Home Automation Mix-and-Match

This week I got a Wio Link prototype from a friend at Seeed Studio. It is an ESP8266-based little Internet of Things board with 6 Grove connectors for easy device connectivity, wifi networking, and controlled over an app & the Internet. For a quick project I wanted to hook it up with Home Assistant, an open source home automation platform that I read a lot about lately. The main focus was to have a first impression of both parts, and build up some experience for future, more serious projects.

The target solution: light up an LED if a particular person is at home location. Sort of a basic alarm system, though notice that the location of the LED was not mentioned – it can actually be anywhere in the world, as long as there’s Internet connectivity.

I’ve used the Wio Link, a Grove LED light, an Olimex OLinuXino Lime2 board running ArchLinux for the server, and a Buffalo router with DD-WRT system installed.

Wio Link

Wio Link was introduced in Seeed’s Kickstarter campaign, where they have raised more than 8x of their original target. It looks like a neat little board, and was happy to try out when I got my hands on one.

Their wiki page has quite a bit of information, so it was easy to get started. Connect to power, hold down the configure button till the LED lights up in a “breathing” pattern, connect through their Wio Link app, set up the wireless network settings and so on. Once connected, can define what kind of devices are attached to the board, and it looks like most of Grove devices are represented there. I only had a Grove LED at hand, so added it (“Generic Digital Output”), updated it, which created a new firmware and pushed onto the device.

Wio Link setup process (left to right): add device, update firmware, check status
Wio Link setup process (left to right): add device, update firmware, check status

The first update took a couple of minutes, but it’s pretty straightforward. The device then also has an API link, which brings up a web page with all the options to query, control, and reset the attached accessories (in my case that’s the one digital output).

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Scratch Your Robot Itch

Recently I’ve been experimenting with the Scratch programming language, created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT. It’s a fun environment that uses visual programming: drag-and-drop pieces of code blocks, and control objects on a stage, and the stage itself. It has quite a bit more depth to it, than the expression “visual programming language” implies, with it’s internal messaging system, multitasking, and event-driven approach. While it was originally aimed at creating interactive graphics and animations (see this TEDx talk by Prof. Mitch Resnick on the background), it is now evolving into new territories with the Scratch Experimental Extensions.

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First Week of Supply Chain Course is Already Getting the World Naked

I’m taking a few online courses every now and then since the awesome experience a few years back with Stanford’s hattrick of courses. I finish more seldom than I’d like it, but definitely learn a lot along the way. The latest one that has started this week is MIT’s Supply Chain Fundamentals course on edX, and it is already shaping up shaping up to be very influential, both in terms of to be a better professional (though at first it looks like I have very little to do directly with supply chains), and in general on how to view the world. To capture this feeling of magic when a piece of knowledge is new and this useful, I take stock here on the concepts and connections I’ve made, just after Week One.

Concepts and Connections

I’m not trying to be exhaustive, merely highlight the most “sticky” and immediately useful ideas I’ve picked up.

Push and Pull processes, the former when products are made in anticipation of demand (to a forecast), the latter when products are made in a response to demand . Pre-packaged sandwiches are example of “push”, while Subway’s sandwiches are “pull”. The former speeds things up for customers but adds forecasting and inventory burden, while the latter increases variety but adds time to fullfillment. It is important that I can play with adjusting my processes to make them “more push” or “more pull” to improve on the outcome I seek.

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Year in Review and Preview 2015/2016

Looks like I haven’t done a yearly review last year, the latest one on the blog is from the end of 2013. That’s surprising, but then it’s even more pressing to take stock of 2015 and set up the coming year.

2015 – Results

This year have seen a long trip to Europe in February (Hungary, Prague, Vienna) which definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things that I probably should have understood back in high school (especially regarding history). On the other hand, I was a visitor back in my home country Hungary too, and tried a bunch of things that I have never tried when I lived there before, been there with different eyes (and would love to spend more time home again too).

The rest of the year was spent here in Taiwan, on small trips all around the north and east coast, and around Taipei City.  A lot can fit into day trips, and it is fun to mix popular places with off the beaten track.

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Language of the Month: Rust, the results

Every now and then I do a “Language of the Month” feature when I spend one month to learn a new programming language. This last month in November I’ve spent with Rust, and it’s time to take stock. Will look at the impression I had in this short time, show one project that I get done in Rust, and some ideas what I’d like to do with Rust in the future!


According to my time log, I have spent about 20 hours this month learning Rust. That’s way too little to have a good understanding, but definitely enough to have some educated guesses (and excitement, and horror , as appropriate). This time I’m generally very impressed as Rust comes across as indeed a very modern and smart language, although that modernness is mostly in the tooling and non-essential parts. It is also changing very quickly, for good and bad. Here are some, admittedly subjective and incomplete list of observations. Good is what I like, Bad what’s less nice IMHO, and Ugly is what’s imperfect or confusing (at this stage of my Rust learning):


It’s great to see that documentation is a not an afterthought, but a core part, that is making use a lot of modern development experience. Having a standard way to include example code in docstrings and actual tests are run on them to make sure the examples are also up-to-date with the code is a very cool concept. Also being able to auto-generate HTML documentation from the code is probably going to be standard in most new languages (I think Go does that also, and other languages have gained similar optional tools)

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