home automation

Amazon Dash Button, repurposed.

If you are an avid Public Radio Tulsa 89.5 listener like I am, you probably have had a “driveway moment”:

You just arrived back home with a riveting story in progress, but there is something urgent you need to be doing besides sitting and listening to the radio in your car.

So you dash indoors, turn on the radio, and try to continue listening while you do whatever is so all-fired important.

But wait, here’s the Public Radio Tulsa “Driveway Moment” Button!

From your driveway or garage, push the button on your key ring, and instantly start recording on your indoors Windows PC. Listen to the rest of the story when you have time.

Yes, in only one fast, easy stroke of your index finger!

Public Radio Tulsa “Driveway Moment” Button in action. Bottom right: the “listener” process running in the System Tray, waiting for the button push. Bottom left: the command prompt window  created by the listener process. Top left: the VLC recorder window created by the command prompt window. Top right: icon of the VLC recording. (Click to enlarge)

This is a short how-to, since the hard work is in two previous posts.

  1. Do the hack described in detail in this post: Amazon Dash Button Hack: X10 wireless doorbell.
  2. Instead of creating the doorbell.bat file, create a KWGSrecord.bat file as described in this post: DIY online radio recorder (KWGS update). Change the number of seconds in that file from 10800 (3 hours) to 1800 (1/2 hour), or whatever length of time you want.
  3. Alter the text in DashButton.bat from the first post so it executes KWGSrecord.bat instead of doorbell.bat.

There, wasn’t that easy?

Maybe not.

But it can be done, because I just tested it from both our garage and driveway.

You could also keep the button near where you listen to your home radio for spur-of-the-moment KWGS recording.

Yet another example of repurposing the Amazon Dash Button.

(By the way, the button’s product label can be peeled off, and replaced with a custom label if you wish. Or you might say it means a “Bounty” of good radio.)

Now it’s a KWGS radio with recorder!

Here is a fun and cheap home automation trick I did last week.

Our house came with a wireless doorbell, which sadly has gone to that Great Electronics Recycling Depot in the sky. What to do?

I recalled reading somewhere that the Amazon Dash button is capable of being repurposed via a hack. (By the way, the first button is basically free).

“Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected during the set-up process. When you’re running low, simply press Dash Button—ensuring you never run out of your essentials again.”

The hack involves starting up a .bat (batch) file that “watches” for your button push, then runs any other .bat or .exe file on your PC that you have selected, rather than ordering an Amazon product.

Since I was able to create a batch file that activates our X10 chime module, we now have a free wireless doorbell!

(At least we will, once I get a more up-to-date router that can reserve IP addresses by hardware address… Done, 12/2017.)

(Click above photos to enlarge. Label by Brother P-touch Label Maker.)

The Dash button hack:

The Readme file for the Amazon Dash Button Hack at GitHub has the full procedure and free software for the hack.

My supplemental notes:

Download the latest version of the software, which is in .zip format. Unzip it into a folder on your PC (I put it into C:\DashButton).

Then connect a new, unpaired Amazon Dash Button to your home wifi network. A smartphone Amazon app is needed to do this. First make sure to update the Amazon app to the most recent version. Subprocedure at Instructables; do Steps 1 and 2 only.

Next, I found that “pushing the button you wish to pair repeatedly” per the Readme file’s Normal Usage Instructions didn’t work that well for me.

You can skip directly to the “If you already know the IP of your button” section for testing if you do the following:

  • Open up a browser on a PC directly connected to your wireless router and type in “” (or whatever the correct IP address is for your particular router’s make and model) to access the router’s management GUI.
  • You will be asked to enter both a username and password. Typically, they are both “admin” if you haven’t changed it previously. Check your manual.
  • Find the “DHCP Clients Table” (on my Linksys router, it’s under Status/Local Network). Look at it or take a screenshot.
  • Push your Dash Button, then refresh the DHCP table and compare. You should see a new “Generic Amazon” device along with its IP address and its MAC address.
  • Copy down the IP address (e.g., and the associated hardware (MAC) address (e.g., AB:78:BF:8C:9D:19).

OR (easier):

  • Download the free Fing app to your smartphone. When you hit the app’s refresh button, it shows a list of all your locally-connected network devices.
  • Push your Dash Button, then immediately refresh Fing. You should see listed a new “Generic Amazon” device with its IP address and its MAC address.
  • Copy them down.
  • Try again if at first you don’t succeed.

It’s fine to use the IP address from the above for testing in the “If you already know the IP of your button” section of the Readme page, but it needs to not change over time. To accomplish this, go into your router’s GUI as mentioned above, and reserve an IP address for your button. This is where you use the button’s MAC address you noted above. Look through your router’s GUI menu to find where to reserve the IP address by MAC address.

