Sunday, October 13, 2013

Megabudget v0.1

I finished the very first, somewhat-useful version of the Megabudget Android App. To recap, Megabudget is an Android app that allows you to use your existing Google Docs spreadsheet as a budget, but add expenses on the go from your phone. It does the following:

  • Authenticates into your Google docs spreadsheet with your Android user account(s)
  • Reads months & categories from your budget spreadsheet
  • After you select a category & month, you can add a new expense, updating your spreadsheet
The project itself is meant to be extensible, so that if it seems useful to you, you can contribute an implementation of the BudgetAdapter in order to have it work with your own budget format. 

Here's the project again:

And the last SVN commit log:
This is the first version of Megabudget that does something useful. It:
- populates the categories & months
- populates the total of the latest month
- you can select a category
- you can add an expense to that category

It has several notable problems
- no idea how it works when disconnected from the internet
- it is very slow, esp. at the beginning where it does multiple pulls from the
- you can't select a month

Additionally it would be really nice to
- organize the categories by freq of use
- allow for offline expenses

Sunday, September 8, 2013

11 mile run (17.5 km run), Wallonia to Brussels

I've been training for the Brussels Half Marathon this year! It's been fun so far, and it's my first race of any length so wish me luck. Anyway, during training you're always looking for interesting routes to run.

This one is cool because it starts in Wallonia, passes through Flanders, and then ends up in Brussels, in the Bois de la Cambre, already one of our favorite places to run.

View Running route from Wallonia to Ixelles in a larger map

More information:
Distance: ~11 miles (17.7km)
Starting point: La Hulpe train station
Ending point: Bois de la Cambre, by La Bascule
Terrain: Mostly forrest with some farmland type areas. Passes by the Chateau de la Hulpe, which is a very nice bonus. Gentle hills up and down. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Few Hikes in Ireland (The Burren, Inishmore, Connemara)

We just got back from a week-long vacation in Ireland. It was great! We spent most of our time in Western and Northwest Ireland. Unlike most of our vacations, where we hit up museums, churches, and cultural sites in cities, this was a more nature-oriented trip, as I think is common in Ireland. We wanted to do some hikes, but were having trouble finding enough information about them online.

So, for future visitors to Ireland, I thought I'd recap  the hikes we went on with a bit more information. Good luck!

The Burren (Ballyvaughan Wood Loop)

Distance: 8 km
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1:26, but we were running for a fair bit...
More information: here and here

Our first 'hike' was actually a run. We needed to run 9 miles as part of half marathon training, and we thought we'd do two loops around this 8km route to get us there. It's "Easy," right? Well, that turned out to not really work. The first ~15 minutes of this hike are though some interesting, but tough woodlands and rocky fields. Good hike. Lots of farmland that you pass through, and some times it was almost tough finding our way, but we did it. Go to Monk's restaurant afterwards!

View The Burren in a larger map

Inis Oirr Island Hike

Distance: 4.73 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1:44
More information: here, and the ferry

We took a ferry to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr, and while there we did this nice hike. I can highly recommend it! We saw lots of great views of the island, some livestock, and we even had a nice picnic at the rustic castle tower on top of the island. 

View Inis Oirr Hike in a larger map

The Connemara (Diamond Hill Hike)

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 2:22
More information: here and here

A short distance from the Connemara National Park visitor center is a hike to the top of Diamond Hill. In fact, there are a few hikes around the hill, but we took the one that went to the top. It was a nice, strenuous climb for me, although some of us didn't like the views from steep heights! The scenery makes one think of the Scottish Highlands. We took the hike pretty seriously, but there were plenty of families with small children doing it (in fact, it was a little crowded) so probably just about anyone could make it to the top. 

View Diamond Hill Hike in a larger map

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Buying a SIM Card in Ireland (from the Dublin airport)

I recently got back from a one week vacation in Ireland. It was amazing. We mostly went to the west and northwest of Ireland (Galway, Sligo, Donegal, Derry). And we had a car, so it was easy to get around and see whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to. I highly recommend it!

I also highly recommend buying a SIM card at the airport. It was really easy and we took full advantage of it.

Buying a SIM card allows you to:

  • Call hotels & restaurants in Ireland
  • Check your email, etc. at the many places where WiFi is spotty or non-existent
  • And my favorite, allows you to use your phone's GPS to navigate while driving. This was a huge help for us, as driving is a great way to get around Ireland, and it's much less expensive than renting a GPS unit from the rental place. 

First, as always, you need to make sure your phone is unlocked. If you've been with your carrier for a while, they'll usually do this for you with no problems when you call them up and tell them you are visiting another country. Or you can be like me and buy an unlocked phone like the Nexus 4.

In the Dublin airport, there are at least two places to buy a SIM card.

  • Terminal 2: This is the International terminal, where you probably arrived from. Once you exit the baggage claim there is a convenience store (Spar, I believe) where they sell many things including SIM cards from several different vendors. While the prices were good (€20-30) I couldn't figure out whether and how much data my money would get me, and I cared much more about data than calls/texts. The employee I asked, though friendly, was not helpful. 
  • Terminal 1: This is the budget terminal. If you took Ryanair you probably arrived here, otherwise you may have to walk. On the ground floor is a small store that sells nothing but SIM cards. This is, I believe, the place to go. The employee was quite knowledgable. There we purchased a Vodaphone SIM for €20. For that price, we got 250MB of data, which was good enough for our one week entire trip, checking email, Facebook, and daily use for navigational purposes. 
Good luck!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to find out when your T-Mobile contract is expiring?

Sometimes you want to know when your T-Mobile contract is expiring, either because you want a new phone, want to switch providers, or just because you think they screwed up. And if you asks this completely reasonable question to T-Mobile, they will tell you that you need to call them up to learn this information, and also, "Is there anything wrong? Why are you curious?" Annoying.

To find out when you contract ends do the following:

  • Go to
  • Go to the "My Account" section and log in.
  • Look for "My account activity" and select "More account activity" and go back far enough in history to find the most recent "Change in contract" event. Expanding this event will tell you what date you contract was extended to. 
  • (The list only keeps 24 months of activity, but if there were no "Change in contract" events during this time, you almost certainly have finished your contract.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reading Google Spreadsheets from an Android App

Well, I've done it. It took me two serious days of wading through the mess that is the gdata APIs (myths and outdated versions abound) and the OAuth2 APIs (same caveats apply) and I was finally able to read the list of my own personal spreadsheets in Google Docs, and print their names out from an Android application.

It was very important to me to be able to use Android's own build-in account mechanism, which took a fair bit of time to figure out, and then on top of that the build/class-path requirements for the Google Spreadsheets API is completely messed up.

But anyway, here's a short description of how I did it, notes, and the full code for the main activity.

1 - I am using a Nexus 4, so I set up my app to use the latest APIs possible (Android 4.2.2 on my system).

2 - The list of required JARs is crazy, and quite picky. Here's the screenshots of the ones I am using:

3 - I had to add the following permissions to my manifest file:

4 - And finally, here is the code itself to run the main activity. The basic application structure was just the one that is created by default when you create a new Android Application. The basic steps for listing the Spreadsheets I got from the Spreadsheets API Tutorial. I can't really remember where I learned the OAuth2.0 steps, but needless to say, I cobbled it together from several online sources.