Smart Home DIY on a tight budget

After twenty years of reading about smart homes I decided to finally make mine smart(-ish) as well. I’m working to reuse as much of existing infrastructure, so I can spend as little as possible.

At the moment my system consist of:
* hub
* four google assistant speakers
* hive thermostat
* cctv camera
* two electric switches
More will follow shortly (they are on their way from China).

The hub

My hub is based on QNAP NAS TS-453A, which I had already. I wouldn’t buy it just for that, Raspberry Pi would work as well. This NAS drive runs a QTS operating system, which is basically a linux machine with very convenient web UI. Among many features it offers a “Container Station”, which is a docker subsystem with large set of packages ready to install. I’m running two:
* Home Assistant – opens source hub for home automation hass.io
* Eclipse Mosquitto – MTQQ broker working as a transport layer between switches and the hub

Note: the container station offers three ways to connect the docker deployed apps to the network. I’m using the “Host” mode, which mean the apps are binding directly to the network interface of the NAS. You want to set it as such, so the devices on the network can easily connect to both apps.

Google assistants

Home Assistant is available as a service for Google Assistant. There’s currently a limited set of accepted commands – currently they support lights and thermostat only. Hass.io service in assistant directory.

All switches/lights can be renamed from Google Home app on Android.

Switches

I’m using cheapest Sonoff Basic switches (less than £4 on Banggood) flashed with custom firmware Sonoff-Tasmota.

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[solved] Mac OS X PPTP VPN connects, but not forward traffic goes through

Most hotel wifis are open, so to secure my connections I’ve set up myself a PPTP VPN using QNAS TS-453A box (btw. great machine, get one!) to tunnel all my traffic via encrypted connection.

Windows 10 and Android are connecting to the VPN and the traffic goes smoothly, but my Mac OS X El Captain caused me quite a bit of grief – it connected to the VPN without a problem, the internal connections were working great, but the forwarding traffic got stuck. Ping was working fine, but WWW did not. Some initial parts of first website were loading and then the connection got stuck.

Cause:

The issue was caused by MTU mismatch. It seems that NAT on VPN server adds some headers, which cause the packet to be to big and get rejected.

Solution:

Go to apple->system preferences->network-><your connection>->advanced->hardware and set MTU to Custom with packet size 1400 instead of default 1500. You may want to experiment to find maximum MTU value that works for you.

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