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Vacation Plugin for Vera Home Automation
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README.md

DeusExMachinaII: The Vacation Plugin

Introduction

DeusExMachina is a plugin for the MiOS home automation operating system used on MiCasaVerde Vera gateway/controllers. It takes over your house while you're away on vacation by creating a ghost that moves from room to room, turning on and off lights. Simply specify the lights you want to have controlled by the plugin, specify a "Lights Out" time when lights will begin to turn off, and come sundown DeusExMachina will take over.

There are currently two versions of Deus Ex Machina available:

  • Deus Ex Machina -- for UI5 (only); this is the legacy version and although it installs for UI6 and UI7, it does not work properly on those platforms. This version is only available from the MiCasaVerde plugin library.

  • Deus Ex Machina II -- for UI7 (only). This version was developed and tested on firmware version 1.7.855, but should work for any full release of UI7 provided by MiCasaVerde. The current release is available via both GitHub and the MiCasaVerde plugin library. Advanced builds are also available in the GitHub repository.

History

DeusExMachina was originally written and published in 2012 by Andy Lintner (beowulfe), and maintained by Andy through the 1.x versions. In May 2016, Andy turned the project over to Patrick Rigney (toggledbits here on Github, rigpapa in the MCV/MiOS world) for ongoing support (version 2.0 onward). At this point, the plugin became known as Deus Ex Machina II, or just DEMII.

How It Works

When Deus Ex Machina II (DEMII) is enabled, it first waits until two conditions are satisfied: the current time is at or after sunset, and the "house mode" is one of the selected modes in which DEMII is configured by the user to be active. If both conditions are met, DEMII enters a cycle of turning a set of user-selected lights on and off at random intervals. This continues until the user-configured "lights out" time, at which point DEMII begins its shutdown cycle, in which any of the user-selected lights that are on are turned off at random intervals until all lights are off. DEMII then waits until the next day's sunset.

For more information, see Additional Documentation below.

Reporting Bugs/Enhancement Requests

Bug reports and enhancement requests are welcome! Please use the "Issues" link for the repository to open a new bug report or make an enhancement request.

License

DeusExMachina is offered under GPL (the GNU Public License).

Additional Documentation

Installation

The plugin is installed in the usual way: go to Apps in the left navigation, and click on "Install Apps". Search for "Deus Ex Machina II" (make sure you include the "II" at the end to get the UI7-compatible version), and then click the "Details" button in its listing of the search results. From here, simply click "Install" and wait for the install to complete. A full refresh of the UI is necessary (e.g. Ctrl-F5 on Windows) after installation.

Once you have installed the plugin and refreshed the browser, you can proceed to device configuation.

Simple Configuration

Deus Ex Machina's "Configure" tab gives you a set of simple controls to control the behavior of your vacation haunt.

Active Period

By default, you may specify a start time and an end time, during which DEMII will run (cycle lights). If the start time is blank, the current day's sunset time will be used.

If the Manual Activation checkbox is checked, then no automatic schedule for DEMII is run, and it must be started and stopped by using the Activate and Deactivate actions (e.g. from a scene, PLEG, or Lua).

House Modes

The next group of controls is the House Modes in which DEMII should be active when enabled. If no house mode is selected, DEMII will operate in any house mode.

Controlled Devices

Next is a set of checkboxes for each of the devices you'd like DEMII to control. Selecting the devices to be controlled is a simple matter of clicking the check boxes. Because the operating cycle of the plug-in is random, any controlled device may be turned on and off several times during the cycling period (between sunset and Lights Out time). Dimming devices can be set to any level by setting the slider that appears to the right of the device name. Non-dimming devices are simply turned on and off (no dimmer slider is shown for these devices).

Note: all devices are listed that implement the SwitchPower1 and Dimming1 services. This leads to some oddities, like some motion sensors and thermostats being listed. It may not be entirely obvious (or standard) what a thermostat, for example, might do when you try to turn it off and on like a light, so be careful selecting these devices.

The "Max On Time" field can be used (optionally) to control the maximum time a light should be turned on. For example, it may not appear natural for DEMII to leave a bathroom/WC or hallway light on for 30 minutes, which it could easily do with its default behavior and schedule. Setting a maximum time on will cause DEMII to manage those lights to a shorter schedule explicitly.

Scene Control

The next group of settings allows you to use scenes with DEMII. Scenes must be specified in pairs, with one being the "on" scene and the other being an "off" scene. This not only allows more patterned use of lights, but also gives the user the ability to handle device-specific capabilities that would be difficult to implement in DEMII. For example, while DEMII can turn Philips Hue lights on and off (to dimming levels, even), it cannot control their color because there's no UI for that in DEMII. But a scene could be used to control that light or a group of lights, with their color, as an alternative to direct control by DEMII.

Both scenes and individual devices (from the device list above) can be used simultaneously.

