Saturday, July 12, 2014

Keeping Tabs

Remember the days of PDAs and beepers and clamshell cell phones?  Juggling all those devices seemed like an excercise in futility, I preferred to wait for a more streamlined approach, a multitasking device.

Our smartphones are a game changer, and with them comes the opportunity to load apps for everything under the sun to "help" us with, well, whatever.  One device can handle it all as we belly-up to the information smorgasbord.  Then comes the digital indigestion. Information overload, unless of course we can keep track of it all.  Then there are the daily tasks, the repetitive chores.  It ends up eating far too much time if not well managed.  Enter this neat little concept, AUTOMATION!!

For anyone who hasn't heard of the place that provides this amazingly sweet and free service for the internet masses, do yourself the favor and check it out.  Just as soon as you finish reading. It's called IFTT. Using their service and a smartphone yields a hands-off way to make apps work together and tackle the clutter of all the multitasking.  Put the data where it belongs in a useful format without thinking about it so it's ready when needed.

For example, I had an old smartphone laying around that functionally is quite sound.  I needed a spare one upstairs so I charged it up and pressed it back into service.  Then my mind gets cranking and I'm thinking how much less hassle this is than having to remember to carry my regular phone around all the time.  With the second one, I can still access everything I need on a regular basis.  Except texts.  Hmmmm, I seldom ever just talk on it, but with Talkatone I can even do that, albeit with a different phone number.  Not a deal breaker since I talk on the phone as little as possible.  I just need texts, and texts from my number.  This could be ginormously cool.

I skidded to a halt quite soon though as I realized the app I had in mind for texting from a peripheral device only works if the peripheral device is a tablet, not a disconnected smartphone.  I could use their website to communicate, but I needed to know to do so. Arrrgh.  I needed a notification.  IFTT, of course!  By installing their app on both phones and setting up what they call a "recipe" I was in business. This particular recipe is set to trigger when a text comes in on the activated phone.  It then sends a notification to both phones so I know to reply at the website.  My reply is sent with my real phone number, and all my qualifications for functional texts are satified.  Hoo Rah!  Now I have a second fully functional phone at my disposal!  As long as I have wifi.

The range of tasks that can be accomplished by IFTT is vast, it can do far more than just manage data and notifications.  IFTT has channels, like stations, set up for everything from email to geolocation.  In their lingo, a channel is the item being communicated with, from smartphones to web apps.  Recipes can automatically clip and save photos, create an Evernote log from calendar entries, or adjust the thermostat when everyone is gone for the day. IFTT is really sorta like Jeeves, come to think of it, but better!

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