[TASKER] Enhanced car mode with NFC toggle

Sony Xperia ZIt's been a while since I posted anything so it's fitting this'll be a long one! I recently got a Sony Xperia Z to replace my old LG Optimus 2X. Along with it's great screen, waterproofing and vast speed, it has NFC. With work I am driving to various client sites and it's an increasingly common occurrence to receive phone calls while driving. As I have no hands free kit I always used to take these calls using the speakerphone, requiring a swipe and then poke to answer the call.

Having been inspired by a work colleague using NFC to enable work mode on her phone, I thought I should use this to have a more robust car mode. Many of the newer Android phones already have a car mode which removes the need to swipe to answer and defaults to answering on the speakerphone. This can be turned on via tasker. However it would be just as simple to press the home screen icon if this was all that I wanted.

I bought some clear RapidNFC tags from Amazon, delivery was fast and well packaged.

It's worth noting that on my phone sometimes the task and profile names will differ slightly from those stated here, so if your screen doesn't look exactly the same as the screenshots don't panic!

Additional features

From previous posts, I've included auto responses from SMS and an automated work mode (based on time). I wanted to have the SMS functionality within car mode but not disrupt work mode when out of the car. The profiles have been tweaked to work with the new phone and some redundancy has been added to cope with car mode (ie speakerphone off).

Quick reminder for work time:

Profile Name Work Mode Normal Mode
Profile Active? Active Inactive
Context: Mon,Tue,Wed,Thu,Fri
8:25 till 18:00

Task Name: Work Time

  1. Alarm Volume [ Level:2 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  2. Media Volume [ Level:0 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  3. Ringer Volume [ Level:0 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  4. Default Ringtone [ Type:Notification Sound:Silent ]
  5. Default Ringtone [ Type:Ringer Sound:Cassiopeia ]
  6. Vibrate On Ringer [ Set:On ]
  7. Speakerphone [ Set:Off ]

Task Name: Normal Time

  1. Alarm Volume [ Level:2 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  2. Media Volume [ Level:5 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  3. Ringer Volume [ Level:4 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  4. Default Ringtone [ Type:Notification Sound:Pop ]
  5. Default Ringtone [ Type:Ringer Sound:Warriors Of Time ]
  6. Vibrate On Ringer [ Set:On ]
  7. Speakerphone [ Set:Off ]
Closing Task
  1. Perform Task [ Name:Normal Time Stop:Off ]
  1.  None

Work time integration

I set up an additional profile which matches the contexts for Work Time but the opening task is simply:

Variable Set [ Name:%WORKTIME To:1 Do Maths:Off Append:Off]

and the closing task:

Variable Clear [ Name:%WORKTIME Pattern Matching:Off ]

These set the %WORKTIME variable (which has to be all capitals) to 1 whenever it is work time and clears the variable when it's not. This will allow the car mode to reset back into the appropriate setup when it's exited.

Auto response integration

The context of the profile has been simplified to be Event: Received SMS. There is no longer a requirement for Copilot detection or power source detection as this profile will be normally be inactive until activated as part of car mode. This profile is now called SMS Car Mode.

Car mode notifications

CALLS car mode setup

 The context for car mode is Variable Value %CARMODE matches 1. Once the switch has been set up this allows the car mode to be permanently active. This profile is called CALLS Car Mode.

  1. Notify [ Title:JB's magical Car Mode Text:Enabled Number:1 Permanent:On Priority:3
  2. Profile Status [ Name:Work Mode Set:Off
  3. Car Mode [ Set:On Go Home:Off
  4. Speakerphone [ Set:On
  5. Wait [ MS:0 Seconds:10 Minutes:0 Hours:0 Days:0
  6. In-Call Volume [ Level:5 Display:Off Sound:Off
  7. Ringer Volume [ Level:5 Display:On Sound:Off
  8. Media Volume [ Level:12 Display:Off Sound:Off ]

 The notification reminds me that car mode is active. Work mode is disabled so that,  for example, at 18:00 if I'm driving my phone doesn't switch into 'normal' mode. The phone's built in car mode enables simple one poke answering with speakerphone enabled (the speakerphone on is incase the built in car mode got disabled accidently*).

My current phone holder often presses the volume down button as it's gripping the phone so the 10 second delay allows me chance to secure the phone in the holder and stop pressing the volume button. The volumes are then reset to hear incoming calls (ringer), sat nav (media) and speakerphone (in-call). Due to the fact that the volume often gets lowered when attaching to the screen, I felt it was reassuring if one of the volume changes is displayed onscreen so that you can see that the volumes have increased to what they should be.

*I suspect the chances of accidentally exiting car mode when driving is extremely low but during testing, in my flat, I was jumping in and out of tasker/settings windows and sometimes it would close unexpectedly.

Car Mode exit taskCar mode exit task

  1. Notify Cancel [ Title:JB's magical Car Mode Warn Not Exist:Off ] 
  2. Car Mode [ Set:Off Go Home:Off
  3. If [ %WORKMODE ~ 1 ]
  4. Perform Task [ Name:Work Time Stop:Off Priority:5 ] 
  5. Else 
  6. Perform Task [ Name:Normal Time Stop:Off Priority:5 ] 
  7. End If 
  8. Profile Status [ Name:Work Mode Set:On ]

This is where the work mode intregration comes in... on exiting car mode it runs the correct task depending on whether it should be work time or normal time. This is possibly acting as redundancy as reactivating the profile should set these again but due to the critical importance of work mode being set, I deemed it worthwhile.

