How to solve Openhab and it's UI confusion?

You mean they need to VOLUNTEER?? That is more work than complaining… :roll_eyes:

Thank you, very useful link.

And that was in opinion the biggest mistake ever… Will be a long way to get rid of that eclipse stuff.

That is where the Paper UI cane from, I believe. Now none of our developers can properly support it. We are basically stuck with it until OH3.

Well, don’t forget this OSGi stuff and Apache karaf build on top of it. I personally don’t liked it (OSGi) in WSO2 and I don’t like it in OpenHAB either. However, that’s an architectural design decision someone made in the past…

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Maybe, because not everything possible with the REST API needs to be exploited in the UI?

Yes, I did. And that my point:

For defining “things” PaperUI or HABmin is recommended ===> JSONDB
For defining “items” the textual configuration is recommended ===> classical text files

Example and solutions provided by the community ===> classical text files

The only reason I see NOT using the text files i ZWave. So why not fixing this and ditch those JSONDB files?

WTF: How could you come up with such a claim?

Well you have been and still are exposing quite some misunderstandings of OH (such as comparing the function of JSONDB with that of classical files) that I thought would have been cleared up if you had read that. Sorry for assuming and claiming that, you obviously did.

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Yeah, well, I read this one https://www.openhab.org/docs/administration/jsondb.html as well as this one https://www.openhab.org/docs/configuration/#textual-vs-graphical-configuration.

Don’t know what to missunderstand here:

Things and Items can either be defined and managed in configuration files or handled by Paper UI in a system-side database

JsonDB provides a system database for storage of configuration data.

That’s because it’s not yet possible to do everything through the REST API. You can’t “cut the strings” until you have a replacement. And there is a very good argument to be made in not pissing off your users by forcing them to do a lot of extra work.

Shall we scrub all the stuff that has been posted for the many years that the forum has existed?

As for the documentation, both approaches are documented and if not, please tell us so we can fix that.

This too is in work to be addressed. For example, the new UI that will replace PaperUI already has the ability for you to paste in an Item definition from a .items file, or forum posting or where ever, and it will import it into the JSONDB. For certain things like Rules this will not be possible. But for Rules we will be moving towards Rules becoming something you install and configure like a binding rather than something you have to copy/paste/edit from examples.

The Design Patterns are being updated as time allows to include alternative approaches. But realize that more than half of those design pattern posts were written before there was an OH 2. And as Markus points out, the UI for building Rules isn’t very usable right now and will be completely replaced for OH 3 so there is no point in showing that approach right now. One thing you would notice is for many of the DPs, where it makes sense, a library was created in Jython which, once reviewed and merged with the Helper Libraries, means you don’t even need to look a the code. You just “install” the code and use use it.

I can imagine no way that will ever happen. The licence of the source code requires it to be open and the openHAB Foundation is established as a certain type of non-profit in Germany that precludes the selling of software or services by the foundation.

Bruce’s point is that both HABmin and PaperUI interact with the same REST API end points and therefore activate the same code. So how can one work differently from the other if they are using the same code?

You cannot use automatic discovery of devices with text based configs. Zwave is not the only binding to use automatic discovery. In fact only a tiny minority of bindings don’t use automatic discovery. Even bindings like Astro and OpenWeatherMap use automatic discovery and creation of Things.

And this is because PaperUI doesn’t support everything necessary one needs to configure on a Thing. In particular, you can’t add tags nor metadata to Items through PaperUI. And we won’t be able to because PaperUI is basically abandonware.

As soon as the PaperUI replacement is done, I will personally go through the docs and change that recommendation. In fact, I and others (Confectarian is already starting some of the work) will likely do a complete rewrite of the docs to put the new UI as the first/default approach with the text configs as “and you can also use text files.”

It would be too much work and hugely destructive to go through the forum and remove all the old legacy stuff so that’s never going to happen. And that’s OK because the new UI will let you import the text based configs where possible. Perhaps there will even be an export possibility too, though it likely will need to be some other format as there is no writer for the custom format created for .items files and .things files.

