Using AppleScript to Automate an iChat Video Chat

I had to write a script to automatically start iChat at login and start a video chat with a specified screenname. I wanted to only start the chat if the user was online and available, and quit iChat on an error or if the chat ended. So here’s the script I have:

using terms from application "iChat"
	tell application "iChat"
		log in
		delay 5
		set theBuddy to buddy "ScreennameGoesHere" of service "AIM"
			set theStatus to status of theBuddy
		on error errmesg number errno
			set message to display dialog "The user is currently unavailable." buttons {"OK"}
		end try
		if theStatus is available then
			set theCapabilities to get capabilities of theBuddy
			if (theCapabilities contains multiperson video) then
				send "A user is attempting to contact you." to theBuddy
				delay 2
				tell service "AIM" to make video chat with properties {participants:theBuddy}
				set theChat to result
				delay 30
					set theStatus to the av connection status of theChat
				on error errmesg number errno
				end try
				repeat while theStatus is not ended
					delay 5
						set theStatus to the av connection status of theChat
					on error errmesg number errno
					end try
				end repeat
				set message to display dialog "The user cannot video chat at this time. Please try again later." buttons {"OK"}
			end if
			set message to display dialog "The user is currently unavailable." buttons {"OK"}
		end if
	end tell
end using terms from

A couple of gotchas:

  • I tried using video chat instead of multiperson video, but that always returned false. I don’t know why.
  • Once the video chat has ended, you can’t poll its status (hence the try block).

Using Apple’s SimplePing on iPhone OS

If you try out of the box to compile Apple’s “SimplePing” code sample on the iPhone OS, you’ll wind up with a lot of errors as some files don’t exist in those SDKs. Specifically, you need these files (you need more than just these files to compile, obviously, but these are the ones that aren’t included):

  • /usr/include/netinet/ip.h
  • /usr/include/netinet/in_systm.h
  • /usr/include/netinet/ip_icmp.h
  • /usr/include/netinet/ip_var.h

So here’s a quick Bash script that links the relevant files to your iPhone OS and iPhone Simulator SDKs:
[sourcecode language=”bash”]for path in /Developer/Platforms/iPhone*/Developer/SDKs/*; do
for file in /usr/include/netinet/ip.h \
/usr/include/netinet/in_systm.h \
/usr/include/netinet/ip_icmp.h \
/usr/include/netinet/ip_var.h; do
if [ ! -f "${path}${file}" ]; then
sudo ln "${file}" "${path}${file}"
I’ve spoken to an Apple engineer and confirmed that this is the best way to do it, as well as filed a bug, which I encourage you to do as well if this annoys you.

Automatically get the latest Chromium snapshot with launchd

I’ve been checking out the snapshots of Chromium recently, and they’re coming quicker than you can say “multithreaded web browser.” To facilitate always having the latest version, I wrote a quick LaunchAgent that takes care of it on Mac OS X. First, I have a script named ~/bin/chromiupdate:


# Downloads the latest version of Chromium.

    rm -rf "${WORKING_DIR}"
    exit 0

USER_DIR=$(dscl . -read /Users/$(whoami) NFSHomeDirectory | awk '{ print $2 }')

if [ ! -d "${CHROMIUM_DIR}" ]; then
    mkdir -p "${CHROMIUM_DIR}"

INSTALLED_VERSION="$(defaults read "${CHROMIUM_DIR}/Contents/Info" SVNRevision)"

if [ "${VERSION}" != "${INSTALLED_VERSION}" ]; then
    logger Installed Chromium version \(${INSTALLED_VERSION}\) does not equal \
            latest version \(${VERSION}\), updating now...
    mkdir "${WORKING_DIR}" || exit 1
    trap remove_working_dir 1 2 3 6 15
    cd "${WORKING_DIR}" || exit 1
    curl -O "${URL_BEGIN}/${VERSION}/"
    rsync -HavP --exclude="Contents/MacOS/chrome_debug.log" \
          "${WORKING_DIR}/chrome-mac/" "${CHROMIUM_DIR}/"

    if [ "$(ps -aef | grep -i chromium | grep -v grep)" != "" ]; then
        open "${USER_DIR}/Library/Scripts/Chromium Update"

    logger "Chromium update complete. Version ${VERSION} installed."

    logger Installed Chromium version \(${INSTALLED_VERSION}\) is up-to-date. \
           No action needed.

exit 0

Next, I have a property list named ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.slaunchaman.chromium.plist:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC -//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN >
<plist version="1.0">

Finally, I have an AppleScript at ~/Library/Scripts/Chromium Update

display dialog "Chromium was just updated. You should restart it."

