking icons myself, it’s just not my cup of tea. Most of the times I try to find some icons on the web, but I’ve never been able to find an icon collection that has all the icons I need. So it becomes a mess very quickly, and ugly.. too ugly to use (and to show off..)

And my requirements are really not that high – as long as the icons speak for themselves and have a somewhat similar ‘look’ , I’m easily satisfied (I think).

After finding a new collection of icons on the domoticaforum this week, I decided to use that one. And there’s 1 big benefit with this collection: I know the person who made these icons, so if I miss some specific icon, I know I won’t be lost…

On to the next item!

So, even if the outcome of my new Z-Wave tryout with the RaZberry will be disappointing, waiting for Z-Wave has already brought some positive things, namely finishing some things that should have been done a long time ago. OTOH: waiting this long is OK – just once every 3 years or so, not more often please!

Raspberry Pi, Plex and RasPlex

I’ve got a rather large collection of photos and home video;  more than 20000 photos and >50 videos. A few years ago I digitized all the slides, negatives and analog video I could find and of course nowadays all new media is being made the digital way, with a HD Camcorder and a DSLR. So the collection keeps on growing…

I also have a media player in the living room from which all this media is accessible. However, the amount of devices that should be able to access all this content, have increased rapidly the last few years – currently it’s 4 smartphones, 3 tablets, 4 TVs, 2 PCs and a laptop. But there’s no universal way of accessing all that content – each device is different and so is the UI -I need some sort of universal ‘thing’ for this!

I’ve seen XBMC a few times and liked it; I heard about Plex but knew too little about it to judge if it would suit my needs. So the media issue stayed on the to-do list – until now! I got an email last Friday with only this link in the message: http://rasplex.com. Hey, that’s interesting.. a Plex client for the Raspberry Pi!

Time for some action.. I have my own RPi for a few days now, so why not give Plex, RasPlex and all that comes with it a try, right now! Nothing else to do anyway 😉

First I had to find a spare display with a HDMI input (which is not really needed, I guess the RCA can be used as well). We had one – a TV/PC monitor being used as a PC monitor. I also had an unused LCD monitor somewhere, so I swapped the 2 and put the TV/PC monitor on the desk next to me. I installed the Plex Media Server (PMS) on a Windows Vista VM that’s only being used for testing and added a number of home videos to the PMS Library.

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I downloaded the latest RasPlex image, put that image on a new SD card and inserted it into my RPi. A HDMI cable, network cable and a USB keyboard connected to the RPi was all that had to done to give it a try. I plugged the power supply (an old smart phone charger) into the mains socket and – yeah, it’s booting! Cool..

IMAG0065r

The development of RasPlex has started just very recently and it’s still in alpha phase as you can see on the screenshot to the right. The User Interface was working OK; I didn’t find anything that didn’t work (with my 2-day Plex user experience, that is). The User Interface can be a bit laggy sometimes, but after the first time (after it has been cached) it’s OK. Lets move on the watching some video ans see how Alpha that is..

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Playing Home Videos is still a bit buggy I guess, cause I experienced some strange behavior a couple of times: audio but no video, audio that suddenly stopped, stuff like that. To the left you see a screenshot of RasPlex playing a Home Video of our trip to Madurodam last year – great!

I also ripped some of my DVD’s to see if those had the same problems, but they didn’t – all went well.

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I also downloaded the Plex Media Center so I could watch all our photos and videos on my PC and also installed the Plex for Android App on my smartphone. Hey, I can control my TV with my smart phone… ooh man, this is nice!

And you’re not restricted to your own media – Vimeo, YouTube and other sources can be embedded in that same media portal…

With a single Plex server somewhere in your home and multiple Plex clients (RasPlex, smart phones, tablets) for all of us this is the best media solution I’ve seen so far and I love it!

Raspberry Pi and RaZberry as Z-Wave controller

Today the first Raspberry Pi (RPi) arrived.  In size it equals an Arduino Mega, but the nice thing about the RPi is that it’s running Linux, which adds a whole new range of possibilities.

For example (and that’s what I’m going to do with it, for now) turn it into a Z-Wave controller with the use of a RaZberry.