Maximum "On" Targets

This value sets the limit on the number of targets (devices or scenes) that DEMII can have "on" simultaneously. If 0, there is no limit. If you have DEMII controlling a large number of devices, it's probably not a bad idea to set this value to some reasonable limit.

Final Scene

DEMII allows a "final scene" to run when DEMII is explicitly disabled, stops due to the house mode changing to an "inactive" mode (one in which DEMII is not supposed to run), or turns off the last light after the "lights out" time. This could be used for any purpose. I personally use it to make sure a whole-house off is run, but you could use it to ensure your alarm system is armed, or your garage door is closed, etc.

The scene can differentiate between DEMII being disabled and DEMII just going to sleep by checking the Target variable in service urn:upnp-org:serviceId:SwitchPower1. If the value is "0", then DEMII is being disabled. Otherwise, DEMII is going to sleep. The following code snippet, added as scene Lua, will allow the scene to only run when DEMII is being disabled:

local val = luup.variable_get("urn:upnp-org:serviceId:SwitchPower1", "Target", pluginDeviceId)
if val == "0" then
    -- Disabling, so return true (scene execution continues).
    return true
else
    -- Not disabling, just going to sleep. Returning false stops scene execution.
    return false
end

As of version 2.8, there is special handling of the final scene for when the house mode changes to an inactive mode. If a scene with the name of the final scene plus the prior house mode can be found, it will be run in preference to the specified scene. That is, if your final scene is called "DeusEnd", but there's a scene called "DeusEndAway", then it will be run when DEMII deactivates due to the house mode changing to something other than "away." Otherwise, the "DeusEnd" scene will run.

Control of DEMII by Scenes and Lua

As of version 2.8, there are two ways to control DEMII's operation with scenes, PLEG, Lua, etc.:

  1. Set the active period to "Manual Activation" as described above, and use the Activate and Deactivate actions to start and stop cycling, respectively. When deactivating with this method, lights will be progressively turned off to simulate the bedtime "lights out" behavior DEMII uses with automatic scheduling. These actions are part of the urn:toggledbits.com:serviceId:DeusExMachinaII1 service, and take no parameters.
  2. Use the urn:upnp-org:serviceId:SwitchPower1 service SetTarget action to turn DEMII on and off as you would any switch. This enables and disables DEMII. Using this method to start and stop cycling, however, is deprecated in favor of the above message.

Note that for cycling to occur, DEMII must either (a) be enabled with automatic timing on and a valid configured active period, or (b) be enabled, and with manual activation configured, in which case cycling will not begin until the Activate action is run, and not stop until the Deactivate action is run.

Here's an example of how to send the Activate action to DEMII:

luup.call_action("urn:toggledbits-com:serviceId:DeusExMachinaII1", "Activate", {}, _deviceNumber_)

Triggers

DEMII signals changes to its enabled/disabled state and changes to its internal operating mode. These can be used as triggers for scenes or notifications. DEMII's operating modes are:

  • Standby - DEMII is disabled (this is equivalent to the "device is disabled" state event);

  • Ready - DEMII is enabled and waiting for the next sunset (and house mode, if applicable);

  • Cycling - DEMII is cycling lights, that is, it is enabled, in the period between sunset and the set "lights out" time, and correct house mode (if applicable);

  • Shut-off - DEMII is enabled and shutting off lights, having reached the "lights out" time.

When disabled, DEMII is always in Standby mode. When enabled, DEMII enters the Ready mode, then transitions to Cycling mode at sunset, then Shut-off mode at the "lights out" time, and then when all lights have been shut off, returns to the Ready mode waiting for the next day's sunset. The transition between Ready, Cycling, and Shut-off continues until DEMII is disabled (at which point it goes to Standby).

It should be noted that DEMII can enter Cycling or Shut-off mode immediately, without passing through Ready, if it is enabled after sunset or after the "lights out" time, respectively. DEMII will also transition into or out of Standby mode immediately and from any other mode when disabled or enabled, respectively.

As of v2.8, DEMII also supports a binary Active trigger, which is 0 whenever DEMII is not cycling lights for any reason (i.e. disabled, outside of configured active period, or not activated in manual activation mode), and 1 otherwise.

Cycle Timing

DEMII's cycle timing is controlled by a set of state variables. By default, DEMII's random cycling of lights occurs at randomly selected intervals between 300 seconds (5 minutes) and 1800 seconds (30 minutes), as determined by the MinCycleDelay and MaxCycleDelay variables. You may change these values to customize the cycling time for your application.

When DEMII is in its "lights out" (shut-off) mode, it uses a different set of shorter (by default) cycle times, to more closely imitate actual human behavior. The random interval for lights-out is between 60 seconds and 300 seconds (5 minutes), as determined by MinOffDelay and MaxOffDelay. These intervals could be kept short, particularly if DEMII is controlling a large number of lights.

