Sunday, April 20, 2014


Without airing all my dirty laundry I need to raise the level of security on my Android devices. At the same time I want to minimize the burden when I am in a "friendly" place like my home, car or office.

What I found was AutomateIT. It's free in the Play Store. There's also a Pro version. There was a good article on Lifehack that described how to use it.

AutomateIT comes with a starter set of rules. I just turned all of them off.

I created several pairs of rules. Each pair consisted of one rule that turned off the screen lock when I connected to a known network (Wi-Fi at home or office or BlueTooth in the car) and a complementary rule that turned the screen lock on when I disconnected from a known network.

Seemed easy.

Here's what my rules look like.

Editing the "When (car) is connected disable Lock Screen."

It is set to trigger when it connects to my car's BlueTooth. Then the action is to disable the screen lock.

Here's the detail.

Notice that the Action to "Enable/Disable Screen Lock" is the same and you specify whether to enable or disable with a check box. Odd but works fine.

So far, so good.

Now here's a log.

It reads bottom to top.

Let's start with the earliest full entry.

12:41:14 When (car) is connected disable Lock Screen - I started the car to drive to work.

So it unlocks the screen.

13:04:08 When (car) is disconnected enable Lock Screen - I get to work and turn off the car.

So it locks the screen.

13:04:16 When (work) is connected disable Lock Screen - I walked into the office.

So it unlocks the screen.

13:20:23 When (car) is connected disable Lock Screen - I started the car to leave work.

So it unlocks the screen. But wait. It was already unlocked.

13:20:36 When (work) is disconnected enable Lock Screen - I drove out of range of work's Wi-Fi.

So it locks the screen. But I'm in the car!

The next 2 entries are where I disabled the BlueTooth on the phone to try to get back in sync.

This really isn't a fault with AutomateIT. Perhaps AutomateIT Pro with composite triggers and composite actions can address this but it's going to get messy.

There's another situation that isn't the fault of AutomateIT. Often when AutomateIT toggles the screen lock, Android leaves the screen on. It locks it for touch but leaves the light on. To use the screen you have to tap the Power button to wake it up.

I'm undecided whether I'm going to stick with it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I can't believe it. I have never posted about my TiVos. It's a long story. Too long to go into here. Just suffice it to borrow a quote from The Verge:
There is nothing more instantly dangerous to the average relationship than screwing up the TV.

Recently I was playing a YouTube video on my TV using my Chromecast. But when I clicked on the "Cast" button on the YouTube player here's what I got:

"Play on TiVo in the Den"? And it did.

Ok, what's going on here?

It turns out that the "Winter" update to my TiVo Premiere introduced DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) support. There's a little more documentation here. Pretty low key of TiVo if you ask me.

This means that DIAL-enabled applications can "cast" directly to the TiVo. At this time this seems to be YouTube and Netflix. Still a good start. Means I don't have to switch inputs on my TV to watch YouTube videos.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Lockscreen Shortcuts

I guess I've been asleep at the wheel. I was playing with Contacts+ and noticed that they had a widget. This led me to try to put something on my Skyrocket's lockscreen. Since the Skyrocket is still running Ice Cream Sandwich (4.1.2) I couldn't put a widget on my lockscreen but I was able to put a shortcut there.

Somehow I had missed that along the way but I apparently wasn't the only one. This thread tries to explain how to do it.

Here's what I did.

Go to "Settings" and then tap on "Lock screen."

Tap on "Lock screen options."

Make sure that the "Shortcuts" slider is "ON" and then (and here's the trick) tap on "Shortcuts."

Tap on the "+."

Now select an application to put on the lockscreen.

Ta da!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Adblock Plus

If you're not using Adblock Plus, you should be.

Here's what a Google search looks like without Adblock Plus:

And the same search with Adblock Plus:

Now that you are using Adblock Plus, go here and add "Disable Tracking" and "Disable Malware Domains" features.

I also include "EasyList" from here and "Block all Facebook annoyances" from here.

Also on the Adblock options page uncheck "Allow some non-intrusive advertising."

