The Good and Geeky Week

Learning how to code

During this last week I have continued learning how to code in JavaScript. I have to admit on a couple of occasions with the lessons I’m working on at freeCodeCamp, I have struggled mentally. It’s been a bit of a job to get my head around the flow of the code. I’ve had to go over a couple of the lessons more than once until I got an understanding of how it worked. The way I learn best is in a visual way and sometimes text on a screen isn’t enough for me. I need to have something more diagrammatic. This makes me think how it would be great if there was a more normal person style of programming available. I know there are some languages available for kids learning how to code where they are dropping blocks of code like Lego into a coding area. Sometimes it’s hard enough to keep up with the ‘thinking like a programmer’ without having to learn the arcane invented code language. I’m sure there must be a good reason why the inventors of code have done it like they have. It certainly seems to be made for coders rather than someone with a good idea wanting to create their own application in order to do something computationally.

Automating the Mac or iOS

This there is a certain amount of programming involved if you want to automate certain processes on your computers. It can be quite useful to understand code in applications such as Keyboard Maestro. Although there is the possibility to record a set of actions. Those recorded actions are turned into what is essentially a small program or application you can run in order to get things done auto magically. Sometimes these small automations are called macros. It’s well worth thinking about things you do repeatedly over and over and finding out if you can do it by creating a macro. I’ve been trying an application called Quadro which runs on my iOS devices and connects to my Mac. One thing I’ve liked about Quadro is the ability to string together a number of actions across a range of Mac applications to get things done.

Something I would do quite often would be to take text from TextEdit and move it into Ulysses. I created a macro in Quadro which at the press of a single button, will select all of the text, copy to clipboard, open up Ulysses, create a new file and paste the text. It’s kind of cool to do it with one single tap on the iPad screen. Something which would have taken a number of keyboard shortcut key combinations is shortened time wise considerably. If I change from one application to another on the Mac the screen changes on the iPad. You want these buttons directly available to you and Quadro makes that happen. It also works when I change from one palette of buttons on the iPad screen it will change to the correct application on the Mac. There are a couple of quick change buttons at the bottom of the screen on the iPad application as another way of moving between Mac applications.

What to do if the keyboard pops up in Quadro

It all works very well and only on certain occasions is its annoying. I really don’t need to have the keyboard of the iPad popping up as I don’t intend to do any typing on the device. Sometimes it appears on the screen ready for me to use the big buttons. I can move the cursor or use the iPad on-screen keyboard. I could perhaps use a physical keyboard connected to the iPad as a way of inputting text to the iPad. My preference for writing text is to use dictation. It’s possible to turn off the auto recall of the keyboard in the app settings for Quadro. Well, that’s sorted that problem out!

Better Touch Tool and the Magic Trackpad

There is a decent range of gestures you can use on the trackpad available as standard in Mac OS. A two finger swipe from the right-hand side of the trackpad will bring in the notifications/today panel. I sometimes have that come in by accident if I’m working in some applications. So for a short period while using those applications I will turn that gesture off. It is handy though to have quick access to the Today panel if you want to send a quick tweet or a quick Facebook post. I have it set up so I can also see what I have in reminders, countdown timers, calendar and the get things done application OmniFocus. I don’t use the panel that often but it’s kind of nice that it’s there. Better Touch Tool extends the range of gestures you can make with your fingers on a trackpad. A simple one I use is a triangle swipe from the top right corner which will do the assigned shortcut of Control – D. This simple shortcut code is connected to Keyboard Maestro which toggles the microphone on or off as well as toggling TextExpander on or off. I like to have it when the microphone is on for dictation with Dragon for Mac, TextExpander is off. I don’t have a huge number of these gestures in Better Text Tool because if you have too many it becomes hard to remember all of them.

Alexa vs Siri

My biggest challenge with using these two options for home automation is that my wife keeps turning off at the wall switches, the Philips Hue Lights. As soon as they are turned off at the wall I can’t control them anymore either with Siri or with Alexa. My preferred home automation is when things happen automatically. Triggered by events such as doors being either opened or closed. I have one automation which will turn on one of my lights when I am returning home. Location based triggers are cool and easy to setup. I have an automation which will turn on a light when the garage door opens up after it’s dark. This allows me to easily see that the garage door has opened from where I’m sitting in my car and waiting for the gate to open.

The software for automations in HomeKit and also for Alexa need to improve and get more complicated. I can set it so a light only comes on at night time after it has been triggered by a door sensor for example. There are other occasions where that trigger would happen but I don’t need the automation to take place. The software to control these auto magic home automation tricks needs to allow for more conditions to be set. It needs to take into account who is in the house. For example, I can’t set up an automation to turn off all of the lights in the house when I leave because my wife could be in the house. That sort of home automation is only going to annoy her and end up being a big fail. I could sometimes do with a condition for the automation where the light is turned on for a specific amount of time after a trigger has been triggered.

Amazon Echo DotI had home kit Elgato Eve Energy plug sockets for the television but I’ve changed it for TPLink sockets which work with the Amazon Echo. It’s preferable in the way it works with the voice control. I don’t have to do a Hey Siri to my watch or iPhone I can turn things on just by speaking clearly from the living room, kitchen, office. It’s just easier! When I ask Siri for the weather she just tells me what the temperatures are going to be for the day. When I ask Alexa for the weather I get much more detail. Alexa gives me better daily information with the daily briefing. I get the basics of what’s happening as well as she will play me a podcast of some BBC News. No such information from Siri. It’s still early days for this type of voice only automation, so we’ll just have to be patient.

Website Testing

I’ve also been busy this week with a site called UTest. This is a site where you can sign ever as a tester. There are tests available to take part in and you can earn money doing so. My son has taken part in the number of tests and unwell earning some decent sums of money. So I thought I would give it a go. This week I was invited to take part in a test. This test is for testing of new testers. You get to learn the ropes of how to report issues/bugs on a website. It is called a sandbox test and I’m not sure if it’s possible to earn money during this test and get paid, or it is just to get a rating. If you do well with the test you do get invites to other tests where money can be earned. This sandbox test is still ongoing at present and I’ll find out more in a couple of days.

Good and Geeky Books

Despite being busy with the website testing I jumped back into the good and geeky books business. I have received a small amount of money from Amazon and Apple for books sold. This encouraged me to take the steps in finishing off the steps necessary to publish ‘Good and Geeky iPad Artist’. This book has been available for some time on the Apple iBookstore and I should have put it on Amazon much sooner. I’m also encouraged to get started with the next Good and Geeky book. I think the next book should be about using dictation on the Mac. I already have a free book available and it would make sense to do a fuller more in-depth version. As you know my dictate just about everything rather than using a keyboard. It only makes sense to use the knowledge I have to produce a Good and Geeky book.

Good and Geeky iPad Artist