Alexa stopped controlling Logitech Harmony Hub

As of 2 days ago Alexa stopped controlling the Logitech Harmony Hub. What happens is this: You give Alexa the normal command, and it responds “OK”, but the command never reaches the hub.

Logitech is aware of the issue. Here’s a post about it from their website:

Harmony Hub-based remotes — Service interruption and lag

Update: May 6th, 10AM

 Logitech Harmony experienced a network issue that caused two issues for some users with Harmony Hub-based remotes:

 1. Remote sluggishness and delayed commands

  • At this point, we recommend rebooting your Harmony Hub to solve this issue (unplug and plug back in your Hub).

 2. Failure of Harmony control via 3rd parties such as Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, etc.  

  • Rebooting your hub may help resume normal operation via Alexa, etc, but is known to not be a 100% solution at this time.

 We are working on fully resolving all issues and will continue to update this forum post with new information as it becomes available.  

 We apologize for any inconvenience this causes.  

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Fire TV Stick ARC issues

This post is for people who know what ARC and Simplink are. If you don’t, consider yourself lucky.

My TV is made by LG, and uses Simplink to direct audio to my AV receiver over an HDMI cable using a technology called ARC (audio return channel). It’s a little flaky (sometimes it tries to direct sound to my TV speakers even though they are turned off), but it works most of the time.

When I got a Fire TV Stick, weird things started to happen. First Simplink often needed to be turned off and then turned on again before it would direct audio to the receiver. Second, the menu/back button on my Apple TV wouldn’t function properly. Instead it changed the TV input so that I couldn’t see the Apple TV on the screen. Resetting Simplink fixed the issue temporarily.

I took the Fire TV Stick off the TV and all went back to normal. I’m not crazy about the Fire TV Stick anyway, and the extra ARC/Simplink hassle convinced me to get rid of it.

Aeropress – inverted or right-side up

The official method for making Aerpress is right-side up, but a lot of people use the inverted method. The inverted method requires you to insert the plunger into the bottom of the coffee tube, pour in the grounds, add hot water and steep until the coffee is brewed. Then you cover it with the filter, turn it over into a cup and press the plunger.

I like the inverted method because it means that none of the coffee ends up in your cup until brewing is done. With the right-side up method some under-brewed coffee always winds up in the cup.

But the inverted method is supposedly more likely to spill when you turn it over. That never happened to me before, and I discounted it as very unlikely because I am always careful to cover the Aeropress with a cup before I flip it over.

Until yesterday. I don’t know what went wrong, but coffee and wet grounds went flying everywhere. It was huge mess. Took a half hour to clean up.

So now I’m a big fan of the right-side up method.

Ring Video Doorbell – 0% battery charge?

Update 3:

Per below I can use Live View again, but now the video is very slow to open and is only in black & white. When someone rings the doorbell the video is still in color, but not in Live View.

I give up trying to make this thing work right. It still works as a doorbell and video intercom for now, so it’s staying on the wall.

When/if it finally stops working altogether I will probably replace it with a normal doorbell.


Update 2:

The issue is resolved. I’m back to 100% and I can use Live View again. IDK if I fixed it per below, or it fixed itself.


Update:

I tried the solution provided by Ring below, which was worthless. They suggested a “power cycle” by pressing the 4 contact points on the top row of terminals in the back of the doorbell with the included screwdriver. This did nothing. I did a reset by pressing the orange button on the back for 15 seconds, but when I set up the device again the battery per the app showed fully charged for a second, then returned to 0%.

Supposedly the battery is susceptible to cold weather, but that wasn’t the case last winter. I don’t think there is actually anything wrong with the battery itself – the doorbell worked fine without being connected to my home wiring. I think the device is just transmitting wrong information to the app, which causes Live View not to work.

It still works as a video doorbell, so I won’t throw it out. It’s 4 months past the end of the 1 year warranty, so I doubt I can get Ring to replace it.

I wouldn’t buy another Ring product.


I have the first generation Ring Video Doorbell. The battery indicator on the app stays at 0%. Until a few days ago it was always at 100% because the doorbell is connected to my home’s wiring. The wiring perpetually re-charges the battery.

