Scriptable Browser Tag To Send Free SMS Texts

Information on my scriptable browsing module and surfing a website remotely via scripts

2006-09-11 23:12:00.0

Scriptable Browser Tag To Send Free SMS Texts

Since we set up 4 years ago, I have tried many different things to get free SMS text alerts on our sales. With on average 4 sales a day multiplied by 365 at 13 cent per text, we were literally spending too much (189.80 Euro) on something as trivial but necessary as text alerts on sales.

If all 3 people who are involved in the running of were to pay for the SMS alerts, we would be 569.40 Euro out of pocket. (Over 4 years - 2277.60 Euro)

The SMS alerts are important to us as sometimes an extra human intervention is needed to successfully deliver the soft products we sell so we used to be shelling that much cash out by sending an email to our accounts and using their (rather unreliable and expensive) email-to-text alert service which at the time cost 13 cent per message.

One day, the O2 email-to-text service went down and didnt return for 2 weeks. I wrote numerous emails to O2 explaining that we were paying alot for the service and it was important and got nothing but canned-responses back from a moron who didnt really understand the problem. The answer back? It is working. My answer back? Its not. Return canned-response? We will be upgrading our site in the future and will take your feedback into account.

It was then I said I would write my own app to use the free 500 texts (as it was at the time) to send the alerts to our phones for free. I had done a bit of work on an application that would log into eBay and scrape some information from a users logged in account. The way I went about is was a quick-n-dirty Windows application that used the Microsoft Browser Control coupled with the MS Scripting Control that was called using ColdFusion CFEXECUTE (as a custom tag) and capturing the STDOUT to return to CF. Another nice thing is that even though the core app is a Windows executable, there is no form as such so on the server, you actually never see anything running.

The application was flexible and you loaded it using a host of scripts (either VBScript or Javascript syntax was supported) which let me script a user travelling and clicking through a website. To the host website, it appeared that a user was genuinely using the site so none of the sites could block it in any way. This worked perfectly for years until O2 upgraded (and broke) their site. The security cert they implemented threw a modal security dialog on Internet Explorer (the basis of the Web Browser control I was using) which froze my app. There was no way of using sendKeys or anything to click OK.

Today I managed to tweak the registry on my machine to force the suppression of the dialog and so resumed my free texts through O2. Unfortunately, I lost my source code to the original app so wrote a quick-and-dirty version this evening specifically targeted at O2 and free texts so it doesnt have the generic scripting of the previous version but it does the job!

If anybody wants the code or have a situation in which they may benefit from a scriptable browsing scenario, just email me. I have often thought of adapting the core of the app to help in unit testing etc. Seeing as I lost my original code, on the side at night or in the evenings I am thinking of starting from scratch again and making the solution generic with possibly a wizard for creating the scripts.

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Comments [3] - Leave a comment


shopping said:
I have to hand it to you with this one. I had problems with a company very similar to 02 but didn't have the drive or time to build my own code that could use their services, although trust me, I thought about. I ended up giving up and not using the service anymore and what a pain it has been to track everything manually...I'm sure you feel my pain...texts were so much easier and better for me. Do you foresee yourself getting the generic version of your code done again anytime in the near future? I would love to work out a way to get a hold of it so I can actually start using the method again. It's a time saver and it's a life saver...or you could say a server saver. How did you go about getting the code to work in the first place? I thought that a company like 02 would have had some technology in place to keep coders from ripping them off...although, I guess technically all's fair in war.
May I know if this is better than Twitter? What?s the difference between your tool and Twitter? But I?m really impressed!!! I give you two thumbs up. You must be a genius.
Shaun said:
I'm interested in seeing your code, Dan. It would help enormously while I am in Ireland on business to receive texts via the O2 phone my clients give me.