On scuba vacation, IFTTT helped me leave the laptop at home

By Jeff Bures
Technical Account Manager, HP Developers Portal

A tablet is not a substitute for a computer, even with a Bluetooth keyboard. No matter how many television commercials claim otherwise, you just can’t do as much as easily and quickly. 

Certainly tablets have amazing apps that let you do more than ever before. You can edit photos and movies, video chat with family, author long letters home, access bank accounts and crunch numbers to see whether you have blown your budget. But somehow, working on a tablet just isn’t as fast and easy as using a PC.

So I wanted to take my laptop with me on a vacation dedicated to scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico.

The Dilemma

This landed me in the middle of the Modern Traveler’s Dilemma. On one side was the need – or at least the wanton desire – to bring every piece of scuba equipment and related electronics. There were the essentials: hoses, regulators, fins, a vest, wetsuit, mask, and snorkel. As a diving geek, I had to bring an underwater camera (with several lights), a dive computer/watch, rechargeable batteries, and all the obligatory cords and cable connectors. 

On the other side of the dilemma was the airline and the crowded airplane, with extra baggage fees and carry-ons that are wedged – like their owners – into spaces much too small for their purpose.

Items and ounces

Puffer FishAs I packed, I was determined to fit all my gear into just one bag and a carry on. On sheer principal, I refused to pay any overweight or additional bag fees. Each and every piece of equipment was scrutinized and measured and weighed. Each item was carefully packed to avoid damage and minimize risk in case of lost luggage.  (Thankfully, my wardrobe was minimal, consisting of flip-flops, a swim suit, and some t-shirts that doubled as padding.)

When I reached the weight limit, I surveyed the pile of misfits that were to be left behind. There, among the carnage of extra batteries, spare flashlights, repair tools, and jockey shorts I wouldn’t wear anyway, was my PC. My computer had not left my side for years. Contemplating ten days – and two long flights – without it was difficult and stressful. 

On this trip I would be traveling alone, so the main purpose for the PC would be to keep my family and friends updated every day (plus a few games, movies, and general web surfing at night).

I don’t like to send emails packed with photos and updates. They force friends to consume my content whether they wanted it all or not. That seemed like a 70s cliché – inviting family and friends over for dinner and then forcing them to watch hours of unedited 8mm home movies.

A blog was the perfect alternative to overstuffed emails. Then everyone could choose whether they wanted to enjoy (or not) my amateur photography and musings. But preparing a daily blog update with pictures and nicely edited videos is a lot of work. Accomplishing that with a tablet was not impossible, but it would be time consuming and more labor intensive.

I was concerned that by the time I enjoyed the daily dive and updated my blog, I would not have the enthusiasm to share the update via Twitter, Facebook, email, and forum postings. A questionable Internet connection could make things worse.

If This Then That to the rescue

The perfect solution to this quandary came in the form of If This Then That, affectionately known as IFTTT (pronounced “if-t”).  The online service “puts the Internet to work for you. Create simple connections between the products you use every day.”

IFTTT provides a plethora of “triggers” (things that might happen) with a huge library of “actions” (things you can make happen).  Triggers and actions can be combined to create “recipes” that run automatically when a triggering event occurs.

I was an IFTTT user long before the vacation. I use IFTTT to monitor RSS or Twitter feeds for events, or to alert me if something important happens.  For example, one of my IFTTT recipes tracks the local school district’s RSS feed and sends me a text alert if school is closed.  Another recipe follows tweets from the traffic department and alerts me if there are delays on roads that I use on my commute.

One of my favorite new recipes was created by HP.  If I post on Instagram with the #print hashtag, the photo is sent to my home printer. Cool!

IFTTT on holiday

For my trip blog, I created three new recipes that significantly reduced my daily task load. My blog is on WordPress, and IFTTT has a channel just for them! Available triggers include “any new post,” which worked perfect for me.  By combining this trigger with actions for Twitter, Facebook, and email, I was able to create recipes that automatically shared my blog.

Ending my day just a little sooner

As I expected, preparing and posting blog updates on a tablet was very time consuming. A weak Wi-Fi signal and slow internet connection made for long, frustrating evenings.  When each day’s post was finally done, I was very happy that IFTTT handled sharing my update with friends, family, and followers.

On my next diving vacation I hope I will have room for my PC.  But, even if my PC goes along, I will still use IFTTT to share my adventures. It just makes things easier.

To read about my scuba diving vacation to Cozumel, Mexico, visit my blog at https://jeffcozumel.wordpress.com/.  Feel free to skip over my ramblings and enjoy the videos of Loggerhead Turtles and a pictures of a friendly puffer fish I met on a night dive.

 

 

Author : jeff.bures