Category Archives: android

Time Tracking with Tasker (Driving & Sleep Time)

I listen to the podcast Cortex when I’m driving, and they got me interesting in looking up time tracking and how maybe this would benefit me. I already use Rescuetime with Exist as a measure of sleep, productivity, social media posts, and other things that correlate to these like the weather, the length of the day, and more. It’s pretty neat and I look at it several times a week.


One metric it misses is driving time. As someone who drove 17,000 miles in the last 12 months for work this is pretty key to me. Apparently rescuetime can do it with an expensive add on, but that only works in the US so that’s no good.

I had a look through the rest of the Exist integrations and nothing really supports what I want. So, I’ve found another way of recording this information directly. Sadly it won’t be with the rest of my Exist data but aTimeLogger generates its own fancy graphs and allows me to export the data to standard formats.

Screenshot of aTimeLogger

Android Auto –> Tasker –> aTimeLogger

Basically the flow is as follows. You could also automate this based on connecting to a certain bluetooth radio, or even just an NFC tag you have stuck to your dashboard.

  1. Plug my phone into my car with Android Auto.
  2. Tasker notices the change in UI mode
  3. Tasker sends an intent to aTimeLogger to start timing.
  4. Disconnect from my car
  5. Tasker notices the change
  6. Tasker sends another intent to aTimeLogger to stop timing.

To get this working, add your groupings to aTimeLogger. I added a top level grouping of transportation with train and driving inside this grouping. I guess I’ll add flying to this at some point too.

Once this is done, go into Tasker and create two new tasks. One for when you plug your phone in, and one for when you disconnect.  The task below is for when you connect your phone, and is explained line by line:

  • A1: Wait for 3 seconds for the connection to stabilise and the radio in the car to sort itself out.
  • A2: Using the aTimeLogger plugin in tasker, stop the Driving task if running and start it again.
  • A3: Wait another 4 seconds, same reasoning as above.
  • A4: Announce over the speakers that tracking is working. This seems to be able to talk over radio just like Google Maps can so is good if you’re not actively listening to Spotify or something.
Start Tracking Driving (2)
	A1: Wait [ MS:0 Seconds:3 Minutes:0 Hours:0 Days:0 ] 
	A2: aTimeLogger [ Configuration:Stop running and start Driving Timeout (Seconds):0 ] 
	A3: Wait [ MS:0 Seconds:4 Minutes:0 Hours:0 Days:0 ] 
	A4: Say [ Text:I'm tracking your driving now Engine:Voice:default:default Stream:3 Pitch:5 Speed:5 Respect Audio Focus:On Network:Off Continue Task Immediately:Off ] 

The stop driving task is pretty much the same, but A2 is reversed so it’s Stop driving. Pretty simple. Make sure you actually save your changes as I managed to close them without saving.

Now you need to create some profiles that trigger based on Android Auto being active or not. The best way I found to do this was checking the variable %UIMODE and seeing if it was set to ‘car’ or not. This is set by Android Auto so its a good indicator as to whether I am in the car or not! Maybe there’s a better way but this works for me.  Let me know in the comments?


Profile: Car Active (7)
	State: Variable Value  [ %UIMODE ~ car ]
Profile: Car Not Active (8)
	State: Variable Value  [ %UIMODE neq car ]

Both of these profiles are then linked to the above tasks which we previously set up. Now next time you connect your phone to Android Auto it should start time tracking in aTimeLogger and announce over your speakers that it’s doing so. As soon as you disconnect (I have to turn the ignition off, and open the drivers door before the phone fully disconnects) it will stop and save that time log. You shouldn’t have to do anything further! Enjoy the data.

You might have noticed in some of the screenshots that I am also doing something similar with sleep tracking. To do this, I am using SleepAsAndroid alarm clock with its Android Wear add-on to actually track my sleep.

Tasker is listening for the intents from SleepAsAndroid and starting the timer in aTimeLogger then stopping it for me in the morning when I stop my alarm.


Google Latitude Replacements

Google Latitude completes it’s migration into Google Plus this week and after the 9th of August historical location history stored in Latitude is going to be deleted. Make sure you get over to Google Takeout and save your data!

If you’re a heavy latitude user like myself with my close friends and family then this suck. Google+ locations is not up to scratch… You can’t see how long ago the location was refreshed. How are you supposed to tell if the location is still valid or not? You pretty much can’t. You don’t get a distance reading to nearby friends, and there’s no way to hide people who share their location with all their circles.

Update 31/08/2013: Google+ now reports the time that your friends location was updated! They listened, and now it is considerably more usable.

