Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dropbox Automator IFTTT

A new tool hit the web this past week that really caught my eye since much of my device ecosystem is connected via Dropbox.  Dropbox Automator is a cloud service that uses the Dropbox API to monitor folders and have file additions trigger a number of automation scripts powered by Wappwolf.  IFTTT, IF This Then That, is a fundamental principal to any piece of code and this reminds me of Automator on the Mac how you build the logic.

The workflow is simple:
  1. Go to
  2. Log into your Dropbox account and authorize Wappwolf (developer)
  3. Choose a folder… (pick a folder to monitor when a file is added) … NEXT
  4. Choose an action(s)…
For Documents you can…
  • Convert to PDF (powered by
  • Summarize
  • Translate
  • PDF to TXT
  • Upload to Slideshare
  • Sign PDF (electronic sig)
For Pictures you can…
  • Upload to Facebook or Flickr
  • Downscale, Rotate
  • Add text, Photo effects, Stamp logos/maps 
  • Stamp a "Dislike" on the image
Any file you can…
  • e-mail
  • Zip
  • Save to another Dropbox-folder
  • Rename
  • Upload to FTP
  • Encrypt/Decrypt
  • Tweet
  • Set Facebook status
My favorite part of this service is that actions can be coupled.  For example, you can drop a picture into a folder, Dropbox Automator can then stamp your logo in the lower right (or wherever), upload the photo to an FTP site and you can place it in your blog.  If you spend enough time looking over the list of baked in automation scripts, there are a number of solutions that can bridge gaps in many of the services you currently use.

If you are a developer, you can build scripts by creating a SOAP webservice (example code provided as well) and add it to the action marketplace.  Manuel Berger is the guy behind the service and I think this is a great start to an awesome idea.  

Couple of important mentions in my testing so far.  
  1. CREATE YOUR FOLDERS FIRST!  You must log into Dropbox and create a folder to use before starting your automation since the current build of Dropbox Automator does not allow you to create folders.  
  2. BE PATIENT!  There is a slight delay in the trigger so be patient!  When the automation completes, the service will create two sub folders in your trigger folder (processed and result).  This takes the file you add, moves it to the processed folder and the result will be placed in the "result" folder when complete.  I am assuming this is done to avoid any looping issues that could come up. 
So try it out and start automating…  ~Lou


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Motorola Surfboard SB6580 Playing Nice With Apple's Airport Extreme


This past week my Zoom cable modem was dropping my connection a lot due to the increased speeds that Cox was delivering in my Premium Internet package. The current service should deliver around 25Mpbs down and about 15Mbps up but I was not seeing anywhere near that.  I had the Cox technician come out to adjust some of the connections inside and outside the house and he recommended using a Docsis 3.0 compliant cable modem.  I did some research and found the Motorola Surfboard SBG-6580 which has a DOCSis 3.0 cabel modem coupled with a dual Wireless N router that can have both a internal and guest wireless broadcast.

Inside the house I have the first generation N Wirelless Apple Airport Extreme which has been functioning as my router for the past 3 or so years.  First I read a couple of posts on just disabling NAT on the Surfboard and keeping my router configuration on the Aiport the same.  This worked alright but was prone to losing connectivity since there is really no way to completely disable the router portion of the Surfboard. This resulted in both devices being disconnected and then the Surfboard being put back online followed by the Airport.  

To avoid this issue, I opted to do the following:

  1. Use the Motorola router's NAT (aquiring the public IP from the ISP)
  2. Setup the Airport to hand out a series of addresses on the same submet (10.0.x.10 - 25)

Below are the setup screens for the settings in both the Surfboard and Airport:


Once the Surfboard's modem connects, it will establish that verified handshake with your ISP, then the router gets the public address and distributes an address to the Airport.  The airport is given a specific range of address which get marked STATIC on the Surfboard and all your devices are now talking to the Airport without any disruption.  This has been bomber even if the power goes out and the system comes back up.  Below are my connection stats:


Thursday, August 4, 2011

ChromeBook Experiment, and It Looks Promising


On June 15, 2011 Google's official Chrome operating system was finally released and hit the market on a couple of models by Samsung and Acer.  ChromeOS is a lightweight operating system built on a striped down version of Linux to run the Chrome browser.

Since I live on Google and our company is also on Google Apps, I wanted to see how feasable it was to function on a device so forward thinking.  Obviously this is not a replacement device for a superuser or someone who has specific needs like running SolidWorks or doing long form video editing.  What it does offer is a sleak device that boots in 8 seconds, (6 to the login screen) from the off state and gets you on the Internet to do what we all do there, browse, research, email, socialize, share...and the list goes on and on.

With so many companies attempting to move today's desktop applications like video editing, engineering tools like CAD and other CAE applications,  even going as far as hosting full sofware developement environments to offload the resources need by the user. 

Personally I have been interested in this for a couple years and had purchased a eee701 on Amazon for about $140 USD and installed ChromiumOS, the open source project of Google's ChromeOS, in order to get a feel for how this could be.  The early days were rough, as many open source tools are at first, but I have to say Google has really moved this product forward and it is a pretty good V1 product.  Don't get me wrong, there is still room for improvement but instead of focusing on what an internet browser only operating system can't do, focus on what it can.  

So over the next month or so I am going to put the 11" Acer Chromebook to the test and see how it stacks up to other secondary computing devices like tablets and smartphones. So far the only major issues I have run into would be:

  • GoToMeeting is not supported
  • Skype is not yet supported for the full experience
  • VPN for Cisco (although the current build does support L2TP/IPSEC (with shared key or user cert)
So far most of my usage is very doable on the Chromebook.  Server management for Linux is simply done via SSH by doing a CTRL+ALT+T and that lands you in terminal and away you go.  Remote Desktop for Windows can be done with certain extensions but does require a VPN connection so I am personally out of luck till the CISCO VPN support is available, which Google promises.  More information to come in the weeks to follow. ~Lou

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Google+ Push Notification via iOS

This week Google launched their new social product Google +, which is currently in a "Limited Field Testing" mode and the iPhone native app is currently "Under Review".  Although you can receive notifications via email and if your iPhone is setup to get push email you essentially get a push notification.  If you are like me you use GMail and don't like a clutter of notification messages in your inbox so you create a filter to remedy that. 

I used to use Boxcar on the iPhone when many of my native apps didn't have push support but now most of them have push notifications natively.

I re-downloaded Boxcar on my iPhone and setup a push alert on an Email account.  This will then send a verification email that contains a new Boxcar email address for this new push service.  Once this is complete I just did the following:
  1. Setup a new GMail filter that contains "" in the FROM address
  2. Check "Skip Inbox" (this keeps your inbox clean!)
  3. Check "Forward to" and setup a Forwarding address for the Boxcar address you received in your confirmation email.
  4. Optional: Check "Apply Label "Google+" (a label I created for all Google+ content)
Once this is set, make sure your Google+ notifications are set to email on what you want to be notified and now these notifications will be pushed in the regular fashion to your iOS device without cluttering up GMail.

Obviously once the official Google+ app hits the Apple App Store it will probably have this feature.  Once Google gets out of this field testing phase and opens up an API we will have many other options but for now this seems to be the easiest way to get this working.  Funny how this makes me want to dump the iPhone and switch to Android right now! ~Lou