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Is ZenMsg a virus?
January 2, 2023 (updated January 2, 2023) by Noah

Is Zenmsg a virus? asks:

It only opened a command box, and nothing else happened. Is this a virus?

No, it's not. 😊 ZenMsg is a command-line program (so it opens your DOS prompt if double-clicked on), but it requires command-line options to tell it what to do. When run without any options, it prints its usage information to the terminal and then exits; so when double-clicked on, your DOS prompt appeared and then closed because ZenMsg exited.

You'll want to run it from a PowerShell or Command Prompt window first (so that the console sticks around after the program exits), and you can see it just prints its usage information:

C:\Users\Noah\Downloads> ZenMsg.exe
Usage:
      ZenMsg [--error --alert --info --question]
             [--title] [--text] [--button label]
             [--icon name_or_file]
             [--default label] [--cancel label]
             [--disabled n]
             [--version] [--help]

    Use the "--help" option for more help.

(and it goes into detail on all the options)

If you call it with ZenMsg --help it goes into full detail (the same documentation that's in the ZenMsg.html page the program ships with), including all the names of built-in icons. Every icon available on the Error Message Generator is built in to ZenMsg, and you can point it to a custom image on disk to use your own icon:

BUILT-IN ICONS

Here is a list of all the built-in icons that you can use by name:

  aim_guy         - Blue AIM guy icon
  aol_icon        - Blue AOL icon
  attention       - Yellow triangle around an exclamation mark
  bomb            - Round black bomb icon
  bomb_dynamite   - Icon of a bundle of dynamite and a trigger
  bomb_grenade    - Icon of a grenade
  bulb            - White light bulb
  butterfly       - MSN Butterfly icon
  cake            - Slice of pink cake on a blue plate
  circularsaw     - Icon of a handheld circular saw
  control_panel   - Generic control panel icon
  cow             - Icon of a cow and a computer tower
  defrag          - Disk Defragmenter icon
  disk_blue       - Generic blue floppy disk icon
  disk_blue_label - Blue floppy disk with a label
  disk_orange     - Generic orange floppy disk
  disk_red        - Generic red floppy disk
  disk_red_label  - Red floppy disk with a label
  disk_skull      - Gray floppy disk with skull and crossbones
  disk_yellow     - Generic yellow floppy disk
  error           - Old-school X in a red circle error dialog icon
  error2          - Modern, shiny incarnation of an error dialog icon
  error3          - Beveled error dialog icon (like Windows XP)
  error4          - A red X icon
  file_cabinet    - File cabinet icon
  find            - Find Files icon
  floppy_drive    - Generic floppy drive icon
  fortunecookie   - Icon of a fortune cookie
  garbage_empty   - Empty garbage can
  garbage_full    - Bloated garabage can
  gun             - Icon of a revolver pistol
  hammer          - Icon of a hammer
  heart           - Icon of a shiny red heart
  help            - Old-school Windows Help icon
  hub             - Icon of a hardware hub of sorts (networking?)
  hwinfo          - Icon of a PCI device with blue "i" bubble above it
  ie5             - Icon of old-school Internet Explorer
  info            - Speech bubble with an "i" inside
  keys            - Generic icon of keys
  keys2           - Old Windows key icon
  keys3           - Generic key and padlock icon
  labtec          - Icon of a server or something?
  mac             - Striped colorful Apple logo
  mail            - Generic icon of an envelope
  mail_deleted    - Same envelope with a red X emblem in the corner.
  mailbox         - Mailbox with the flag down
  mouth           - Smiling mouth icon
  msdos           - MS-DOS icon
  mycomputer      - A "My Computer" icon
  mycomputer2     - A "My Computer" icon
  mycomputer3     - A "My Computer" icon
  newspaper       - Generic newspaper icon
  peripheral      - Generic computer peripheral icon
  plant_leaf      - A certain green leafy plant
  pocketknife     - A swiss army pocket knife
  question        - Icon of a speech bubble with a "?" inside
  radiation       - Yellow and black radiation symbol
  ram             - Icon of a couple sticks of RAM
  recycle         - Green recycle arrows logo
  recycle2        - Recycle arrows enveloping a globe of Earth
  scanner         - Generic scanner icon
  screw           - Golden screw icon
  screw2          - Gray screw icon
  setup           - Generic icon for "setup.exe" type programs
  skull           - Black skull and crossbones
  skull2          - Picture of a skull
  skull3          - White skull and crossbones
  tux             - Icon of our favorite Linux mascot
  tux_config      - Tux dressed up like a repairman
  ups             - Icon of an uninterruptible power supply
  zipdisk         - Icon of a single zip disk
  zipdisks        - Icon of numerous zipdisks

