Perl script to check Sprint PCS minute usage

After a few incidents of going over my Sprint PCS minute usage without any warning, I hacked together a Perl script that will log in to the sprintpcs.com website and check my minute usage for me. It e-mails me a warning if I go over a certain usage percentage. I thought I'd post it in case anyone else might find it useful: sprint-minutes.pl (link removed March 4, 2017, no longer works). I believe Sprint charges something like $3/month for a similar service. Note that you need a few extra modules installed, and you need the components for WWW::Mechanize that allow SSL connections. Consult your local Perl expert for help with this if you need it; I can't provide support here. It may well require tweaking depending on how standard your calling plan is, or other variations that I don't know about. And of course it's subject to breakage when Sprint updates the HTML code on their site.

Any comments or refinements are welcome. Enjoy!

Sprint PCS needs to run cron jobs more often

Fair warning: this post is pure rant.

I have a Sprint PCS phone that I use as my primary, and only, home phone line. There are tons of reasons why I like this arrangement, which I won't go into here, but I've been a loyal, pay-on-time Sprint customer for several years now. Which is why it was maddeningly frustrating to go to make a call today and get a note that my account had been shut off because I was over my spending limit.
Continue reading Sprint PCS needs to run cron jobs more often

Gas Pump Buffer Overflow

Random rant: In 1970, Intel produced a memory chip, the first, capable of storing 1 kilobyte of data - a couple of paragraphs of text or so. Today, one can obtain memory chips that store many gigabytes of data - enough to hold entire movies, encyclopedias, and more - for mere hundreds of dollars. So, why is it that when I finish pumping gas at a gas station and hit the "RECEIPT YES" button, the piece of crap machine can't store that one simple keystroke in its input buffer long enough that it doesn't have to ask me 5 seconds later, "RECEIPT? (YES/NO)". It can remember a credit card number, do complex fuel tax calculations, and even tell me about the latest sugar-coated crap I can buy inside, but not that I pressed that button a few seconds ago. It's a scary, scary world we live in, folks. Bah!

Fighting Spam

Today I had a speaking engagement on combating unsolicited junkmail (spam). It was one of my first opportunities to speak about this topic to a public audience, and I was glad for the chance to share all of the knowledge I've accumulated about what is increasingly the bane of the Internet. A lot of people seem to be content to hit the delete key as they sort through their e-mail, but I think many are realizing that this approach doesn't "scale" well -- insert here numerous statistics about how much it costs and will cost in lost productivity, abused resources, deaths of baby seals, etc. The participants in my seminar were thirsty for details about the phenomenon and how to make it go away. I think the complexity of the issue can be surprising to some, so end-user education is one of the best things one can do to address the problem.

Any way you look at it, spam sucks, and it's not going away. As it becomes more of a problem, folks will look for better solutions, and I'm glad that I'm involved in that effort.