Envoi Progress

There has been a substantial amount of progress made on the Envoi Project.  The setup page is now completely functional and requires users to complete the setup prior to using the platform.  Other things included are:

  • Password encryption using Argon2i (requires PHP 7.2)
  • Proper password verification for sessions
  • Upgrade to Bootstrap 5 (alpha)
  • User settings manipulation
  • Dynamic HTML class for page creation (work in progress, but functional)
  • Admin panel functionality
  • CRUD model for posts (Create, Remove, Update, and Delete)
  • All posts are sorted and posted on the main page

While there is a long road ahead, the baseline is coming together very nicely.  My goal is to clean up the backend, get the admin panel completed, and begin the API integration very soon.

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Envoi Project

I have started working on something that I think is interesting.  There aren't enough flat-file blogging platforms around that support full integration with social media.  I have decided to create my own version of this with the Envoi Project.  This project is currently hosted on GitHub, but will soon have its own website.

The Envoi Project is planned to be a flat-file blog that simultaneously shares your content across all of your social media.  I am also attempting to keep a simple approach to requirements and languages.  I have opted to stick with PHP, JavaScript, and Bootstrap's CSS.  The only requirement so far is an Apache webserver.  As for the content, Envoi will categorize your posts into 6 different types (text, photo, video, link, quote, file).  I felt that these are the core reasons that people blog, so by creating types, this will help narrow down the social media sharing experience and focus on getting the right content onto the right platform.

The idea is to focus on centralized content sharing.  No matter what type of team or group you are trying to share, you will be able to reach everyone with a single post.

Another huge topic I want to focus on is security.  Since you will be syncing your social media with Envoi, securely storing your credentials is very important.

The project is in an infancy stage at the moment, but I am hoping to gain some traction soon and get a working project released before the end of the year.

If you are interested, follow the project at GitHub.

Envoi Screenshot

Getting Bludit Working with Lighttpd

Lighttpd is one of the lightweight web servers that is fairly easy to install and get running.  I like it because it seems secure and the configuration files are straight forward and easy to understand.  One drawback is that there doesn't seem to be much support as Nginx and Apache are the more recognized and supported web servers.

If you've stumbled upon this, you are probably looking for a way to get your Bludit install working properly with Lighttpd.  The solution was fairly simple;  There have been a few forum posts and other support posts I found, but all of them seemed to vary just a little and nothing seemed to work properly.  So here is one more solution that will hopefully help.

$HTTP["host"] =~ "(^|\.)YOURSITE.COM$" {
   server.document-root = "/srv/http/location/",
    url.rewrite-once = ( ".*\.(php|txt|json)$" => "/" ),
    url.rewrite-if-not-file  = ( ".*\?(.*)" => "/index.php?$1", "." => "/index.php" )

The highlighted sections are the only things you will have to change.  This is assuming that your configuration is configured properly.

Getting Thing in Order

I am currently getting things in order.   Wordpress wasn't cutting it so I am trying to something new;  A flat file approach with no database.  I will be converting the SQL database from the old site soon, so my content should be online in the near future. 

OpenHab2 Rules to Control Roku

One of the most recent features I've discovered with OpenHab2 is its ability to execute shell commands. With this ability, you can easily send commands to Roku. If you don't know, Roku can be issued commands via HTTP (using their External Control Protocol). So, if you'd like to open apps, hit play/pause or go home, you can simply use curl or wget to issue these commands. You can control this by adding these commands to a rule that corresponds to a switch item. If you make these items "Switchable", then you can control them via Google Assistant.

I had to do a little more work with Google routines so that I could trigger these switches with various different commands. This allows a more natural conversation.

In order to get this working, you need to create the Items and the Rules.

The /etc/openhab2/items/home.items should include these switches. (If you would like to expand your list, just add the switches here.)

Switch          roku_home               "Roku Home"             ["Switchable"]
Switch          roku_playPause          "Roku PlayPause"        ["Switchable"]
Switch          roku_netflix            "Roku Netflix"          ["Switchable"]
Switch          roku_plex               "Roku Plex"             ["Switchable"]
Switch          roku_hbo                "Roku HBO"              ["Switchable"]
Switch          roku_amazon             "Roku Amazon"           ["Switchable"]
Switch          roku_hulu               "Roku Hulu"             ["Switchable"]

At the bottom of your /etc/openhab2/rules/home.rules file, add these rules. Make sure they correspond with the appropriate Item or you will have random things opening.

rule "Roku On"
                Item    roku_home       received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

rule "Roku PlayPause"
                Item roku_playPause     received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

rule "Roku Netflix"
                Item roku_netflix       received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

rule "Roku Amazon"
                Item roku_amazon        received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

rule "Roku Plex"
                Item roku_plex  received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

rule "Roku Hulu"
                Item roku_hulu  received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

rule "Roku HBO"
                Item roku_hbo   received command ON
                executeCommandLine("curl -d ''")

For the list of links, there are two ways to obtain the app ID that you are trying to launch; You can either return the information with curl or wget, or just trust the internet. As stated on Roku's ECP documentation, using the following curl command in a shell will render the app ID. (note: the id attribute that corresponds to the app Title. id 12 is Netflix).

