2021, Allison Sheridan
Chit Chat Across the Pond

Edit Transcript Remove Highlighting Add Audio File
Export... ?


[0:00] Music.

[0:08] Well, it's that time of the week again, it's time for Chit Chat Across the Palm. This is episode number 754 for December 8th, 2022. And I'm your host, Alison Sheridan. This week, our guest is developer Casey Liss of the Accidental Tech podcast and creator of the iOS apps Masquerade and Peek-A-Boo, Peek-A-View. Welcome to the show, Casey.

[0:26] Hello, Peek-A-Boo to you too.

[0:29] Well, I got close. I got the point. Well, I really wanted to talk to you on the show because on an an episode a while back of the Accidental Tech podcast,
you talked in depth about an automation you created to be able to tell if your garage door was open.
And it was hilarious.
And I thought it might be fun to talk about those automations we create that are maybe overly complex and there's a much easier way to do it.
Or maybe ones we don't remember why we even created them or why they work. I just thought it'd be really fun to kind of talk about the fun automations we've made.
Does that sound fun to you?
Yes, definitely. Uh, do you, do you want me to start or do you want to start? I do know. I want you to start with the garage door.
Right. So I live in a pretty safe part of our suburb of Richmond, Virginia, which is in, in itself, in and of itself, not a terribly unsafe city.
Um, and yet nevertheless, I feel like it was not infrequent that I would go to bed and my garage door would be left open.
And typically almost always, in fact, this was my fault, but I wanted to have some sort of a system or mechanism to figure out whether the garage door was open or not.
Now, my bedroom, the primary bedroom in the house is directly above the garage, but because it's directly above the garage, I obviously can't see the garage from the bedroom.

[1:48] And I asked my wife, Erin, if I could just drill a hole in the floor so I could see whether or not the garage, no, I'm just kidding.
But yeah, she didn't go for that, but I actually didn't ask. But I wanted some mechanism by which I could know if the garage door was open and it would alert me if it was around bedtime.
And the problem with this is, even though I'm a pretty boring guy that has a pretty reliable schedule, there are occasions that I stay up past 10 o'clock at night.
I know this is surprising and wild, but I know, right? so uh... so i wanted to do something that was kind of
actively passive, which I know that's an oxymoron, but I wanted something that was just kind of ambient, I guess is a better word for it.
And so I decided what I thought I would do is I wanted an LED light that was sitting somewhere in my room, and as it turns out, I have it at like the top of our headboard, but I just wanted an LED light that when it's off, that indicates that the garage door's closed,
and when it's on, when it's glowing, it indicates the garage door's open.
So the theory is, if I'm coming to go to bed and I enter the primary bedroom, I climb into bed and I see this light on, I think, oh, I got to turn off or I got to close the garage door.

[2:56] So there are sane ways of handling this. And then there's the Casey way of handling this. And this was early on in the pandemic. And, um, for, for better, worse or otherwise, we were pretty locked,
down. We have two small kids and this either, even irrespective of that, this was before any of us could get vaccines. And so we were really not seeing anyone really not going anywhere. This is, this is like April, May or something like that of 2020.
And I needed a project just like everyone did. And so I thought, well, why wouldn't I just use a combination of two different Raspberry Pis in concert and a little bit of hardware, because that is clearly the right solution to this very simple problem.
And so- So like an app on your phone for smart garage door that you could look at that just showed you- No, no, of course not.
No, no, that would be too easy. And part of the reason, I know you're both joking and serious, but part of all kidding aside, part of the reason I didn't wanna do that is because our garage door opener is by a company called Linear, which I'd never heard of.
And when we had it installed a few years back, you know, the company that installed it was like, oh yeah, you can control it via your phone, blah, blah, blah, which is true, but because no other human on the planet apparently has a Linear garage door opener,
it doesn't work with like the Chamberlain My Q out of the box.
I could add like aftermarket, but it doesn't do any of this like out of the box.
So I decided what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna get, oh, shoot, I should have looked up the name of this. I'm going to get a sensor. It's one of those sensors where.

[4:25] Put the two terminals close to each other and it closes the circuit. Sure.
And then when you separate the two terminals, it's like a contact sensor or something like that. And that's not a lot of company makes it make a ring makes them and a wise makes really bad ones. Yeah.
Yeah. But I wanted again to go the harder approach.
So I just took literally one of these sensors that's, you know, $3 on Amazon, maybe even less, maybe 30 cents on Amazon.
And I put one of those at the top of the garage door such that there's one on the house and one on the top of the garage door.
And when the garage door is closed, it comes, you know, it doesn't literally contact the other, you know, the two sensors don't touch, but they're, they're close enough that it closes the circuit. And so that you can detect that, that the garage door is closed.
I'm going to interrupt you here. We have a lot of trouble with, uh, that exact kind of thing because the tolerances on garage door open garage doors are huge. They move like an inch. So we have a lot of trouble getting things to align where you were able to get it to a line up.

[5:19] Yes, so I was able to get up super close, although remind me and I have a story about this in a little bit, but part of the reason I think that worked is because this garage door is just like three or four years old, right?
Because it was actually at, I was at WWDC back when WWDC was in person, and my wife had sent me a text or called me or something. It was like, hey, the garage door just kind of imploded.
And I was like, oh, I'm sorry, what?
And I guess, you know, it's a series of different panels, right, and I guess two of the panels just kind of fell in a little bit.
And so when I got home, I had the pleasure of dealing with that. And we ended up needing to get a new garage door. And so the garage door only being four or five years old or something like that, it makes these sorts of things more possible.
So I have this contact sensor at the top of the garage door that the wire for that gets run all the way across on the like chain, the chain housing or whatever, uh, all the way back to the garage door opener.
Itself. Um, at there at the garage door opener, I have a pie, Raspberry Pi 0 WH which basically
At the time, it was the crummiest Raspberry Pi you could buy. It was like 10 bucks or something like that, but it has wifi on it and it has the header. That's what the H means.
So you can plug things into it. Generally speaking, the, the Raspberry Pi's are there. There's no terminals to connect.
Well, there's no terminal sticking off the board. There's places you could solder, but there's no terminal sticking up the board. And so this has the little pins that you can stick stuff onto.

