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Homebridge and Pi again

It’s been a while since the last post and I have given up on the Homebridge for now.  Alexa is our primary ‘automation’ lady in a can and the majority of our devices work with her.  My whole reason for this battle of futility was to try and get my garage door opener to work with it.  It worked great for 2 days and then it seems that Chamberlain changed something and it stopped.  After reading through various threads and forums, it appears that this is a common problem with MyQ/ Chamberlain/ etc.  At this point, my sanity is worth more than being able to yell about the garage door, so I’ll revert to the app until a better module comes out that is reasonably priced.

Week in Review

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind.  Changed jobs to a company that seems to be a better fit and is known in the area to be a fun, albeit quirk place to work for.  The wife’s company also did one of their Give Back nights at the Durham Bulls, which had a surprisingly good turnout, despite the weather.  They do these events throughout the year and several of them include family, which is starting to become quite rare in this day and age.

pics to come

Homebridge and Pi

Over the past couple years, Alexa has become an integral part of our home.  She turns our lights on and off, plays music and even keeps the kids entertained with her… flatulence.  We are also an Apple house, but don’t use Siri for obvious reasons.  Like most people, having this split brained setup, makes things a little challenging and there is clearly a race for our home technology.

Several years ago, we had bought the MyQ box from Home Depot so we can get that peace of mind that the garage door actually closed, but also open/ close it for family and friends that need to drop things off.  It has worked quite well, without issue, but there is yet another app.  I had often wished that I could ask Alexa to close the garage door at night, or open it when I see the poor UPS guy climbing our driveway with our daily Amazon delivery.

Enter Homebridge.  After listening to the Accidental Tech Podcast on Relay FM, they had started to talk about this and really piqued my interest.  I found this video here and followed it pretty easily.

Some basic steps for Homebridge, from beginning to end:

  1. Buy Raspberry PI.  Can’t help you here, but I’m sure you can figure something out.
  2. Using Etcher (I’m on Macs), I applied the raspian Stretch image and booted the PI
  3. In case you didn’t know it, the Pi no longer has SSH enabled by default and you’ll have to do that yourself.  I would also strongly recommend that you change the default password.
  4. Follow the video linked above

The next part is your plugins.  There are tons of them for most thing that you can imagine.  Since Alexa supported most of my major things (Nest Thermostats, Hue, etc.), my needs were tactical.

I ended up only installing a few plugins.

  • Homebridge-Alexa — this basically allows, whatever is configured for Homebridge, to work with Alexa.
  • Homebridge-Denon — I have a Denon receiver that has an ethernet port, and… why not? I’m must telling Alexa to turn her on and off.  Since the majority of things that we do involve the AppleTV, this saves me from grabbing another remote to just turn on the AVR.
  • Homebridge-Chamberlain — this was actually my main reason for going down this path and involved a few hacks.  I’m not someone who does this stuff, and are just speculating, but it seems the plugin is logging into the Chamerlain (or Liftmaster) website and initiating the open/ close from there.  Unfortunately, when Alexa picks up this device, it things that it’s a light switch with a basic on/ off.  You can setup routines in the Alexa app to basically do something like “Alexa, open the garage door” == “turn on Garage Door”

Here is a sample of my config with some basic stuff obfuscated out:

    "bridge": {
        "name": "Homebridge",
        "username": "AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:FF",
        "port": 51826,
        "pin": "111-11-111"
    "accessories": [
          "accessory": "DenonMarantzAVR",
          "name": "Stereo",
          "ip": "",
          "defaultInput": "DVD",
          "defaultVolume": 55,
          "minVolume": 10,
          "maxVolume": 75,
          "doPolling": true,
          "pollingInterval": 60
      "accessory": "Chamberlain",
      "name": "Garage Door1",
      "username": "MYEMAIL@YAHOO.COM",
      "password": "SUPERSECRETPASSWORD"
    "platforms": [

        "platform": "Alexa",
        "name": "Alexa",
        "username": "myusername",
        "password": "supersecretpassword1234"

More walls and dirt

Here are a few photos that we took in late April to try and document the progress.

Here is a view from the top.  You can somewhat make out the slope that we were trying to correct and clearly see the trash and extra stuff from the lower areas, making their way towards the top.

Here is a pano picture from the lower area, now that the ground is a little more leveled out.  You can also make out part of the upper wall and guess the work that was involved in it thus far.

This is the upper wall.  The pano picture, makes things very weird and scrunches things.  You can see the steps and lights that we put in, so we don’t tumble down them at night.  The new sidewalk can also be seen, but more on that in a future post.

The big dig – part 3

The winter was a little rough and it took me around 2 months to get back out and get working on the wall again.  This shot was taken in March


While the wall was going on, we also started work on a sidewalk to the lower area and crawl space door, planted grass, mixed in around 3 yards of compost and started working on the trees and bushed.  We ended up purchasing several Camelia’s and Green Giants from Broadwell’s Nursery in Angier and got them planted relatively quickly.  Broadwell’s has an awesome selection and the pricing can’t be beat. Our experience has been that, every plant from the “big box” retailers, costs as much as 4 from Broadwell’s. It’s a little bit of a drive, but worth it.

The big dig – part 2

After digging for what seemed like all summer, it was time to start building things back up.  The guys at the Oldcastle store in Youngsville were awesome.  After talking with them, we ended up going with the Diamond 9D for the block and cap. We placed our order of 4 pallets (to start with) and a half pallet of caps to match.  Mulch Masters on Durant was our goto for stone and dirt to build out the base and backfill.


I have a love and hate relationship with my little truck.  It has been bulletproof, and it’s paid for, but the little 4 cylinder engine often seems overloaded.  For the few times that I really need power, it’s well worth the short term limits


The wall ended up going up much slower than planned, due to the need to fill the stones and the backfill.  More pictures to follow for the completed section.

The big dig – part 1

We have been in our current house for about 10 years.  Naive and optimistic on what we could accomplish, we had grandiose plans and thoughts on the things we could do with the house.  We started with the inside and touched every room and redid everything from the flooring, ceiling and walls.  It took us around 3 years for the major parts, and several after that for the finishing touches.

Around a year ago, we finally started the major parts of the backyard.  Several trees were taken out and the fence was repaired, but years of neglect had taken it’s toll and it fell on us to take on the seemingly impossible.  I’m not sure if we captured any before pictures of the backyard, before all of the work started, but I’ll try and dig them up.


These are the first of the pictures that I remembered to take after digging out the initial trench.  The bottom of the hill was always a waste land of poison ivy, leaves and kids toys that no one wanted to retrieve.  This excavation took me about 5 weeks, while working only on Saturday’s and the occasional Sunday. Of course, with my infinite wisdom, I decided to take this on in the middle of the summer.