Home Automation is almost like a Rube Goldberg machine…

When I got into SmartThings, one of the things that I wanted to do was to automate my media center. My system is not too overly complicated but here’s what needed to happen:

  1. Turn off and on certain lights
  2. Set a color scene to my hue bulbs
  3. Turn on the amplifier
  4. Turn on the TV
  5. Turn on the Mac Mini that I use to run Kodi (XBMC)
  6. Voice activate the ON/OFF sequence
  7. Integrate with Harmony Home Control remote
  8. Make sure that I have WAF

First, I want to thank many developers and coders who came up with device types and smartapps to accomplish my goals. And of course this active community that helped in various ways along the way.

The tough part was figuring out how to turn on the Mac Mini that has an electronic “ON” button that requires a physical press to make it work. I decided to go “old school” and use a push solenoid that is connected to a smart switch to accomplish that task. Mounting the solenoid so that it was aligned properly to the power switch was a bit of a challenge. I looked around the house to see what I could use to mount the solenoid and this is what I came up with:

  1. 6” metal ruler with cork backing
  2. 3M double foam tape
  3. Velcro straps
  4. Foam padding
  5. 12v power adapter ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005JRGOCM/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1OQSL8A9AXPGH&coliid=IZXDEZPER57FA&psc=1 )
  6. 12v Push/Pull Solenoid ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B300KQK?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00 )

It took a few tries but I got it to work consistently.

At first, I put a little foam padding on the tip of the rod but it was too soft so instead I just used 3 layers of double foam tape and that worked. Here’s a video of it in action

Yes, I know it doesn’t look pretty but the Mac Mini is hidden away in a cabinet. It’s great that the Harmony Home control no longer need line of sight!

Now, when I tell Alexa to “Turn on the TV” (edit: now I have to say television as TV became a reserved word), she turns a switch on that powers on my media center which then activates Alexa Helper smartapp by @MichaelS

to run a routine to turn certain lights off (if they’re on) and turns on my hue lights. The hue lights are actually turned on by using @CyrilPeponnet smartapp Hue (Re) Connect that can create hue scenes as switches in SmartThings.

A virtual switch is also turned on that connects to my harmony hub that in turn, switches on the TV and amplifier.

Finally the routine turns on the switch to my Mac Mini (solenoid) that then pushes the power on button.

But my problem was immediately turning off the switch to the solenoid. At first I used IFTTT but sometimes that would be unreliable. Then @bravenel came out with his Rule machine that solved that problem.

While all that is going on, I can sit back and get comfy on my couch to get ready for movie night!

Remember the days when you simply turned a knob on the TV? :smile:

Here’s an edited (removed MacMini boot sequence) of the whole thing working…


This might come in handy if you want to streamline the on/off button action on the Mac Mini…

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So someone is actually coming out with a button pusher! Yes it does look nice but at nearly $200 with shipping from Korea, I think I’ll stick with my $10 solenoid. :smile:

Were you going for a Rube Goldbergian setup? Why not use wake on lan to wake your Mac mini rather than using a robotic finger?



Wake-on-LAN (WoL) is an Ethernet or Token ring computer networking standard that allows a computer to be turned on or awakened by a network message.
it just works on most of newer computers.
Robotic button looks way cooler. Very steampunk.

That only works if you actually leave the Mac Mini asleep rather than off. I’m going for that zero vampire power. haha :smile: I couldn’t believe it when I plugged in a smart energy plug and discovered that my media center in “Sleep” mode was draining nearly 60 watts of energy!

Maybe a receiver too? The mac mini should only draw a little over one watt while asleep.

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It was the amplifier, external hard drive, and especially the 55" TV that was adding up to those vampire watts.