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Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to Convert a Bing Maps Directions URL to a Bing Maps Routing API URL

I’m working on project that uses the Bing Maps Routing API and couldn’t find a way to easily convert a Directions URL that you would get from to the Bing Maps Routing API URL format, so I created a quick webpage to do so. It takes in a Bing Maps Directions URL, a Bing Routing API Key and spits out an equivalent Bing Routing API URL.

Here’s the app:


Here’s how to use it:

1. Go to Bing Maps and get the directions that you need.


2. Once you have selected the exact route you want to use, click on the “Share” button.


That will show this dialog:


3. Click “Show full URL” and copy that URL into  your clipboard


4. Go to my converter and paste the Bing Maps Directions URL into the first text box.


5. Enter your Routing API Key. You can get one here if you don’t have one:


6. Select the Response Format that you’ll need:


7. Click “Convert”

Your Bing Maps Routing API URL will then appear:


You can then copy that URL to whatever application you need it for.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to Change an Wish List Name

I found a usability bug in Amazon’s Wish List functionality…there’s no obvious way to change a Wish List name. After some searching I discovered that the “Edit list name” feature is in the “List Actions” dropdown.  Select that option, change the name, click save.


You could also hover your mouse over the list name and click on it.

On Hover:


On Click:


Here’s a direct link to your Wish Lists:

Hope this helps,


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Elenco, maker of Snap Circuits, offers free replacement parts. A great example of what it means to put customers first.


I recently bought my 5 year old kid a Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 kit and the black wire broken almost immediately. It went on the shelf and sat for a while because I thought it would be a pain to replace the part. I forgot about the kit until my kid asked for it again a couple of weeks ago. We were quickly reminded that he couldn’t use it because that wire was broken. I did a quick search for “Snap circuits replacement wires” and found this I was blown away. Elenco, the company that makes Snap Circuits, not only makes replacement parts available, but will send them to you for free. So, I went ahead and ordered one black and one red wire because I’m pretty sure the red one will break soon too.


It’s great to see an example of putting customers first. Yes, some people will take advantage of them for doing this, but Elenco understands that it’s more important to please someone like me who will now keep buying their products as my kid matures into more complex electronics.

Kudos to Elenco!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How to Setup a Particle Photon with Node.js

Here’s a quick post to show you how to get your Particle Photon setup with Node.js.  I also have instructions for doing so with PuTTY here.

Put Photon in Listening Mode

1. Plug Photon into your computer’s USB port.

2. Is your Photon flashing blue? If so, move on to next step. If not, then hold down the Setup button until the LED flashes blue. If you can’t get it to flash blue then hit the Reset key and try again.

Create Particle Account

1. Create a new Particle Account here or use one that you already have.

Setup Node

1. Install Node.js. Make sure you include Node.js in your PATH during install.

2. Install the particle-cli Node.js package. Open a command prompt

npm install -g particle-cli

Connect Photon to WiFi Network

1. Enter the following command into the command prompt and enter your WiFi SSID and Password

particle setup wifi

If all goes well, you will see a message that looks like this:


If your Photon is not pulsing cyan (aka breathing cyan) then try this step over again.

Get Photon Id

1. Enter the following command into the command prompt

particle identify

That will print out your Photon’s unique id to the console.


You will need that later, so copy it over into Notepad.

Login to Particle

1. Enter the following command into the command prompt

particle login

It will prompt you to enter your Particle account email and password. Please do so.


Add Photon to your Particle Account

Your Photon must be breathing cyan before you attempt this step. If it isn’t, then follow the WiFi steps above.

1. Enter the following command into the command prompt

particle device add [your photon id from above]

If all goes well you will see a message like this:


Get Particle Access Token

You will need an access token to call any of the Particle APIs.

1. Execute the following command into the command prompt

particle token list

2. Enter your credentials and find the token that doesn’t have an expiration date:


3. Copy that access token to Notepad. You’ll need it later when you call the Particle APIs.


That’s how you get your Photon setup with Windows using Node.js

From here, you can deploy your own app to your Photon or try building my “Skype for Business Status Light”

Make on!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Quickly Create a Skype for Business Status Light with a Particle Photon

beakn is my Skype for Business (aka Lync) Status Light project that I have been building since late last year. Very simply, it’s a hardware device that will change color to Red, Yellow or Green as your Skype for Business status changes. You can put it in your home or office to let people know when you are busy, free or away.

beakn has been through many iterations and I ultimately decided to use the Spark Core as my microcontroller development board because it comes with WiFi, has cloud events and is relatively cheap. Since my last post, Microsoft renamed Lync to Skype for Business, Spark changed its name to Particle and they released a new board called the Photon. It has all the capabilities as the Core and it’s only $20.

This post is a very quick walkthrough on how to setup the simplest version of beakn. All of the source is MIT. Forks make me happy, so please, fork on and be creative with it.

Setup Photon

You will want to get your Photon setup with WiFi and associated with your Particle account.  I have instructions for doing so with either PuTTY or Node.js. Please select the method you prefer. I recommend the Node.js route if you are comfortable with Node.js

“How to Setup a Particle Photon with Windows and PuTTY”

“How to Setup a Particle Photon with Node.js”

Go to one of those posts, follow all of the instructions and then come back here to continue setting up your status light.

Flash beakn to Photon

Particle makes it really easy for you to share your scripts with others via their Community Libraries feature.  I added beakn to the library…here’s how to get it installed.

1. Go to Particle Build (the cloud IDE)

2. Make sure the device you want to work with has the star next to it in the Device tab. In my case I want to flash to photon25.


3. Click on the “Libraries” icon in the lower left rail


4. Seach for “beakn” and click on the beakn project.


You will see the code load to the right.  It’s very simple. Just exposes a method that the beakn Desktop app calls when your Skype for Business status changes. That method sets the on-board RGB led based on what status is sent to it.


You can also find this code on GitHub here:

5. Click the “USE THIS EXAMPLE” button.


6. Click the “Flash” icon in the upper left rail


You will then see a couple of messages in the footer while it is being flashed



Your Photon will reboot after it is done flashing and the Led will very likely turn off.  That’s okay, just move onto the next step.

Install Skype for Business

Make sure you have Skype for Business installed and you are signed in. The beakn desktop application will use the Skype library events to notify the Particle cloud that there’s a change.

Install beakn Desktop Application

The beakn Desktop application listens for Skype for Business status change events and sends those to your Photon. All the code for this app is MIT and is located here. Feel free to fork it and be creative.

1.  Go to the beakn releases GitHub page and install the latest version via the msi file:

2. When you launch beakn for the first time it should see that you haven’t entered your Photon Id or Access Token and prompt you to do so. If it doesn’t then just go the place where you installed it and click on the beakn.exe file, then click on the Settings button.

The Settings dialog will look like this:


3. Enter your Photon Id and Access Token that you copied over into Notepad when you setup your Photon. If you don’t have them, then scroll to the top of this page and follow the “Setup Photon” link.

As soon as you click Ok beakn will get your Skype for Business status and update your Photon LED color.

Congrats! You now have a very basic Skype for Business status light up and running!!

Switch Your Status

Open up Skype for Business and toggle your status and watch the Photon light change!


Now that you have beakn running it’s time for you to experiment.  Wire up some brighter LEDs. Add a battery and a on/off toggle switch. Mount it on Groot. Build a custom enclosure. Be creative with it.

Make on!