[6:45] Right. And so I have the Pi zero WH sitting there connected to the sensor.

[6:50] And so I have the pie zero, the garage pie, as I call it, that just pings away literally every second asking, okay, is the door closed? Is the door closed? Is the door closed? Is the door closed?
Is the door closed? So it's pinging the sensor? Mm-hmm, that's right. And I'm sure that there's a way I could do this, like interrupts or something like that, but it was just the easiest way to make it happen.
And so it asks itself once a second, is the door closed?
Is the door closed? Simultaneously, there's a web server running that either it will either respond with one, I forget which way I had it, but either one, if it's open and zero, if it's closed or vice versa.
And so, um, then I have home bridge, which if you're not familiar, is a software package that will let you bring things into home kit.
I have home bridge with a, with a, uh, like a custom, I forget what it's called. I can look it up if you remind me later, but it's a package that basically it.

[7:41] Says, all right, I'm going to act like a garage door opener or a garage, Yeah, garage door opener, but you tell me some HTTP endpoint to go hit and based on the results of that endpoint, I will decide whether the garage door is open or not.
So similarly, similarly home kit every like three seconds or something like that or home bridge, excuse me, is pinging away at the server in the garage or that the raspberry find the garage saying, is it open?
Is it open? Is it open?
Is it open? And then if it says that if it sees that it's open, then it fires home kit or tells home kit, Hey, the garage door is open now. And that was great.
That was a good first step, which was at least knowing it's open or closed and home kit.

[8:21] But that's not enough because I don't have my fancy schmancy LED sitting in the bedroom. So clearly the only solution if you have one Raspberry Pi is to add a second Raspberry Pi.
And so I got a second Raspberry Pi zero WH, which is sitting under the bed with no case on it whatsoever. I'm sure it's super safe to do that, but whatever. Here we are full of dust. It's full of dust. It's just caked in dust. It's been there for a year and a half, now two years now.
And golly, I guess like two and a half years, holy smokes, anyways. And that pings away at the same web server, constantly saying, okay, is it open, is it open, is it open, is it open?
And when it sees that it's open, it just, figuratively speaking, it closes the connection on that LED that's strung up to the top of my headboard, thus turning the LED on.
And so the only purpose that the one in the bedroom has, this $15 computer that's running 24 hours a day, days a week 365 days a year the only thing it does is ping away at the garage saying is it open is it,
Nope. Oh no, that's not, is that how I left it? I had for a while I was doing it.

[9:20] For a while I was doing it via UDP. So the garage door would broad, the garage pie would broadcast when it opened or when it closed. And the bedroom one just sat there and listened. I don't remember if that's where I ended up or not.
Shoot, I'd have to look at it again. I should have looked at this before I recorded. I'm amazed you remember this much detail because once I'm done with something like that, most of the details escape me.

[9:39] Honestly, I'm a little surprised myself, but then that's why I'm a little fuzzy here and there. But anyway, so that was great for all passive things.
So I got that working so that I could see the LED would light up. and as I'm crawling into bed, oh crap, the garage door is open.
But now I have to use their garbage app in order to close it, which is obviously not acceptable.
So I decided, OK, what I'm going to do is I'm going to add a relay that's also hanging off the garage raspberry pie.
And you can get little boards that are little teeny tiny boards that have like one or two relays on them.
And I'm going to use that to say, OK, when I want the garage door to close, I'll close the relay.
It'll close a circuit that will indicate to the garage door, OK, it's time to close. And the way you typically do this with most garage door openers is that there's a series of like three or four terminals on the back and you just close, you know, you,
basically connect two of the terminals. So you have the relay, you know, connected to two of these different terminals. And when the relay closes, you're now connecting those terminals and you,
do that for like a second. And then the garage door closes. Unfortunately, my fancy schmancy garage door opener decided to effectively reboot itself every time I did that. So now, now I don't know know how I'm going to actually activate or actuate the garage door.
Well, my dad is an amateur geek in the same way that I am. And he came up with a brilliant idea of, well, do you have a spare garage door opener, like a push button garage?

[11:03] Yeah. And I said, well, yeah. Why?

[11:06] All right, let me have it. I'm going to borrow it for a week. I'll get it back to you. It's okay. He's descended into your madness.

[11:13] So he is. Yes. So, so he takes the garage door opener, opens it up, finds the appropriate terminals that need to be closed or that get closed when you hit the button on the garage door opener and adds a wire that he strung out of the garage door opener that I can then hook the relay to.
And so now the relay is effectively hitting the button on the garage door So if you were to look at the garage door opener and Alison remind me, I can take a picture for you and you can put it in the show notes.
But if you look at the garage door opener up there on top of the garage door opener, I have a raspberry Pi zero W H I have a relay board and I have a push button garage door opener sitting two inches above the garage door opener that,
I use to actually activate the garage door opener.

[11:55] So in the end of the day, I have hooked all this up into home kit and so on and so forth. I have a web server listening for these requests.
Requests. And so I can say to the dog, to the Apple dongle, dingus, whatever, Hey, dingus, close the garage door. And that,
fires a that that enters into home bridge home bridge makes an HTTP request to the pie. The pie then closes the relay counts to one opens the relay. The relay is closing the connection on the push button garage door opener. And that either opens,
or closes the garage door. We're like 45 minutes into the show.
Oh, it's been great talking to you. I gotta go. I'll see you later.

[12:32] So, are you so glad you asked? Are you so glad you asked? That is epic.
And so you could have bought something to do this, but clearly you were really bored during the worst of the pandemic times.
I really, really was. So yeah, so that was my garage door opener and I can give you one other if you want to spend the time, but if we need to move on.
Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This is fun. I think my, we don't need to make time for any of mine. I was just gonna swap stories with you, but I don't think I could come close to anything as epic.

