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Improve openHAB Rules response time

By default, openHAB only starts 5 threads to deal with execution of Rules. That's not a lot, and if all threads are busy, rules have to wait until a slot is free. This results in slow Rule response time.

This can be improved.

 

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openHAB: Turn display on and off for a Video ChromeCast

After figuring out if a ChromeCast is currently used, it was time to fix a long-standing problem. At home we don't have TVs, just "dumb" displays, and stream content using ChromeCasts. However a video ChromeCast never really turns off, but keeps the display running, using a "Backdrop" app. This app keeps showing pictures on the display when the ChromeCast is not used otherwise, effectively preventing any powersafe mode.

That's both annoying (who wants to have pictures shown in the living room or working room all night), and consumes energy. It's also intentional by Google. So far we had to turn the display on and off manually, which is inconvenient.

 

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openHAB: detect if a ChromeCast is currently used or idle

We have a couple of Audio and Video ChromeCasts in use. For an upcoming project I need to figure out if any of them is currently used. That is different for the Audio and the Video devices: the Audio just goes idle=ON, the Video devices however load the "Backdrop" app and show pictures when idling. Google for whatever reason does not want the attached monitor to go in powersafe mode. So much for saving energy ...

All of the action needs between a few milliseconds and 2-3 seconds once you start/stop using the ChromeCast.

A previous blog post explains how I add the ChromeCast devices. And I have monitoring in place.

 

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Deutscher Wetterdienst notifications in openHAB and Telegram

The "Deutscher Wetterdienst" DWD (German Weather Service) provices a service which sends out alarms for upcoming events, like heavy rain, storm, blizzard, strong winds ect. This service is only available for Germany. And it has a binding for openHAB. Time to integrate this, activate a number of regions I'm interested in, and send notifications to our mobile phones.

At this point I'm really happy that I deploy my openHAB with Ansible, I can use the Template module and loop over the Items, Things and Rules.

The Binding can "track" multiple regions, so called Cell IDs. I'm interested in 4 different Cells (the list is available here), your mileage might vary. For each reagion there can be multiple messages - and although every single example I found only assumes there is only one message (warningCount=1), I already had a situation where a Cell had two warnings. That information likely goes missing if you set warningCount to 1. Given how much configuration overhead it is when you add more channels, I can understand why most examples stay at "1" for warningCount. Doubling the number doubles the number of Items (12 -> 24). However since I deploy everything in a template, that's not a problem here.

I started this with a generous warningCount=5 - and in my templates I just loop from 1 to 5, and over every Cell, and generate all the necessary Things and Rules for every channel.

Ok, the details:

 

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openHAB and Tankerkönig gas prices + Telegram integration

In Germany, every gas station must report gas prices online, to the "Markttransparenzstelle für Kraftstoffe". Businesses and users can then fetch this data and provide services. One of these companies is Tankerkönig, and there's also a Binding for openHAB.

If you are interested in gas prices for certain gas stations, you need to sign up for a (free) API key, and figure out the IDs of the gas stations. For that go to this website, Position the blue marker on the location you are interested in, and then click on all the gas stations you want to include. Finally click on "Tankstellen übernehmen" - this will open a JSON with the data, from there extract the "id" (and possibly the other data as well).

 

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openHAB and Telegram Bot

openHAB 2 comes with a Telegram binding which allows to run a Telgram Bot. This bot can both send messages to users and groups, and can receive commands and respond to them. That's useful: your home automation system can send all kind of details to your mobile phone.

For this to make it work it needs a couple things:

First of all a mobile phone with the Telegram app on it. You can either have the bot message you directly, but this only works for one person. Or you create a group, and have the bot send the messages to the group instead. Find out about the group ID here.

Then you need to create a Telegram Bot. Instructions are available here.

And everything needs to be hooked up in openHAB.

 

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Monitor ChromeCast status in openHAB

I really like to monitor things, to catch issues early on. In our home we have a couple ChromeCasts, both Audio and Video. They are all connected to the openHAB system, Once in a while they stop working, and need to be restarted (unplugged and plugged in again). Unfortunately you usually only find that out when you want to stream something, and wonder why either the ChromeCast does not show up in the device list, or does show up but does not accept the media.

Therefore I decided to monitor the devices in openHAB.

 

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openHAB and HP printer

Recent openHAB versions come with a new HP Printer Binding, which is a big improvement over the more general IPP Binding for printers.

The new binding reads the data from two files which are provided by the printer:

  • http://<printer>/DevMgmt/ProductUsageDyn.xml
  • http://<printer>/DevMgmt/ProductStatusDyn.xml

Let's install that ...

 

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New OpenWeatherMap channels missing after openHAB upgrade from 2.4 to 2.5

A while ago I upgraded openHAB from version 2.4 to 2.5. That comes with the usual share of problems, but eventually I got it working.

For an unrelated project I wanted to use the OpenWeatherMap setup I have to improve the daily weather forecast with icons.

The binding provices ids for the current weather condition and the current weather icon. That can be used to load the icon from the OWM website. Went to my setup and added two new Items:

String	homeCurrentConditionID	"Current condition ID [%s]"	{ channel="openweathermap:weather-and-forecast:home:current#condition-id" }
String	homeCurrentIconID	"Current icon ID [%s]"		{ channel="openweathermap:weather-and-forecast:home:current#icon-id" }

Used Ansible to deploy everything to the Raspberry running openHAB. And then wondered because only the "homeCurrentConditionID" item came online, not the "homeCurrentIconID". After searching around and browsing the community forum, it turns out that the "icon-id" channel is new in 2.5, and will not automatically installed if the OpenWeatherMap binding was already used in 2.4. WT* ...

One has to remove all the OWM things ("openweathermap:weather-api:home" and "openweathermap:weather-and-forecast:home") and reinstall everything, in order to get the new channels working. That is really unexpected, and not user friendly.

After mumbling a while over my options I went ahead, created a new backup, and then removed the two items. One did get stuck along the way, a long Java trace appeared in the logfile, and I had to force remove it. Then - for good measueres - I also uninstalled the binding, and restarted openHAB.

Afterwards I re-deployed my Ansible Playbook, which installs the binding, takes care of the binding configuration, and adds the Things again. After everything came online, the homeCurrentIconID Item is also populated. Why is everything in openHAB so complicated?

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Raspberry Pi watchdog for openHAB

The openHAB display in the kitchen is still the problem child. Occasionally it just stops, other times it does not refresh the HABpanel, even though it has a connection to the openHAB server. Then there is the problem with the network card in the Pi. And - ok, that's a server-side problem - occasionally the weather stops updating. All in all that's a lot of trouble for a display which is just supposed to run standalone.

In the latest iteration I looked into activating the integrated hardware watchdog in the Raspberry Pi. Checking the temperature it never goes above ~55°C celcius, even though the display is in an almost closed frame and can't exchange much heat with the environment. But nevertheless occasionally the Pi just halts, and stops operating.

 

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