Category Archives: android

Recreating and enhancing my tracking interface by using Tasker and Javascript

I got tired of setting up Tasker scripts by tapping them into my phone, so I looked into how to create Tasker interfaces using Javascript. First, I created a folder in Dropbox, and I used Dropsync to synchronize it with my phone. Then I created a simple test.html in that folder. I created a Tasker scene with a WebView that loaded the file. Then I started digging into how I can perform tasks, load applications, and send intents to Evernote so that I can create notes with pre-filled text. I really liked being able to reorder items and create additional screens using Emacs instead of Tasker’s interface.

Here’s my code at the moment. It relies on other Tasker tasks I’ve already created, so it’s not a standalone example you can use right off the bat. Still, it might be useful for ideas.

tasker-scripts/test.html:

<html>
    <head>
        <title>Sacha's personal tracking interface</title>
        <style type="text/css">
         button { padding: 20px; font-size: large; width: 45%; display: inline-block  }
        </style>
        <script type="text/javascript" src="http://code.jquery.com/jquery-1.11.3.min.js"></script>
    </head>
    <body>
        <div id="feedback"></div>
        <!-- For making it easy to track things -->
        <div class="screen" id="main-screen">
        <button class="note">Do</button>
        <button class="note">Think</button>
        <button class="note">Note</button>
        <button class="note">Journal</button>
        <button class="switch-screen" data-screen="track-screen">Track</button>
        <button class="switch-screen" data-screen="play-screen">Play</button>
        <button class="switch-screen" data-screen="eat-screen">Eat</button>
        <button class="switch-screen" data-screen="energy-screen">Energy</button>
        <button id="reload">Reload</button>
        </div>
        <div class="screen" id="play-screen">
            <button class="play">Persona 3</button>
            <button class="play">Ni No Kuni</button>
            <button class="play">Hobbit</button>
            <button class="switch-screen"
                    data-screen="main-screen">Back</button>
        </div>
        <div class="screen" id="energy-screen">
            <button class="energy">5</button><br />
            <button class="energy">4</button><br />
            <button class="energy">3</button><br />
            <button class="energy">2</button><br />
            <button class="energy">1</button><br />
            <button class="switch-screen"
                    data-screen="main-screen">Back</button>
        </div>
        <div class="screen" id="eat-screen">
            <button class="eat">Breakfast</button>
            <button class="eat">Lunch</button>
            <button class="eat">Dinner</button>
            <button class="switch-screen"
                    data-screen="main-screen">Back</button>
        </div>
        <div class="screen" id="track-screen">
            <button class="update-qa">Routines</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Subway</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Coding</button>
            <button class="update-qa">E1 Gen</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Drawing</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Cook</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Kitchen</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Tidy</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Relax</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Family</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Walk Other</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Nonfiction</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Laundry</button>
            <button class="update-qa">Sleep</button>
            <button id="goToWeb">Web</button>
            <button class="switch-screen" data-screen="main-screen">Back</button>
        </div>
        <script>
         function updateQuantifiedAwesome(category) {
             performTask('Update QA', null, category);
             hideScene('Test');
         }

         function showFeedback(s) {
             $('#feedback').html(s);
         }
         function switchScreen(s) {
             $('.screen').hide();
             $('#' + s).show();
         }

         $('.switch-screen').click(function() {
             switchScreen($(this).attr('data-screen'));
         });
         function createEvernote(title, body) {
             sendIntent('com.evernote.action.CREATE_NEW_NOTE', 'activity',
                        '', '', 'none', '', '',
                        ['android.intent.extra.TITLE:' + (title || ''),
                         'android.intent.extra.TEXT:' + (body || '')]);
         }
         $('.note').click(function() {
             createEvernote($(this).text());
         });
         $('.energy').click(function() {
             createEvernote('Energy', 'Energy ' + $(this).text() + ' ');
             switchScreen('main-screen');
         });
         $('#reload').click(function() {
             performTask('Reload Test');
         });
         $('.update-qa').click(function() {
             updateQuantifiedAwesome($(this).attr('data-cat') || $(this).text());
             hideScene('Test View');
         });
         $('#goToWeb').click(function() {
             browseURL('http://quantifiedawesome.com');
         });
         $('.eat').click(function() {
             updateQuantifiedAwesome($(this).text());
             loadApp('MyFitnessPal');
         });
         $('.play').click(function() {
             performTask('Play', null, $(this).text());
         });

         switchScreen('main-screen');

         </script>
    </body>
</html>

You can find the latest version at https://github.com/sachac/tasker-scripts.

