Smart Home Networking

*Note. This post started out as a regular journal entry but then ended up a home networking post.

The time is 6:09 AM on Saturday December 21st, 2019. I always wake up early, usually around 3:30, 4:00 AM. When I do the decision has to be made if I should actually get out of bed or go back to sleep. In recent weeks I’ve been able to get out of bed easily and get a lot accomplished in the morning.

The early morning is my favorite time because it seems the whole world is at peace. There is only the sound of the wind and waves outside and inside everything is still and calm.

This time of year is also one of my favorites. It is when many of my customers shut down and so there is very little work to be done if at all. I have never felt the need to take PTO this time of year because there really isn’t much to do so why waste perfectly good PTO? The main part of my job is to engage with corporate customers and I certainly am not going to contact them when nobody wants to be contacted right now. Yesterday, I received approximately two e-mails and so I used the time to get a lot of chores done that needed doing.

I cleaned the fish tanks, fixed a gap where rainwater could come into the garage, took delivery of the new oven and set it up, set up the new Nest Protect alarm and organized old papers and files in my office.

I always think that the holidays are going to be a relaxing time where I could just sit in my office/shed, read, write, and reflect on life. However, I am always proved wrong and the time actually becomes busier than usual. In addition to the work holiday party there was a school concert, The Nutcracker which a family friend was in, karate holiday party, customers getting things in at the last minute, and plenty of unforeseen chores.

One item that was definitely unforeseen was the need for a new stove as I broke the old one. It was definitely a hard lesson for me and one I’m still a bit in disbelief about. I had wanted to repair one of the igniters that wasn’t functioning and opening up the top learned just how cheaply made insides of ovens can be. Looking inside I saw that I’d have to replace the entire ignition control which controlled all four igniters. There was simply no way to unplug the one igniter and by a new one as all igniters were attached to the control with some sort of hardened gel. Even though it looked to be an extremely cheap part, it was a specialty part only available from the manufacture so of course they would gouge on price. One of those would be $80 – $100.

But the igniter wasn’t the part I broke. Just by opening up the top of the stove, not one, but two of the gas lines that go from the regulator to the burner cracked. They are made of metal and I learned how brittle those things become and how easily cracks appear at the bend points. A cracked gas line is nothing to try and fix and so looking for a replacement things only got worse.

I had thought I could easily find a flexible gas line on Amazon but no. I had to study the oven diagram and found what I needed but then there was another problem. The picture of the part had two threaded ends where the lines I just pulled out of the stove had a threaded male ending and a nut on the other end. All sources of information were giving me the wrong part, even when I called the manufacturer directly. Those operators aren’t oven designers, they are just looking up parts the same way I am on the internet!

So now, even if I did find something on the internet it would be generic, cost a lot of money and most likely take three weeks to ship. If I called a repairman it would be the same scenario above but with the added $300 or so on top due to labor costs. It was then I knew a new stove was the only logical answer. But when I explained to my wife and she chatted with her friends it was just “husband tried to repair the stove and broke it.” Explaining that this really wasn’t my fault is pointless,,,, the husband tried to fix something and he broke it.

We now have a Samsung Flex Duo and I owe the credit card company an additional $2,600. We went with the more expensive model as it is the appliance we use most and the new functionalities such as a powerful 22K BTU burner, dual ovens and wifi connectivity are great.

I’d like to say something about the connectivity piece since home networking is still very new and can be very clunky. Home networking can be done by a monkey IF all of the devices are from the same manufacturer. However, Google does not make TVs, washing machines or stoves and Samsung isn’t Google, so this means connectivity isn’t going to be seamless. I’ve learned that even if Google supports a manufacturer’s products, all of the products do not integrate with Google Home. Not even all products by Google integrate with Google Home (Next Protect currently does not).

When we were looking at the ovens another model advertised that it worked with Google Assistant. However, it was the cheaper model and we wanted the more expensive Samsung. I have a Samsung phone and know their Smart Things will work with the stove but would the stove work with Google? As it turns out it currently does not. I have connected Smart Things to Google and Google Home can easily see our Samsung T.V. but it does not give you the option to integrate the stove even though upon linking up it tells me there are three devices (T.V., stove and my phone) that are available. Upon connection I can only see and control the T.V. from Google.

