Jabber presence for my phone calls

I’ve got a Bluetooth-enabled phone, and a Bluetooth-enabled computer. I’m online and I’m using Jabber. Except I’ve set my status to “Do Not Disturb” – when I do, it’s not for fun, there’s a reason, so it’s pretty annoying when my phone then rings or bleeps and vibrates to let me know I’ve got a message. I don’t care about messages – I’m busy.

So why can’t my phone know about my current Jabber status automatically? I have a Jabber client on my phone, (I use Agile Messenger) so it can talk the lingo, but what I need is an app on the phone which every now and again asks my PC “what’s your current presence?” and if I’m marked as “Online”, or “Available for chat” just lets calls and messages through as normal but if I’m set to “Do not Disturb” or “Extended Away” automatically moves my phone profile to “Silent” – when I change back to “Online” it should move my profile back to “General” which actually means my phone will ring.

I have no idea if this kind of thing is even possible, although it sounds as though it should be.

Like Russ, Jim and Matt I’m on the Nokia’s Amaretto test program for Python on Series 60 phones (which, btw, has been very very easy to develop in – much, much easier than the hellish Symbian C++ API), but I’ve not tried anything this ambitious yet mainly due to a lack of time.

Poking around on the web a bit, I’m unsurprised to see I’m not the first person to have thought of at least this type of thing. SmartProfiles is an app which allows automatic profiles switching according to your schedule or calendar, which is at least a start (it shows it can be done, at least), although it costs 9 euros. Related, there’s also the SMS Assistant which sends your predefined message automatically to people calling you or sending messages to you and is free – turning something like this on automatically might be nice.

Logging on to #mobitopia, I got a suggestion to go and look at how Bemused works, a C++ app for controlling Winamp via Bluetooth, and I will, but I’d much rather use Python for it. For a starters it’d just be easier to write!

Really none of this is new though. Jim’s talked about it before and back in March 2003 MobileEntropy talked about software literally driven by proximity detection:

when I arrive back at the flat, iTunes starts playing again. When I leave again, it pauses playback until I return.

There’s a good article about mobile Jabber clients and presence on mobilewhack which says:

Would I like it if Agile or other Jabber clients could automatically set me Not Available if I was presently scheduled to be in a meeting at that time in my Calendar? Of course!

Do you know that hadn’t even occurred to me? It’s easy enough to scan (for example) your Outlook calendar which you could then pass to an app, but the problem is in getting that to auto-set your presence as away in your desktop client – it would likely mean client hacking, which is a world of pain – especially if you’re using a closed client! Alternately it would be very easy to send a message to your Jabber client when you’ve got a meeting, which would prompt you to set your presence as away, which your phone would then pick up on. That sounds like too many steps to me, but it’s the best I can think of.

Anyway, that’s plenty of food for thought. Now all I need is some running code….

Of course, I’m a dumbass – you wouldn’t need to hack a client, just run a bot which was subscribed to your presence; that bot would get notified whenever your presenced changed and could trigger a message to your phone. Bingo.

Lookout bought out

This was actually announced last week, but doesn’t seem to have been picked up quite as much as I thought it would have.

Lookoutsoft, the makers of the absolutely excellent search plugin for Outlook have been bought by Microsoft (did someone say embrace and extend?). If you didn’t know already, Lookout was the only way of searching your Outlook mail. Based on a fast background indexer it just blew the built-in search out of the water. It was so good that I started using it a few months back and just by word of mouth it had most of our office using it. After you’d used it once you didn’t go back.

Well, bang go the claims of the major benefit of Outlook being its extensibility as a platform – if you come up with a good enough extension then MS will buy you out and stop it being available. Nice one.

Q: Will Lookout continue to produce patches?

For the most part no.

Q: Why can’t I download Lookout anymore?

We will be focusing our efforts on integrating our expertise and working on next-generation technologies.

Of course, you might be thinking “But this is great! It’ll be integrated into Outlook from now on! Finally we get search in Outlook that doesn’t take a week and a half!”, but you’d be wrong.

