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Homing Device
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Old 06/18/2010, 03:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Homing Device is a location app that is controlled by text messages. It's really simple and works like this: You define a "trigger" word (basically any combination of letters/numbers) and then you share that trigger word with people with whom you want to share your location. When they want to find out where you're at, they just send you a text message with that trigger word somewhere in the message and Homing Device will get a GPS fix and send back a formatted google maps link with your location to them. My wife and I use this to locate each other quickly. It works automatically without any user intervention, but the request and response text messages will still show up in your chat thread so that you always have a history of who was requesting your location and when.

While it's far simpler and less sophisticated than server-based location apps (like Google latitude), it does have some unique advantages:
* No server in the middle. When someone wants your location, it's a direct "point to point" request/response - your location doesn't get sent to any server or other cloud-based system.
* Because it only gets a GPS fix when a request comes in, it's easy on your battery.
* There is no special client app needed to request your location - all that's needed is the ability to send/receive text messages and the ability to open a google maps URL. (either in a browser or a dedicated google maps app)

There are only 3 settings in Homing Device that need to be defined:

Trigger Word: This is the special word you define that is used to get your location. It cannot contain spaces, but otherwise can consist of any combination of letters and numbers. (case sensitive)
Destination Phone Number: This is the phone number Homing Device will send your location to when it's requested. Alternatively, you can check the "Return to Sender" box and it will send your location to the phone number of the person who requested it. (this is what I use, and is likely what most people would want)
Who can request my location?: This is an optional "whitelist", in which you can define the phone numbers of people you are allowing to request your location. So if you only want your wife to be able to request your location, you would put her phone number in this list. Anyone else who might request your location - even if they use the correct trigger word - will be denied. By leaving this list empty (the default), you are allowing anyone to request your location.

Things to keep in mind:
* It runs in the background as a dashboard application. If you swipe away the dashboard, it will close the app and will no longer be "listening" for incoming text messages. This makes it easy to know when it's on and when it's not.
* This application is utilizing some non-public API's. There is simply no way to make it work otherwise, and because of this it must be a homebrew app. It's always possible (though probably not likely) that a future WebOS update could break this application. (if that happens, I'll certainly do my best to fix it as quickly as I can)
* The GPS on the Pre will fall back to using cell-tower triangulation if it cannot find any satellites on which to fix. This will result in a not-very-accurate location. This typically only happens if you are inside a building and not near any windows. I'm still tweaking the GPS-related code in Homing Device to try and get the most accurate location in the shortest amount of time, but if the GPS simply can't find any satellites than it may take a few minutes to send the result.

I wrote this for my own use and have been running it for a while successfully, though I figured there must be others out there who would find it useful as well. Please let me know if you like it and if it's working for you. If you have any suggestions for making it better, please let me know that too. Thanks!

Minsc

Last edited by Minsc; 06/20/2010 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 06/18/2010, 04:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Where might I find this app to download?
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Old 06/18/2010, 05:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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it is in preware
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Old 06/18/2010, 05:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Just installed and it is fast and works good can you make the key word be non case specific. Right now Homing is not the same as homing any chance of making it a true background app so the card doesn't have to be open. Very similar to the cron tracking script from the pre early days but much better and less work

Last edited by mamouton; 06/18/2010 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 06/18/2010, 05:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Very ingenious.
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Old 06/18/2010, 05:42 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Great idea. Probably one of the best apps I have seen in a few months.
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Old 06/18/2010, 06:12 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Here is what appears to be a great app that will rely on GPS to work properly.

That will propably eliminate Verizon owners from getting to enjoy it.

Are you listening Verizon?
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Old 06/18/2010, 09:03 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamouton View Post
Just installed and it is fast and works good can you make the key word be non case specific. Right now Homing is not the same as homing any chance of making it a true background app so the card doesn't have to be open. Very similar to the cron tracking script from the pre early days but much better and less work
I absolutely love the idea for this app. Simple! But regretfully I simply can't use an app that lives in the notification area. The screen is too small so I tend to keep it clear.

i'll watch this thread though to see if backgrounding it is possible. Regardless, nice work.
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Old 06/18/2010, 09:34 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Glad to see you guys are liking it! Regarding the background thing: WebOS currently does not allow you to run a background app with no UI - it must either be a card or a dashboard. (in other words, you cannot run a completely headless service) Because of this, the best I can do is to run it as a dashboard app (icon at the bottom). As I mentioned in the first post, one advantage of this is that you can easily see if it's running or not, and quickly turn it off when you want.

