Emergent Task Tracker Updates

Emergent Task Tracker Updates

I had a couple hours free this weekend to hack in some new features to the interactive version of the Emergent Task Tracker Alpha. There’s a few new features:

  • I am now allowing non-US character sets for task entry. The rest of the application has not been localized, but you should be able to now enter and display your native language if it’s not basic LATIN. Japanese should work, for example. This is not a full internationalization pass by any means, and unfortunately users of bidirectional languages (Farsi, Arabic, and Hebrew for example) are likely to have some problems (Flash does not support BIDI text input).

  • You can now customize the alarm sound by uploading an MP3 to a web server. Type set alarmURL http://location/of/file.mp3 in the command line (CTRL-SHIFT-TILDE to get the console). You can use the alarmplay command to see what alarm is currently set, and alarmdefault to reset it back to the default. The location of the alarm URL is saved, so you should only have to do it once.

  • The current time cursor should now be displayed if the default starting time causes it to be out-of-range. This should help alleviate some confusion when the cursor doesn’t show up.


p>This should help make the application a little more useful in its current alpha development state. For more information, see last Friday’s post.

Feel free to post feedback :-) The next thing I’ll be doing is probably adding drag-and-drop; I’m using a slightly different Flash programming approach than I usually do, so it’s interesting to work out new (to me) paradigms for old techniques.

After that, the big question is how to sync all the task data to a server database. I’ve never written a real webservice before on the server side, so I have a lot of questions about “best practices” to create a service that handles multiple transactions from multiple clients seamlessly and securely. I think my data architecture will translate well to a database (it’s designed to be reused by different incarnations of the PCEO tools), but I’m also not that well-versed in SQL and PHP. Should be interesting…looking forward to finally learning how to do this stuff :-)


  1. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    bug: add localconnection check to prevent multiple instances from running in browser windows.


  2. Bob Janes 17 years ago


    Thanks for a net project, I’ve been following with interest.

      I’m also not that well-versed in SQL and PHP

    I’m probably a bit ahead of you and personally, if I were about to go where you are headed I’d look very hard at switching to Ruby on Rails as I suspect that your time to code would be much shorter despite the change in learning path. Just a thought.


  3. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Thanks Bob! Are you suggesting RoR for the entire platform, or just the server back end? Curious what your thinking is here!

  4. Garrick Van Buren 17 years ago

    I’d say just the server side. If the client is currently running in a browser, you’re better off sticking with what you have. RoR for the entire platform would require the clients to run Rails and MySQL – do-able, but not recommended.

  5. Jonathan Angliss 17 years ago

    I have recently started reading your PCEO series, and love it.  “Little things” like this are a great idea.  I’ve been trying to get a good handle on my day to day tasks/todos, and something like this is a great start.

    As for the RoR idea, you could probably keep with that if you wanted to release a server side version.  If people wanted an offline version, flash could easily write to a text/xml file.

    Good work, and thanks for the ideas.


  6. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Garrick: That sounds about right…I just need to implement a web service, essentially, for the Flash side to talk to. I might look into just that.

    Jonathan: Thanks, glad you’re enjoying the series! Unfortunately, writing to a file is the ONE THING that Flash doesn’t do without a third-party extension like Zinc. I would have to write to a server (which defeats the offline criterion), and then the server would provide a file for download.

    It’s actually pretty easy to provide a projector version of the file that runs standalone (it already does). It won’t be fancy (just the standard Flash projector), and it won’t be able to access the same root shared object in all cases. If anyone’s interested in a standalone projector, let me know and I’ll make one.

  7. Doug 17 years ago

    Enhancement request – I’m a freelance designer and I use ETT to keep track of my day, including billable hours I’m working for various clients. It would be great to have a column that sums the hours-minutes for each row to save me counting boxes at the end of the day.

    Perhaps also provide a checkbox to denote billable tasks. Checking the billable box might highlight the hours or even the entire task row to give it visual priority to remind me of tasks I should be working on over others if I have a choice (ala your Concrete Goals Tracker).

    This would be an enhancement to the online version, but also useful for the printed version I use every day (right now I pull out a highlighter and write totals in the margins and notes section)


  8. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Thanks for the feedback, Doug! That makes two requests for a summation of hours box. Let me ponder this…I might fork this into a different tool.