Thinking about simplifying capture on my phone

I’ve been thinking about temporary information: things like where I put down something I was holding, the task I’m working on just in case I get interrupted, thoughts that I want to explore later on.

The seeds of a good system are there, if I learn how to use them more effectively. I usually have my phone handy. Evernote can record audio, pictures, or text, and the creation date is an automatic timestamp. I can export the notes and process them using Emacs. Google Now’s “Note to self” command can create a note in Evernote, or I can tap the Create Note icon.

How can I improve how I use these tools?

If I get used to starting my note lines with a special keyword, then it’ll be easier for me to extract those lines and process them. For example:

DO Actions to add to my to-do list
THINK Thoughts to explore
PLACE Putting things down

If I add custom commands to Google Now, or make Google Now the fallback for another command line, then I can use that for my tracking system as well. AutoShare and AutoVoice might be handy. I should probably learn how to get Tasker working with Javascript, too. Alternatively, I can use Evernote’s e-mail interface, although there might be a slight delay if I’m offline.

If I create a custom single-click interface that can start the note with a specified keyword, that would be even better.

I could also use a more systematic review process. For example:

  • All THINK items can be automatically added to the end of my

questions.org as their own headings.

  • All DO items can be added to my uncategorized tasks.

Okay, let’s start by figuring out Javascript and Tasker, since that will make it easier for me to write actions that take advantage of intents.

First step is to save the JS library template from Tasker. The file is stored in /storage/emulated/0/Tasker/meta/tasker.js. Okay, I’ve created a Tasker scene that has a WebView component that loads the file that I synchronized with Dropsync.

The next step is to simplify development so that I can try things quickly. I want to be able to sync and reload my WebView scene by tapping a button. The Dropsync Tasker action returns immediately, so maybe I’ll just add a wait to it.

Hmm, maybe a good path might be:

  1. Set up easy sync/reload, so I can try things out quickly.
  2. Include JQuery.
  3. Run tasks.
  4. Launch apps.
  5. Send intents.
  6. Convert my current tracking menu to this format.
  7. Add buttons for creating notes (either e-mail-based or intent-based):
    • Do
    • Think
    • Place
  8. Add a command-line. Compare using it vs. using buttons.

On a related note, what kinds of things would I like my phone to be smart enough to do?

  • If I’m at home and I’m calling my cellphone from our home phone, set the ring volume to maximum, since that means I’m trying to find it.
  • If I say that I’m at a social event, ask me who I’m spending time with. Track that. Create a note with the person’s name as the title and “social” as the tag.
  • If I’m going to sleep, track that, then start tracking in Sleep as Android.
  • If I’m going to play a game, track that, then ask me what I’m going to do afterwards and how long I want to play. Load hints for the game (if I want). After the specified time, make a sound and remind me of what I was going to do.
  • If I’m going to read a book, show me the list of my checked-out books and let me pick one of them. Track that, then create a note with the title and author so that I can take notes.
  • NFC opportunities:
    • If I scan at the door, show me a menu: walk, subway, groceries, family, bike.
    • If I scan in at the kitchen table, track it as breakfast / lunch / dinner (as appropriate), then launch MyFitnessPal.
    • If I scan in at the table in front of the TV, show me a menu: relax, nonfiction, fiction, games.
    • If I scan in at my bedside table, treat it as going to sleep.

Mmm… Little things to tweak. =)

Sleep as Android

Following W-‘s example (I’m such a copycat!), I’ve been trying out a few sleep-related applications on my phone. I get more sleep than he does and my schedule is pretty flexible, but I figure that an app might let me swap out the diminishing returns of sleeping in for some extra discretionary time. For a while, I ran Sleep as Android in parallel with SleepBot, and I also tried each of them separately. I used a sturdy, extra-long USB cable to charge my phone, and I slept with my phone under my pillow.

Both apps seem to agree with each other on the motion they detect, and they also appear to do a decent job of distinguishing between my motion and W-‘s motion (we have different-looking graphs). I’m not sure if there’s a significant difference, but I prefer Sleep as Android’s timing, so I bought it after the trial ended.

