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In my post about KLWP I mentioned how AutoTools‘ JSON options power part of my setup. Before I cover the KLWP aspect of that, I thought it only logical to dedicate a post to the features’ usefulness in Tasker itself, as it may just be one of the most powerful plugin options available in Tasker at the moment.
To start off, here’s (part of) the official description of JSON from json.org:
To put that in Tasker terms, JSON is variables and arrays on steroids. It basically allows you to nest arrays and variables in a way that creates a “database” of them that is easy to work with. To give you a visual reference to work with, take a look at some JSON generated by one of my Tasker tasks below.
“episodetitle”: “The Monetary Insufficiency”,
“showtitle”: “The Big Bang Theory “,
“summary”: “Sheldon goes to Vegas to win money for science. Also, Penny and Bernadette take Amy wedding dress shopping, but her terrible choice entangles them in a web of lies.”,
What you’re seeing here is data I generate for a Trakt.tv widget I have in KLWP. It’s the first entry in an array of episodes, and it contains a number of objects (variables in Tasker terms) with various data about an upcoming TV episode. The actual JSON file I have has a bunch of these episodes, each with their individual fields for episode number, month, title, etc. The (imaginary) Tasker equivalent would be to have an array, %episodes(), where each variable in the array contained a subset of variables like %epnumber, %month, etc. That’s not how Tasker works, of course, which is why JSON is useful in Tasker. In essence, it allows you to store large amounts of data much more easily, where doing so using Tasker’s own variables would be difficult (especially if you nest even more arrays and variables). Once I have the data above saved as JSON (which is done with AutoTools’ JSON Write option), I can easily access all of it or just parts of it, either in Tasker (using the JSON Read option) or elsewhere (like KLWP).
Since I finally sat down and learned how to use JSON, I’ve made several Tasker creations that otherwise would have been difficult. Several of them process data from RSS feeds, as the JSON Read option has a setting to convert XML to JSON. The Trakt data above actually originates from an RSS feed, and by using JSON Read I can access the info in Tasker, where I can process it before storing it as JSON in a local file. This processing is partly because I can’t figure out how to access RSS fields with namespaces in KLWP, and partly because the original RSS feed has multiple pieces of information squished together in the same field. To show you what I mean, and how this all works, let me take you through part of it.
First off, here’s an excerpt from the Trakt RSS feed:
This basically means that the root of the RSS XML is
Once I do this for all the RSS fields I need, I have a number of local Tasker arrays that I can process. One of the problems with the RSS feed’s title field is that it has the show title, episode number, and episode title in the same field, and I want them separated for easy access in KLWP. The screenshot shows you a For loop that does this, using Regex to section off information and storing it in new arrays (update: now with better Regex, thanks to a reader pointing it out on Reddit).
Once I’ve processed other fields in similar manners (splitting the date, for instance) I join the arrays into single variables with a joiner other than a comma, ¥ to be specific. This is because both the title and summary fields may contain commas, which would mess everything up in JSON Write. Then I use JSON Write to output everything as a JSON file, which results in the data you saw further up. From there, I can access it again in Tasker, KLWP, or elsewhere. The process has turned annoying namespace-heavy XML with joined fields into simple JSON with exactly what I need as separate objects.
Employee information for use in For loop
Another JSON creation I have in Tasker is a tool for work. We have an info stream available as RSS, where our shorthand (initials-ish) are mentioned for information specific to us. Checking this manually is a hassle, so I originally made a task that read the RSS using JSON Read, checked for my shorthand (hardcoded into the task), and notified me. Some colleagues heard about this, and wanted in. The simplest way to do this (as they are clueless about tech and couldn’t run Tasker themselves) was to simply have my phone check for other people as well. As such, I rewrote my little checker task to be able to check for the shorthand of others, and then email them using a Tasker plugin I won’t name due to how annoying its trial system is. To make this work, I needed a way to easily store a list of initials and email addresses, and also a way to make sure it only notified people once. The solution was JSON.
