DIY HomeKit with Raspberry Pi and Xiaomi Robot Vacuum

Inspired by tweets of Steven Troughten-Smith, people started to experiment with Raspberry Pi’s as DIY HomeBridge devices. One of them is Wojtek Pietrusiewicz. He wrote a nice article which I used as base for this post.

Introduction

I own a Xiaomi Robot Vacuum. This robot can be controlled by the Xiaomi app, however, I don’t like it very much. The idea is to control this robot over HomeKit. To use HomeKit, I use an old Raspberry Pi 1B. The software will be HomeBridge.

Setting up the Pi

Installation and Configuration of Raspbian

Use Etcher to write the image to the SD card. Remount that SD card and add a file called „ssh“ in the root of the mounted partition. This will enable SSH from the beginning so that you can login directly to the Pi. I don’t want to attach a screen or keyboard to that machine so it will only be reachable over the network. Now boot your Pi from this SD card.

Identify the Pi’s IP (e.g. by looking at the network overview in your router). Now connect to that IP with user „pi“. The default password is „raspberry“. Please change the password now with passwd and assign a new user password.

Update everything with apt:

 

Install nodejs 8.9.4

According to Wojtek only this version works currently with HomeBridge. I did not test any other version so I’m just describing what I did on my machine:

  1. Download nodejs for the PI into your users homefolder, e.g. with wget https://nodejs.org/dist/v8.9.4/node-v8.9.4-linux-armv6l.tar.xz
  2. Unpack the file with tar -xvf node-v8.9.4-linux-armv6l.tar.xz
  3. cd node-v8.9.4-linux-armv61
  4. sudo cp -R * /usr/local/
  5. add export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/bin to e.g. ~/.bashrc
  6. node should be now available

Install HomeBridge

  1. Install the necessary libraries: sudo apt-get install libavahi-compat-libdnssd-dev
  2. Install HomeBridge with npm: sudo npm install -g --unsafe-perm homebridge
  3. open /etc/default/homebridge and safe it with this content:
  4. open /etc/systemd/system/homebridge.service and safe it with this content:

Setting up HomeBridge with Xiaomi Robot Vacuum

  1. sudo npm install -g homebridge-xiaomi-mi-robot-vacuum miio
  2. open ~/.homebridge/config.json and safe it with this content:

    Generate a new MAC address separated by : using this website. You’ll need the IP address of your Xiaomi robot as well as the token. There are several ways to get the token. I’ve extracted mine from the iOS backup. Instead of uploading the token I’ve used this command on the token taken from the sqlite database:
  3. Check if everything is working by starting homebridge for the first time. It should show a QR code. If it does, cancel the process with ctrl+c

Automate HomeBridge startup

Adding the HomeBridge to iOS devices

  1. Install the Home app, if you’ve removed it from your device. You can reinstall it from the App store.
  2. Open the Home app and add a new device
  3. If you’ve give the app access to your camera, you can scan the QR code you’ve seen earlier. However, HomeBridge is now running as a daemon in the background so you won’t see that QR code. You can add the bridge manually by using the PIN you’ve set in the config.

Automount network shares on Mac OS for use in iTunes

I’ve moved my iTunes library from my Macbook’s SSD to my Synology NAS on a network share. This is quite easy and can be made inside the iTunes preferences pane. After you’ve changed the path for the iTunes Media, all iTunes managed media will be moved to the new location (assuming you let iTunes manage your files of course :)).

This allows you to have your iTunes library on your Macbook while all the large files are stored on the NAS. This is especially important for larger libraries as well as the newer Macbooks which only have a limited flash drive instead of larger harddisks.

However, there is one important problem with this solution: Once you’ve disconnected from this network share for whatever reasons and you try to start iTunes, you’ll have your iTunes Media folder reset to your user’s music folder on your boot disk. You’ll now need to reset the path to your files again, and this will again cause iTunes to check all files if they are on the right location and moves them if necessary.

I thought I’ve taken care of this problem with auto connecting to the network share with a Login Item. However, this didn’t help me much since I sometimes have disconnections to my network (e.g. when I’m on the road) and the network connection will only be created once during the login of your current user. So this doesn’t help me at all and caused me to look for another better solution.

So I’ve found this gist (the link is dead) and modified it a little bit to my environment. Therefore here’s my short list of modifications for using autofs in combination with AFP or SMB volumes:

If you now start up iTunes again, it will try to locate the media files in the /Volumes/music folder, like I manually specified it. However, autofs will now automatically mount the network share for me and iTunes won’t complain about a missing volume. This way I won’t ever need to take care of manually updating the path once I forgot connecting to my NAS 🙂

Update:
Hm, it seems that the trick with /../Volumes does not work anymore on Mac OS 10.11.4 🙁 If I try to list the content of the mounted volume an error message is returned:

ls: : Unknown error: 118

So I need to mount the volume in a different folder and need to change the path in iTunes again.

Update 2:
I’m not able to mount afp volumes anymore so I’m using smbfs like it is described here. However, this will require a user and password in the configuration file 🙁

Update 3:

Mac OS Sierra breaks the autofs configuration. I had to change it a little bit according to this SuperUser entry. The Gist is updated accordingly.

Update 4:

This still works on Mac OS High Sierra. However, make sure that you enter the credentials correctly and that you spare special characters, according to this blog:

Note: If you have a password longer than 8 characters, or if the password has special characters in it (like “! # $ % & ‘ ( ) * + , – . / : ; & < = > ? @ [ \ ] ^ _ { | } ~”), you may receive a “No locks available” error message and the share will not mount under /home. You will also receive a “No locks available” or similar “Host is down” error if the password is wrong or missing.

I’ve encountered the „No locks available“ today and had an error in my password which blocked the auto mounter from opening the folder.

Forward Kodi/XBMC video information to hyperion on Raspberry Pi

My current network setup allows me only to use small bandwidth connections between the living room (that’s where my Raspberry Pi is used as my Mediacenter) and office (my NAS). However, my Macbook is fast enough and can access the NAS wirelessly, so that I often use it as a replacement for the hardwired Raspberry Pi.

However, I cannot use my Hyperion Ambilight setup behind the TV in combination with the Macbook, because its only connected to the Raspberry Pi. But yesterday I’ve found this plugin which enables the Kodi setup on my Macbook to connect to the Hyperion Server on my Raspberry Pi over network.

  1. Download the zip file with the content of the git repository.
  2. Start Kodi on the Macbook and install it using the add on manager. You can point to the zip file directly without the need to unzip it first.
  3. Configure the installed plugin to connect to the ip of your Hyperion server.
  4. Start a video and be amazed that the lights on your TV will work wirelessly 😉

Office Mac 2011 cannot open files from network folder with home in its name

It’s unbelievable: Microsoft Office Mac 2011 cannot open files from network folders when the share name contains „home“. My Synology NAS uses shared folders for each of its users. The user folders can be reached under the „home“ share and are automatically mapped to the user’s home folder on the Synology. This is the default setting for every new standard setup of Synology NAS.

I’ve tried recently to access an Excel file from my home folder. After double clicking in the Finder, Excel opened with this error message:

Excel File cannot be opened

So it cannot find the file. This is due to a known Office bug that exists now for several years and appears to be still unpatched.

It’s inexplicable how an error of this severity is still unpatched. All my search results suggest me to stop using the home folder and use instead a different name. That’s working for my user, because it has admin rights and can open the „homes“ share with a subfolder to my username. However, not all of the users on my network should have this right.

I only hope that the new Mac Office will address this issue. The currently available preview is pretty unusable and tends to crash when I’m working with network volumes.