hass.io and I are going to take a little break from each other.
God knows I’ve tried.
I installed Home Assistant first on my Mac Mini, got a nice interface going with it when Lovelace was about to become the standard UI.
It was so exciting. I was like a kid in a candy shop. A cool semi-developer styled Home Automation and Smart Home project I could get my teeth into.
I bought an Aeotec Z-Wave ZStick and installed the Z-Wave modules. I tried to add a bunch of Z-Wave Plus devices…but it was like a Frog in a sock on a motorway – it was hard to get. It never worked the same twice even if it did work and IF it worked the same way twice things didn’t connect right. The hardware was fine as I’d tested it on other Z-Wave networks.
I thought, maybe the problem with all these Z-Wave devices not connecting well is just my old Mac Mini. Perhaps using a complete Hass.io set up will solve my issues.
I committed to a Rasberry Pi, as recommended, and flashed a copy of hass.io on it. Installed Z-Wave requirements, added my ZStick and it worked. But it didn’t.
I learned YAML, integrated my Ring doorbell, my abode security system, a nice weather panel, my Yale Smartlock, my iCloud connection for location data, a nice Zone map and even my Aeotec Multisensor 6.
I could see them in the panel (cards) and could make small adjustments to them in my YAML file. Everyone said ‘you can do most things through the UI now…’.
But here’s the thing…
I couldn’t do anything else with any ease.
For a start, half the known Z-Wave Plus devices I tried to connect were marked as Dead. Half worked fine. No rhyme or reason.
Perhaps it was the distance from the device to the Rasberry Pi and ZStick. I moved them to be within ‘you need a breath mint’ distance and still, no joy.
So it’s one thing to learn how to make the system work but if the hardware trouble shooting takes all your time…exasperation ensues.
I couldn’t make anything update or change via the Aeotec Multisensor 6. I couldn’t trigger a motion event to turn on a basic light. I couldn’t pair my Aeotec LED Strip and make pretty colours in my lounge. I couldn’t pair my garage door unit or half my Z-Wave Plus devices properly.
‘Look in the logs’ they said. I did, it was lines and lines of WTF.
I used to be a PHP programmer and can still cut-a-rug with some CSS. I’m not stupid (subjective opinion). I took hours to understand how it all works but if a user needs to learn Github just to pull fixit files from repositories or crawl through forums of confusing responses and unanswered information, my will to persevere could not be sustained.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Hass.io and Home Assistant are all as cool as they look and I just haven’t been patient enough. Maybe learning more YAML code and understanding each entity and it’s available states is like doing Lego or Capsela for adults? May the Triggers, Action and States are straight forward once you understand the lingo and formats.
I have no doubt that Home Assistant is truly ‘Developed by a bunch of awesome people’. I really believe the people behind this are probably really amazing, generous people. I’ve been at the foundations of platforms like Drupal when it was rising up from the open-source womb. I believe in the incredible power of open-source to change our world but I just need a better UI to make it a little easier.
Some basic change notifications when I add or remove items from my HA Z-Wave network (this is also a gripe at Z-Wave for making it so bad at reporting sensible state changes, errors, additions and removals).
A better log file reporter to understand what went wrong where.
A human element to the states and entity naming (which is also a responsibility of the hardware manufacturers to sort out).
I just think that there must be a way to have config files per device that translate the tech into simple, workable English.
There has to be a way to provide better reporting on errors, issues and fixes. The Z-Wave alliance should work to help HA become better because they are doing a hell of a lot with a very small workforce of committed HA enthusiasts.
Monetise something, somewhere, somehow to take this from complete open-source coder-ificness to a little commercial usability to get some paid workers on it.
I REALLY want to love Home Assistant. I’ve tried it, left it, tried it, left it and now will leave it again. Perhaps in a year, I’ll try it again. I’ll dust off and spark up my Rasberry Pi, re-flash the latest version and see what’s changed.
I would even pay money for it if it can rise above a technical array-based jungle and compete better with well rounded commercial offerings like SmartThings.
For now, I’ll return to my abode security system as my home automation hub. It’s missing more product & hardware integrations than I care to mention, but it works well enough and the CUE Automations make creating advanced IF this THEN that BUT only if THIS seem easy, nice one Abode.
Home Assistant fans can hate me. I understand – it’s a bit rubbish to drop an opinion on a platform I haven’t mastered (despite hours and hours of trying). I am impressed with the community that HA has built but – the platform has got to be easier, and it’s got to work before I can see myself trying again.
To be honest, I’d welcome feedback from HA / Hass.io users. What’s the single most important thing you would recommend to people wanting to get into Home Assistant?
Comment below, I’m keen to get into it.