Getting Up-To-Date Daily Disposable Amount from Bank Account

I use You Need A Budget (YNAB) for my personal budget. It’s an amazing service built up around the idea of “giving every dollar a job”, meaning that you put all the money you have for a given month into a category in your budget. So, after categorizing all your money into “mortgage”, “groceries”, “savings”, etc. you end up with a final amount of disposable income, and this is where I’ve hit a roadblock that’s been annoying me literally for years:

On any given day of the month I want to know how much money I can spend out of my remaining disposable income, e.g. remaining days of the month divided by remaining disposable income. This is annoyingly hard to do with YNAB, because every time I make a transaction I’d have to manually add those transactions to YNAB, see my new disposable amount and calculate my new daily amount. This is not an issue for American YNAB users, because YNAB can automatically import transactions from American banks, meaning you can just check your YNAB app and divide the up-to-date disposable amount with the remaining days of the month. Still somewhat cumbersome, but at least easier than having to manually import transactions.

Also, services like Spiir, that does automatically import transactions from Danish banks, does not help me out here, because the budgetting concept there is built around category spending limits, which I don’t like. So, what I’ve been doing is using the app Pennies, which just allows me to enter an account total, and then it gives me my daily disposable amount. Whenever I buy something I then add a transaction in that app, and it shows me my remaining amount. Obviously, this is not a perfect solution, because Pennies gets out of sync with my actual budget if forget to enter something and I have to manually update the total amount every month.

This all changed, because last week I received a newsletter from YNAB in which they announced their new public API! My eyes lit up! Maybe I could build my own YNAB integration, automatically importing transactions from my bank on a regular schedule, and run that regularly on my Mac Mini server. And if I got that working, maybe I could build a small iOS app that uses the same new API to show me my up-to-date daily disposable amount! The only limitation was how to get my transactions exported from my bank’s online banking service. After a quick Google search I stumbled upon Nordic API Gateway, a service that exposes an API for almost all banks in Scandinavia. I couldn’t believe my luck.

After spending some hours scripting, I now have the following setup:

  • Node.js script that exports transactions from my bank and imports these into YNAB. YNAB is really clever about detecting duplicates, so I don’t have to worry about filtering out transactions that were already imported. I just import everything going back 30 days. This runs every 15 minutes using cron.
  • Node.js script that fetches my YNAB budget, gets the remaining disposable amount, calculates the daily amount for the remainder of the month and then pushes this info as an iOS Push Notification. This also runs every 15 minutes using cron.
  • iOS app which has Push Notifications enabled and receives these from the 2nd Node.js script. When it receives the notification it updates its badge with the amount of money I can spend that day.

This now means I have a nice app icon on my iPhone that always shows a badge number with the up-to-date daily disposable amount I can use.

Review: PEBA 1296P Super HD Dash Cam

I recently bought my first car dash cam, a PEBA 1296P Super HD dash cam. I did a lot of research and ended up with the following features I wanted:

  • At least 4 stars on Amazon
  • At least 1296p resolution
  • Circa 150 degrees field of view
  • Suction mounting, not glue
  • At least a 2-inch screen
  • Cabled power

But that was just the technical specifications. It is surprisingly hard to find in-depth reviews of dash cams which actually focus on what’s most important when it comes to cameras that you operate while driving: the user interface and the user experience. Unfortunately when you haven’t owned a dash cam before, it’s hard to predict what kind of UX cases will be important to you.

Before I go on it’s worth noting that dash cams usually work in the following way: the camera fills up the memory card as you drive, automatically deleting the oldest recordings to make space for new ones.

Having used the camera for a while, two common use cases very quickly became obvious:

  • Something happens on the road and you quickly want to save and lock the last X amount of minutes from deletion on the memory card.
  • Quick and easy transfer of data from the memory card to computer or smartphone.

Unfortunately the PEBA camera doesn’t support any of these in a meaningful way. It does have a feature where tapping the OK button the camera locks a clip against being automatically being deleted, but the feature is useless because it only stores the clip a few seconds back. So, let’s say someone cuts you off or you see something funny and want to store that clip without going through hours of hours of footage to find it, this is not possible with this camera.

For quick importing of the footage onto my iPhone, I bought a lightning to SD adapter, but apparently this only supports a specific list of video formats, and the format the camera is using is not supported. So, I have to either bring my laptop into the car or bring the SD card with me into the house to import footage. Kind of annoying when you frequently like to watch the footage.

So, I will be buying a new camera which supports both of these use cases.