The doorbell still works as a video intercom/doorbell. When I press the button the wifi chime rings and the phone app indicates I have a caller. I can still communicate with the caller. The light-ring around the doorbell glows, indicating it gets power.

So I am not sure what is up. Maybe the battery is dead but the doorbell is capable of working via the minute power provided by the doorbell wires. Or maybe the battery is not dead but it is reporting 0% for some reason.

Either way, I can no longer use the Live View feature. When I try it the app says there is insufficient power.

I contacted Ring’s chat support. Their response is as follows:

“It seems a power cycle of your device is necessary to clear out the false battery reading. In order to do this place the screwdriver (that came in the package with your unit) across the 4 contact points on the top row of terminals (located on the back of the unit.). You will press down slightly and release, you should see the LED flash around the doorbell button, after the LEDs no longer display around the front of the unit, you will need to setup the device again by going into the Ring application and tapping on add device.”

This is a pain in the neck. I am really not in the mood to set up the doorbell all over again.

I may just leave it alone since the bell still works. I can live without the Live View feature.

Philips Hue – Motion Sensor

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Old-style motion sensors have been around for decades, and they work very well. I have a few in my house, either built into a light switch or in a ceiling socket connected to a bare light bulb in our utility room.

The best use for an old-style motion sensor is in a room that is used periodically – like a hallway, closet, garage, etc. Places where someone enters temporarily, performs some activity, and then departs. Old-style motion sensors aren’t ideal for rooms like bedrooms, where people may not move enough for the sensor to read their motion. When that happens, the sensor assumes no one is in the room and turns off the light. Likewise a bedroom sensor may sense movement during sleep and turn on a light that should have been left off.

Philips has a motion sensor that is smarter than the old-style sensors, and solves some of these problems.

First, you can set it to operate differently depending on the time of day. For example, you can set it to do nothing if it senses movement after 9pm. That way, it won’t turn on the light if someone moves while they are sleeping.

Second, it’s easy to place the sensor anywhere in the room, because it’s battery operated. It doesn’t have to be located inside a light fixture or switch. It can be placed conveniently to capture motion, and avoid shutting off the light inadvertently.

Third, it’s connected to the Philips Hue system, which means it controls any lights that are also part of the system, even if those lights aren’t in the same room as the sensor. For example, entering a hall that leads to the kitchen can trigger the sensor, which turns on both the hall light and the kitchen lights. Or, entering a hall that leads to your bedroom can trigger the sensor, which shut off all lights in your house, except the bedroom.

Fourth, most sensors let you choose a time delay. For example, a sensor may wait 1 minute or 5 minutes or 30 minutes before it shuts off lights. If it senses motion during the delay, it sets the delay clock back to zero. But setting the delay is often a chore, and the process is hard to remember if it’s not done frequently. The Philips Hue sensor has more delay choices than an old-style motion sensor, and you choose them via an app, which couldn’t be simpler.

I put a Philips Hue Motion Sensor in my den. It is positioned to read movements in my favorite spot, and it does not read movement if someone is merely passing behind the den. I set the delay to 10 minutes, so if I leave the room the lights turn off 10 minutes later. If I am sitting still for 10 minutes, it dims the light before turning it off, so I simply move my arm and the lights will snap back to full brightness.

Having to move just to satisfy the motion sensor is a bit of a pain. It would be better if it knew I was in the room even when it didn’t sense my motion, by proximity or signal from my phone. But it’s not too bad the way it is, and I like having it.

The only improvement I would suggest, is to have the sensor controlled by Alexa. There are times when I want the den lights to be off while I watch a movie. But if I turn off the lights and move, the Motion Sensor will register movement and turn them back on. I need to manually shut off the Motion Sensor via the app. It would be nice if I could turn the Motion Sensor on/off via Alexa. Unfortunately Philips does not appear to be interested in connecting the Motion Sensor to Alexa for the time being.

