Over the last several years I've been dealing with various stages of disability thanks to ALS. My goal is to share solutions and review various products/tools/devices that I have found particularly helpful.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Siri proxy & Home Automation

Well crap.
That was only a matter of time…
If you been following my blog for some time, will no doubt noticed that this is not my first attempt to create some voice control for my home automation system. However at the time of my previous attempts, I was not aware of the Siri proxy, which is pretty awesome once you get working.

I first became aware of Siri proxy being used to drive home automation system while reading one of my favorite websites, life hacker. The article talked about Elvis impersonator who it created a plug-in to open and close his garage door and set the thermostat. Needless to say I found this to be pretty amazing, and far superior to anything I've attempted so far. So I went about looking into how to get this set up.

I've been wrestling with this for some time. First off, I didn't know anything about Ubuntu nor what would be the best way to install it. Particularly because of my dexterity limitations. Anyway, check out the results!

I have to say, I'm really quite pleased with the results. It was well worth the effort.

So what was required to get this up and running?

As mentioned, I had to first figure out how to work with Ubuntu and what was the best way to install it. For the time being, I'm running a bootable partition on my desktop PC. I am going to try to get a old PC/laptop running it 24/7. I also tried running it through virtual box. While the installation went smoothly, I had some difficulties getting Siri proxy up and running.

The and to create the functions for turning the light on/off or locking/unlocking the door, I had to figure out a little bit of Ruby script. Fortunately, modifying the sample plug-in is pretty straightforward and it's very easy to insert console commands to it, and fortunately I had already figured these commands out from my previous attempts…

If you would like to give it a try, here's the links to all of the resources you will need:
Even though Siri proxy is working super well for me, they do say that it is in an alpha state development now. Meaning it does have occasional issues and going through the proxy server, some of the voice commands or functions may not be quite the same/functional.

For example the open app command still does work for any of the non-default applications. However it seems to not recognize programs like contacts or music. This also means that when asking to play a particular song or album e.g. "Siri, play album X" the proxy does not recognize this. Saying I do not have that album or artist.

All in all, swapping one level of convenience for another. Not too big of a deal. Easily reverted by resetting your Wi-Fi IP.

So what's next? Well I've ordered a few more light nodes and those of the most immediately useful to me. I would also like to add some thermostat control, however my house is kind of badly designed for that, making it cost prohibitive. (I have a number of baseboards on independent thermostats in the same room… Stupid)

If encounter a few issues about trying to get Siri proxy up and running, try the following:
  1. I found that the DNSMASQ may be interfering. You can try killing it with terminal command: killall dnsmasq
  2. If your server IP is showing open .siriproxy/config.yml and set the IP which should be in the first or second line of the file to whatever the IP is for your machine
  3. Apparently there has been some issues with Siri proxy and Ruby DNSnot playing nice together…
    • Edit line 56 in /home/<username>/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.0.0-p0/gems/siriproxy-0.5.3/lib/siriproxy/dns.rb to look like the following: match(/guzzoni.apple.com/, Resolv::DNS::Resource::IN::A) do |transaction|
    • Then perform siriproxy bundle
  4. iPhones are known to "leak" data over the cellular network even when connected to Wi-Fi. Try turning off cellular data.
I performed these three steps, and Siri proxy consistently runs perfectly. Thanks to Elvis Impersonator for most of these tips!

Woo hoo!
It's apparently also possible to connect an IR blaster to my home automation system. This would then give me voice control over my TV, air conditioner and other IR devices (awesome!). This is up from more investigation…

Also in the process of trying to find a machine I can use for dedicated Siri proxy server. Raspberry_pi is an option, and you can find more about those on Elvis impersonator's page. I have to look into it a bit ourselves first to see if it's the best option for me.

One of my favorite things about the Siri proxy server is, as you see in the video I can unlock my door just by using my voice. As I walk up to my house, I reconnect to my Wi-Fi and the Siri proxy server, all I have to do is tell the door to unlock. Which is really great for me as I can no longer manage keys.

So all in all I found getting this up and running was challenging, but well worth the efforts.

I would just like to take a second and give a shout out to Elvis Impersonator who contacted me out of the blue with a generous offer for help and advice. Be sure to check out his YouTube page and some of the other magic that can be done with Siri proxy and a Raspberry_pi!

Additional Note (added 29th of July 2013)

be sure to check out the related blogs comparing the desktop installation to using a raspberry pi


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