I am intrigued by Prota OS as it seems like it could be a good way for tinkerers to use their tinkering prowess to automate their lives using a Raspberry Pi and the endless supply of sensors available for it. After using Prota OS on my Raspberry Pi (actually on two different Raspberry Pi’s, one Raspberry Pi 3B+ and one Raspberry Pi Zero W) I really wish I have not been intrigued by it as it feels more like an early alpha build than anything else and that made me very frustrated.
The idea behind Prota OS is to give the user a simple web based graphical user interface from which to control various home automation themed devices. Prota OS even has some API level integrations that allow you to add on products like Phillips Hue. It really is nice to see someone trying to do this in a way that may be simpler for the everyday general tinkerer than Home Assistant. Unfortunately, that is what Prota OS tries to be but not what it is. I know they are a small company but can’t help but feel like Prota OS should not be a thing until it is a bit more user friendly. Now Prota OS is called a Beta but its last update was over a year ago and should not still be in beta and as I mentioned before it would be a stretch to call Prota OS a beta as it is more of a proof of concept than something that can be used as a daily driver for any type of automation. I am by no means a developer of any kind I am just someone who likes to tinker and finds Raspberry Pi projects fun, I will however say that I can typically work through just about anything using common sense and a little bit of logic. Getting Prota OS running on a Raspberry Pi unfortunately requires you to throw common sense out of the window and completely disregard logic in any way.
To start let’s talk about the actual OS Image, why on earth does it have a file size of 3.8 GB? This really makes me wonder what else is embedded in Prota OS other than just the simple web service that you interface with. I can not find any type of source code available for Prota OS nor have I gotten any response from support, so I cannot answer that question, but I can say that I did not see any strange activity in my router logs which is good, but I did not have Prota OS running long enough for any real study.
Prota OS is completely headless which works great on a Raspberry Pi (although I have read that you can connect a monitor to use for diagnostics purposes, although there seemed to be a lot of confusion on if that even worked). Setup is all done through the Prota Space App which is a hot mess of an App that I am hoping no professional app developer made. You get random error messages during setup which according to responses on the company’s forums say to ignore and it is all together just a mess. Even when setup you still get random errors and slowness to load a very simple plain-jane interface which does not make sense. There is no reason for the app to be slow or even to be as messy as it is. Instead of developing an App, I feel Prota OS would be better served with a dynamic HTML5 website and perhaps that would be a bit easier on the developers and we would get something usable, but I could be wrong.
Frustrations and hiccups aside when I was able to get things working Prota OS did do what it said it would do although it did not do very much of it. There is not a lot of integration here, you have MicroBots (more on those in another review), Phillips Hue, IFTTT and a few other randoms but not enough to really warrant the time it takes to get this up and running. Really the only thing Prota OS really has going for it is the Raspberry Pi GPIO but there are far more elegant solutions for using those in your smart home with real solutions like SmartThings. But if you do want to give Prota OS a try installing it on a Pi is simple (although it will take over your whole Pi as there is currently no way to run it in Raspbian) all you have to do is:
First what will you need?
- Raspberry Pi 3+B (nice to start with a kit as they will typically include a case and power supply)
- MicroSD Memory Card
- Micro USB Power Supply
- Raspberry Pi Case
To begin the installation process you will need a MicroSD Memory Card, and the ability to format and burn an image to that MicroSD Memory Card. I am sure most of you know how to do these steps already, but I will give my recommendations, for formatting I prefer to use SD Memory Card Formatter for Windows and to burn the image Etcher.
Memory Card Preparation:
- Insert MicroSD Memory Card
into a computer
- Open SD Memory Card Formatter for Windows
- In SD Memory Card Formatter for Windows Select the Drive that corresponds to your Memory Card
- In SD Memory Card Formatter for Windows Click Format and wait for it to finish
- Download the Prota OS disk image fromhttps://prota.info/prota/pi/
- Open Etcher.
- In Etcher Select the previously Downloaded Image
- In Etcher Select the Drive that corresponds to your Memory Card
- In Etcher Click Flash and wait for Etcher to Finish
- With the MicroSD Memory Card in the Raspberry Pi it is time to boot the Pi
- Give your Raspberry Pi about 10 minutes to boot then launch the Proto Space App and try to follow along
- The Raspberry Pi running Proto OS will broadcast an SSID starting with Proto which you will need to connect to in order the set up the OS
- Hopefully this will go off without any hitches but I doubt it.
- After a couple tries however you will be done and have Prota OS up and running.
I am passionate about the IoT and connected devices. Using connectivity to automate our lives will empower civilization to achieve greatness.