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A generic message server


THIS WEEK NetSpeak discusses attempts to develop a universal message server that enables one to cull out messages spread across diverse sources such as e-mail server, web sites and blogs through a single interface.

We receive messages regularly from different sources on the Net. We get mails from mailboxes, view messages or information posted on the web sites or blogs, read instant messages from buddies and clients. Apart from receiving messages from multiple sources we send messages to these sources. For each of these data sources, we use separate client programs to send and receive messages. For example, we use an IM (Instant Messenger) client to send/receive instant messages; mail clients are used to send/receive e-mails.

Now, instead of using different clients to collect messages stored at different service sources, why not use a single tool that can talk to all these services, automatically collect the messages stored on them and save them on to a common Inbox so that all these messages can be downloaded using a single client? That means, apart from storing the messages collected from multiple sources in a single place, the server also should allow such clients as mail, IM and the like to connect to it for collecting the messages. The messaging server software project `Hep' explores this idea and attempts to create a server that meets these requirements.

Hep message server

As mentioned in its site (http://www.fettig.net/projects/hep/), the Hep Message Server is a software "that transfers bits of information between different messaging systems on the Internet.'' The program can collect messages from web sites/blog newsfeeds and e-mail servers and keep them on a folder in your hard disk. The tool lets you view the collected messages through your e-mail client. Using the software you can also update your blogs through the e-mail client.

The program is written in Python, a scripting language available on the Linux and Windows platforms. To run a python program you need to install the python interpreter. For more details on Python, check out: http://www.python.org/doc/Newbies.html. Apart from Python, Hep server needs Twisted (http://twistedmatrix.com/), a `networking framework' written in Python.

Setting-up Hep

First, install the ActiveState Python (http://downloads.activestate.com/ActivePython/windows/2.2/ActivePython-2.2.2-224-win32-ix86.msi) and then the tool twisted (http://twistedmatrix.com/products/download). Now, download the Hep archive file (http://www.fettig.net/files/hep/hep-0.3.2.zip ) and extract it to a folder in your hard disk. Create a folder labelled `hep' (say, c:\hep) and put this information on to the file `hep.ini.' Before starting the Hep server, you need to add an account so that you can log in to the server. For this, access the directory in which the Hep server files are stored and click on the file named `hep-adduser.py.' Provide a user name and password. If everything goes smoothly, start the Hep server by clicking on the file named `hp.py.' The program loads multiple servers that include web server and POP server.

To configure the system, you need to invoke the server's web-based interface. To achieve this, type-in the URL: http://127.0.0.1:5335. First you have to add in the message sources from which you would like Hep to download messages. Access the `Configuration' button and start entering the URLs of the newsfeeds of your favourite sites. Once the message sources are fed to the Hep server, it will automatically start pulling the messages available on the subscribed sources in specified time intervals and store them on the user's `Input' folder.

Now, to pull out the messages through your mail client, you need to create a new account specifying `Hep server' as the incoming mail server. That is, at the `incoming mailserver' or at the POP address box, type in the name `localhost.' After setting up the account, check for new messages in the same way you check for mails in your mailbox . Once the `check mail' command is invoked, the mail client will start downloading the web sites' messages already downloaded and stored by the Hep server. For more details access the `Documentation' option.

Apart from pulling out messages from the various sources specified by you, the Hep server, as per its site, in its final form will allow you to post messages to different sources using the mail client. Current release can be used "to send e-mail messages to weblogs.'' That is, if you have a blog and want to update its contents via e-mail, send the information as an e-mail to the Hep server, which in turn will post it on to the weblog specified by you. The author has not yet tested this feature.

OpenExpert: File association tool

We know that when we click on a file, the Windows automatically fires the program associated with extension of the file and the fired program subsequently reads the file. Although this feature makes loading of files handy, it can create occasional irritations if you have more than one software associated with an extension.. For example, when you click on an `html' file, Windows automatically starts your default web browser, say, IE. Now, suppose you have more than one browser installed on your machine, and want this file to be opened by a different browser instead of IE. This is not automatically possible in Windows. What you need is a mechanism that allows you to associate a set of programs with a file extension and choose one program from this set while opening a file with this extension.

The free tool, `OpenExpert' has been designed with these ideas in mind. The program adds an `Open with' option to the context menu of the selected file type (the context menu can be retrieved by right-clicking on the file) with all the programs connected by you with this file type. To download OpenExpert, check out: http://www.baxbex.com/openexpert.html

Update: Star download manager

A download manager that enables you to accelerate the file download speed is an essential tool that every netizen should keep in his Net toolbox. We have already covered many such tools in this column and here is another worth testing. Like other products for speeding up the download process, the `Star Downloader' program also splits a file into numerous components and simultaneously downloads all of them.

A highlight of this freeware download tool is the availability of features such as an easy to use interface that contains various options for organising the downloaded files, browser integration that lets you start the download manager automatically when you click on a download link in the browser and HTTP proxy. For more details check out: http://www.stardownloader.com/

J. Murali

Email the author at: murali27@satyam.net.in

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