Creating a document management program that actually works - Part 1

I have tried several document management programs, applications, systems - whatever you want to call them. Finally I have decided to abandon all of them for a bunch of folders, which is not exactly ideal. Thing is, I really like working with libraries rather than the filesystem itself. It is much more convenient, but also brings a lot of crap to the house. You can not really move a library, if it is in a binary form you will have hard way synchronizing it over several computers (YES! I want my files in Dropbox).

I have decided to make a document management system on my own. I have currently no idea how will it look in the end, because I do not know yet about what I want it to do. Nevertheless I will rant here for a while and maybe some day I will find out on how to do this thing right.

What should a good document management system do?

There are many things a document management system should do, but there are even more things it should not. There lies the problem with most of the applications.

As an example of a good library manager I would cite Amarok, Quodlibet and iTunes (the latter only for the music collection).

  • While using the application you do not have to worry about where the files are, what is their format and stuff like that. When you are not using the application you can, however, navigate in the files easily.
  • The metadata is actually saved in the documents (id3 tags, for example) so even if you lose your library (the database), it is very easy to reconstruct. (quodlibet does not use any database whatsoever)

As examples of bad document managers, let us have a look at iPhoto or Evernote.

  • The files are saved “somewhere”, there is no way of poking into the file structure of the application database without breaking something.
  • They provide a lot of features, which is good, but there is no way of adding some. If you use an external application to edit a photo in iPhoto library you are losing most of the features : the new version is not linked to the original, no way to revert back, no nothing.
  • If you lose your library then reconstructing it all over again from the originals is a huge pain in the ass.
  • Some things you would be able to do with vanilla files are no longer an option.

Basically what I am trying to say is that while a good management system should not require you to use the filesystem in any way, it should use it in order to get things done. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here.

Push irssi away messages to your iPhone

Using irssi for IRC is quite a must. Add some bitlbee sweetness and you have everything you need for your instant messaging needs. With a handy ssh application like iSSH you will get to a cyborg state when you are always connected. Small problem arises when compared to other IM applications, like IMO, that is that there are no notifications available and you will probably miss a lot of conversations. Fear not, however, for there is a solution for every problem.

Push notification application

First, you will need an application to get any push notification to your phone. There are several of them, I would recommend using the Push4. There is a free version if you want to test it first. Once you have installed it and created an account go to your account settings on your website and go to My Account -> Settings -> Profile to get your API key. You can also make the application send you an e-mail with the key.

Some scripting

You will need to make two scripts to send the notifications. (You could manage with less, of course, but I am too lazy). First one is a bash script which uses curl to send a notification to your phone. Here it is :

curl -d "user_credentials=YOUR_API_KEY" \
 -d "notification[message]=$1" \
 -d "notification[long_message]=$2" \
 -d "notification[title]=New irssi notification" \
 -d "notification[subtitle]=irssi message" \
 -d "notification[long_message_preview]=$1" \
 -d "notification[message_level]=2" \
 -d "notification[silent]=0" \
 -d "notification[action_loc\_key]=OK" \
 -d "notification[sound]=1" https://www.appnotifications.com/account/notifications.json

Do not forget to replace the YOUR_API_KEY by your real API key.

You can test the script immediately, although it might not work for a few hours just after your Push4 account creation. Basically this script sends you a notifications with first parameter as short text preview and second as a long text (which can use HTML markup). A second script is needed to parse the awaylog and send notifications using the first script.

#!/usr/bin/perl -n use HTML::Entities;
if (/(\d+:\d+) (?:([#&][^ ]+)+:)?.*?\/.*?\/(.*?).g.8.*?e(YOURNICK: )?(.*)/) {
    $time = $1;
    $channel = $2;
    $sender = $3;
    $message = $5;
    $message =~ s/\\/:/g;
    $message =~ s/"/\\"/g;
    $message =~ s/[;&]/:/g;
    print `./irssi_notify.sh "$sender : $message at $time" "Message from <b>$sender</b> (<i>$channel</i>) at <b>$time</b> : $message"\n`;
}

Now, to clarify things a bit. What this script does is that it takes some input, and if it is in some format, /(\d+:\d+) (?:([#&][^ ]+)+:)?.\*?\/.\*?\/(.\*?).g.8.\*?e(YOURNICK: )?(.*)/, to be precise, it will parse it and send it via a notification. Note that this works if you did not play with your irssi theme too much, as the awaylog basically copies the format of public and highlight messages. The (YOURNICK: )? part is optional, and it helps to remove the usual prefix of highlight messages. I can not help you much with the regex, you have to find one on your own or you can use this script which basically takes anything in awaylog and sends it as it is (it works well and everywhere).

