Category Archives: Toys

IFTTT 101

IFTTT Screenshots: homepageIFTTT Screenshots: servicesIFTTT Screenshots: Grant Alerts

I’ve been asked about how I use IFTTT (IF This Then That). which is an app for connecting digital devices and streams in creative and interesting ways. Basically, it allows you to automate ways different tech things can talk to each other, or, as they describe it, ” helps your apps and devices work together in new ways.” Actually I think the real question was about how I use social media, broadly, but this was part of the question, and it’s way easier to answer, so I’m going to start here, with an overview of some interesting recipes, followed by how to find them, and how to make them.

ComputerWorld (2019): What is IFTTT? How to use If This, Then That services
With 11 million users running more than a billion applets a month, IFTTT hopes to become a service that connects pretty much everything — though some users say it still has room for improvement.

RECIPES AND APPLETS

These are some IFTTT recipes and applets that I either actually use, or wish maybe I could. (Hey, I can’t afford all those fancy-schmancy smart home devices!) These include things that streamline some of my work, help me keep up to date, manage my work-life balance, support accommodations for health issues and safety concerns, keep me in tune with hobbies and interests, and more!

Notice that there are often multiple recipes to accomplish what looks like the same task. These are usually made by different people. Sometimes they refine an earlier idea to make it better (like shifting from “remind me to drink water” to “remind me to drink water when I’m not asleep”!), sometimes not so much. If you forget you already have one recipe going for a task, you can end up with duplicate emails or Flickr posts or things like that. And be accused of spamming your Flickr followers. Sometimes you want to try both out to see which one works better. Some of the Instagram to Flickr recipes only work for one image at a time, or one a day, while others are more flexible and robust and will capture everything you do. There are dozens of recipes to help you remember to take your medicines or vitamins at a particular time of day. At least one of them will actually trigger your device to speak aloud to remind you! There are several to send alerts if there is a new clinical trial on diabetes, or asthma, or skin cancer, or …

You get the idea. The basic message is “BUYER” BEWARE. Test it out, try it out, and be prepared to turn it off if it doesn’t do what you expected. Also, watch for unexpected side effects. There have been the occasional report of an IFTTT recipe that, maybe, sends email AS you instead of TO you, just as an example. Another example was someone who used a device to automatically lock their door when they weren’t at home, set up a recipe to verify the door was locked if the door saw an unfamiliar face, then forgot about the recipe, and had trouble trying to UNLOCK the door when it didn’t recognize him. So you want to be careful. Also, just because I link to a recipe below doesn’t mean these have all been vetted or tested. These are examples of the kinds of things you can do with IFTTT, and I have tested SOME of those listed here.

Alert: Reminder to drink water every hour unless you’re asleep (I actually use this as a reminder to take a 3 minute exercise/movement break each hour)

Clinical Trials: Get an email when ClinicalTrials.gov publishes a new trigger or action

Grants: Get an email when there’s a new education-related grant
Grants: Get an email when there’s a new grant that mentions your state or city
Grants: Get an email when there’s a new health-related grant

IFTTT: Get an email when a new service is published on IFTTT

Instagram: Post your Instagram photos to Flickr

NASA: Get a notification when the International Space Station passes over your house
NASA: Receive NASA’s Image of the Day in your inbox
NASA: Did an astronaut exit space? Get a notification
NASA: Did an astronaut enter space? Get a notification

News: Get an email from the New York Times whenever there is breaking technology news
News: Get a weekly email digest of new Pew Research technology articles
News: Automatically tweet updates from Pew Research

Safety: Get yourself out of an awkward situation (International)
Safety: Google Home Find My Phone (“When you ask Google home to find your phone it turns the ringer to 100% and places a VOIP call through IFTT.”
Safety: Ok Google, call my device
Safety: Hey Alexa, call my device

Self-tracking: Log how much time you spend at specific locations like the office or home in a spreadsheet
Self-tracking: Track your work hours in Google Calendar
Self-tracking: When I buy a coffee, log calories to iOS Health

Smart Home: Call me if Roost detects a water leak
Smart Home: Turn on/off your lights with one tap on your phone
Smart Home: Turn on Smart Life device at sunset
Smart Home: Get your Hue Lights to colour loop when it’s Christmas

Twitter: If Twitter #HASHTAG, Then IF Notification

WHO: Get alerts if there’s a disease outbreak news from the World Health Organization

WUnderground: Rain tomorrow? Get a mobile notification
WUnderground: Get a notification and an email if there’s going to be snow tomorrow

YouTube: Add songs from videos you like to a Spotify playlist

Highlighted collections from IFTTT

DISCOVERY: Finding IFTTT Recipes to Meet Your Needs

How do you find these? I usually browse the “Discover” section of the IFTTT app, but I also search for keywords and browse other people’s recommendations. The metadata is dependent on the person who created the recipe, so the words in the title can be really weird sometimes. It helps to get really creative with related words.

