Preface: This is an intro to the project I’ll be working on. If you’re a tech-type person and want the details, not background, you might want to skip this post. I plan to post subsequently, more concisely about things I build and issues I run into.
Hope this is the right place to post – new to the board, and Home Assistant. But I wanted to try something I’ve never really done before because I never think ahead to do it – which is, I’d like to share my Home Assistant (and automation) “journey” and project as it happens and I build it.
The reason I think it’s worthwhile for me to share early, is that I’ve really taken to home automation/personal assistant tech as a topic, in a way that rarely happens for me; I’ve come to really enjoy learning about it; and because I’m PWD (person with disabilities) and I noticed that the power and possibility of home automation seems to get overlooked for us as a loose group of highly unique humans trying to make our way in the world. But I can say that over the last few months introducing home automation into my life, it’s made a distinct difference in my quality of life. I’d even go so far that, with the pandemic ongoing, it’s become essential to me coping and caring for myself to get through. So, I thought I’d start sharing from the jump, here, on my plunge in with Home Assistant.
So, with that preface out of the way – away we go!
I’d been struggling with making so many of the home automation items I’d picked up work with each other not only the way I see others have them working – but the way I need them to work as not only convenience tools, and as accommodative and accessibility technologies.
For me, home automation started with (of all things) an Android TV STB for Christmas last year, and then noticing a Google Home Mini on sale that I decided to give a try to pair up with Android TV. It seemed like an inexpensive way to set up a home center through Android TV and the speaker.
I honestly thought these tools were indulgences, but once I had them in the home and could see their potential for more than entertainment, my imagination started to take hold. This, even though though they still weren’t quite doing as much as promised by Google and automation enthusiasts (though, it could have been that I was still early in the learning curve). And to Googles great credit, they have a Disability Services hotline especially set up to help folks with technologies they’re deploying, who are in situations such as mine; I’ve only used it once, but knowing its there has been a great relief.
Indeed, the first time I used the service was shortly after the pandemic happened – because I was using the tiny and buggy system I’d cobbled together then to help keep me updated on all the stuff going on. When the pandemic came – I had to kick my life and home into high gear in order to keep up and stay healthy and safe. And these tools started to help me even more. I just wasn’t ready.
But over time, I got used to the tools; and they were helping me get through those early months, I noticed them helping with other things I struggle with on a daily, ongoing and even lifelong basis. So, I leaned into making more changes and adjustments in my home to include them. And with each push and change, improvements in my life have come back my way (sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes unexpectedly lol, and not always).
It’s been a journey, and one I consider to be worth the effort and cost (which, while the equipment and materials I selected have not usually been somewhat affordable, have not been insignificant). And now, in order for me to really take advantage of what I’ve built and the ideas I have, it’s time for me to get serious about home automation and assistant tech. I’m ready and excited.
Which is what brings me to Home Assistant. I’ve been reading a bit about it here and there, especially as I’ve run into issues getting the equipment, apps and set up I’ve got to work together across different automation ecosystems. It’s been frustrating; I can also see that if I don’t plan carefully, it could get costly fast with less return on investment and usefulness to me. It can also get overwhelming and a mess, it seems, fast.
I was hesitant to jump in, though – because, as much as people LOVE Linux, I personally find it annoying. Like IOS, nothing is ever as straightforward as Linux lovers make it seem. And Home Assistant really seemed made for Linux, especially if you want to run an always-on machine (like Raspberry Pi). I also don’t have coding experience, nor scripting; and Linux commands mystify me sometimes already. BUT I know and understand enough about computers that I felt like it could work.
A couple of nights ago, out of frustration with the fact that I can’t get my Google Home to just issue a simple gong-bell-chime style sound when someone opens a particular door, I started to look again towards Home Assistant and other solutions. I do use IFTTT, but I find even THAT is limited for what I need it to do – some of which are just minor things that should be easy. I know I could probably sit down and learn ways around the lack of connections between certain tools and systems, and I’m interested in doing that (someday) – but I also get the feeling that even if I did, I’d run into some of the same issues more or less, at some point. And that what I need is a “sibling” automation system to couple with Google Home/Assistant and the other minor systems/apps I have running. It just seems wise to get a jump on that now if I want to leverage (and enjoy) what I’ve created and am creating.
So, I tried a virtual machine on my Windows box – and, while complicated, it didn’t seem ridiculously daunting. So I ordered my first Raspberry Pi (which I was also excited about, they are so nifty) and it arrived two days ago. Started it up, tripped over the fact that Home Assistant is it’s own operating system and didn’t need Raspbian, then installed Home Assistant. And, as I write this – my first real Home Assistant is running on Raspberry Pi!
It’s rocky starting out – I’m trying to visualize, in my mind, the relationship between Google Home, and a few of the systems that I have running in that, where they relate to Home Assistant. But through trial and error, I think I’m learning and figuring it out. I already feel like bringing Home Assistant in early was the smart thing to do.
Thanks for reading; I look forward to posting follow ups here. I’d love to hear feedback, advice, and especially from other people with disabilities!