Remember the Pi (GTD with RTM on RPi)

You have a Raspberry Pi (or you have placed an order for one). You have a ton of project ideas that you would like to try out, but how are you going to keep track of them? Bits of paper? A notes app on your computer or phone? How are you going to keep your notes in sync as new ideas and updates to others come to mind?

Picture the scenario: you are on a train and have a great idea to trick your Raspberry Pi out with a new ThingyZ instead of OldThingyX. You make a note on your smartphone in the default notes app (or add a calendar reminder - a very common way of writing up To Do notes). You get home, having had a long day and have totally forgotten about this new idea. Instead you look at your wall were a dozen post-it notes hang awaiting attention. In the middle “Upgrade Raspberry Pi with ThingyY” sticks out and you get right to work. Only after having updated your Raspberry Pi do you remember the note.. only to realise that ThingyZ is a later version of ThingyY, meaning you have wasted that time.

It is to resolve problems like these and many others that my favourite Getting Things Done (or “To Do”) app comes to mind, Remember the Milk (RTM). I started using this app about a year ago to manage a large number of tasks (you know you have a lot and are not really getting them done when your To Do list includes an item: “do tasks on previous list”). Right now I am using RTM to manage all future article and tutorial ideas for this blog.

I’ll skip over RTM’s many features, not wanting this to sound like an advert for the software, but it is worth pointing out that it is ideally suited to Raspberry Pi task management because of one oft overlooked feature: RTM for iGoogle. What, I hear you cry has iGoogle got to do with the Raspberry Pi? The answer is nothing and everything. The point is that you can use the RTM iGoogle web page entirely separately from iGoogle itself. This means that the iGoogle widget can act as a small unobtrusive widget taking up little system resources in your web browser, ideal for the Raspberry Pi.

Here’s the link: https://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/modules/googleig/

If you do not have an RTM account you will just see the login page. Sign up for free at https://www.rememberthemilk.com/signup if needed.

However with an account and when you are logged in you will see a simplified version of the RTM user interface as shown in the screen shots below.

Most of the GUI is self explanatory: clicking “Add Task” does just that, clicking the downward pointing icon to the left of each task presents you with options to mark the task as “Complete”, “Postpone” or “Edit”, with the latter unsurprisingly opening a simple GUI to let you update the task. The “Settings” link in the top right permits you to select which list to use: All lists, or just a subset, and whether to Show tasks with no due date (or not).

Tutorial...

Here’s a quick demonstration, going back to my ThingyX/Y/Z example:

On my Raspberry Pi I will add a task called “Upgrade ThingyX to ThingyY” with Priority of 2 (ie: “medium”), a Due date of “Tomorrow” (literally type “Tomorrow” minus the quotes - RTM is clever enough to work out what you mean) and most importantly a tag of “Raspberry Pi”:
rtm_add_task

Click “Add Task” to add it to the list:
rtm_task_list
Note that if you forgot to enter “Tomorrow” in Due that the task will only be visible if you have enabled “Show tasks with no due date” in Settings as mentioned earlier. In my case here is the task:
As we are using the Raspberry Pi we can filter to only show Pi tasks (“slices of Pi”?) To do this we need to first set up a saved list:

  1. Log into the full RTM website (itself perfectly usable on Raspberry Pi);
  2. Click on [Tasks];
  3. Enter “tag:Raspberry Pi” into the Search box (top right, minus quotes);
  4. Press enter on your keyboard to search (you will now see the single Raspberry Pi item you created earlier);
  5. Click on [Save] below the Search box and enter “Raspberry Pi” into the “Save Smart List as” box;
  6. Click on the [Save] button to save the result.

Note that this list is dynamic: if you create more items with the tag “Raspberry Pi” the contents of this saved list will automatically be updated (hence the second screenshot showing a number of items that I have blurred out for the purpose of this tutorial). It is this feature that we will take advantage of in the iGoogle version of RTM on the Raspberry Pi.

Now that we have defined our Raspbery Pi specific list of tasks we can filter the iGoogle widget on the Raspberry Pi to display just these items:

  1. Click on Settings;
  2. Change the List shown to Raspberry Pi, ie: your previously saved list;
  3. Check the box to Show tasks with no due date (just in case);
  4. Click [Save].

You will now be presented with just those tasks that you have specified as relating to your Raspberry Pi in the small iGoogle widget window. In this list, unsurprisingly, will be “Update ThingyX to ThingyY”.

Use another computer or your smartphone to edit our Thingy article. Change “ThingyY” to “ThingyZ”. Back on the Raspberry Pi click [Refresh] and hey presto, “Upgrade ThingyX to ThingyZ” is shown as the updated task:
rtm_task_edited

One final thought

There is a small gotcha, something to be aware of. Remember The Milk does not seem especially good at automatically notifying the user in one web browser of a change in another. Hence, if you change the task to “ThingyZ” on your other computer / smartphone and then edit the task without first clicking [Refresh] on the Raspberry Pi (or vice versa - this is not a RPi specific problem) You will see “ThingyY” still shown on-screen, which means you could easily undo you change from Y to Z. The easy workaround is to always click [Refresh] just before starting to use RTM.

This tutorial just scratches the surface of Remember The Milk. Please do read the RTM instructions as it is a very capable web app with many more features than I have touched on.
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