Who Knew?

The stylus for my Chromebook (a Google Pixelbook) is battery powered. Recently started getting notifications that the battery was low.

When Google first announced this stylus, they mentioned these batteries. I never knew these existed until then.

Of course, I can’t find them anywhere locally, so Amazon to the rescue!

Inbox Zero Is REAL!

GMail

When I was still in college pursuing my Network Engineering degree, I was required to take a Database Management class. The professor who taught the class, Mary (I cannot for the life of me remember her last name because she INSISTED we refer to her by her first name!) was one of those oddly goofy, eccentric types. Simply put, she was a stereotypical Nerd, who absolutely loved everything about the course she was teaching, with a pleasantly refreshing sense of humor.

Like all other professors, Mary laid out course expectations as well as best practices for achieving course objectives. One thing she said has stuck with me for all of these years:

“When you are working on your projects, make sure you’re not working while you’re distracted. And don’t fool yourself – there is no such thing as ‘multitasking’. Either consciously or subconsciously, you are actually ignoring something else. With Database Administration, this can have disastrous results!”  

That same principle Mary laid out about multitasking seems to also echo across the email landscape – specifically as far as Inbox Zero is concerned.

Although there are ample tips, tricks, and suggested best practices for managing one’s email, Inbox Zero quite often feels like the most impossible goal to reach. But I’m here to tell you there is a subtle, simple, automated trick for Gmail that can actually accomplish this seemingly lofty goal!

It Starts With A Change Of Mindset

One important thing to consider about email is to remember that email shouldn’t be used as a file storage solution. This may sound like an odd thing to say, but think about this: for some time now, I had email in my inbox dating back as far as 2006. Gmail launched in 2004. The vast majority of these emails were those I had told myself I would get to later, or that I felt I needed to hold onto “just in case”. However, upon reviewing many of them later on, I realized a truth about my email behavior and decided on a simple rule – if I don’t read or act on any email within x amount of time, then I’m not going to so it might as well be deleted.

One thing I’ve always been somewhat of a fanatic about is organizing emails into folders, directing incoming into their respective folders with the use of inbox filters. Since I handle all bills online, this helps me keep notices and communications with each service provider organized. As such, I have multiple email folders. And as one might imagine, these had also become over-filled as the years have gone by.

Establish A Time Frame

Ultimately I decided on some simple constructs regarding my general inbox, the folders I have setup for different bills, and the folders I have setup of other notifications from other services newsletters. You will need to come up with time frames that work best for you, but in general mine is as follows:

Inbox – 30 Days.  Any “general” emails I receive in my inbox that aren’t filtered into specific folders. I’ve allowed myself 30 days to read, review, and/or respond. In my opinion, if I haven’t done so after 30 days, I’m not going to and there really is no need for these emails to simply sit in my inbox.

Bill Payment Due Notifications – 7 Days. As mentioned, I have multiple folders for these – everything from utility bills, to car payment reminders. Since I’m disciplined at adding these to my calendar (and Google helps make this super easy as it is), I have no need for these emails to linger beyond 7 days at most. I’ve even considered shortening this to maybe 2 days, but a week is ample time.

I have a few other miscellaneous folders that handle things like service and performance notifications that I set up to be sent to me from my Plex Server , which I don’t keep longer than a day. As such, I think you get the general idea.

So How Does It Work?

Other than realizing I had literally thousands of emails over a decade old just lying dormant in my inbox that I would physically never be able to address, I had also begun some spring cleaning of my Google Drive and realized the amount of space I was wasting on these old emails. Yes, if you’re not aware, email counts towards your Drive storage.

My initial approach was to find or come up with some sort of IFTTT recipe. But with the changes to the GMail API that Google implemented earlier this year, I simply couldn’t accomplish what I was looking for with IFTTT. But with determination (and some frustration) I finally found what I was looking for with the use of a tool that I had forgotten Google actually makes available to all – Google Apps Script.

Specifically, I came across this 2013 article from a very useful blog known as Skipser. In the article, Arun provides detailed instruction on how to use a very simple Apps Script that runs silently in the background, and immediately begins cleaning up your inbox and any other inbox folders you may have (if you’re like me). You can copy and create multiple scripts for each folder you may have in your GMail account.

There is one small suggestion I would add if you plan on applying this to multiple folders. The scripts themselves will be stored in your Google Drive. Again, if you’re an organizing freak like me, you may want to create a specific folder to house them in. For example, I created a folder and simply named it Email Scripts. For the first script you create, move it into that folder. Then, as you copy the script to adjust the parameters to apply to other folders, do so and move each of them there. Otherwise, Google will just automatically dump them into the general “My Drive” folder. If not having them in a folder doesn’t bother you, just leave as-is. In either case, the scripts will still run.

For those of you ready to jump right in without heading over to Skipser, here is the overview of the setup:

  1. First open this Google Script and select File -> Make a copy. This will create a copy of the script in your Google drive and open it.
  2. Set the value of “LABEL_TO_DELETE” with the label you want to enable auto-delete and “DELETE_AFTER_DAYS” with the age of an email in days after which it should get deleted.
  3. Select Run -> Initialize. Google will ask you to grant required permissions. The script will be running for only your personal account, so nobody else will have access to your data.
  4. Select Run -> Install. This will install and start the script for your account.

You are now all set. The emails in the label you specified will now get deleted automatically once they age out with the number of days you chose. Just make sure you don’t delete the script from your Google Drive. Also, if you want to stop purging mails any time, just open the script once again from your Google drive and select Run -> Uninstall.

