Thursday
Dec042008

Service Announcements


On Sunday, Decemeber 7th at 9:00pm EST we’ll be performing a maintenance and reliability update on PingMe, so the web interface will be temporarily unavailable, possible until 10pm EST, although we expect things to go a bit quicker than that.

On Monday, December 8th at 9:00pm, we’ll be moving the beta version of Tempo to the main site so that it will be come the default interface. The web interface will be temporarily unavailable and any existing sessions will be closed, requiring you to login the next time you visit the site.

We’re very excited about that second one, been a long time coming! After months of vetting and feedback from our users, the new user interface for Tempo will become the default.

PingMe is getting a patch to take care of setting dates in the next calendar year without having to specify the year, and code that improves our follow-backs on Twitter.


Tuesday
Dec022008

A tip for O2 users on PingMe


When setting up a mobile target in PingMe, customers of the UK service O2 usually run into a snag – they need to first enable their phone’s e-mail to SMS service (which is how we send SMS messages). I’m not an O2 customer myself, but after working through the issue with a number of users, the process I outline below seems to be correct.

Note: many of the carriers, including O2, have been making noise about charging a little bit of extra for each email to SMS message. I’ll skip the editorializing and just say that you should check with your carrier about charges. I believe O2 customers can dig into this issue over here.

Update: One of our users has kindly looked this up and reported that it costs 10 pence per message! Not cool at all. Beginning to wonder if we should only provide e-mail and Twitter targets. Paying for an actual SMS gateway is cost-prohibitive.

Now then, for O2 users:

  1. Send the message ON to the number 212
  2. You will get an e-mail back on your phone congratulating you and telling you the new email addy for your phone
  3. It will look something like +441234567899@mmail.co.uk
  4. Use that to setup your mobile target in PingMe

You can either set the carrier to ‘Other’ and drop that whole address in there, like so:

Or you can set the carrier to O2 and just drop the number in the box, like so:

I realize that it’s more than 10 digits! Obviously, I need to update the display on there, but for now trust that it will allow you to add more than 10 numbers in the field.

Feel free to e-mail us with questions or share your results in the comments.

As a tip to everyone looking for SMS interaction – the most reliable thing to do is probably to set up a Twitter target, as they run over actual SMS (the big bucks!)


Sunday
Nov302008

Using PingMe with Dial2Do


One of our new users who just came over from Sandy sent us a really in-depth how-to on using the Dial2Do service to call your reminders into PingMe. There are a couple of tricks to getting it going, and we haven’t actually had a chance to run through this, so caveat emptor, but it looks really cool and is apparently a very useful alternative to doing the same with Jott for our international users.

So, here’s how to do it according to Japanese translator Dougal Phillips. Thanks again, Dougal, for working this out and sending it in.

This is an explanation of how I use GoPingMe and Dial2Do to create reminders by speaking into my mobile phone here in Australia.

The reason I don’t use Jott is because it’s not available here in Australia. Dial2Do, however, offers a local number here (and in other countries as well) – very handy. After a bit of trial and error, I got it working so I thought I’d share what I did.

Set Up

  • Sign up at http://www.dial2do.com/home
  • Click on the green “Do More” tab at the top
  • Click on the purple “Make your own command!” tab on the top right
  • In the say field, type “Ping me” (or whatever you prefer)
  • In the “Do what?” field, select “Record and email”. This will change the final field to “Email who?”
  • In the “Email who?” field, put in your private GoPingMe address
  • Click on the grey “add” button

Using Dial2Do & GoPingMe

  • Ring the Dial2Do number
  • The voice says, “What would you like to do?”
  • You say, “Ping me”
  • The voice says, “Ping me. Okay please record your message. [beep]”
  • You record your message (see below)
  • The voice says, “That’s done.”
  • You hang up

The Sticky Bit

You need to say the word “space” after the initial time and again after the repeat/pester me etc instruction. For instancy, say you want to remind yourself to ring your dad in 10 minutes and to pester yourself every 10 minutes until you do. Say: “10 minutes space ring dad p colon 10 space”. Dial2Do will transcribe this as: “10 minutes ring dad P:10 .” (A fullstop is added, but not directly after the number.) You’ll then get the message “ring dad” to your GoPingMe email/mobile repeatedly every 10 minutes. Very nifty.

