- Platform information:
- Hardware: RapsPI 3B+
- OS: openHABian
- Java Runtime Environment: openHABian embedded
- openHAB version: 2.2.0
- Issue of the topic: This is not for the non-technical
Hi openHAB community,
I felt like sharing my experience with openHAB(ian) here, as I think I’m a pretty average not-too-technical enthusiast.
Let me start by saying that I love openHAB. It is smartly designed, clearly extremely versatile and open, and I’d love to keep using it.
As background: I equipped my entire house with Fibaro, from the Zwave modules controlling lights, curtains, doors, roller shutters, garage doors etc to the Fibaro HomeCenter 2. So I have some experience already, but I started to give up on Fibaro as the central control unit due to instability issues and the closed system compromises that come with a Zwave-centric solution.
So let’s give openHAB a try… I’m tech savvy in that I understand how technology works, but I’m not a coder and I’m not familiar with Linux. I also work and have many hobbies outside of tech, so I don’t have limitless amounts of time to sink into this project. Does that make me an average noob? Probably…
I decided to go with openHABian since it was ‘marketed’ as a solution for people who don’t need to know Linux. GOOD!
My conclusion after a week: not true.
Let’s start: flashing the MicroSD was easy, RasPi booted nicely and I tried to access it using the IP allocated by my router. No luck. Turns out I needed to add :8080. OK, good to know, but already lost quite some time just on that.
Then I wanted to add the Zwave stick. Some googling and I find out I need to create serial ports in Linux. HUH? So you do need to touch Linux after all. Download Putty, get to know it, log in, follow the step by step guides found somewhere online… and hope for the best. Another few hours gone.
Now the Zwave stick just needs the port mapping set. But which port? I see four! Trial and error… Until it works.
Let’s add a first Zwave thing! Using PaperUI, cool, it appears and I add it. Let’s set the new name and location. Hit save. “Thing added”, and… Error: 500. Super.
Let’s check the logs. Some cryptic log messages about bignumbers. Try a bit of everything, google for similar issues. Found a lot, but none like my specific setup…
Error on save, meaning things don’t appear in the control part of PaperUI. I’m stuck…
Let’s post a first call for help in the community. Another few hours lost.
4 days later: no answer on the post. So much for community help.
After more reading and googling, I default to HABmin for Zwave inclusions.
Works, save in HABmin and the things appear in PaperUI. bt still not in control.
But wait, I need to create items associated with the things. I do that in HABmin, and yes, first item in Control! Breakthrough!
Can I control it? no… Turns out I have to fiddle around some more with the choice of serial ports. Until I finally hear the first click from the switch.
We’re now literally almost 4 days later. And I managed to control a switch.
Continuing the learning process: I discover that new items are not always visible in HABmin when in inclusion mode. So my strategy is: include in PaperUI, switch to HABmin for configuration, save there in order to avoid the still present ERROR: 500 in PaperUI, and go back to PaperUI for control.
OK, let’s keep learning…
How about mobile app access? Let’s set that up and test. Google, here I come. Find the step by step instructions on openHAB and… guess what: I need to SSH into the server to get a UUID and secret out of text files on Linux. Wait, What??? Why??? Why not show this in the PaperUI User Interface? NOT user friendly.
OK, moving forward, I finally get the magic online status in myopenhab.That is after a lot of fiddling with the openhab service etc…
Items? Empty… But I see them in PaperUI, why not here??
Some more reading and I discover I need to expose the items I want to have visible. OK, I do that, and after a lot of trying I end up seeing 2 of 4 items online, but with cryptic names instead of the human intelligible descriptions I gave them…
Arrrrrrgh… Back to Google. Could not find a solution, other than maybe I have to update Java (really?), or I need to add descriptors and labels etc… in some config files.
Set up the app on the phone: got to get the local network working. Remote: nope: error 401. Frustration level reaching danger zone…
Let’s see if I can at least get my Amazon Alexa speakers to act as voice command portals, as advertised. Set up the skill, link it to the cloud. Discover items… Nothing.
Back to google: I need to again edit text and config files.
I don’t have time for this. I’m just testing with 4 devices, I have -wait for it- close to 200 zwave devices I’ll need to add and set up (yip, big house).
So in conclusion: absolutely great solution. But stay away if you’re not technical enough, or if you don’t enjoy fiddling around in Linux, despite what it says on the OpenHABian page: “A home automation enthusiast doesn’t have to be a Linux enthusiast!”. You NEED to be a slightly Linux knowledgeable person, and you NEED a lot of time on your hands to set things up.
What surprised me most is that it should be easy to fix these things. Create a front-end for those text files, or even better, store tags in the database and generate them from there.
Add a function to create serial ports. Add a view on the UUID and Secret. Etc…
All relatively easy fixes I would think…
My advice: if you want this platform to go mainstream, and it deserves to go mainstream, then ask your user base to recruit newbies and document their struggles. Make eliminating those struggles a priority for your next releases.
Reading posts in this community forum, I feel that you are stuck in distorted “all users out there are quite technical and love to fiddle with config files, Linux, ssh terminal sessions etc.” reality bubble.
No we don’t, we like things that are functional with minimal effort.
Last request: please don’t flame me for this post. Again, I love OpenHAB, I just wish it was designed for people like me.
I didn’t write 4 pages here to make anyone feel bad, or to attack anyone. I wrote it to make a point that I hope will help this platform and community grow faster and stronger.