$ curl
<app id="12" type="appl" version="4.1.218">Netflix</app>

The last thing I did was make this easier for me to talk to Google. If you have the Google Home app installed on any of your devices, then you can create routines. Custom routines allow you to add custom commands that trigger events. Below are some screenshots of example routines that I've created. You will have to make sure all of the applicable Google Home/Assistant setup and integrations are in place to utilize this feature. Setting up Google Assistant is a fairly simple process; follow these instructions.

After you've completed this, then you just need to ask Google to "sync my devices" and you are all set. I'd restart the Openhab service to make sure that all changes stick.

Home Automation with OpenHab2 on Arch Linux

Home Assistant is a great automation system for some features, but after a while, it left me wanting more.  Additionally, with all of the updates, I felt like the HA team was really putting a focus on the implementation of Raspberry Pi's and not a "traditional" computer.  While customizations were nice, they left a lot to be desired.

So, I set out to find another solution that would conform to my wants in home automation.  Openhab was really the only other solution.  A great benefit to Openhab was the app interface on Android and iOS and the security.  Additionally, there isn't a charge for "cloud" functionality.

The installation was fairly simple;

$ yaourt -S openhab2

Everything seemed to be set up out of the box and OpenHab documentation was very easy to follow along. Most of the configuration files are located in /etc/openhab2/ and are pretty easy to understand.

There are two basic elements that capture objects within your automation network; Items and Things. Then you have Rules and Sitemaps. Rules are self-explanatory and provide specific automation triggers based on events that occur. Sitemaps are how you display your items (switches, toggles, sliders, etc). The last thing is Bindings which is OpenHab's method of connecting and communicating with devices. For instance, if you want to have support for Samsung TV's, then you would add the samsungtv binding. There are various ways of enabling your things, but the best way I have found is to enable that binding in /etc/openhab2/services/addon.cfg. Things typically won't work until the binding has been enabled.

binding = chromecast, exec, network, ntp, samsungtv, systeminfo, weather1, astro

Things are the actual devices that you want to use, for instance, smart bulbs, smart plugs, televisions, weather sites, astrological tracking, etc. Think of the stuff you purchase. (more here)

Items are the digital version of things and where all of the automation happens. You place items into your sitemaps so that you can manually control your things. If your smart TV is the "thing" then your associated items are the volume, power, input, etc. (more here)

Here are some basic configurations for things and items that are associated with each other.


Thing  tplinksmarthome:hs103:dining_f_lamp "Dining Room Floor Lamp"    @ "First Floor"     [ ipAddress="" ]


Switch     dining_f_lamp   "Dining Room Floor Lamp"        <light>       (devices, lights, diningRoom)   ["Switchable"]  {channel="tplinksmarthome:hs103:dining_f_lamp:switch"}

Looking at the -thing- first, the binding is "tplinksmarthome", the device type is "hs103" and the name is "dining_f_lamp". I have given a digestible name of "Dining Room Floor Lamp" to make it easier to incorporate with Google. After the @ sign, is the location and the ipAddress is pretty self-explanatory.

Now, looking at the Item, I have declared a switch that aligns with the thing. I have mirrored the label name (which is in " "), added it as a light for the icon (which is in < >) and also added it to groups ( which is in ( )). The switchable tag ( in [ ]) makes it viewable by Google so that I can control it with Google Home. Lastly, I have created a binding channel that encapsulates and associates the Item to the Thing as a switch.

The last piece to cover is the Sitemaps. In order to control this new switch in the app of the web interface, you need to add a sitemap and frame to list your items.

sitemap home label="Home" {
    Frame label="Quick Light Controls" {
        Switch  item=dining_f_lamp  label="Dining Room Lamp"

The sitemap is pretty straight forward. One thing to keep in mind, all of your configs must have the same name as sitemap in order to work properly. For instance;
- home.items
- home.things
- home.rules
- home.sitemap
All of these will be part of the initial sitemap labeled "home".

The frame will visually bundle your items together so that you can keep things organized and clean. And, as you can see, the Switch added is the dining_f_lamp (item) and it has a label.

In a nutshell, the configuration is very simple yet leaves room for growth and complexity where needed. In another post, I will start going over astronomical tracking for sunrise and sunset tracking and weather patterns. These two are perfect for the automation aspect.