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Welcome to Ben’s Smart Home

Welcome to my humble blog. If you have visited this blog before, you may noticed it’s now totally different. It’s no longer a personal blog about my travel and food but a blog dedicated to my passion I found 3 years ago which is smart home or home automation.

Around early 2016, I stumbled upon an open source project created for smart home known as Home Assistant. Before that, I was wondering what else I could achieve with my existing home network? I already have a Network Attached Storage (NAS) that host my files and media server, IP PBX system that enabled room to room calling and interactive voice response (IVR) when someone called my office and networked CCTVs across the house. Once I got to know Home Assistant, I fell in love with it right away. It was the final piece my home network needed to reach its full potential.

However, Home Assistant is not your typical plug and play solutions you will find in the market. Even though efforts are there to steer it toward that direction but there is still a learning curve you need to take. Even after 3 years of tinkering with Home Assistant, I still refer to the documentations whenever I work on it. That is why this blog is mostly about Home Assistant and how to make things work for you based on my own experience. This blog also serves as a log of whatever I have learnt along the way and hopefully with the shared knowledge, you will learn something from it too.

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How to Install Alexa App (or any Geo Restricted Apps) on Android in Malaysia

If you have purchased an Amazon Echo Devices, you need to install the Alexa App in your phone to set it up. Unfortunately, the app is geo restricted and Malaysia is one of the country in the restricted list. However, there are two ways to get around this restriction.

Using VPN

  1. Download your favourite VPN app in your phone. If you have no idea which one to use, I suggest KeepSolid VPN Unlimited or TunnelBear VPN.
  2. Open the apps and sign up an account.
  3. Select the country where Alexa app is not restricted and then connect to it. For this case, please select USA.
  4. Before you go back to the Play Store to install the Alexa app, you need to clear app data and cache for Google Play Store. Go to Settings -> Apps -> Google Play Store -> Storage -> Clear Data. Then, click on OK when it asks the data will be deleted permanently which includes settings, databases, etc. Don’t worry. All purchased apps and data will be safe.
  5. Now go to this link and you should be able to install it while stay connected to the VPN.

Using APK Downloader

If the VPN method doesn’t work, you may try installing the Alexa app using APK Downloader.

  1. Go to APK Downloader in your browser.
  2. Enter this URL into the Google Play URL field: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amazon.dee.app&hl=en
  3. Click Generate Download Link.
  4. Wait for the APK file generation to complete and then click on the green button to download the APK file and save it to your phone.
  5. Now you can install the app using the APK file. Remember to allow installation of apps from unknown sources if your phone gives any warning.

Launching of Ben’s Smart Home Online Shop

I am proud to announce that I have finally launched my very first online shop selling gadgets that I personally find useful in my own smart home setup. For starter, I am bringing in more than 20 products from various brands such as Amazon, Bose, Fitbit and Roku. I plan to bring in even more products soon once my deal with the suppliers are finalized.

You can visit it at https://shop.benleow.com/

3X Bonanza Sales

To celebrate the launching of my online shop and also in conjunction to 12.12 promotion and Christmas sales, I am giving HUGE discounts to all the products in my catalog with some discount reach up to 52%. It is truly a triple bonanza sales! This sales starts from 12th to 31st December 2019. So hurry because the stocks are limited.

Amazon launches 3 new Wearable Echo Devices and 5 new Echo Devices for Home

If you love Alexa like I do, then this news will excite you beyond imagination. You see, when I started to integrate Alexa into my home around 2 years ago, I always felt something was missing during my interaction with Alexa. When I got my first Mi Band fitness tracker, it hit me that the missing piece was a wearable device for Alexa. So I promptly sent an email to Amazon suggesting to them that they should develop wearable devices that users can interact with Alexa on the go. They thank me for the suggestion and even sent me a $20 gift voucher for that. So much for a multi-million idea.

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How to Install Home Assistant on Raspberry Pi

Let’s get started with the first step into the world of Home Automation. Before that, a word of warning;

This may cause you to spend a lot of money, lose appetite, sleep and hair. You will have the tendency to talk only about your smart home when you meet with another human being. This also might cause you to lose contact with that human being.

If you are OK with all that, let’s jump into the rabbit hole.

There are many methods to install Home Assistant and the recommended one is to use Hass.io method. However, when I first started with Home Assistant, there is no Hass.io. Therefore, I would like to think that the method I used to install Home Assistant is the “original” method and that is the method I am going share in this guide.

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Basic Raspberry Pi Preparation For Any Headless Server Projects

Before you start any headless server (without monitor) project with Raspberry Pi, these are the basic preparation you need to perform.

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