If you don’t say “space,” it won’t work!

If you don’t say space after the time and the repeat/pester instruction, Dial2Do inserts a fullstop as the very next character. GoPingMe doesn’t recognise the time or repeat/pester instruction if there’s an extra fullstop straight after, and so you get an error message.

E.g. In my first attempt, I said: “two minutes does this repeat reminder arrive p colon 7”. This was transcribed: “2 minutes. Does this repeat reminder arrive. P:7.” – notice the fullstop immediately after the “minutes” and “7”. I then got an “Need help? Sorry I couldn’t do this.” message from GoPingMe. So looks like you need the spaces.

Anyway, thought I’d say g’day as you’re my iwantsandy replacement now, and Lifehacker people, thought others might like to know since I want Sandy will soon be defunct, and Dial2Do people, thanks again for the cool app.

Cheers,
Dougal


Tuesday
Nov252008

Welcoming Sandy Users to PingMe


We’ve noticed a bit of a spike in sign-ups to our interactive reminder service PingMe of late, and judging by the support e-mails we’re getting and some posts we’re seeing in the tubes, a lot of you folks are looking for a new service to replace the excellent I Want Sandy, which is closing its doors soon.

While we don’t provide the same feature set and syntax, PingMe does provide some similar features to Sandy, and a few extras that you might enjoy, so I figure a quick post here is in order to explain the basic functionality. More in-depth (if in need of update) documentation is available on the PingMe Help page. Our old Getting Started document may also be illustrative.

One of the things that makes PingMe really stand out among other reminder services is the flexibility it gives you for replying to a reminder to reschedule it for another time (built-in procrastination!), and its pestering feature, aside from the many avenues of interaction and some of the service integrations we’ve come up with. Hopefully we can touch on those things today.

Creating a reminder

Sandy has a great syntax for creating new reminders because you get to work with natural-sounding sentences. You can type things like:

  • Remind me to call my mother in 3 days
  • Remind me about yoga class on Friday at 8am

Pretty simple, “Remind me” to do something with the day/time information at the end of the message.

PingMe is a bit different. We don’t use natural language processing (yet!), but we do have a very simple syntax for creating reminders without having to go to the website. When you create a reminder (we call them pings) remotely (via E-mail, Twitter, or TXT message), you begin the message with the commands indicating when it should be sent, followed by the reminder message. The general syntax is:

[ date/time info ] This is my message [ flags ]

Here are some examples:

  • 10 min Call Mom 555-555-5555
  • 3hrs pick up the dry cleaning
  • h7pm drinks with the boys

Working with Twitter

Our syntax for creating reminders via Twitter is quite similar:

d gpm + [date/time info] This is my message [flags]

Note the d gpm + part! You send a direct message to our Twitter account. There are a few setup steps involved and some gotchas, so be sure to check out our documentation on creating pings via Twitter.

Date/Time syntax

Those were just simple examples, above. We use a chained syntax (described here) for doing more complex dates and times. Here are some examples:

1mo d12 h7p Sister's birthday party

This translates to “In one month, on the twelfth day, at 7pm”. You can be more verbose about it like so, as the matching is pretty good:

1 year month 3 day 15 Do them taxes buddy

Each number and time pair either set a specific date/time, or advance the time from now. When you use “1 year”, you are literally telling the parser next year, or 2009 (as of the time of this post). If you were to say “year 1” you would literally be saying “the year 1” and you’d get an error! If you don’t specify a year, you get the current one, unless that date has already passed; then the parser will assume you mean next year.

Here are some more examples to show you some easy and common ones:

h5p m30 get some gas

Today, at 5:30pm, get some gas.

