Conbee 2: Phoscon deCONZ - Docker Startup | Review

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With the small USB stick Conbee2 I extended my NAS with a Zigbee gateway. Conbee2 can be installed on Raspbian, Ubuntu, Docker or Windows.

Conbee 2: what is it?

Docker Basics

Docker allows applications to be launched by command in a so-called container.
A container is an isolated environment independent of the operating system (OS):
So the OS does not matter, provided Docker can be installed.
When a container is first launched, Docker independently loads all the necessary sources
aus dem Internet.
Docker can be installed on Windows, macOS or an Linux Distribution
Conbee 2 is a multi-vendor Zigbee solution that does not require a cloud. The hardware is a USB stick, the software can be the web interface Phoscon App and deCONZ for the control and display of the Zigbee network. Both components can be easily started via a Docker container. The Phoscon App offers the possibility to control lamps, read out sensors, create scenes, link switches or set simple timers, as well as the possibility to control the connected devices via another smart home solution, see: Install ioBroker - Docker or Home Assistant. An alternative to the manufacturer software Conbee and deCONZ is Zigbee2MQTT, see: Commissioning Zigbee2MQTT.

Commissioning: Docker

Having a few Docker containers running already, I preferred this option. One of the main advantages of Docker for me is the ease of installation and the ability to copy them to another system if needed. For more information on Docker, see: Docker

Official documentation on the Phoscon site: https://phoscon.de/en/conbee2/install#docker

Preparation

I use a folder in root /docker for my Docker containers, accordingly I create a folder for the config underneath:

user@computer:/docker$  sudo gpasswd -a user dialout
[sudo] Password for user: 
User user is added to the dialout group.
user@computer:/docker$  mkdir -p /docker/deCONZ/

Restart ...

Create container

As a prerequisite, I created a separate network in Docker for the smart-home containers:

docker network create smart-home

Since I already have another service using port 80, I changed the parameters to port 84 accordingly:

The actual container for deconz can be created, in the previously created folder /docker/deCONZ, as follows:

 docker run -d \
   --name=deconz \
   --network=smart-home \
   -p=84:80 \
   -p=5983:5900 \
   --restart=always \
   -v /etc/localtime:/etc/localtime:ro \
   -v /docker/deCONZ/:/root/.local/share/dresden-elektronik/deCONZ \
   --device=/dev/ttyACM0 \
   -e DECONZ_DEVICE=/dev/ttyACM0 \
   -e DECONZ_VNC_MODE=1 \
   -e DECONZ_VNC_PORT=5900 \
   -e  DECONZ_VNC_PASSWORD=password \
   marthoc/deconz
   

Access to the Phoscon App

A password can be assigned when logging in for the first time:

the wizard will then immediately start searching for lamps:

Philips Hue Go: and Dimmer: On and Off at the same time:

No new lights found

At first Conbee could not find my lights. As described in Phoscon's instructions, a USB extension cable should be used for the stick; possibly just coincidence but: with an extension cable it then worked right away.

Hue white Bulb or Philips Hue Go Portable light

The Hue Bulb is connected to the supplied switch by default. To be able to connect the bulb to Phoscon, the search must be activated in it, therfore: "0" and "1" must be pressed simultaneously on the switch.
To connect the switch to Phoscon it must be put into pairing mode by pressing the reset button on the back, this requires a pointed object. The Philips Hue Go Portable light can also be connected to Phoscon via a connected dimmer switch; again, press 0 and I simultaneously to put the Go Portable in pairing mode.

Add sensors

Sensors can also be added by a long press on the connection button.

Existing switches

To be able to use existing light switches, I used a flush mount switch and dimmer:

Show VNC ZigBee Mesh

With a VNC connection the GUI can be accessed to display the ZigBee mesh network. To do this with a VNC client on localhost:5983 and use the password used in Docker-run.

Software and firmware update - perform manually

If a new software or firmware version is available for the ConBee stick, this will be indicated in the web interface:

If there is a new version available, instead "The version is up to date", "A new version is available. The update must be performed manually using Docker." is displayed.

Current version of Phoscon: 2.15.3 ( found: 20.05.2022)

Phoscon version can be updated with a docker pull, see also: docker-commands#update.

Current firmware version of the ConBee2: 26780700 ( found: 20.05.2022)

Changelog: github.com/dresden-elektronik/deconz-rest-plugin/wiki/firmware-changelog

Showing the current firmware:

docker stop deconz
docker logs deconz | grep ".GCF"
18:26:02:938 GW update firmware found: /usr/share/deCONZ/firmware/deCONZ_ConBeeII_0x26780700.bin.GCF

The firmware update can be started with the following command:

docker run -it --rm --entrypoint "/firmware-update.sh" --privileged --cap-add=ALL -v /dev:/dev -v /lib/modules:/lib/modules -v /sys:/sys marthoc/deconz

Output:

[+]
-------------------------------------------------------------------
 
             marthoc/deconz Firmware Flashing Script
 
                       Version: 0.6
 
-------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
Listing attached devices...
 
GCFFlasher V3_15 (c) dresden elektronik ingenieurtechnik gmbh
Path             | Vendor | Product | Serial     | Type
-----------------+--------+---------+------------+-------
/dev/ttyACM0     | 0x1CF1 | 0x0030  |            | ConBee II 
 
Enter the full device path, or press Enter now to exit.
 
