A beginners nightmare

I thought I’d try and contribute something useful as openhab seems to have a lot of support. So as a newbie I have struggled desperately to get a working demo, now I have one it does nothing? I thought perhaps it would find my ‘hue’ and prompt for some setup data? So I have looked at how I might add ‘hue’ in and I see that I have to edit some awful text file which has no included examples.

So am I missing something really basic? Is there some interface that will hide the configure text file in the background and be really user friendly? Is one being developed because without one 99.9% of people won’t try openhab and without a user base the project is dead.

I know this is negative but here is the chance for a really useful reply that turns things around for everyone like me who is itching to go but falling at every hurdle.

Have you had a look at HABmin? This might help if you’re not keen on editing files manually. HABmin2 is under development but I’m not sure it will work with OpenHAB (as opposed to OpenHAB2).

I had a look at it but in the end opted for the direct editing of config files since I didn’t mind the initial learning curve/effort (or, rather, I failed to find an easier way but wasn’t going to give up quite so easily…).

It took a little while to set up but now my Hue lamps are connected and manageable.

First of all make sure you have the addon file required for hue installed. I recommend running with only the bindings you need rather than everything (I started out with everything but ending up thinning things down to just the addons I needed).

I then took a a copy of the demo sitemap and modified it accordingly (so now I have my own sitemap and item files). I did this with a text editor which was painful but taught me the layout and relationships between objects etc. I did most of mine in one hit but if you’re starting out there’s nothing to stop you starting out with something really simple (e.g. a single Hue light that you can switch on and off - worry about the colours later).

You will also need to edit your openhab.cfg file to enable/configure the binding. At first I wondered why things weren’t working but then I checked the openhab logs (always a good place to start!). The Hue binding was dumping messages to the log telling me that it was trying to pair with the Hue controller. I pressed the round button in the middle of the Hue controller and… hey presto!

Good luck…

Well, I think you are right, OpenHAB 1.* is not suitable for the average user.
You need to edit (large) config files to get stuff to work.
But besides the config files, you also have to edit .items, .rules and .sitemap files.
So yes, OpenHAB is a bit file based at the moment.

There is the designer for rules and Habmin, but mostly you’ll be editing files.

I haven’t tried the 2.0 Alpha yet, but I believe de config file has been split up, per binding.
So it should be a bit less scary :smile:

For beginners especially beginners without decent development background, the learning curve of openHAB is for sure not an easy one.
But from my point of view. It is worth the effort. I came from a system (Homematic with a CCU2) which is using a web interface to configure nearly everything, from devices to rules.
With a handful devices this was working okay and building rules was acceptable. But as bigger my environment becomes as more I was challenged with found a lot of “clicks” for build kind of simple rules.

What I absolutely love about openHAB and what I hope that it will remain with future versions, is the text based approach.
It makes bigger systems easier … even if I looks quite complex at the begin, especially if you just have a handful devices.

I agree with your initial reactions. And I have recently felt all that pain myself.
It took me much longer than I’d like to admit to set up:

  • A Raspberry PI with the OpenHAB software with the correct addons and
    finding my z-wave usb dongle
  • The Designer UI running on my Mac
  • A file share on the PI of the OpenHAB folder which the Designer could work with

Next one was trying to figure out the various config files. First the syntax and next how my configuration should look. Now, I’m a fairly experienced geek so how hard could it be? Harder than I thought! :smile:
I had a lot of problems just finding the necessary information.

My biggest problem was that there (to my knowledge) is no simple way to see what is going on inside the system. I tried to install habmin (which was a nightmare in itself - had to find a post somewhere describing the recommended AND an alternative way (because the recommended way did not work for me) which also involved copying files around, moving some, etc.
In the end I got it up and running. Found a tab called “Log viewer” - wohoo!
Except… it was empty (and to this day I have still not found a single entry appear in it). This was a little frustrating. (It also turned out to have several other quirks forcing you to reload the entire page (and navigating back to where you were in the UI) every now and then. Also frustrating.)

Next I found that I had to SSH to the Raspberry and do this:

tail -N 1000 -F /opt/openhab/logs/openhab.log

in order to see anything going on. The pictured started to clear up, but there was very little info about the z-wave devices I was trying to configure. Turned out I had to modify the log configuration file to increase the verbosity of that particular code (and place it into a separat zwave.log file). Now we’re talking!
The time and energy to get this far has been… tireing. With a life going on at the same time, coming this far has taken several months. Granted this is not all openhabs mistake as such, but things get just way too complex and you start procrastenating. And I fear the day when it has all been running for a year and I need to troubleshoot and have to relearn everything.

The above was not meant as much a rant on OpenHAB, but as a list of things to look at when getting started, but also to add this:

With all these complicated steps going on, I still feel OpenHAB is better then all the other alternatives!! :smile:

I own a Vera Edge z-wave controller. It’s UI is terrible, the software is slow and has been buggy since I purchased it 6 months ago despite several firmware updates.

