Hacking The Philips Hue

Philips hue mot vanlig lampa...

Philips Hue (Photo credit: Patrick Strandberg)

A short time ago I bought myself a Philips Hue starter pack and installed the three globes in my lounge room.

I must say that I love the way you can set the colour and brightness of these things. Having installed and played with the iPhone app it came to me that I should have a bit of a hack and see what I could do.

My first need was to find a way to turn the lights down as the evening gets late. I thought that would be a nice way to remind myself it was getting late and to think about going to bed.

I decided Python was the way to go since I can run it on both my server, the iPhone and iPad. I discovered a nicely usable library for Python and quickly wrote the required script. Then I just installed it as an item in the root crontab so now the lights get turned down to half power at 10:30 every night. The script required is tiny:

#!/usr/bin/python

from phue import Bridge
b = Bridge('192.168.1.17')
b.set_light([1,2,3], 'bri', 127, transitiontime=300)

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Foldify Gets An Excellent Update

Me as "SuperLover" - OK, you can stop laughing now. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Me as “SuperLover” – OK, you can stop laughing now. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Foldify, the papercraft app for the iPad I previously wrote up was updated to version 1.1 today and they have hit the ball out of the park.

The biggest new feature and high on the wish list of many users, including myself, is the ability to import a photo to place on your papercraft figure. This works extremely well as you select or take a photo then you can crop it before placing it on the papercraft just like a stamp so it can then be resized and rotated to place it perfectly.

They have also added a paint bucket tool which I found extremely useful in re-colouring an existing model. It works just as you would expect it to work though I think it would be nice if it didn’t go over a fold line. The final tool added is an eye dropper so you can pick up a colour, extremely useful when working with one of the example models.

The developers have also added to the blank templates, 6 more to take the total to 16 including a heart shape for Valentine’s Day. Also for Valentine’s Day are two new packs of extras, a free assortment of 28 elements (you can see most in my picture above) and 35 elements of underwear, most only suitable for female figures but seven or eight could be used for male figures.

The final change is the addition of a “Trending” tab on top of the previous “New” and “Best” tabs in the online template “store”.

There are still some things I’d like to see added. The biggest would be some more examples already painted and ready to alter. I’d also like it if you could touch up a model you download from the online ones rather than just be able to print them. To really nitpick I’d like to be able to adjust the size of the paintbrush and eraser — now you can add a photo I found myself erasing large areas of a model and this can be tiring with the tiny tools as they are. Even the ability to choose three or four sizes would be good.

That said this little app is an essential for iPad owners who like to do some cutting and folding. Kids will love it now they can have their face on a model.

The Ten Essential Apps On My iPad

ipad

ipad (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

If you’re one of the lucky few that got yourself a new iPad for Christmas then you might be wondering where to start when selecting those essential tools.

Here’s my take on the absolute essentials, the apps that get used the most on my iPad, well apart from the games and I’m not going to select games — that’s just too personal. I also have a different list I consider essential on my iPhone, I may write that next.

I also have to admit that my choices are incredibly idiosyncratic, if you’re not an information junkie and writer your mileage may vary. I’m always open to hear what your essential apps are. Please leave me a comment or drop me a note with your list.

Dropbox

Since I create and edit on my iPad Dropbox is essential to make sure my files are there when I want them. It’s become automatic to save files into Dropbox on my Mac. There are also an increasing number of apps that sync using Dropbox including TextExpander and Taskpaper.

Dropbox – Simplify your life

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Foldify

Foldify

I enjoy papercraft. I find a great deal of satisfaction in printing out a template and cutting and folding it to create something. My major output has been a bunch of things for Christmas including some cubees, a couple of Christmas trees and a Christmas house.

So the concept of an iPad app that would allow me to customise a number of templates before the printing and assembling was exciting.

Foldify delivers and delivers well.

The idea of Foldify is that you take one of their templates and you customise it by colouring it in using a pen or paintbrush tool and adding “stamps” which can be resized and turned to fit where you wish on the template. You can zoom in to your artwork for fine detail or zoom back out for an overall view. At the left of the screen is a preview of your assembled papercraft that can be rotated.

Having done that you can then print the creation before folding it to make a small cardboard figure. If your printer does not have AirPrint so you can print it directly you can email your creation to yourself or anyone else. Foldify also allows you to share your creation on Facebook (as a picture) or in their online community. The online community allows you to download other people’s models and upload your own for others. There are already a fair number to be seen.

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TaskPaper for iOS

TaskPaper on the iPad

TaskPaper on the iPad

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about my current affection for TaskPaper on the Mac. Today I’d like to write about TaskPaper for iOS.

On the Macintosh TaskPaper excels because of it’s simplicity and use of text. On an iPhone or iPad interface is king, applications live or die by their ease of use.

The same care that was put in to the simple interface on the Mac has been put in to creating an app for the iPhone and iPad that is clean and incredibly easy to use.

There is one difference between the app on the iPhone and the iPad. On the phone the app opens to a screen listing your TaskPaper lists and selecting one takes you to a second screen with your list, on the iPad the document list is on the left of the screen and the selected list is on the right.

The list screen allows you to add a new list, a new folder for lists, search your lists and a settings screen. The setting are not dissimilar to the settings in the Mac application. On iOS it supports both Dropbox and TextExpander and it is in settings that you turn them on.

Then we get to the list view. Touch support is good. Swipe left to right to mark an item as done, swipe right to left to bring up the “Cut Copy Paste Delete” tab. Tap once to select an item, double tap to edit it, tap and hold to move an item up and down it’s list.

