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Showing your ICQ status on a web page — Visual Basic Feng Shui

Showing your ICQ status on a web page

Filed under Uncategorized

First, the disclaimer, I’m doing all this in ASP.NET 2.0 with VS 2005. If you’re using plain old ASP, or VS 2003, it may or may not work.

To begin, you’ll need to add an IMG tag somewhere on your page (or, in the case of dasBlog, somewhere in the homeTemplate.blogtemplate file that’s part of the theme you wish to use. Note: If you allow users to change the theme in dasBlog, then you’ll need to add this IMG tag to all themes you’d like it to be part of. For this blog, I disabled the switching of themes, so I only had to add this tag to one file.

<img src="./themes/[your theme name]/IMStatusImageProxy.aspx?type=ICQ"
title="Tooltip your want to display" >

Where [your theme name] is just that. This just allows you to put the  IMStatusImageProxy.aspx file in your theme path. If you prefer, you could copy it to the dasBlog root path and just reference it there.

This tag causes the browser to go and load the IMStatusImageProxy.aspx page for the image to use when it needs to obtain the image for the IMG tag. Now, that ASPX page isn’t actually  an image at all, but the browser doesn’t care at this point.

Next, create the IMStatusImageProxy.ASPX page. You’ll need to put it in your theme’s folder (or in the dasBlog root as I mentioned above).

<%@ Page Language="VB" %>
<script runat="server">
' ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
' IMStatusImageProxy.asp
' Used to retrieve the content of the status image from
' websites that serve them up.
' I don't believe there's a way to avoid the proxy page
' when pulling the images. At least not and remain easily compatible with
' dasBlog.
' The original idea is from Dino Esposito.
' ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Private Function pGetWebPageImage(ByVal URL As String) As Byte()
      '---- Create the HttpWebRequest object
      Dim req As System.Net.HttpWebRequest = System.Net.WebRequest.Create(URL)
      Dim Results As Byte()

         '---- Get the data as an HttpWebResponse object
         Dim resp As System.Net.HttpWebResponse = req.GetResponse()

         '---- Convert the data into a string (assumes that you are requesting text)
         Dim br As New System.IO.BinaryReader(resp.GetResponseStream())
         Results = br.ReadBytes(50000)

      Catch ex As System.Net.WebException
         'Something went awry in the HTTP request!         ReDim Results(0)
      End Try
      Return Results
   End Function

   Public Sub Page_Load()
        '---- Retrieve the TYPE of IM system whose status
        '     is being requested
        Dim IMType As String = Ucase(Request.QueryString("type"))        Dim ImgType as String = "image/gif"        Dim r() as Byte

        '---- set up the response object        Response.Expires = 0
        Response.Buffer = True

        '---- Filter for the good arg values
        '     we don't want to allow just any old parm value in
        Select Case IMType
            Case "ICQ"
               '---- handle ICQ status
               '     ICQ makes this relatively easy because they have a service to
               '     retrieve that info
               '     Retrieves a GIF type image
               r = pGetWebPageImage("http://status.icq.com/online.gif?icq=[YOURICQNUM]&img=16")
            'Case "AIM"
               '---- handle AIM status here
            'Case "HOTMAIL"
               '---- handle AIM status here
            Case Else
               '---- not a valid IM type so bail out
               Exit sub
        End Select
        '---- set the image info saved from the main page
        '     into the response object
        Response.ContentType = ImgType
        '---- since this is a proxy, end the response now
    End Sub

You’ll obviously want to replace [YOURICQNUM] with you’re own ICQ number. However, since your ICQ number is in the code portion of the ASPX page, it won’t be visible in any way to the web browser, and hence, the public.

Also, the &img=16 is a parameter that indicates to the ICQ webservice which imageset you’d like to use. You might want to experiment with different numbers, from 1 on up. 16 looked pretty good to me.

Essentially, the idea of this proxy page is to:

  1. Retrieve the IM type you’re wanting status for. In this case, I’m only supporting ICQ right now.
  2. Clear out the response buffer and make sure it can’t get cached (because the status could change from one page refresh to the next).
  3. Retrieve the web page image via the web service in whatever manner is appropriate. The image comes back in a BYTE() array.
  4. Set the ContentType of the response appropriately (this tells the browser that what’s coming back is a binary GIF image)
  5. and finally write the contents of the BYTE array that was retrieved earlier.

I thought this approach was quite nice for several reasons

  • It doesn’t require creating a MACRO for dasBlog. That’s not hard to do, but if you don’t have to…
  • It doesn’t require inline code in the dasBlog theme template. From what I can tell, dasBlog doesn’t support inline code in templates anyway. If I’m wrong about that, please let me know!
  • What is required in the theme template is spectacularly easy to deal with (one IMG tag).
  • It shows your status without revealing your ICQ number, which is appealing for a variety of reasons.
  • All the required code is completely encapsulated in the IMStatusImageProxy.ASPX page.
  • Finally, you should be able to stick this page into any ASP.NET 2.0 based site and get the functionality. It doesn’t require dasBlog at all or any other 3′rd party stuff.

Let me know what you think!

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