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Dusun: IOT Home-Assistant Gateway – Unbox, Set up & Review
In this post, I am going to review the Dusun Smart Gateway, from the initial unboxing to set up and my final thoughts.
TL:DR – lot’s of potential, but only in the hands of someone with some serious Linux-Fu!
So towards the end of last year, I saw a product online that immediately peaked my interest. It was a unit advertised by a company called Dusun. It looked perfect, and just what I was looking for. A small low powered device capable of running Home-Assistant (supervised!) with built in Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-wave radios. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I reached out to Dusun and after a few email exchanges, one was sent out to me.
On receipt of the unit, the device feels premium. In fact a lot more than I was initially expecting, which is always a pleasant surprise. The packaging and wrapping feels decent but with an environmentally friendly feel to it.
Alongside the actual unit, I received an ethernet cable, a weighty USB-C lead, a mounting bracket and a USB charger. All feeling very apple-esque so far. The only thing missing from the package was any kind of literature. Still who reads the manual these days.
The unit itself is about the same sort of size as an intel nuc but about 2/3rds the height. I plugged it in and connected the various cables to it.
So as you can see this has all bases covered. Battery backup, Sim card for network backup, not to mention BT, Zigbee and Zwave. You can see why I was keen for this to work.
On start up, the gateway’s ring began to glow red, before turning a present blue about a minute later. The machine, for all intents and purposes is silent. I logged into pfSense to grab the machine’s IP address. It was listed as “linaro-alip”. I fixed the DHCP reservation and a few keystrokes later I was faced with a familiar looking Home-Assistant login screen. So far so good.
As I alluded to earlier there were no accompanying instructions though. I was continually trying a variety of user/pass combo’s until root/root let me in. I quickly reconfigured the user/pass to something I was more familiar with. The machine initially felt a bit sluggish with a few menu items still in mandarin. I tried to update a few things, but kept getting errors. Something was holding back the internet connection. I figured it was DNS, so decided to fix that.
Configuration > Add-ons, Backups & Supervisor > System tab on the right – then hit change on the upper right panel. Select your Network adapter (LAN or Wifi) and then amend the details accordingly.
Quick restart and bingo, we were in business. I could see there were some updates to be done so having created a backup, I proceeded with that and left the machine alone to do its thing. A short while later and I was running the latest and greatest (at the time).
Out of the Box
A quick glance at the main Lovelace screen revealed a set of colour sliders for what appeared to be a light. I initially thought these sliders might correspond to the glowing ring on the top of the unit, alas moving the sliders had no effect on its output.
Regarding the add-ons, it initially came with Z-wave JS configured but Zigbee was nowhere to be found. I tried repeatedly to add ZHA to it, but each time I was met with a variety of errors. Eventually, after discussion with the developers, I managed to get ZHA installed (ZHA serial port is /dev/ttyUSB1 and the protocol is ezsp Baud rate is 115200). I added an Aqara motion sensor and installed Node-red. Within a few moments, the sensor was discovered and we were in business.
I then proceeded to add a few more add-ons. I noticed there were some custom Dusun ones.
DUSUN BLE mesh
I started having mixed success getting these to work. In the absence of documentation, I was kind of doing by feeling. I managed to get Dusun BG96 installed, but have no idea what it does. The same with Dusun Wifi. I get the feeling that this one created a media player, similar to a cast server. At least it shows one entity with a different IP.
The other two integrations, Dusun and DUSUN BLE mesh, just constantly time out. With no error or anything to suggest they’ve taken or failed. Moving on.
Under the Hood
I installed Glances initially, as wanted to get a look inside the machine to see what was installed. I noticed that the linux version was pretty old. I also wanted to SSH into this box of tricks to see what the installation looked like.
I felt the machine kept running sluggishly, so at this point, I fancied doing a fresh install. I still had some mandarin in parts of the menu, and I just felt at this point, maybe a clean start was the way forward. I needed to get SSH access to the machine. I contacted the developer again and received the details. root/linaro lets you in.
On closer inspection, it appeared that this drive had all sorts of bits and pieces installed on it. It looked like a mix between Linux and Windows. I wasn’t aware that I’d been given a pre-production unit. I also noted that I was beginning to run out of space. Backups kept failing and then I was unable to add more add-ons. This became a continual problem. I went through the drive via filezilla, removing various media files and remnants of a previous windows installation, which helped initially, but pretty soon I was up against space constraints again.