RPi with Razberry on top

Powered by the adapter of my old smartphone, a standard 4GB SD card inserted to the left and a network cable to the right and the RaZberry connected to the GPIO. Power the thing up, wait about 30 seconds, start an ssh session to the RPi and you’re good to go!

Well, some preparations had to be done though, but those were all very easy and went very smooth.

First, make sure you have a SD card and a USB card reader. I didn’t, so I went to a local shop for those items after work. The image that has to be written to the SD card can be downloaded from here. Windows users will also need a tool to write the image to the SD card, for that I used Win32DiskImager. I inserted the SD card into the card holder of the RPi, connected the network cable and power adapter and saw the LEDs starting to blink. So far so good..

Next I used PuTTY to login. User pi, password raspberry. I followed the instructions on the screen (sudo raspi-config) to set the Time Zone and things like that and was done within half an hour or so, including preparing the SD card.

One of the first things I did was installing joe, my favorite editor on Linux (with Wordstar keystrokes, yeah!). That’s when you get reminded of the fact that the RPi is not your regular full-blown desktop PC – it took a bit longer to install than I was used to. I really don’t wanna know how long it would take to compile Apache from source… 😉 Well, never mind, that’s not what I’m going to use this RPi for anyway.

After shutting down the RPi I connected the RaZberry to the GPIO and booted again. The software for the RaZberry can be installed very easily:

wget -q -O – http://razberry.z-wave.me/install|sudo bash

After a 2nd reboot I could now surf to http://<rpi-ip-address>:8083/ and watch the demo User Interface of the RaZberry:

RaZberry demo UI

 

And after that… this exciting new adventure stopped, due to the lack of Z-Wave hardware. I can’t wait to find out if this combination of a RPi and the RaZberry add-on will enable me to use Z-Wave without too much hassle, cause that’s my ultimate goal – ‘talk’ to Z-Wave hardware through the RaZberry JSON API and not having to worry about every little detail – there are too much other things to explore, right??

CeBIT 2013 and Home Automation

Last Friday I visited the CeBIT, together with 2 Home Automation buddies. Out of bed @ 04:45, arrival @ 09:05. Pffheww.. would the trip be worth it? I have never visited the CeBIT before, so I had no idea what to expect. Now that I’ve been there, my conclusion is that one word says it all: it’s BIG…too big for 1 day, unless you’re focused on something specific.

We were all primarily interested in the CeBIT life platform and especially the Home Automation aspect of it. Being a Home Automation addict for quite some time, it isn’t surprising that there’s not that much to tell we didn’t know already – but there are 2 things worth mentioning – well, 3 actually.

DigitalSTROMDigitalSTROM was one of those products we had all read about in the past, but we never really knew what it was all about. How does it work? What’s inside those LEGO-like blocks? What’s the response time? What components do you need?

We were able to get some answers but what we’d really like to do is test this product in our own homes – doing things like installing it, testing the reliability, controlling it from our own HA systems, all those things that matter before you can make a decision on whether ‘this is it’ or not..

I still don’t know if DigitalSTROM is it. Technically maybe, but things like the price tag are just as important…

The Domotica/Home Automation related part of this CeBIT trade show was dominated by Z-wave and we found 2 interesting products in that category worth mentioning.

Fibaro

Fibaro Plug

The Fibaro Wall Plug was one of the products that was really very interesting.

I read about those plugs some time ago on the Domotica forum and now that I’ve seen them with my own eyes, I know this is going to be a winner – this plug has all it takes. Plug & Play, small, no bulges which cause that nearby outlets can’t be used anymore, built-in power usage monitoring, good looking – everything I’ve been looking for but which were never combined in a single device! I need one of those, right now! 😉

RaZberry

RaZberryThe last (but not least) exciting product was the RaZberry. This recently launched board will enable you to use your Raspberry Pi to control and manage a Z-Wave wireless home network – it turns the Raspberry into a Z-Wave controller with a JSON API. Plugging the RaZberry board on the Raspberry GPIO connector and installing some additional software is all you need to do – sounds like something even I can handle 😉

That’s it.. nothing more to tell about CeBIT ’13 regarding Home Automation/Domotica. The rest was either too expensive for an average guy like me, or unusable due to other reasons, like being a proprietary and/or partial solution which doesn’t fit here…

So I guess the overall conclusion for me is that it’s time to give Z-Wave a retry….