It has to be about 20 years since I first experienced vMotion and the technology still feels like magic. A few clicks of the mouse and the things I had running on this computer over here are running on that computer over there and nobody is the wiser.
A few years back I switched my virtualization hosts at home from VMware to Hyper-V and the tech geeks in my social circles always question why. It’s because Hyper-V frees me from having to run vCenter to get the magic — live migration is built-in and (mostly) Just Works™
Yesterday I needed to replace storage on the host that runs a couple bits of critical home infra that is still virtualized — Pi-hole, nginx, and Home Assistant — and was grateful that I could temporarily migrate it all to my other Hyper-V host instead of causing a prolonged outage.
I can’t make it make sense to me. I browsed mini PCs on Amazon for about a minute to find a J3455 8GB / 128GB micro PC for $120 before $30 off coupon. That’s cheaper than just the basic Yellow board and case, which still needs an impossible-to-obtain CM4 module and storage. This one is PoE and sports a $29 NVMe SSD and $80 CM4 w/ 8GB RAM and Wi-Fi, for a grand total of $243 before taxes and shipping. That’s J5005/J5105 money.
But, hey, it does have a Real Time Clock chip w/ a battery. That’s something that nearly all the little ARM SBCs and most of the CM4 carrier boards are lacking, a pain point that nobody notices until they do and then they can’t stop thinking about it.
I bought it ’cause I figure the HA people deserve my money, and I’d rather spend it on a gizmo than their cloud service. I’ll migrate one of my HA instances to it, to give it a proper chance, but I suspect it won’t be long before I want to migrate back to a proper PC that does everything faster and better.
I’ve been on the hunt for the “best” BLE-capable ESP32 devices to use with BLErry and ESPresense. Problem is that the ESP32 isn’t nearly as popular as ESP8266 in the IoT world.
CloudFree’s Light Switch is quite good but I discovered it way too late in the process of changing out my light switches. I have a few m5stack Atom Lite in use and ordered some LILYGO T-Dongle-S3 to mess with but the more I think about it the less I like the idea of infrastructure hanging off USB ports and wall plugs.
What I really want is a cheap ESP32 in the form of a wall wart or smart plug.
Enter the SwitchBot Smart Plug Mini*. It’s cheap — under $25 for a 4-pack on Black Friday sales. It has the ESP32-C3. It’s not at all friendly to opening, however, presently it is possible to OTA flash to Tasmota. And it has power monitoring, which is an uncommon feature in a cheap Tasmota plug. There’s not an official esp32c3-bluetooth build yet but they’re available from other sources and it’s not that difficult to roll your own.
SwitchBot’s Smart Bulbs are also ESP32-C3 and convertible to Tasmota, but I’m trying to keep away from bulbs.
I’ve also been eyeing the GL.iNet GL-S10, a $25 ESP32 device with Ethernet and PoE, but I’m resisting until it’s available from a US-based seller. The thing has been available for over a year and GL.iNet has plenty of US distribution for other products so I don’t get what the hold up has been.
* 11/21/2022 Update: After getting my hands on the Switchbot I would be cautious about using it for productive loads as it will not hold the relay state during a reboot or firmware update. This appears to be a hardware design decision. In theory that’s not a big deal — your Tasmota device shouldn’t be rebooting itself and if it ain’t broke don’t update — but it’s one of those footguns that’s likely to be forgotten about until it takes out a toe.
No 5G. No LTE Cat 6. And locked into AT&T’s revenue sharing scheme so customers can’t onboard these to their existing plans and Ubiquiti gets a cut. Lame.
Mikrotik has 4G LTE Cat 6 devices with US carrier approval that are much cheaper than Ubiquiti’s devices, but no mobile variant. I will continue using the Netgear LB1121 for backup Internet until it dies.
I’ve now installed 54 smart switches, dimmers, and relays of 8 varieties, plus mounted a dozen remotes. Six switch locations remain but they’re all unimportant.
If I had to do it all over again, I would make the CloudFree Light Switch and Amaker WKC-002 Zigbee my default switches. Those and the Lutrons have metal tabs and I’ve found they’re much easier to get properly aligned and flush with the wall plate in a multi-gang box. All the rest with plastic tabs have been challenging, the Martin Jerry Zigbee model most of all because the tabs are narrower. I also like the CloudFree Light Switch for having what I consider to be a premium feel. The Amaker was a nice late addition, it feels cheap but best conveys that you’ve successfully pressed it and it functions as a Zigbee router. The Lutrons feel like cheap junk but there are very few cloud-free no-neutral dimmer options.
An added perk with the CloudFree Light Switch is that it runs on an ESP32-C3 (RISC-V) chip which has Bluetooth / BLE instead of one of the more common ESP8266 variants that only do Wi-Fi. Took me maybe 30 minutes to roll my own Tasmota image with BLErry and get it feeding a BLE temperature / humidity sensor into Home Assistant. Shouldn’t be challenging to get it doing the same on ESPHome but I’m unlikely to try that myself.
Between buying a second home and taking over the ADU at our primary residence to be my home office, the need to make 20-some new lights smart had me reconsidering our home automation strategy. Our main home has somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 Zigbee bulbs and I’m just sooooo over them. People can’t be trained not to flip switches, no amount of remotes on the walls and blocks on the switches will stop them. Plus my non-Hue bulbs never get firmware updates, so they’re older than manufacturers figuring out that maybe they shouldn’t all turn on after a power outage.
Also thanks to tariffs / COVID / inflation, the bulbs I used to routinely buy for $6-7 are now more like $10.
Somethings I find I’ve unintentionally made something magic happen. This weekend I brought an unprovisioned UniFi Talk phone to our cabin in the mountains, expecting to need to perform some VPN trickery with a VPS to get a local Talk install properly receiving calls behind CGNAT. Imagine my surprise when I plugged it in and my existing Talk install back home discovered the new phone.
It adopted just fine, no problems making and receiving calls through the VPN tunnel.
The “magic” was that I run multicast-relay on all my personal networks and have it configured to also relay to my VPN network. All the wannabe Network Engineers’ heads are exploding at the thought, but I’m sure I had reasons when I decided to do that and, well, My Networks, My Choice.
Then I fired up my new Home Assistant install and quickly realized that auto-discovery across a VPN tunnel is not always a good thing 🤣 When I have more round tuits I will perhaps make things a bit more granular.