When you are editing an item type return to start a new item. A neat trick on an empty item type return again and the new item turns into a new note, again and it is a new project, again and it is back to a new item.

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Flow Free

Image

I have to start by saying I am not addicted to this game, definitely not. That I have played 300 levels in the last three days is not addiction, I just like it a lot, really, I swear.

This is a brilliantly simple and compelling puzzle game. You have a grid that can vary from 5 x 5 to 9 x 9 with a number of pairs of coloured dots and you have to find a way to connect each pair of dots without crossing paths and making sure you cover the entire board.

I love that playing a level is, if your brain is going well, a task of moments. It is also something that certainly seems to come easier with practice. You can, if you are really stuck, have a hint but be careful as after a few free ones hints will start to cost you money.

If you don’t buy hints then the game is free to install and free to play so if you enjoy a good puzzle then this is one I recommend.

Flow Free on iTunes – it is also available in the Google Play store for Android.

Productivity on the iPad

Recently I found myself in hospital and once again my iPad was a godsend. Yes, it allowed me to watch some TV and movies and read a book or two but it also allowed me some pretty good productivity.

So what tools do I need? What tools are useful and what tools are nice little frills?

The Essentials

The two essentials were Dropbox and Evernote. I have a huge Dropbox folder and an Evernote database full of useful files and information. (So the Specialist wants to know exactly what medication I take, when was my last hospital admission, what’s my GP’s address and how have my peak flows been for the past month? Guess where that information’s stored? I even had a copy of my last discharge summary.)

I’m a coding junkie, I just can’t help myself. Never a week goes by when I don’t find some excuse to write something, an AppleScript, a shell script or a bit of Python. I’ve even been known to play around with HTML, CSS and JavaScript to write little web apps. So bored in hospital was the perfect time to play with those. How? I’ve found a great little text editor that deserves a big wrap. Textastic is almost perfect as an iPad editor. It will sync files between itself and Dropbox or an FTP site and even comes with a built in WebDAV server so you can easily get your files to and fro. It even remembers the path to the file and will sync it back with a single touch. To help with your coding you get syntax colouring for more than eighty languages, including all I ever use with the exception of Logo (nothing seems to offer syntax highlighting for Logo). You get next line auto-indent and adjustable tab stops. Even more useful when you don’t have your Bluetooth keyboard along you can set it to add an extra row of keys along the top of the iPad built-in keyboard that include quotes, brackets, parentheses and a tab key. The feature list goes on further.

I could use Textastic for writing my prose and journalling, it does support Markdown syntax  and offer a soft wrap but Pages is not that expensive and is, of course a fully featured word processor so I’ve got a copy of that.

The other thing I like to do is diagram. Well, like might not be the right word, I do find myself doing it a lot and doing it by hand looks atrocious so I do it on the computer. On my Mac I have Eazydraw, a fairly well featured piece of software. On the iPad I use TouchPad, which cost me less than ten dollars and has more features than you can poke a stick at. It has layers, libraries, figures, bezier curves, freehand tools, alignment tools and more. It is  more than I’ll ever need – I couldn’t recommend it more. I actually find myself doing diagrams on the iPad rather than my Mac as shifting things with my finger seems easier than the mouse.

The Useful

The first of these is TextExpander Touch. Cheaper than the Mac version, which I also own, it allows for quick entry of text snippets in supported applications or in its own little note pad. It is supported by Textastic and Plain Text at least. From its little notepad you can Send By Email or send the note to Twitterific. I don’t use  it a lot on the iPad since the snippets don’t work everywhere as they do on the Mac but it is still handy.

Then we get to lists. It doesn’t matter if it is a task list or just an item list, I like to have them. I also like them as an outline so that items can have sub-items. For this I have CarbonFin Outliner – this excellent outliner even syncs to a website so that you can edit the outlines on your computer. It supports outline items as checkboxes so that you can make a to do list and if an item has a number of children the dot turns into a circle filled in according to the amount of the tasks completed.

On the “keeping up with the world” front there are the three essentials. Reeder, my favourite RSS reader, the new Zite news application and Instapaper for all those long form articles I come across while browsing and want to get back to.

I like the interface for Reeder, it is clean and simple, and the ability to sync with my Google Reader account is nice so that’s my RSS reader of choice.

Zite is amazing. A news aggregator that seems to find a good selection of interesting articles every time I open it. When it was first installed it asked to have a look at my twitter feed and Google Reader settings. from that it made some intelligent guesses as to the categories of news i might be interested in. I then added a few others. Since then I have made a point of marking the articles I liked and now it does a good job of finding things I want to read.

Instapaper is another great idea. As  I browse the incoming news stream from both Zite and Reeder I can quickly mark the longer articles for later reading. Instapaper also looks good, often making the articles easier to read.

The Others

Then I need a calculator. A spreadsheet would be overkill but a calculator with a tape is fine for almost everything. since I like to have hex and binary on my calculator you just can’t go past P2. Not that dear and it has every function you might ever want and a nice list of constants.

I also use iSSH, a nice SSH terminal client. Not everyone needs a terminal client but if you do want one then this is inexpensive and fully featured.

I would also like to recommend Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. I carry mine around in the box it came in and it doesn’t weigh much or take much room. When travelling it can go in your check-in bag easily. I find it can even slip into a corner of my briefcase.

All those apps taken together turn my iPad into an incredibly useful and productive platform. What are the apps that allow you to be productive on your iPad? Drop me a note and tell me.