I contacted Dusun about getting a fresh image of the OS, so that I could format the drive and start from scratch. I figured if I could get this working, then I could swap in a larger hard drive and start from a fresh install. This was when things started to go downhill. Rather than be pointed at an OS image or given additional drivers to try and shoehorn into a standard Hassio (that name is never going away :)) image, I was given a different set of instructions.
I needed to download RKDevTool, adb connect and basically compile my own. Undeterred, I went to the web to try and find RKDevTool. After an hour of hunting for a more recent version, I managed to find it. It looked similar to the tool in the pdf I was sent.
It was at this point that things ground to a halt. There are no instructions with RKDevTool at all. I was able to connect to the machine once only. I had nothing to upload and frankly speaking compiling linux drivers and modifying base OS images is beyond me. I reached out to the developer again to see if they had a clean updated image I could use, but alas, I didn’t get a response.
All quiet on the Eastern Front
My communication with Dusun had been over a period of a few months. For one reason or another, I was unable to review this unit as quick as I would normally like, however, after a month or so, communication with Dusun seemed to go flat. I’d prepared several pdf’s with various issues I’d had with screen shots, errors, and potential solutions, but my attempts at rectifying the issues, were met with silence. I really wanted to give them time to come up with a newer image or for me to upgrade it, and come to you with a well priced solution and an alternative to some of the other ventures out there. You can read more about the product here:
I’ve been extremely reticent about posting this review, as I think this box has potential. The hardware feels decent. Even the USB C lead is about 30% thicker than those you get with Apple. The Charging brick feels heavy, like my OnePlus warp charger. I love the notion of one and done. You buy a machine, and it has bluetooth, zigbee and zwave already baked into it. No dongles hanging out. No one needing to advise you that you need to put something on a usb extension lead. I have seen other variants sold on the Dusun website which would suggest that you could also use this machine as a remote gateway. I also love the idea of redundancy, whether thats power or networks with the battery and sim card options. In essence, a hub that you could connect your Home-Assistant install to i.e. a remote zigbee/zwave/bluetooth server. This could be a nice use case for the machine. You’d keep your Home-Assistant installation on your main server (VM/Container) in a rack and then you mount this little box of tricks somewhere else in the centre of the home where the zwave and zigbee signal would be better received.
Given this machine is capable of doing more than just serving up wireless signals, potentially you could offload more to it. Mqtt/Node-red/Tailscale/Tasmoadmin to name just a few lightweight services that this could happily run. If you fancied moving away from Home-Assistant preferring to use just node-red or hubitat, homeseer etc, then you could still have this gateway doing its thing.
I don’t want to be too hard on Dusun. I think there was probably a disconnect in communication. It feels to me that this product is probably suitable for business to business, and not business to consumer. If I need to compile anything other than a youtube playlist, then it’s going to be a no from me. That’s not to say that one of the devs out there couldn’t take hold of this and exploit it to its full potential, but as far as ‘off the shelf’ goes, absolutely not.
As it stands so far, it looks like their servers have been taken down.
My repositories were the following:
deb http://mirrors.tuna.tsinghua.edu.cn/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free
deb http://mirrors.tuna.tsinghua.edu.cn/debian/ stretch-updates main contrib non-free
deb http://mirrors.tuna.tsinghua.edu.cn/debian/ stretch-backports main contrib non-free
deb http://mirrors.tuna.tsinghua.edu.cn/debian-security stretch/updates main contrib non-free
I’ve now changed them to:
deb http://ftp.ie.debian.org/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.ie.debian.org/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free
I’ve also had to manually amend the DNS servers in the machine (outside of hassio) in order to bring it back online. I did this modifying /etc/resolve.conf
This at least allowed me to update a long list of packages. I was hoping to use autoremove to help free up space, but naturally, that didn’t work. I don’t want to wipe the machine as I don’t think I’d be able to find an image to reload it, but I’ve run out of space so am unable to do the necessary updates to a) keep current and b) add the usual integrations. Node-red, Glances etc have had to be removed in an effort to get it current, as have any backups.
At this rate, I’m sure i’ll end up having to format and start again. Then i’ll be faced with the unenviable task of trying to find drivers to bake into the new OS image. There are resources on their site that should allow some progress, but the question is am I up to the task!
If anyone has any hints or tricks on where to go from here, I’m all ears! You can hit me up directly, or in our facebook group, which is growing by the day! below or come over to our facebook group to discuss further.
If you’re considering a renovation and looking at the structured wiring side of things, or maybe you just want to support the blog, have a look below at my smarthome book, it’s available in all the usual places (including paperback)!