Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man


Using Automation To Centralize Input

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Recently, Zapier announced that they would be rolling out a new feature: multi-step automated internet functions they call "zaps." Now, I've written about IfTTT and Zapier before, and if you're plugged into the internet at all, it's possible they can help you automate things that take up your precious time. I'm currently using these programs to auto-generate task lists every morning, and send myself reminders to update the list during the day. I also have an ongoing" to-do list, for things that are long-term projects. If I add an item to my Google tasks, it's automatically added to my Evernote list. If someone follows me on Twitter, they're automatically added to my contact list in Evernote. The goal is to centralize my information input: to conglomerate everything to one portal, where I can look through all the information I need in one place. It could be Google Docs/Keep, or Evernote, or Office 360, or whatever information management program you like. But it should be something that's accessible anywhere, and is flexible enough to manage any kind of information.

But automation is a mixed blessing for me. It opens up a world of possibilities, and I usually spend more time playing with it than actually getting things done. This is especially true when playing with apps like Tasker, Evernote, and AutoKey.


Tasker And MyTracks

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As part of my Constant Struggle To Simplify, I wanted to track my cycling miles without having to jump through hoops or do anything crazy. Up until recently, I was using Endomondo to track miles (and before that I used MapMyRide). These programs promise all sorts of features; social commentary, audio coaching, ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, route planning, etc. etc. But really, I found I didn't use any of these extra features. I just wanted a simple, automated way to track my mileage that I could keep in digital form. And with Endomondo's recent feature creep I was having to tap 3-4 menu items just to get to where I could record a ride! Nothing wrong with my Cyclecomputer, either, but I like analyzing numbers and stats.

Keeping with my wanting to use Tasker to automate stuff, I found a Tasker Plugin that allows it to start and stop Google MyTracks recording. MyTracks doesn't have all the fru-fru social stuff, but it supports ANT+ and Bluetooth if I decide to go that route later (and Tasker can automatically connect to them). Plus it automatically syncs with Google Drive, so the potential for 100% complete automation is there. Let's get busy!

There's a couple of plugins I use to do this: AutoActivity, and the MyTracks Tasker Plugin.

AutoActivity is a service that runs in the background that guesses what you're doing (walking, cycling, driving, still) based on GPS and inertia input, and assigns it a "confidence" score percentage of how sure it is you're doing that. You can use it both as a trigger (i.e. "when you detect me driving, do this") or an active variable (i.e. "Do this only IF activity=xxx")

Tasker is so ridiculously flexible, it takes some playing around to figure out the best way to accomplish something. Sometimes the "best" solution isn't immediately obvious. This is definitely the case with this problem. So, let's look at what we want to accomplish, and how we can go about it.


Tasker And Flowcharts

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

In my quest to simplify, I've ventured into the territory of Information Automation. Since I discovered the app  Tasker, I've challenged myself to find new ways to exploit it to automate tasks that I really shouldn't be wasting time on.

Tasker basically is an automation programming language for your Android device. It allows you to take any number of trigger inputs (GPS position, battery state, apps, network status, emails, RSS feeds, etc.) and then perform any series of tasks you program it to. It has the capability to be a full-fledged programming language, with conditional logic, variables, and so on, which lets you make some incredibly complex "tasks" for it to run.

It also has the capability of using almost anything your device can do as an "action" or output, which means you can automate just about anything your phone/tablet can do. Take pictures, play audio, send texts, run programs, share to social media, control the device's functions, or even speak and listen to voice commands.

So, sometimes I geek out on stuff like flowcharts and such, and programming is the perfect place for it. Flowcharts! Graphs! Logic! Here's how it works.