I guess that really isn’t a big deal as it could be a safety issue and Smart Things will give us the control and notifications we want. But while I’m griping another issue with Google Home is that even when they do support another manufacturer you often have to tell Google Assistant to “talk to manufacturer X.” Then a different voice from manufacturer X will come on and ask what you need. That is an extra step that makes simply pressing a button (the old fashion way) more convenient than a voice command.

One example of this as well as good one to illustrate frustration is the MyQ garage door app. I have a Craftsman which abandoned their own app for MyQ. In the forums there is a lot of frustration in actually getting it to work and I understand their pain. Older folks like to read manuals and if they follow the manual then they should be able to get something to work. Well, with apps, tech, updates and so on the manuals are only about 70% helpful and there are plenty of pitfalls. It took me about 3 hours to get MyQ working with my garage door because there was some sort of trick, or weird anomaly in the process. I’ve forgotten what I did but yes, it was really frustrating.

MyQ is in partnership with Amazon to allow the delivery person to put your package in your garage. The deliveryman will receive a one time code to open and shut the garage door. I’m trying this out today although we’ve never had a problem with package theft, it still caused me anxiety when I ordered expensive things and they were left on my porch when I wasn’t home. Now I can have the anxiety of a delivery person stealing things out of the garage, or going into my home or not shutting the garage door! Well, I’ll start locking the door from the garage to the house and perhaps that will help things a little.

Let me get back to the stove for a bit as there was another frustration. Since my old stove broke so easily I wanted to make sure I registered the stove with Samsung. However, they don’t provide any materials with the manual explaining where to go and what to do. OK, no problem, I’ll just go to their website. But the website told me my model number wasn’t correct even though it was. I learned that I had to go to a separate website entirely and the “Model Code” is not the same thing as the “Model Number.” Now I like computers and am determined to figure something out when I put my mind to it. But it took me about 30 minutes to figure out how to get my stove registered with Samsung so I would imagine that 90% of purchasers will not successfully register their appliance with Samsung. The process isn’t streamlined and they really should only have one website when registering a product and put a card with the instructions letting people know how to register!

One other unexpected chore was that I need a new flapper for our toilet. It seems when it rains it pours and when one thing breaks so will three more other things at the same time. Our toilets are not wifi connected (unfortunately) but we do have the high-tech Toto washlets! 🙂 Thank God it wasn’t the electronics that broke but the low-tech flapper. I ordered another from Amazon and it is this cheap flapper I’m using as the test run for the Amazon/MyQ garage delivery. Can you imagine if I ended up getting all the stuff in my garage (or home!) stolen because I had a flapper delivered in my garage?

The other thing that almost broke (again) and is much more scary is my main computer. It is about 10 years old now and there appears to be a loose connection somewhere inside. Sometimes the monitor won’t come on and sometimes Windows will freeze upon loading. If I open it up, blow out the dust and push on all the connections I can get it working again. One of these days, if I ever have any spare money it would be nice to replace that old desktop with a powerful laptop. I do not see any extra money for such an expense in my near future… but at least my wife is happy with the new stove!

OK, wife and son are up now and my peaceful morning time is over. Time to end this post.

*Note: I’ve seen some chatter from people older than I about how home networking is dangerous! They have the idea some nasty hacker is going to come to your house and using his high tech hacking tools will open your door and then proceed to steal all your stuff!!! Yea right. It is still much more effective just to bring a hammer and crowbar I’m afraid. If you’re worried about high-tech theft then better to worry about all the highly personal information we are giving Google. That should definitely keep you up at night much more than a hacker coming to steal your stuff!!! Better for the “hackers” to just scare you by saying they have video of you watching porn and to send them Bitcoin if you don’t want it released to everyone you know. Good thing I’ll be rich enough to buy them all off just as soon as my Nigerian prince deposits $10 million in my bank account!

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/