Unendorsed thetrainline test print of a booking

The Little Printer arrived yesterday and I just wanted to get some very quick thoughts down. There’s some questions and unknowns I throw around that I could probably find out the answer too if it wasn’t a Sunday, but I’m in the mood for writing now and all set for working tomorrow. With this in mind, here goes.

It arrived yesterday and as undoubtedly discussed at great length elsewhere, the packaging is amazing, perfect little touches all over the place. Setup took no time at all, connecting the BERGCloud “bridge” directly into out BT Hub thingy was easy. As our hub is in the Kitchen I set the Little Printer up there too.

As I’ve mentioned before I think one of the big wins for the Little Printer is that it can escape the office. Printers by their nature are fairly dull, boring and annoying things that take up valuable desk-space and often don’t work quite as well as we’d hope. As people got internet connected phones and tablets we’ve seen computing moving out of the “home office” (or office) and into the Living Room, Kitchen and Bedroom, etc. Laptops started this migration of course, but it carries on going from strength to strength with the so called “Second Screen”. It’s also undoubtedly changed behaviour in the process, having a tablet (and often a camera) instantly to hand while relaxing on the sofa, dealing with stuff in the kitchen and so on offers us new, casual connected opportunities.

The kitchen isn’t a place you normally have a Printer, but it is the place where lists often get made and little notes get stuck to the refrigerator. I was curious to see if our expectation of what a printer was, and was for, would change if we lived with it an a common area of the house. That experiment got nipped in the bud as soon as the kids saw it.

The Roomba, the Little Printer, the iPad and the Cat “Charlie”, are all things the kids have declared as their own from the moment they set eyes on them. Being a parent this is how I often end up judging things beyond my own expectations. And they were clearly excited by it (even though we’d only printed off a test Butterfly) in a way they’re utterly not about the normal printer.

The work surface in the Kitchen was too high for the kids to tear off a new printout, so we moved it to the Living Room where they had easy access. We changed its hair style a few times and sent it some test messages, each one greeted with squeals of delight. I then very quickly tested sending it an image via the online remote tools…

(Isobel holding a test print, not quite got the hang of tearing it off yet)

Developer Hat - Subscriptions vs Push.

So, with all the setting up and moving about (and putting kids in bed) out of the way, it was time to prod the printer a bit.

The first obvious observation is that there are two delivery mechanisms, the subscription and push, and a distinct lack of directly printing from your computer (it’s not that kind of printer). The former bundles up a bunch of subscriptions at a pre-determined time (say 8am) and makes the light on-top of the printer glow & pulse to indicate that it’s ready to print. It doesn’t actually print until you press a button to tell it to go ahead.

The second, and slightly more interesting for me is the push print. This occurs when it gets sent a message, or you use the developers tools to send a preview to the device, in this case it gets printed straight away with no user interaction. Also in the developers’ section is your “Direct Print API” key, which suggests that soon there’ll be an API endpoint that can be used to programatically send stuff to the printer.

I can easily imagine setting up a IFTTT hack to send things to the printer in response to certain events happening. So instead of getting a digest at 8am of things that have happened (or are scheduled to happen) you could have triggers like… a really easy example… each time an earthquake over a certain magnitude takes place a report gets sent to the Little Printer, or, you know, something more useful.

Another use would be a “Send to my Little Printer” button on website, in my case (which is an edge case) one on The Trainline where I book my tickets would be super handy. Because you get given a booking code to type into the machine when you pick up your tickets, and because I don’t trust my electronic devices to a) connect to the internet in the train station, b) have power, I always write down the number in my notebook. Having my booking number and train times sent directly to the LP would be super handy. I made of a mock up of what that would look like (by using the online developer preview tools) for my journey this coming Wednesday.

…And far better (and less wasteful) that printing the details out on an A4 sheet.

I can also see this being useful for things like “Print my day’s medication”, with little checkboxes to tick off when you’ve taken each one at the right time. Anyway, I digress.

For the moment, developing a subscription based service looks to be pretty easy, I knocked up a London Integers service in less than an hour, you can see what the printer sees here (less the correct font) http://www.londonintegers.com/edition/, the necessary meta.json file: http://www.londonintegers.com/meta.json and the icon: http://www.londonintegers.com/icon.png. Which is pretty much all you need. I don’t think I’ll submit it as an actual subscription as it doesn’t really serve a useful purpose, but the process of designing it and then seeing it get printed out was pretty fun. I can see myself doing more of that, even if it is just for private subscriptions for myself and friends.

In short, the kids love it, I’m enjoying thinking of things to send to it, really looking forwards to the Direct Print API going live, fingers crossed it happens soon.