Friday, January 5, 2024

Mastering Home Network Security: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fortify Your DNS with Pi-Hole and Raspberry Pi Across Multiple VLANs

Recently, I delved into the realm of setting up secure DNS for our home network, aiming to encrypt DNS requests en route to the name server. Unfortunately, Unifi lacks support for secure DNS (neither DoH nor DoT). To address this, I decided to explore the installation of Pi-hole on a Raspberry Pi at home.

However, the standard Pi-Hole install for Raspberry Pi required additional setup steps on my network. Firstly, Pi-hole lacks built-in support for secure DNS, necessitating an additional configuration. Secondly, the default Raspberry Pi lacked VLAN support, prompting me to configure it to function seamlessly within our network.

Raspberry Pi and Pi-hole Setup

I began by installing the Raspberry Pi OS Lite 64-bit on the Raspberry Pi, intending to use it as a headless device on the network. Once the operating system was installed and updated, I proceeded to install Pi-hole. This was a straightforward process, thanks to Pi-hole's automated installation script.

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

Setting up DNS over HTTPS for Pi-hole

To ensure secure DNS, I followed the instructions on the Pi-hole site to configure cloudflared, allowing DNS requests to be made over HTTPS. Once configured, Pi-hole forwards requests to cloudflared, which handles DNS requests securely.

Enabling Support for Multiple VLANs

While Pi-hole successfully handled requests for the native network, extending its support to other VLANs posed a challenge. Instead of opting for solutions involving firewall rule modifications to permit VLAN requests to the native network, I chose to ensure the Raspberry Pi could seamlessly join the VLAN networks I intended to use Pi-hole on.

Following the instructions on this page for enabling VLAN support on the Raspberry Pi, I configured an interface for each VLAN I wanted the Pi-hole to respond on.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Revolutionizing Air Quality Monitoring: How I Upgraded Our System with Mila Integration for Smart Home Automation

In this blog post, I explained how I set up an air quality monitoring system for our neighborhood. With this setup, we can keep an eye on the air quality outside our home. However, this monitoring system is somewhat passive because I need to manually check the air quality and take actions accordingly, such as turning on the HVAC fan to filter and circulate the indoor air.

I considered using the standard Home Assistant integration for Purple Air, but it shares the same drawback as the Magic Mirror integration in terms of API usage limitations. I wanted to avoid an integration that might eventually become unreliable due to API quota limits.

Recently, we purchased Mila connected air filters. These filters not only measure the air quality in the rooms where they're installed but also allow you to select a sensor for neighborhood air quality in the Mila application. Within a month of setting up our Purple Air monitor, I was able to choose it as the neighborhood air quality sensor in the Mila application. This feature enables the Mila filters to determine the relative differences in air quality between the indoors and outdoors.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Silencing the Breeze: Upgrading Legion Network Racks for Whisper-Quiet Performance

In our home, we utilize a couple of Legion 18 network racks. These particular 18U network racks are designed to be compact, making them suitable for placement in closets or offices. Additionally, they come equipped with built-in cooling features, specifically two 120mm fans located at the top of the rack.

However, while the built-in cooling is a valuable feature, I couldn't help but notice that the noise generated by the fans can be quite noticeable, particularly in quieter environments. One of the main reasons for this is that the fan speed is fixed; there's only an on/off switch available. Consequently, you can either turn the fans off entirely or run them at their default, relatively loud speed. This limitation led me to seek out replacement fans for the rack.

Stock fans from the Legion 18 network rack

After conducting some research, I decided to opt for the AC Infinity Rack ROOF Fan Kit. This kit includes two 120mm fans that can be connected to a provided fan controller, which, in turn, connects to a power source. The fan controller offers precise control over the fan speed, allowing for quieter operation.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Unveiling the Air We Breathe: A Journey through Air Quality Monitoring and Insights

In light of the California wildfires over the past few years and our recent move to the Midwest, I've developed a strong interest in monitoring the air quality at our home. The same curiosity was sparked by the presence of smoke from the Canadian wildfires. To fulfill this interest, I've been utilizing PurpleAir, a platform that provides insight into the current air quality around our residence. One of the notable features of PurpleAir is its ability for community air quality monitors to share their data with a broader audience.

Upon relocating to this new area and wanting to stay informed about the air quality in our neighborhood, I delved into the data offered by PurpleAir. Unfortunately, the nearest sensor is situated more than a mile away and operates within a different micro-climate, which could influence the accuracy of the air quality measurements.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Unleashing Home Automation Magic: From Zigzagging with SkyConnect to Soaring with Hubitat

In a previous blog entry, I delved into the fascinating realm of leveraging SkyConnect to interconnect my Zigbee devices with my home automation system. While it seemed like a walk in the park to incorporate Zigbee devices into my Home Assistant setup, I'm here to shed light on some rather unfortunate downsides that cropped up during this experiment.

