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Using Pushover notifications

If you have not heard of it already Pushover is a service to send custom push notification for your devices running iOS or Android.

You can start receiving notifications by purchasing the app for a particular platform and registering your device. Once done, you get a User Key that has to be used with all the supported Apps/services for notifications.

This post will help you in deciding how *Pushover would fit in your daily routine..

Why do you need Pushover?

I would like to answer this question by stating the scenarios where it is useful

Custom alerts from websites or services

IFTTT is the best place to start looking for recipes.Zapier is another service which support Pushover

Different use cases include, notifications for

  • Daily Weather Report.
  • Courier tracking.
  • Breaking News.
  • Tracking Dropbox shared folders.

Note that in all cases you will receive notifications with out any need to install third party apps on your device.

Notifications using Email

Pushover has official support for notifications triggered from Email.As mentioned here each client has a predefined email address, which triggers a notification when an email is received.

This is useful to..

  • Auto forward emails as alerts.
  • Use for the apps and services not supported by IFTTT mentioned above.
  • Alert when a you receive specific mail etc.

Advanced notifications using api

If both the above methods does not suffice your use case, Pushover has an api to use from your own app.

The steps include…

  • Login and browse to Apps page.
  • Select Create a New Application.
  • Fill the details and get your API key.

With the API key you can start sending notifications using a custom script or an app written in the language you are comfortable, as shown here

Obviously Python was my choice and currently using below script to generate notifications.

The usage include calling Pushover.py with Title,Content and URL as parameters..

This was useful for me to recieve notification

  • When copy jobs are completed on my PC.
  • To alert system reboots/restarts.
  • from Outlook(script triggered by rule)

Although I am not using, this can be very useful for system administrators to receive notifications for alerting

  • failed SQL Jobs.
  • failed Windows Installations.
  • Login/Logout from machines and etc.
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Managing files using Python

This post explains how I manage files on Android.Extending the same for PC and MAC,I have made some changes to the script to handle the errors and added few additional tasks.

The script now..

  • Moves files to destination locations according to the file extensions.
  • Archives files older than 1 week inside the destination location.

This script has been scheduled on my machine to run every week which makes my download and desktop folders clutter free. Also with older files being moved to Archive folder,i could easily identify the files which are no longer in use and act accordingly.

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Python for Android: Managing media files

Continuing from the previous posts on using Python, I have created a small script to manage media files on your Android device.

I came across an app Redirect File Organizer which automatically moves the files across different folders on your device. I liked the idea and tried to reproduce the same using the already available applications on my phone.

My Requirement

Move downloaded .jpg and .gif files from multiple locations to DropSync’s synced folders Gif and Pics. The download folders include files

  • Saved from Google+
  • Shared in Whatsapp
  • Saved from Twitter feed using Falcon Pro

Using Python Script and Tasker

As shown below, the script when run moves the files from predefined source to destination folders.

The script can be directly run with no dependency on Tasker, but it is needed if the files had to be moved automatically using specific conditions.For instance, I have a profile defined to run the task daily once at night.

With basic structure available, additional enhancements can be added to the script with little changes like..

  • Passing the Source and Destination as parameters
  • Adding support for additional file formats.

Using only Tasker

The same functionality can be achieved by only using the Tasker with the inbuilt actions. In my experience, running python script is lot easier and simple compared to adding an action. If you still prefer the later, the task is shown below and corresponding xml is available here.

I had to credit this thread which helped in getting the task run properly.

Finally, all this process could have been avoided by installing the app directly, but using this method I had achieved flexibility and control with one less service running in the background.

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Using Android with out Google Services

Few days back I had a crazy idea to use my HTC one running Android with out any Google services.On checking the Internet, this was not as crazy as I first thought. There are communities actively pursuing the same and helping the people to free their devices from Google.

People site different reasons for doing it,

  • To achieve total control of Privacy.
  • To use complete Open source software.

But I was trying it out of curiosity.

Where to begin?

Free Software Foundation is the first hit when you try searching on internet for running Android with out Google services.

