Andy Blyler

Software Engineer, Private Pilot, Photographer

Nest Thermostat

Nest Thermostat

It has only been a little over a week since our Nest thermostat was installed, and its already hard to imagine life without it. The top reason is that we can change the temperature setting of the thermostat via our iPhones, which eliminates the “hey honey, is the thermostat on hold,” question that occurs quite frequently. We don’t have a very predictable schedule, which caused us to constantly tinker with our old thermostat. Being able to easily change the temperature and schedule from anywhere is great because we can turn the heat down while we’re away and use the iPhone to turn it up just before we return.

I must admit, Nest and I did have a bit of a rocky start. When I ordered, I opted for installation service as well, since the last time I tried to install a thermostat resulted in a service call to the local HVAC company (which cost more than the Nest’s installation fee). Maybe my expectaciones were too high, but the installation company did not schedule my install appointment until a full week had passed since I received the Nest in the mail. It was only after my asking to cancel the install service that they scheduled the appointment for the next morning.

After getting the installer to come out, the install went rather smoothly, that is until the Nest got into a continuous firmware upgrading loop. After over an hour of troubleshooting, both the installer and the Nest support representative thought the Nest must have been defective and scheduled a replacement to be shipped out overnight. I was highly impressed that Nest would overnight a new device to me, two thumbs up! Luckily, it didn’t come to having to wait on a replacement. After the installer left, I tried one last time to upgrade the firmware manually, this time it worked! I altered their instructions slightly:

  • Turn off WiFi
  • Detach the Nest thermostat from the base
  • Restart the Nest thermostat
  • Attach the Nest thermostat to your computer via a mini USB cable
  • Copy the tar.gz firmware image to the Nest storage device
  • Unplug the Nest from your computer (the Nest thermostat should now display something like “Plug back into base to start upgrade”
  • Plug the nest back into the base

The device has been working flawlessly ever since. The coolest feature is auto-away, which has tuned itself and will probably save us the most money. The Nest has a motion detector in it, and when it doesn’t sense movement for a period of time it can automatically switch to away mode.

One idea, that I think would be killer for Nest to implement, is that in addition to using the motion detector to determine when to go into auto-away mode, it would be awesome if the Nest could detect when all mobile phones aren’t on the local network (maybe via arpping). It wouldn’t be too hard to gather the MAC addresses from iOS and Andriod devices that installed and logged into the Nest application.

Next up, reverse engineering the Nest site and graphing the data via Cacti.

Follow Up on Virtual Host HTTPS Sites

Back in 2006 I posted about RFC 3546 and how it would allow multiple HTTPS sites to share a single IP address. Since my post a lot has changed, a new RFC [1] was formed and all major browsers now support this technology [2]: IE 7+ (excluding Windows XP), Firefox 2+, Chrome 5+ (excluding Windows XP), Safari 3.2.1+ (excluding Windows XP), Opera 8+. As far as servers go Apache 2.2.12+, Nginx, and lighttpd 1.4.24+ all support it. The only major missing component is IIS for hosting websites on Windows.

Analyzing my website visitors over the past month, it appears that ~9.5% use web browsers that still do not support this technology. I plan on using this technology on internal websites, but until Windows XP becomes obsolete I do not feel like it can be used for public web sites.

[1] RFC 4346
[2] Wikipedia: Server Name Indication