[13:07] I don't want to, I'm trying to use a gentler language than I would have in my youth, but uh, it is a bit of a banana setup.
Let's go with that. And, and if you're judging me listener, as you're, as you're listening to this cockamamie story, can't blame you.
It really doesn't make any sense at all, but all snark and kidding aside, it was a really, really interesting learning experience. And I learned a ton doing it.
I had only soldered once or twice before when I was in college 20 years ago. Um, and I had to do a bunch of soldering for this.
I had to deal with hardware, which as a software person isn't terribly fun, but yet as someone who's educated as a computer engineer was super fun. And I really, really loved messing with hardware.
Like I learned a lot doing this, but it was bananas top to bottom.
Um, I definitely think, I definitely think that is one of the reasons that I enjoy going down these, uh, rabbit holes of weird automations that, that I do.
And like I said, none of them are as complex as you yours, but when you try to to do it one way and you run into a stop and then you try it another way and you run into a different stop and then you realize, hey, that just taught me something I can use in the first stop, but you still don't get through.
You start building together these pieces and then next time you go to do something, you've got another tool that you can start to deploy that you'll still get stuck again, but you're going to learn something new.

[14:25] Yep, exactly right. And there have been some instances where I've had to use some of this knowledge in, I can't think of a specific example, but I've had to do some of this from time to time.

[14:33] And all of this stuff that all the code that I was writing for like web servers and stuff like that, that was all written in Python, which I have at best a passing knowledge of Python. So learning another language is also another tool, my tool belt, which is really great. So that was, it was a fun project mixed with a lot of pain and suffering that was completely self-imposed,
but it was a lot of fun. I am self-employed, which is awesome in a bunch of ways, in almost every way. But one of the things that it's not great about it is that it gives you, it affords
you the time to do stupid projects like this. One of the best parts about it is that I make my own schedule and I enjoy an afternoon siesta every day. I just like, I think it's fun. It gives gives me a little refresher before the kids come home,
makes me happier, makes me a little well rested, better rested, I have small children.
It makes me more willing to get down on the floor and play with them instead of just grumbling about how tired I am.
So I'll take like a 20 minute nap most afternoons.

[15:33] I know if you have a regular job, like a regular human being, this is very frustrating. My co-host Mark Warment would talk about his naps when I still had a jobby job and nothing made me more angry than hearing about this.
So I apologize, but I bring all this up because every time I put my phone down, when I tried to take a little snooze, I always tried to look at the clock because I wanted to know how long did I sleep?
And it doesn't matter, no, but I just wanted to know. But we all do.
Same reason you look in the Kleenex after you blow your nose. You just need to know. Exactly, you just need to know. So it occurred to me, I could probably automate this.

[16:06] So I wanted to write an Apple shortcut that would take notes of when I put my phone on a charger.

[16:15] And more importantly, when I take it off the charger, how long had it been charging?
And I think there are ways that you can dig into different information and settings to figure this out, but I wanted automation to do this.

[16:27] Well, this is all well and good, but there's no real state to shortcuts. The shortcuts don't really have a state to them. They run and they're done. Shortcuts are awful.
Shortcuts are really awful. They're wonderful and amazing and awful. And so what I ended up doing, I googled about like how can I save the state of the world with inside shortcuts? And I think that there are apps.

[16:50] Simon something rather I forget his last name right wrote like data jar or something like that I've never actually used it but I've heard very good things about it where you can like store data and it has a shortcuts like API,
But I just wanted to do out-of-the-box shortcuts. So when my phone is placed on a charger between the hours of noon and three in the afternoon, which is the time that I I would typically take a little snooze.

[17:11] The phone will basically save a text file to my iCloud drive.

[17:18] And then when I pick the phone up off the charger, if it's between the hours of noon and three, the phone will then go look at the file creation time, either creation or created or modified, I forget which one, but anyways, let's call the creation time of that file,
and say, oh, okay, it was created at one o'clock, it's now 1.35, well, you took a 35-minute nap, and it will do all that math, and it'll send a little local notification to my phone that says your nap was 25 minutes long or whatever the case may be.
This is frivolous, stupid, a bit entitled and bananas. But I love it because now I don't have to worry about remembering what time I put my phone down.
When I wake up, I pick up my phone and it says, hey, good job, you took a 20 minute nap. Or today was like a five minute nap because our dogs just freaked out for no reason all of a sudden. But you know what?
That's the price I, that's what I do for you listeners is I take a five minute nap and I still show up to record this on the same day, so you are welcome.
So those are my two utterly bananas shortcuts or automations. And if you're willing to share at least one of yours, I would love to hear it.
Well, I'm gonna share one that I think the audience has heard me refer to before, but it's especially funny now because I was thinking about that we were gonna be talking and I was on clockwise yesterday.
And the format of clockwise is four people, four topics, and the four people get to make up their own question.

[18:41] And the question I asked was, what silly frivolous automation have you created? And it was so funny because Michael Sargent had the exact same stupid automation that I did.
I had Rosemary Orchard wrote me an iOS shortcut that would tell me what the next episode number is.
So right before I talked to you, I created the opening of the show notes And I press a button on the side of my phone and I say, what's the next chit chat across the pond? And it tells me the show number.
And the reason I have that is because I'm incapable of adding the number one to the previous episode number.
I can't do it. I've messed it up hundreds of times. I mean, it's ridiculous how many times I've gotten it wrong.
And on clockwise, the answer that Micah Sargent gave was, well, I had Jason Snell write a shortcut for me that adds one to my show number, so I know what I did.

[19:39] I wonder if you guys compared, I wonder if there was like one genesis of both of these shortcuts like either Jason wrote it and sent it to Rosemary or vice versa.
I wonder. That would be hilarious. It really would.
Now, he wants some more adaptations to it than I need. I just need to know the number, but there was something else he needed and I said, well, you're on a show with Rosemary. You could ask her how she did mine. Right, right, right, right.
That's so true. That's wild. That's really funny that the both of you have effectively the same short. Can't add one.
That's incredible. The one I think is that I've done recently that's so funny, and I wrote this one up, was I use a tool called the Noun Project to get PNGs, or well actually it has SVGs and PNGs and JPEGs, but icons.
And I use them to make little artwork. If I don't have a good image for the, what do they call it, the featured image for a blog post, I might combine a couple of them to make a little picture.
Cord cutting, I got a pair of scissors and a TV and a cord and put it together.
It's that's a funny thing about, uh, if you look up TV icons, they always have rabbit ears on top because otherwise it's like just a square, right?

