Category Archives: Entertainment

Why I can’t recommend tado

Earlier this year we purchased our first house which finally meant I got control over the installation of our heating system. In the house already was a Draytek wireless solution, with a thermostat in the living room and a controller next to the combi boiler. If the living room was too cold, it would send a signal to turn the boiler on, and when it was too hot it would turn the boiler off. All the timings were programmed directly on the thermostat. Around the house we have a number of Thermostatic Radiator Valve (TRV).

My spec was that I should be able to control the thermostat via an app and my Google Home devices. It should allow for as many or as little variations in programming. And important for me, that my bedroom should be cool in the mornings, but comfortable in the evenings, as previously I’d need to remember to turn down the TRV as I went to bed, and remember to turn it up when I got up in the mornings.

So on Prime Day I purchased a tado Wireless Smart Thermostat Starter Kit which was in theory a direct replacement for the Draytek. Along with a single tado Smart Radiator Thermostat to see how well that would work and if we should invest in more around the house.

Now the first problem is installing a thermostat system in July, it’s pretty hard to test anything.

For installation you start with the Wireless Bridge, this is the device which sits in the middle of everything and connects to the internet. It needs to be connected via ethernet, powered via USB, and the recommendation is to set it up next to your home router. Unfortunately my 140 year old brick house has the router at the front window, the boiler at the back utility room and the range for the tado system isn’t great. So I went for a more middle ground and put the bridge next to one of my wifi mesh points in the dining room which has an ethernet port at the back.

Key: Red – Wifi mesh points, Blue – Boiler, Green – Radiator Valves

The installation of the Wireless Receiver was pretty easy. I followed the steps in the app, telling it what boiler and old receiver I had, and it guided me through labelling the existing wires and how to connect them to the tado.

The thermostat is wireless so you just scan the QR code to set it up, configure the timings and dump it whichever room you want, for me this was the Lounge.

Finally I have to install the TVR. I removed the old Myson valve from the radiator in my bedroom (1 on the floor plan), and then need to work out which of the 10 extra fittings provided I need to attach together along with the correct length pin extension to use the tado. There was little help from the app in showing which one I needed, especially as the Myson TVR is one I’ve seen in a number of previous properties so it’s not as if it is uncommon. Also whilst everything seems to suggest that in horizontal mode the display should be facing upwards, every picture has it facing sidewards.

As the months pass and the temperature beings to drop, the heating is finally needed and here is where the problems appear.

The first is pretty basic, the thermostat in the living room is a white box with no always on display. You need to press the button on it to trigger the white LEDs to show the current temperature and for it to ask if you want to raise or lower it. An e-ink or LCD display like provided by everyone else, or a mains powered colour display could tell me at a glance if a) the room is too cold and b) if the boiler has been triggered to turn on. So instead I end up using the app.

I know what the time is, how much electricity I’m using right now, how much gas we used 30 minutes ago, but no idea how hot the room is.

The second is pretty serious. If the Wireless Controller can’t speak to the Wireless Bridge it will go in to a backup mode. This can be a) turn the heating on, b) turn the heating off, c) keep doing what it was already doing until told otherwise. By default it’s set to a), so when it started playing up, the heating was turned on at 2am in the morning burning through expensive gas. To change it to b) or c) you need to find a help guide online and press buttons on the controller. There is nothing within the app to change this behaviour.
So it turned out that having my bridge in the Dinning Room was too far for the controller, so I had to move my wifi mesh in the kitchen away from the utility room and closer to the dining room so that I had an ethernet port somewhere nearer the boiler, but not too far from the thermostat. This sort of fixed the connectivity issues, but has resulted in a weaker wifi signal in my garden. Also the bridge is now further away from the bedroom and that occasionally causes problems and drains the battery. Maybe I could throw more money at this solution and just buy a second bridge. Stick that in the bedroom and the front of the house will be covered, whilst the bridge in the kitchen can handle the boiler. But no, this system can only have one bridge.

The third issue was with the TVR in my bedroom. So I had it set up to be pretty much off all day, except between 8pm and 10pm where I wanted it to raise the bedroom temperature to 19c. It gets to the evening and whilst in the living room it’s feeling rather hot. So checking the app I can see that the living room is currently 21.5c (target is 20c), and the bedroom is 18c. So tado has turned the boiler on to warm up the bedroom and is heating the rest of the house. I go up to the bedroom, but the radiator is cold. For some reason the TVR has closed the valve as it’s nearly warm enough. If I set the temperature higher the valve is opened and the radiator beings to warm up, but again it closes before it reaches the target, whilst still telling the boiler to pump hot water around the house to every other room.

So yesterday I contact Amazon, who were kind enough to refund the TVR and I’m back to manually tweaking the Myson in the bedroom to find the right temperature. I’m still on the fence about the Wireless Thermostat and Receiver

Roku app removals

On the 24th February Roku will be removing my private channels. This includes the unofficial FilmOn, TVPlayer and TVCatchup apps.

