a man, a plan, a cake: nirvana

TaskPaper: a to-do app for the rest of us?

I've been dipping my toes into GTD territory for some time. I've tried doing it in Backpack, Basecamp, iGTD, OmniOutliner, and the OmniFocus beta to name a few. I seemed to get on okay for a while with each of them, but eventually I gave up; they were either just too complicated, or web-based which doesn't play well with the uplink tube at my work. I came across TaskPaper from Hog Bay Software. I had played with their WriteRoom app a while back, but it wasn't something I had too much of a need for.

At first glance, TaskPaper seemed just too simple. But when I actually started using it, I found that its simplicity was exactly what I needed. It's like a piece of paper with fring benefits. The simple syntax->format mechanism fits my programmer brain, and the fact that I can make up my own structure in a document without the application getting in my way is priceless. That's what always ended up putting me off the fuller featured apps in the end, and it's what ultimately sold me on TaskPaper.

To define a project, you type in the name of the project followed by a colon. That's it. TaskPaper turns what you've just type into a nice title. Within a project you can create to-do items by typing a dash as the first non-whitespace character on a line. It doesn't force that dash to be at the left margin though, so you can create simple subtask structure without any fuss. It doesn't do rollup of those subtasks, but then why does it need to?

So if you type:

- eggs
- milk
- cake
- more cake
- eat cake
- eat more cake

you will end up with:


Easy! If you notice, there's a tab there at the top that says Home. That means it's showing you your entire todo document. You can type a search into the search and it will instantly restrict your view to the matching entries. For example, here's the view when I search for cake:

Show me cake!

So you can still see your projects, but only the important, cake-related entries within.

You can also click on a project title to focus on that project:

just shopping

You can also open multiple tabs on the same document:
shopping tab

So you can see, it's pretty easy to get around in your to-dos. Once you find something you need to do, and then you actually go and do it, you can mark it as done by either clicking the circle in the margin or placing your cursor somewhere on the line and pressing Cmd-D. Here I only have more cake to finish my lists:

almost done

You will notice that "@done" appears in gray on a task that you have marked as complete. This hints at another feature of Taskpaper: tagging. You can tag items by prefixing the tag name with an ampersand. Here I'm trying to offset some of that cake:

And, like projects, and arbitrary text, you can also filter based on tags. TaskPaper even builds a drop-down list of them for you automatically:

my tags

show me healthy

So it actually does a fair bit more than you might expect, but just as importantly, it doesn't try to do too much. There's a 15-day trial, and if you like it it's $18.95 so I'd recommend giving it a go.

BugLabs: New SDK

BugLabs pushed out an update to their SDK the other day. The status display on the VirtualBug now has 2 lines like the real one will have. They fixed a number of minor issues and also pushed through the pain to get it working on OS X. So do I switch back to working on my MacBook or do I stay pure and keep on working on Bug stuff on my Etch box?

One of the other beta testers, koolatron, took the simple GpsLogger app I pushed out and came up with a much nicer version, complete with a properly centered google tile and button-based zooming. I haven't had much time to spend on the Bug, between the release march at work and DIY stuff at home. I'm looking forward to messing around with it again, but it probably won't be this week.

Oh, I got a very nice email from the BugLabs marketing guy Jeremy:


Just wanted to let you know your first prize is coming at ya. Please know it might show up in a fairly generic package, but it's unique and we spent a lot of time making something we thought had the right amount of personal touch. Hope you receive it as fondly as we sent it, and please let me know when it arrives - sometime next week I believe.


I'll post back when it arrives.

BugLabs: Second App "BUGer"

Over the weekend, the BugLabs folks posted a request to have the testers try and all work on the same task:

Hi, Now that you've had some time playing around in a fairly open context, we'd like to try a structured project where everyone is working on the same task, and see how the results play out.

The first project is to use the BUGbase and the motion detector module to build a home security system. This is a pretty straightforward project (in our estimation) and shouldn't take too long if you're already up to speed on the platform. For those of you new to the environment, it should be a good way to learn the basics of BUG.

Here's the "specifications" of the home security system: On any detected motion, the system should log an alert with the current date/time stamp. The alert log should be accessible via a Web interface.

Yup, it's that basic. For a little extra help, here are the basic steps to build the system: 1. Create a new BUG application, in the creation wizard select the IMotionSubject service.
2. Register a listener for callbacks to when motion is detected. Create and append to a file and log the date and time of occurence.
3. Create a menu item for the application that allows for the logging to be turned on and off.
4. Create a servlet that retrieves the log data from the log file and presents it to a web client.
5. Confirm that your application works by triggering motion events from the command line.

Once you are done, upload the app to BUGnet. If you need any help with the project, please let us know.

We also have a few ideas for those of you who want to push your app "to 11" (although you can be as creative as you want!), here are some of ours: * When an event happens, send an SMS * Send an email report at the end of every day * Double gold star project: also integrate with the camera, and make a picture available with each event. * something else???