All that being said, I personally would prefer to have it running completely in the background with no dashboard as well. One idea that *might* work is to rewrite this as a patch, rather than as a standalone app. While I haven't looked into this at all, I would think that the Palm Messaging might be able to be patched to support this functionality. If I can find the time in the coming weeks, I'll try to research this and see if it's doable and how much effort would be involved.
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Old 06/18/2010, 09:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamouton View Post
Just installed and it is fast and works good can you make the key word be non case specific. Right now Homing is not the same as homing any chance of making it a true background app so the card doesn't have to be open. Very similar to the cron tracking script from the pre early days but much better and less work
I intentionally made it case-sensitive just to make the trigger word as unique as possible. My thinking was that this might prevent accidental triggers. It would be easy enough to change that, however, if the case sensitivity is a hassle. I'll consider adding this to my list of changes for the next release.
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Old 06/18/2010, 09:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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There is a guy, fritos or something like that who wrote most of the messeging app patches. He might be able to point you in the right direction. Check the patch forum, he has lots of posts.
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Old 06/18/2010, 09:50 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I installed it and it works great. Thanks so much
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Old 06/18/2010, 09:53 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minsc View Post
I intentionally made it case-sensitive just to make the trigger word as unique as possible. My thinking was that this might prevent accidental triggers. It would be easy enough to change that, however, if the case sensitivity is a hassle. I'll consider adding this to my list of changes for the next release.
After I posted this I thought about that. Either way works. Weather now is an app that runs in the background maybe you can get some ideas from him monkeydog I believe is the dev. But this is a great app I used to run the tracking script from the wiki and this is much easier. Thanks!
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Old 06/18/2010, 11:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Brilliant! I love the concept and so far the execution is perfect!
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Old 06/18/2010, 11:44 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I think Minsc is right -- the only way it can happen without a card or dashboard icon is with a patch. I face the same issue with SMS auto forward/reply.

Unfortunately, Palm decided OS responsiveness was too much at risk if apps could be running in the background invisible to the user. They changed things a couple releases back to prevent apps from running without a UI unless they use alarms to wake up and have do something. There was a lot of discussion about it, and possible solutions on the Palm developer forums.

When you are subscribed to SMS notifications, your app has to stay open in some fashion or it will not get the notification. Apps like weather now just have to wake up once in a while and update, whereas apps that are triggered by an external event such as an SMS message have to be running when the message comes in.
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Old 06/19/2010, 06:01 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Love it Minsc!
Thanks so much for sharing it. Excellent idea and implementation.
I can think of two potential improvements, besides the backgrounding discussion.

My wife has a dumbphone. The only way she could use a url she receives is by typing it out on the computer. This would be made much more feasible if the url was shortened [with one of those services, e.g. bit.ly]. I know that would make things much more complicated since you're no longer just putting the url together yourself... but hey I thought I'd ask.
As an alternative, it would be great if you could figure out how to make it respond to email addresses (sent via sms). To explain in more detail...

For example, I set up my gmail account to forward any emails received with a certain subject (of course containing my trigger-word) to my cellphone. Since I'm on sprint, that's 704xxxxxxx@messaging.sprintpcs.com. Then all my wife has to do when she's at the computer is send a quick email to my normal account with the right subject--it gets forwarded to me and shows up as a text message from her email account, but unsurprisingly, Homing Device doesn't take any notice.
Thanks for reading!
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Old 06/19/2010, 06:09 PM   #17 (permalink)
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That would be a good idea to allow the app to send to email addresses.
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Old 06/19/2010, 10:23 PM   #18 (permalink)
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@ryran
So the trigger would still come in via SMS, but the response would go out via email? I'll take a look into that.
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Old 06/19/2010, 10:41 PM   #19 (permalink)
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First of all, I`d like to add to everyone`s comment that this is an amazing application. People`s comments are just providing you with ways to make it even better.

I'm not sure if all carriers support this but just as sprint has 704xxxxxxx@messaging.sprintpcs.com, Bell (in Canada) has 416xxxxxxx@txt.bell.ca. It is received as a text message, and the sender is shown as the email address who sent it.

You don`t have to send an email in reply. Sending a text message using the email address as the recipient works (at least it does on Bell).

For some reason, text messages of this sort (from email addresses) are not seen by the Homing Device program.

It would be fabulous if you could incorporate this change.

Thanks again for this excellent program.

Howard
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Old 06/20/2010, 10:49 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by howardbw View Post
First of all, I`d like to add to everyone`s comment that this is an amazing application. People`s comments are just providing you with ways to make it even better.

I'm not sure if all carriers support this but just as sprint has 704xxxxxxx@messaging.sprintpcs.com, Bell (in Canada) has 416xxxxxxx@txt.bell.ca. It is received as a text message, and the sender is shown as the email address who sent it.

You don`t have to send an email in reply. Sending a text message using the email address as the recipient works (at least it does on Bell).

For some reason, text messages of this sort (from email addresses) are not seen by the Homing Device program.

It would be fabulous if you could incorporate this change.

Thanks again for this excellent program.

Howard
Yep, I gotcha. I haven't had any time this weekend to look in to it, but hopefully in the next few days I'll be able to make some changes to allow messages to go to and from email addresses using the SMS gateway.
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