The developer scene has changed at Roku since I first worked on this project over 5 years ago. Private channels have gone, and have now been replaced with beta apps. With these you can only have 20 beta testers and apps expire after 120 days.

If you wish to submit a channel to appear for everyone you need to complete certification and as all of my apps involved streams that were never my intellectual property I have no plans to submit them for approval.

It may still be possible to “sideload” the app via the Developer Settings on your own Roku. It’s been years since I’ve needed to do it, but the instructions can be found here.

The zip files which contain the Brightscript code can still be downloaded from my Google Drive, and you are welcome to reuse the code, if you manage to get anything working feel free to let me know. (this app hasn’t worked for years, but code is available to view)

Radio Whoring

We have a number of Google Home devices around the house. A Lenovo Smart Clock in the bedroom, Zolo Mojo’s in the kitchen, living room, “office” and the girl’s bedroom and a Google Home Mini in Charlie’s room.

Other than Alice playing “5, 6, 7, 8” the second most used feature is just listening to the radio.

We’ve had DAB radios in the past. Whilst in Lincoln the signal was weak as there was no local DAB transmitter, the radio would only work with the aerial at full length and if on the right window sill. It had five presets, otherwise switching channels required you moving around in circles to find the station you wanted. And to turn it off, you needed to hold down the “power button” and then OK as a short press just switched it to FM.

Now instead we just shout “OK Google”, the Smart Clock is set to play Scala Radio from 6.30 with their In The Park programme of pleasant classical music and bird song.
Then at 7.00 a weather forecast followed by BBC Radio 2.

As I head to the kitchen for my Breakfast Radio 2 is put on, and as I then head to the desk in the office Radio 2 is started there.

Get to midday and my dislike for Talk Radio means that we switch to Radio X. That’s on for the next four hours until Johnny Vaughan starts, as I then ask Google to play Absolute Radio.

If I’m still at the desk by 7pm, depending on how I feel I might switch to Radio X, BBC Radio 2 or Scala.

Upchic TWS-880 Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones

I had recently been looking for some completely wireless headphones. My bluetooth, but wired between headphones are OK, but new tech!

However I really didn’t fancy the prices being charged, and I have had previous bad experiences with some a couple of years ago.

So when I found these Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones for just £30 with a promo code thought it was worth a trial.

Continue reading Upchic TWS-880 Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones

Anker Zolo Mojo Review

The Mojo is a Google Assistance device very much like the Google Homes. I got one on import a while ago for my desk.

Now we don’t have a Google Home nor an Amazon Alexa so I can’t compare to them, but as someone who isn’t an audiophile I’m pleased with the audio quality that come out of them.

Now I primary listen to Radio 2, RadioX or Spotify at my desk, whilst all of this is possible via my laptop, my laptop speaker isn’t great, I also use sites that need sound, so I had to adjust one and the other to get the best balance and also I’m not hogging ram.
Continue reading Anker Zolo Mojo Review

NOWTV Dev Channel and FilmOn abroad

Couple of recent updates.

NOW TV have chosen to block the dev channel slot on their hardware. I respect their choice, but this does mean that the FilmOn app will be removed if you have it installed.
Several people have asked for a work around or suggestions, the answer is to get a full Roku.

Not only can you install the FilmOn app without the need for dev mode you also get Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. I migrated from the NOW TV small black boxes to the Roku 2. Hardware wise they are identical. The only thing you’ll be missing from a NOW TV box is Sky Sports News HQ, Sky Sports Box Office and for some reason the BOX Plus.
Continue reading NOWTV Dev Channel and FilmOn abroad

FilmOn Higher Quality

When FilmOn made their changes last month they blocked a loophole which allowed users to watch the higher quality (note, I’m not going to call them HD as I feel they aren’t high enough to have that label) streams without the need to have a premium FilmOn account.

Several people requested that I support being able to login to FilmOn to reach the better streams, so today I’m please to announce version 2.0.8 of my FilmOn app.
You can now login with your FilmOn email address and password and if you have an active pro account watch the higher quality streams.
Continue reading FilmOn Higher Quality

Aukey Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker

Thanks to the wonderful people at Aukey they’ve sent me some stuff to test.

Next is the Aukey Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker.

This little bluetooth speaker is built like a builders radio, it can take a good kicking and I’d expect it to survive a drop from some scaffolding.
The audio quality is what you’d expect for a £20 bluetooth speaker, good but not amazing.
Pairing was a breeze with my mobile, however after that it was let down by the bluetooth. I had the speaker on my dining room table, walking through the doorway to my kitchen (a distance of several meters) was enough to cause the audio to start dropping out, which means that either the phone stays with the speaker, or the music has to be paused if I’m not close enough.

img_20161120_200859It has a hidden micro usb port for charging and also comes with a 3.5mm port for audio in, if the device you use doesn’t have bluetooth. It would have been nice if it also had USB A port, then I could have considered powering a Chromecast audio from it and then wouldn’t need to rely on the poor bluetooth, but it’s a cheap speaker.

Overall 3/5