“Alexa, where are the cats?”

As is well documented, I have a significant number of feline overlords who thanks to multiple Sure Petcare cat flaps can come and go as they please. The new Connected range of cat flaps comes with a web site, iOS app (a thin skin over the same web site) and is built using what appears to be a pretty solid RESTful API. A few months ago I spent a bit of time monitoring the web app to reverse engineer bits of the API, and then built an Alexa skill so that I could ask my house where all the cats are.

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UniFi, VLANs, Sonos and igmp-proxy

As an exercise in good network health, I spent some time last month moving all the “Internet of Things” devices in my network onto their own segregated VLAN. I’ve configured things so that by default no traffic can leave the IoT network without my adding explicit rules to permit it. This protects the trusted side of my network from potentially dodgy traffic from the IoT devices with cheap WiFi chips and Chinese hosted servers. (I’m looking at you ThermoGroup.)

Logically, my network ends up looking something like this, with separate networks for the trusted kit, the IoT devices and the guest wireless network.

One wrinkle with this approach is that – by design – each VLAN is its own broadcast domain. That means the devices on my primary trusted VLAN can no longer use multicast to discover devices on the IoT VLAN. The most obvious victim of this was Sonos – none of the controllers could see the Sonos devices once I separated the LANs.  Enter igmpproxy running on my router – the UniFi USG-PRO-4.

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Impatience as Impetus: Building Alexa Sonos Integration

I’m impatient. I like new toys and new technologies and I generally don’t want to wait to play with them. We’ve been happy Sonos customers for years now, and Alexa customers since the UK launch. So when Sonos and Amazon announced a partnership to directly integrate the two in August last year, I was cautiously optimistic, albeit impatient to see it working. They promised a beta in 2016 and a launch in early 2017. I didn’t hear anything for the rest of that year, and wondered when we’d get an update on progress… Continue reading

Impressive Ring Customer Service

This was impressive and unexpected. Last night I received an email from Ring – the manufacturers of my Ring Video Doorbell, a device about which I have previously enthused. Their analytics had noticed a potential issue with the wireless signal my doorbell was connecting to and the email was to offer me a piece of hardware – for free – to mitigate the problem. Continue reading