In its finished form, the new checker consists of two tasks. One of them simply allows me to add new people to the list, taking a %shorthand and %email input and adding to the JSON “address book”. The second is the checker itself, which reads the information stream RSS, the address book JSON, and then runs a For loop for each employee nested inside a For loop for each RSS entry, checking each RSS item for mentions of each employee’s shorthand. If it finds one, it emails the RSS info to the person in question, and then adds the UID (unique ID) of that RSS item to an aptly named “okuid” object in the JSON. The next time it runs, it will skip any mentions with a UID that’s listed in the JSON, independently for each employee. As everything is done using local variables, having nested For loops isn’t a problem; there’s only a dozen or so entries in the RSS at any given time, and even with all 150 employees on the list that would take only a few seconds to process.
JSON, the final frontier
The possibilities with JSON in Tasker are endless. If I still wrote the storage aspect of my todo list setup myself, it would be a prime candidate. My Audible series notification tool is another prime candidate, as soon as I get around to rewriting it to not use global variables for data storage (I know, lazy solution). Others have also done awesome things with JSON, such as Rory’s JSON visualizer web screen. JSON (and XML) are used by so many information sources, in addition to being an awesome tool for storing your own data, that having it as an option in Tasker really does make AutoTools one of the most game changing plugins out there, even if you ignore all the other options it has to offer.
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About the Author
Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he’s evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids and a snoring cat. Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul’s posts
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On Monday evening, video began circulating online of a black-and-white drone feed monitoring a two-car convoy driving north along Road 45, east of Hodeidah, Yemen. In the video, the drone’s target — a blue Toyota Land Cruiser — turns onto a side street. Seconds later, it is struck by a Chinese-made Blue Arrow 7 missile.
The driver of the second vehicle slams on the brakes. He and his companions rush to the lead car, now in flames. “Identify the target,” an officer orders, monitoring the drone feed from an operations room in the United Arab Emirates. The survivors start to move away from the wreckage. “Kill them! Kill the people!”
At 2:02 p.m., the second strike hits. The command room erupts in applause. “Good hit guys, good hit! We got this son of a dog’s car,” an officer cheers in footage reviewed by Foreign Policy.
Saleh al-Samad, the president of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, was killed in the drone strike, delivering the deathblow to an already stagnant Yemeni peace process. Samad was regarded as a conciliatory figure within the Houthi rebellion and had sought to reach a negotiated settlement to Yemen’s civil war. He was scheduled to meet with Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, on April 28.
The exact date of the strike is still unclear, however. The Houthis announced Samad’s death on Monday, and several Western news outlets reported that he was killed the prior Thursday. But Samad was reportedly at a funeral on Saturday, indicating the strike that killed him likely took place on Sunday, April 22.
Samad’s death comes as Yemen enters its fourth year of civil war. In 2014, the Houthis took control of the country’s northwest, including the capital, Sanaa. The following year, a Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, started military operations to unseat the Houthis in a conflict that has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths in Yemen.
The strike, which is the first successful assassination of a senior figure in the Houthi rebellion, highlights the growing military assertiveness of the UAE. Since 2016, the Gulf nation has been trying to establish itself as the West’s primary counterterrorism partner in the region while simultaneously bolstering its military capabilities through arms deals with Beijing.
Above: Live drone feed footage of the strike that killed Samad and his companions. Below: Footage from the UAE command room as officers monitored the strike being conducted.
“They are working incredibly hard to be the new entrepreneurial contractor in the region, both politically and militarily,” says Farea al-Muslimi, an associate fellow at Chatham House. “They no longer want to remain on the sidelines. Yemen is one of the battles where they think they can improve both their credentials and capabilities.”
The UAE has invested heavily in military aid to coalition-backed forces in Yemen. It has constructed various security units, seen as proxy forces by the United Nations, to fight al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the southern coast. Now, the UAE is directing its efforts to support Tareq Saleh, the nephew of late President Ali Abdullah Saleh who is leading an offensive to retake the strategic port of Hodeidah from the Houthis.