Thoughts on The Last Jedi

Finn & Rose: This storyline just did nothing for me. Rose is such a flat character, they spend no proper time making her interesting. Compare her introduction with Rey’s in Force Awakens. We see and understand so many things about Rey just by watching her on Jukka; her sledding down the dune, putting on the fighter pilot helmet, defending BB-8 and refusing to sell him even though she really needs the money and we feel she’s orphaned and alone by her actions and by the actions of those around her. It’s such a great character introduction, and Rose gets none of that. She’s sad because her sister is dead and later on we get to know she had a shitty childhood. We get told this, we neither see nor experience it, so it falls flat, at least to me.

The scenes at the casino didn’t do much for me either to the point where I groaned at some of the scenes. The aesthetics of the place are amazing, but the whole rescue operation of the horse creatures and the “it’s worth it now” comment at the end felt so forced, especially when you realize they left behind a whole group of slave kids! It also seems like the movie implies that they just so happen to stumble upon another master hacker in Benicio del Toro, which seems ridiculous after Maz specifically points out that these are incredibly hard to find.

But the worst part of their storyline is that, in the end, they get a bunch of people killed and their plan completely fails, when del Toro betrays them and tells Hux about the escaping transport ships.

This movie really, really does not want you to think that going on a sacrificial, hero-journey to save people, is a good idea, because it fails for more or less everyone who tries it in the movie.

Poe, Holdo & Leia: Why exactly is Poe not in chains at the end of the movie? He disarms a vice admiral at gunpoint and attempts to ruin her escape plan. And why, when Poe is holding Holdo at gunpoint, doesn’t she just TELL HIM that the First Order won’t notice the escaping transport ships? Why doesn’t Poe know this himself?! Such a ridiculous storyline. And I found Leia’s Mary Poppins flight pretty silly, that just did not work for me. I actually felt that would’ve been a decent choice, to have her killed there, to set the stakes for the rest of the movie.

Hux: This guy must be the most incompetent military leader in the movie series’ history. He doesn’t manage to block the evacuation, he doesn’t realize that Finn and Rose escape and he doesn’t see the escaping transport ships until del Toro’s character tells him. I loved the scene in the throne room where he’s just about to shoot Kylo though.

Rey & Luke: I’m not sure what I think of the scenes on the island. I loved Luke’s reaction to Rey’s first meeting with the dark side, that she just plunges in. I feel like they justified her ambivalence between the light and dark very well, but the mirror scene made no sense to me. I assumed that was a source of the dark side of the Force, but she just goes there, looks in a mirror, sees herself and that’s it? I really liked the scene with Yoda, even though it seems like the movie makes a bit of a mockery of that scene’s point when you see that Rey actually brought the Jedi scripture with her.

Kylo & Rey: The best part of the movie for me. The interactions they had actually felt real, their connection felt real and I was convinced by the supposed sympathy they get for each other. Rey’s arc here, where we actually get the feeling she may turn to the dark side – now or later – is the most impressive part of the movie to me. This is exactly what never worked in the prequels, I was never convinced by Anakin’s fall to the dark side, he just felt like a petulant, spoiled child. With Rey, I get the feeling that there’s so much anger just below the surface, that she could explode at any moment, that she’s so deeply hurt by her parents’ abandonment that she’s filled to the brim with a desire to get some sort of resolution even if that means tuning to the dark side.

And Adam Driver fucking nails his performance. Kylo feels so enraged, frustrated and sad that when he and Rey feels a connection, the relief for Kylo is palpable, it feels like this is what he needs and what he’s wanted for so long without knowing it; an ally who understands him and his rage.

During the throne room scene, however, this is all thrown out the window. When Kylo asks Rey to join him, I actually felt like it would be believable if she did. But she doesn’t and then it seems like, for the rest of the movie, all ambiguity is gone and those two characters go back to being exactly how they were at the end of Force Awakens: Kylo bad, Rey good. That felt like such a wasted opportunity to me.

Kylo & Luke: Second-best part of the movie. When they reveal that Luke tried to rage-kill Kylo I was flabbergasted, that felt so stunningly amazing and it made Luke’s shame so much deeper, so much easier to understand. I absolutely loved that I actually had to consider if Luke would now try to kill Rey. I think this movie could’ve been one of my all-time favorites if they had actually gone along with that plotline, if Luke does feel obligated to destroy Rey because of the immense darkness in her, and she then escapes, which pushes her directly into the arms of Kylo, ending up with a stand-off between Kylo and Rey, the disappointed apprentices, on one side, and Luke on the other. Then the final movie could be about getting Rey back or something. As it is now I feel like The Last Jedi ends with Kylo and Rey in basically the exact same place as at the end of Force Awakens. Rey shuts the door on Kylo, she rejects him and what he stands for, but that was already her stance at the beginning of the movie.