[20:49] It doesn't look like a TV, so it has to have rabbit ears in order to do that. Kids ask your parents.
Um, so anyway, I was building these and I, and the, uh, the app that I, the app for the noun project creates them as transparent P and Gs.
And so I was making them my featured image and I put them on Twitter. And one of my listeners wrote back and he said, hey, that looks terrible on dark mode.
And because it's just black on like dark gray, it doesn't look like anything. So he wanted non-transparent PNGs, which meant that I needed to put back the alpha channel.
And it turns out there's a lot of tools to remove the alpha channel.
I couldn't find any that would put them back. So I started with Keyboard Maestro. And by the way, you can open a PNG in preview, check the box to, or check or uncheck, which is it.
You have to uncheck the box for the alpha channel and then hit save. So you literally open, click, save. That's all you have to do. So I spent like eight hours trying to automate this process
because I didn't want to open them and click it. And it was a roundabout through, I spent some time in shortcuts, which are awful, and I couldn't figure out how to do it.
And I eventually used ImageMagic at the command line to come up with the command and then put that as a bash script inside Keyboard Maestro.
And then the next time I needed it, I couldn't remember what keystroke I had told keyboard advisor to use and I did it by hand with preview.

[22:17] So now for what it's worth, I know you're not looking for advice, but here I am. And I'm a nerdy guy, a nerdy white guy. So this is what, what, what we do for better and worse, mostly worse.
You could put that bash script in a shortcut. And then I don't know actually on Mac OS, if there's a way to like open a file, a PNG with shortcuts in the same way there is on iOS.
But if for what it's worth, you could just make a shortcut that has that bash script in it. We're going to talk about how I did a little bit of that hopefully later, if we have time.
But you can run bass scripts inside shortcuts and it does mostly work, last I tried. I'm not saying that's better, worse or whatever, but it's something you can consider. But it would waste more time, so it fits into the model. It would absolutely waste more time, so that you got that going for you.

[22:58] My goal is to create a shortcut that actually solves a problem for me and I end up using.
I did find one that I use, but I didn't write, and it's just called email myself, because I use my email as a to-do list, just like you're not supposed to.
So when I see something, I have something I need, I just hit a button that says email myself. That's the only thing I use. Oh, plus Rosemary's.

[23:24] Naturally, naturally. No, that makes sense. I don't have a ton of shortcuts that I use, but well, so I probably have like 42 shortcuts according to the shortcuts app on Mac OS.
Of these, I probably use four, maybe five on a regular basis, but all of them have a purpose. I should probably go through and call most of them.
But nevertheless, I find that shortcuts for very specific use cases, it is extremely useful to me, but I think it.

[23:57] Writes a check that it can't cash a lot of the time, if that makes sense.
Like it promises a lot and delivers not as much. And that's very frustrating, but that's okay.

[24:07] You wanted to talk about a couple other categories of shortcuts and whatnot. And if you let me keep running my mouth, we'll never end this episode. So what other things did you want to talk about? I want to talk about mystery automations.
When I went into Google Drive to start writing up my questions for you for the show notes, I saw, I've got it sorted by like the newest ones.
And there was a list since 2017 of every episode I've posted of the Nocilla cast.
So it's just line by line by line by line. It's being collected somehow.
I have no memory of having ever written something that caused this.
My only suspicion is I remember playing with IFTTT a long time ago, but this is like five years this thing has been running and I forgot all about it.
Do you ever, do you have anything like that?

[24:54] Yes. Uh, coincidentally, uh, if it is exactly where my, uh, my shortcuts, my automations go not to die, but to be forgotten.
Um, we, for ATP for, for my podcast with Mark Warman and John Sercusa, um, we do, we, we blatantly stole from upgrade the idea of, um, you could tweet a question and put a particular hashtag in and it would, there's an, if, an,
if automation that will collect all of these tweets and put them in a Google sheet. Um, that one I know is there, but I have like three or four other automations
that darned if I know what's going on, I think it might still be collecting all my Instagram posts and putting them in my Dropbox. Maybe I'm not even sure. Um, and there's definitely one or two others that I think are still lingering out there that I haven't looked at in probably 10 to 20 years. I mean, I, I was an early ish adopter to if the, if this and that, and,
I never really used it for much, but I was at least on it quite a long time ago. So who Who even knows what's there at this point?

[25:52] So I just checked, I don't even have a login to IFTTT.

[25:57] Or it's so old that it predates whatever your password management is. Yeah. Well, it's only five years ago that it started doing these.

[26:04] Oh, okay. Maybe not. Yeah. Goodness knows. Do you have any computers that are plugged in that you did not realize were plugged in? Maybe.

[26:13] I got to check. I mean, I suppose I could do a password recovery to find out where it is. Or I wonder if I logged in with Gmail or some nonsense like that. Those are the ones that always throw me.
Me. That's funny that it's IFTTT also. I liked it, but I've got it there. If I could just have it add one for me, I'd be sad.
That's true. I totally hear that. As far as mystery automations go, I think that's the only thing I can think of. And the random cruft that I still have lingering in shortcuts that I should probably call at some point.