#!/usr/bin/perl -n use HTML::Entities;
$message = encode_entities($_);
$message =~ s/\\/:/g; $message =~ s/"/\\"/g;
$message =~ s/[;&]/:/g; print `./irssi_notify.sh "$message" "$message"\n`;

Making it all work

Let us run the machine now. You will need to start another screen to run this (if somebody will help me with making a nohup version of the command I will gladly have it). Run a terminal on your shell and run

screen bash tailf ~/.irssi/away.log | perl irssi_notify.pl

Now detach the screen and you are on the roll.


Edit 2015-10-17

The Push4 service is no longer available. I am currently using a solution that uses Pushover. I’ll write up an article on how to use that shortly.

Autocopy links of files uploaded to Dropbox public folder with a folder action

This tutorial is largely based on this post on the Dropbox forums, all credit on the script goes to the original author Christian G. My contribution is that this script also invokes a Growl message (thus, you will need Growl installed) also, the # character is replaced by %23 (because Dropbox does not like it much) Here goes the script :

on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving added_items
    try
        set the item_count to the number of items in the added_items
        if the item_count is equal to 1 then
            set theFile to item 1 of added_items
            set theRawFilename to ("" & theFile)

            set tid to AppleScript's text item delimiters
            set AppleScript's text item delimiters to ":"
            set theFileName to (text item 6 of theRawFilename) as text
            set AppleScript's text item delimiters to tid

            set theWebSafeFileName to switchText from theFileName to "%20" instead of " "
            set theWebSafeFileName to switchText from theWebSafeFileName to "%23" instead of "#"

            set theURL to "http://dl.dropbox.com/u/YOUR_DROPBOX_ID/" & theWebSafeFileName
            set the clipboard to theURL as text

            tell application "GrowlHelperApp"

                set the allNotificationsList to ¬
                    {"Public URL"}

                set the enabledNotificationsList to allNotificationsList

                register as application ¬
                    "CopyDropboxURL" all notifications allNotificationsList ¬
                    default notifications enabledNotificationsList ¬
                    icon of application "Dropbox"

                notify with name ¬
                    "Public URL" title ¬
                    "Dropbox Public Folder Updated" description ¬
                    (theURL & " copied to clipboard.") application name "CopyDropboxURL"

            end tell
        end if
    end try
end adding folder items to

to switchText from t to r instead of s
    set d to text item delimiters
    set text item delimiters to s
    set t to t's text items
    set text item delimiters to r
    tell t to set t to item 1 & ({""} & rest)
    set text item delimiters to d
    t
end switchText

How to use this

First of allyou have to know your Dropbox user ID and change the YOUR_DROPBOX_ID to it. This is the number that appears after /u/ in your public Dropbox links. Now open the apple script editor and save this script into

Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts/Folder Action Scripts as CopyDropboxURL.scpt. Next navigate to your Dropbox public folder in finder, right click (or ⌘-click) it. Choose Services→Folder Actions Setup… from the menu. In the menu that opens choose the CopyDropboxURL.scpt.

Beijing Soup

I’ve been searching for this recipe for quite a long time. Finally I got hold of it thanks to my brother. And due to popular demand here is the recipe complete for one of the best soups out there. So… without further delays.

Ingredients

  1. One whole chicken
  2. Shiitake mushrooms (dried)
  3. Black mushrooms (dried)
  4. A carrot
  5. Bamboo sprouts
  6. Two eggs
  7. Soy sauce
  8. Rice vinegar
  9. Sambala sauce
  10. Tapioca starch
  11. Salt
  12. Whole black pepper
  13. Chicken bouillon cube

Preparation of ingredients

Hint : I recommend reading the whole recipe first as some of the steps can be done at the same time.

It is best to begin by dipping the mushrooms in warm water (shiitake and black mushrooms separately) as it takes about 30 minutes for them to soak well. The longer the better. After they have soaked cut the shiitake to small pieces.

Cut off the legs and breasts of the chicken, put them aside we will not be needing them for this meal.

Clean the carrot and cut it to small pieces. Cut the bamboo sprouts as well.

Crack the two eggs into a bowl and scramble them.

Cooking

Heat about 1.5L of water, salt it, put in a dozen of grains of the whole pepper and put the chicken inside. Cook for about 45 minutes.