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Good to know.

I think the main problem stems from the fact that the OH team (whatever that means, I haven’t really delved into the project’s management specifics) hasn’t made clear what they want OH to be or to become. I don’t know if they know it and haven’t communicated it correctly, or they just don’t know themselves, or they just can’t agree due to a lack of leadership.

Do they want OH to be a fun/hobby project that covers their own needs and those of a small community of developers?
Or do they want OH to become the de facto standard for open source home automation?

Both options are equally valid, there’s no right and wrong answer. But they do have implications.

For example, if the second option is the goal, attitudes and statements like those from @mstormi are downright unacceptable.

Have you ever considered how many users OH is losing, for each user that gets into the trouble of signing up to the forums and posting a “complaint”? Let me tell you that it’s A LOT. And, instead of trying to figure out what’s leading to those complaints (regardless of whether these specific users are expressing them correctly or not, are polite or not, are hurting your feelings or not etc.) so that we can keep not only those users but also the ones we never hear from, we’re telling them “you’re doing it wrong” (this can take many forms, i.e. “you haven’t read the docs correctly”, “you don’t know which UI to use” etc.) or “that’s just the way it is” (due to historical reasons or whatever).

Of course, if the goal is the first option, then that’s fine. And in that sense, maybe OH is just the victim of its own success. Maybe it was never intended to be the second one, but because it’s featured and suggested in a lot of articles regarding home automation, people come here expecting to find something different. Still, I don’t think it’s hard to let these users know what they’re dealing with and steer them away from OH, either through the homepage, or the doc’s introduction etc.

But again, if we want OH to become a proper mainstream solution, we need to move away from amateur(ish) handling of such issues and take examples from professional projects. Do you think that any professional team would post these kinds of responses to user feedback (yes, complaints are feedback)? Digital companies/products/projects are DYING to get user feedback and go into great lengths and costs to acquire it (market research, surveys etc.) and analyze it in order to gain actionable insight. And here it’s offered freely but is mostly dismissed.

Of course, not all people here share this attitude. For example, @rlkoshak is always helpful and constructive and I feel the need to mention it and thank him for that. But unfortunately, this isn’t enough.

Come to think of it, maybe the main problem may be indeed a lack of leadership. There needs to be someone setting the tone and setting the course, sometimes making hard decisions that will definitely alienate some (maybe long-term) users but will help the project meet its goals in the long run. From what I’ve experienced with OH, this doesn’t exist.

The above is not to demean what OH has achieved. I, for one, use it for two years now and I thank everyone that made it possible. And, for what it’s worth, I’ve never complained even though I’ve been frustrated a lot of times. This is because I understand the project’s difficulty and intricacies, I understand the devs’ point of view and I understand what it means to be an open source vs commercial project. But the reason I understand the above is because I’m a developer myself. As it happens though, I’m also a marketer professionally and can therefore understand the user’s point of view. And that’s the reason for writing the above, because I feel the user’s point of view isn’t being taken into account, or at least not in the right way.

Sorry for the long post (and for coming a bit late to the party).

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Or, they made some poor choices that did not work as planned and, rather than just abandon the project, they are working to correct those choices carefully minimizing existing user impact while planning any major breaking changes for a future version, as they have stated publicly. Why do you not believe what has been posted plainly by the project leader, @Kai ?

OpenHAB values stability and flexibility which, unfortunately introduces complexity that does not lend itself a “one size fits all” tutorial. The expect adults using this product to think for themselves and not be mindless robots.

If you want to see users frustrated, try Home Assistant. When I moved over here, I felt like I moved from the “kiddie forum” to one composed of reasonable, helpful adults.

Big corporations will never permit a cross-platform solution to become “mainstream”. When entitled people complain about strictly volunteer efforts without constructively contributing then such handling is appropriate unless you would expect them to be banned from such discussion.
Unappreciated volunteers who have some uninformed individual trash they hard work are rightfully offended.