I have tried Domoticz. In order to be able to run Domoticz, I had to compile not only the software itself but also some plugins (open-zwave) and had to troubleshoot why the compiler failed because of missing dependencies. Then, it every now and then crashed and I could not get it to run again. In the meantime I had to resort to use a flashlight for about a week when I had to go to the toilet. :poop: No fun.

You say that 99.9% would not use OpenHAB. I say 99.9% of users would not use any home automation software at the moment.

Now that I have come this far with OpenHAB I feel confident that this is really the best there is. Domoticz crashing all over = fail.
Vera Edge UI slow buggy and hides too much of what was going on underneath. I could for the life of me not figure out how to turn on and off a light using a simple remote. OpenHAB does seem to be much more transparent in this.

So, being part of the 0.1% who are willing to invest this much time and energy in home automation, OpenHAB seems great. I have no idea how we go from this, however to providing home automation for the masses. And we need to address that in my opinion.

One other thing I’m a little worried about is system stability. OpenHAB as such has not crashed much on me yet, but I have had my fair share of Raspberries instantly die on me (flash used up? OS corrupt? no idea). A home automation system needs to survive 10 years without supervision. I don’t think mine will.

I think we need to consider ourselves early adopters! The pioneers of home automation! :slight_smile:


I believe you are right, Home Automation is mostly in an early adopter phase.

If you want to make OpenHAB more accessable you need a UI to toggle bindings, configure bindings, create items, sitemaps and rules.

I think this is possible, but it’s a matter of priorities.

I’m hoping that Openhab 2 will address some of the accessibility issues. I too have felt the recent pain of implementing Openhab but I was fortunate enough to have the assistance of my super geeky brother who had it already installed and working.

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I have not tried openHaB yet (i’m still on Domoticz) on my Rpi incl. Razberry (Z-Wave) and RFXCOM, but based on the below website I will definitely give a try on short notice.
Home Automation for geeks

When I was learning I found the openHAB Wiki to be essential. It has basic information as well as specific information about how to configure and use specific bindings (e.g. the Phillips Hue Binding) and examples of advanced rule techniques. I highly recommend spending some time there, particularly in the Configuration sections.

I also recommend starting slow. Focus on getting one thing working and then build on that. I started with a pair of z-wave outlets that I put on a timer. Then I added an already existing Raspberry Pi based garage door opener controller I built using WebIOPi. Then I added in the weather information and adjusting the lights timers so it responds to sunrise/sunset as opposed to just clock time. And on and on. If I had attempted to try all of that at once it would have been completely overwhelming.

As a personal rant, I really dislike the demo configuration. Based on what I’ve seen and personally experienced, I think it leads newcomers down the wrong path expecting to have something usable once the demo config is working. I would instead create something very simple, maybe with just the weather binding and maybe a switch or two as the demo config and rename the demo config to “examples”. I’ve seen many newcomers get the demo working only to realize that it doesn’t do anything. And because the demo is so complicated it is difficult to use it as a simple bootstrap configuration to start building upon.


I’d like to thank all of you for your positive responses. I think that such a great set of responses bodes well for this forum and the positives about openhab are a good recommendation. I will persevere and I’m sure somewhere someone is working on a gui config tool or at least thinking about one.

I have a long history in software development and there are two serious issues with config files. The first is their lack of instant feedback that is invaluable to helping users know what is acceptable and what is plainly ludicrous. The second is the inability to link fields that have dependencies. I have looked at habmin and assuming that there was a connection when I ran it alongside the demo I really struggled to see any relationship between the two.

In my view there will be a number of ways that one could look at the ‘Site’ being built.

  1. A Tree model which describes the physical nature of the environment. House, floors, rooms.
  2. A List model that can list rooms, lights, relays, input devices, action devices and ‘acted upon’ equipment etc.
  3. A rules model that describes how input devices trigger actions on outputs
  4. A measurement model that allows confirmation of actions or tracks changes in inputs/outputs
  5. A relationship model that translates types of inputs/outputs into computer addresses (bindings?)

Doing too much analysis here but I would welcome someone giving the ‘openhab’ names to my models, functions and classes?

Finally, yes a simple, working example would be a great start and one that doesn’t require me to have any specific hardware, so weather and email and perhaps some good people would later add in some very simple popular hardware examples using ‘hue’, ‘zwave’ or whatever is popular so that at least a beginner could have something working which he can break and mend and learn?

I am awed that there appear to be interfaces for Denon amps and Asterisk both of which I have but I also know I have a very long way to go before I have any chance of making a connection! I do look forward to the challenge!

One thing that I think would be a good idea is if the wiki in organized ways would list example configurations specific for every single kind of device out there. We could all help build this repository of course.

Usually that is the way a new user would start out: “So I just bought this Fibaro Eye… (or Aeotech Home Energy Meter or Qubino Flush Dimmer or whatever)… now… how do I use it in OpenHAB?” A lot of this information can be found in various google discussion groups as separate questions by someone - and the answers will be in more or less complete form. Would be helpful to collect it for the wiki in an easily browsable and searchable way.

