How to uninstall an August Smart Lock

Step 1 - Remove the battery panel

I find simply attempting to operate the August Smart Lock with one’s hand sufficient to remove the battery cover, but a strong gust of wind or a stern look should also do the job. You’ll know it’s worked by the familiar clattering of the cover falling on the floor again.

 The August battery cover in it’s natural habitat.

The August battery cover in it’s natural habitat.

Step 2 - Realise this doesn’t help you remove the lock

The actual mechanism you need to mess with to remove the lock is actually along the outer ridge of the lock. It’s hard to see, but there’s a pair of indentations on either side that if you put a screwdriver under - or use a finger with a nail you don’t mind breaking - will lift up like two little arms allowing the lock to slide off a mounting plate.

 Little notches here.

Little notches here.

Step 3 - Notice the glaring problem

Ah, the previous owners of this home and door had to remove the inner-door mechanism to attach this superior smart locking system, leaving behind just a rod. Try scrabbling around in the boxes in the back of a cupboard where you know they left a bunch of random screws and such and maybe the old latch is still somewhere and come up short.

 This won’t work.

This won’t work.

Step 4 - Declare failure

Put the August lock back on the door, because this job now requires a trip to a hardware store. And it’s Thanksgiving.

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Step 5 - Repeat step 2

Having returned from the local hardware store with a whole new front door lock (turns out it’s not particularly easy to just buy half a lock) unscrew the mounting plate from the door.

Step 6 - Add new lock

Remove the inner-side lock from the packaging and basically throw the other half in the bin (or, I guess, save it for if you ever need to change your own lock in the future). Install it as per the instructions in the box. Triumphantly turn the lock with your own hand without bits falling off and with a reduced number of security attack vectors. Note that you’re still going to have to patch and repaint the door because of the unsightly condition left by the August lock.

 New lock.

New lock.

Step 7 - Uninstall the app

On the off chance your August lock was still successfully paired with your phone, you should probably tell your device to forget that bluetooth connection. My lock, fortunately, took care of this step on my behalf many moons ago.

You can now safely uninstall the app, and gone are your days of standing at your own doorway, hoping that a device mere inches away will connect more quickly than a local mugger spots you standing in the blue-glow of your phone late at night.

Keeping a smart home guest-friendly

Chatting last night with an out-of-town friend staying at another smart home I know in the city, he was recounting arriving off a long-haul flight and being unable to simply turn off the lights in the guest room. "I just want to go to sleep, shout at the system to turn the lights off, will you!", he apparently told his host while being also asked to download, install, sign-up and log into an app, half-asleep.

It's all very well having a smart home you can run from your phone, but it's not much use to anyone who just pops by or stays for a little while.  Asking them to download and sign-in to a system just isn't really practical (and that's assuming they have the compatible hardware/operating system in the first place).  

Keeping the house accessible

I keep a few techniques in mind when adding new features to the flat.

1. The house is progressively enhanced

In web development, we have this concept of progressive enhancement, which means that you start by building websites with the very most basic blocks - HTML elements.  Then you enhance those basic elements with CSS to make them look better, then you add JavaScript to make them whizzy - the benefit being that if the JS or the CSS fail to load, you've still go the basic usable blocks underneath.  I'm following this same principle in the house.  

 The switch on the left is internet enabled, but both of these dimmers work as you'd expect when you press them, regardless of connectivity. Excuse the paint job.

The switch on the left is internet enabled, but both of these dimmers work as you'd expect when you press them, regardless of connectivity. Excuse the paint job.

At the basic level, my first-world house is 4 walls and a roof - without power, it generally keeps me out of the elements.  With power, I get to turn on lights and the microwave.  

If I consider that the house + power is the basic foundation of the house, then anything I add after needs to maintain the ability to use the house in that state.  As such, when I then add the internet enhancement (smart home) then the light switches need to still work manually even if I'm overriding them later on in other ways.  In short: if I turn off the internet, the house should still fundamentally work because anything other than that would be ridiculous.

2. Guest routines

Smartthings, and most of the other systems, have modes or routines to pre-configure your setup in some way - movie night, party, vacation, whatever - so I have a "visitors" mode.  This mode disables any of my own weird routines and essentially puts any switches that don't have easily accessible switches (behind tables, under desks) in the guest room in always-on mode, which means that the lamps and whatnot plugged into smart switches are always controllable by the switches on the device that a normal human would expect to turn off the light.

3. Spare keys with location tags

 I could even make one of those twee welcome frames you see all over pinterest. 

I could even make one of those twee welcome frames you see all over pinterest. 

The spare keys to our home generally have tags on them, to let the system know when a guest is coming or going - especially useful when we're actually away but have let people stop over.  Our handyman has one of these, for example.  The arrival of one of these tags lets the system know we have a guest and to turn on the appropriate mode if not already enabled.

4. Web accessible dashboard

Instead of having to download a native app to use any enhancements in the house, I've got a web-accessible dashboard that gives access to special modes and functions available on a tablet in the kitchen, or I can give a guest the URL and password for it while I'm also letting them know the WiFi password so they can get online - I'm not a total control-freak monster, after all - giving them as much control as they'd like with none of the commitment.  

In short, I'm making every effort to make a silly smarthouse-hobby my problem only.  Plus, it's usability insurance for when the system inevitably breaks.

My house calls me

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It's a small thing, but my house sometimes calls me.

Our apartment block uses the type of intercom that you can answer and speak to people on, as well as buzz them into the building, but it only works over a phone line with a local area code . Not having a landline, it's inconvenient for us to have the intercom only connect to one of our personal phones to let people into the building, and my cell phone has an area code for an entirely different state anyway, so we needed a way to have the intercom ping either of us at any time.

To get around the issue, we use a shared Google Voice number. Google Voice lets you pretty much pick your phone number, so it's trivial to get a local area code.  You can then forward calls to the new number to multiple other phones, or pick up the calls via the browser.  It's a surprisingly seamless fix.

I could have not added this number to my contacts - but giving the number a name denoting who it belongs to (it's Wodehouse's number) and a way to talk to us is part of the theory I have around making the house seem smarter.

I don't say there's "someone at the door" anymore, I say "Wodehouse is telling me someone is here".