Router (computing)

How to Dim Your Hue Lights When Watching Movies in Plex

Why manually dim the lights during movie time when your media server can do it for you? With a little tweaking, you can set Plex Media Server to automatically adjust your Hue smart bulbs with custom lighting schemes for movie time, intermission, and the end of the film.

We’re pretty big media center fans here at How-To Geek, and we’re passionate about good lighting, especially during movies—you are watching TV with a bias light, right? So when we found out that we could tie our Plex Media Server experience together with our Hue smart bulb system, we set the system up the very same day, and we think you should too. After all, if you want to capture that perfect movies-at-home-experience you need more than just super cool automatic trailers, you need good lighting too.

With Plex and Hue linked together, you can enjoy lighting integration that includes: dimming the lights (or shutting them off altogether) when your movie or TV show starts, dimmed lights when you pause the movie (so you can find your way to the bathroom or to get a snack), and a post-movie lights-up function to brighten the place back up. Even better yet, you can tweak the whole thing to only kick in if it is after dark (so your smart bulbs aren’t flicking on and off in the middle of the day when people watch TV).

Sounds pretty great, yeah? If you’re already using Hue bulbs in the same room as a Plex client, adding this feature is a no-brainer. Let’s look at how to prepare, installing the plugin, and configuring it.

Step One: Prepare Your Network

There are three things you want to do in advance that will make the entire setup process so much easier: assigning a static IP to your Hue Hub, checking the name of your Plex client, and writing down what you want to happen with your lighting scheme while before, during, and after you start a movie.

Give Your Hue Hub a Static IP

Even if you don’t routinely use static IP addresses on your home network, this is a time you have to. Later in the tutorial, we’re going to tell the plugin where to find the Hue bridge—and if that Hue bridge gets a new address every time you reboot the router, you’ll be stuck updating that address in the plugin settings. To avoid that (very easily avoided) headache, you need to assign a static address to the bridge.

How you assign a static IP address varies slightly from router to router, but before proceeding you need to give your Hue bridge a permanent address—you’ll find the bridge listed in your router’s assignment list as “Hue-Bridge”. If you’ve never set a static IP address assignment on your router before, check the manual for additional assistance and assign an address outside your router’s DHCP assignment pool to the bridge.

Check the Name of Your Plex Client

In addition to telling the plugin where to find the Hue bridge, we also need to tell it which Plex clients it should respond to. Take a moment to look in the settings menus of every Plex client you intend to pair with the Hue lights (e.g. if you have a Raspberry Pi running RasPlex in your living room and bedroom, and both rooms have Hue lights, you’ll want to check both of those clients).

Unless you’ve changed the name within the client application itself, the name is usually the hostname of the device it is on (the Plex client on my home office computer is identified as J-Office, for example). Write the device name down, we’ll need it in a moment.

Plan Your Lighting Scheme

What lights do you have in the media room and what would you like them to do? Do you want all the lights to dim? All of them to turn off? Some of them to turn off and some of them to dim? The bias light behind the TV to turn on and set itself to a nice crisp white color temperature?

What about when you pause or stop the media? Write down what you want to happen now, so when we get to the giant everything-in-one-menu configuration page for the plugin, you can…well, plug in all your choices in one swoop.

Step Two: Install the HelloHue Plugin

Prep work behind us, it’s time to install the plugin. If you’ve never installed a Plex plugin before, don’t worry—the process is pretty straightforward. First things first, visit the GitHub page for the HelloHue plugin and click the green download button to grab a copy.

Save the resulting .zip file to your computer and open it. Inside you’ll find a folder labeled “HelloHue.bundle-master”. Extract that folder to the plugins directory of your Plex Media Server. The location of the plugin directory varies by operating system:

  • Windows: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Plex Media Server\Plug-ins\
  • macOS: ~/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/Plug-ins
  • Linux: $PLEX_HOME/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/Plug-ins

Once you have copied the bundle, rename it to “HelloHue.bundle” by removing the “-master” suffix. Then restart your Plex Media Server.

After the server has restarted, head over to Plex’s web interface. Look in the left-hand sidebar for the “Channels” entry seen below and click on it.

Even though the Hue control app isn’t a channel in the traditional sense (like the other media entries you see here, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon), the Channel system is a handy thing for hobby programmers to hijack because it’s got a nice interface we can use to adjust the plugin settings.

There are two ways to access the HelloHue plugin. You can click…

Tips of the Week: Wire Splicing, Table Saw Router, and Flea Market Brainstorming

Another week of tips and techniques that Make: readers will hopefully find useful. Don’t forget to share in the comments below any tips that you’ve come across in your travels. And if you’re going to be at Maker Faire Bay Area on May 20th, come see my Amazing Tales from the Shop panel (see details below).

Basic Wire Soldering Connections

A YouTube channel called TSbrownie does a nice job of running through 5 common types of soldered wire connections: pigtail/rat tail splice, wrapped cable splice, lineman splice, butt splice, and 3-way splice. The video also ends with a few misc. soldering/splicing tips.