Q: What is Microsoft going to do with Lookout? With Mike? With Eric?

The existing Lookout product will no longer be available, but its technology will be part of […] MSN

Lookout will be part of MSN, not Outlook. MSN. Heartbreaking.

Of course I’ll be ecstatic (well, ish) if it’s announced that Outlook will get the Lookout search engine embedded into its core, but then that’ll just make the one decent part of Outlook and it’s not even from MS. You can just see it now – in five years time people will be talking about how the search in Outlook is so good just like people now talk about how at least SQL Server has such a great core when they just bought out Sybase.

I’m so, so disappointed.

It’s taken me all day to get around to writing this post, and as I finally conclude I see that Joel Spoelsky has something to say about it too. Even he asks Could Microsoft have possibly bought Lookout just to shut them down?.

Newsreaders in Firefox

Sage is an aggregator extension for Firefox. It’s the spiritual successor to the original RSS Reader Panel. It’s also very good.

Tim Bray picked up on it today. He says, variously that it’s nice and simple, would hit a sweet spot for a lot of people, oh, and seems to handle all the different syndication formats just fine.

As I pointed out over on Gareth blog, you can do cross-browser and location feed-synchronisation by using the bookmark synchronisation extension, and take the effort out of sorting the feeds by using the sort bookmarks extension.

Phil Ringnalda doesn’t like it (see comment 6 on the link aove) but to be honest, I think that provided you can install extensions in the browser you’re using then for simple aggregation it’s miles better than Bloglines (disclaimer: I’ve not checked it out since they revamped earlier this week) which never seems to actually return unread items when I ask for them, and despite the almost universal praise, I’ve found to be pretty unsatisfactory.

Spellchecking in Firefox

SpellBound is a port of the spell checker user interface from Mozilla’s Composer that enables spell checking in web forms (e.g. html textarea and html input elements – html input password elements are not checked by SpellBound). This allows you to spell check forms (e.g. a comment on a message board, etc.) before submitting them.

And it’s excellent. I was really expecting something that looked like the Firefox and IE current “find” dialog and I was pretty surprised to instead see this:

SpellBound screenshot

Of course, this is absolutely perfect for things like blog comments and wikis where you want to make sure that you get your spelling just right without having to copy’n’paste into a different app.

The download page has a huge list of different languages and dictionaries that SpellBound can support, including, hurrah!, UK English! “color” begone! Out, out damn “recognize”!

RSS reader evangelism

But how many people actually keep track of enough sites to justify a newsreader? (I’d say ‘enough sites’ is over 20 that publish new content daily). A few voracious ubergeek microcontent-consumers, and not much more. That’s why it makes me laugh when I read RSS evangelists say things like, ‘Why isn’t everyone using a newsreader?’ and ‘Why don’t you have a link to your RSS feed on the front page of your site?’

Wow, well, that’s pretty wrong.

Before I started using an aggregator I was probably reading a maximum of five sites on a daily basis, maybe an additional five to ten on a weekly basis when I remembered or when there was a link to one of them from my regular few sites.

When I first started using an aggregator (my first was FeedReader, but I swiftly moved to use Syndirella) it was a dream. Everything got so much easier. I didn’t have to remember to check the sites any more. I didn’t have to use IE or Mozilla’s scheduling and get annoying popups to remind me to look at the sites – it was great, and I was only reading five sites a day.

Of course, realising that it was now taking me half the time to check five sites that it would have previously taken to check one, I went crazy, and my subscriptions were up to almost 200 within a month. Of course, If I’d had broadband at home I would have kept them all, but since I was checking them all at work I had to cut down because suddenly I was spending all my time in my aggregator. From five to obsessed. In a month.

I’m now recovering, and a quick “list” command to JabRSS shows me that I’m currently subscribed to 101 feeds.

Provided someone is checking more than one site on a regular basis then show them an aggregator and they’ll be away.