[26:47] Well, HomeKit's been crumbling for us a lot recently. And I don't understand, I've been in our Slack community, a whole lot of people have been talking about, yeah, one day none of my automations worked and I had to get rid of them all and start over. That's happened to me recently.
Yeah, yeah, that happened to me somewhat recently as well. I've heard rumblings, I cannot confirm or deny this because I don't know, but I've heard rumblings that a recent either iOS or tvOS update really hosed up a bunch of automations.
Mine, the almost worst part about mine is that they sometimes work and sometimes don't. It would almost be better if they just flat up flat out stopped working entirely.
Um, cause he tried to find a pattern and there doesn't appear to be one. Nope.
Uh, we, we went through, my husband went through and redid a whole bunch of automations he had for things like the lights and you know, what time the, uh, the, uh, we keep our sparklets contain or we'd like cold water, but we only need cold water certain times of the day.
So he's got a smart switch on that. So it's not constantly cooling water when we don't need it.
And they all fell over in a heap. So he went back and he put them all in, but then there's some that are running and we can't find them in HomeKit.
Oh no. But they're running fine. There's nothing wrong with them. They're doing just what they're supposed to do.
But the two of us are going, we have, it's four, six, 12 years of college education between us and we don't have any idea. We can't figure it out. We don't know.
So we don't want to, you know, I don't want to jinx it, because they are working.

[28:14] No, that's deeply alarming. And yeah, I have had actually, okay, this is a good one that I just thought of.

[28:22] So we got a new TV, Cyber Monday of 2019. This is right before the pandemic.
I, I'm going to mess up the details, but I found that after a few months, the TV would constantly turn itself off always around the same time of day, but it never seemed like it was the exact same moment, but it was always around the same time of day.
It turned itself off and long story short, I forget exactly what the scenario was, but I had set up some sort of like scene or automation and home kit or something like that,
which involved, I think it was, I was turning on like the living room lamp and maybe I accidentally included the TV in that or something, but as part of the automation, it turned the TV off because our TV is connected to HomeKit. And so I, for the longest time, I thought our TV is just,
busted and it would just, it just turns itself off for no reason. This is a brand frigging new TV.

[29:19] And it's busted and it turns out, no, the thing that's busted is me because I somehow slid it into an automation and had no idea. How did you get your TV into HomeKit?
It's new enough that it has HomeKit support. If you're willing to put it on wifi, which I know a lot of people disagree with the whole premise of giving your TV internet access. Now that being said, the only thing you can do is be an AirPlay receiver.
You can change the input that it's on, which I thought would be super convenient, but honestly I almost never do.
And you could turn it on and off, which is lightly convenient. Like I don't regret having gotten a TV with HomeKit support, but it is not the panacea that I thought it would be.
What brand of TV is it? I just didn't know that was a thing.
It's an LG C9. The C series is like, I think their second best TV within the like normal human category. I think they make, you know, bananas, like $50,000 TVs or whatever.
But in the normal human range, if memory serves, I think it's the G series and then the C series is next best, I think. And then C9 indicates it was a 2019 model. So now I think the current equivalent is a C2 because it's a 2022 model.
Model and I love the TV. It's a great, great, great TV. Uh, it's even better when you don't have it turn itself off every evening at like six o'clock or whatever it was.

[30:35] That is hilarious. I love it. All right. What about some automation that you're really proud of? Like just really brings you joy.
Uh, a couple one is more, um, more of me being bananas about my garage door. Uh, I, this is,
it keeps failing and I don't know why and it's not presently working and I and I haven't cared enough to go debug it, but I wanted to, when I leave the house, I wanted to get a push notification whether or not the garage door was closed.
I don't know why I'm this bananas about my garage door. It's almost never a problem, but I've become, I've, it's become like a, a, the compulsion for me. I don't know what my problem is.
Nevertheless, I wanted to have a push notification that told me the garage doors is open or the garage doors closed.
And like I said, I haven't had this working for months and I'm fine. I feel like I'm weaning myself back from all of this bananas behavior. But anyways, how do you do that with shortcuts?

[31:32] And it turns out it is workable, but not easy. So what I did was you can have a shortcut that's queued or an automation that's queued off of when you leave your house. That part was pretty,
straightforward. You can have it figure out whether or not a garage door and home kit is open or closed. That was pretty straightforward. Where it all gets dodgy is how do you have it fire off a push notification? So separately from all this, I subscribe to, and I haven't brought it up a lot in any of my podcasts, but I really, really, really love the app, um, push over.

[32:03] And what push over is it's an API and a mechanism to send yourself push notifications. So, um, there are some applications that, um, that, that are, will integrate with push over.
And so you can give them like your API key or whatever. And when you, when, when that application finishes a task, it'll send you a push notification. Well, what I had figured out is I I wanted to be able to via the command line, send myself a push notification when just random and sundry things finish.
So let's say for example, I'm transcoding or a video because I'm a big FFMPEG fan and I want to know when that's done.

[32:40] Well, I wrote a very, very short shell script that would send a push notification when something's done and I can say, you know, I can send myself a message.
But the way that works is it actually makes a call to my public web server and it very, very well obfuscated, I think I got that right, a URL. And it will then take the payload of that request and send it over to Pushover. Pushover sends it to my phone. So what I have the shortcut doing,
is making an HTTP request to my web server on the public internet that with the payload that says either the garage door is open or closed. This worked for a long time and then it stopped working.
I don't know why.
I just have to keep getting back to, I have a MyQ garage door and- Which does all this for you.
Yeah. And it tells me when my, so I know when my husband comes home.
So I know when the garage door opens, if I don't hear it, if I'm not home, I know he's left, I know he's come back.
It seems to work pretty good. Yes, because you are not utterly bananas and you are much smarter than I am.
So that's why you've chose that path.
It makes me actually kind of sad that I did it the easy way though. I mean, I kind of admire you really on this. Well, I'm not sure that I appreciate that. I don't know if that's the right approach.

[33:50] But the other one very briefly that I really like, I had actually written, so I'm an iOS developer by trade and I had written myself an app that would look at your most recent weight and health kit and it would let you enter a new weight very quickly and easily.
And then the coup de grace or whatever, the piece de resistance of that app is that it would look at your prior weight and health kit.

