I am not a big fan of Facebook’s Pavlovification of life, and I try and spend as little time as possible on it. This, unfortunately, has lead to me missing invites to things.

I was shooting the shit with a mate of mine recently, who is even more anti-Facebook, and here’s what I came up with.

iCal Feeds

One of the hidden features Facebook has is that it’s feed of events you’re going to or have been invited to, is made available via an iCal feed you can subscribe to. I had already added this to my Google calendar (add another calendar by URL), so I get a list of upcoming events appearing in my calendar, and you can even tell Google calendar to send you a notification email when new stuff is added.

However, Google has its own problems, so I thought it’d be nice to get a weekly email digest of upcoming things.

Python lists

So, using the python-icalendar module, I wrote a very quick bit of python program that you an point at an ical feed, and get a summary list of upcoming events printed to the console in a nice list. It uses the summary text of the event, together with the start and end times, and, if available, the location and URL link (handy for Facebook events).

It automatically removes events that have already ended, and by default only lists events that start within the next 7 days.

Use it as follows:

Which outputs something like:

Which are two awesome events I’m heading to in the next few weeks (two very different styles of music!)

Now the email

Getting a weekly digest then is just a matter of a bit of cron and mailer goodness, edit your crontab thus:

The program only outputs something if it finds things, so the -E tells mailx to not send anything if there’s no message body.

And you’re done!

I’ve found this pretty handy for a few other calendar feeds (my work joblist for example). Enjoy!

» Visit the project on Github...

For many reasons, not least of which their decision to appoint a surveillance loving war criminal to their board of directors, I’ve been steadily migrating away from Dropbox.

Thankfully, there is a drop-in replacement for much of it, providing you run your own server. So, I’ve got a syncing file store/backup running across my devices, which can be accessed while I’m on the go as well.

However, one of the things I do use dropbox for (which is not terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but which I find quite useful) is, via the use of an IFTTT rule, to take a copy of any photos I’m tagged in on Facebook, so that I can see them (and to break them out of the silo) without actually having to go onto Facebook. This is possible using dropbox, owing to it being a centralised service, but obviously isn’t possible using your own server.

Webhooks to the rescue!

So a little while ago I put together a hack that used IFTTT’s wordpress channel to add a pluggable webhooks interface to IFTTT.

Since this tool supports plugins, I was therefore able to write a simple Facebook adapter which, when triggered would extract the image URL from the push message and then simply download it.

Since my owncloud install was on the same server, all I had to do was output this file to the appropriate owncloud data directory and any files retrieved are automatically synced to your client devices. You can of course opt to write to any directory, and not use owncloud at all, but since I wanted a like for like replacement for IFTTT+Dropbox I went for owncloud server storage!

Here’s the facebookphoto.php plugin code:

Simple, and obviously you could extend this to do other things with it.

Place the code in your plugins directory, and create a new recipe on ifttt triggering your plugin whenever you’re tagged on Facebook, remembering to pass plugin:FacebookPhoto as your category.

» Visit the Ifttt webhook project on github...