NFC toggling

To enable toggling, set up a named task with the following:

  1. Profile Status [ Name:CALLS Car Mode Set:Toggle ]
  2. Profile Status [ Name:SMS Car Mode Set:Toggle ]
  3. Variable Set [ Name:%CARMODE To:1 Do Maths:Off Append:Off]

NFC Tag size comparisonWhen this task is called it toggles the SMS and CALLS car modes to on and sets the %CARMODE variable to 1. The variable doesn't do anything else and never changes, as mentioned above it allows the CALLS Car Mode profile to be permanently active. The only thing left to do is set up the trigger for this task.

Using NFC ReTAG FREE you can associate NFC tags with various activities (including launching Android's standard car mode directly if you want a basic car mode). Once you've scanned your tag you need to assign your activity. The feature you need is within Labs > Tasker Task (advanced) which allows you to call the named task you just set up. If done correctly, scanning your NFC tag will now result in toggling your CALLS and SMS Car Mode profiles.

Remind me why I bothered if I can enable car mode directly from NFC ReTAG?

Method Doing nothing Standard car mode Enhanced car mode
Answering Swipe Single poke Single poke
Speakerphone Single poke Automatic Automatic
Display sleep Depends on your setup Phone will not sleep in car mode (unless you manually turn off screen) Phone will not sleep in car mode (unless you manually turn off screen)
Ringer volume As set As set Specific car options
Sat-nav (media) volume

As set

As set Specific car options
Speakerphone (in-call) volume As set As set Specific car options
Auto respond SMS No No   Yes
SMS over speakerphone No No   Yes
Seamless switch back to normal/work volume profiles No No  Yes

To find the apps needed use the links below:



Death of the Aurora

As anyone who has completed the ICAEW's Knowledge Stage will tell you, the Aurora SC582 is utter pants. Amazon's reviews are usually split on opinion bit in the case of this product they are fairly united (here). Anon's review just about sums it up:


This calculator is the only one that is allowed for use in ICAEW exams. However it is one of the worst calculators I have come across. The buttons are stiff and chunky, the keys are not responsive and the calculator is slow to react. This makes it difficult to use in an exam. When using one of these in an ICAEW exam, I found that often keys would "stick" and not enter into the calculator. This will give incorrect calculations, so you must be really careful. For this reason if you must use this in an exam I would recommend purchasing one to practice on beforehand.

Back on topic, yesterday I completed the last of my Knowledge stage exams (which I passed, woo!). This means there is no requirement to use this waste of space EVER again. Inspired from events earlier in the day I decided to put the calculator to it's best use yet, an extra curricular electronics experiment. Unfortunately I don't have access to useful tools such as a soldering iron so my tools were screwdrivers, pen knife, and sticky tape!


AuroraDeath-7After fiddling for several minutes I was able to extract the circuit board from the case in one piece. I then, as carefully as possible, tried to rewire the power supply back together with the sticky tape. This was significantly less than ideal. The contacts were only firm enough to power the screen while I was holding them. Shame. Regardless, I got a couple of pictures showing the calculator powered on and performing (very) simple calculations.



My plan was then to reassemble the calculator with a couple of buttons out of place, unfortunately due to the very weak original soldering one of the battery adapters fell off. I was able to re-expose the cable and tried to sticky tape this to the adapter. This however, was unsuccessful. Probably due to lack of pressure between the wire and adapter. By this time, I had spent too long fiddling and got bored... so I emptied the contents of the case all over the desk :)

My work here is complete.


Full Gallery


Playing with flash controls

Recently, I've been playing with 2nd shutter sync. This simply means the camera flashes at the end of an exposure instead of at the beginning. This lends itself perfectly for capturing motion on longer exposures then effectively freezing the subject at its last position.

A few weeks ago I entered an ICAEW student photo competition:

Contest Instructions
Unleash your creativity. Is accountancy just something you do for a job or does it mean more than that? What images, objects, places or people does accountancy evoke?

I decided to use this technique to make it look like I was writing quickly while working on a set of accounts. Unfortunately I didn't win, I lost to a (admittedly well shot) picture of three meerkats titled Safety in Numbers. Regardless, I'm pleased with my entry:

While out of the country, relaxing in Spain, I continued my experimentation with 2nd shutter sync. This time instead of capturing the final position of a movement as above I tried something a little different...

Playing in Spain

I've seen loads of photos taken where people use a light and a long exposure to create patterns or words in the image. I've even done it myself:

Photo taken as part of the marketing for The Queen's College (Oxford) Commemoration Ball 2010

Another marketing photo for Queens 2010, awarded "highly commended" at an OUPS Photo competition

The problem with these photos is you don't see who is behind the pattern or the text. In Spain, I combined this interesting type of photo with the 2nd shutter sync to capture the people behind the photo, in the same exposure. Obviously this can be done with photoshop and I have compared the final result for the two methods below.


All of the following are single exposure images.

Due the limited creativity of those involved (myself included) there were no interesting pictures, only names and usernames to be seen, but at least everyone could introduce them in their own way! Apart from the Bez image (which has had the light colour altered) they have only had very basic adjustments made, such as brightness and colour balance etc


These look like they could have been made using composite imagery. As promised, I tried that too:

4 piece composite image

This is made up of 4 images. Due to the significantly shorter exposure times the body is more clearly visible in the four sections, "person", "Jake", "#" and "11". While there are benefits to creating the image in this way (such as easy retakes of particular sections), the finished product feels less authentic.


IR and Faux HDR Panorama

Another bank holiday, another excuse to break out the geeky camera equipment. This time it's the panoramic tripod head and the new IR filter.

Navigate the three panoramic images above using the highlighted hotspots. There is a faux colour IR shot of the garden, a night edit version of the same photo and a faux HDR (single raw image) of a kitchen.

Find the actual photos over at Flickr, here.