jOEpardy at Easterhegg09

I held a jOEpardy session at Easterhegg09! I guess, you know what a Jeopardy is, if not, have a look at the Wikipedia 😛

The people were entertained and hopefully learned something 😉 Sadly, the hardware didn’t really work 🙁 The buzzer were somewhat broken so that we actually had to try to see (with our eyes) who pushed the button first. Funnily enough, I *did* test the setup extensively just 10 minutes before the gig! Very weird.

The Questions can be found here: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4. But it doesn’t make much sense without the jOEpardy software, unless you parse the XML on your own.

The software is a Java Application which was initially written by TriPhoenix! I haven’t written Java for a long time and I have to admit, that writing Java with Eclipse is actually fun! Eclipse is so smart and tightly integrated in the build process that it’s quite easy to write, build and debug. I wish there was such a good IDE for C or Python. Sadly, I think that Java Code is bloated although <2.500 LoC for a jOEpardy is not too bad I’d say 🙂

I actually thought I could release the jOEpardy code by now (and thus waited with this post…), but I still have to resolve copyright questions.

Free SMS

This could be interesting to anyone sending texts (SMS): In Ireland, I guess every operator has a so called webaccess which allows you to send up to a certain number of texts for free. Worldwide. That’s kinda handy because sending a SMS via normal GSM mode easily costs you 10ct. A data connection, however, should be much cheaper  (around 4ct. with O2 Ireland, not even 1ct with Simyo in Germany). You only need credentials to log into their website, so no SIM card is (directly) needed.

Because using the web sucks you want to have a nice and clean interface which you can program and extend yourself. Luckily, there are at least two projects, helping you to send SMS comfortably.

One for your PC is o2sms which is really handy. It’s a Perl script and easily useable:

mkdir -p ~/svn/ ~/bin/
svn co
cat > ~/bin/o2sms <<EOF

pushd ~/svn/o2sms/trunk/o2sms3/lib/
../bin/o2sms $@

You have to have ~/bin/ in your path of course. I put the following in my /etc/profile:

if [ -d $HOME/bin ]; then

If you don’t have  a PC at hand, you will find Cabbage useful. It’s a J2ME application for you mobile phone and it’s quite easy to use.

You might even find an (semi) open wireless network using the J2ME app which calculates WEP Keys of Eircom routers, so that you don’t even have to spend the money on the data connection. The algorithm is describere here and you can find a Perl or Python, as well as a C++ implementation here.

On O2, you can send free SMS via normal GSM, so it would be a pity if you had to use the Webtexts. As I discovered that sending SMS via a serial connection is easy, I started to write PySMS. It’s still work in progress, but it actually parses your o2sms configuration file so that you can use send_sms instead of o2sms to send your SMS. To get it working right you might want to enter your phones Bluetooth address in /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf. Mine reads:

rfcomm2 {
  bind yes;
  device 00:FO:OB:AR:BA:ZZ;
  channel   2;
  comment "Mah Mobile";

Dunno exactly how to determine the channel, but I guess sdptool browse should show “Dial-Up Networking” as service name for the channel.

I’d really like to have a wrapper around send_sms and o2sms which decides for me whether it sends the SMS via GSM, Web or both. But my main problem, beside the lack of time, is that I can’t snoop on stdin to pass it to a second program afterwards. Since I don’t really know if stdin must be read, I can’t read it myself and just send it twice. Also, subprocess.Popen is not particucarly happy accepting anything else than stdin or a string. So if you have a solution to this problem, please show up 🙂

The next step is to write a simple webinterface against this o2sms library and have free SMS for everyone 🙂

Ireland, Blasphemy €25.000 and other rules

I was rather shocked as I read this article about a law passing the Dáil which fines blasphemy with 25.000 Euro. If I didn’t know better I’d say this couldn’t happen in an European country, but astonishingly such things happen within the EU. Now I’m a bit afraid being Ireland as an atheist.

Freshly draught Guinness (~5€)
Freshly draught Guinness (~5€)

So yes, I moved to Dublin, Ireland to study at the DCU 🙂 If you want to visit me, have lunch or a pint, don’t hesitate to ring me 🙂 I haven’t seen so much of Ireland myself so far, but I’ve been into bloody cold Irish Sea…

Also, The Pirate Bay is blocked by Eircom, the largest ISP in Ireland. They use an IP based filter, not only  a DNS based one. So they actually interfere with my communication which I assumed to be unconstitutional. But luckily, I have a tunnel set up which gives me free access to the world.

Cliff in Howth near Dublin
Cliff in Howth near Dublin

Besides the panic about the swine flu, another weird thing is Irish bureaucracy. My impression is that the people don’t really think beyond their utterly extensive and most of the times really stupid rules. For example, I tried to register at the University by paying 2000 Euros study fees. It failed because my credit card apparently has a limit of something less than that. The registry advised me to wire the money and print a screenshot of the online banking site. Of course I didn’t know a) how I could connect my laptop to the internet, b) how or where to print and c) log on to anything because I wasn’t even a student yet. Luckily, I have some friends at that university, that helped me out so I could finally register… It appears, that the rules are generally made to be ignored. They probably want to have them just in case they need to file a case against you. So as I applied at the university, I had been offered a conditional offer which was to be accepted by some specified date. I couldn’t, however, fulfill the condition and time to discuss that was running out. They told me that the date could generally be amended. I don’t think it’s good to have rules which are known to not be enforced and just needed to have something against you just in case…

The pubs in Dublin are great, although they have to close rather early, like around 02:00 o’clock. Also, you can’t get beer after 22:00 in a shop *sigh*. Yes, Irland might have a drinking problem, but treating everybody like a small child obviously doesn’t help it.

Beerprice dropped from ~20€ to 12€
Beerprice dropped from ~20€ to 12€

New Heise Feeds

Even after  Heise updated its CMS it doesn’t deliver Atom Feeds with an abstract. I hope they’ll at least produce well formed XML… As I think the abstracts, which can be found on the main page or the mobile version, are quite handy, I wrote a parser which will generate an Atom feed with the teaser (and not the first paragraph of the article) built in. I couldn’t use MakeMyRSS not just because it prints an ad every month or so, but because I had the requirement to link to the print URLs instead of the web URLs (I don’t have that requirement anymore). But since MakeMyRSS is not free, I liked to have my own solution anyway 🙂 Plus, it’s not written in Bash 😉

You can find the Atom feed at or the parser here. But you’d be better off cloning the repository (hg clone because you can send me patches more easily 😉

You’ll also find a parser for the adminstrative court of Hamburg and for Telepolis. All the news are in German though, but at least the Heise feed should be easily portable for The H

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
This work by Muelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.