Fill your brain with everything Clockwork.

Hack Manchester 2014

Clockwork is a simple text message API. So simple it’s attracted over 20,000 users from all corners of the globe. Last year we sponsored Manchester’s premier hackathon and are pleased to announce we’ll be doing the same this year.

Anyway, blah blah blah marketing drivel, it’s hack time baby! 

THE CHALLENGE

Last year we sought the most ridiculous use of SMS, and who could forget our winner ‘cabbage baggage’ and their SMS recorder.

So let’s have some fun again:

This year we want to see the THE MOST POINTLESS USE OF CLOCKWORK.

So many times we see hack teams shoehorning SMS into their hacks where it doesn’t belong (we know you are just getting your hack into more award categories).

Well this year we’ll accept you, we want to see it, slot it in anywhere and everywhere. Let’s use SMS in every single hack, especially where it’s not needed!

Or, go big with an entire app needlessly based on SMS. Remember last years Service Bus,  we challenge you to create something more absurd.

It’s time to brush aside logic and reality, common sense and sound judgement don’t come into it, embrace the irrelevant and meaningless.

And bring on the Hack.

THE PRIZE FUND

We’re offering 4 x little bits cloud starter bundles

CloudBundle2_LR

http://littlebits.cc/bundles/cloud-starter-bundle

Maybe you can make something less pointless with them?

See you there :)

UPDATE:

We’ve got the Littlebits goodies in the office…

IMG_5698-01

Judging:

This year Our MD Gary Bury will be judging.

Gary has been involved in the text message market since 2006 and has seen some pretty pointless apps in his time, and not just from hacks.

“Unfortunately some of the most pointless ideas have come from within our own organisation, maybe even from myself. It’s something we’ve always tried to do though, embrace all ideas, sometimes the quirkiest inspiration can be the spark for a killer app”

But at Hack Manchester 2014 he’ll not be looking for a killer app, pointless will win the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

No bleeding hearts here…

If you’re a developer and haven’t been hiding in a dark cave for the last few days I’m sure you’ll have heard about the Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL. We’re happy to say Clockwork is not vulnerable.

Clockwork runs on Windows servers and Windows uses its own SSL libraries which are not vulnerable to this attack.

Just in case you haven’t heard about the Heartbleed attack here’s a very very brief overview: SSL incorporates a heartbeat feature that lets you keep the connection between your browser and a server alive. A coding flaw in this feature allows people to read the memory off a vulnerable server potentially giving away all sorts of secrets. For full details give the Heartbleed site a read.

Clockwork T&C’s Update

We need to tell you about an important update to our terms and conditions. The update is applicable to customers based in the UK who make use of our Shortcode and Keyword Services, particularly those who rent keywords on the shortcode 84433.

Here’s the new bit:

6. USE OF SHORTCODES AND KEYWORDS
6.1 Where you use shortcodes or keywords purchased through Clockworksms or another Mediaburst product, and you also use other text message providers, you must not use these shortcodes or keywords in the text messages sent through any other text message provider.

For clarity, what it means is: Only use these shortcodes and keywords in the text messages you send through us Clockwork/ Mediaburst.

Full T&C’s are available here.

Why We Have Inlcuded this?

The reason we have done this is twofold:

1. If you send a text message from a shortcode, or if you include instructions in your message content to text a shortcode, in the event of a complaint the UK network providers use this information to track down who sent the message.

Assuming it’s one of our shortcodes they ring us up, we try to trace the number, but if you’d sent through another provider we’d have no record of any message being sent to that number. It then gets confusing and people don’t know who to believe. It’s our shortcode, so it must be us right? But it’s not. The customer gets frustrated, time is wasted, reputations are damaged.

There are occasions where people have put our codes on text messages sent through other providers and caused some huge problems, here is one example.

2. Last week we made a significant improvement to the way we handle opt out messages, people who text “STOP”.

Previously anyone who rented a keyword on 84433 would have been sent every “STOP” texted to 84433. So if one client did a massive marketing send and received many STOP requests, these would be sent to our other clients too.

I know, it sounds like crazy data sharing, but it aligns with PhonepayPlus guidelines for premium rate SMS.

Fortunately we don’t do Premium SMS anymore so we can use a system far better than their guidelines.

Now, when someone texts “STOP” to 84433, by matching against clients who sent messages to given phone numbers we are able to work out which client should get the STOP, and send it to them, and only them.

The reason this affects our Terms and Conditions is that if you were to send a message through another SMS Provider with 84433 as the FROM field, and the recipient replied with STOP, it won’t get matched to you. So you won’t get the STOP, you won’t opt the person out, you will probably end up texting them again, and this could lead to all sorts of problems.

I hope this makes sense, and in all honesty I hope it doesn’t actually change anything for anyone. But if it causes any issues please get in touch with us.

Introducing our node.js code wrapper!

It’s a little late to the party, but we’ve finally got a Mediaburst supported node.js code wrapper for clockwork that you can use to send sms messages in your node.js apps.