They have Replicant OS which runs 100% free and open software. Unfortunately it supports only small subset of Android devices. If your device is not among them, you need to look for other options.

The alternatives…..

Cyanogenmod with out Google apps package is the next best option, the number of devices supported have been increased and with the recent introduction of CM installer the process to unlock and install the OS has become even simpler.

Also there are many device specific custom AOSP roms which can be used with out Google apps.

My Experience

Running CM with only open source applications

Going by the suggestions from Free Software Foundation,i started with F-droid market which has only the open source apps.

This setup did not survive much long as most of the apps i use daily are not open sourced and side loading was the only option.

But it was good to find that all the basic phone operations worked flawlessly like..

  • Contact, Calendar sync from Outlook.com using default mail application.
  • Gmail push notifications using K–9 mail
  • Camera and Media consumption using the default CM applications.

Adding Amazon app store

In order to avoid installing apps through unofficial channels or side loading, I chose to use Amazon app store along with F-Droid.The store has a good collection of apps which are not dependent on Google Services.

Now, my phone almost ready with all the apps i need with some caveats though.

  • Most of the apps available in Amazon store were older compared to Google Play store.
  • Apps dependent on Google Apps like Tasker failed to install due to missing Maps library

Nogapps project

While trying to fix the Tasker installation issue which is my must have app to use my phone as a daily driver, I was lucky to come across Nogapps Project

As mentioned in the project link, this

  • Fixes install failures due to missing Google maps API
  • Fixes third party app failures dependent on Google Apps
  • And finally provides access to free apps on PlayStore.

And all this is possible with out adding any Google services to the phone, the developer explains the technical details of it’s working and the installation procedure in the same thread.

After installing the apps form NoGapps project, I could….

  • Install Tasker and other similar apps.
  • Install/update all the free apps, using Blank store.
  • Use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Cellular radio with out any issues.(I was able to continue using my Pebble).
  • Use Maps and GPS with third Party Map applications.

Finally, I learned from my own experience that it is possible to use Android with out Google. But, I expect it to become difficult going ahead with Google bringing most of the API’s from OS to Google Play services and AOSP apps to the play store as a closed source.

Tags: tasker android
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Using Pebble Watch

I first heard about Pebble during their Kickstarter campaign.I was impressed by their pitch but was unable to get hands on it earlier, as i was not an initial backer.I almost forgot about it’s existence until the recent SDK 2.0 release.

I went ahead and bought one this time.Jet Black was my choice, as it appeared to be most discreet among the colors available.Now after using it daily for last few days,i would like to share my experience with the device.

Why Pebble?

With multiple smartwatch choices available in the market like Samsung Galaxy Gear,Sony Smartwatch etc,i still preferred Pebble because of the reasons stated below.

  • Battery Life - Pebble is currently running 5+ days on single charge,which would never happen on other alternatives.

  • Always on Display - Unlike Galaxy gear the display on Pebble is always ON like normal watch. In addition the backlight is switched on by a twist of the wrist.

  • Replaceable Watch Strap - Pebble comes with standard 22mm strap which can be easily replaced with any regular watch straps.

  • Resemblance to normal watches - Yes this was also an reason to go ahead with Pebble. It appears less geeky to wear one and is to close to a regular watch rather than a Smartwatch.

And finally even the price can be added as an advantage but it was not an influencing factor in my purchase decision.

Pebble and Android

Android has a good number of apps designed to work with Pebble along with the huge selection of watch faces and app which can be installed from both iOS and Android.

My usage of Pebble and it’s apps is as below….

Pebble’s official app This is first requirement and needed to be installed before doing anything with the watch. It has usual options/guide to setup your device for the first time.

Making it more useful with Pebble Notifier This is the next app to be installed to receive all the notifications from your phone,by default the official app has only support for few notifications.

Pebble Notifier gives great control over the notifications you could receive on your watch. It can either exclude notifications from all the selected apps or include only notifications from the selected ones.

Controlling the phone Yes,we can control the actions on your Android phone from the watch with help of an app called Pebble Tasker.The app can invoke tasks from your phone using the app you are already aware for automation on Android …Tasker.