You can call ZenMsg from a batch file or any other program (e.g. a Python or Perl script could call ZenMsg.exe and send it parameters). For example, open Notepad and save the following as "example.bat" (with quotes, ensuring that it gets a .bat extension and not .bat.txt) and place it in the same folder next to ZenMsg.exe:

@echo off
ZenMsg --alert --title "Critical Error" --text "Now you've done it." ^
	--button "Ok" --button "Cancel" --button "Accept blame" ^
	--disabled 1 --disabled 2 > zenmsg-answer.txt

echo The user had selected:
type zenmsg-answer.txt
del zenmsg-answer.txt

Double-clicking your example.bat file would then pop up that alert box. ZenMsg prints the user's selected button to its standard output, which we captured above by piping it into zenmsg-answer.txt (it's possible to get output from commands in e.g. Perl scripts too, so your program can ask the user a question and then have branching behavior depending on which button the user clicked on).

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Favorite music
November 21, 2022 by Noah

NNN asks:

What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to all sorts of things but most frequently are the following:

I generally like a lot of indie & electronic music in recent years. I have a Spotify playlist of several artists I like. Depending on my mood, some of my top go-to artists are Plantrae or Dirtwire if I just want some cool music with no/minimal vocals. Plantrae is also a great one to put on as some ambient music at the background of a party. Otherwise ZHU is often the one I click on and let Spotify have its way with me. Bob Moses is another favorite if I want something a little more bass-ey to jam out to.

I listen to a fair amount of pop music too, my top exposure to it being my car radio when I'm driving around, so whatever's on the Top 40 at a given time. Sometimes those songs will get stuck in my head and I'll play one on Spotify and let it wander and play similar songs for me. I also have a number of country artists/songs I like when I'm in the right mood and I have a short playlist on YouTube of sad songs when I need to get some emotions out.

And probably my #1 most favorite song in the world (which I don't let myself listen to very often, so that I don't ruin it for myself) is Canon in D.

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ErrorGen and ZenMsg Q&A
October 19, 2022 by Noah

Ax Wilson asks:

For some reason it is not opening the ZenMsg file how do i make it work.

ZenMsg is a command-line program designed to be invoked by batch scripts or similar apps when you want to show a customized alert box pop-up. When you run the program without any command-line parameters (including if you just double-clicked on ZenMsg.exe from your file browser), the program just prints out its usage instructions to your command prompt and then exits; if you double-clicked to run it, exiting means you saw a cmd window for a brief second which then closed immediately.

To run it properly, open Command Prompt (or Powershell) first, navigate into the directory you placed ZenMsg.exe in, and run "ZenMsg" at the command prompt to see its usage instructions. For an "easy" way to get a Command Prompt opened to the right directory, you can open Windows Notepad and type this text into it:

@echo off
cmd

And save it as "terminal.bat" (with quotations on it! so that it saves with a ".bat" extension, and not "terminal.bat.txt") in the same folder as ZenMsg.exe; then double-clicking on the terminal.bat will open a Command Prompt already pointed at the current directory, so you can just type "ZenMsg" to run the other program. For more info about the Command Prompt, see the DOS tutorial on ComputerHope.com which is where I myself learned how to use the Command Prompt, way back in the day!