You will note that it’s as simple as two lines of code:

var LABEL_TO_DELETE = “crapmail”;

and

var DELETE_AFTER_DAYS = “10”;

For your own personal use, simply change the values within the quotes. For example, I mentioned that I set emails to auto delete from within my general inbox after 30 days. Thus my values are as follows:

var LABEL_TO_DELETE = “inbox”;

var DELETE_AFTER_DAYS = “30”;

I simply copied this script into the designated folder and changed the label value to reflect specific bill folders that I mentioned earlier and the days value respectively.

If you have a lot of email like I did, you will need to simply give it time – the script isn’t an instant fix. You will notice the total count of emails you have start to decline as time goes by. You can also check “Trash” to be pleasantly surprised to see that you too had emails you were holding onto since 2006.

It is that simple! As you can see, with the use of this simple 2-lined script, you can conceivably reach the all-so-coveted  Inbox Zero! Simply make a couple of tweaks to fit your needs.

Horror Review – Ma

Ma

Sometimes, some of our favorite actors and/or entertainers surprise us with roles that seem so far out of left field that we’re left speechless. One such role that always comes to mind is Robin Williams’ performance as Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo.

As such, I went in with high expectations of Octavia Spencer in Ma. Unfortunately I ended up disappointed.

I don’t know what disappointed me more – the fact that the movie simply fell flat, or that it had so much potential that it simply didn’t live up to. There are so many points in this movie that start to lead up to something, but then end up being nothing. In fact, I’m not really sure why this movie has the Horror category tacked onto it because there simply isn’t anything scary about it all. And the only mild spine tingle occurs when an almost incidental character (Ma’s daughter Genie, played by Tanyell Waivers) is seen creeping around in the background when two of the teen-aged leads wonder into a part of the house that Ma told them not to go into. And for that to make sense to you, I suppose I should explain the plot.

Erica (Juliette Lewis) has to return to her Ohio hometown with her teen aged daughter Maggie (Diana Silvers) because of a failed career out west. Maggie quickly befriends a small group of party-loving teenagers whose biggest challenge is hanging outside of a convenience store trying to convince adults to buy alcohol for them. Fortunately for them, along comes lowly Sue Ann (who is later affectionately nicknamed “Ma” by one of the kids – a name that quickly catches on with the reset). Not only does Ma help them out the first time, but upon subsequent visits she convinces them to hang out at her house as opposed to the local teen hang-out-and-drink spot.

Along the way, we learn some of Ma’s dark secrets – from her Veterinarian boss who treats her like a dog (pun intended), to her damaged adolescence that has lead her to this longing to want to fit in with what she views as an “in crowd” of teens.

But again – there is simply no “horror” in this movie. It simply plods along aimlessly from cliche to cliche until it reaches its overly predictable climatic end. There is perhaps but one other slightly chilling moment to mention, in which Ma has drugged the core group of teens and sews the lips of Haley (McKaley Miller) shut because earlier Haley told Ma that she “needed to get a man!”

To be honest, this movie seems to blatantly borrow so much from other movies that it appears writer Scotty Landes was merely trying to create some sort of a mockery mash-up. Perhaps that’s truly the point, and I overlooked it somehow. Maybe this movie isn’t intended to be taken seriously? In either case, this movie is simply as I described earlier – a story that is filled with what it could be, but never becomes.

He Did It! Pt. 2 – First Test Run

After bed leveling (which was a lot easier that I initially thought), Bryson and I were finally ready to make a test run. We decided to run one of the pre-loaded projects that came on the SD card included with the Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro

And we were pleasantly impressed with the results:

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We had watched a video that indicated printing this little dog would take 5 hours. However, our’s only took about 2. We the realized that the video we watched was of a run on a previous model.

Next we’ll try a custom design run. We’ll start off using Ultimaker Cura since that’s the default software used with the printer. We may move on to something else later on, but for now – so far so good!

He Did It!

About 2 months ago, Bryson and I were having breakfast at our favorite local spot, Cherry Street Cafe, chit-chatting as we often do about tech and such. I had been struggling with coming up with new ideas about something he and I could do together (some new project or hobby), so on the ride home I asked him to come up with something.

About a week later he came to me and said, “Dad, I have an idea. A 3D printer.”

We had toyed with this idea before, but at that time prices were far outside of anything I was willing to spend. Back then I had told him, “We’ll wait because you know how tech works – when it first comes out it can be expensive. But as it catches on, prices will drop and a lot of the bugs will be worked out with the process.” He had remembered this conversation over the years, and during this week in question, he had combed the internet looking for value priced units, (but not cheap, as I’ve taught our children to be careful about buying things that are priced too low since you simply get what you pay for) and watching more review videos than I care to imagine!

I gave it a little thought, then replied, “Ok – what do you have in mind?”

“Come here. I have it pulled up on the office computer”, he said.

What he had found was the Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer. He also proceeded to show me a great, honest review video and then pitched his proposal –

“I’ll save up half and you cover the other half.”

Shook hands, and we had a deal!

For the weeks to follow, he worked and saved – asking for extra chores to make some cash, saving every penny. Finally he came to me and proclaimed, “Well Dad, I’ve got my half!”

Fast forward to Friday, August 9th 2019, and it arrived – he did it!

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Not only am I proud of him for his hard work, and focusing on his goal until completion, I’m also proud of his patience. As you can imagine, he was jumping out of his skin with excitement for he and I to get it assembled, but he patiently waited without complaining as I first had to build an add-on to our project bench in the basement for it to sit. But even that had to wait as I had a scheduled podcast interview before hand, as well as other weekend “busyness” such as his little bother’s football game, and a family dinner. But with each spare moment, we slowly but surely got it all together (about 1 1/2 hour total assembly time).

 

To top it off, he knows much more about it than I do. Once assembled, he told me about “bed leveling” – I had no clue, but turns out this must be done before we can start our first project.

Good job, Bryson!

#BrainiacBryson

#AllenThisTogether