Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Using Siri For Home Automation

I've created a Twilio, Node.js mash up that allows me to control appliances and the thermostat in my house using the iPhone 4S's Siri voice recognition.

Here's a demo of turning on my bedroom fan.

How does this work? From Siri to the end result the chain goes:
  1. Siri 
  2. Twilio SMS number
  3. Node web application
  4. Indigo Web Server
  5. Insteon thermostat/appliance

Let's go through the setup in reverse order in more detail.

Insteon and Indigo

I purchased the following items last year from Amazon to add some basic home automation to my house.

I have a Mac Mini I use as a server which is connected to the PowerLinc Modem via USB. The Indigo software communicates two-way with the Insteon devices in my home via the PowerLinc. In addition to a native iPhone app, the Indigo software has both a web interface and RESTful Api you can use to control your devices.

Node.js Web Application

The Node.js application is the middle man between Twilio and the Indigo web server. When Twilio POSTs the incoming SMS message to the Node app, it parses the message and determines the appropriate Api call to make on the Indigo web server. I wrote some semi-fuzzy logic so the phrases you use don't have to be exact.

For hosting the Node app I picked Heroku because it's convenient to use and free.


Setting up Twilio was super easy. I created a Twilio account, purchased a phone number for $1/month, and entered the Url of my Node app that receives the incoming SMS messages.


To make communicating with my Twilio phone number easy I added a contact called "Gladys" (could be anything but I'm a Portal fan) and associated the Twilio number with her.

I can now control my appliances using the following commands:
  • Tell Gladys to set thermostat to 73
  • Tell Gladys to turn off the bedroom fan

I originally wanted to turn this into a public Siri to Url web service, but I question the demand for such a thing considering trying to make this "generic" would take a lot of time. So if you're interested in adding Siri control to your own use case and don't have programming skills, I'm available for hire and can whip you up something to suite your exact needs. ;)

UPDATE 10/28/2011:
Big thanks to technabob for the coverage! He brought up a good point though, this could easily be faked. Here's a screen shot of my Heroku logs with debugging output on the left and Node.js code for the "fuzzy logic" on the right. Not indisputable evidence but I assure you it's working exactly like it does in the video. ;)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Windows 7 Registry Entry to Search All File Contents

If you do a search in Windows 7 you may notice that it didn't find some files that you know contain the search terms you are looking for.
This is due to the What to search setting in Windows Explorer under Folder Options -> Search as pictured below.

If you don't have Always search file names and contents selected Windows will only search the files it has indexed.

You can change the setting using the UI as shown above but you can also set it by changing the following Registry setting (which is useful if you want to programmatically set if for users):



Originally I tried to change the following key based on Scott Forsyth's solution for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 but it didn't work for me on Windows 7:



As a bonus tip, this is how I found where the Windows 7 registry key was.
  1. Open Registry Editor
  2. Right click the registry hive you suspect the setting to be in (usually either HKEY_CURRENT_USER or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE) and select Export and save the .reg file (ex: hklm1.reg)
  3. Change the setting via normal means.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 and save the file with a new name (ex: hklm2.reg).
  5. Use a Diff tool such as the one include with Tortoise SVN or Tortoise Git to search for changes.