Not to dilute this discussion even more, but here is my perspective, hopefully a bit instructive/constructive.

Some Background:

  1. I’m fairly new to Home Automation, played with smart plugs/bulbs and Alexa/Google, but openHAB is my first/serious attempt at putting everything together and getting more from the various devices I have.
  2. In fact I have multiple HA applets on my phone/iPad (Kasa, Alexa, Google Home GH, MyQ, Wyze, Feit Electric, Nest, B-Hyve, Ring, iRobot, PlantMonitor). My main interest in openHAB is to consolidate all those Apps and control all my devices from a central location. So far Alexa/GH have been ok, maybe not enough.Do I qualify as typical user? … what is Typical?
  3. I have experience with some programming languages … C/Python/Matlab. I use the last one ‘regularly’ for work. I am not a developer and I sometimes find myself ‘struggling’ with some of the concepts/terminology in this forum.
  4. Devices I’d like to control via openHAB: TP-Link Smart Plugs (10×), WyzeCams (8×), Binary Switches for Doors/Windows (13×), Nest Thermostat (2×), iRing Bell, Feit Smart Wall Switches (12×), Smart Bulbs (Feit/Wyze), MyQ Garage Opener, …

My Experience:

  1. Started from the RaspberryPI forum, and people there recommended openHAB
  2. Did quite a bit of reading (never enough), and watched many YouTube videos, and read multiple web-pages about openHAB. Granted, a lot of the material out there is pure garbage … a video referred to as ‘How to setup openHAB in 10 mins’ … turned out to be how to download the OH image and install openHAB … nothing about getting it to run. The installation is fairly easy to do, and well documented in this forum.
  3. As a DIYer, the learning curve is fairly steep, not just for OH itself, but also other multiple aspects: OH, devices/components, house wiring (I have a thread on missing neutral wires) …

Now, I’m in agreement with the original poster in some aspects … yet OH is challenging/intriguing, and when I see what others have accomplished with it, there is a certain strong pull that OH has, and that’s what keeps me working on understanding/using OH.

Moving Forward

I understand fully that one can’t have a ‘one size fits all’, but nonetheless, from my newbie perspective, here is what I’d like to see (hopefully I’m not alone).

  1. Step-By-Step Installation/Configuration of ASTRO - No need for any hardware, all of us should be able to do this as a learning step.
  2. Sample Step-By-Step installations/approaches with very simple components: For Example Smart Light / Wall Switch / Thermostat.
  3. List of components/devices supported, and how to address those that are not (Wyze Cameras for example)
  4. Some Terminology Clarification: Wifi vs. ZigBee vs. Z-wave vs. BlueTooth - I know the differences pros/cons, but not everyone does - Ok, this is a bit beyond openHAB
  5. ‘Stickies’ in the ‘newbie/beginners’ forum. Today that subsection is full of specific questions from newcomers. Can’t we have ‘Stickies’ at the very top i.e., topics new comers MUST read before anything else?

My Verdict

  1. OpenHAB Installation - fairly straightforward and very well documented
  2. Detection of devices - Very confusing
  3. Controlling various devices and getting useful data from them - Still, not clear
  4. Persistence & Presence Detection - Advanced Topics

Installing OH s fairly easy. The next big hurdle is to connect few devices and get them to run (13/14 above).

Lastly, I fully realize this is run by volunteers, and hopefully some day I can become one as well … and contribute more than pick brains.

There already is a lengthy " What You Need to Know Before You Start" section on the very first page of the docs. If you’ve any suggestions of anything further to add I’m sure we are open to discussion and a PR. Arguments could be made that it might not be strong enough but it does make clear:

  • you will have to learn
  • you have to be flexible
  • it’s going to take a lot of time
  • you have to read the docs

In my mind it seems to be a pretty good description of what a new user is getting into when starting OH. It’s just that they don’t read the docs in the first place. And that’s part of the problem.