[34:12] And so let's say, you know, you were, I see, I can't use a good example because someone will be offended, but let's say 150 pounds. Um, and so let's say you were 150 pounds or 155 pounds at your last weigh in.
So what the app would do is it would say, okay, I'm going to pre-populate the, the text entry field with one five.
And then all you have to do is hit three or seven or two or whatever and hit enter. And then it would save off your, your weight to health kit.
The idea being you've already populated two thirds of the particular numeral that you're the, the, the, the number that you might need, because typically, unless you happen to be hovering at like 150, 160, 170, 180, typically you're just going to be in a range of, you know, 150, 160 or what have you.

[34:53] I wrote the app and I, I didn't love it. It was fine. What was a little clunky. Um, and then it occurred to me, well crap, I can do all of this in a shortcut. And so sure enough, I have a shortcut that will look at health kit, grab your most recent way in.
It'll basically lop off the least significant digit, pre-populate a push, not a push notification, but it's, I guess it's a push notification. I don't remember how it's held together, but it will pre-populate a notification that just drops down from the top of the screen.

[35:23] And it says, okay, what is your current weight? And you know, if you're 153 today, then you just hit three, save, and it saves off an entry into health kit.
And the whole thing is one, two, three, four, five, six entries. So there are the six steps, the entire, uh, the entire shortcut is only six steps. So how did you give it access to HealthKit?
That's their shortcuts that health kit offers. Yeah. You just have to give it permission the one time, but it's, this is all built into shortcuts. There's no like weird ATIs or anything like that. Um, and it works really well. And when I'm a good boy and I remember in the morning, I'll go ahead and use that. Uh, but this six line shortcut replaced a like probably, you know, thousand line custom bespoke app that I had written that was, that was nowhere near as, as reliable or as robust as the shortcut is.
So where does it store the data? And health.

[36:11] Oh, you said that back in health kit. Yeah, yeah. It works out really nicely to be honest with you. Now it may not be your cup of tea, but.
I'm sitting over there with my wifi enabled scale stepping on and having it do it for me. Here again, this is why you're smarter than I am. But apparently I like to do everything the hard way.
The important thing is that I've tried weighing myself even twice a day and it still doesn't make you lose weight.
That is true. I have also attempted that and it does not make anything change. And in fact, oftentimes it goes up during the day. I obsessively weigh myself. I don't ever miss it.
But it doesn't help. Does it do a thing? Yeah, I could make an argument it's not healthy to even know your own weight, but that's neither here nor there. Probably.
The kind of automations that I've done that make me really happy are the ones that just kind of know, like where I don't do any kind of interaction with them.
And a lot of them are, examples are things that I don't actually do myself, like I drive a Tesla.
So I walk up to my car and it unlocks. And when I leave my car, it locks.
And some of those are pretty dangerous. My buddy Ron had a Tesla before I did. He warned me before when I got the car, he said he went on travel and he rented a car and he drove it to Starbucks and he went in to get a coffee and he came out and not only were the doors unlocked,
the car was running.

[37:28] Cause you don't have to turn the car off. There is no on off button on a Tesla. You just get out of the car and everything happens automatically. puts himself in a park and it locks the door and it's off. But I realized those are the ones that make me really happy.
I've really gotten into hue sensors because they're super quick reaction. So we can walk into the family room now and the lights come on if it's nighttime. If it's the middle of the night,
they come on super dim so that it burns your retinas. And then if you come on when there's daylight, because the sensor also senses ambient light, they don't come on at all. And it's those
that you just walk in and it works and you stop even noticing that it's working until maybe the Maybe the housekeeper turns the sensor and it doesn't see you when you walk in.
Those can be annoying, but those are the ones that I really like. I built one for my live show set up.
So I do my show live on Sunday nights at 5 p.m. Pacific time. And I have an automation that I can trigger that does things like it runs my HomeKit scene that turns on the lights in the room.
It turns off our landline phone because we have a landline because we're old.
And then it quits all my cloud syncing of Dropbox and Google Drive and iCloud, all that kind of nonsense. It turns off Wi-Fi and it launches all of the apps I need for doing the show recording.

[38:51] The mistake I made was somewhere I set it to happen automatically. So if I don't do it by quarter to five, and I did it in Keyboard Maestro, you can just,
type into the ether, like not into a text field or anything.
You can just type.
And so I told it to type the words live show. And so I'll be writing along in a message to somebody and also it'll type live show into the person that I'm writing to them. And then all of this stuff starts firing off and I've lost Wi-Fi and everything.

[39:22] Whoopsie doopsie. That's actually a very interesting and clever idea to just have it input text.
I can see how that would be dangerous, but I like the idea of it because you're gonna notice if all of a sudden random text is showing up on your screen that you didn't type. It's like, oh, poop, it's quarter till. I gotta get ready for the show.
Yeah, I'm not sure that one was the best choice that I made, but I didn't wanna have to trigger it with something.
I wanted it to be time-based, so.
You know, it's funny you bring that up. I'm stealing your thunder, and I'm looking ahead in the show notes, and you have as the next section, darn it, these just make me happy automations, which I love. And I alluded to this earlier.
So I record two different podcasts regularly. I have ATP with John and Marco, and then I also have Unrelay FM analog with my dear friend, Mike Hurley. and.
These are recorded. ATP is recorded basically this time of day in the evenings. And analog is recorded in the mornings.
And it occurred to me after every single time I record a podcast, I will go into a, the folder that audio hijack stuffs, all the recordings in, and I will then go and manually move that file to the particular part of Dropbox that it belongs in.

[40:33] And what with audio hijack, whatever version we're on now, I don't even remember. but whatever the new audio hijack is, you can have, it can fire shortcuts.
I think that's right. No, it can do JavaScript. I always get it backwards. I think it can run JavaScript. It runs JavaScript, yeah.
Yeah, okay, thank you. So it can run JavaScript when a recording stops, a recording session stops.
So, and I stole this idea, I think, from Jason Snell and Dan Morin, but when the recording session stops, it runs a bit of JavaScript.
That JavaScript then calls a shortcut.
The shortcut then looks at the current time of day, figures out am I likely to have just recorded ATP or analog?
And based on what time of day it is, it will look for the most recently modified file in my particular folder that Audio Hijack drops files in, and then move that to the particular location it should be within Dropbox.

