eRVinOS Image v0.5x vs. v0.6x

Summary:

At this time there are two primary image versions, v0.5x and 0.6x. Bottom line, v0.6x and above has a new and superior Alexa integration, but requires some end user configuration, whereas v0.5x does not require end user configuration, but in all probability the Alexa integration will not work due to ongoing changes in the Amazon infrastructure.

Technical Details:

Both versions are based on the original CoachProxy, but in both versions the eRVinOS has been greatly enhanced to be usable by non-programmers by adding several features, such as a graphical interface (GUI) and remote desktop control (VNC). In addition, there have been many and significant updates to the various built in programs and several features have been added, like GPS support.

The primary difference between the two versions is the Alexa support:

Version 0.5x: Uses the original CoachProxy with a system called ha-bridge to support Alexa. This is basically an emulator for the Phillips Hue Bridge and it worked well – for a while. Unfortunately, as Amazon makes changes to their infrastructure, that breaks ha-bridge. At this time, for some it still works, for others (like me) it doesn’t. In eRVinOS v0.51 I did update the ha-bridge.jar file from 5.3.0 to the latest version (5.4.1) which supposedly has fixes for the Alexa non-discovery issue. However, I believe additional changes to the ha-bridge database (.db files) may be required – see this thread for more info. About the time it stopped working for me (~ mid 2020) I tried some of the database modification recommendations and was unsuccessful, others claim to have had better luck. ┬áSince I have long ago given up on ha-bridge in favor of a better solution (and can no longer test ha-bridge fixes), other than updating the .jar file, I won’t be putting any additional effort into ha-bridge. For those of you still wanting to use the v0.5x eRVin image though, it might be worth a shot, especially if there is no configuration file yet for your floorplan in v0.6x.

There are other reasons I chose to move away from ha-bridge. As mentioned, it requires a separate database of lights, shades and other Alexa controllable items. In the eRVin images, this database has to be configured, updated and kept in sync with the actual configuration flow. This is a pain for the person trying to manually modify the configuration to work with a different RV brand/floorplan. On the other hand the finished product is theoretically simpler for the end user, as they do not need to do any Amazon account configuration. Bottom line, if getting reliable Alexa control is a primary motive moving to v0.6x will probably be the best path but it will require a bit more effort to set it up.

Version 0.6x: Also CoachProxy based, but ha-bridge has been removed and instead includes a completely revised Alexa integration, using a more tightly integrated approach using a Node-Red “contrib” called Virtual Smart Home (VSH). There is no separate database like with ha-bridge and the Alexa function is contained within the same Node-Red flow that provides all the other eRVin features. VSH supports voice commands beyond the basic on/off/bright/dim, such as open/close and lock/unlock, ha-bridge cannot do this. VSH, once linked to an Amazon account, does not need to discover devices in the traditional way, they should just appear, only a reboot may be required. In addition, the integration with the Alexa app is far superior to ha-bridge. The biggest downside to Virtual Smart Home is for the computer challenged – Node-Red will need to be accessed (easy) to enter the Amazon account info in the Virtual Smart Home nodes. It is a simple point and click process done from a browser and instructions are detailed on this site, but it is an extra step some may not want to deal with. Still, this is the way to go if reliable Alexa control is desired.

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