All in all, I’d consider the old-style sensors to be superior for most use cases, unless your home is substantially connected via the Philips Hue system. But my den only has Hue lights, and I am very happy with the Philips Hue Motion Sensor overall.

Instant Pot – Chicken Soup

Chicken soup from a can – who knows what that is. It’s slimy, and yellow and salty. Tastes nothing like chicken. Pretty much the same issue with restaurant soup, since most of them use canned soup or canned chicken broth.

Making it yourself is time-consuming, but the Instant Pot helps with that. Not only does it cut the time, but there is no need to baby-sit the pot. You don’t need to worry if the soup is boiling too hard or too slowly, or whether the pot will boil over.

Chicken soup is basically Water, Vegetables and Chicken. The vegetables add a lot of flavor, and you can choose whichever you prefer. This is the version I grew up with.

Ingredients:

  1. A 5 lb. chicken, preferably cut up but it’s OK to use a whole one. Remove extraneous fat and the plastic giblets bag.
  2. 1 rib of celery, including celery leaves if fresh. Cut into 1 inch chunks
  3. 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  4. 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  5. 1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  6. 1 small turnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  7. 1/2 handful of fresh parsley, stems and leaves
  8. Sprinkle of salt
  9. 5 peppercorns
  10. 8 cups of water

If using the Instant Pot, put all ingredients in the pot (6 liter or larger). Close the lid. Turn the valve to “sealing”. Press the Manual button and set the time to 60 minutes.

If you are not using an Instant Pot, put all the ingredients in a stock pot. Cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3 hours.

When the time is up, remove the chicken and place in a separate bowl. Strain the liquid and discard the vegetables. If you have a fat separator, use it to remove fat from the liquid and pour the de-fatted soup back into the pot. If you don’t have a separator just pour the strained soup back into the pot.

With the pot uncovered set the Instant Pot to Saute (or turn on a medium-low flame under the stove pot) and simmer for 15 minutes to evaporate some of the water. Taste. Add salt if needed. Continue to simmer if the soup needs more flavor.

If the soup is placed in a fridge over-night any remaining fat will rise to the surface and it will be easy to skim off the next day.

The soup is great with matzo balls or egg noodles. Shred the reserved chicken and add it to the soup as well. Reserved chicken can also be made into chicken salad (although most of its flavor has been given up to the soup).

Coffee – French Press & Aeropress

I decided to spend more money on my coffee addiction and bought an electric grinder – the Baratza Virtuoso. It works very well, and I don’t need to use a drill to automate my hand grinder any more. I tried using pre-ground coffee, but the coffee gurus are right – fresh ground coffee tastes better.

Right now we are using Starbucks Espresso beans from the supermarket. A 12oz. bag is often on sale for $6. At approximately 18gm per cup, a 12oz. bag provides 18 cups of coffee, or $.33 per cup. That’s less than 1/3 the cost of a cup of Nespresso coffee.

The grinder cost $250, so it will take 324 cups of coffee to recover the cost of the grinder, vs. drinking Nespresso.

Right now I make coffee 3 ways: French Press, Aeropress and Nespresso (but only when I am too lazy to make it the other 2 ways). The French Press makes enough for 2, so I share it with my wife. When I am just making coffee for myself I make Aeropress.

Drinking French Press for any length of time changes your appreciation for the texture of coffee. There are more solids in FP coffee, so the brew has more body. It not only tastes rich, it feels satisfying. I don’t think I could drink cup after cup of FP, the way I do with diner coffee. One cup of FP at a time is enough.

Once you are accustomed to FP coffee, regular drip coffee feels thin and watery even if the coffee doesn’t taste weak. Aeropress is definitely thinner than FP, but not as thin as drip coffee.

To some extent, this quest for the perfect cup of coffee seems like I am chasing a mirage. But the coffee I make now is definitely better and more consistent than a couple of years ago. One day, maybe 20 years from now when I am wrinkled and deep into my golden years, I’ll finally get there. I’ll learn how to make coffee that is perfectly balanced with no bitterness or acidity, and taste as good as it smells. Or maybe I’ll never get there.

In any event, there are worse addictions I can think of.