Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Time Waster: Watch the world go by in ASCII with Reuters' API

I've recently released WebService::ReutersConnect. It's a Perl modules that interfaces with the ReutersConnect's API in OO style. To demonstrate it and hopefully entertain you on this Friday, here's how to use it to watch the world go by in glorious ASCII and from the comfort of your command line. To put it shorter: The perfect Friday Time Waster.

The ingredients

To cook this recipe, you will need:

While you can install all of this with the CPAN command, I suggest you install most of their dependencies through your OS packaging system first.
If you're debian based, here are the debs to install: libmoose-perl libdatetime-perl libdatetime-format-iso8601-perl libtest-fatal-perl libxml-libxml-perl libwww-perl liblog-log4perl-perl liburi-perl liblibaa1-dev

Then just install WebService::ReutersConnect and  Text::AAlib via your favourite channel.

The Recipe

The Recipe is pretty straight forward, it goes like this:

Preamble. We just load the required packages and also make sure that Log4perl is not going to complain about lack of initialisation:

#! /usr/bin/perl -w                                                                                                                                                                             
use strict;
use warnings;
use WebService::ReutersConnect qw/:demo/;
use Log::Log4perl qw/:easy/;
use Text::AAlib;
use Imager;

Building the $reuters object and querying the freshest image. Here we use the demo credentials and search for the latest picture:

my $reuters = WebService::ReutersConnect
 ->new({ username => REUTERS_DEMOUSER,
         password => REUTERS_DEMOPASSWORD
my ( $item )  = $reuters
            ->fetch_search({ limit => 1,
                             media_types => [ 'P' ],
                             sort => 'date' });

Building the ASCII of the picture. We just download the preview URL and render it in ASCII using Text::AAlib:

## Load preview image                                                                                                                                                                              
my $res = $reuters->user_agent->get($item->preview_url());
unless( $res->is_success() ){
  die $res->status_line();

## Build and scale image                                                                                                                                                                           
my $bin_image = $res->content();
my $img = Imager->new( data => $bin_image , type => 'jpeg' ) || die Imager->errstr();
$img = $img->convert( preset => 'grey' );
$img = $img->scaleX(scalefactor => 2); ## Tweak to your taste
$img = $img->scale(scalefactor => 0.5); ## Tweak to your taste

## Build ASCII Version                                                                                                                                                                             
my ($width, $height) = ($img->getwidth, $img->getheight);
my $aa = Text::AAlib->new( width  => $width, height => $height );

Rendering the whole thing on the console. The rendering parameters are OK for me, but you might have to play with them depending on your taste/colour scheme:

## Print ASCII Image                                                                                                                                                                               
print $aa->render( dither => 0 ,
                   gamma => 1.83,
                   bright => 50,
                   contrast => 60,
                   color => 0

## And some info                                                                                                                                                                                   
print "\n    ".$item->date_created().' : '.$item->headline()." \n";
print "\n    ".$item->preview_url()."\n";

And that's it! Now you can put all of that together, or if you're lazy, you can just copy/paste the whole thing from this pastebin

Feel free to experiment with the options and the code and tell us about your improvement in the comments!

Happy coding!



  1. Bummer, can't seem to connect (with or without proxy). Getting 403 errors. Probably geo-limited? (I'm accessing from Indonesia.)

    1. Hi Steven, I'm not aware of any IP geo restriction, but as I'm not from Reuters, I cannot guarantee that. I'm accessing the API without any problem from the UK. Let's see which of the CPAN smoke tests break in a few days :)

      Does it give you any more detail error message?