Take the chicken out and put the bouillon cube as well as the mushrooms (both), carrots and bamboo sprouts inside.

Cut off all of the meat from the bones of the chicken and put it back into the soup (the meat, not the bones).

Cook for about ten minutes, then add two table spoons of vinegar, three table spoons of soy sauce and two spoonfuls of Sambal sauce (or more, if you wish the soup to be more spicy).

Cook for another 10 minutes, afterwards add in the eggs and stir well. Finally prepare two spoons of tapioca starch in a bowl - add a bit of water and mix until all of the starch has diluted. Then add the mix to the soup. Cook for about 10 minutes and you are done.

Afterword

img-soup

The soup is to be eaten very hot. If you do not have chicken you can use more bouillon cubes instead (still, it is much better with real meat).

Enable system volume control for a generic USB device in Snow Leopard

This post is mainly targeted at people who have used an X-Fi USB audio card with their PCs on Windows or Linux. Many of us got a bad surprise when we plugged it into our shiny new Macs and we couldn’t even control the volume of the device through the system.

This particular problem is due to lack of dedicated drivers made by Creative. It seems that they only make OS X drivers for cards specially targeted at Macs.

Luckily there is a way to work around this limitation using a piece of software called Soundflower. The procedure is very simple, just follow the four steps here:

  • Download and install SoundFlower (this might require a restart)
  • Set Soundflower (2ch) as your audio output device (hint: you can option (⌥)-click your volume control icon in the menu)
  • Launch Soundflowerbed (it was installed along with Soundflower)
  • In the 2 channel device output options select your USB card.

And it is done, you can happily use your volume control buttons once again.

system-output soundflower-output

A nice dark color theme for QtCreator

Last update: 2013-06-29 for Qt Creator 2.7.1

Staring at long lines of code can get frustrating. Even more so if the said lines have ugly eye-hurting colors. I have been using the beautiful MacVim theme in Vim for some time now and it is quite awesome. However QtCreator, which I use for OpenViBE development, lacks such a theme. This problem was easily fixed though. Here is a screenshot of a theme I have created and, because of the lack of creativity, named Gulf:

gulf-screenshot

And here is the link for download:

Gulf QtCreator theme

Get ID3 tags right on your Cowon S9 with Linux

Those ID3 tags on Cowon can be pesky. Sometimes you do not see the embedded images, sometimes you see things like [11] instead of genres and if you are really unlucky you will not see any tags at all. So, as a quick hint on how to get all of this right:

  1. Use EasyTAG (can be downloaded using your package manager in most distributions)
  2. In Settings → Preferences go to the ID3Tag settings and do the following
    • Check Automatically convert old ID3v2 tag versions
    • Check Write ID3v2 tag → Version 2.3
    • Uncheck Write ID3v1.x tag
  3. Edit tags of your files, be sure to re-save all files which appear in red in EasyTAG as they have probably different versions of ID3 tags

easytag-settings

If you want to use images from the tags instead of the per-folder cover.jpg files you can use EasyTAG to include them in the tags as well. Bear in mind though that only jpeg files will be taken into account and only in mp3 files (no love for ogg users). Also for best effects use images of 272  x 272 pixels large.

Quick access to the last public url of a file in Dropbox

I got bored to search for the url after uploading a file to the Dropbox’s public folder. So I have hacked a quick shell script that takes the public url of the lastest file you uploaded to your public Dropbox folder and copies it to the clipboard. I thought I could share:

#!/bin/sh
DROPBOX="$HOME/Dropbox" dropbox puburl "$DROPBOX/Public/\`ls -1 -t $DROPBOX/Public | head -n 1\`" | xclip

Now, on OS X I have a folder action which does the same thing automatically when a new file is uploaded. I will have to tinker with inotify and get it to work on Linux as well.

Gtk, Glade and signal handlers in C++

Much was written about connecting signal handlers to interfaces made with Glade and imported with GtkBuilder. The problem is that everybody uses a different system and/or language. So here is a guide which explains all the magic:

Glade Interface

First of all create your widget in Glade and assign it a signal handler. We are going to create a very simple application which has a single button which exits it. The Glade interface should look something like this. It is basically a Main Window (main_window) widget with a Button (exit_button) inside. We define a handler for the signal “clicked” for the button and call it exit_button_handler.

glade-interface-example

C++ code

Now let’s create the source file, it looks like this. As you can see our signal handler is just a basic void returning function.