When they don’t read the docs or search the forum, they are essentially wasting the volunteers on this forum’s time. If they will abandon OH because someone tells them they need to read the docs, they are probably not the type of user who will be successful with openHAB in the first place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. Home automation is hard. You have to be able and willing to read the docs, experiment, look at examples and figure out how they work, and more in order to be remotely successful. While I see this getting better and better over time (I’m down right excited over the NGRE) it’s never going to be as easy as a few clicks and suddenly you have a working home automation system. Consequently I don’t see it ever becoming a “main stream” system. It is always going to take more learning and more work than any but those who are willing to dedicate some time to it will be successful.

Sometimes Markus’ posts come across as terse and in some respects rude. But I have no doubt that it is unintentional and he means no ill will towards anyone. He is also one of the main helpers on the forum and is one of the main maintainers of openHABian. He’s a productive and supportive member of the openHAB community. I want to make it clear how much I at least appreciate his contributions to OH which, frankly, exceed my own.

That being said, everyone who helps people on this forum are self selected volunteers. There is no test that someone has to pass. There is no vetting process or election. As such, unless you see a user with the “Maintainer” flag next to their icon, none of us speaks for openHAB. And even for the maintainers, they only speak for the part of openHAB that they are maintainers for. Some maintainers are heavily involved with the core but don’t know much about the UIs. Others are strictly binding developers. Most of the people you see helping users on this forum are users just like you or the OP and speak with no more authority over OH and it’s future directions than anyone else.

Said another way, if I’ve any authority at all, its a consequence of my experience and reputation. It wasn’t granted by the maintainers nor bestowed upon me from some leadership. The same goes for Markus, Vincent, Scott, Bruce, rossko57, and all the rest of the regulars (if I left you out I mean nothing by it, this is not intended to be a full list) who dive in and help their fellow users where they are able.

Nothing that Markus has ever posted, to my knowledge, has ever violated the terms of this forum. He is free to respond to and help users any way he wants within those terms. What would you have us do? Ban one of our most productive members? I don’t think so.

It can be even worse than garbage as these never get updated. There are still tutorials that pop-up pretty high in the Google results for OH 1.7.

Which ones? Out of the 300+ different bindings, which ones are “very simple” and informative and relatively universal? A step-by-step to achieve what? Everyone’s home automation is bespoke. What would be a good universal tutorial that would work for everyone?

If someone where to write a tutorial that used KNX switches, LD382A bulbs, and a Zigbee thermostat would that be helpful to you? It wouldn’t be to me, I don’t use any of those.

The reason this doesn’t exist is because there isn’t one tutorial that would do the job. We would need almost one tutorial for each and every one of the 300+ bindings, perhaps more if you need to have one for every device a given binding supports. So how do you deal with the commonalities among those 300+ tutorials? You make a generic here’s how to write rules, here’s how to create a sitemap, etc. Eventually you end up with pretty much exactly what we now have in the docs.

This has been brought up many many many times on the forum. It’s simply not feasible and all attempts to do so have failed. Even simpler projects like Zoneminder that only has to list all the cameras can’t keep up and has (as far as I can tell) abandoned trying to maintain a list of cameras that are supported. There is an ever growing list of supported devices which already runs in the tens of thousands I would guess. It’s a huge effort that, once started, will never be done and honestly it has very little value compared to the effort involved to create and maintain it. How would you know whether Wyze cameras are supported? Look for a Wyze binding. If there is no binding, there is probably no support. But if you are not sure, you need to dive into the technology of the device a little (e.g. what is the format of the video streams) and see if there is a more generic binding that supports it. As I said in my “There is no step-by-step tutorial” linked to above, you have to know and understand at least the basics of the technology you are dealing with in order to be successful with it in openHAB or any other home automation system for that matter. You have to know how the devices work and there is nothing we can do to hide that from you.

But of course, just because I don’t think it’s worth doing doesn’t mean someone who disagrees can’t give it a try. There have been several false starts in the past. None have gone anywhere though.

