Monthly Archives: April 2008

Pidgin: working around the developers

I’ve written a couple of times about a change to the Pidgin IM program, which has proved particularly unpopular with users.

As I suspected might happen, the developers have finally responded to the bug that set this issue off, with a WONTFIX.

The issue is now getting a little wider exposure in the media, along with news of a fork – the rather lamely named funpidgin. While I’m always happy to see a fork – and there was certainly good reason to create this one, given that the change makes Pidgin so utterly annoying to use – I’m not entirely convinced that this one will go all that far.

A simpler way to fix the problem would be to use Artemy Kapitula’s manualsize plugin – except that it had to be compiled as part of the pidgin source code, which was a bit of a pain. I have now created a standalone tarball of it, along with a Debian package. An Ubuntu package will be coming soon, when I’m not stuck using Australia’s pathetic satellite broadband service. Users of Ubuntu Hardy Heron will probably want to use this package, as it is too late for it to be included in the forthcoming Guifications plugin pack, for them.

Do terrorists use open-source mailservers?

From ABC News:

Attorney-General Robert McClelland says the proposal to let some employers access workers’ emails without consent is only being considered as a way to stop cyber terrorist attacks.

…because, of course, terrorists only ever use their employer’s mail servers in their nefarious schemes.

Not to be outdone by the government’s stupidity today:

“But deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop says the laws will burden employers”

Yes. It’s not like those poor, downtrodden employers have ever been interested in looking at the contents of their employees’ email, in the past.

Combatting telemarketers with Asterisk

One of the few good acts of the previous government was the legislation and subsequent funding of the Do Not Call register, allowing those people who do not want to talk to telemarketers to opt out completely. I registered for it as soon as it went live, and I definitely noticed a reduction in the number of unsolicited calls that I received.

Unfortunately, the legislation simply did not go far enough; political organisations, polling companies and especially charities are exempt from the DNC register. The number of charities calling lately has risen considerably, and it’s starting to drive me insane.

I have a rule: I will not give any money to a charity that asks me for it. That includes phone calls, doorknockers (the Consumer Action Law Centre has a good sticker that deals with them) and that incredibly annoying import from the UK – twenty-somethings with clipboards on city streets.

At this point, I will make a brief aside: if there’s anyone from Amnesty International reading this, could you please screen your clipboarders better? I really don’t appreciate your blow-ins asking me ridiculous questions, such as, “how long do you plan to live here?” as I exit the gates at a city railway station, and then abusing me when I tell them I don’t have time to talk, because I’m rushing off to recover a server that’s crashed in a large telco.

Back to the phone calls, however. Asterisk has a nice little command that will deal with telemarketers with autodialers – Zapateller. When invoked, it will play three tones that cause the telemarketer’s autodialer to think that the number is not valid, and then hang up.

I put the Zapateller command into my dial plan yesterday, and today I’ve received three phone calls, all of which had disconnected by the time I answered them.

  ; Ring both phones
  exten => 2100,1,Answer()
  exten => 2100,n,Zapateller()
  exten => 2100,n,Dial(SIP/snom&SIP/sipura,20)
  exten => 2100,n,Voicemail(u2000)

I will eventually put a couple of seconds delay between the Zapateller command and the line that dials my two telephones, so that I don’t hear any ringing at all.

Obviously, there’s no way I can be sure the callers today were telemarketers, especially since I’m not paying for caller-ID, but given that I haven’t received any personal calls on this line in weeks, I can be fairly confident that my phone system has only been playing tones to an autodialer…