Google Home condo automation, Part 1 Hardware

Google Home

About a year ago I bought Google Home. Amazon Echo is more popular, but I already had Google Music subscription, Chromecast and bunch of Android phones. After a few month playing with Google Home, I came up with the list of things that I want Google Home to be able to do:

  1. Control lights (everybody does that)
  2. Turn TV on with different modes (TV, Chromecast, HTPC)
  3. Add items to Google Keep shopping list
  4. Have nighttime scene (dimmed lights, specific song playing)
  5. Skype parents
  6. Turn my PC on/off

Bonus features:

  1. Water plants
  2. Turn x-mas light on/off


Control lights

Lutron Caseta

There is a big selection of smart switches, bulbs, and dimmers. I needed a physical smart light switch and my condo does not have a neutral wire. Most smart light switches must have a neutral wire. Lutron Caseta is the only one among popular brands who somehow does not need a neutral wire. Lutron Caseta has a broad spectrum of products that satisfy all my needs. Google Home and Harmony support them out of the box.

TV Control

Harmony Companion

Harmony is the absolute leader in TV remotes. I don't care about LCD screen since I'll mostly control TV using my voice, so I decided to buy Harmony Companion. It took some time to set it up, but finally, everybody in my family can do basic tasks switching between TV, Chromecast, HTPC, Bluetooth Music using remote or voice.


Intel NUC

I could buy Raspberry Pi + NAS, but I didn't want to be limited by computing power. I also wanted to do Skype calls using my TV. This is why I bought Intel NUC + Logitech webcam. My Intel NUC supports both mSata and 2.5 HDD. I installed Windows on small mSata SSD drive and used 2Tb old-fashioned hard drive for media storage.

Smart Wi-Fi Plug

I bought WeMo Switch, when it was on sale. It works pretty reliably although every other day asks to update it.

Unfortunately, all these hardware out of the box does not solve my home automation scenarios and I had two write some code. I'll cover those customizations in the next part of my blog.

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 by | Add Comment

How to sign assembly with as strong name in Visual Studio Team Services?

I have self generated password protected key.pfx. That key.pfx file is used to sign some assemblies in my solution. I tried to build that solution in Visual Studio Team Services and it failed right away with the following error:

Error MSB3325: Cannot import the following key file: key.pfx. The key file may be password protected. To correct this, try to import the certificate again or manually install the certificate to the Strong Name CSP with the following key container name: VS_KEY_9000008CC1777

Quick googling shows that I need to run:

sn -i key.pfx VS_KEY_9000008CC1777

However this command will prompt a password, so this would not work for on a build server. I tried to use automated solution for the above command using following powershell script:

param($PfxFilePath, $Password)

$absolutePfxFilePath = Resolve-Path -Path $PfxFilePath
Write-Output "Importing store certificate '$absolutePfxFilePath'..."

Add-Type -AssemblyName System.Security
$cert = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2
$cert.Import($absolutePfxFilePath, $Password, [System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509KeyStorageFlags]"PersistKeySet")
$store = new-object -argumentlist "MY", CurrentUser

However this didn't work for Visual Studio Teams Services hosted build agent. I suspect that hosted build server has some kind of environment protection and above certificate installation fails silently. Then I decided to extract key.snk file from key.pfx and use that file to sign assemblies. This approach works, but it is not secure, since I would need to store private unprotected key file in source control. So, I came up with the idea to dynamically extract key.snk using following powershell script:

    [string] $PfxFilePath,
    [string] $PfxPassword

# The path to the snk file we're creating
[string] $snkFilePath = [IO.Path]::GetFileNameWithoutExtension($PfxFilePath) + ".snk";

# Read in the bytes of the pfx file
[byte[]] $pfxBytes = Get-Content $PfxFilePath -Encoding Byte;

# Get a cert object from the pfx bytes with the private key marked as exportable
$cert = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2(

