Dabbling in Home Automation and The Internet of Things

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Now that I own my own house, and some of the technologies involved are a bit more stable, I’ve gotten into the idea of home automation a bit more. Here’s a quick run down of my current configuration.

At the center of most things, I have a wink hub (first generation). I configure as much as possible through that, since it simplifies interacting with them if they’re all available in one place.

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From there, I have 2 Schlage Connect deadbolts (house and garage doors), which are both programmed with the same set of user codes (has to be done manually). It’s nice to be able to control codes from within the wink app, vs using the on-pad controls.

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To control lights, we have 3 rooms converted over to Lutron Caseta light switches (so far, I’d like to do a few more). This makes it easy to control an entire circuit (all 3 rooms are controlling either 3 or 6 bulbs, so they’d be expensive to convert using individual smart bulbs). They’re super easy to install, and you don’t need their hub thing if you have the wink, which is compatible. I also have 3 iHome Smartplugs, which plug into an outlet, and then let you plug in any standard lamp/appliance, and control it. I don’t love the Smartplugs, and have had some trouble with them dropping their connections, but when they work they’re fine.

Separately, I also have 2 LIFX bulbs, which can be controlled directly, so they are in a couple of lamps that could otherwise be controlled via Smartplugs (I got these bulbs from their Kickstarter way back).

To control all of the above, I actually have everything configured in both an Amazon Echo, and a Google Home. Redundancy FTW, and it’s fun to experiment with each platform.

Technically, also connected to the wink hub, we have some Nest Outdoor security cameras, which have been really fun to play with. I’ve even hooked up a system to automatically take snapshots, which is interesting for comparing seasonal shade profiles for gardening purposes.

Apart from those power/control/security devices, we’ve also current got an Apple TV, a Chromecast (integrates really nicely with the Google Home), and I use Automatic in my truck.

I’ve played around a bit with configuring shortcuts and “robots” (automations), but really haven’t found many that are that useful to be honest. Probably the best one is one that just turns on our kitchen light when we open the back door (which opens basically into the kitchen). I think one of the biggest problems is that I don’t have a great system for handling “presence”, which needs to take me and Erika into account. Without that, anything I automate based on my presence is likely to just be an annoyance for her if she happens to be at home when I’m not (or vice versa).

Areas that I’d be curious to look into automating would be thermostat control (long story as to why I haven’t done this already), external temperature/precipitation, combined with irrigation, and possibly window coverings.

April 13th 2017 personal, security

Trump signs resolution nullifying privacy requirements for internet providers

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 It’s official: the president has signed a resolution reversing rules passed last year that would have, among other things, provided strong protections against internet providers collecting and selling your browsing history. Read More

April 4th 2017 security

WikiLeaks will give tech giants CIA zero-day exploits after they meet mystery demands

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 WikiLeaks doesn’t ever make things easy. When it became clear that the organization possessed documents that detail exploits affecting a handful of major tech companies, it looked like Julian Assange would play nice. Now, a week has passed since Assange said he would disclose information about those vulnerabilities to the companies affected — standard practice for the discovery… Read More

March 18th 2017 security

How to secure your data after the Cloudflare leak

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securityhall Cloudflare revealed yesterday that a bug in its code caused sensitive data to leak from some of the major websites that use its performance enhancement and security services. Uber, Fitbit, OkCupid and 1Password are among Cloudflare’s millions of clients, and it’s possible that personal data such as passwords and cookies leaked from many client websites during the five months… Read More

February 25th 2017 Google, security

Why a cybersecurity solution for driverless cars may be found under the hood

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spiral-road1 Autonomous vehicles were one of the most talked about technologies in 2016. Ever since Tesla, Google and Uber put these vehicles on the consumer trend map, I’ve been daydreaming of the day I might own one. Unfortunately for me, and the auto industry, that day might not be coming too soon — if they can’t keep the cars and their drivers safe, I’ll never have one sitting in… Read More

February 19th 2017 security

California congressman proposes an investigation into Trump’s unsecured Android phone