My Adblock options page looks like this:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I Sync Tasks

I'm a big user of various cloud services. As I mentioned in that post my wife and I were using a text file in Dropbox for grocery lists. That turned out to be painful as you had to tap in just the right place to put a cursor in a line so you could mark that you had gotten that item. I know it seems trivial but it was a nuisance and the WAF was low. Remember that I have my private domain hosted by Google Apps.

For my own "to do" lists, I've been using Google Tasks. There are interfaces to Tasks both from the Gmail page and the Calendar page. On Android I use Tasks. On iOS I use Go Tasks. They both work seamlessly with Google Tasks.

So I wondered if I could use Google Tasks for a grocery list. The presentaton is a natural list with a check-off box. Just what I needed.

But Google Tasks are specific to a single user. They aren't shareable. So began the quest.

First I found this blog post with a description of how to create your own Google App to share. It worked but the presentation was a unique web page and didn't seem to be readily presented on a mobile device.

Then I found I Sync Tasks. It simply just does what you want it to do.

You register with them using your Google account.

And tell them what Tasks list you want to share and with whom.

That's it. You can contribute $1 per month per user and make it sync more quickly. Seems well worth it.

Initially the sync was quick. Then after a while the frequency slowed down. I read the FAQ and it didn't specify the sync times. So I tweeted the author.
fastoy: @isynctasks I'm using What is the duration of the trial period? What is the sync frequency DURING and then AFTER the trial?
isynctasks: @fastoy 7 day trial; sync times vary, depend on multiple signals; within a minute during trial or if paid; within hours on the free plan.
Sign me up.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gmail Shared Contacts

Continuing my quest for life in the cloud, I wanted to be able to share selected contacts with my wife. Remember that I have my private domain hosted by Google Apps.

The first solution was Apptivo but it was "bigger than a breadbox" (showing my age). I never did get it fully implemented as it was moderately complex. The upside is that it is free and you can sync contacts for 10 users with a 30 minute sync time. Here's their pricing. But it's messy. I never hooked my wife's account into it.

So I kept looking for something simpler.

I found Gmail Shared Contacts. The user side implementation is much simpler. Basically the domain administrator designates a contact group as shared and that's it. You can share 1 contact group with 25 or less contacts among unlimited users. Here's their pricing. The sync time is 1 hour. That's plenty for what I need.

The downside is that the application seems to be in transition. It has taken me over 6 weeks to finally get it working. The support is via e-mail from France but they are responsive and helpful. I'm hopeful that Gmail Shared Contacts settles down.

Both of these require the domain administrator to install a Google Marketplace App. Then you have a slight customization.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

Recently BestBuy put the 32 GB Lenovo Miix 2 8" on sale for $199.99. I didn't need one but I couldn't resist.

I'm not just echoing what many others have said but this thing is really neither fish nor fowl. Its screen is too small to run the Windows Desktop and it doesn't have a physical keyboard available. And the Modern (Metro) interface, let's just say it makes me want for iOS.

It's not so much that the Metro interface is bad, it's just that it is different and not discernibly better than iOS or Android. The steps to close a Metro app are just bizarre. webOS had this right and iOS 7 pretty much copied that. Android isn't any better than Windows 8.1.

The Start icon appears in various places in the navigation and does different things depending on where you are.

Would you have figured out that this is the Desktop tile?

The physical Start button is capacitive so you have no sense of where it is nor does it "click" when you do touch it. There is some haptic feedback.

You can use the device without a Microsoft login but the Metro apps force you into using a Microsoft login. That means that you can't get e-mail (even Gmail) without logging into a Microsoft account first. Then that Microsoft account drags all its stuff along with it.

If your modus operandi is Microsoft that's probably good. If your modus operandi is Google or Yahoo that's at best confusing. I finally got the Mail app to read my Google e-mail using imap but it wouldn't send and didn't present any kind of error. There isn't a Google supported Gmail app and the Gmail app in the Store (Gmail Touch) wasn't intuitive to navigate, e.g. I couldn't figure out how to see my labels.

And the Live Tiles, they are pretty and "live" but some seem to change just to be changing. For example, the People tile keeps changing faces but when you tap on the tile it doesn't take you to the face that is presented. They don't represent senders of the e-mail in your inbasket. They're just random faces. Odd.

I really tried to like Windows 8.1.