# Export a CSP blob from the cert (which is the same format as an SNK file)
[byte[]] $snkBytes = ([Security.Cryptography.RSACryptoServiceProvider]$cert.PrivateKey).ExportCspBlob($true);

# Write the CSP blob/SNK bytes to the snk file
[IO.File]::WriteAllBytes([IO.Path]::Combine([IO.Path]::GetDirectoryName($PfxFilePath), $snkFilePath), $snkBytes);

Then I added two variables to build definition:

CertPath = $(Build.SourcesDirectory)\key.pfx
CertPass = password (clicked on a lock to secure value of variable)

After that I added powershell task with following arguments:

Sign assembly PowerShell task

This time the build passed and assemblies were signed successfully.

Posted on Monday, July 24, 2017 by | Comments (3) | Add Comment

How to integrate CI/CD with Visual Studio Team Services?

Microsoft provides free Visual Studio Team Services for small team. It has free unlimited Git repositories and 4 hours per month to run builds, which should be more than enough for my projects.

I already integrated front end and admin site. In this post I'll document how I integrated

Step 1 Created build definition

My favorite browser is Google Chrome, but for below process I used Microsoft Edge, since some things didn't work in Google Chrome (e.g. reordering of build tasks).

I didn't use any templates and started with an empty process. First of all lets tried to build my solution. I used following tasks as is:

  1. Get sources (point to git repository)
  2. NuGet Restore **/*.sln (default settings)
  3. Build solution **/*.sln (default setting)

In my case the build failed with following error:

Error MSB4226: The imported project  "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\
Enterprise\MSBuild\ExtensionPack\4.0\MSBuild.ExtensionPack.tasks" was not found.

In my previous CI system I used ExtensionPack for assembly version modification. This is old approach, so I just removed that task reference and used different approach to specify version later in the post.

I pushed a change, but it didn't trigger any build. I added a trigger then:

  1. Opened a Triggers tab.
  2. Enabled continuos integration trigger.
  3. Set repository setting to build on any master branch change.
  4. Went to options tab and set "Default agent queue": Hosted VS2017.
  5. Pressed Save & queue

This time build succeeded. Then I added assembly versioning back:

  1. Downloaded ApplyVersionToAssemblies.ps1 from
  2. Deleted "$Env:TF_BUILD -and -not" from that powershell script.
  3. Replaced TF_BUILD with just BUILD in ApplyVersionToAssemblies.ps1.
  4. Added ApplyVersionToAssemblies.ps1 to Git repository.
  5. Went back to build definition web editor, switched to Variables tab. Added MajorVersion and MinorVersion variables there.
  6. Switched to the Options tab and filled "Build number format" field with $(BuildDefinitionName)_$(MajorVersion).$(MinorVersion).$(Year:yy)$(DayOfYear)$(Rev:.rr)).
  7. Made sure that AssemblyVersion and AssemblyFileVersion lines present in AssemblyInfo files (powershell script does replacement in those files).
  8. Added powershell task to run ApplyVersionToAssemblies.ps1.
  9. Moved up powershell task to run after Get sources task.

After that I modified msbuild task to produce a package for web deployment:

  1. Change build to build web csproj file instead of solution file
  2. Specified configuration: Release
  3. Used following MSBuild Arguments: /T:Package /P:PackageLocation=..\Artifacts\
  4. Added Publish Build Artifacts task: Path to Publish = Artifacts\, Artifact Name = Redbox

Build definition

Step 2 Created release definition

  1. Started from Empty template.
  2. Picked my build from previous step.
  3. Added a deployment group phase task.
  4. Added "IIS Web App Deploy (Preview)" task.
  5. Created deployment group.
  6. Ran generated powershell script on my VPS hosting server.
  7. Specified website name:
  8. Specified package folder using browse button to point to $(System.DefaultWorkingDirectory)/Redbox-CI/Redbox/
  9. Set trigger for continuous deployment.
  10. Optionally modified release name format in General tab: Release-$(Build.BuildNumber))

Release definition

Posted on Saturday, July 8, 2017 by | Add Comment


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