Category: Tech (page 1 of 1)

Setting up the Raspberry Pi

In my previous post I explained that I was switching out my Homey Pro for a Raspberry Pi 4. Now that all the hardware is in, it’s time to set everything up! This is what I got:

  • Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB)
  • Official PoE HAT
  • Kingston A2000 NVMe
  • ICY BOX M.2 Case
  • ConBee II


Setting up the hardware.
The first thing to do is screw everything together, as that is super easy, I am not going to explain that. When everything is correctly screwed together, the SSD can be formatted and configured with the Raspberry Pi Imager. Just plug it into the computer, choose the right OS, click next and it’s done. What I do want to mention is that SSH is turned off by default. Creating a file named “SSH” on the boot folder of Raspbian OS activates this again. The next step is plugging everything in and booting up. Since last year, the Raspberry Pi supports booting from USB devices. In case yours does not work yet, try updating the Raspberry Pi to the latest Firmware and EEPROM after booting from an SD card first. Below are the commands to do this but luckily mine was ready to go.

Configuring the basics.
Now that the hardware is plugged in and the Raspberry Pi is booted up, configuring everything is next on the list. Look for the Raspberry Pi on your network, remember it’s IP address and SSH to the device with:
ssh pi@<IP.ADDRESS>

There are a couple of things that need to be done before installing and configuring Pi-Hole and other programs you might want to run on the Raspberry Pi:

# Update the list of programs
sudo apt update

# Upgrade the programmes with all it's dependencies
sudo apt full-upgrade

# Reboot to activate all the changes
sudo reboot

# The next bit should not part of any regular update process!

# Update the OS kernel
sudo rpi-update

# Update the EEPROM to the latest version
sudo rpi-eeprom-update

After this, reboot again and the Raspberry Pi is all up to date.
Changing the default password is also highly recommended. Choose a strong password, you can even make use of a password manager like I do.

sudo passwd

With the basics done, the Raspberry Pi is ready to be used for it’s original goal; Replacing the Homey Pro.

Installing the good stuff.
A few programs are needed to make it all work:
ConBee (DeCONZ)
HomeBridge
Pi-hole (optional)

ConBee:
To connect my Zigbee devices, I use a ConBee II. To read, configure and update the Zigbee stick on the Raspberry Pi, deCONZ is needed.

# Set user USB access rights
sudo gpasswd -a $USER dialout

# Import Phoscon public key
wget -O - http://phoscon.de/apt/deconz.pub.key | \
           sudo apt-key add -

# Configure the Stable APT repository for deCONZ
sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://phoscon.de/apt/deconz \
            $(lsb_release -cs) main' > \
            /etc/apt/sources.list.d/deconz.list"

# Update APT package list
sudo apt update

# Install deCONZ
sudo apt install deconz

There is one change I made after the installation, which is letting it run on another port than the default one. The reason for this is that deCONZ uses port 80, which is also used for Pi-hole. As Pi-hole overwrites the config file with every update, it’s easier to change the port for deCONZ instead.

# Change directory
cd /lib/systemd/system

# Open file in an editor
sudo nano deconz.service

# Changing the port to 8080
# Look for the following line and replace 80 with 8080 for example
ExecStart=/usr/bin/deCONZ -platform minimal --http-port=8080

# Restarting the service
sudo service deconz restart

# Install Homebridge and Homebridge Config UI X
sudo npm install -g --unsafe-perm homebridge homebridge-config-ui-x

# Setup Homebridge as a service
sudo hb-service install --user homebridge

Now go to <IP.ADDRESS>:8080/pwa/index.html and setup your Zigbee devices.

Does your stick not show up? Make sure you use an USB-Extension cable to decrease the risk of any interference. Especially if you use an external drive connected to other USB ports like I do.

HomeBridge:
HomeBridge is an amazing application to expose non-HomeKit devices to HomeKit. When the Zigbee devices are setup in deCONZ, they need to be exposed to HomeKit too.

# Setup repository
curl -sL https://deb.nodesource.com/setup_14.x | sudo bash -

# Install Node.js
sudo apt install -y nodejs gcc g++ make python net-tools

# Test if node is working
node -v

# Upgrade npm
sudo npm install -g npm

Go to http://<IP.ADDRESS>:8581 and install the applications. In my setup I have Nest, Ring and ConBee (uses the Hue app). Make sure to use Verified applications to minimise the risk of security or compatibility issues.

The last step is to connect HomeBridge to HomeKit. Scan the QR-Code from HomeBridge on your iPhone and you are done.

You can see that my sensors appear in HomeKit, just like the Nest Thermostat does. I already made some automations but will add more in the future.

Pi-hole:
The last step is Pi-hole, which is not needed but it’s a great add-on to the Raspberry Pi. I use it as an AdBlocker for all my IoT devices in my network, plus my phones/laptops. And if you don’t want to have ads on your Smart TV, hooks hat one up too! With Pi-hole, you’ll get faster browsing and much more privacy. Check the website to learn more: https://pi-hole.net

# One line install
curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

Just go through the configuration after this and add the Raspberry’s IP as the DNS on your device in settings. Or cover all of your devices in your network and set it as the Router’s DNS server.

And that’s it!