#include <gtk/gtk.h>

extern "C" G_MODULE_EXPORT void exit_button_handler(GtkObject* caller, gpointer data)
{
    gtk_main_quit();
}

int main(int argc, char ** argv)
{
    gtk_init(&argc, &argv);
    GtkBuilder* l_BuilderInterface = gtk_builder_new();
    gtk_builder_add_from_file(l_BuilderInterface, "ui.glade", NULL);
    gtk_builder_connect_signals(l_BuilderInterface, NULL);
    gtk_widget_show(GTK_WIDGET(gtk_builder_get_object(l_BuilderInterface, "main_window")));
    gtk_main();
    return 0;
}

The important thing to notice is that the declaration of the callback function is preceded by extern "C" G_MODULE_EXPORT. These two bits of code ensure that the produced object will have a C-compatible table-entry for this function even though we are using a C++ compiler and that it will be accessible under Windows as well. Indeed, the G_MODULE_EXPORT macro expands to nothing under Linux.

Compilation

Now, we need to compile the whole thing. Let’s say we have called the file above main.cpp. The line to call on Linux would be :

g++ `pkg-config --cflags --libs gtk+-2.0 gmodule-2.0` main.cpp -o test

Let’s look at the output of the pkg-config file for a while :

-pthread -I/usr/include/atk-1.0 -I/usr/include/pango-1.0 -I/usr/include/gio-unix-2.0/ -I/usr/include/glib-2.0 -I/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/glib-2.0/include -I/usr/include/freetype2 -I/usr/include/libpng12 -I/usr/include/gtk-2.0 -I/usr/lib/gtk-2.0/include -I/usr/include/cairo -I/usr/include/gdk-pixbuf-2.0 -I/usr/include/pixman-1  -pthread -Wl,--export-dynamic -L/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu -lgtk-x11-2.0 -lgdk-x11-2.0 -latk-1.0 -lgio-2.0 -lpangoft2-1.0 -lpangocairo-1.0 -lgdk_pixbuf-2.0 -lm -lcairo -lpango-1.0 -lfreetype -lfontconfig -lgobject-2.0 -lgthread-2.0 -lgmodule-2.0 -lrt -lglib-2.0

That’s a lot of stuff! Depending on the system your mileage can vary, but the important bit is : -Wl,--export-dynamic. This piece of code ensures that you will be actually able to find the symbol once it is needed. On Windows, there is no need for the –export-dynamic flag, just be sure to load the gtk library as well as the gmodule. And that’s it, done and done!

Global keyboard actions in Snow Leopard without third-party software

When I first got to use Mac OS X I have wondered whether it is possible to do stuff which I was used to do (more or less) easily on Linux. Among others there is the possibility to assign keyboard shortcuts to arbitrary actions (and especially shell scripts). I found several tutorials on how to do this, but they often include third party software like Quicksilver. Since I want to keep my system as vanilla as possible I was searching for a way to do it otherwise, and found it.

Introducing Services

Snow Leopard has this great thing called Services, which is a very simple to use way of creating very powerful actions in no time. Now, usually these are bound to a specific application or context, but they can be global. Since it is much easier to explain something on an example, let us use a simple example. Following this article on how to pause iTunes for a short period of time.

Step 1

  1. Open up the Automator.
  2. Create a New Service.
  3. In the ‘service receives selected’ drop-down box select no input in any application.
  4. In the left sidebar find Run AppleScript and drag it into the workflow
  5. Paste the code below on the place where it says ( Your script goes here )
  6. Save the service as “Pause iTunes for 5 minutes”

The script in question follows:

tell application "iTunes"
    pause
    delay 300
    play
end tell

In the end the whole Automator window should look like this.

automator-service-example

If you go to the current application’s menu now you should see your service in the Services sub-menu.

Step 2

Now the only thing that remains is to add a keyboard shortcut for this service. Open up System Preferences → Keyboard → Keyboard Shortcuts. In the left panel click on Services and then click on the + button under the right panel. In the following dialog choose:

  • Application : All Applications
  • Menu Title : Pause iTunes for 5 minutes
  • Keyboard Shortcut : F10

Following shortcut illustrates the result. Note that it is vital that the Menu Title chosen is exactly the same as the name under which you have saved the service.

[Update] New services will be added to the list automatically. The only remaining thing is to add a shortcut key. This might be a feature of Lion or Mountain Lion as I do not recall it while using 10.6.

shortcut-asignment

All done, you can now enjoy launching your script anywhere, anytime by pressing F10.