1day h11 client meeting for project x

Tomorrow, at 11am, client meeting for project x

1wk take out the trash r:w

Now this one (one week from now, take out the trash) has something else, a flag on the end; r:w tells the parser to repeat this ping weekly.

Here are some of the repeat values you can specify:

  • d – Daily
  • w – Weekly
  • b – Bi-weekly
  • m – Monthly
  • y – Yearly
  • q – Quarterly
  • f – Mon-Fri

Let’s check out some of the other flags:

1wk take out the trash r:b p:10 t:m

This creates a ping that will go off one week from now, tell us to take out the trash, and it will repeat every two weeks (bi-weekly). It will also pester us every 10 minutes after it goes off until we respond, and it will be sent to our mobile targets. We’ll break this down in a bit, but first we need to go over responding.

Hit me back, yo! (or, Responding)

Sometimes you can’t take care of a task when the reminder goes off. You’re busy, best laid plans, &c., we all know how this works. So when that ping arrives in your e-mail or one your phone, or via Twitter, do you need to go to the website and reschedule it? Definitely not. All you need to do is reply with the new time you want it to go off. Simply write back the same as you would create a ping, sans the message:

15m

Or:

1day

Now that we’ve gotten that squared away, we can talk about nagging reminders.

Pestering

Sometimes you need to be told more than once to clean your room. Or sometimes you’re just busy and want to be reminded again later. PingMe has a feature called pestering where it will continue to send you the reminders at a specified interval until you respond. There are two ways to respond, or really three.

The first is to simply reschedule the task, which is pretty common and simple:

1wk

The second is to tell PingMe you’ve completed the task by writing back with ok, okay, or done. This will stop the pestering. If this is just a pestering ping, and not a repeating ping, this will mark it as done.

Repeating pings that pester are a different story altogether. Usually you want them to pester you on some schedule, say weekly. When the ping goes off you usually want to stop it pestering you when you’ve taken out the trash, but you still want it to remind you again next week. Or maybe you want to turn it off altogether.

  1. Respond with ok, okay, or done to stop the pestering, but keep the ping on it’s repeating schedule
  2. Respond with stop or off to mark the ping as done and turn it off

Targets

The last thing to discuss is targets. In PingMe, a target is a place where your pings get sent to. When you sign up, your e-mail account is automatically added as a target. If you entered a mobile number or a Twitter ID, those were also set up as targets. You can add, edit, and delete them as you like in the sidebar on the webapp.

Each target has a “Default” flag on them. When you create a ping the system assumes you want it to go to all of your default targets, unless you specify otherwise. To specify otherwise, you’d use the t: flag.

  • t:e Tells the parser to hit your e-mail targets
  • t:m Tells the parser to use your mobile targets
  • t:t Tells the parser to send the ping to your Twitter targets

Help!

You can always send the command “help” to PingMe and it will respond with some short examples of the syntax.

Using Twitter, Other Stuff

We’ve built a lot of great functionality into PingMe over the last couple of years, so you might wish to peruse our blog for more information and tricks. We do have a couple pieces of further reading for you to check out:


Tuesday
Nov112008

STRIP on the iPhone


We’ve long had a product called STRIP for Palm OS. This Secure Tool for Recalling Important Passwords encrypted account records in its database using a password supplied by the user. It’s been very popular on the Palm platform, in particular with IT folks, for quite some time (here’s an article on ZDNet from back when the Internet’s crust was cooling, and here’s a write-up on CNN.com).

Given the almost universal abandonment of the Palm platform and OS over the past few years, we’ve ceased to officially support Palm Strip. Many of our users have gotten in touch to inquire if we might take the program to another platform going forward, and to date our response has been to decline.

However, Stephen recently completed assembling a version of SQLite that provides high-grade OpenSSL encryption for embedded databases, sqlite-cipher. With this proven, secure technology as our foundation, we’ve decided to build a new version of STRIP on the iPhone platform.

It’s currently in development and we hope to have it ready to rumble by December.