Troubleshooting

If you're not sure what DEMII is going, the easiest way to see is to go into the Settings interface for the plugin. There is a text field to the right of the on/off switch in that interface that will tell you what DEMII is currently doing when enabled (it's blank when DEMII is disabled).

If DEMII isn't behaving as expected, post a message in the MCV forums in this thread or open up an issue in the GitHub repository.

Please don't just say "DEMII isn't working for me." I can't tell you how long your piece of string is without seeing your piece of string. Give me details of what you are doing, how you are configured, and what behavior you observe. Screen shots help. In many cases, log output may be needed.

Test Mode and Log Output

If I'm troubleshooting a problem with you, I may ask you to enable test mode, run DEMII a bit, and send me the log output. Here's how you do that:

  1. Go into the settings for the DEMII device, and click the "Advanced" tab.
  2. Click on the "Variables" tab.
  3. Set the "TestMode" variable to 1 (just change the field and hit the TAB key). If the variable doesn't exist, you'll need to create it using the "New Service" tab, which requires you to enter the service ID exactly as shown here (use copy/paste if possible): urn:toggledbits-com:serviceId:DeusExMachinaII1
  4. If requested, set the TestSunset value to whatever I ask you (this allows the sunset time to be overriden so we don't have to wait for real sunset to see what DEMII is doing).
  5. After operating for a while, I'll ask you to email me your log file (/etc/cmh/LuaUPnP.log on your Vera). This will require you to log in to your Vera directly with ssh, or use the Vera's native "write log to USB drive" function, or use one of the many log capture scripts that's available.
  6. Don't forget to turn TestMode off (0) when finished.

Above all, I ask that you please be patient. You probably already know that it can be frustrating at times to figure out what's going on in your Vera's head. It's no different for developers--it can be a challenging development environment when the Vera is sitting in front of you, and moreso when dealing with someone else's Vera at a distance.

FAQ

My lights aren't cycling at sunset. Why?
The most common reasons that lights don't start cycling at midnight are:
  1. The time and location on your Vera are not set correctly. Go into Settings > Location on your Vera and make sure everything is correct for the Vera's physical location. Remember that in the western hemisphere (North, Central & South America, principally) your longitude will be a negative number. If you are below the equator, latitude will be negative. If you're not sure what your latitude/longitude are, use a site like MyGeoPosition.com. If you make any changes to your time or location configuration, restart your Vera.
  2. You're not waiting long enough. DEMII doesn't instantly jump into action at sunset, it employs its configured cycle delays as well, so cycling will usually begin sometime after sunset, up to the configured maximum cycle delay (30 minutes by default).
  3. Your house mode isn't "active." If you've configured DEMII to operate only in certain house modes, make sure you're in one of those modes, otherwise DEMII will just sit, even though it's enabled.
<dt>I made configuration changes, but when I go back into configuration, they seem to be back to the old
    settings.</dt>
<dd>Refresh your browser or flush your browser cache. On most browsers, you do this by using the F5 key, or
    Ctrl-F5, or Command + R or Option + R on Macs.</dd>

<dt>What happens if DEMII is enabled afer sunset? Does it wait until the next day to start running?</dt>
<dd>No. If DEMII is enabled during its active period (between sunset and the configured "lights out" time,
    it will begin cycling the configured devices and scenes. If you enable DEMII after "lights-out," it will
    wait until the next sunset.</dd>

<dt>What's the difference between House Mode and Enabled/Disabled? Can I just use House Mode to enable and disable DEMII?</dt>
<dd>The enabled/disabled state of DEMII is the "big red button" for its operation. If you configure DEMII to only run in certain
    house modes, then you can theoretically leave DEMII enabled all the time, as it will only operate (cycle lights) when a
    selected house mode is active. But, some people don't use House Modes for various reasons, so having a master switch
    for DEMII is necessary.</dd>

<dt>I have a feature request. Will you implement it?</dt>
<dd>Absolutely definitely maybe. I'm willing to listen to what you want to do. But, keep in mind, nobody's getting rich writing Vera
    plugins, and I do other things that put food on my table. And, what seems like a good idea to you may be just that: a good idea for
    the way <em>you</em> want to use it. The more generally applicable your request is, the higher the likelihood that I'll entertain it. What
    I don't want to do is over-complicate this plug-in so it begins to rival PLEG for size and weight (no disrespect intended there at
    all--I'm a huge PLEG fan and use it extensively, but, dang). DEMII really has a simple job: make lights go on and off to cast a serious
    shadow of doubt in the mind of some knucklehead who might be thinking your house is empty and ripe for his picking. In any case,
    the best way to give me feature requests is to open up an issue (if you have a list, one issue per feature, please) in the
    <a href="https://github.com/toggledbits/DeusExMachina/issues">GitHub repository</a>.
    Second best is sending me a message via the MCV forums (I'm user `rigpapa`).</dd>
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