Using NFC and Launch Center Pro to launch Spotify

I’ve been thinking about playing about with NFC tags for a while, and when Launch Center Pro released a new version that both supported NFC and lets you buy a sticker pack, I thought it was a good time to jump in.

When I’m coding, I’ve got an almost Pavlovian need to have music playing. I think after spending years working in open-plan offices wearing headphones to isolate myself from distractions, I can’t actually work without music on anymore.

Now I spend most of the time working at home, I still have music on – and I’m a long time Spotify subscriber (the quality of their recommendations are unsurpassed!)

Writing a Siri Shortcut to start Spotify playing

Note this section was updated from the original post, as the simple way of just opening the URL spotify-action://press-play stopped working just after I originally wrote this 😠

The shortcut to resume Spotify playing basically uses the Spotify Web API to control playing in the app.

This API is still in Beta, so hopefully won’t change/break in the future, but in essence the shortcut does the following:

  1. Fetches an access token from https://accounts.spotify.com/api/token using a client ID and secret you’ve setup on the Spotify developer dashboard
  2. Open the Spotify app – you need to do this first because of an existing bug in the Spotify API
  3. Call https://api.spotify.com/v1/me/player/play?device_id=[Device ID] to resume playing, using a device ID you’ve found by previously calling the devices API at https://api.spotify.com/v1/me/player/devices

If anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll make the effort to make my script more reusable and shareable, as at present I’ve hard-coded the various IDs into my shortcut 😱

Setting up an NFC Trigger in Launch Center Pro

The LCP NFC integration is really nice. To add a new sticker, you just press “+” in the ‘NFC Triggers” section of “Settings”, and it lets you scan one of your tags and give it a logical name.

Then it’s simple to associate an LCP action with that trigger – obviously here I setup an action to run my Shortcut e.g. shortcuts://run-shortcut?name=Play Spotify where “Play Spotify” is the name of the Shortcut.

Running the Shortcut

To run the Shortcut using the tag, I just move my iPhone XS Max over the NFC tag, which triggers a notification asking if I want to “Open in Launch”.

Tapping the notification then opens the LCP action, and after a couple of seconds Spotify starts playing.

It would be much nicer if I didn’t have to tap the notification to kick things off, and if you’re not shown all scripts running in LCP and Shortcuts.

The notification restriction is down to Apple’s security rules – so not sure we’ll ever get rid of that – but hopefully at some point soon Apple will better integrate Shortcuts so we don’t have to see the app running in the foreground. iOS13?

If none of that made much sense, here’s it all in action …

Other NFC ideas …

I’ve added a tag to the dashboard of my car, and written a Shortcut that can do one of “Play Spotify”, “Play Overcast” or “Open Google Maps with directions home” – the 3 possible things I usually do when I get in the car.

My next idea is to start and stop Toggl timers from another tag on my desk, but I’m waiting for the almost mythical forthcoming Timery app before I do, as I can’t face tackling the Toggl API myself.

find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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