Device Path : /dev/ttyACM0
 
-------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Firmware available for flashing:
deCONZ_ConBeeII_0x26780700.bin.GCF
deCONZ_RaspBeeII_0x26780700.bin.GCF
deCONZ_Rpi_0x26780700.bin.GCF

 
Enter the firmware file name from above, including extension.
Alternatively, you may enter the name of a firmware file to download
from http://deconz.dresden-elektronik.de/deconz-firmware/
or press Enter now to exit.
 
File Name : deCONZ_ConBeeII_0x26780700.bin.GCF
 
-------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Device: /dev/ttyACM0
 
Firmware File: deCONZ_ConBeeII_0x26780700.bin.GCF
 
Are the above device and firmware values correct?
Enter Y to proceed, any other entry to exit: Y
 
Flashing...
 
GCFFlasher V3_15 (c) dresden elektronik ingenieurtechnik gmbh
Reboot device /dev/ttyACM0 (ConBee II)
deCONZ firmware version 26580700
R21B18 Bootloader
Vers: 2.07
build: Jun 17 2019
flashing 164106 bytes: |==============================|
verify: .
SUCCESS
Wait 10 seconds until application starts

then restart the container

docker start deconz

see also: https://github.com/dresden-elektronik/deconz-rest-plugin/issues/2831

Restore network configuration

If connections are lost after an upgrade, old network configurations can be restored. To do this, load the hidden menu "Zigbee configuration" under Gateway by pressing Ctrl+Alt and clicking on Advanced:

OTA update of single devices

A firmware upgrade of certain end devices can be done via the VNC connection on deCONZ. The OTA update plugin in deCONZ is for my feeling not really self-explanatory and like the operation in deCONZ in general very confusing. Actually, I would have expected deCONZ to download new firmware versions on its own, but that was not the case. While searching for new firmware versions I came across this page: github-wiki-see.page/m/dresden-elektronik/deconz-rest-plugin/wiki/OTA-Image-Types---Firmware-versions or github.com/dresden-elektronik/deconz-ota-plugin#hue-firmware. After my dimmer switches Philips RWL021 in version 5.45.1.17846 keep not responding, I downloaded version 6.1.1.28573 and copied it to the Docker folder, whereupon the file can be selected for an update:

After clicking on Update nothing happens at first, but then at some point the updater starts doing something:

and after more than one hour it says "Done" at the progress:

But unfortunately the version has not changed.

The Hue Bulbs LWA001 have flickered with me again and again, here I have successfully updated from version 1.53.3_r27175 to 1.76.10.

Zigbee frequency: 2.4 GHz - WLAN interference

The frequency band used by Zigbee is the same as the 2.4GHz WLAN band, so in case of connection problems with single devices you should check if Zigbee could be influenced by an existing WLAN. In Phoscon the channel can be changed under "Gateway" and "Change Zigbee channel":

As default channel 15 is used for the Conbee, if possible, according to the table, at least WLAN channels 3 or 4 should not be used by any WLAN in the vicinity

Frequency Ghz WLAN channel Zigbee channel
2,405   11
2,410   12
2,412 1  
2,415   13
2,417 2  
2,420   14
2,422 3  
2,425   15
2,427 4  
2,430   16
2,432 5  
2,435   17
2,437 6  
2,440   18
2,442 7  
2,445   19
2,447 8  
2,450   20
2,452 9  
2,455   21
2,457 10  
2,460   22
2,462 11  
2,465   23
2,467 12  
2,470   24
2,472 13  
2,475   25

If none of the WLAN channels are free, could Zigbee channel 11 be used? At least this is a bit outside the first WLAN channel.

Current problems: Unstable - connection lost

The initial euphoria is a bit clouded right now:

  • The SamoTech flush-mounted switch and dimmer switch have already lost connection 3 times so far: then briefly de-energize them via the circuit breaker at the meter box helps.
  • The Philips Hue Go Portable was still operable via the switches, but grayed out in Phoscon: a long press on the button on the lamp remedies the situation.
  • Three of the Xiaomi multisensers have also gone bye-bye and sent no more values for days. Solution: put them back into pairing mode by a long press on the button and search for sensors again in Phoscon.
  • The Philips Hue Bulb flickers when this is connected to Conbee, without connection, so when this is deleted from the Conbee configuration, the lamp works. Also a replacement bulb had this behavior, currently I have renewed the firmware of the Hue Bulb, see OTA update: for this I am currently testing.
  • The Philips dimmer switch had to be reset every now and then because they no longer triggered any action, here these variants help ...
    • The ZigBee devices in the vicinity de-energize, the dimmer switch must then look for a new target likely the connection.
    • Reset the dimmer switch via the reset button and re-learn, or easier:
    • Softreset: press all 4 buttons simultaneously for 5 seconds and then wait about 10 seconds for the switch to reintegrate into the mesh, the switch configuration will be preserved.
  • The communication of the Philips dimmer switch does not run without the conbee: so if the computer is restarted, or the Docker container is not running, the switches cannot be used.

If something changes or I still get my setup stable or the behavior improves with the last firmware update, I'll keep you posted here ... Lastly, I changed the Zigbee channel to 11. The Xiaomi multisensors I had to help with the channel change by a short press on the button, as well as the dimmer switch with a soft reset back.

Conclusion after one year of testing

After about one year with Phoscon and deCONZ I am testing Zigbee2MQTT. First of all: I will not change back to Phoscon. With Zigbee2MQTT it is finally possible for me to bind the switches directly to one or more lamps, which provides stability and fast response for the dimmer switch. Theoretically, binding with DeConz would have worked as well, but unfortunately only via the incredibly cumbersome and confusing VNC connection. Currently I would claim Zigbee2MQTT is the better choice for me, see: Commissioning Zigbee2MQTT

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