  9. Margaret Marcuson 17 years ago

    This is a wonderful tool.  I have been working with a timer for a long time but couldn’t get excited about the paper task tracker.  For some reason this is more fun.  I have a lot of small projects so more lines would be useful.  I’ll echo the interest in a total of each line, too.  Thanks so much for this,

  10. Dave Kelleher 17 years ago

    David Seah. Excellent! I loved the paper bubbles but I love clicking even more!!! Coincidentally, I was working on a back-end PHP/MySQL server application to track my projects, tasks, and invoices. I think this time tracker would interface nicely via a web service, and would even go so far as to hope you can make it two-way – allow your Flash program to accept a list of pre-filled out tasks. How your are well!

  11. Jodie Miners 17 years ago

    David, excellent App. I’ve been wanting something like this for ages. I just found a fix for a problem I was having. It was saving the names but not the bubbles when I closed. So I right clicked on the Flash and set the memory to 1mb under the file icon. That fixed it. Just in case anyone has he same problem.
    The only suggestion I can add to the above is to have more lines – I do a lot of varied tasks throughout the day, and it would be helpful to have more lines.
    Keep up the fantastic work.

  12. Gabriele Di Lorenzo 17 years ago

    Hi David, and sorry for my english :
    as the others, i found this tool and the entire background of the CEO series really one of the best things on the net about “real life” productivity and motivation.

    I’m thninking about to suggest this tool in my company, to easily keep track of the things that actually we note on a “horrible” ;) word print.
    there is only one thing that i think can be added: some kind of “planning”, but keeping all simple and immediate as the tool now is.

    i liked a simple option, somethning like “tabbed browsing”, that allow the user to swap over the 5/7 days of the week.

    so, i think:
    “ok, this tool is for the current day tasks, not for a real planning, and also for keep track of “worked” hours more that “to-works” hours ( ithink). but, for a today tasks, i can know that it will be present today, too… so, if i want to click down a sort of “planning” of working hour (that I’ll set WORKED clicking again and going in the second state of the button) it could be usefull to extend it on the working week.

    is also usefull, at friday, when i have to report back all the hours worked on a project, to read them from this panelbased tool instead of 5 paper sheets (usefull, too)

    a last thing, and sorry for this long, full of english errors, text ;)
    there is an option i flash, about button states, that allow to selct multiple boxes going on with the cursors and the “pressed” mouse button?

    tnx and keep giving us these excellent works!

  13. John Starkweather 17 years ago

    I have an idea for the interactive version. As a lawyer who must bill time to client activities, I have been faced with timesheets my whole career. I’ve always wanted a “killer app” timesheet program. The problem is that, logically, one tracks time chronologically (as your app does), but when it comes to billing, accounting wants time entries by client or client code.

    If your application could switch between these two modes, it would utterly fantastic. As it is, with hours on the “x” axis and projects on the “y” axis, I could enter my time as the day progresses. But then, to be able to switch projects to the “x” axis and time to the “y” axis (added up throughout the course of the day), I’d be able to hand it to accounting and say “VIOLA”!

    So, how hard would it be to make your app toggle those two axies(sp?)?

  14. MikeTLive 16 years ago

    My response grew too long for a simple comment so I added a blog entry of my own:

    Also, John Starkweather: you already have both ways. you just have to look at it from two directions.

    take a look at my method and let me know what you think.

  15. Sam Hasler 16 years ago

    As well as John Starkweather’s suggestion of being able to see how much time was spent on a task per day or per week, I’d like to combine it with Doug’s checkbox for billable task to get an overview for a week of how much time I was spending on billable work compared to goofing off. I don’t just want the totals I’d like it in the normal bubbles, a row per day, billable hours aligned left, goofing off aligned right, so that it’s really easy to tell at a glance how I’ve done in the week.

    I work from home. I try to work 9-5 but some days I carry on after 5, so if I could put in my normal working hours and then it could highlight billable work done outside those hours in a different colour that might also be interesting to see.

  16. Maurits 15 years ago

    I have a simple request.

    I run the ETT flash exe from a USB disk within the PortableApps menu (www.portableapps.com). In the menu ETT is called ‘Shockwave Flash’. Probably due to the product name entry within the exe or something like that. Nice to change in the next version of this fantastic tool!

  17. Jim Kane 15 years ago


    I’m an engineer at ISP.  We are using your Flash ETT Version ETT-06-0803X.  Do you have an updated version?  It is working well for us, but it would be nice to be able to save each day’s data.  Right now we print the ETTs at the end of each day.