Thursday 19 March 2015

Panic button for switching on connected bulbs

Problem: There have been occasions when I've been woken up in the middle of the night by a sound, maybe something innocent, but it hasn't always been. In a half-asleep state I want to be able to reach out and hit a button to switch on all of my lights.

I have many connected bulbs, some LIFX, some Hue, so this shouldn't be a big deal.

Here are the options I can think of:

iPhone: This is the most obvious solution, but is actually the most clumsy. There are two apps I have to get into to switch on all of my lights. (Though I could make a single app to do this.) From a locked state that's a lot of pressing and tapping, and doesn't touch-ID always fail to work when you most need it to? It's certainly a long way away from simply reaching out and fumbling for a big 'on' button.

A great solution would be to make an app that would respond to the phone being picked up and shaken. Can an iOS app respond to a shake from a locked state? I don't think so. This solution might work but would probably need the phone to be 'armed' at night by bringing the app in question to the front and turning auto-lock off.

Hue Tap: This is exactly the kind of solution I'm looking for, but a/ it would only operate my Hue bulbs and b/ they're fifty quid. Seems a bit much for four programmable buttons purely dedicated to the Hue bulbs.

Laptop: I usually have one within reach when I'm asleep. In theory this is pretty slick - reach out for it, lift the lid and hit one of the F keys that I've programmed to mean 'all on'. In practice it takes more seconds than you'd think to fumble for it, lift the lid, wait for it to connect to the wireless network before hitting the key. (When you wake up in the early hours, it's almost painful to squint at a screen.) It would be possible to leave the laptop close to the bed with the lid open and prevented from going to sleep but again this requires some bedtime preparation.

Some kind of bluetooth button: Here we're getting closer, I believe it'll be feasible to buy a cheap bluetooth device pair it with the computer (I didn't mention that I have an 'always on' mac looking after various household things) and write an app to receive that button press and toggle the lights on / off

That last option reminded me of this:

It was under my desk covered in dust. (I love the old white extended keyboards with big clunky keys). It's essentially a bluetooth controller with loads of programmable buttons. Even better is that LIFXstyle and Hue-topia can already respond to F-key presses, with or without a modifier key.

Here's how to get things set up:

1. pair the keyboard with the 'always on' mac

2. set the f-keys to work as f-keys without pressing the fn key (System Preferences > Keyboard)

3. in Hue-topia and/or LIFXstyle, go into Preferences>Hotkeys and choose which presets you want to trigger with each F key.

That's it - I can reach out and bash one of the first few f-keys. A single keypress triggers a preset in both apps. (I've assigned the first couple of F keys to the same 'all on bright' preset). Other f-keys trigger other presets including 'all off'. It works beautifully, immediately and from anywhere in the house, and even outside.

Next steps:

One of these:
It could be fastened to the wall within reach of the bed. These can be had for much less than a Philips Tap, also much more versatile - it also has plenty of other keys for controlling other things in the future. (Any future app could listen for any of the keys on this keypad). LIFXsyle and Hue-topia would need an enhancement for assigning those high-number f-keys (this improvement is already on the enhancement list.)

Are there other wireless ways of triggering lights / sending a message to a mac that I've not considered? As always, I'll be grateful for thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Screensleeves not working with Spotify

Problem: After the recent update Screensleeves no longer recognises that Spotify is playing.

[edit 20 Mar 2015 - the most recent update still contains the problem]
[edit 21 Apr 2015 - 1.0.3.x doesn't seem to seem to have this particular problem. Some users are finding a different problem, although for some users things are working fine and we're not clear yet whether the newer problem is related to a version of spotify or a version of OSX]

Reason: Applescript is broken in this version of Spotify. I'm sure it's an oversight on their part, not a permanent removal. There are helpdesk calls open and I'm hoping that they will fix and release an update soon.

Workaround: This hack. The post assumes a certain level of knowledge, so in case you need it, here are the steps with images.

1. find your Spotify app in your Applications folder. Right-click / control-click and choose 'show package contents:

2. Browse and find the info.plist file within the Contents folder.
 3. Open this file in a suitable app - if you have an xml or plist editor, great, if not, TextEdit will work fine. Find the line  <string>Spotify.sdef</string> and add 'applescript/' as shown below. Save the file.

4. I found that this only worked after a restart. Note that this could break the code signing of the app and so depending on your security levels you may be asked to allow Spotify access to things or even to allow Spotify to run. 

5. If Spotify updates itself (which it does frequently) and they haven't fixed this problem in the next update, then you may have to go through these steps again.

Thursday 5 March 2015

How to "Raise an invoice" using Organise for OSX

"How do I raise an invoice" is a frequently asked question.

Many people use that phrase to describe what they do when a new customer places an order or asks them to do something.

In Organise, there isn't a button that says 'Raise an invoice', but the 'Order' is the form that holds all of the information about such a transaction. It has a sequential reference number (order number/invoice number) it holds the billing and/or delivery addresses, the items or services that the customer has ordered and finally it generates the paperwork (invoice / delivery note / whatever) using all of that information

So New Order is what you're looking for (either the toolbar button, File > New > Order or the plus button underneath the list of Orders). Then fill in all the details. This can be done very quickly and if you've done everything properly, generating paperwork and generating reports and accounts will be a cinch.

If you don't like the term 'Order' then you can go to Preferences > Terms and change it to 'Sale', 'Transaction', 'Job' or whatever else you like.

I'd suggest avoiding switching it to 'Invoice' because in Organise, the 'Invoice' is a record of an invoice that you have received. (these feed into the 'Money out' section of your accounts). Plus, the invoice is something you generate from that Order.

Besides this quick video there's a more comprehensive step-by-step tutorial here.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Organise v8 - ready for business

Shiela calling Orson...

It's been a milestone day today. After much hard work, a new version of small-business app Organise (v8) is tested, in real-life use here in the PM HQ and available to users as a release candidate.

Following a survey last year, some frequently-requested features are now built-in; address label printing, email list export, time logging. I'm not a fan of Yosemite's completely bare and flat look (to say the least) but Organise has had its interface tweaked a little and I like the cleaner look.

Version 8 is not only about features within the app. The .dmg now contains two other apps, the Report Builder tool, and Announce, a tool to send out bulk emails individually via your Apple Mail client.

Also accompanying the new version and gone live today is a User Forum. is intended to replace the support form, the FAQs page and maybe even the manual. It would be great to see users discussing issues and ideas between themselves. Bugs and issues posted there will be answered quickly and publicly which will be helpful to others and the 'How do I...?' section will eventually build up into a useful knowledge base.

This will be Organise's year. The user forum will help to shape Organise and the next major project on the list is an iPad checkout interface, either standalone or as a companion for Organise.

Shiela signing out. Nanu Nanu.