Two Linux Twitter Clients: Twidge and Tircd

Monday Apr 13th 2009 by David Harding
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Twidge and Tircd are both easy to use and multi-functional.

Most Twitter and other micro-blogging clients use the same interface as Twitter.com, but two new free software clients make Twitter easy to use from the command-line or an IRC client.

Twidge lets you send and receive Twitter or Identi.ca updates from the command-line. Although micro-blogging from the command-line may not appeal to you, the command-line makes it easy to fiddle with Twitter, and Twidge works well in shell scripts. For example, you can automate sending updates or filter out unwanted updates from your friends.

Debian and Ubuntu Jaunty users can install the "twidge" package. Other users should download the static executable from Twidge's download page, run bunzip2 on the file, copy it to /usr/local/bin/twidge, and make it executable with the following command: chmod +x /usr/local/bin/twidge. You also need to install your distribution's cURL package.

At the command-line, setup Twidge by typing the following command: twidge setup. Tell it your username and password. You only need to run this command once.

Print a list of your friends' 20 most recent Twitter updates by typing the following command: twidge lsrecent. Each update starts with your friend's username and ends with their update; for example:

<harda> Hello, World.

You don't need to keep track of which updates you've already read -- Twidge can do that for you. Add the argument "-us" to the lsrecent command to only show Unseen messages and to Save the I.D. of the last seen message. For example, run the following command twice; the second time Twidge only prints new messages: twidge lsrecent -su

To make sure you see all the replies and Direct Messages (DM) addressed to you, also run the lsreplies and lsdm commands. You can make this easier by setting a Bash alias:

alias show_updates="twidge lsrecent -us && twidge lsreplies -us && twidge lsdm -us"

By default, Twidge formats your friends' updates so that they're easy to read, but it can also format them so that command-line programs can read them. The alternative format shows extra details, so Twidge calls it the "Long format" and uses the -l switch. Long format contains several columns, described in the Twidge manual, separated by tabs; for example:

1355622395  harda       Hello, World.   Thu Mar 12 17:42:07 +0000 2009  

You can send updates to your friends using the update command in two ways. You can type your update on the command line, but you must pass your update as a single argument and escape shell meta-characters. This means you must surround your update with quotes and place a backslash before other quotes or exclamation marks -- which quickly becomes annoying. You'll find it simpler to to type, twidge update, press return, type your message, and press return again. Either way, Twidge prints an error and won't send your update if you type more than 140 characters.

Follow a new friend using the follow command plus your friend's username. To stop following someone, use the unfollow command. For example, you can follow Twidge's updates by typing the following command: twidge follow unixtwidge.

Tircd lets you pretend you're in an IRC chatroom with your Twitter friends. It takes more setup than Twidge, but gives you a more familiar interface in return. It supports friend subsets and Twitter searches, which Twidge doesn't, but it doesn't support Identi.ca, which Twidge does.

Tircd uses Perl and several Perl modules. Install Perl from your distribution and any of the following modules your distribution has packages for: POE, POE::Filter::IRCD, and Net::Twitter. Then run the following command after removing from it the names of any packages you installed: cpan -i POE POE::Filter::IRCD Net::Twitter. Download the Tircd package from the Tircd Homepage, run tar xzf on it, copy the tircd.pl file to /usr/local/bin/tircd, and make it executable with the following command: chmod +x /usr/local/bin/tircd.

Copy the tircd.cfg file to /etc/tircd.cfg. If you already run an IRC server on your computer's port 6667, change the port setting in the file. You probably don't need to change any other settings. Start Tircd by typing, tircd /etc/tircd.cfg.

Connect to Tircd using your IRC client and send your Twitter username and password. Different IRC clients use different connection commands. The Tircd manual suggests the command below which works in my IRC client:

/server localhost 6667 <password> <Twitter username>

Warning: if you don't install Tircd on the same computer as your IRC client, and you connect to it over the Internet, you will send your Twitter password unencrypted over the Internet where other computers may intercept it. At the very least, you should use a different password for Twitter than you use for your more secure accounts.

After you connect to Tircd, join the #twitter chatroom (channel) by typing, /join #twitter. The IRC channel topic, usually displayed near the top of your IRC client, shows the last update you sent to Twitter. Twidge adds each of your Twitter friends to the chatroom.

Send an update by sending a regular message in the #twitter channel. Your friends' updates and replies to your messages appear as regular messages in #twitter. Direct messages come in as IRC private messages and you can send a direct message by sending an IRC private message. Tircd does a great job of making Twitter transparent to IRC users.

Follow a new friend using the IRC /invite command. For example, you can follow Tircd's updates using the following command: /invite tircd. Stop following someone using the /kick command. You can also follow or unfollow users using Twitter's website, but the changes you make on the website won't appear in your #twitter channel right away.

One of Tircd's advanced features lets you create a channel and add only a few of your friends. To create a channel, /join it; to add friends, /invite them. For example: /join #clients, /invite tircd, /invite unixtwidge. Tircd sends updates for the friends you invite to both #twitter and to the channels you create.

Tircd's other advanced feature lets you create an IRC channel out of a Twitter search. Create a channel and set its topic to the search term. For example, to see all the twitter messages that mention LinuxPlanet, use the following two commands: /join #LinuxPlanet, /topic LinuxPlanet

Twitter and Linux

If you won't miss your friends' graphical avatars and you don't mind learning a few new commands, Twidge and Tircd let you use Twitter in ways very different from the typical Twitter client.

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