I've recently been doing a lot of hacking on Knab, which is the software behind the #clug IRC bot, Spinach. I've contributed a number of new modules, most of which are running on Spinach and are available from the main Bazaar repository.
This module is basically a calendar feature which can store and retrieve events such as birthdays. It also handles recurring events (both with rules1 or multiple dates).
This modules discovers the URL which a shortened URL redirects to.
This module creates a short URL using is.gd.
This module retrieves an HTTP URL and returns the result of the request.
This module gets definitions using Google.
This module retrieves commit messages from a Subversion repository.
This module summons people by sending them a message via Jabber.
I wrote three IRC bots in [Python] this last week (although one was a rewrite). They probably aren't very useful to most people, but I'm going to share them anyway in case someone finds them interesting.
The first one was prompted by [Adrian], who is maintaining a [countdown] until his wedding as a factoid in [Spinach]. Since [Knab] doesn't actually support countdowns, it has to be updated manually. This clearly isn't the Right Way to do this, and so I hacked together a [script][irccountdown] which connects to IRC and teaches Spinach the updated factoid. I run this as a daily [cronjob] to keep the countdown up to date.
As is usually the case with Python, there was already a library for accessing IRC, namely [irclib]. It isn't documented very well, but has a couple example scripts which are fairly easy to follow. It follows an event based model, so you write functions which will be called when certain events occur (such as receiving a message).
The final of the [Currie Cup] was held on Saturday (which my team (the [Sharks]) won), and I followed the match online using [SuperSport's] live score site1. I then thought that it would be cool to have the score announced on IRC when it changed, and since I was bored I wrote a simple [bot][rugby] to do this. It worked well, but was very simple in that it only supported one hardcoded channel and one hardcoded game.
Since I was also bored on Sunday I [rewrote][rugbybot] this bot properly. I added a subscription mechanism so that channels and users can subscribe and unsubscribe to games by sending the bot a command. It's mostly working except for listing the available games (since there aren't any rugby games coming up which means that I can't test it ;-) ). Games are specified by the ID used by SuperSport's site, and finding the right ID is currently a manual process.
I follow the main feeds of a couple social news sites (namely Digg, Reddit and Muti). When I find an article which I like, I go back and vote it up on the site. However, when I come across good articles via other sources, I don't submit them to these news sites (or try to find out if they've already been submitted) simply because it's too much effort.
When I started aggregating my activity on these sites on my blog and on FriendFeed, I needed a way to share pages that I didn't get to via one of these social news sites. I ended up setting up Delicious because I found a plugin for Konqueror which made it easy to bookmark pages.
I still wanted to solve the original problem though, and so started looking for an easy way to submit links to these sites from Konqueror. Konqueror has a feature called service menus which allows you to add entries to the context menu of files. I then needed to work out how to submit links to these services, which turned out to simply involve loading a URL with a query parameter specifying the link you want to share.
I created entries for Reddit, Digg, Muti, Delicious, Facebook and Google Bookmarks. These take you to the submission page of the service where you can fill in the title1. Digg and Reddit will show existing submissions if the link has already been submitted.
I often share links on IRC, and wondered if I could integrate that with my menu. It turns out that WeeChat has a control socket, and I could send messages by piping them to the socket. I therefore wrote a script which prompted me for a headline or excerpt using kdialog, and then sent the link to the specified channel. My menu now looks like this:
If you want to set this up yourself, download share.desktop and put it in
Joe gave a very intriguing talk on lifestyle design. Some of the points included work less and cheat, which I didn't really agree with, but the basic idea of doing the things you love was good. Jonathan then spoke about actually doing something with your ideas, which was quite inspiring. I don't really get "big" ideas, but I'm going to try anyway.
The other Jonathan showed us Half Price Tuesdays which is an idea he's been working on. I'm helping with the alpha test and it's looking very promising. Kerry-Anne then did a fantastic slideshow karaoke prepared by Jonathan. She gave us some tips on how to survive a GeekDinner talk, but unfortunately needs to implement some of those tips herself :-P
When I first started using Linux four years ago, one of the most useful features I discovered was circular scrolling on touchpads. (For those that don't know, this allows you to scroll up and down by moving your finger in a circle.) Traditional scrolling now feels very clumsy, and I find it awkward when using a laptop which doesn't have this feature (such as those running Windows). According to the changelog for the XOrg/XFree86 Synaptics driver, this feature was added in February 2004.
I happened to come across the news today that Synaptics have added a feature called ChiralTouch Technology to the latest version of their Windows drivers. This so-called "technology" provides "the ability to scroll continuously with a circular motion." This basically means that they have finally gotten round to implementing a very useful feature which Linux users have had for over four years.
In some respects proprietary software is way behind FOSS in terms of features and usability, and this example also shows how proprietary software uses ideas which were first implemented in FOSS.
When I occasionally read [IRC] logs saved by [irssi], I find the lack of colouring rather annoying and find that I can't read them very quickly. I finally got round to writing a syntax highlighting plugin for [Vim] in order to correct this. The colours could probably do with some improvement, but it's much better than before.
In case anyone else finds this useful, I have attached the plugin to this post.
To use it, save [
If you want Vim to automatically detect the file type, add the following to
I've been using an external harddrive to store backups of my laptop for a while now. At first I manually created a set of compressed tar archives about once a month. That was a bad system though because it used a lot of space and was a mission to retrieve files from backups. I then started using pdumpfs, which can do incremental backups by hard linking files which haven't changed. The problem I found with it however was that if a file's ownership or timestamps changed it wouldn't be hard linked even if the content hadn't changed.
I therefore set out to find a better backup solution. My requirements were as follows.
I finally settled on storeBackup which supports everything except number 5.
It works similarly to
Economic Left/Right: -4.38
I then thought that it would be interesting to compare everyone's scores on a graph, so I wrote a [Python] [script][py] to get the scores from Spinach and a [Gnuplot] [script][p] to plot them.
To add yourself to the graph, tell Spinach your score in the following format. The graph is regenerated every hour.
I used Google Apps to host mail for this domain for a while, and wanted to close down the account since I don't use it anymore. Before I did that I wanted to move all the data onto my server. Transferring the emails was fairly straightforward using [POP3], but I couldn't find a way to download the [Google Talk] logs. [Gmail] handles the logs as emails, but they aren't accessible using either POP3 or [IMAP].
I therefore wrote a [Python] script which downloads the logs via the web interface. On [Jeremy's] [suggestion] I used [BeautifulSoup] to parse the [HTML] this time, which worked very well. The script works with both Google Apps and normal Gmail, although my account got locked twice while trying to download the 3500 logs in my account.
Due to a very restrictive firewall at the CHPC, I need to run a VPN to get access to things like email, Jabber and SSH. This however degrades my web browsing experience, since that gets tunnelled as well. I therefore wanted a setup where only ports which are blocked get tunnelled through the VPN, while everything else goes out normally.
The routing part was fairly straightforward, which consists of an iptables
rule to mark certain packets, and an alternate routing table for these marked
packets. I first created a name for the new table by adding the following to
I then added a default route to the new table specifying the IP address of the VPN server and the VPN interface, and a rule to use this table for packets marked by iptables.
The following iptables rule will mark packets destined to the listed port
numbers. Note that this is for packets originating from the firewall host — if
you want this to apply to packets forwarded for other hosts it must be in the
The actual routing worked, but packets were being sent with the wrong source IP. I therefore needed to NAT packets going out on the VPN interface (the IP address is the local IP of the VPN connection).
I could then see packets going out on the VPN interface with the correct source
IP as well as the replies, but it still wasn't working. I eventually discovered