With all the revelations in the headlines about how exactly our private data is being mined to surveil and manipulate us, I’ve been thinking of more ways to take better control of my information. As they say, the internet is forever, and it’s become clear that once your information is out there all kinds of third parties may have access to it. While there is nothing particularly salacious in my calendar appointments or phone notes app, there is also no guarantee that future uses of this data by future technologies will be so benign. Just look at China’s “social credit” system.
Using the open source NextCloud software, I have deployed a private server that replaces all the common uses of cloud services: calendar, todo lists, files, passwords, bookmarks, contacts, and notes. All synchronized across all my devices on all platforms. Here’s my setup, deployed in Docker.
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Home Assistant is one of the most interesting open source projects I’ve ever come across. It interfaces with any device, platform, or service you can think of. It can connect all of your devices to make a truly smart home. With a little creativity almost anything is possible with Home Assistant, and best of all it’s private and totally under your control.
After using Hass to control my smart home for the last year, I started to hit the limitations of its YAML-based configuration. Any automation that was even moderately complicated required a lot of pieces spread out through the configuration files (see the sprawling “Creating an Alarm Clock” thread on the HA forums for an example). Doing simple things like if-then or a loop required awkward workarounds. As my automations (and ambitions) increased in complexity, so did the time I spent trying to figure out what was going on.
That’s when I discovered Node-Red, a visual programming tool developed by IBM. Node-Red is the perfect complement to Home Assistant, allowing for very complicated logic to be constructed visually through a simple “flow” interface. It integrates seamlessly with Home Assistant. Let’s set it up.
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