I am still not completely in to invoking tasks from the watch,but have tried few interesting things with it like..

  • Capturing Picture - I have two tasks in Tasker to capture photo from front or back camera in discreet mode.
  • Recording Voice - A task in Tasker to start recording voice for next 15 seconds,this can be invoked from watch with simple button.

I do not have any practical use with above tasks but created them for the sake of fun and showing off the features to the people.

With ability to invoke a task in Tasker app,the possibilities are endless.some of which i could quickly think …

  • Toggle GPS,Wifi,Mobile data etc from the watch.
  • Send predefined messages/mail.
  • Save current Loaction,Weather etc..

The great advantage is, doing all these things with out actually taking the phone out from your pocket.

New look every day

The watch has ability to save eight watch faces at any point of time which can switched by single button press.You also have a great collection of watch faces available here. It’s really good to see them being updated regularly and they also have a monthly polls for the best app selection.

My favourites among them are also monthly voting for best app.

Watch faces currently on my device are

If you are intrested in designing your own watch faces and not comfortable coding,you have an app called Canvas which allows to design the face on your phone and send it directly to the watch.

Intelligent connect and disconnect

I have created Tasker profiles on the phone to automatically connect and disconnect,the description follows.

  • Connect to Pebble on Weekdays from 8.30 to 21.30.
  • When Pebble is connected switch to Silent mode.I don’t need them with watch already vibrating on my wrist.
  • When Pebble is disconnected return back to Ringer mode.
  • Shortcuts on home screen to override above profiles i.e connect or disconnect irrespective of time.

So,these are the things i could come up while using Pebble in last 2 weeks.The possibilities of doing things with such connected devices are limitless and with the new SDK 2.0 releasing to public, we can expect a lot more apps and ideas.

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Text Expander for Windows

I like the idea of Textexpander for OSX, with intelligent shortcuts it saves huge amount of time while typing repeated text snippets.

As shown here people have already unleashed it’s potential with different scripts and workflows. I am no expert like them, but understood the advantages of using the application to use it in my daily routine. Unfortunately part of it include working on Windows PC and the application mentioned above is only available on OS X.

Again, internet had come to my rescue by suggesting great application called Phrase Express which is on par with the OS X version and added to that it comes free of cost for personal use.

This post is on how I am using the Text Expander for my regular activities rather than the complete review.

How I am using it?

The tool once started, keeps running in the background to track you keyboard input and replace the shortcuts with the expanded text wherever appropriate.

Also we have the flexibility to import TextExpander snippets from the OSX version without any modifications.

The different scenarios where the tool was helpful for me…

Regular text expansion

All the regularly used statements are added to the Phrase express database

  • Mail Signature ;;sig would expand to my default signature
  • Salutations
  • Date and Time
  • Common Python statements
  • Sql queries ex:;;sel would expand to generic select query
  • Markdown Syntaxes imported from here

In all cases the shortcuts have ;; prefix in order to prevent unintentinal expansions in general statements.

Also {#cursor} is very useful to place cursor at a specifed location after the expansion.Check the markdown syntaxes above to get an idea about using them.

Auto correction

Phrase Express already has a good database of commonly used words which are automatically corrected as we type. In addition to it, we always have an option to add new words to the dictionary. For comparison this feature is similar to what we see in Virtual keyboards on Mobile Phones.

Auto tasks

The application also allows us to automate certain common tasks like

  • Sending emails: I have shortcuts to directly open and send a mail to predefined users. You need to have a Mail client configured, in my case Outlook
  • Open Files and URL’s: We can directly open a files in their associated programs and URL’s in webpage.
  • Open folders: I also have many shortcuts configured to open commonly used folders like Documents, Pictures and etc.. All the automation tasks can be managed in Phrase Express using Macro->Automation for the Toolbar

Clipboard cache

Phrase Express by default has the Clipboard cache enabled which has the history of clipboard which can be called from any application using the shortcut Ctrl-Alt-V.

