Monday, August 17, 2009

SZS, the [SMS (Text Message) to Zephyr] Relay Service

[Update 11/6/09] Not, rather Really there are a bunch of errors in this article, try instead.

[Update 08/20/09] Updated the filter for text messages so that ones received would also be colored blue. Old: filter szs -c blue ( class ^szs$ ) New: filter szs -c blue ( class ^szs$ ) or ( sender daemon.webzephyr@ATHENA.MIT.EDU )

Uhh... I need sleep... okay, let's finish this up.

Abstract: Learn how to send and receive Zephyr to Phone messages, learn how to send phone to Zephyr messages, and learn how to set up a Barnowl filter to stick both sent and received messages in personals (and colorcode them).

So you want to use Zephyr to send and receive text messages? I did. At first, it's because I didn't have text messages on my cellphone subscription plan. Now, it's because texting on a cellphone feels unbearably slow compared to my normal typing speed, and becaues my Inbox fills up really quickly and I can't sort or do anything with messages on my phone. Google Voice also has this send/receive text messages capability, but I haven't set up my Google Voice account yet (I did get an invite already).

First off, unless you're just testing this out, you'll want a persistent Barnowl session. Go figure out owl-screen and set it up. I was planning to write an entry about this, but no worries ^^ There's plenty of documentation out there. See UsingZephyr | SIPB, and to go a bit more in-depth see UsingScreen | SIPB. There's a broken link in there that should point to owl-screen.txt | kchen. Do use owl-screen instead of running screen and then barnowl, though. owl-screen includes things such as a cont-renew-notify process, which sends you a timely zephyrgram telling you to renew your tickets (which authenticate that you are who you are).

Also, occasionally you may want to restart owl-screen or linerva may need to be restarted, so set logging on via :set logging on inside Barnowl.

To send text messages, see; I'll explain in more detail in this post.

Note that this page is linked from, which provides another gateway surface, between the web and zephyr. However, I've never actually used this purpose (for instance, if you're on a Windows machine which you aren't allowed to install software on, or don't want to, but want dialup access to Athena). I use a Java SSH applet, originally Mindterm SSH: Sometimes the Java applet would never pop up in its separate window, however, and I'll use Netscape Foundation - Jave SSH Client instead (although I'm not 100% sure it's fine to do this? I haven't really seen a Terms of Use).

Sending Messages from Zephyr

In Barnowl, the format is
:zwrite daemon.webzephyr -c szs -i
You can look up the email address for a give service provider, e.g. AT&T, here: Send Email to Phone (scroll down). Additionally, if you're not sure what service your friend is using, use Google to look up the number (for instance, try Free Cell Phone Carrier Lookup | enter in the "Mobile #" field[s], the "Name" and "Select Your Carrier" are unnecessary).

Messages you receive will filter to your Personal messages, so you can hit [Alt-p] to view any text messages you might have received. [Shift-v] (aka "V") will get you back to viewing all messages that you've gotten.

Note that [Ctrl-r] does not work on text messages that you've received (it will expand to :zwrite daemon.webzephyr, I believe). Instead, hit [Ctrl-R] and add -c szs -i, then hit [Enter]. Rather annoying, but I deal and you can too :)


In addition, you'll want to set your filters so that the messages you send, not just the ones you receive, will be visible when you hit [Alt-p].

Hit [Ctrl-a] followed by [c] to open up a new Screen window. Use nano if you're familiar with vi, etc. (To get back to Barnowl, hit [Ctrl-a][0]. To see a list of Screen windows, hit [Ctrl-a][w]).
vi ~/.owl/startup
filter personal -c green ( class ^szs$ ) or ( isprivate ^true$ and ( not type ^zephyr$ or ( class ^message$ ) ) ) or ( class kusername ) or ( type admin )
filter szs -c blue ( class ^szs$ ) or ( sender daemon.webzephyr@ATHENA.MIT.EDU )
Replace the colors with what you want. Use :show colors to see what colors are available. The second filter is to color your text messages differently from your other "personal" messages; it's optional.

Sending Messages from a Phone

Despite email address format as opposed to a phone number, send it as a regular text message, NOT a picture or multimedia message. My phone automatically sets it to a picture message when I type in an email address instead of a number, and my messages don't seem to get through (they may have gotten through occasionally, I don't remember and I'm too lazy to regexp through my logs).

Simply send a message to
Yea, that's it :) Heh.

Note: Messages over 140 chars will get cut off between the phone and Zephyr. The cell phone user will get invalidpducontent, although the first part of his/her message will get through to Zephyr. On the other hand, messages _from_ Zephyr to cellphones can be as long as you like.

Note: Some characters that you can type into Zephyr on your computer, for instance if you try typing in Chinese, you may not be able to view on your phone (e.g. you'll just see boxes) [for uhm fairly obvious reasons]

Note: You might note that on there's mention of texting classes and instances. This does indeed work (thanks jontec for testing this out, and AIM user I'm not sure the kusername of >.<), however note that messages appear like this (your phone number IS visible to everyone!):
   2013 / szs / daemon.webzephyr  02:56  (
       (Sent by via the webzephyr SMS/Email to Zephyr gateway.
       Zephyr replies to daemon.webzephyr -c szs -i )

G'nite, off to bed. Have to get up for work at 7, and can't take afternoon naps @ work, bleah >.< *yawn*

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