Twiddling my email, calendar, irc, and phone notification settings

Calendar and email notifications may sound very boring but they has engrossed me for at least an hour.

For the first time in life I have a work laptop and a personal laptop. For the last 10+ years I’ve come into a job with an existing laptop which I use seamlessly for work and personal stuff. So far, I like having less “personal” things on my work laptop. It is especially nice not to have the distraction of personal email and non-work related mailing lists. It also feels amazingly luxurious to set aside the work laptop at the end of the day.

I have Zimbra for work email, but prefer to read my email in Thunderbird on my work laptop. Zimbra calendar has my work meetings and Google Calendar has the general schedule for my life. This morning I realized Zimbra was nagging me about missing a meeting. I need to know beforehand in some way that isn’t inside a browser tab!

Instead, I’d like my phone to make a special alert noise for meetings 10 minutes beforehand so I know to open up Skype or Vidyo (what Mozilla generally uses for meetings).

BEEP cover

The last bit of information in this scenario: I didn’t want to install some special Zimbra app on my phone.

Here’s what I did:

1. Set up Zimbra to SMS me at (my 10-digit phone before meetings.

In Zimbra, go to Settings, calendar, set up phone number for notifications.
In each meeting there is a checkbox for email notification. This works for recurring meetings as well.

2. Set up my phone so that gmail notifications only make a noise for priority inbox mail. (I realized that my phone makes a noise every time it syncs email. I normally ignore that noise. )

Open Gmail on the phone, Menu>More>Settings>click the email account>Labels to Notify>Inbox ***>Ringtones (set to silent)

*** Tweak the settings for the Priority Inbox too.

4. Go to and set up whatever should go into “priority inbox” i.e. filtered to “important”

google calendar already has its own notifications on android phone if you have its app installed. If not you can set up a forwarding address and make the calendar email to SMS you.

5. make sure incoming SMS messages have a different noise than priority emails
Go to messages, menu, then settings, Select ringtone.

It took a little thought to figure out what to use to get the simple result I wanted. And while most of it happens in web services and phone settings, some of it was in my training myself in a different behavior (paying attention to a particular noise on my phone.)

A final note: Long ago I set up voicemail from my phone to Google Voice. I hate listening to voicemail. It takes a long time. Text is so much nicer, and it helps that I read very quickly. All voicemail interfaces suck. The last time I used one, it had a default menu message that took about 15 years to go through that played after every single voicemail. This resulted in my *never* listening to my messages. (Fortunately I have not had a work phone for years; just email.)

People sometimes leave long messages, but the gist of them is just “call me back”. Google Voice is lovely for this as it sends me an email transcript of the voicemail. The transcripts are often hilarious garbled but it’s enough to get the idea of who’s calling, what their number is, and what they want. If I want to hear them, I can press “play”. Their messages are also nicely archived for me in Gmail. Hurrah!

Related posts: API and SimpleXML

I spent some time today looking at the API and writing bits of php with SimpleXML. Both of them are very easy and clear to use. I tried a bunch of the examples in the api docs to think through what it was possible to do with the queries. I really like, and hope it… well, hope that it stays pure. It’s so nice and clean, it makes sense, it’s not all crapped up with junk all over the page or the interface. Maybe a little more since the redesign, but it was fairly restrained.

This article by Matt Biddulph shows how to do some interesting stuff with data using Python, libxml2, tagsoup, and the Redland RDF toolkit. Backing Up Delicious with PHP, mySQL, SimpleXML, and Ajax also looked like fun to try. That was all way too fancy for what I needed to do today, but I’m keeping it in mind for future tool-building or experimenting with my personal account.

I had an annoying and frustrating interlude of realizing I needed to download xcode onto my new hard drive, downloading it for like 2 hours, going off in the meantime to 2 other machines I have accounts on to see if I could do what I wanted there while waiting for xcode, doing half of it (had php5, did not have other stuff I needed!), realizing slowly that I was in an endless labyrinth of nowhere quite having all the tools or access that I needed, and going back to my laptop in disgust. Also, I’m on a Mac and out of sync with the several different linux servers I have accounts on, so am always switching environments and remembering things that need to be tweaked.

I wonder how much time other people spend fiddling with their development environment? Or having to set it all up again after some crash or computer loss? I’ve noticed that even the holiest sounding super-experienced people who act like they’re perfect about these things still spend a good amount of time saying “Oh, wait…” as they flail around, hit dead ends, and so on. That makes me feel a bit better about what happened today, when my stupid xcode download finally finished, wouldn’t install, puzzled me for another frustrating 20 minutes until I realized my laptop was running an older operating system than it was before my HD crash. Ran around looking for CDs to upgrade. Failed to find them. Dammit! Downloaded older version of xcode. Now everything works! Tomorrow I will make the php all nice and make it do what I want… then stuff it all into a Drupal module.

Related posts:

Maker faire: Computer sculpture

I saw countless cool things at Maker Faire today. The booth was one of the coolest. The dude there, Andrew Werby, let me sit there and play with a demo for a while. There was a pre-defined 3-D object on the screen, a sort of smooth, soft, spongy blob. With a pen on an articulated arm, like one of those adjustable desk lamps, I could “feel” the object’s surface and by pressing a button, push into it and sculpt it.

This was uncanny! The kinesthetic sense, the resistance in the pen in my hand, was just perfect. It was as if I was feeling and manipulating a real object. It was a bit like punching a blunt tool, a stylus, through thick foamy stuff; I thought of hot wire and foam carving kits.

At some point, I carved through the blob into the center, and the tool fell through into a sort of cave. I could feel around inside the object and visualize it in my head. There were multiple exit holes in the back, where I couldn’t see, that other people doing the demo before me must have made. The sensation reminded me uncannily of the numb feeling of pressure that I have had during surgical procedures. The tool also looked like and behaved like an instrument i held in my hand — except I could pass it through the object. So the tip had all the sensation and the handle was ghostly and non-existent. I had sensation, without having any hands. I could imagine surgeons really doing “Fantastic Voyage” type of operations this way. But it should also be a tool that game designers use for character and world building. I can’t imagine artists not loving this tool!

I have never felt something on a computer, a thing that I couldn’t see. My head exploded with thoughts of designing cool video games for visually impaired people. Mazes and thought puzzles and art pieces.

There was more to Andrew’s set of tools; you could sculpt, and then 3-d print your objects. I was blown away so completely by the kinesthetic 3-d modeling, I didn’t pay attention to the rest.

Related posts: