Back On Line

Posted on 16th February 2009

After the last few weeks of trying to access Twitter from the command line, I set about writing something that I could expand to micro-blog to any social networking site that supports many of the Twitter API type commands. At the moment it only works with Twitter and, but my plan is to look at creating plugins, or more likely to allow others to create plugins, that can enable the tool to interact with other micro-blogging sites.

After trying to think of a decent name, I finally settled on Maisha. It's a Swahili word meaning "life". You can grab the code from CPAN as App-Maisha.

Currently you'll need to use the standard Perl install toolset to install the application, but ultimately I'd like to have something that you can install just about anywhere without having to go through all the headache of installing dependencies. I'll have a go at doing an .rpm and a .deb package release, and will also try using PAR. It would be nice to have this as a standalone application that just about anyone can use, but for now CPAN will have to do.

My next immediate step is to look at writing something that interfaces to Facebook without requiring a developer key or any such nonsense. It will probably have to involve a bit of screen scraping, unless there is some more official API, but as yet I haven't found it. Everything regards Facebook applications seems to centre around the developer application that can do all sorts of dubious things, but mine is purely for the user to control from their desktop, not a 3rd party website/server. Thus giving them a developer API key assigned to me is wholly inappropriate. It would be nice if they had a restricted User API, which allows you to update your status and look at your friends' statuses, but I think I'll be in the minority wanting it.

File Under: community / internet / opensource / perl / technology

You Know My Name

Posted on 9th February 2009

Having mentioned twitter in a recent post, I thought I would mention a project I decided to look at recently. The original project, twittershell, is not my own, but it appeared to be the closest to what I was after, a command line interface to Twitter, with the bonus of it being written in Perl. As a consequence of the latter, I was able to hack on the code and submit a patch to do a lot of what I wanted. I currently run the patched version, and it runs rather nicely for me. However, there is something missing.

Twitter is no longer the only micro-logging service and as such I've also signed up to With the APIs being pretty much the same, it should theorectically be simple to plugin an interface to twittershell. Except it isn't. Unfortunately twittershell is written with only the Twitter API in mind. To intergrate and other micro-blogging services, it requires a rewrite. So that's where I'm currently at. The original twittershell project hasn't been touched in over a year, so I'm hoping the orignial author won't be offended by me forking the code to a new project.

However, what do I call the new project? I would rather it not be something that identifies itself with any specific blogging service, as I would like it to have a broader appeal, that encourages others to add plugins should a new service come along. I realise this project will likely have limited appeal, as iPhone and GUI apps seem the in thing, but I want something that I can run via ssh/screen on my home box and not have to worry about watching some app running on the desktop.

One idea I had was to call it 'Mazungumzo' (Swahili for talk or conversation ... an idea stolen from Joomla!), then I thought of 'Maisha' (Swahili for life). I did look up some Welsh words, but doubt anyone would be able to pronounce them ;) I also thought of 'Rambler', but that might have too many connections to someone who goes walking across hill and dale of a weekend. So any good ideas for projects names?

File Under: internet / perl / technology

It's Oh So Quiet!

Posted on 5th February 2009

Something that has bugged me recently is my lack of regular posts to my personal blog. I rarely write about the projects I work on, as most are featured in some form or another on the various Perl sites that I work on. But I feel I ought to make a note of snippets of ideas and thoughts about some here too. Not that I want this to become a technical blog, but there are random thoughts that would fit better here than over there. So expect a few more project related posts in the future.

I also have a considerable backlog of gig photos as well as the family type photos that I want to go through, and at least put a few photos online. So that might help make my postings a little more regular :)

File Under: opensource / technology

All Moving Parts (Stand Still)

Posted on 7th March 2008

What a breath of fresh air. A comedian, actor and presenter, who actually has an interest in things in the computer world, beyond a source of writing inspiration. I recently came across a post by Stephen Fry (for those American readers, Stephen is the other member of the comedic duo, Fry and Laurie, with Laurie being Hugh Laurie currently making a name for himself in House), in his blog. The blog post that I picked up on is entitled "Deliver us from Microsoft". Reading back through other posts it appears he is quite a strong supporter of Open Source software, and to my mind, for all the right reasons.

