OptusQuota – an update

22 01 2009

Since Optus pulled their feed of Usage info and the OptusQuota gadget stopped working. I have spent a fair amount of time to get the gadget up and running again, but have gotten to the point where I am unable to invest any more time. On the whole the gadget works fine, but there a  number of niggly situations where it will error, mainly due to the way the data has to be collected.

After pulling the feed, there is no common interface to call so it is necessary to code up a number of special cases to get the data, which has become to painful to implement using my knowledge of Javascript and the sidebar gadget platform. 

Now it’s not all doom and gloom, I have managed to get the gadget going for some people:

  • At the risk of sounding like a developer, the gadget works fine for me and my Optus account. I can also confirm it works ok for other users;
  • Thanks to some of the guys on Whirlpool, I have also tested and confirmed the gadget returns and parses data from a static Fusion account usage page;

What you should be aware of is that there is some complexity around certain users where a number of http redirects occur to authenticate. It appears some users have account details stored in different machines within Optus, so when you try to logon, your credentials are handed around with hidden forms and session strings to other machines before coming back. The gadget hates this and returns the redirects. During debugging with the Grumpywookie I found four different redirects happening and decided that this was too damn hard to implement. If you account falls into this I am sorry. 

Anyway, the gadget is up on my Skydrive account for downloading. I won’t be releasing it to gallery.live.com as I don’t feel it is of sufficient quality to be up there. Once Optus release a stable feed to query I hope that the gadget will once again return to it’s previous stable and working for everyone state. 

Download the gadget

 

The most important point I need to highlight is that the gadget effectively implements screen scraping to get the data it needs for calculations and is at the mercy of Optus. If they change the source of the usage pages it may stop working again.

The best approach IMO would be for Optus to publish a secure API that we could query against.  Given usage info is of no use to anyone really except the user, maybe allow the user to activate an API key, that provided anonymous usage info at http://usage.optusnet.com.au/APIKEY. It should be relatively simple to query against and would remove any of Optus’s security concerns. Given the comments recieved on this blog and on WhirlPool, I think the users would like it too.  How about going on the front foot for once Optus? 😉

As for the future, well, I guess the removal of the feed without any warning (how many usage meter authors are out there you would have to alert Optus?), the price of the connection and need to bundle, two absolutely woeful technical support calls to call centres and lack of speed in my area has finally caused me to churn to a different provider. As of Friday I will be with another provider giving me ADSL2+ , a sanctioned stable usage feed and customer support from within Australia.  I will still continue to develop sidebar gadgets,  and provide limited support for this one, but if you are interested in taking it to the next level, drop me a line. 

 

For those of you that are interested the release notes (as they stand) are after the break… 

1. The way the gadget gets the usage info has changed significantly (duh!). The gadget now logs into the member usage pages, parses the info and logs back out.  The code has been tested for the last few days and seems to work ok;

2. It’s too damn hard to parse the usage page to get the period start and end dates and work out the number of dates in the period. The gadget assumes 30 as this seemed to be correct for most if not all users;

3. The gadget has special code for parsing Fusion and Non Fusion account types. During testing it became apparant that there is nothing common in the pages presented for the two account types, so the parseing routine had to be coded up again to handle a special case.

4. If you have a usage page session open, the gadget may crap out when it first tries to connect due to what is returned by Optus on the web page. In such a case you will either need to logout of the page, or wait 15 minutes when the gadget polls again and the correct info will come down;

5. The gadget has a fix for Windows 7 that stops the annoying expand / contract / dock / undock side effect [I noticed it, didn’t you? 😉 ].

6. I have removed the automatic update notification, instead click on the news link to get a Twitter feed of news for the gadget (twitter rocks!)

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20 responses

22 01 2009
David

Thanks Alex.
Stupid Optus :/

22 01 2009
David

“This item seems to be missing”

22 01 2009
Gary

Unfortunately I just get the message..the item is missing..

22 01 2009
David
22 01 2009
Prasad Shrikanth

Will your company be providing same gadget for your new provider? I keen to use provider that is keeping jobs in Australia.

22 01 2009
Alex

Prasad,

Firstly I don’t have a company. Gadget development is a way a far too techy Project Manager gets to exercise his development needs 🙂

I hope to generate a sidebar gadget for the new provider, for the same reason I did at Optus, because it solved a problem for me. I’ve not had a look to see if anyone else has released one yet.

I am still going to develop sidebar gadget, hopefully Win 7 will give them a new lease on life 🙂

Alex.

22 01 2009
John Doe

I think you’ll find an alternate is coming soon…

22 01 2009
Alex

John Doe,

Fantastic news. Maybe Optus should publicize what they are doing. Whirlpool seems a bit anti Optus at the moment.

I will keep an eye out to see what’s coming.

Alex

22 01 2009
Alex Angas

Hi Alex! What provider did you change to?

Best cheers, Alex!

23 01 2009
Chris

Thank you Alex. You have done a great community service producing this gadget. It is very helpful to have it back working again.

I have been an Optus customer since its inception and have watched the decline of its customer service from fabulous to miserable. It is sad. I do not doubt that like you, I will take my business elsewhere fairly soon.

Chris

23 01 2009
smithcorp

Feasty – thanks so much for updating your excellent gadget!

24 01 2009
Banh

I just get your update Optus Quota v 1.3.1
at a moment it working fine . Thank you very much for your work !!!!

24 01 2009
Caveman

Thanks Alex, the updated gadget also works fine for me.

I was certainly missing it while it was down.

Appreciate the effort youhave put in to get it back up again.

Cheers
Paul

24 01 2009
Graham

Thanks for the gadget update – works fine for me with my “Yes” Power plan.

Thumbs up for you!

25 01 2009
Mick

Hey Alex,
I’m on Yes Power and no luck as yet. Anyway, all your hard work is appreciated & fully understand you not havinf any more time to waste due to Optarses stupidity.
Cheers
Mick

25 01 2009
rand11

Your gadget stores the user credentials in plain text in the Settings.ini file. It presents as a security risk. Are you working on obstruficating those credentials?

27 01 2009
Alex

Rand11,

Correct, at present it does store the creds in plain text. As for encrypting them, no plans at present. Why? I am not sure it is any more secure. If you are looking down in the settings.ini for the gadget, it is relatively trivial to look into the gadget source code (it’s javascript after all) and can easily be read to see how to decrypt). Besides if you are worried about someone looking in there, they would already have access to your machine, and could easily install Fiddler or some other tool to intercept the traffic where the password exchange happens.

I guess this is a flaw of the approach to login and screen scrape. Perhaps this is more the grounds of Optus’s concerns. Again, the API suggestion in the main post would remove this concern.

Thanks,

Alex.

27 01 2009
Ramjet

Hey Alex.

1.3.1 Optusquota Works a treat! ‘yes’ DSL Direct Power plan!

Thanks heaps for your time and effort, I hope you don’t abandon the optusquota gadget altogether. Your efforts bring so much to so many and hugely appreciated. I’m looking around now for a donation tag on your site 🙂

Thanks again

Ramjet

3 02 2009
SsSsToCkY

Hi Alex,

Unfortunately the sidebar gadget doesn’t work for me. All it does is displays how much I’ve uploaded. I’m on the Optus Fusion Plan. God I miss this gadget.

However I would just like to thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this gadget. I’m sure it is must appreciated by all, and I understand you not wanting to spend anymore time on this.

Thanks,
SsSsToCkY

3 02 2009
nch

hi, i have read this post, i like this post




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