Deskbot is a cross-platform desktop-based Jabber client for talking to a single user – normally a bot.


This is a screenshot of me using it to talk to the bot we run at work and asking for the details of a particular user.It’s written in wxRuby and uses xmpp4r-simple. There is a slight complication writing applications which need to poll a queue in wxRuby (such as the list of incoming replies from the bot) since you can’t just use green Thread objects and must use a Timer to make sure the Thread gets serviced. Very annoying.You can get the code like this:

bzr get

You need to configure both who deskbot logs in as, and who it’s talking to in the code. There are some interesting questions around presence, invisibility, and client redirection here, but I just created a test account to log in as, and the bot already existed to talk to.

Theoretically I should be using things like ad-hoc commands and data forms, but I’m way too lazy.

It’s only a demo bit of code really and not enough to talk about, but I promised myself I would talk about more of the code I write!

Cross-platform browser launcher for Ruby?

In Python, you can do this:

import webbrowser

and lo! it will open your default browser at that URL whether you are on Windows, Linux or Mac.

I can’t find the same functionality in Ruby anywhere. I notice that even Shoes has its own native C implementation (check out the shoes_browser_open method in each of the platform-specific files in

Does this really mean I’ll have to implement my own? Or have I simply missed the bundled one? Google really has not been my friend on this.

A bit of politics

It was interesting earlier today to watch Charles Clarke and John Prescott on the BBC’s Politics Show talking about the future of Gordon Brown and the Labour party. On hand Charles Clarke is a Brown sceptic and wants there to be a leadership contest to take us into the next European and General elections whilst John Prescott argues this would take too long and lead to defeat in those same elections so the Labour party should rally around Brown for the next two years until the General election is won. Both want the Labour party to win the next election so hearing  from the both was quite educational – far more so than the usual Labour vs. Conservative debates.

The whole thing can be watched on the website (for now at least).

Google Chrome

(because one more whiny blogger’s opinion can’t hurt)

  • nice, fast. 
  • I see ad people
  • a single google doc in an application window feels nicer than the Prism alternative
  • masses of the standard Firefox keyboard shortcuts work
  • find-as-you-type requires CTRL+F
  • find-as-you-type doesn’t select links

I look forward to the first Linux build which runs Chrome as its window manager.