Anonymous asks:

Why is ZenMsg a command line program?

My Error Message Generator program is a GUI where you can build your custom alert box message visually, and ZenMsg is a command-line version that can pop up your alert box without the ErrorGen GUI being needed.

The reason that ZenMsg is a CLI tool is so that you can invoke it from other programs easily, including from batch files or scripts written in Perl, Python or anything else. Actually, it's name, "ZenMsg" is based on the GNU/Linux program, Zenity from the GNOME project.

You should also be able to create a Windows shortcut file that runs ZenMsg with parameters so you can have a desktop icon that, when double-clicked, pops up a ZenMsg alert box with custom icon, message and buttons if you want to prank your friends or something.

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Meaning of Kirsle
October 19, 2022 by Noah

Anonymous asks:

What does your sites name kirsle come from/ what’s the meaning?

The short answer is that Kirsle is just an AOL screen name I came up with back in middle school and doesn't mean anything; and it turned out to be such a unique name (that most all Google results for it were about me), that I decided to keep it around forever.

The longer answer is that it was originally inspired by a videogame character on the game NiGHTS: Into Dreams for the Sega Saturn. One of the baddies in the game was named Kircle, with a C, but when I read it I thought the C should've been pronounced like an S but anyway my screen name was based on Kircle for a time. But after multiple people (including text-to-speech programs) were "mispronouncing" it, I swapped the C out for an S and in doing so found a very unique username for myself.

Also, fun trivia: kirsle.net was the first ever domain name I registered, back in 2005 when I was in high school (my mom had to buy the domain for me!) I took the ".net" extension instead of ".com" because I thought "kirsle.com" didn't roll off the tongue very well; and because I didn't have a bank account to just buy my own domain names, but I already had several different websites, I thought a ".net" suffix would go well to put a bunch of subdomains beneath ".kirsle.net" to host all my various sites on one domain name! (Before kirsle.net, my other sites were hosted on random free subdomains I could find online, also had a few free .tk domains back in the day!) I do now have kirsle.com and kirsle.org and they just redirect to kirsle.net because that name still sounds the best to me!

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Ask Kirsle: Self-learning RiveScript Bot?
May 9, 2020 (updated May 9, 2020) by Noah

Oliver asks:

Hello,

I'm looking for a way to solve the following scenario using Rivescript and Python. The chatbot has no answer to a question, in this case it asks the user for the correct answer and records it in the rivescript file.

Do you have an idea? Does it even work in Rivescript?

Thanks

Best wishes Oliver

Hey Oliver

This can be done with a little bit of creativity. Self-learning bots aren't an officially supported feature in RiveScript, but you can get something to work using object macros that write new replies out to .rive files to grow the bot's brain over time.

There's an example for this in the JavaScript edition of RiveScript, but its logic could be ported over to Python easily enough: https://github.com/aichaos/rivescript-js/tree/master/eg/learning

RiveScript Playground example you can test in your web browser: https://play.rivescript.com/s/0r4ZYvklR9

The basic ideas are:

  1. A RiveScript trigger of + when i say * you say * allows the user to teach the bot a new reply.
    • e.g.: "when I say hello bot you say Hello human!"
  2. To preserve punctuation and formatting, the Python script running the RiveScript module can store the user's raw, original message into a user variable which the object macro can access:
    • rs.set_uservar(username, "origMessage", message)
  3. The object macro behind the when i say * you say * trigger re-parses the user's message to get the original punctuation and formatting they used.
  4. The object macro appends the new trigger/reply into a learned.rive file and also calls stream() to load the new reply for immediate use by the bot "right now."

The JavaScript example linked above works whether or not the program set the origMessage variable: if the program did not set the variable, the learned reply is just somewhat limited to only include simple text with very few punctuation symbols preserved.

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