T-Mobile Blog Info

So.. Amy and I decided the other day to join the 1990's by buying a cell phone and service. After mulling through the different providers, standards, and phones, we settled on T-Mobile. They've got reception covering most of the US, GSM phones that will work elsewhere in the world, and ok plans. They're probably just as slimy as other providers, but I'm willing to give them a try for a little while at least.

As you've probably seen, T-Mobile has been pushing its new camera phones in their TV ads. In theory you point the camera phone at some antique at a yard sale, send a picture to MoMA, and then laugh with the curator at how you're going to swindle someone out of a lot of money. Being a swindler at heart, I naturally wanted a camera-phone to go along with the T-Mobile service. I figured in the worst case, the phone will be paying for itself in no time.

The problem with my plan was that I didn't happen to know any museum curators to whom I could send photos. Or for that matter, anyone else with a picture phone that could display my photos. I do know plenty of people with E-mail (which you the phone can send photos to), but most of them have AI-like spam filters that would destroy my silly picture emails because they smell like spam. (on a side-note, I think the Kellegous's filters have become self aware and are now trying takeover Ecuador's banking network). What could I do?

T-Mobile "'Blog"

The answer was... how about setting up some scripts so I could have the photos posted to a web page on AngryNoodle? Hmm.. It didn't seem like it would be that hard to do.. and it kind of opens up a lot of blogging possibilities, right? I mean, I can take the phone with me, snap a few photos, and have them pop up on the web without having to do all the crap I have to do to make the regular AN entries look right. This would also be a Great Thing for me, because Amy and I were about to drive across the country and: (a) wanted to keep people posted about our progress, and (b) we knew we probably wouldn't have much email access on the road. Using the phone to take pictures seemed like a great idea.

Previous experience has made one thing clear to me: if it's a Great Idea, then somebody else has already thought of it, built it, and probably put the code up on the web somewhere. I scoured the web looking for anything that looked like what I was doing, but came up empty handed. Nuts. Next, I poked my coding guru buddies John Lockhart and The Kellegous, to see if they had any tips, ideas, or code that I could start with. They both thought it was a pretty cool idea, and began sending me fragments on the spot.

Building it

After talking with the guys, we knew that there were basically three things that needed to be done:

  • The server has to detect a new picture email (and filter out bad reqs, which believe me, I'm sure The Kellegous will be sending).
  • The server had to extract the picture to somewhere on the server.
  • A basic web page needed to automatically display the pictures

Our first thought was to use procmail to call a script every time a new email came to the server. Unfortunately, this was a dead-end, because my web provider doesn't support it (plus I don't understand all that procmail mumbo-jumbo stuff). Therefore, we decided just to write up the guts of the stuff as a perl script and run it as a cron job. I started with some code John sent for parsing a mailbox for mime messages, and then added some stuff to make it work with my setup. The script checks a local mail file, searches for messages sent by a particular account, and extracts mime messages to a particular destination on the server. The script will extract all the valid pictures in the mail file and archive the mailbox (ie, so the same message doesn't get posted twice, and entries are backed up in case there's an error). The last task in the project was much easier, I just cooked up a cgi script to display all the pictures in a directory, in the order that they were posted.


And.. voila. There you have it. It's nothing all that fancy (or incredibly secure), but it works for now. I had thoughts about modifying it so that I could also send text messages and have them posted (you can send text emails with T-mobile) , but.. my experience so far has been that it's just too painful to key text messages in on the lousy phone keypad.

The T-Mobile picture blog has been running for a couple of months now, and so far we're pretty happy with it. It helped make out drive across country a lot of fun- friends and family emailed us to say that they would tune in every so often to see where exactly we were. My only regret on the drive is.. we just couldn't find that many interesting places to take pictures of. Since the drive we've been using it rather sporadically. I kind of like taking pictures of weird places (and not providing any text explaining what's going on). If you look close (and sometimes at the "posted" dates), you should be able to figure them out.

Mad Props

As usual, the mad props must go to John and Kelly for helping me out with all this. If you're looking to hire someone to do your web services, you should check out John's Sniglets company. Er.. if you work for a University or school, and need an excellent admissions tracking system, check out The Kellegous's Connexia company. If you want abuse and pasta tips, go to Angry Noodle.

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 10:54:40 Pacific Daylight Time 2003