Channel hooks

Channel hooks are the most powerful feature of Awasu and transform it from being just another RSS reader to something much more profound. Like plugins, they are small programs or scripts that get run by Awasu but while plugins are used to generate RSS feeds, hooks are run when certain things happen with a channel e.g. when the channel is updated or new items are found. In other words, they hook into the flow of information within a channel.

Why is this so cool? Browsers such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla and every other RSS reader available today are passive tools - they simply display the data as it arrives without understanding anything about what they are showing. Channel hooks allow Awasu to monitor information as it comes in, analyze it and respond to it.

Here are some examples of what channel hooks can do:

  • A plugin gets the current stock levels in your warehouse from a corporate database and converts it into an RSS feed. Awasu uses this feed to constantly show you the latest information on your PC. Every time the channel is updated, a hook is called that checks if anything is running low and if so, sends a request to your buying department to replenish it. It also sends you an email to let you know that it's done it.

  • Awasu monitors a channel that shows the current prices of shares in your stock portfolio. Every time the channel is updated, a hook is called to check for sudden price movements. If something is detected, Awasu sends an urgent SMS message to your mobile phone to notify you and asks if you want to buy or sell any stock. You reply with an SMS message and Awasu forwards those instructions to your broker.

  • If you are a researcher, you will probably have quite a few channels relating to your field of interest. A channel hook can be set up that gets called every time a new item is found on any of those channels. The new item can be checked for certain words or concepts and if it matches, recorded in a database. Leave Awasu running for a while and pretty soon, you'll have a database full of items directly related to the subject you are interested in.

Using channel hooks

Two channel hooks are provided with this release of Awasu:

  • ChannelMonitorWindow opens a small window that can be left floating on your desktop that shows the current feed for a channel. This lets you minimize the main window but still keep an eye on what's happening on your favorite channels
  • SendEmail sends out an email when new items are found on a channel.

To use this new feature, open a channel's properties dialog and go to the new Hooks page. Click on the small square in the top right-hand corner and browse to the appropriate .hook file (they will usually be stored in the ChannelHooks sub-directory). Each channel hook has its own set of configuration parameters but in particular, please note that the SendEmail hook needs some global parameters to be set. Talk to your system administrator if you are unsure of how to configure which SMTP server to use.

Any number of hooks can be attached to a channel. The right-click menu for the My Channels window will contain special commands for each hook that has been attached to a channel e.g. monitor windows can be opened or closed from this menu. These commands are also available from the Edit main menu.

More channel hooks are scheduled for the near future that will:

  • send an SMS message to your mobile phone when new items are found.
  • send an IM message when new items are found.
  • show the current feed items for a channel in a ticker window
  • show an icon in the system tray for a channel that animates when new items are found.
  • store items in a database as they arrive.