Even better would of course be OpenHAB saying: “Oh hey I see you have a FooDevice here. Awesome. I just took the liberty of adding some items and rules for you that will be visible in the ‘Examples’ section and now you can take it form there.” That would really help out a lot.

Another thing I would love to see going forward is some way to bootstrap the entire installation experience on the most common systems…
Like for instance you set up your Raspberry with the official Raspian image, and then you just run

apt-get install openhab

and then something like:

Boom - done. It sets up openhab to start automatically as a service, sets up a samba file share which you can access form another computer, etc etc.
So that - from when you have a running OS - you would not have to wait more than 5 minutes before you can start doing stuff.

Then again… if OpenHAB2 is apparently rethinking the entire experience, maybe it will - through other means - allow us to get started sooner. (Having to set up file sharing is crazy. It should all be doable through the web UI). As I understand it, Habmin will be a central (pre-installed) part of OpenHAB2. One less thing to worry about! Great!
Oh well, slightly off topic from this thread, so I’ll stop here. :smile:

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I would like documentation with examples to try that anyone can do regardless of hardware they have.

Some ideas:

  • display the weather in the interface.
  • Show the current time that was pulled from NTP.
  • Run script based on time/temperature
  • etc.

I have found some bits of information online, but haven’t gotten anything successfully working. Quite disappointing.

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I agree @LarsK, there is a time and place for GUI and sometimes text based configs are easier to troubleshoot. I too hope it stays in future versions.

In my experience my learning curve was more about eclipse (designer) it self rather than the concept that openhab does.I love the config about configuring files, because it forces me to know and read what I’ doing and I learn when I read all the files.Of course this takes time but it pays off.
When I discover openhab i also discover MQTT, that simply blows my mind with the possibilities it can give me.My mind start dreaming :smile: :innocent:

[quote=“bbrendon, post:12, topic:1061, full:true”][/quote]

github.com/openhab/openhab/wiki/Scripts and github.com/openhab/openhab/blob/master/distribution/openhabhome/configurations/rules/demo.rules

It’s easy, but it takes a little bit of time and effort, good luck :grinning:

I agree with many of the comments here about the usefulness and accessibility of the demo setup for novices. It’s incredibly complex for a novice to get their head around. A newbie coming in to OpenHAB might arrive there on a whim and possibly with little in the way of any HA hardware to monitor or control. While the demo setup is interesting to get a sense of the capabilities of OpenHAB, a simple demo setup with a few basic hardware-independent items (weather, time and maybe an example of presence detection? Owntracks?) could help newbies get off and running much faster than the current demo setup. I’m not suggesting ditching the existing demo setup, but maybe a heavily documented (in layman’s terms!) secondary newbies-start-here demo setup could be of value.

Additionally, a script to create an SMB share, as well as to start OpenHAB as a service as @martin has suggested would really grease the wheels too.

You don’t persevere because nice people on a forum behave positively towards you. The reason you persevere is because the thing itself is worth it. Not to mention struggle brings greatness, innovation, and it teaches you.

I’ve been using OpenHAB for over a year now, trying to do my own thing with it, and I still struggle. Even sometimes with basic concepts. But the more I have learnt the more amazed by the platform I am.

OpenHAB in its current form is industry-ready, has a large user base and diverse support for systems and protocols that you want to tie together. The documentation, whilst sometimes not immediately obvious, is complete.

It’s not a panacea. If you are looking for one, you won’t find one!

Actually, for me deciding where to expend time and effort are very important factors and the product support, especially during the development phase, is a key factor. Unless I am mistaken, this product has a long way to go and it will only get there with good strong user support until such time as the difficulties and hurdles are resolved.

I have a number of other interests that I can pursue and I never have enough time or brain capacity to keep them all active. Two of my recent interests have now progressed to a state where they are mature and offer me mostly what I need. I have a choice now of becoming involved in SAT>IP or home automation. One promises entertainment and the other a battle to be part of a revolution in change. The former is attractive to other pensioners, whilst the latter might keep my brain challenged.


Maybe one of the gurus could build either a Virtual Machine image - (which i personally think is the smart way to go) or a Raspberry Pi DD image that could be easily burnt to an SD card.

This image could do the basics such as show the weather and time etc (and give tips about how to change for your location)

A couple of easy instructions about how to download and install would probably then get a lot more traction. I personally have only just started trawling the forums wondering if i have enough free time to put into getting OOpenhab off the ground (and i work in IT for a living !!!)


To everybody suggesting an improvement to documentation and/or wiki, the best person to fix things is YOU. There are lots of people here that don’t have the ability/time etc to contribute code, but most people can improve the documentation. It can be simple spelling mistake to writing a complete new installation procedure.

  1. Don’t be afraid to contribute.
  2. Don’t take it personally when somebody else ‘improves’ on your work.

Go to the page below and read the installation procedure for your platform

That is the only way this will ever be fixed.