You may recall my ranting from such earlier posts as It’s not me, It’s Hue, but I’ve now grown a few months older with my wifi-enabled Hue bulbs, and can make some firmer statements.
Since my original post I’ve added a 5th Hue bulb to my home. This breaks down into 2 bulbs upstairs for the master bedroom, and 3 bulbs downstairs in the living room. I’m planning to acquire more bulbs in the near future (funds allowing), mostly because I have solved my software problem.
Bulbs I still expect to buy over the coming months:
- 1 or 2 for the kitchen
- 1 more for the living room
- 1 for the bathroom
- 1 ‘information’ bulb at my desk, that I will use for ambient light but also ‘information’, such as ‘start blink red 30 minutes before an appointment’ or something like that. Please note: I pledged to MooresCloud for this Light, but they haven’t managed to secure manufacturing funds so a single expensive LED will have to do for now. I will integrate it with the If This, Then That service.
Since I pulled the plug and updated my bridge (with no dramas, who could’ve expected that?), the native Philips Hue app also had an update. Shockingly (that was sarcasm), this has actually made the fucking thing worse. It’s now several more steps to do something basic like change light brightness AND colour. Yes, they split the light brightness and colour screens apart.
The native Philips Hue app remains the biggest barrier to out-of-the-box usefulness of Hue. It is literally that bad. Utterly, utterly unusable if you intend on using your bulbs in more than one room and without a significant amount of configuring of scenes to cover all your home-use scenarios.
The good news is, all my software problems were solved by Stefan (a German developer), who runs CrossFire Designs.
If you have an iPhone, and want to buy Hue, make sure you buy Stefan’s recently revamped iConnectHue, which is something like $2 on the App Store, taking into account currency conversion (I think it’s $3 in Australia).
Once you get past a very few minor gesture tricks that you need to learn, this is the only piece of software you need to control your lightbulbs, schedules, and more.
I can’t emphasise this enough, you only need 3 pieces of software on your phone:
- Native Hue app, for basic management and remote light access: just in case you need to do an update or something. Otherwise just leave it alone. Also the only app that can remotely (ie. via cellular network) control your lights, due to Philips web service integration.
- iConnectHue, for everyday use: manage your rooms and lights and timers and dimmers and everything. Just get it. Nothing else will do it as elegantly. Built for the intended use of the Hue.
- Scintillator (or similar), for parties and animation: Any application that lets you animate your lights will do, but I choose Scintillator. The drawback with all animation apps is that they run from your controller, and will override other controller commands. This means that if you keep your ‘firelight’ running and someone else switches the lights off, the firelight animation will switch them back on mere seconds later. Nonetheless, with its wide range of recipes and room support, this app is excellent for animations from calming firelight to Minecraft day/night cycles to simulated thunderstorms. I’ll probably configure a few effects for my various roleplaying campaigns.
Bonus points: My wife discovered the awesome Ambify for Mac (beta) which let us turn the entire house into a disco controlled by the music playing through our stereo over the Christmas period. Totally worthwhile if you weren’t one of our neighbours.
Custom (for techy people only)
I’ve been playing with the Hue API a lot and understand it fairly well now. It’s quite amazing how the native app doesn’t use grouping properly, even though it’s right there in the frikkin’ API.
I’ve built a web app that can discover and control my home lightbulbs, and if I could’ve gotten my new touchscreen working (long story for another time), I would’ve been able to use it as a home controller.
Anyone programming with Microsoft tools and wanting to integrate their own application with Philips Hue could do worse than using the excellent q42 HueApi library. Grab it via NuGet here. There are undoubtedly Python libraries and whatnot out there too, but I like my C#. It’s actively in development and the source code is readily available on github.
There’s also a link in the Hue API documentation that instructs you on how to interrogate and control your home Hue bridge from a web browser. This is handy for troubleshooting, and just generally cool.
I’ve managed to wrangle what I want out of the Hue system. If you purchase iConnectHue, I believe you will be able to get some value out of the system now, as long as your Hue Bridge has a decent connection to the rest of your home network.
I still love it though. The occasions where I hurl abuse at it have lessened, and it’s now merely a part of our regular house.