As a general rule, anything that would warrant a sticky in the beginner’s section more properly belongs in the docs. And that is what we do. When there is a post with something we think all beginners should read, we migrate the content to the official docs (e.g. Type Conversions became https://www.openhab.org/docs/configuration/rules-dsl.html#using-the-states-of-items-in-rules).

And for the most part, those types of postings belong in Tutorials and Solutions, not Beginner’s. Per the category description, the Beginner’s category is for:

Ask your questions of the first hour here. Please also read the “About the Beginnners category” article to find some helpful hints.

And the About the Beginner’s post has the list of stuff that new comers MUST read before anything else. You won’t be surprised to see it’s the Docs.

Mostly confusing because each of the 300+ bindings necessarily has it’s own requirements and approaches because each technology works differently. A Hue light bulb is necessarily going to have a very different discovery and integration process from a KNX light switch. There’s not a whole lot we can do about that and honestly, if you had been around during the old OH 1.x days, you would see how far we have come in making this as uniform and automated as possible.

What is not clear? We can help with this and perhaps update the docs. But, as is explained in the concepts section of the docs, you have Things which represent a device. Things have Channels which represent an individual sensor reading or control point on the device. You link those Channels to Items. You control the device by sending a command to the Item. You receive the sensor reading by looking at the state of the Item.

Persistence isn’t too hard of a topic to understand but it’s also not something that everyone requires. Get to it when you are ready or encounter a situation where you need to preserve stuff over openHAB restarts or want to create charts. It is indeed an advanced topic you can save for later.

Presence detection is one of those things that newcomers always think should be simple but it is in fact one of the more challenging things to achieve. You will find dozens of posts and tutorials on the forum talking about it. This too is an advanced topic for a reason, it’s hard to achieve.

just a hint. Nobody knows openHAB as well as the developers. There are NO official Youtube documentation videos that I am aware of.
In my experience, the younger people want everything in video form and older people prefer written documentation where they can copy/paste commands and configuration.

You must also remember there is a WIDE variety of user cultures and backgrounds here. What may be considered offensive in one culture is lauded as being direct and honest in another.

Interesting. Now that all by itself is a pretty hefty personal attack.
I doubt you have correctly understood me. As Rich once put it, tone is difficult to bring across in written conversation, even more so when you’re not a native speaker.
Other than that, I still fail to see what made me deserve this, so would you please explain yourself ?
Btw, you have no idea what my attitude is. So don’t insinuate you do.

Indeed. “German” English is often perceived to be harsh, and yes we’re pretty direct most of the time. But I believe both of us, @wwebers and me are German thus it’s a bit strange to read that a third party (englishman I presume) is more offended than the addressee is.

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this is a quote from the introduction section of the official documentation. The very first page of the documentation…

Lastly, be prepared to start a new hobby: home automation.

How is that not letting users know what they’re dealing with? That is in the introduction of the documentation

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Just my two pence worth here.
I start ‘blind’ 3 months ago.
I started with one sonoff Basic. Read ALL the OH Docs. Found out there are TWO ways (Paper UI and Text file) methods of entering Data. Once I got that right in my head. I just followed OH 2.4 Docs and ignored the ‘old’ OH docs.
It was hard understanding, but I got there be following the Documentation. (the only way in my opinion)
I am really happy now with several Sonoffs , multiple Temperature sensors and built an 8 channel Relay box for lights and garage door. Simple stuff compare to others here, but I had fun and learned lots along the way.
It was hard and very time consuming but very rewarding. I kept it simple, and step by step until I was confident it worked.
I am at the moment integrating a Snips Ai Voice Control with OH2 and it is coming along nicely…ONLY after following example documentation from others.
I have a new Hobby !!! OH2 !!!
If I wanted an ‘out of the box’ working Home Automation system. I would have gone elsewhere.
I am just so happy that OH2 doesnt need to use Cloud or external Comms to run my stuff.
I value my Privacy greatly and OH2 certainly does it for me.
Thank you all you Volunteers.

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