I have replaced my Homey Pro for a Raspberry Pi and got it all working. It’s cheaper, faster and has more possibilities in the future. Let me know in the comments what you think and what you want to see next time.

Happy automating!

Raspberry Pi with NVMe

Reading the title you must think, “That’s totally unnecessary!“. Well yeah, kinda, hear me out!

TL;DR: It’s faster, more stable and price wise not too bad nowadays.

I am a big fan of home automation, from Philips Hue lights to a Nuki Door Lock and much more. In the past few months I tried to combine everything together in one platform with Homey. And although it is a great platform, it was not for me. I use HomeKit for all my automations and on top of that, all of my wireless devices either use Zigbee or my own WiFi. With 95% of Homey not being used, I needed something else.

So then, as every tech enthusiast does, I went online searching for alternatives, which ended up in hours (days?) spent online. As I only need Zigbee, and already use HomeBridge, I looked for something in a small form-factor but stable enough for home automation and this time with an ethernet connection. In my case, a good alternative for Homey was a Raspberry Pi, a Zigbee Receiver and HomeBridge. For comparison:

  • Homey Pro, €399,-
  • Raspberry Pi 4 Set + Zigbee Receiver +-€100,-

This means that I have a cheaper way of doing the same thing. Unfortunately using a Raspberry Pi with a SD card is not the most stable way, so I looked for external storage. And luckily, the Raspberry Pi 4 now (since end of 2020) officialy supports booting from an external USB device. With prices of SSD’s low enough plus the speed advantages and reliability of them, it was a no brainer to go for an SSD. After reading a great blogpost from Jeff Geerling I decided to go for an NVMe SSD. The NVMe SSD had the same price as the SATA 2,5″ SSD I was looking at (Kingston A400) and in case I repurpose the drive, it’s faster too!

This is what I went for:

  • Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB), €59,95
  • Official PoE HAT, € 22,95
  • Kingston A2000 NVMe, €38,99
  • ICY BOX M.2 Case, €39,95
  • Aluminium RPI4 Case, €15,95
  • ConBee II, €30,-
  • Total price: €207,79

It’s not super cheap compared to the Homey Pro I was using, but I will also be using the Raspberry Pi for Pi-Hole and some other applications. On top of the hardware I will be using HomeBridge to expose my Zigbee devices to HomeKit. For automations I will continue to use HomeKit and the Shortcuts app. As soon as all the hardware is in, I will make a step by step guide on how to install it, including some pictures and recommendations.

Raspberry Pi 4

VMware Announces Intent to Acquire Nyansa

On 21st January 2020, VMware announced its intend to acquire Nyansa (“knee-ans-sah”) . This announcement does not completely come out of thin air, as it part of the vision VMware announced back in January 2019:

Revolutionising SD-WAN with Network Edge

Network Edge connects and enables critical functions where the customer requirements for transformation reside — at the Edge of the Enterprise — at the branch, in the cloud, and in the data center..’

With this acquisition, VMware keeps building on its belief that SD-WAN has unlimited potential in supporting technological advancements in the networking world.

So, who is Nyansa?

We’re Nyansa (“knee-ann sah”). It’s a word from the Akan language spoken in Ghana that means wisdom from learning. Go figure. Engineers named the company, what do you expect?

Yeah we’re weird––but wonderfully humble. Unlike a lot of folks, we don’t think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but we ARE wickedly smart.

We dig data, I mean REALLY dig. It’s as simple as that. We have a bunch of PhDs from MIT, and MBA types from Harvard, Cisco/Meraki, Aruba Networks, Google guys and so on and so forth. And we’re as diverse as diverse gets. Despite all that, our geeks know how to code, right, the first time, every time. And it shows. We hope. 

https://www.nyansa.com/company/

“The acquisition of Nyansa will accelerate VMware’s delivery of end-to-end monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities for LAN/WAN deployments within our industry-leading SD-WAN solution,” Sanjay Uppal, VP and GM of VMware’s VeloCloud Business Unit. “Nyansa is a proven solution that solves many of the shortcomings of today’s vendor-specific solutions.”

As you can read, VMware keeps investing in technology to suit their customers and give them the best possible products. And with this acquisition, VMware keeps building towards a better and true SDDC (Software Defined Datacenter).

Additional resources to read:

Diary of a Solution Engineer – Remi Schipperus

My name is Remi Schipperus and I am a VMware Solution Engineer for Healthcare & Education in The Netherlands. Two years ago, I completed my Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Rotterdam in The Netherlands. I was ready for a challenge, and the borders of my home country could not stop me. Joining VMware’s Graduate Academy program was the perfect decision! Fast forward and I am working in the field, in my home country meeting customers every week and speaking at events.

With each day bringing new challenges, being in the field can be a tough but also a very satisfying role, allow me to share with you my diary of a typical week.

Read the full blog here!

VMware Sales Academy 2017 Spotlight Series – Remi Schipperus

When I started at VMware in Cork, Ireland, I wrote a blog to share why I joined VMware.

I’ve always been interested in technology and helping people with technical problems. After working part-time in sales and finishing my Electrical Engineering Degree, I wanted to combine both my technical knowledge and the sales experience. Making the decision to enter the SE Sales Academy was easy because it combines both at a company that is on the edge of technology.

Remi Schipperus

Check out the full blog!

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