My permanent batch file to execute the hack is named “DashButton.bat”. This is needed if you want the hack to run every time you reboot. Here is the text contained in it:

start /min C:\DashButton\AmazonButton_v4.0.exe C:\Users\User\Desktop\doorbell.bat “Comment: place this file in Startup.”

  • Leave out the “start /min” text for testing. (Minimizes the command prompt window.)
  • Replace “” with your button’s IP address, and the full path of the .bat file with the location of your own  .bat file.
  • Change the comment to something meaningful to you, or just delete it.
  • Be sure the quote marks are the straight up and down kind (“dumb”) not the curly type (“smart”).

(I show below how to create the doorbell.bat. You can use any other executable file on your PC for testing, or just to do a different action at a push of the button.)

  • Double-click DashButton.bat to activate the hack.
  • Push your Dash button.
  • If the doorbell batch file (or the file you selected) is executed, then your DashButton.bat is working.
  • Put a copy of it into your PC’s Startup folder. That way, when Windows is rebooted, the it will be executed during Startup.

The batch file to use with the Dash button hack:

You can use any batch or .exe file you have, but I wanted to activate our X10 Chime module.

I mentioned in the previous post that we already have an X10 home automation system, including a CM15A USB Transceiver Module plugged into our desktop Windows PC.

With the CM15A and free AHSDK software in place, any of our X10 devices (including our Chime module) can be activated over our local network.

My doorbell.bat file has this text in it:

start /d “C:\Program Files (x86)\AHSDK\bin” ahcmd.exe sendplc A9 on

  • The folder with my ahcmd.exe executable file is C:\Program Files (x86)\AHSDK\bin. Our Chime module is at X10 address A9 (house code A, unit code 9).
  • Adjust your batch file text to match the location of your ahcmd.exe and the module you want to activate.
  • Again, be sure the quote marks are “dumb”, not “smart”.

So a new wireless doorbell at zero additional cost.

Intended use of an Amazon Dash Button

Amazon Echo Dot, aka Alexa, aka "Computer" in our theater room.

Amazon Echo Dot, aka Alexa, aka “Computer”, responding to my voice command in our theater room.

Among its many talents and skills, the Amazon Echo Dot device allows you to voice-control a number of smart home systems, notably, Philips Hue.

But we already have X10 home automation devices, which are not supported by the Echo. (See the X10 section of the TTM aStore.)

There is a way to get Alexa (Amazon’s virtual personal assistant, who inhabits the Echo Dot) to accept X10 voice commands to turn lights, fans, and coffee makers on and off. I’ve done it.

See the 35-second video at bottom of page; read more below.

HA-Bridge is free software that emulates the Philips Hue light system.

When HA-Bridge is installed on a computer, it tricks Alexa into thinking she is “seeing” and controlling a Philips Hue light that is actually a different brand of device, such as X10.

The computer also needs a CM15A USB Transceiver Module (or the like) to communicate with X10 devices. (I already had a CM15A plugged into a Windows 10 PC so we could use the X10 Commander app on our smartphones.)

I could have installed HA-Bridge on one of my Linux-based Raspberry Pi computers (see Corey’s Write for a procedure), but I preferred not to disturb the existing arrangement on our Win 10 computer.

Luck was with me. Just last month, Tuicemen wrote a Windows-based program, Alex10, that uses HA-Bridge (included) to talk with Alexa. It is also more user-friendly than HA-Bridge. So Alex10 was the way to go. (Tuicemen deserves a PayPal tip for his good work if you use it.)

I won’t go into further technical detail about how to do it, but here are the resources I used:

Tuicemen’s Alex10 page

Tuicemen’s Alex10 Forum

Tuicemen’s Alex10 thread on the X10 CommunityForums

Yesterday was our first sci-fi Saturday with voice-controlled lights.

When I say “Computer: turn on Movie Time”, our assorted decorative and house lights come on. (I selected the name “Movie Time” and the lights to be activated in the Alexa Android app.)

Then, when I say “Computer: turn off theater lights,” the house lights go down, and the show can begin.

When I say “Computer: make it so” in my best Jean-Luc Picard voice, Alexa (renamed “Computer” last week) is pre-programmed to respond “Aye, aye, Captain.”

See it in action in our house:

An episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” interacted with our home entertainment system this evening.

The Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled, internet-connected device that can play music, control smart home devices, provide information, etc.

It is now possible to change its wake word from “Alexa” to “Computer”, just like the Enterprise D’s voice-controlled computer. As a result, the worlds of Star Trek and today’s technology collided.

Our new Echo Dot responded to Geordi La Forge’s command (look for the blue ring to appear on the bottom right when he says “Computer”).

If you don’t see it the first time, replay the clip; it’s only 12 seconds long.

I am working on getting our X10 home automation to respond to voice command as well; more about that when I succeed.

Another media room interaction: when Mr. Data's cat meowed, Albert's grooming halted while he assessed the situation.

