Saturday, February 14

Laptop recovery with Twitter? Scratching another itch...

One morning last week a curious idea popped into my head:


... and that afternoon I had accomplished this:


The premise is simple:

1. I set up a private Twitter for just my laptop status, and subscribe to it from my personal Twitter account.

2. I set up a cron job on my laptop to run ever hour, tweeting the geographical location of my laptop to the private account.

The theory is that if my laptop were ever stolen and the crook for some reason didn't format it before connecting it to the 'net again, I might have a fart's chance in a whirlwind of recovering it. Yeah, probably not, but it was fun to build, and on the coolness factor I'll have an automated journal of my travels.

As an added bonus, Twitter automatically rejects duplicate tweets, so the account doesn't get spammed every hour if the laptop hasn't moved (since the updates would be identical).

So how did I do it? Well the first thing I did was realize that I couldn't get my public IP address from the laptop when it was behind a NAT router, so I had to reach out to find a service that could provide me that information. My initial Google attempts came up dry and I was about to resort to scraping the IP Chicken page (blech) when a helpful Twitter follower came to my rescue:


That service is exactly what the doctor ordered (thanks @nu2rails). I used HTTParty to parse the response and Jeweler to turn my little library into a gem and tossed it up on my GitHub account for the world to enjoy.

So please check it out, try it, fork it, improve it, and let me know how you like it. Oh, and extra brownie points if you get the name of the gem!

Monday, February 9

Twitter2RSS: Scratching my own itch at Acts As Conference 2009

The beauty of RSS is that I can aggregate all of my information sources, read them at my leisure without worry of expiration, and organize them however I desire. It's always bugged me that I couldn't have that luxury with Twitter. Sure Twitter has RSS feeds, but they don't include the avatars, and they don't include direct messages, and they commonly truncate the tweets (blech). There are some pretty slick clients out there, sure, but why would I want to run yet another application for just another information feed? Why can't I have my cake and eat it too?

Last week, while I was up in Orlando for Acts As Conference, I did the same thing I do at most conferences, I started another damn pet project. Except this time I also completed it during the conference. Thanks to my bud Bryce Kerley from the Miami Ruby Meet-up for giving John Nunemaker's Twitter gem a little massaging, I had all the tools I needed to alleviate myself of the aforementioned headaches and get my Twitter goodness piped right into my RSS reader.

It's a proxy server, running on Rails (perhaps a bit overkill of a framework for such a simple application, but it's what I know best) that sucks up your Twitter business using their API and spits it back out in a consumable RSS feed, with avatars, and without truncation.

If you want to run it yourself, I've opened up the source over on GitHub at

Or, if you're too lazy or don't have a cheap hosting provider, you can use mine over at