The LaunchAgent runs once an hour, checking to see if the installed version of Chromium is older than the latest snapshot. If so, it downloads it and uses rsync to copy the changes. The script places Chromium in ~/Applications, but it shouldn’t be hard to modify to put it into /Applications.

Computers are Disgusting

I recently wrote a script to automatically install firmware updates for our Macs. The problem with them is that for some, you have to hold down the power button to finish the installation after the machine has turned itself off. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t want to go around to 900 or so Macs and hold down their power button after installing an update. This script, while it can’t hold down the button for me, does allow student staff to automate the proces up to that point. I don’t have to give them a password they could use to break the system, they can do the update for me, everybody wins. It’s a beautiful system.

Well, today, I was testing the script out. The problem with testing it is that you can only test a given computer once; once the firmware update is installed, it won’t show up as needing to be installed anymore. So, I packed up my stuff and went to our biggest computer lab to do some testing. My test subjects were some “CyberStations,” computers we have with basic web-browsing and e-mail loadsets. They’re relatively unused during the summer, so if I broke any it wouldn’t be a big deal. I went up to one, ran the update, and waited. That’s when smoke came out of the back of the computer as the update ran. Oh shit, I thought, this thing is on fire!

Let’s go back a minute to my description of CyberStations. Their loadset consists of a vanilla Mac OS X Leopard install with some applications taken out, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Adium. Basically, it has the Apple-provided web browser, e-mail client, and IM program, as well as the leading open-source alternative for each. Nothing on these computers is too taxing. As a consequence, the fans never need to run too heavily, as the computer never really gets too hot.

Back to the smoking machine. I was sure it was on fire—where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? Well, the student employee to whom I was demonstrating the script wasn’t too sure. He placed his hand on the back of the computer (an iMac G5, not that it matters) and didn’t feel any heat. So, if it wasn’t smoke, what was it? That’s when I realized what had happened. The fans, never having been run too hard, hadn’t been blowing a whole lot of dust around. When they ran full speed during the firmware update, dust had come flying out of the computer’s vents. A white, puffy cloud composed largely of the dead skin cells that had fallen off of our users’ skin for years. It was coming out of the bottom, out of the back, and even where the screen met the case. I quickly held my breath and stepped back.

I’m really glad that we have student staff to do the rest of this.

Updated: Resizer AppleScript

After looking at my AppleScript to resize windows, I’ve decided to make a few updates.  Instead of manually doing the math for each resolution, I’ve created a new variable, desired_width, which is exactly what it sounds like: how wide you want your windows to be.  I’ve also made the other variable names more human-friendly: _nl and _nr are now left_bound and right_bound, respectively, for example.  After adding iTunes to my script, I noticed that it was being resized behind the menubar, so instead of setting the upper bound for all windows at 0, I’ve defined the variable top_bound, which defaults to 22 to account for the height of the menu bar.  If you find that this setting is incorrect (e.g. if you’ve enabled some accessibility settings that change font sizes and therefore the size of the menu bar) you may need to change it; I haven’t found a way to get the height of the menu bar in AppleScript yet—so far I’ve only found it in Java—so if anyone knows feel free to leave a comment.  Finally, after seeing this post by Jamie Matthews, I added some functionality to automatically set bottom_bound to the height of the Dock.

After all of these updates, the script now takes a desired width and moves applications that support AppleScript such that they range horizontally to your desired width, centered on the screen, and stretching from the bottom of the menu bar to the top of the Dock.  In the future, I’d like to make a separate application, perhaps AppleScript-based, that will allow for user customization of how the windows are arranged, allow for custom application settings, and perhaps Spaces integration.