Luke: What the fuck was that ending? It finally feels like we will see Luke in battle and then he’s a fucking hologram? He’s not even there? I was ready to see him crush some fucking walkers! And please, for the love of God, someone explain to me why he dies afterward? If he had to die, then why not actually have him there and give that scene with Kylo meaning?

Marshall Acton

Marshall Acton

I finally bought a Bluetooth speaker. I ended up purchasing the Marshall Acton, partly because of The Sweet Home’s recommendation. I really just wanted a decent looking speaker with at least average sound quality, but I’ve really found myself adoring this product, I want to use it because it’s fun to use, and I’m quite surprised how well-designed this product is. It may be the product I’ve most enjoyed using since I bought my first iPhone. And here’s why.

The state of usability when it comes to consumer products is, generally, abysmal. For instance, if we look at B&O’s Beoplay line of portable speakers, products which have been generally well-received, we find aesthetically pleasing products with absolutely horrendous usability. The entire interface is made up of buttons that don’t feel particularly well-made. The tactile feedback is mediocre and the layout and design is unintuitive.

The Marshall Acton instead just re-uses what already works. Using a dial to change volume is a masterful piece of design: The feedback is immediate, it’s very easy to gauge where the lowest and highest volume points are and you have fine-grained control over volume changes.

Using a button to change volume, especially when there’s no screen for visual feedback, is just not as enjoyable or easy to understand. The only feedback you get is vocal, you may hear a beep to signify the volume change was registered, but that’s it. You don’t know where the lowest and highest outputs are and the fine-grained control you experience using a dial is gone.

Similarly, the Acton uses a good old mechanical switch to turn the speaker on and off. You can’t not know the speaker is turned on, because the visual state of the switch clearly shows it. Not so with the Beoplay speakers, where a single button is used. You hold down the button and the speaker beeps to signify it’s turned on. The button now lights up to show it’s turned on, much harder to see and understand than a simple switch. To turn the speaker off, you don’t just press the button, you have to hold it down, because the designers realised that it was too easy to mistakenly turn off the speaker if all it took was a press. That’s bad design, it’s unintuitive and the feedback is easy to misunderstand.

The Marshall Acton has two input types, Bluetooth and mini-jack. Most of the Beoplay speakers support both input forms, too, but the Beoplay speakers – most likely in the name of minimalistic and pleasing aesthetics – hide the mini-jack port behind a flimsy, plastic door. The Acton put it in plain sight, it integrates it as a part of its aesthetics with a beautiful, coiled, gold-plated cable. The Beoplay speaker automatically switches inputs, so if a mini-jack cable is connected to an audio source, the speaker uses mini-jack. That’s not obvious to the user, there’s nothing on the speaker which signals which input is used. That’s not the case with the Acton. It has two lights which show which input source is used and you switch between the two with a button marked “Source”. And it may sound silly, but the buttons itself are a joy to use. The tactile feedback is great, the clicking sound is great, it feels well-crafted, it makes you want to press the button.

The last button, which both the Beoplay speakers and the Acton have, is the Bluetooth pairing button. It’s as well-implemented as can be done when using the Bluetooth protocol: press the button to initiate pairing, which is shown by the Bluetooth light blinking, and you can then choose the Acton in your audio source’s Bluetooth settings. This is basically the same flow for the Beoplay speakers.

So, I love my Marshall Acton. I love how physical the interface is, I love that it feels well-crafted, I love using an actual dial to change the volume, I love feeling the “click” when I flick the switch or press a button, and I love how each button, switch and dial has a dedicated function. I even love the power cable, it’s one of those standard figure 8 cords that you find everywhere, so it’s easily replaceable. And the sounds quality isn’t bad either! For 1.500 DKK this is an amazingly well-crafted Bluetooth speaker.


D&D 5 Spell Book

I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons 5 in my sparetime for a while, and it’s very annoying having to look up spells in a big, alphabetized list, so I made an app!

It’s quite simple, it’s just a list of spells, a settings view for inputting the variables needed to calculate how many spells you can have prepared and a couple of filters. It’s very much work in progress, but I wanted to post a short video of its current state here.

New blog and new domain

Another blog! Hurray. I miss writing, but I wanted a new layout and a new domain for some reason, so this is my new watering hole for posts about technology, films, etc.