The article in question looks at the Asus EEE PC, which was also recently (December 2007) reviewed by the LUGRadio presenters in their "Inspirational Muppetational" episode (Season 5, Episode 7). Both Stephen and the LUGRadio guys all came out praising the machine, and although they all found some form of critism for it, their view was healthy put into perspective by the fact that the aim is to provide a cheap machine for educational purposes. It isn't aimed at power users, such as myself, but those who want a laptop that can connect to the internet, enabling them to browse the web, chat to friends, edit or write office documents.

However, the most significant thing about the laptop, which is hinted at in Stephen's blog post title, is the fact it runs using Open Source software. From the Debian base (although tailered to the Asus EEE PC), through to OpenOffice and Firefox applications. The machine is perhaps the first to ever be sold commercially from the outset, where Linux is only version available, with no Microsoft product installed. Vendors are starting to realise that users are buying their machines and installing Linux on them, wiping any hint of Microsoft off, as has been apparent by the news reports of people contacting them for refunds. The choice isn't perhaps as wide spread as some of us would like, but it is getting better.

Stephen thinks that the change will happen within 5 years, and I would certainly welcome a change in the balance, with many more people running Linux as their Operating System. Linux on the desktop, has long been a challenge that Open Source developers have been making many dramatic changes to improve. DanDan and Nicole both use Ubuntu on their laptops, and I have heard of many people getting their parents, spouses, siblings and offspring to use some flavour of Linux with great results. There are still lots of gains to be made, particular in the area of closed source drivers and getting many devices (especially wireless network devices) working out of the box, but credit where credit is due, we have a lot to thank those developers of all the Linux distributions and Open Source applications. We have come a very long way in the last 5 years, and now perhaps more than ever Linux on the desktop has a real chance of challenging Microsoft's dominance in the market. I don't expect a complete take over, as I think Stephen was hinting, but I would like to see consumers being given a better, more considered option to buy an operating that works for them.

I do accept that Microsoft can be better in some areas, particularly with games, but I can see that advantage disappearing once games developers realise that a large portion of their current geek market will switch to non-Microsoft platforms. It might even challenge Microsoft to finally listen to many of the opponents and actually evaluate their security and product quality, enabling them to release more stable and reliable products. For myself, I choose Open Source partly because I find it more secure and reliable, but also because it gives me the freedom to investigate and hopefully fix problems, and potentially give back to the wider community. I already contribute to Open Source and I'd like to think that offsets all the benefits I've gained by using Open Source software.

I don't read the Guardian, but I think I'll be reading more of Stephen Fry's blog in the future. It's been an enlightening read.

File Under: computers / laptop / lugradio / opensource / technology

From Russia Infected

Posted on 6th March 2008

Yesterday MessageLabs got a mentioned on the BBC News site, under the title of Infective Art. The Metro Newspaper in the UK also ran with the story, Cyber crime art revealed.

I'm currently touring the UK with a presentation entitled Understanding Malware, which takes the six types of malware, and using the MessageLabs "Know Your Enemy" campaign images, explains a little more about what they are. The presentation has gone down very well so far and there have been some healthy discussions afterwards, with attendees trying to understand how we can get better at getting rid of malware threats from the inbox. It's unlikely to happen altogether any time soon, but with companies like MessageLabs on the case we are making it harder for the malware to get through.

I shall be taking the presentation to more parts of the UK, so if you have a user group that might be interested, please feel free to get in touch and invite me along. Note that the presentation is not a programming language or operating system talk, and is more about technology and social engineering. I shall be submitting it to LUGRadio Live, YAPC::NA and YAPC::Europe this year, so if I don't make it to your local user group, hopefully you'll be able to make one of those conferences. As an added bonus I also have some freebie giveaways for anyone who can answer the questions during my persentation, courtesy of MessageLabs :)

File Under: computers / internet / malware / security / spam / technology

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