There’s a little history behind this one. It originally appeared on github about 2 years ago from a guy called Wes Mason (thanks Wes!). We liked Wes’ design for the wrapper (a simple solution based on callbacks so that the code is non-blocking), so we’ve finally got round to forking it and bringing the wrapper into the Mediaburst family and bringing it up to date.

You can find it on github at https://github.com/mediaburst/node-clockwork, but being a node.js developer you probably just want to dive in there and send a message, right? Let’s take it for a spin..

You can install the wrapper though npm:
npm install clockwork

In your node.js app, you need to `require` clockwork, and tell it your API Key. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go!

var clockwork = require('clockwork')(key:'Your API Key here');
clockwork.sendSms({ To: '447123456789', Content: 'Test!'}, 
function(error, resp) {
    console.log(resp.responses[0].id);
});

You can find out more about the wrapper on the github page.

Happy Node.JS-ing :-)

Maintenance Notification

On Tuesday morning 11th March we are making some improvements to the way Clockwork handles text messages received.

As part of the upgrade we have to suspend passing you any texts received for a maximum of 30 minutes. During this period all texts received will be queued and forwarded once the upgrade is complete.

We currently expect this delay to happen sometime between 9:30am and 11am.

The timing is largely dependent on how the release preliminaries go, and be assured we’ll do everything we can to make the outage as short as possible.

Sending texts will be completely unaffected.

Clarificaiton

During the upgrade all messages received will be queued up and delivered to you as soon as the upgrade is complete.

The delay will be no longer than 30 minutes.

Questions or Queries

If you have any questions then we’re happy to help, just email hello@clockworksms.com

We’ll also keep you updated throughout the release on twitter: https://twitter.com/ClockworkSMS

Were you ridiculous enough?

Now I’m actually awake I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who entered our Hack Manchester challenge, we (Carl, Gary, James, James and me) were amazed by both the number and sheer ridiculousness of the entries.

Just in case you’re not sure what Hack Manchester is here’s a quick summary: Take 250ish developers, designers and other geeks (me included) stick them on the top floor of Manchesters Museum of Science and Industry add in huge quantities of Harribo, Coffee and Tickety Brew (very tasty beer) and see what weird and wonderful ideas they can come up with in the space of 24 hours (plus an extra hour as the clocks changed). If this sounds like fun follow @HackManchester on twitter so you don’t miss next year.

Coding for 25 hours straight was the easy bit compared to narrowing down all 31 entries to three finalists. But after a short, heated, discussion we eventually managed to narrow it down to the three listed below.

The runners up

TEPL

Ever felt like programming by SMS? Well Joe Nash from HackSoc Notts thought it’d be a great idea! He hacked together some Node.js to allow you to send Haskell programs to his service and receive the output.

SMS Service Bus

How about implementing a software service bus using SMS? Team NH3 from Applicances Online were mad enough to take this one on. Give the video a try, you’ll be both dazzled by the shiny graphics and bemused that anyone could think this was a good idea (hence it being in our top 3).

The Winner

Cabbage Baggage

Paula and Addam – again from Nottingham Uni – wanted to solve the age old problem of sending SMS once your phone has been confiscated. Most people would use a webapp, but not these guys, they wrote a Java program that converted a musical note played with a recorder into the matching letter. They were even kind enough to discard your message if the word wasn’t in the dictionary. Apparently (and amazingly) there are 41 words you can send with just the letters A-G making this one of the most ridiculous and useless apps we’ve ever seen – exactly what we were looking for.

A big congratulations go to Paula and Addam and we hope you’re enjoying your giant banana and Nexus 4s.

At this point I’d be remiss not to mention the amazing work planning and running Hack Manchester by Gemma Cameron, Joe Swan and Claire Foster, well done guys, we’re already looking forward to next year.

Hack Manchester Challenge

Clockwork is a simple text message API. So simple it’s attracted over 20,000 users from all corners of the globe. But never mind that global bit, we’re in Manchester, and this is Manchester Hack, it’s a marriage made in, well, Manchester.

Anyway, enough drivel, we’re pulling out all the stops to make your local event the best Hack since WarGames.

The Challenge

This year we’d like to have a little fun, we’re looking for THE MOST RIDICULOUS USE OF CLOCKWORK. We’ll be looking for that well executed app that serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

Or maybe the most obfuscated code that performs the most ridiculous task, but performs it perfectly of course.

People from all over the word have used our API to create some amazing apps, but too many ideas get sidelined, overcome by commercial reality and balanced thinking. Well let’s brush common sense aside for a weekend and make some proper OMG WTF apps!

OMG WTF!

The Prize Fund

We’re offering 4 x shiny Google Nexus 4s, t-shirts, stickers and a 5ft giant banana to the winning team.

4 brand spanking new smartphones

Hack Manchester Prize

4 x Googley Nexus 4’s

1 giant banana

Note: Beanie and coffee machine not included

Note: Beanie and coffee machine not included

Some Ideas

1. Blue Monday Spotter:

What about mashing up Clockwork with the BBC and making an app that sends you a text notification each time Blue Monday is played on radio?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/developers/api/

Hmmm, might never trigger, difficult to demo, try 6 Music.