Continuing Text expansion on Mobile devices

After using the text expansion extensively on PC and OSX, i tried to find alternatives on mobile devices.

For iOS we have an official version from Smile software with same functionality as it’s OSX counterpart.Although the iOS apps individually has to support it.

Although not as functional on iOS, OSX or Windows, we still have text expansions options on Android’s default keyboard(Google’s Keyboard)

The expansion does not have Macro capabilities, we can only have common text replacement with predefined words. In my case..

  • ;;sig is again mapped here to expand as signature.
  • Shortcuts for Email and Phone numbers.

This describes the best way to add shortcuts in Android.

Once you start using Text Expanders you will never turn back to use normal keyboard and would start appreciating these apps. This greatly increases your typing speed and minimizes the time spent on writing.

Tags: Windows ios
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Dropsync for Android

If you have not heard already Dropsync is a Dropbox client on Android which gives lot flexibility to the user over the official one. The app tries to replicate the features of Dropbox client on the PC, which are not available in the current Android version.

I have been using it a lot these days, so I thought to write about my experience with the app.

Dropsync over Dropbox client

  • Selective folder syncing

This feature is very useful to bring the folders of your choice from the cloud to be available offline on your phone. Same as on PC, this is very useful to prevent Dropbox from flooding the disk space

  • Selective syncing

As the screenshot shows the app allows different syncing choices on your phone. In addition to usual two way sync, I find Upload then delete useful for the files which needed to be uploaded once and never needed on your device.

In addition to the folder level selection you also have an ability to exclude certain files and sub folders based on pattern matching, this is helpful to exclude any temp or cache files from being synced.

  • Smart Change Detection

In addition to the predefined sync interval, the Smart change detection option syncs the files as and when the changes are made. I have enabled this option to get the maximum benefit from the app and did not notice any negative battery impact yet.

  • Tasker integration

This one is a great addition to already existing feature set. Dropsync is shown in the list of plugins and all the usual Tasker rules apply here.

How I am using it?

  • Uploading Whatsapp media.

Official Dropbox application app auto uploads only the pictures taken from the camera. Only way to get other media on to your Dropbox folder is by manual upload, Dropsync comes to the rescue in managing the media to be uploaded.

In my case, a lot content is shared with me through the Whatsapp and I would like most of it to be saved in my Dropbox folders. So, I have configured all the Whatsapp media folders with Upload only profile.

  • Sync Scripts from my Android folder.

Same as the above requirement I would like to have all my Python scripts be available across my devices. I have configured the \sdcard\sl4a\scripts folder with Two-way sync. This is very helpful for editing the scripts on PC, you make the changes on your computer and have them synced automatically to your device.

  • Sync my Simplenote notes.

I have described my notes management system here and Dropbox plays a good part in being secondary backup system. I have made the same folder available on my mobile device.

  • Sync screenshots.

I would like to transfer screenshots from my device to my Mac for further editing, so I use Dropsync’s Upload then delete profile to have all my screenshots uploaded and cleaned up from my mobile device.

  • Enable and Disable with Tasker

Finally Tasker provides an extra layer of control over the Dropsync sync settings. Using this I have profiles setup to Disable the syncing

  • When the battery is low.
  • When do not disturb profile is enabled.

All these options are very helpful for me to have the data replicated across devices and in making the files available on demand. I highly recommend using this the app, especially the pro version if you are a regular Dropbox user.

Tags: android apps
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Using Evernote as a Journal

Stories from the blogs like Macdrifter,Macstories have made me try journaling. I started using Memento to capture daily highlights/interesting snippets.With time, the amount and variety of content being added has increased.

Once i took up journaling seriously, i noticed that the apps i am using are missing on Windows and Android.

Searching for alternatives I came across instances (1,2) where people were using Evernote as a single system for Journaling,GTD etc.,this made me think about using the same for my purpose .Also I had an advantage of being Evernote premium user.