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CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 18: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks talks on the phone while making a stop for lunch between campaign events at Fratello's Italian Tavern in North Charleston, SC on Thursday Feb. 18, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) Remember the unsecured Android handset that newly minted President Trump gave up, but then apparently didn’t actually give up? Things had seemingly gone silent on that front as the world took some time out to focus on the rest of the deluge of insanity that is politics in 2017.
Today, however, the story is rearing its head yet again, as California Congressman Ted Lieu has proposed an… Read More

February 18th 2017 Android, security

Attack of the apps

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too-many-apps-fb Mobile surveillance by ad-sponsored smartphone apps is intrusive and creepy — and it can easily compromise your enterprise’s data. Read More

February 12th 2017 security

Messaging app Wire now has an external audit of its e2e crypto

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Wire messaging app Encrypted messaging app Wire has now published an external audit of its crypto protocol, Proteus, and the implementation of the protocol across its various apps. Read More

February 11th 2017 security

House moves to eliminate commission overseeing voting system security

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vote-glitched-10-6-2016-4-08-04-pm Amid allegations at the highest levels that all is not right with America’s voting system, it seems strange that legislation would be proposed that eliminates an organization created specifically to maintain that voting system’s security. But these are strange times. Read More

February 8th 2017 security

Protect your site from user generated spam

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As a website owner, you might have come across some auto-generated content in comments sections or forum threads. When such content is created on your pages, not only does it disrupt those visiting your site, but it also shows some content that you may not want to be associated with your site to Google and other search engines.

In this blog post, we will give you tips to help you deal with this type of spam in your site and forum.

Some spammers abuse sites owned by others by posting deceiving content and links, in an attempt to get more traffic to their sites. Here are a few examples:


Comments and forum threads can be a really good source of information and an efficient way of engaging a site’s users in discussions. This valuable content should not be buried by auto-generated keywords and links placed there by spammers.

There are many ways of securing your site’s forums and comment threads and making them unattractive to spammers:

  • Keep your forum software updated and patched. Take the time to keep your software up-to-date and pay special attention to important security updates. Spammers take advantage of security issues in older versions of blogs, bulletin boards, and other content management systems.

  • Add a CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAs require users to confirm that they are not robots in order to prove they’re a human being and not an automated script. One way to do this is to use a service like reCAPTCHA, Securimage and  Jcaptcha .
  • Block suspicious behavior. Many forums allow you to set time limits between posts, and you can often find plugins to look for excessive traffic from individual IP addresses or proxies and other activity more common to bots than human beings. For example, phpBB, Simple Machines, myBB, and many other forum platforms enable such configurations.
  • Check your forum’s top posters on a daily basis. If a user joined recently and has an excessive amount of posts, then you probably should review their profile and make sure that their posts and threads are not spammy.
  • Consider disabling some types of comments. For example, It’s a good practice to close some very old forum threads that are unlikely to get legitimate replies.
    If you plan on not monitoring your forum going forward and users are no longer interacting with it, turning off posting completely may prevent spammers from abusing it.
  • Make good use of moderation capabilities. Consider enabling features in moderation that require users to have a certain reputation before links can be posted or where comments with links require moderation.
    If possible, change your settings so that you disallow anonymous posting and make posts from new users require approval before they’re publicly visible.
    Moderators, together with your friends/colleagues and some other trusted users can help you review and approve posts while spreading the workload. Keep an eye on your forum’s new users by looking on their posts and activities on your forum.  
  • Consider blacklisting obviously spammy terms. Block obviously inappropriate comments with a blacklist of spammy terms (e.g. Illegal streaming or pharma related terms) . Add inappropriate and off-topic terms that are only used by spammers, learn from the spam posts that you often see on your forum or other forums. Built-in features or plugins can delete or mark comments as spam for you.
  • Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field. This will deter spammers from targeting your site. By default, many blogging sites (such as Blogger) automatically add this attribute to any posted comments.
  • Use automated systems to defend your site.  Comprehensive systems like Akismet, which has plugins for many blogs and forum systems are easy to install and do most of the work for you.

For detailed information about these topics, check out our Help Center document on User Generated Spam and comment spam. You can also visit our Webmaster Central Help Forum if you need any help.

January 28th 2017 security