2. Rain Checker:

Does it always rain in Manchester? I think so. What about an app that you can text in a date and it’ll text you back if it rained or not?

Totally useless!

3. Did Rooney Score?

How uncool would it be if you could text in to get an immediate response if Rooney had scored at Man Utd’s most recent match.

Anyway, you get the picture, and we’re looking forward to seeing your apps.

Get Ready to Code

We’ll be giving free text credits, phone numbers etc. to get your apps up and running. If you want to get registered with us before the event starts then it will help massively.

Just contact us

Python SMS Wrapper for Clockwork

For all you python devs out there, we’ve released a Python SMS Wrapper for Clockwork, which makes sending SMS messages in Python as easy as this:

api = clockwork.API('API_KEY_GOES_HERE')
message = clockwork.SMS(
to = '441234123456',
message = 'This is a test message.')
response = api.send(message)

Easy eh? We’ve uploaded the package to PyPi, which means you can install using pip:

pip install Clockwork

As with all our other SMS wrappers, we’ve put it up on github (https://github.com/mediaburst/clockwork-python/), so you can check out the code from there.

There are also details on our API documentation page here.

The Python SMS Wrapper works with version 2.6+, but not 3.x. We looked into what version of python to develop packages for, and it seems that most people are still on 2.x – from the python site: “Short version: Python 2.x is the status quo, Python 3.x is the present and future of the language”.

The wrapper uses urllib2 to send the http requests to the Clockwork servers, and lxml to create/parse the XML. This obviously means there is a dependency on lxml. When we were testing the package on a clean Ubuntu machine, we saw errors when we tried to install Clockwork from pip. These errors were from lxml, since it was not already installed it was being fetched as a dependency from pip, and this was failing for us. In the end, we found installing lxml from the native package manager (apt-get) was the easiest way round this, so before we installed Clockwork we just installed lxml with “sudo apt-get install python-lxml”. If you want to know more about installing lxml then it’s all documented here: http://lxml.de/installation.html.

That’s about it. This is our first python project, so please let us know it you think we’ve missed anything or we can improve the wrapper. Feel free to raise issues and make pull requests :)

Discontinued Support for Magento SMS

It’s always slightly sad to say we are discontinuing support for a product or plugin but you have to be honest with yourself, if it’s not working, let it go.

Our experience of operating a Clockwork SMS extension for Magento has been not been smooth.

It was initially developed by a well respected freelance Magento developer in the USA. But even with his experience and the assistance of Magento support it still took about 3 days to get it packaged an uploaded onto the Magento developers site. It was a sign of things to come.

The freelance developer then got a full time job and lost interest in helping us with the plugin.

Eventually we redeveloped the extension internally, suffered the same problems packaging and uploading, and all along we’ve struggled with compatibility issues and providing customer support on the extension when it’s hosted on a clients own environment.

I guess you might say we simply don’t understand Magento well enough. But it’s a stark contrast with the very positive experience we get from platforms like Shopify and WordPress.

Either way, it’s not been a smooth ride, so it’s time to cut loose.

We have requested Magento to remove the extension from their site, and as from now we are unable to provide any further support.

To those of you who have successfully used the plugin, we are sorry to bring you this news, we hope you can understand our position.

New Plugin: WordPress 2 Factor Authentication

You can’t have escaped the news that WordPress installs have been the target of a brute force attack by hackers, and that experts are predicting worse is still to come.

So I’m pleased to introduce our latest Clockwork Plugin, 2 Factor SMS Authentication for WordPress.

Internally we’ve often discussed the discord between the security of wordpress (a simple username and password) and how many businesses and people’s livelihoods are reliant on the platform, it doesn’t seem right.

The way our 2 factor SMS plugin works is by creating an additional layer of security, the ‘something you have’ to go with the ‘something you know’.

How it Works

Obviously download and activate the plugin first, then;

  1. On your WordPress login screen input username and password,
  2. At this point a unique code is sent to your mobile phone via SMS,
  3. Enter that code into the on-screen form and you’re in.

There’s no need to download or open a phone app, you don’t need the latest smartphone, just a bog standard phone that can receive an SMS. Which I’m led to believe is bang on trend.

The following screen shots show the process perfectly:

log-in

two_factor_auth_2

two_factor_auth_3

The plugin has options that allow you to configure which user profiles should use SMS 2 factor authentication. You can also configure what the plugin does if you run out of credit i.e. lock you out until you top up, or the less secure option of disabling two factor authentication.

Existing Clockwork/ WordPress Users

For those of you already using a Clockwork/Wordpress plugin it’s a simple case of downloading and activating the 2 Factor Auth plugin as you would any WordPress plugin. We don’t charge for the installation itself just the SMS Authentication Codes, and it uses the API key already stored in your Clockwork settings page.

New Clockwork/ WordPress Users

As well as downloading the plugin you’ll need to signup to Clockwork and grab yourself an API key for the settings page. Signup is free and you’ll get a couple of credits to test with.