Make Your Joints Proud

On Jimmy DiResta’s most recent Rockler video, he mentions his penchant for leaving his joints “proud.” He’s often commented on this in his videos. Proud in woodworking means to let the workpiece protrude over the edge. This allows you to sand or cut the the piece down so that it is perfectly flush at your join.

Using a Cordless Circular Saw as a Router

On Izzy Swan’s Instagram feed, he posted a little video clip showing how he uses a circular saw to cut some decorative coves on a panel.

Taping Slotted Drivers for Delicate Screws

If…

How to Prioritize a Certain Device on Your Google Wi-Fi Network

When you have a large handful of devices connected to your network, it can be difficult to get the speeds you need to play online games or download media. However, with Google Wi-Fi, you can prioritize a device to get the best speeds possible on an otherwise crowded network.

Granted, you can do this on most traditional routers as well, but it’s certainly not as simple and easy as it is using Google Wi-Fi.

Start by opening up the Google Wi-Fi app on your phone and tap on the tab with the settings gear icon and three other circles.

Tap…

How to Set Up the Wink Hub (and Start Adding Devices)

The Wink Hub is yet another smarthome hub that aims to compete with the likes of SmartThings and Insteon in order to create a central device that all of your other smarthome devices can connect to. Here’s how to set it up.

What Is the Wink Hub?

Smarthome hubs act as a central device that connects to your router (thus giving it access to your network and the internet) and then your various other smarthome devices can connect to it, like sensors, smart bulbs, smart outlets, and smart light switches.

Many of these smaller devices communicate using the Z-Wave and ZigBee wireless protocols, which is why a special smarthome hub is necessary in the first place—your router doesn’t support either protocol, so your phone has to communicate with something that sends out Z-Wave or ZigBee signals to your devices.

There are many smarthome hubs on the market, but Wink has one big difference from products like Samsung SmartThings or Insteon. Wink doesn’t make its own sensors, outlets, lights, and more. So whereas SmartThings and Insteon both make their own line of sensors and such to go along with their respective hubs, Wink only makes a hub. This isn’t a problem at all, though, as Wink simply relies on third-party manufacturers to make Z-Wave and ZigBee devices.

For instance, companies like GoControl, Cree, GE, Osram, Leviton, and Lutron all officially make products that can connect to the Wink Hub, and there are hundreds of other devices that can connect to the Wink Hub, even though they may not be officially supported, since Z-Wave and ZigBee are relatively open protocols.

Plus, the Wink Hub supports a ton of other smarthome platforms, even if they already have their own hub. For example, you can link your Philips Hue lights to the Wink app and control them from there (though you’ll still need the separate Hue hub to do so). Wink also supports Nest products, the Ecobee3 thermostat, the Ring Doorbell, Kwikset and Schlage smart locks, and even water heaters and garage door openers from Rheem and Chamberlain, respectively.

The Wink Hub is on its second generation, and the newer hub comes with better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as improved processing power. This guide will focus on setting up the second-generation Wink Hub (called the Wink Hub 2), but the instructions are nearly the same for either generation.

Setting Up the Hub

Start off by unpacking the Wink Hub, plug it into power, and connect it to your router using the included ethernet cable (plug it into any free ethernet port on the router). You can connect it to your router using Wi-Fi, but it’s best to use ethernet if at all possible.

It will automatically boot up and display a blinking white status light on the front.

Next, download the Wink app on your iOS or Android device.

Open up the app and either log in to an existing Wink account, or hit “Sign Up” to create one.

When you sign up, you’ll need to enter in your name, email address, and create a password.

Once you create your account or…

The Easiest Way to Fix Wi-Fi Issues: Move Your Router (Seriously)

Are there Wi-Fi dead zones in your house? Before you do anything drastic, you might be able to fix it by simply moving your router.

This sounds fake, because Wi-Fi seems like magic—something that can only be made better by wizards who understand its mysterious ways. But Wi-Fi isn’t magic. Your laptop and iPad connect to the Internet using a century old technology: radio waves.

And radio waves have limits. If you drive through a tunnel with the FM radio on, you’ll mostly hear a bunch of static. This is because the signal from the radio tower can’t reach you underground. There are barriers that block the signal.

The same principle applies to your Wi-Fi: barriers between your router and your devices make the signal worse. So the physical placement of your device makes a startlingly big difference in your signal across the house.

Place Your Router in the Center of Your House

If you drop a pebble in a still pond, ripples move out from the impact point in all directions.

That’s more or less how radio waves work: they emanate from a central point, in all directions. Remember this when you place your router: imagine ripples moving out from the router in all directions.

With that in mind, the ideal position for your router should be as close to the middle of your house as possible. If your router is in one far corner of your house, you’re sending most of the “ripples” outside, where they aren’t really doing anything for you; meanwhile, the corner of your house furthest from the router is just picking up diminished ripples (or nothing). Put your router in the middle of the house to get equal coverage everywhere.

And remember to think three dimensionally, too. In a three-story house, it’s probably best to put the router on the second floor, assuming you want good signal on all three stories.