“In recent days, we had been closely monitoring the Houthi leadership’s movements,” says a senior commander of the coalition’s ground forces advancing from the port of Mokha.
The strike that killed Samad was part of the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive on Hodeidah. The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Khalid bin Salman, even tweeted about the strike earlier this week, claiming it was in retaliation for Houthi missile attacks. Samad “vowed [a] couple of weeks ago to make 2018 the ‘year of ballistic missiles on KSA,’” the Saudi ambassador wrote. “The response to him was a direct hit under the leadership of HRH Minister of Defense.”
Though the Saudis have claimed credit for the strike, the intelligence for the attack was routed through Tareq Saleh’s staff to the UAE, which also carried out the operation.
The UAE did not respond to a request for official comment
Former President Saleh — who was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring — waged 10 years of war against the Zaydi revivalist Houthi insurgency attempting to overthrow the government. In 2014, Saleh entered into a partnership with the Houthis as an efficient means of undermining his successor, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. However, late last year, after a fierce battle in the capital, the alliance of convenience broke down resulting in Saleh’s death
Tareq Saleh and his men were forced to seek refuge in the UAE, bringing with them a deep knowledge of the Houthis inner workings
“We still maintain a talking relationship with some of the Houthis. … Sometimes, our agendas align,” explains a senior coalition commander overseeing operations to retake Hodeidah.
Samad’s death was not an isolated incident. A number of key Houthi figures, who shared close ties to former President Saleh, have been killed recently. Mansour al-Saidi, the commander of Houthi naval forces; Salah al-Sharqai, his deputy; Nasser al-Qaubari, the major general of Houthi missile forces; and Fares Manea, a notorious arms dealer and former governor of Saada, were all killed in airstrikes over the last week.
Samad’s death is likely to exacerbate existing divisions within the Houthi movement, which he had played an important role in holding together. Older members of the movement had been arguing that it was time to negotiate and secure a favorable deal. Samad was seen as a credible negotiator because of his strong links with the Saleh family. Most of the movement’s leadership, in contrast, believed defeating the former president proved the merits of a more aggressive approach.
The strike against Samad shows that the UAE is also seeking to continue the military struggle and is testing new capabilities. Last year, China sold to the UAE the Wing Loong II, an armed unmanned aerial vehicle equivalent to the American MQ-9 Reaper.
“The UAE has been forward leaning in their deployment of drones,” says Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in air power at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “We’ve seen that they are willing to use them in politically sensitive areas, such as Libya, where they have conducted strikes.”
Bronk says Samad was killed by a high-explosive warhead that is consistent with an AKD-10, a Chinese-made equivalent of the American Hellfire missile.
This is part of a broader UAE policy of expanding influence throughout the region, with several military bases along the southern coast of Yemen; a larger air base in Assab, Eritrea; and plans for defense cooperation with Somalia. The UAE has also been building relations with Sudan and Senegal, both of which have sent troops to Yemen’s front lines.
“They’re spending a lot to expand their military,” notes a NATO intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. Washington has given Saudi Arabia and the UAE “carte blanche to expand.”
The UAE’s growing role aligns with U.S. counterterrorism interests. Yemen has seen a dramatic rise in the number of drone strikes since the start of President Donald Trump’s administration. The United States also conducts its own strikes and raids, including a widely reported commando raid in Bayda province in January 2017. That raid, which led to the death of U.S. Navy SEAL William Owens and at least 16 Yemeni civilians, was regarded as a failure.
Having the UAE conduct raids directly relieves both the pressure on, and risk to, American forces, and so the United States has eagerly bolstered Emirati efforts. Washington has also been involved in Yemen’s civil war, providing arms and training to Saudi and Emirati forces as well as direct logistical and intelligence support for the coalition air campaign, including in-flight refueling for coalition aircraft.
