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This space holds helpful information about software and hardware and vendors that Dr. Hain has discovered by trial and error. Perhaps if enough of us do this, searches on these devices or companies will bring up more relevant information.

Automation programs

Last edited: August 15, 2019

Recently there have been several online "web" services set up that move stuff around from one cloud program to another. For example, take stuff from gmail and put it into dropbox, or google drive. From an engineering viewpoint, these are process control programs, that are being systematized. They get around the problem that due to security issues, it is nearly impossible to get some web program (like PHP) to do something with a cloud program, because there is so much fear of hackers taking the data and running with it. A reasonable fear. So here, we are working entirely within the cloud, using what we hope are secure process transport mechanisms.

These are the ones I tried and the results. I was only able to get 2 to work at all, and of these two, Zapier and Integromat,I think integromat is the better choice.


This company was the "top" in google searches for this topic. I tried it first. After a bit of struggle, I managed to get it to copy gmail attachments, out of a particular directory, into a particular google drive directory. I used a template, and then used trial and error (similar to Integromat).

Like almost all of these robot programs, they don't want to call their robots robots. Maybe sounds to robotic. So Zapier calls robots Zaps.


Lack of support: When I ran into some problems, I sent an email to support. No answer. So no support for free "try out" accounts. Fair enough, but how can I be sure that there is support at all ?

Cost: Zapier is expensive. The "free" tier is OK, but just for trying it out. The next is $20/mo -- which is a lot more than I pay for Dropbox. I decided to look elsewhere. If Zapier's pricing per task had been similar to Integromat, I would not have bothered to look elsewhere.


Although this program came up in search as an automation program to transfer gmail attachments to dropbox, it is certainly not written for non-engineering types of people. I gave up very quickly. This program may be a good idea but it is very hard to figure out what it does.


If then then that. I found this one too confusing. It says "IFFFT for business". What if I am not for business ? One I got logged in, none of the templates seemed to work. I gave up. My guess is that IFFFT will die unless they adopt something more similar to Zapier or Integromat.

Microsoft Flow

Again, Microsoft Flow was confusing, and even worse, had no useful templates. This guy probably works well if you stay within microsoft -- i.e. use Outlook and onedrive. Interestingly, Microsoft tells you how many times a "flow" was downloaded, but doesn't tell you how many people are still using it.

I do not know why Microsoft decided to call these automatoms flows. But I guess everybody is pretty creative in the naming area.


I had never heard of this group before, and it is named in a peculiar way, but this is the one I ended up with. Integromat seems somewhat popular, and lists a useful #, the # of subscribers (about 47k). It has a more reasonable pricing structure than Zapier. The "Free" tier might even be a little useful, and at the lowest pay tier, $10/month, I could see paying this.

Integromat is good on the visual design side of things, but uses odd naming conventions. Perhaps this program was originally written in ?Finnish? who knows -- but whoever wrote it doesn't seem to be that good at picking English words that match up to function.


This is a very pretty visual diagram that shows the follow of data from gmail to a "Router" (which is the Integromat word for a signal splitter). Why do they use this word? Perhaps they have never read any books about process control or control systems modeling ? We would encourage the Integromat people to check into "Matlab" and "Simulink, and perhaps provide options for "system vocabularies' that translate between Integromat speak into electrical engineering speak.


Integromat popup

The problem I have with integromat is decoding the selection mechanism that "pops up", in an inconsistent way. In the above, what are all of these things ? Why do I need to see them ? Why are they in red anyway ? Integromat seems to want to use primary colors all the time -- they like bright objects I guess.

Perhaps the configuration problem is due to the design that has innumerable sources and sinks (using electrical engineering terminology), for which integromat has invented a whole set of new "wheels". Rather than working on showing people how to do things, they seem rather to have worked on the more general process of helping out trial/error learning.

Although rather challenging, trial/error seems to be generally OK. To solve the email problem above, you have to find the "attachments" item, click on the little triangle, and then select out "file" to answer one question, and "data' to answer another. This is not all that bad, but why not just provide an example ?


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