I have finally cut the cord with Xfinity after more that 15 years as a customer first of the Comcast Cable TV service when they swapped markets (DFW/Houston) with Time Warner Cable in 2007, adding Internet and then cutting Cable TV and finally dropping the Internet service all together. I also used them in both Atlanta and Mountain View when I spent time living there. As with many subscribers, the cable TV service was bundled in such a way that there were many channels my wife and I never watched. And, it cost a lot. The Internet service also cost a lot until other options became available (fiber providers like Google Fiber and others cost much less per Megabit). Today, they are faced with challenges from wireless providers like T-Mobile, Verizon and even AT&T. I use T-Mobile 5G Home Internet today. More on how I use it will come in another blog post. Ultimately, Xfinity deployed more speed and improved support for customers owning their own equipment (as I do) and was an early supporter of IPv6 for dual stack support at home. However, my main problem with the Xfinity Internet service was how geolocation failed to work properly when I watched MLB.TV. I realize that geolocation is a thorny problem, but I know that other services I tested (T-Mobile and Verizon are two) have the same problem that I could not get reliably solved when using Xfinity. You can look geolocation problems up in the Xfinity community forums or do a Google search if you want to know more. I am happy to try them again the future once it is clear these problems have been fixed for good.
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
I configured my first Matter-compatible devices today. Matter is the new smart home standard that fosters local control and interoperability, both of which are important features. In my case, I wanted to create a smart plug strip using smart plugs and traditional plug strip (I would have used a smart plug strip, but a Matter compatible one that works in my home did not appear to be available yet). I chose to use TP-Link as they offered a couple of very similar options (one from the Tapo line and the other from the Kasa line). These may be the same product, but in my case, Tapo did not work for me, but Kasa did. More on this a bit later.
Some notes about my smart home: I use a couple of ecosystems. My first choice is to use Google Home mostly because I worked for Google for 11 years and did a lot of dogfooding while I was an employee (dogfooding is the Googler term for internal beta testing, a common practice at Google) and am quite familiar with Google Home. I also have a Hubitat C-8 which drives several automations on which I use Zigbee and Z-Wave sensors. This is mostly to capture motion and contact sensor data which I use to drive background automations that Google Home does not handle. I do want to unify these two more and I am eventually hoping to use Matter as that unifying mechanism, but it is still early days for Matter (as I said earlier, I am just setting up my first set of device in matter today), so that journey is just starting.
My first attempt was the Tapo Matter Smart Plug - Tapo P125M. These came in a 3-Pack which matched my initial use case. However, I could only get one to setup on Matter. The other two just hung up. I could configure them via the Tapo App (at least on iOS), but that was not going to work for me. Fortunately, as a Amazon Prime member, returns are easy and I moved on to my next attempt.
My second (and the one that almost worked) was the Kasa Matter Smart Plug w/ Energy Monitoring - KP125M Smart Plug. I needed at least three, so I bought two boxes.
Setting them up using the Google Home app on iOS (I was using version 3.2.104) was very easy. While you would think the Android version is better, that has not been my experience. First, plug in the smart plug to a power outlet. Next, push the button the side of the plug and hold for 10 seconds to get it into setup mode. Now, use the same approach you would normally use when adding any New Device in the Google Home App (using the + Add button in the lower right hand corner of the Devices page and on the next page, select New Device at the top of this page.) Next, select the Home into which you are installing this new plug and wait for the Google Home App to search for the device. In some cases (like this one), the Google Home App will discover the plug and ask if you want to install it.
This seemed to all work as advertised and so I have deployed it in my smart home. I know I will come back to this as things evolve, so watch this space for more adventures!
I am adding this epilogue to withdraw my recommendation for the Kasa plugs. They also stopped working after a while. Thanks to this video from Eric Welander I know why. There is a firmware problem that caused connectivity to 2.4 Ghz WiFi to flake out after some time. He was not clear if this could be addressed with an over-the-air update or not. It appears this affects both the Tapo and Kasa Smart Plugs (both made by TP-Link), so until I know this has been addressed, I will look elsewhere. Eric recommends the Eve Energy Smart Plugs (model 20EBU4101), but they are much more expensive. I can't recommend them as I have not tried them yet. I will post on the blog when/if I do.
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