[41:25] So the moment I stop recording, that file has already moved to where it needs to be. And so far, I say as I knock on wood, that has been extremely reliable and has worked perfectly.
And it's such a silly dumb thing because it took me five, 10, 15 seconds every week, but I'm doing this every freaking week.
And so to have it just taken care of, I just find that to be utterly delightful. and it's really.
As again, as silly as it sounds, it's been a quality of life improvement. Like it's so dumb. I will be the first to tell that's dumb, but it makes life nicer. Those are, that is a very specific category that I really appreciate. I use Hazel for a lot of that stuff. So I have Hazel set up,
to watch my podcast files and I store my no silica files with NC underscore your month date.

[42:11] And chit chat across the pond, CCATP underscore year month date.
And when the files of that structure age out over say like two weeks old, it scoots them over to my Synology and actually deletes them locally.
That's awesome. And when I started doing that, because I was spending all this time triaging when I go, oh man, I'm out of disk space. Now I've got a huge drive, but in the old days I didn't and I'd be running out of disk space and realize, oh, all this stuff is stacked up and I don't even need to save these files because they're on the internet.
I've got them elsewhere, but I just like having them. And that's got to justify having a Synology, right? You need stuff to store on it.
And so I do deal with that, but I do have Audio Hijack and it's Audio Hijack 4. I do have that set to open the folder as soon as I'm done.
And then I drag it. And I do have the folder where I need it to go right in the sidebar. So I'm moving it about maybe an eighth of an inch. But clearly, I need to get some JavaScript going on this and do that. Can I just steal yours?
Yeah. Well, so yes is the simple answer. But again, what I'm doing is JavaScript is just calling a shortcut, and then doing all the real work in the shortcut.
Oh, OK. I think you might be able to do this in just the JavaScript part.

[43:31] I don't recall whether or not Audio Hijack has a very robust API for JavaScript stuff. I'm not sure if the JavaScript API is just for audio hijack or if it's more broad than that.
And so I think the reason I went to shortcuts is because the audio hijack API is just for controlling audio hijack and then it has this one feature to go off and call a shortcut.
But take that with copious amounts of salt. I might be blatantly lying to you for what it's worth, I don't mean to be, but you should check my work on that. I'm not sure, but I'm happy to- Actually, never they think about it, And as we'll just do with Hazel.

[44:06] Cause those files are also named, you know, that it's mostly for chit chat that I would need to do that. But that reminds me of another one that that's a mystery to me is I have a hazel script that looks at my downloads folder. And if it's over a certain age, it puts it in the trash.

[44:26] Because I'm pretty good about if I need something, I move it immediately out of there. But if it's not something I need, it just keeps cleaning up for me. But a lot of times I'll download something from the internet that I actually need. Like, I don't know, like I think I download like my SSH keys or something like that. I downloaded and they're gone. I just, I know it hit it again.

[44:46] Where is it going? I can't find it. Oh man. It's cause it's an old file. And I, it went every time it bites me. It takes me a good 10 minutes to remember. Oh, you automated that year.

[44:57] Yep. Yep. That would be me. I would do the exact same thing. Just very briefly. Another one that that I really like is, um, so the way our family works on a weekday is my wife will get out of bed first.
She'll go downstairs, take a few minutes to herself and prep the lunches for the kids.
And then I'll come down a little bit later on. We'll start making breakfast either for each other or for ourselves.
And then a little bit after that, the kids come downstairs, uh, particularly when it's super dark in the morning, like it is now.
Um, what we were doing is, you know, Erin would come down and she would be pitch black downstairs and she would turn on a light or two. And then when the kids come down, they would turn on a light or two. And it occurred to me, we're very consistent as a family for the most part.
And the same stuff is happening every day.

[45:41] Why don't we just automate this? And so now when Aaron comes downstairs in the morning, the pendant light over the sink is already on at like 30 or 50% or something like that.
And then just before the kids come bombing down the stairs at the same time, once their little wake up lights come on, which is not an automation, that's just a device that wakes up, that turns the light on at a particular time.
Anyways, once they're about to come bombing down the stairs, we'll make the pendant light go to 100% brightness. So it's kind of an indicator that they're about to come down and also because it's usually, you know, the time to really wake up. Yeah, exactly. Here they come.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then the living room, which is where they'll, you know, come down and my son at least will get changed in there. We'll turn that light on at like 50% in order to get it staged for him to come down.
Again, this is not remarkable. This is not earth shattering. I really dig what you were saying earlier about having the like presence IR sensors.
I think I need to start thinking about how I could integrate one or two of those into my world.
But leaving that aside, since we are consistent as a family, I have this kind of like staged wake up process going on. And this is new as of just a few weeks ago.
And again, it's a stupid, stupid thing that I genuinely think has made my life just a little bit better because it just happens magically and I don't have to think about it.
Yeah, those really are the key ones that just happened that not I can trigger this thing and then this thing happens.
It's just, it's doing it in, it knows I'm gonna wanna do this and so it's just gonna do it for me.

[47:09] Ed Tobias, a good friend of ours and listener to the show, has, he's a big Home Assistant fan, and I played with it.
You can lose your life in that one.
So very quickly, I did look into that around the time that I went all in on Homebridge, and I'm not sure if I'm a dunce, or if it's just that Home Assistant didn't click,
with the way I think, but I looked at it, I couldn't make heads or tails of it, and I feel like I need someone to like hold my hand and take me down the Home Assistant rabbit hole,
Cause I think I could have entirely too much fun with this, given all that I've talked about with my garage door and whatnot.
But. It seems perfect for you. And, and then that's the other thing. I'm scared of it, right?
Ed did spend the hand holding. He spent a good hour and a half with me going through, showing me how to do different things.
And I still have trouble getting my head wrapped around it, but he did a really interesting automation that I love and did it. I think he did it through Home Assistant between HomeKit and Home Assistant and other automations.
His was that when his wife comes downstairs, she may forget, like maybe the middle of the night, dog decides the dog wants out, but the alarm is set.