IFTTT: Discover: https://ifttt.com/discover

The Ambient, Smart Home (2019): IFTTT essential guide: The best IFTTT Applets for your automated smart home

PC Magazine (2019): The 25 Best IFTTT Applets: If This Then That (IFTTT) integrates activities across your digital services and devices. Here are some of our favorite combinations, or applets.

ComputerWorld (2017): 41 cool and useful IFTTT applets: Want to automatically save articles you’ve liked on Twitter to Pocket? There’s an IFTTT applet for that – and for a lot of other things, too.

Trusted Reviews (2016): 35 amazingly useful IFTTT recipes to simplify your life

Lifehack (2013): 35 Super Useful IFTTT Recipes You Might Not Know About

DIY: Making Your Own IFTTT Recipe

The next question for me, and something I haven’t done yet, is, hmmm, what about all those journal alerts? And search strategies? Or Google News alerts? I wouldn’t want a phone alert for everything, but there might be some where I’d like to know. I can imagine that some of the faculty medical librarians support might like to have something set up for grants in their field, new publication alerts on the topic of their most recent systematic review, or even if someone cited their articles. I don’t know how hard it would be to do this, but I can certainly imagine that we might want to! So, here is an article about how to get started.

How to create an IFTTT recipe https://support.meshprj.com/hc/en-us/articles/213717818-How-to-create-an-IFTTT-recipe

Coding and tech comics & coloring books

First posted at https://michigan.it.umich.edu/news/2017/12/19/comics-coloring-books/


We are coming up quickly on the winter break, with families gathered and children out of school. With that in mind, it might be fun to have some some (slightly eccentric?) options for family activities and young folk distractions. Even better if these are options that promote learning, or just understanding more about what the old folks do with their days, eh? Here are a few highlights from my collections of (mostly free) comics, coloring books, and games around the world of geekery, coding, and tech. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that tickles your own funny bone!

A FORTRAN Coloring Book

Coloring Books

The first coding coloring book I could find dates from 1978 — Roger Kaufman’s FORTRAN Coloring Book, actually published by MIT Press and used as a textbook, back in the day. I was tickled pink when I found it, in part because I remember by Dad coding in FORTRAN when I was a young thing. (Yes, I have a copy on paper in my office. Honest!) It is robustly humorous for actual coders, and probably not as much fun for kids today. It is, however, available in the fabulous Internet Archive (but you might have to wait your turn to get access, since it is still under copyright).

Another rather amusing tongue-in-cheek (optionally NSFW) geek coloring book comes from the infamous Oatmeal. Check out 404 Not Found (and 404 Not Found NSFW). Not free.

With coloring books about coding going back so many decades, I thought there must be more, and oh my, there are.

ABC++ [PDF] (free)

The Coder’s Coloring Book [PDF] (free)

Kevin’s Python Coding Coloring Book (usually around $7)

Lady Ada’s E is For Electronics Coloring Book [PDF] (free as PDF, or you can buy a copy for $9.95)
(You might want to see also Lady Ada’s R is for Robots, which is not free.)

Programmer’s coloring book (About) [PDF] (free)

The SELinux Coloring Book (Github) [PDF] (free)

Soldering is Easy (free, but no PDF, only individual page downloads)

The Imitation Game, by Jim Ottaviani

Comics, Graphic Novels, Zines, Etc.

– About Coding & Tech-

These include comix for kids and comix for pros, but even those for kids are so well done I get a giggle out of them.

BubbleSort Zines. (Includes zines like “Hip Hip Array!” as well as t-shirts and jewelry such as “BYTE ME!”) (not free)

Code Cartoons (such as A Cartoon Guide to Flux and more) (free)

Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud (free)

Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people (~$17 onAmazon)

Hello, Ruby (for ages 5 and up) (not free, but free stuff available for downloading at the site)

How DNS Works (start here) (free)

Linux comics, a small zine. Others from the same author include “Let’s Learn tcpdump,” “Spying on your programs with trace,” and “Networking! ACK!” (free)

What Makes a Clock Tick (free)

Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby (free)

– About Geekery Other Than Coding –

We are very lucky here to have Jim Ottaviani on campus as a hard core science geek who loves and loves to make comics. I could hardly talk about comics and coding without mentioning his collaboration with Leland Purvis, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded! But there are more comics and graphic novels about coders, geeks, and the work and culture they love. This is just a few selected titles, not at all comprehensive (try searching cyberpunk graphic novels to see what I mean). [NOTE: These are mostly NOT free, but for sale at bookstores both analog and virtual.]