I also like Sleep as Android’s way of gradually waking me up with short buzzes, gradually leading up to an audio alarm. I like buzzes because they feel more discreet. I don’t have to feel guilty about interrupting W-‘s sleep.  They also don’t lead to overexposure to whatever tones I picked for my alarm. I’d previously used the built-in Medieval Jaunt and songs like Shonen Knife’s Cookie Day, and those still result in an odd tug on my concentration whenever I hear them.

I’m still not keen on morning meetings, but I can make them with less grumbling now!

Tech report: Living on the T-Mobile 2G network

I was going to be in the US for 14 days, so I picked up a free prepaid SIM card for my phone in order to avoid massive roaming fees. My Samsung Galaxy S3’s compatible with the T-Mobile network, so I opted for the $2 Pay by the Day plan that included unlimited talk, text, and 2G web. A $30 load covered my 14-day trip with a dollar to spare. My parents were going to be there longer, so the $50 unlimited talk/text/web (100MB at 4G speed) was a better fit for them. 

After I put in the SIM card, I confirmed that phone and text worked. The Internet connection wasn’t working, though. The call center agent asked me to make sure airplane mode was off (yup) and packet data was enabled (yup), and she tried resetting my connection to the network. Still no luck, though. Some searching turned up the fact that the 2G network is GSM. The following setting made it possible for me to connect to the Internet using my phone:

Settings > Wireless and networks > More Settings > Mobile networks > Network mode > GSM only

2G was fine for quick map lookups and the occasional web search. I didn’t need to stream video or anything like that, so I didn’t miss the data speeds.

If you’re going to be on a short US trip and you don’t need a lot of data, it might be worth checking this out.

Learning how to tweak my Android devices to fit me

One of the reasons why I like working with the Android operating system is that you can build little tools that interact with the other apps on your system. It’s like the reason why I like Emacs, although Emacs lets you go ahead and redefine routines. Anyway. =)

So here was my motivation: When you share a recipe from the BigOven recipe app, it sends the URL instead of the text. This is inconvenient, so I wanted to make a small tool that extracted the URL and opened it in the browser. That way, I could pass it to Evernote and save the recipe for later searching.

Android stitches different applications together through the idea of an Intent. An application can send an intent to another application in order to get it to do something. It can broadcast an intent to notify other applications that have registered to receive that event. An app can also register to receive various events.

To add something to the Share menu, I needed to write a small application that receives and processes the SEND intent. After trying to figure out if I should use a BroadcastReceiver or a Service or whatever, I settled on using an Activity instead. I might extend this to let me select one of multiple URLs, or recognize phone numbers and things like that too. We’ll see.

Anyway, source. =)

Small steps forward!

Learning more about Android development

From Tuesday: I spent most of the long weekend learning about Android development by working on the MobileOrg for Android open source project. When it comes to learning new technologies, I like working on existing projects more than starting from scratch. There’s plenty of sample code to draw on, and there’s enough functionality to inspire me to think about how to tweak it to fit my needs.

The first two days were really slow in terms of progress. It took me a while to figure out how to build both MobileOrg and MobileOrgNG, and I blogged the instructions in case someone else needs them in the future. After I figured that out, I started fiddling with the settings menu. I made the system more consistent, updated the look and feel to the latest design guidelines, and learned a little more about how everything tied together.

I’m starting to feel more comfortable with Android development. There are still tons of things to learn, of course, but I’m getting the hang of where things are, what things are called, and how things flow together. It’s an amazing thing, feeling the concepts click into place. As you learn more things, the possibilities grow combinatorically.

I should take care of a few other tasks before I move on to the next steps. I have to prepare a presentation for the Quantified Self conference in September. It’ll be an Ignite-style presentation, which is good – clear constraints make it easier to put something together. I also want to do an annual review in preparation for my birthday on Sunday.

After I finish those tasks, what do I want to do next in terms of Android development?

  • I’d like to build a better browsing interface for MobileOrg. I like the way MobileOrgNG makes it easy to browse the Org file’s hierarchy.
  • I want to be able to capture information from other applications.
  • It would be awesome to be able to handle attachments, too.
  • Tasker integration for automatically capturing information, perhaps?
  • Org-contacts would be great.

If I have a year of days like this, I think I’ll be able to learn and do a lot.