Current Alternatives

Anyway, this has prompted me to look for replacements. Glympse looks good, except the longest you can share your location to someone is 4 hours. No Latitude replacement. I found an open source project on Github called Rockwell which had some server code as well as code for an iPhone app. This got me thinking, why can’t I create my own for my friends and family?

Some other alternatives include Chronos which is a life logging app (it doesn’t let you share your location with friends) that allows you to import your data from Latitude. Another alternative is called Hemisphere which apparently replicates most of the functionality that we’ve come to love. I haven’t tried either of these yet, however.

More thoughts on the Google Nexus 7

I’ve been using the Nexus for a few months now, and honestly I still do love it. It’s an awesome piece of kit available for less than £200, but it does have some issues.
My screen slightly lifts on the left hand side, but it’s not noticeable with the official case and doesn’t seem to affect the usage in anyway at all. I’ve got it covered on Gadget insurance, so if anything does happen it won’t be a problem to get it fixed. A bit annoying, but I can live with it!

My other main issue is that I experience some wicked slow down after general usage. I’ve read this doesn’t happen to everyone but it definitely did both to mine and to a friend of mine’s. After a few days, opening new apps would grind to crawl and the whole experience was just shit.
In a previous post I mentioned flashing AOKP, rooting the device was really simple. It’s worth doing if you’re comfortable with the process. The Nexus 7 is completely different with 3rd party roms. I haven’t experience the slowdown, and now I get the proper tablet android experience (including a horizontal homescreen!!)

Between Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Cloud MP3 Storage (a topic for another post in a few weeks…), and EZ PDF reader my nexus is well and truly ready to help me out at uni over the next 12 months.
The best thing about a £200 tablet? In a years time, there will be a new one. And I won’t feel bad buying it because it’s only £200….. If it gets lost or stolen.. well it’s not as bad as losing a £500 iPad…

Lack of wifi won’t stop me…

The halls I’m moving into in Bangor don’t have wifi internet access, which I guess is understandable because large scale wireless network deployments are hard to get right; especially when the target users will spend all day streaming media content over it..

Whatever, we’re allowed to plug in an unmanaged switch into our network port so not all is lost. Using a USB OTG adapter, and an Apple USB Ethernet adapter I can get my Nexus 7 online via a cable. It can sit next to my laptop and stream Netflix or whatever whilst I’m working away on laptop without getting in the way. I even bought some long Ethernet cables so I can casually use my tablet in bed…

The Samsung Galaxy S3 on the other hand doesn’t support USB Ethernet using the stock Touchwiz rom, so that’s another reason to root and flash CM10 when it gets a stable release. Apparently I’d even be able to charge at the same time if I bought an MHL adapter but I need to look into that more.

Nexus 7 OTG Adapters

I’ve used a USB OTG (On the go) adapter with a variety of things so far on my Nexus 7, including:

  • Wired Xbox 360 Controller (Although, I hear it should work with the wireless one with the correct USB dongle)
  • Playstation 2 Controller via a USB adapter designed for a computer
  • Playstation 3 Controller via USB (Haven’t tried using them wirelessly yet.. I think root is needed for that.)
  • 32gb USB memory stick (via Stickmount, root required)
  • Apple USB Ethernet Adapter
  • USB Keyboards and Mice

The variety of add-ons I can use with my tablet is pretty amazing. I remember using my iPad with a Wii Remote after I first jailbroke it. But wow, all these pretty much work in Android without any major steps/changes to the tablet with the exception of rooting for Stickmount.
All of the game controllers that I tested worked great with Snesoid, and Snes9x EX. I probably use those much, since the emulators on PC are that much better but the fact I can is neat.

The Ethernet adapter is really special. The halls that I’m likely to be moving into in September are stuck in the last decade and don’t have wifi access! I just plugged it in, turned off the wifi and everything continued to work. It was a bit strange because there is no indication at all anywhere in the UI that I had even plugged in an ethernet adapter let alone that it was functioning perfectly.

I was able to play various video files from my 32gb USB key through MX Player including a bluray that I had ripped myself. Various other video files also played great. I had less luck with VLC, and MX Player seems to be the player of the moment!

First week with the Google Nexus 7

I’ve had my 16gb Nexus 7 for nearly a week now, and here are some of my initial thoughts from this first week.

The device is amazing. I don’t miss the iPad at all, surprisingly. As I said in a previous post everything I mainly used on the iPad has a fairly decent Android alternative and this is definitely true. I even found a brilliant replacement for Goodreader! (EzPDF)

I rooted the Nexus the day I got it using the Nexus Root Toolkit, but I did have to manually download the Google USB Driver from the SDK before I could get it to work properly and then I had to fully remove that USB driver before the MTP drive would mount properly again. (I think I went into Device Manager and forced Windows to use the normal Nexus driver rather than the ADB driver)

Once I was rooted, I downloaded Stickmount and tried a 32gb USB key with an OTG adapter I bought for around £3. It played a bluray that I ripped myself perfectly using MX Player, something I thought (because of the sentiment on various forums) wouldn’t work! Alas, it worked perfectly!