But the Samad strike also presents a challenge to Western governments. The United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, and others have strongly backed the U.N. peace process. As Saudi Arabia and the UAE diversify their sources of equipment, they also increase their ability to operate unilaterally in ways that may diverge from U.S. interests.
“We are following reports of Samad’s death last week, which the Saudi military had publicly taken responsibility for,” a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson told FP.
The aftermath of the strike. “There are body bits of three people,” one man says. They find no survivors.
The United States had previously refused to export armed drones to the UAE, but this month the Trump administration released a new set of policies, loosening previous restrictions. “We will facilitate international partners’ access to U.S. [unmanned aerial systems] in situations where it will enhance those partners’ security and their ability to advance shared security or counterterrorism objectives,” the policy reads. With the UAE already operating Chinese drones in combat missions, and with an expanding Chinese presence in Djibouti, the Gulf could become a new front in the U.S. struggle for influence with Beijing.
In the meantime, the UAE’s nascent war is having consequences on the ground in Yemen. Samad’s successor, Mahdi al-Mashat, who was appointed Monday, is a hard-liner with extensive links to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Ali al-Bukhaiti, a former senior Houthi figure now based in Amman, Jordan, claims that there is growing puritanism within the movement. “Mashat is the polar opposite of his predecessor: He is tactless, threatens, doesn’t compromise,” he says. “He does not build relationships — he damages them.”
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Randy Goers of the Drone Radio Show Podcast interviews Nicole Abbett, a Tampa, FL based photographer, videographer, artist and drone operator. Nicole is a graduate of the University of South Florida where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in photography. She honed her skills as an artist and photographer before starting her own commercial photography business.
A few years ago, Nicole picked up a drone and launched a new career as a droneographer. After getting her Part 107 Certification, she quickly established herself as a leading aerial videographer in the Tampa Bay area, eventually landing high profile jobs and becoming the first woman to fly for the National Hockey League and the first woman to fly a drone at an active airport. She credits her success to hard work, refining her skills and nurturing strong relationships that have garnered her high profile jobs, referrals and repeat business.
In this episode of the Drone Radio Show, Nicole talks about her path from artist/photographer to droneographer. She talks about how building strong relationships have landed her some great opportunities and what she’s done to build a successful commercial drone based business.
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A great white shark attacked a Trident beta unit submarine drone at Isla de Guadalupe, Mexico late last year. Dominik Fretz took a Trident beta unit out to for testing in the shark-infested waters. The underwater drone captured the scary-looking footage and lived to tell the tale.
DJI Inspire 2
Trident drone passed the reliability test with flying colors…
Isla de Guadalupe in a small volcanic island located in the Pacific 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. The island is known for being a top destination for great white shark encounters, outperforming both South Africa and Australia.
The Trident underwater drone was first introduced on Kickstarter back in 2015. The funding campaign did really well and brought in $815,601, massively overshooting the original goal of $50,000.
A video on Youtube shows the top predator swimming towards the drone a few times before going in for the kill. In the description of the video it says:
“OpenROV community member Dominik Fretz took a Trident beta unit out to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico for testing. It’s safe to say this drone passed the reliability test with flying colors…”
Every year the great white sharks come to the waters of Isla de Guadalupe to feed on tuna and elephant seals. Under Mexican law, the animals are protected and officials of the National Park Services join ecotourism boat as observers. With the help of acoustic tags, satellite transmitters, photo ID (!) and underwater drones, scientists are studying the behavior and populations of the sharks.
Sharks have very sophisticated senses and are able to detect vibrations, movements and electric fields in the water and were attracted to the Trident underwater drone.
The Trident underwater drone is a new tool that is being used to study wildlife, i.e. great white sharks in the area. It is believed that drones are less intrusive when it comes to observing wildlife, although encounters do occur from time to time. Using drones instead of divers swimming unprotected in the ocean is safer for the researchers as this video makes very clear. In National Geographic’s Open Explorer platform, Dominik is journaling all his explorations.
No sharks or Trident drones were harmed in the making of this video.
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