[48:16] And so they've had the alarm go off in the middle of the night because somebody opens the door. So what he did was he's got the, if the alarm is set,
he put strip lighting underneath the cabinets and it glows red if the alarm is on.
If it senses presence, it just glows red. So you've got a visual indicator that, oh, the alarm is on.
And I thought that was a really slick one because red is going to not bother your eyes if you get up to get a glass of water in the middle of the night.
So I thought that was a really fun one. That is super cool. And it's not unlike my garage door opener, except that one actually serves a really good purpose whereas mine is just because I'm a lunatic.
But what are you going to do? Well there can't be a better final statement from you I think than that. Before we cut out though, tell people about the apps that you've written.
Yeah, so very, very briefly, both of the apps were inspired by my kids. Um, peak of view was written first. So I was written a couple of years ago, um, shortly before the pandemic, when my son turned five in late 2019, uh, the four of us went to Disney world. My daughter was like a year and a half at that point.

[49:19] And she was really, really into looking at pictures on my phone, which is fine. Except that I was just petrified of the thought of her figuring out what the garbage can icon did and just going, Oh, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete.
And so, um, peak of view is a very, very simple app that basically gives you a read only photo gallery and you can choose if you, if you pay for the one time in app purchase, you can choose what album to look at or what pictures to look at or what have you.
But the point is there's literally no way to delete anything from within peak of view and doubly. So it actually, this is a perfect set brings us back to shortcuts.
Um, you can even optionally set up a shortcut that says, okay, every time you open peak of view, start guided access. And if you're not familiar, guided access is a thing where it locks you in a particular app until you provide a password to leave that app.

[50:07] And so at that point, the combination of the two, you can hand your phone to a client, a prying eye adult, a child, a toddler, and you know that the only things they're looking at are the pictures you've allowed. And then the one thing that they can't do is delete anything.
So that's peak of you. Now is that that in-app purchase? Did you do the new $10,000 in-app purchase that you're allowed to do? No, no, no, I did not. And I think I need to ask for permission on that one. I'll get right on it.
I think it's five bucks, if I remember right. And then I also wrote based on my, well, both my kids, it was an issue with my son first because he's older.
Once he turned about four years old, he stopped being a mush and started being an honest to goodness person, or at least that's the way I thought of him.
And it occurred to me that I feel like if I'm going to put his picture on the internet, I should be getting his consent. at four years old he doesn't know what the crap I'm talking about.

[50:59] And so what I started doing, and it wasn't my idea first, but you know, I've seen other parents do this is I'd put an emoji over his face. So you may see his body, but you're not going to see his,
likeness, if you will. And I felt like that was a happy, a good, happy medium. And that's not particularly fun or easy to do on iOS. And so Masquerade, M-A-S-K-E-R-A-I-D, Masquerade is an
app that lets you quickly put emoji onto pictures. But the real piece de resistance here is that it it will automatically detect faces and drop an emoji over people's faces by,
default. And then you can remove them or replace them or, you know,
whatever the case may be. But if you have, you know, four or five faces in, in a picture, it will automatically detect all of them and put emoji on top of all their faces. Uh, you can do this for free with just the standard smiley face.
And then it's a one time, I think $3. I'm pretty sure that's right. You know, purchase in order to change to any of the emoji that almost any emoji under the son. And that's really nice for parents, but it also can be fun if you, you know,
have somebody who looks like they're flatulating and they put the little, I think it's dash is the official name of the emoji, but little like the air cloud coming out of their hindquarters or whatever the case may be.
You're a combination between an old man and a 12 year old boy.

[52:13] That is absolutely accurate. 100% true. And so that's Masquerade. That's also available on the app store.
If anybody listening is involved in the foster child program. One of the things you are not allowed to do is post pictures of foster children.
And so I thought of this because my niece Molly and her husband David have several foster children and or have foster children and they were always putting little emoji over them. And I keep trying to find somebody who can get.
The name of this app to the attention of the people who run the foster children program. So if anybody knows somebody who's involved in that, who could maybe get that out there that,
hey, to adults, you know, hey, here's an app that can really help you take a picture. It's really easy. Tap this button. I think it's a, I think it's a great solution and it's a, it's a sensitive one. I really, I really think it's cool.

[53:03] Well, thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah. And I like, it's funny because when I wrote the app, I had parents in general in mind, but I got a lot of feedback from foster parents saying,
exactly that. And there were a couple other interesting pieces of feedback, including a boudoir photographer, which was very interested in it, which was not a bad thing, but was very,
surprising. I did not see that one coming. But nevertheless, the foster parents for sure were one of the big markets that I just didn't even think about because I don't know barely anything
about it. But yeah, it's exactly what you said, you know, they're not allowed to post pictures and so on. And it's a perfect fit for that sort of a scenario. Right, right. Well, you can find Casey Liss at C-A-S-E-Y-L-I-S-S. So that's Casey Liss. Who doesn't sing along to that song?

[53:45] And you're also on Mastodon. I've got links in the show notes where people can find you there and on at I really appreciate you coming on. This was a lot of fun.
I enjoyed hearing about you, Lunacy. You really are nuts about this stuff. Yes, I know. I'm sorry. I am, I am a, a, I guess, a sob story, a case study and whatnot to do, but I had fun doing it. So I mean, no regrets, right?
That's what it's all about. All right. Thanks again for coming on.
Thank you.

[54:14] I hope you enjoyed this episode of chit chat across the pond. Did you notice there weren't any ads in the show? That's because this show is not ad supported. It's supported by you. If you learned something or maybe you were just entertained consider contributing to the pod feed podcast.
You can do that by going over to and look for the big red button that says support the show.
When you click that button you're going to find different ways to contribute. If you like to do a one time donation you can click the PayPal button.
If you want to make a recurring contribution click the weekly Patreon button.
Or another way to contribute is to record a listener contribution. It's a great way to help the no silica ways learn from you.

[54:56] If you want to contact me for any reason, you can email me at allison at pod and you can follow me on Twitter at pod feed.
Maybe you want to talk to. when I talk to you.

[55:04] Music.