Onto my thoughts of the device itself. I love the smaller 7” screen compared to the iPad. Yes, it is smaller but it’s actually higher in resolution than the iPad 2 that I migrated from! The device feels well made, and mine seems to have escaped the problems with loose screens which is nice! I haven’t had enough time to properly sit down and play a Tegra enhanced game on the tablet yet, but from what I’ve seen of other people playing them at work they look particularly awesome. Widescreen for videos is neat, too.

The USB OTG adapter works great with both a wired Xbox 360 controller and a Playstation 2 controller through a USB adapter! (Adapters all the way down…). These worked out of the box with Snesdroid and Snes9x EX. I haven’t gotten around to testing any others, or the controller support of Tegra enhanced games. Nor have I tried a keyboard or mouse which should work too!
So yeah, one week in I am really happy with the device! As I find more stuff out and explore more features I will post more entries etc.

Switching to Android

I’m quite interested in the new Nexus 7 tablet from Google for a few reasons which I’m going to outline in this post. Briefly they include cost, reliance on iTunes, and the fact the apps that I actually use regularly on the iPad are now on Android too.

I traded my iPhone 4 in last September for a Samsung Galaxy S2 and haven’t looked back yet, I really doubt I’d ever buy another iPhone. I continued to use my iPad, but this might change soon!
I’m quite interested in the new Nexus 7 tablet from Google for a few reasons which I’m going to outline in this post. Briefly they include cost, reliance on iTunes, and the fact the apps that I actually use regularly on the iPad are now on Android too.

Nexus 7

I’m pretty sure I can migrate away from Apple completely without too much fuss, here are my thoughts anyway… The 16gb Nexus 7 is £199. The base iPad is £399, but I bought my current iPad second hand for around £300, and I could probably sell it for that soon (Yay for family!). My current thinking is buy the Nexus after payday and see how I get with it before I head off to uni in a few months, and sell the one I don’t want. If I sold the iPad it’ll pay off the Nexus, and I’m sure I could find someone to sell the Nexus to if it turns out I really don’t get alone with it.

iTunes on Windows is a piece of shit. It runs slowly, fails to sync all the time, and seemingly goes out of its way to annoy you. I know you can use an iPad without iTunes now, but that makes it harder to sync podcasts and the like. iTunes Match is a prime example! If you enable the service, you can no longer locally sync your music via USB you must download everything you want directly on the iPad. Awesome… A major draw of an Android tablet is not needing iTunes at all!

Anyway, onto the apps that I actually need to justify a tablet. Here is a quick rundown of what I mainly use on my iPad from day to day.

I guess I’ll lose access to the magazines I’ve bought over the last few years, but honestly it’s not a major concern. If I had physical copies I generally read them once, put them in the cupboard for a few years, then take them all to the tip; losing access to Retro Gamer and Wired isn’t really the end of the world.
As for the rest of the apps I just mentioned, they all appear to have fairly decent Android versions available. I’ve bought so many games on the iPad that I just never play, so I’m not that bothered about losing those either. Oh no… pocket planes…. Winking smile There is occasional Humble Bundles for Android anyway, so I can just wait for one of those to start stocking up on more Android games!

The only thing I am mildly concerned about is the state of PDF readers on Android. I use Goodreader on the iPad and it is absolutely amazing. Annotations, copes with massive files, etc. I’ve never had an issue with it, and I hope there is something equally as good on Android!

Apple’s new Podcast app on iOS is terrible. In the week I’ve been using it, it’s hard locked three or four times, and several other times not been responsive to touch inputs for a few seconds after the app is launched. Looking forward to using DoggCatcher again, which in my experience is hands down the best podcast client I have ever used!

I realise the Nexus has limited memory (around 13gb free according to reports) but that is easily remedied by rooting the device, installing stickmount and acquiring a USB OTG adapter for a few quid. From what I’ve read so far, it won’t play movies directly from the USB memory, but you can juggle the files around and copy them to the internal memory which isn’t that bad really. I can’t even remember the last time I actually watched a film on my iPad.
All in all, I think I could jump ship without a lot of fuss. I’d save myself a load of money when I sell the iPad, and I’d be a lot less upset if anything happened to the Nexus because it would be less than £200 to replace if it gets lost/stolen/broken.