Mumbles irssi integration

I've been using IRC regularly for the past six to nine months, in large part due to the growing ZF community on the Freenode #zftalk channel (unfortunately, I simply don't have time to be in that particular channel any more, but you can generally find me in, but also to keep in contact with other peers, friends, and colleagues.

One difficulty, however, is keeping productivity high while staying on IRC. To me, the ultimate client would provide me notifications when somebody mentions my name or a watch word — allowing me to read the channel at my leisure, yet still respond to people in a timely fashion.

I've tried a variety of IRC clients over the months, starting with Pidgin (poor interface for IRC), mirc (huge difficulties figuring out the UI), xchat (not bad, but seemed a bit heavy), Chatzilla (I liked the interface, but once you got many tabs going, it was unwieldy switching around between them; I also hated that Firefox dying or restarting caused Chatzilla to do likewise), and now irssi.

So far, irssi is the best I've tried — I can run it in screen, allowing me to keep it open as long as my machine is running. The interface is reasonable, and cleanly keeps channels separate from private messages. Opening, closing, and manipulating windows is easy. And it's highly scriptable… including in a language I actually use! The perl bindings are top notch, though sometimes cryptic. What's important, however, is that there are plenty of examples out there if you want to try doing something. So, I figured I'd write up a quick plugin to trigger notifications.

I've been using a number of different notification servers for linux, and personally like both gnotify and mumbles. Both are very lightweight and offer network protocols for triggering notifications.

I first tried using gnotify. It has a very, very simple TCP protocol, and I've had success creating messages from the shell, PHP, and perl. Unfortunately, for some reason, using it in irssi displayed some odd behavior: I'd lose the cursor and the ability to enter input from the time a notification triggered until it completed (i.e., the notification disappeared). Forking the process did not appear to help.

So, I decided to try out mumbles. Mumbles is written in python, and has themeable notifications — already a plus. It runs via dbus by default, but can also optionally spawn a server that implements the Growl protocol — making it accessible for any process to send notifications. Additionally, it has a command-line utility for triggering notifications — by default over dbus, but optionally by contacting the growl server, if running.

Growl's protocol is a bit involved, and I didn't want to spend too much time on this. So, I did a quick, dirty hack: I used backticks to trigger the CLI utility. And it works fantastically — no delays whatsoever. Here's the code:

# $HOME/.irssi/scripts/
use strict;
use Irssi;
use Irssi::Irc;
use vars qw($VERSION %IRSSI);

$VERSION = '0.1.0';
%IRSSI = (
    authors     => "Matthew Weier O'Phinney",
    contact     => '',
    name        => 'Mumbles notifications for irssi',
    description => 'This script enables mumbles notifications for irssi',
    license     => 'New BSD',
    changed     => "2008-12-10"

sub mumbles_sig_printtext {
  my ($dest, $text, $stripped) = @_;

  if (($dest->{level} & (MSGLEVEL_HILIGHT|MSGLEVEL_MSGS)) && ($dest->{level} & MSGLEVEL_NOHILIGHT) == 0)
    if ($dest->{level} & MSGLEVEL_PUBLIC)
      mumbles($dest->{target} . " : " . $text);

sub mumbles {
    my $message = shift;
    my $response;

    $message =~ s/[^!-~\s]//g;

    `/usr/bin/mumbles-send -g -s "IRC" "$message"`;

Irssi::command_bind 'mumbles' => sub {
    my ($message) = @_;

  'print text'    => \&mumbles_sig_printtext

This triggers a notification for any "highlight" event — basically, anytime anybody "says" my name in a channel, or mentions a keyword I've marked for highlighting. Additionally, I created a mumbles command so that I can send test messages (usage: /mumbles "this is the message..."). You could certainly bind to other events, such as topic changes, joins, parts, etc — I'm only interested in highlight events.

You may note the regexp in there. One thing I discovered was that most messages contained control and non-ascii characters that often resulted in unreadable notifications, as well as some nasty messages reported by irssi. The regexp removes anything not in the ascii character set or the set of whitespace definitions prior to emitting the notification.

Something else I needed to do was configure compiz to ensure that the notifications actually popped above my windows. I did this by going into the compiz configuration manager, selecting "General Options", selecting the "Focus & Raise Behaviour" tab, and modifying the "Focus Prevention Windows" to read as follows:

(any) & !(class=Mumbles)

To test it, I placed the script in $HOME/.irssi/scripts/, and then, in irssi, executed /load

Once I had it to my liking, I symlinked it into my $HOME/.irssi/scripts/autorun/ directory, allowing it to run as soon as irssi loads. I can now have irssi running in a screen session, or minimize the terminal, and get notifications — keeping me productive and informed at the same time.

UPDATED 2008-12-12: Added information on how to load the script, as well as fixed the location to the autorun directory. Thanks, @sidhighwind!

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