The crux of the issue lay in the somewhat petite antenna housed within the SkyConnect. This pint-sized component led to a rather finicky connection experience with my Zigbee devices. You wouldn't believe the number of times my sensors and switches decided to take an impromptu leave of absence from the Zigbee network. The result? Automation hiccupped, leaving me high and dry without the expected triggers. And on those rare occasions when triggers managed to sneak through, the devices decided to play hard to control.

Now, let's talk about compatibility woes. The SkyConnect supports just Zigbee and Thread protocols. That might not be a deal-breaker, but here's the rub: I've got a fair share of Z-Wave devices I'm not ready to part with. The grand plan was to simplify my smart home's intricate web, and adding yet another system into the mix for handling the Z-Wave network just didn't tickle my fancy. One system to connect the low-powered wireless devices—that was the dream.

But wait, there's more! Compatibility gremlins struck again. A number of devices I attempted to pair with the SkyConnect ended up being flaky, where they periodically dropped off the network. It's like the functionalities were playing a game of hide and seek. Here's the kicker—I yearned for a system where either the company had its act together or a thriving community would come to the rescue, waving magic wands in the form of drivers to unlock those missing functions.

Introducing Hubitat

Now, hold onto your seats, because after some serious deep diving, I stumbled upon a hero in the home automation arena—Hubitat. Picture this: an automation hub that flaunts wireless radios tuned in to not just Zigbee, but also Z-Wave and a bunch of other protocols. Say adios to the single-protocol constraint; Hubitat had my attention.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Unveiling the Journey: From Tempest Weather Station to Magic Mirror - A Triumph in Weather Data Integration

Some time back, I shared my experience with the Tempest Weather Station, a fantastic tool that keeps us informed about the weather conditions at our home. This has been remarkably invaluable during the more extreme weather events this summer.

However, it's important to note that having the weather station installed is only half the battle; making the data accessible is what truly enhances its usefulness. A while ago, I implemented a solution in the form of a Magic Mirror – a project I undertook to display various helpful information for our household. The base software for the Magic Mirror incorporates weather data display capabilities, with OpenWeatherMap as the primary weather provider. Nonetheless, we encountered an issue with the data accuracy from this provider, as its temperature readings consistently skewed higher than the actual temperatures at our location.

The built-in weather module does allow for alternative weather providers, leading me on a quest to figure out how to funnel the weather data from our Tempest Weather station to one of these providers for display on the mirror. The Tempest Weather station supports data export to Weather Underground in the stock setup. However, the built-in weather module lacked the capability to interpret data from Weather Underground.

Discovering WeeWX

Since the stock weather module already integrated support for OpenWeatherMap, I decided to send the Tempest's weather data to OpenWeatherMap. However, given that this functionality wasn't native to the Tempest, I stumbled upon WeeWX – a project designed to collect data from various weather stations and present it on a customizable dashboard. Additionally, WeeWx offered the functionality to export data to local and cloud-based weather providers.

Despite WeeWx's broad compatibility with different weather stations, it didn't inherently support the Tempest Weather Station. But, taking advantage of WeeWX's plugin architecture, a solution emerged through the creation of the weatherflow-udp plugin. This clever plugin intercepted the UDP packets transmitted by the Tempest, effectively capturing and recording the data.

Once I successfully integrated the Tempest data into WeeWx, the next challenge was to export this data to OpenWeatherMap. Given that direct support wasn't available, my search led me to the weewx-owm plugin, facilitating weather data export to OpenWeatherMap. After setting up the plugin, I was able to transfer the weather data to OpenWeatherMap.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Mastering the Upgrade: Overcoming Challenges in Replacing Light Switches in Our Century-Old Home


Over the past few days, I've been immersed in the task of replacing the light switches in our century-old house with Lutron light switches and dimmers. As mentioned in a previous post, this endeavor has not been without its hurdles due to the house's age and multiple previous owners. In this article, I will outline the problems I encountered during the installation process and share the solutions I discovered.

Dealing with 3-Way Lights

In certain areas of our home, such as stairways or hallways, we have light switches located at both ends to provide convenience and ensure visibility while moving about. Although Lutron supports 3-way switch setups, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

Load-Managing Switch

Lutron's instructions for configuring 3-way switches assume a direct connection between the Lutron switch or dimmer and the load. When working on an installation where the circuit's wiring is uncertain, it becomes crucial to test the wiring during the installation process.

To tackle this, I removed the switches from the wall and used a voltage tester to determine which switch was linked to the power source and which one was directly connected to the load. Armed with this knowledge, I followed Lutron's instructions and replaced the switch that was directly connected to the load, successfully following the provided directions.

Mastering Home Network Security: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fortify Your DNS with Pi-Hole and Raspberry Pi Across Multiple VLANs

Recently, I delved into the realm of setting up secure DNS for our home network, aiming to encrypt DNS requests en route to the name server....