Don Pedro

Integrating DevonAgent Pro with Alfred

DevonAgent Pro is one of the greatest search engine tools I’ve used and I want to integrate that power into Alfred. I want to use Alfred’s search bar to pick a search type and pass over the parameters. Turns out it’s not that hard, just not well documented.

To make it all work, you need the following two commands:

- x-devonagent://runPlugin?identifier=com.devon-technologies.images.plugin&query={query}
- x-devonagent://runSearchSet?name=Deeper&query={query}

The first command uses a DevonAgent Plugin to perform the search, the second uses a Search Set.

To use these in Alfred, use the Web Search function under the Features tab. Enter the above command in the Search URL field. Also, select the option for Encode Spaces as %20.

alfred-devonagent

Now you can set up separate keywords to use different kinds of searches, which could be for images, deep dive searches, code searches, a specific engine, or anything else DevonAgent supports.

To give a bit more of an explanation of the commands, we’ll start with Plugins. You can find the plugin name to use by going to Window -> Plugins & Scanners. On that screen, click the plugin you want to work with. The name you enter for “identifier” on the command line is listed in the Identifier field. The one listed above is for Google Images.

devon-plugin

The Search Set name can be found using Window ->Search Sets. By default, DevonAgent has several built in such as Deep, Deeper, and Fast. You can either use one of those, or create your own.

Create Search Set by combining different sites and plugins. When done, use your Search Set name in the command line. Also, if your Search Set has spaces, enter the full name without using quotes.

You can now start a search with DevonAgent using Alfred.

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The automation project continues to blossom

My automation project is coming along very nicely. While not a very good gauge of progress, lines of code is how I track what I'm doing. At this point, I have crossed over 3,000 lines of code mark.

I'm not writing gibberish, as that doesn't help me. My goal is to write tests as quickly as possible, not necessarily as efficiently as possible. I'm not a dedicated automation engineer, so if I can't write, test, debug and complete the test in a single day, I'm painting myself into a corner.

I take a piece of functionality and break it down. I have 4-5 hours to complete whatever it is I'm attempting. If it's not ready to be committed by the end of the day, I need to rethink what I'm doing. Either my task needs to be broken down further, or I'm trying to do something that is more complicated than it needs to be. I don't need to be fancy.

Yes, I may repeat blocks of code that could be more efficient. I may copy and paste several things and only change 1 or 2 objects. That refactoring will come. But, when I start, I am following the quickest path to resolution.

If it takes me two hours to put a test together by copying and pasting the same thing a dozen times, I'm fine with that. I'm not being graded by how my code looks.

There is no point in spending 10-15 hours putting a test together that only does an hours worth of work. That's not efficient from a time perspective.

If I spend 2 hours putting something together, then run it for 4 hours, and make several hundred passes, that's worth the time. I can then go back with the time I've saved and make the test more efficient.

As I've said, I go through each test several times, making adjustments and improving it. But, at each state, it's still full functional and ready to be called into service to get the job done.

It's working and saving me time, that's all I care about.

Also, once we get to the usual lulls that come along, I turn around and do the opposite with the project. I mark my progress by how much code I can take out.

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8 Weeks of working remotely, and all’s well

I am now at the 8 week mark of working remotely, and I have to say, not only do I really like working from home, I would be fine if we kept working this way.

I have really adapted to this change and much prefer how my day is now structured.

Not being stuck in traffic has given me back 2 hours of my day. Every day.
I take multiple breaks during the day to take a short walk around the house, or stretch, or lift a set with the kettle bell, or use the resistance bands.
When the sun is out, I can eat lunch on the deck.
At the end of the day, I can exercise and be done before I would normally get home.
I am probably more productive than I was before since I really can't be interrupted. I know my automation project gets new features each week.
I can't be late for work or a meeting.
My dedicated internet connection is faster than the shared one in the office.
Slack and Zoom are pretty awesome.

I'm not saying I hate the idea of going back into the office. Or that I don't like working with my team.

The fact of the matter is, I spend 90% of my day with my headphones on either testing something or writing code to test something. I attend 1, maybe 2 meetings per day. When I need to ask for clarification, it's done in Slack. We are a very collaborative group, but even that is done through written communication. To that end, almost nothing has changed about the way I work. I test and communicate in almost the exact same way as before.

With technology like Slack and Zoom, if I need to "see" something, it's as easy as sharing the screen.

Taking all that together, my standard work day has barely changed. However, by working from home I've gained a dozen fringe benefits. The biggest win is more time overall and using that for exercise.

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Still playing Godville after all these years (10 to be precise)

Huzzah! Happy 10th anniversary to Godville!

My goodness has it been that long? And when I look at my stats, indeed it has. My little hero is 8 years and 9 months old. For all that time he has been slogging it out, battling monsters and bringing glory to my name. Except for the times when he's caught drunk in the tavern. I can excuse that though, I would have done the same thing.

So, congratulations to the great folks behind Godville. This really is a game that runs 5 days a week on my work machine. My little hero sits in a dedicated window on my screen, and keeps me up to date with all his adventures. I'm amused by his little puns. I appreciate the sculpture of empty beer bottles in my likeness as a tribute. And during these trying times, I love his eternal optimism.

Now, if we could just improve his battle skills in the arena.

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The JixiPix extravaganza of plugins

While experimenting with Affinity Photo and Designer, I wanted to create some effects for backgrounds and buttons. These would be something for desktop wallpaper, and messing around with images for Slack and email. As well as unique login images for each of my Macs.

This lead to a slew of tutorials on adding effects using Photoshop. While most everything translates right over, I ended up discovering something a hundred times better and it integrates right into Affinity.

A company called JixiPix, has taken all the work out of building effects by hand by developing a slew of plugin tools.

JixiPix has tools for creating effects that look like watercolors, oil painting, chalk drawings, cartoons, pastels, crayon, colored pencil and dozens of other styles. They also have plugins for adding rain effects, snow, grunge, tint and many more.

There is an amazing variety of choices and they are all extremely well priced. They can run as a stand alone app, or integrate within Affinity or Photoshop. Even Corel PaintShop Pro is supported by many of them.

I have downloaded the trial version for several, including the Portrait Painter. That is the filter used for the Star Wars image I posted.

There is another filter called Spektral, that is incredibly fun to play around with. It’s hard to describe exactly what it’s doing, it’s best to look at the pictures. In some cases it gives them a wild neon like effect. In other cases it makes them dark and almost rotting. For other effects it sort of makes them look like stained glass. It’s an amazing filter that produces some wonderful.

JixiPix has plenty of examples, and even some galleries dedicated to specific filters, so you can get an idea of what they do.

And within each filter, you can either pick a preset that gives some great results, set it to use random values, or grab the dials and change every setting to see what you can come up with.

I’m trying out multiple combinations, but I will absolutely get Portrait Painter and Spektral. I’m not entirely sure I won’t just buy the entire bundle with all the plugins they have.

I don’t have a commercial or marketing need for these plugins, although I can easily see their use there. Even just for fun, I see plenty of ways these can be used. They make stunning effects and give a unique look to images. There is much fun to be had.

www.jixipix.com

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