My Setup for Evernote to capture Journals

A notebook with the name Journal has been created in Evernote,this is a container for all the notes created from different platforms

On Android

  • Custom shortcut to create note

I have written before how i was using Evernote along with Tasker on Android,it has details about creating shortcut to create a note in a specific notebook directly with a predefined Title. In this case the shortcut directly opens the Evernote edit dialog with DATE TIME as title and Journal as notebook.

  • Custom Notification using Tasker

Using the app Autonotification with Tasker, i have created a interactive notification which appears daily with below options.

  • Write Now- This action is same as opening the custom shortcut created above.
  • Later - This action is similar to alarm snooze that dismisses the notification and make it reappear after 15 minutes.
  • Dismiss - Regular swipe which dismisses the notification until the next day.

Creating the interactive notification

  • Install Tasker and Autonotification.

  • Create a task for Evernote shortcut as described here.

  • Create a task for Interactive notification task using the values shown in the screenshot below.

  • Create Profiles as shown below.
    • To call above notification task at 11.00 PM
    • Snooze profile to call the Notification task every 15 minutes between 11.00 and 12.00
    • To enable disable Snooze profile from Auto notification’s SNOOZE action
    • To call create note task using Auto notification’s POSTPONE action

On iOS

As explained in this post,i have different x-callbackURL tasks to work with Evernote and other supported apps.

The setup includes..

  • A custom action in Drafts to create notes in Evernote with predefined title and notebook.This can be done using Drafts>Settings>Custom Actions>Evernote Actions.

  • An action in Launch Center Pro to prompt user input and call above task from Drafts app.

Actual action below..

drafts://x-callback-url/create?text=[prompt]&action={{Evernote Journal}}&x-success={{launchpro://}}

Here,“Evernote Journal” is custom Drafts action to create note and on success it returns back to Launch Center Pro

On Mac and Windows you have an option to use the official client or the website.

My experience using Evernote as a Journal App

Good

  • Official app on all the platforms.
  • Support for Audio,Pictures,Location and Voice in the notes.
  • Great support for search.
  • Good third party app ecosystem

Missing options compared to full time Journal apps

  • Look and feel reminds us that it is more note taking app rather Journal app,which feels more appealing and personal.
  • Direct integration with Facebook or Twitter to include daily events in note,although we have workarounds using IFTT.

Other than these I have no issues with my current setup and suggest existing Evernote users to give this a try….

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Python for Android:Format Strings

This is a short post on python script i am using to format the strings on Android. The script is modified version of the one available here

What the script does ?

The script when invoked…

  • Invokes popup dialog for Conversion type.
  • Currently it converts text to Title Case,lowercase,UPPERCASE,Capital case,Strip Leading,Strip Trailing,Strip All,URL
  • Then prompts for input string.
  • Converts the string to required format and copies back to Clipboard.

The script can invoked either from a homescreen shortcut or from the share menu to quickly format the text you are working on…

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Python for Android:Bitly and Markdown

Continuing from here i came up with few more python scripts for Android to …

  • Shorten URLs with Bitly.
  • Convert Markdown text file to html file

Importing modules in Python on Android

Unlike the PC,modules on Android cannot be installed directly using pip or easy_install.Luckily,copying the installed modules from C:\Python27\Lib\site-packages on PC to com.googlecode.pythonforandroid on Sdcard will work in most cases.

In this case,i have downloaded and copied the files manually

  • Bitly Api from here
  • Markdown2 from here

Using the modules

To use Bitly,you need to have user specific API key which can be generated here,with User name and the key you could use below script.

The script uses the URL in the clipboard,shortens it using the Bilty and adds the resulting URL back to the clipboard.

The next script browses the markdown directory on SDCard for .txt files,creates the HTML file for every .txt file having markdown text.It ignores the .txt files which already have a converted .html file.

How i am using them

Again Tasker is best application to invoke the scripts as per context or from shortcut icon.

For Markdown conversions,i use Jota+ to save the file to markdown directory.Once done, the script is invoked from shortcut.

Using Autoshare and Autonotification with Tasker we can always chain multiple actions.

Although a search in Playstore may result in apps which can fulfill these tasks directly,i believe doing the same from these scripts has more flexibility.Also in my case it was a great learning experience.