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

Tom Clohosy Cole’s Space Race

(And if this isn’t enough to keep people busy, you can always make your own, one way or another.)

Ebola and Emerging Technologies

Ebola & Emerging Tech

Ebola & Emerging Tech: http://www.mindmeister.com/485610588/ebola-emerging-tech

Our local Cool Toys Conversations group had asked to have a discussion of emerging technologies and Ebola, and “could we please have it before the holidays when everyone will be traveling?” I had tried to get this up early last week, but life happened, and so it is coming to you now.

When we started looking at this topic I was surprised to find so much! I probably shouldn’t have been — Ebola is big news. It seems as if everyone doing anything in tech and emerging tech is doing something interesting related to Ebola. Well, except Apple. And that surprised me, too. There were so many links, so many topics, I could have EASILY done a month of daily blogposts just on this topic. Once we started, we kept finding more. The collection of links was getting overblown, random, chaotic, confusing. I decided to organize them all in a mindmap, and doing that took a while. Mindmeister kept saying, “Too many topics at one level!” This is why it is broken down into 4 section, but don’t take those sections too seriously. They are more an artifact of the process than seriously meaningful. Each major topic probably has minor topics and links that could easily belong in another section. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to give an alphabetic list here of what’s included in the mindmap (which is also where you’ll find all the actual links – hint? Click on the little arrows).

I have so many favorite projects and resources I can’t possibly highlight them all. If life and time permit, I’ll try to throw together a slideshow with screenshots of some of them. Just as teasers, here are just a … a smidgen, a teeny tiny sampling. Tim Unwin wrote a great overview of exciting ways in which emerging technologies are being used in the Ebola crisis. Biosensors, wearable tech, open everything, code repositories, data, genetics, DIYbio, mapping and tracking, apps (tons of them), reverse innovation, open source pharma, gaming, cryogenics, … the list goes on and on. You already know how completely enchanted I am with the maker movement right now, and this is no exception. Makers Against Ebola designed flash sensors and proximity alarms to help prevent contamination while working with patients, pull tabs and zipper extenders to make it easier to get in and out of the Personal Protective Environments (which you might recognize better as hazmat suits). The DIY Ebola Challenge came up with a great variety of open source hardware solutions for scientific equipment, in efforts to design a kit they couple bundle and share at point of need. So far they have centrifuges in all sizes, PCR thermocycler, gel electrophoresis, spectrometers, multichannel pipettes, and more. Other folk are using tools like the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black to design inexpensive syringe pumps and diagnostics. And then there’s robots! Robots to decontaminate, robots to intercede between people and create a distance than may contain the disease (like a social firebreak). The ways in which people are using tech to highlight the personal aspect is also awe-inspiring. From citizen journalism to ebola MOOCs to the WAYout Ebola Song, with every social media tool you can name, someone is doing something to try to help share important stories and information. There is a lot more in the mindmap, with links for everything. There’s even a section on open access images about Ebola to use foe teaching, training, and education. Check it out — here’s an outline.

GENERAL

Articles
Collections

PEOPLE DRIVEN

Advocacy
Citizen Science
Citizen Journalism
Collaboration Tech
Communication (Challenges: Misinformation & Hype, Stigma, Weaponized; Solutions: Education & Training, Ebola Information, MOOCs, Information & Health Literacy, Wikipedia
Social Media
Research
Crowdfunding
Crowdsourcing (Challenges)
Makers & DIY
Open (Open Access, Open Images, Open Data, Open Government, Open IBM, Open Source Code Repositories, Open Source Pharma, Open Sources Wearables)
Reverse Innovation

SCIENCE DRIVEN

Arxiv/bioRxiv
Biohacking / DIYbio / SynBio
Data (Data modeling, Data visualization
Open Data
Diagnostics
Genetics
Mapping / Tracking
Nanosilver
NASA

TECH DRIVEN

3D Printing
Apps
Biosensors
Biotech
DARPA
Biocontainment
Cryogenics
Diagnosis
Gaming
Geolocation / Geotagging / GPS
Hackers
IBM
Mobile
Robotics (Asepsis, Telepresence)
Telemedicine
Wearable Tech (Biocontainment, Personal Protective Environments)