Another interaction occurred when Mr. Data’s cat Spot meowed. Albert’s grooming halted while he assessed the situation.

My den coffee table

My den coffee table

Here is my small coffee table in the den. (I bought a couple of these probably twenty years ago from a furniture warehouse that used to be a bowling alley, Harvard Lanes.)

Harvard Lanes souvenir

Harvard Lanes souvenir

I can do quite a lot with those two devices.

First, the X10 Universal 5-in-1 Learning Remote ($15):

It has 5 main buttons: TV, VCR, CBL, SAT, and X10. If you push TV, then the rest of the buttons will control your TV. If you push VCR, you have the VCR controls, etc.

I wouldn’t inflict the following system on my wife or anyone else, but here is how I set it up for myself:

5-in-1 X10 learning remote

TV button: Selects controls for our 36″ flat tube TV. But there were enough buttons left over to teach them the Roku box’ controls as well:

REW/FF/PAUSE/PLAY do what you would expect.
A/B/C/D became Up/Right/Left/Down buttons for the Roku screen (tricky, since the built-in directional buttons are for the TV).
ENT became the Roku Select button.
REC was repurposed as the Roku Home button.

VCR and SAT buttons: Allows control of the VCR/DVD combo player (rarely used now). The VCR and DVD functions are effectively two separate devices, so the VCR button selects the VCR controls, and the SAT button selects the DVD controls.

Again, repurposing two unused buttons under SAT, I added control of a remote A|B switch for the indoor and outdoor antennas. (During bad weather, the indoor one sometimes performs better).

The CBL button now selects the controls for the TiVo Roamio OTA. The TiVo’s own remote is mostly used by my wife, and is RF (radio frequency) based. But the TiVo can also recognize IR (infrared), so that’s how the 5-in-1 is able to control it.

The X10 button lets you control X10 home automation modules around the house. The 5-in-1 remote uses radio frequency (RF) for X10. The other four main buttons of the 5-in-1 are infrared (IR) only. None of the X10 buttons can be taught different functions, probably due to being tied to the RF mode.

Since I squeezed in control of 7 different devices, it’s now a 7-in-1 remote!

Sure, I have to remember a lot of stuff, but I did document it all in the 5-in-1’s manual. I use it often enough that I rarely refer to my notes anymore. Now that’s a kludge! (Clumsy and inelegant, but effective.)

Now the phone, a rooted, wifi-only Motorola Electrify smartphone ($0):

Of the top row of apps, the first three are diagnostics for the Raspberry Pi media computer in the theater room.

The fourth one, Remote Ripple, is the app version of TightVNC. With TightVNC software running on the Windows computers, I can use the app to take over their desktops and update software, move files around, etc. Very useful!

Home theater apps on smartphone

Home theater apps on smartphone

The X10 Commander app allows me to control devices around the house over wifi on the home network. I have an X10 ActiveHome Pro Computer Interface Module USB-attached to the office computer and plugged into the AC wall socket. The computer runs the X10 Commander software, which interprets wifi signals from the app and converts them in to the control pulses sent over house wiring to X10 modules for the lights, fans and coffee maker.

The TiVo app can serve as a remote control for the TiVo. More importantly, it shows you a program guide and lets you set up recordings.

(The My Media Center app does the same function for Windows Media Center, but that is for the theater room, not the den. Yatse is a remote control for the Raspberry Pi, also in the theater room.)

The Roku app is a second remote for any of the three Roku boxes in the house.

Puffin is a browser that will play Flash-based video. This was a great discovery for me.

One thing I missed after cutting the cable TV cord was the “Morning Joe” show on msnbc (also the Saturday/Sunday morning “Up with Steve Kornacki”). Free 24/7 feeds of both CNN International and msnbc International are available on the web, but both are Flash-based. With Puffin, I can play either on the smartphone, and better yet, the Nexus 7 tablet.

(Drop me an email for the URLs if you can’t find them. I know of no equivalent web feed for Fox News. Rupert Murdoch is tight-fisted with his cable content.)

I have the TV Listings app set up to show shows a program guide for cable in Tulsa. I only use it for CNN/msnbc, and not much for them, but if you are still on cable or satellite, it could be more useful to you.

There is a Roku Highlights document link on the smartphone. This is my own Google Doc created to remind me and my wife some of all the specific shows we like that are available through various Roku channels.

These channels include Plex (all movies and TV shows on computers in our house), Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Sky News International in HD, Crackle, Shout Factory, iTunes Podcasts, Nowhere TV. I note the shows that either of us might want to watch, but that slip our mind when trying to think of something good to watch.

I am able to update this doc on the smartphone or on the computer. We don’t use this as much as I thought we would, but I still like to have it available as a comprehensive memory jog.

Under the table is a clipboard with a printout of the Roku highlights list. I add items as I think of them for future updates. Low tech is sometimes the appropriate tech.

Anyway, these two devices do it all for me in the den.