Thanks, we'd love to see this wrapped up in a week if possible!
I'm the Bug Labs "marketing guy"

I had a bit of spare time on Sunday night so I put together "BUGer" that does pretty much what Jeremy was asking for. I added in the camera stuff too, so BUGer takes a picture on each motion event. However the servlet container in the VirtualBUG doesn't yet support static resources, so the image can't be displayed on the webpage. It's there for when it can though. If I find time I may look at putting in the email part, but the PhoneME JME doesn't have email stuff in it that I could see, and scraping SMTP seems tedious, so I may not. I'm also not sure how you would do SMS unless you did it as email-to-your-cell-phone, which is just email from the BUG's perspective, since the SMS part is done by the carrier's email server.

BugLabs: My first app came first...and last

So midnight last night was the cut off for the first BugLabs application bake off. No-one else had posted an application so it was looking like a sure thing. However the BugLabs folks decided to extend the deadline by a couple of weeks, to give people some more time. But very nicely they've decided to "reward" me for posting an app despite the issues with the SDK (which have been pretty minor).
One of the other testers is working on a new and improved version of my GpsLogger application. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. I bumped my version to 1.0.3 last night after factoring out the utility classes to a separate package and doing some general cleanup and documentation. I'm thinking about doing some webcam stuff with it next. There's a sample app that posts images to Flickr, but I'd like to do it more like a regular webcam. It would be pretty cool to update a picture every few minutes while you're out and about (assuming of course you have municipal WiFi...).

BugLabs: My GpsLogger gets slightly less lame

I added the Google Tile code from one of the sample apps to my el-cheeso GpsLogger application for BugLabs last night. So now it shows the appropriate Google tile for where the position module is reporting that you are right now. I also created a few NMEA data log files using Google Earth and gpsbabel, so that I could have different fake routes to watch it run (since there's obviously no actual GPS chip in the Virtual BUG it just reads position data from a file).


BugLabs New Rendering

BugLabs have a new rendering up on their home page of what the Bug and Modules will look like. I think the one in the bottom-left is the LCD. Engadget has it here.

USENET Nostalgia

I found what were likely my first USENET postings today, courtesy of the information hoover that is Google (more specifically Google Groups in this case). Riveting stuff it is too.

Newsgroups: misc.forsale
From: d...@dcs.ed.ac.uk (David Findlay)
Date: 29 Jan 93 13:47:31 GMT
Local: Fri, Jan 29 1993 9:47 am
Subject: Sega Game Gear For Sale

I have a 7 month old Sega Game Gear for sale (I got a SNES you see).
It comes with the following :
6 games, TV adapter (turns it into a portable colour TV), AC adapter, rechargeable battery pack, car lighter adapter,
carry case for all the above + all instruction booklets, manuals and receipt for remainder of guarantee.

All this stuff cost me about 400 pounds so I will let it go for 250 ono (inc p+p).
Please e-mail me with offers.


Newsgroups: alt.fan.ren-and-stimpy
From: d...@dcs.ed.ac.uk (David Findlay)
Date: 3 Feb 93 14:07:24 GMT
Local: Wed, Feb 3 1993 10:07 am
Subject: R&S in the UK

Can anyone tell me if Ren and STimpy stuff is available in the UK?
My girlfriend is from Pennsylvania and I saw the specials on MTV there at Christmas, but I've never seen anything about them at home.

I'm very happy to say that my girlfriend back then is my now my wife and has been for 13 years!
This also reminds me that I sent a VHS tape to some guy in England with a tenner 'cos he said he'd tape some Ren and Stimpy episodes for me (I was eager to swot up to impress my girlfriend). He never returned it, but on the plus side I did find the lyrics to the log song on


Sorry to shout, but this has been my work life for the last year and a half.

Here's a picture of me with our new AccuNurse Voice Assistant (hastily taken with PhotoBooth, so excuse the backlighting):

Me and my Voice Assistant

It looks a bit big in that picture because of the perspective, but it's actually pretty darn small.

BugLabs Update: My first app

I finally found some time to sit down with the BUG SDK and play around. They're using the OSGi framework under the hood: a dynamic module framework for Java. I wrote the beginnings of what I intend to be a GPS logger. So far it just shows a starting position, your current position and the distance between them (using the Haversine formula). There's still some work to be done in the SDK to define the constraints of the actual LCD device - for now the SDK just exposes an AWT Frame - so I haven't spent any time on GUI layout. The VirtualBUG emulator also doesn't work properly on OS X, apparently due to a bug in Apple's implementation of Swing. The buglabs guys have been working on that one but for now I've fallen back to working with it on Debian Etch on my MythTV box, and it's working fine on that.

They had their first webinar with the beta testers on Thursday, but we're in the final throes of getting a release completed at work, so I couldn't attend. They've also initiated an application cook-off where they judge tester-created applications and award some prizes. I doubt my humble offering will make it too far in the process, but it was at least the first user-generated app uploaded to the site.

Right, I best be off for now; gotta remote into a customer site and do an upgrade soon. I'll leave you with the entry for my first app: