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    A Kermit script to remind you of upcoming events

Author:  Frank da Cruz
Script version: 1.01
Dated: 2016/02/06
      Platform:  Any platform where C-Kermit is available.
Requires:  C-Kermit 9.0.304 Dev.06 or later
This page last updated: Sat Feb 6 09:16:19 2016

Columbia University has run central Unix timesharing systems since the mid-1980s. In 1990 the Systems Group wrote a C Program called remind that users could invoke from their shell profile, to remind them of upcoming meetings, appointments, birthdays, etc. Lots of people came to depend on it.

At the end of 2015, our central Unix servers were switched from 32-bit Sun Solaris 9 (2003) to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6 on x86-64, but the original Remind program could not be built on the new platform because the C language itself had changed beyond recognition since the 1980s.

So I wrote a replacement in the Kermit language, which is well suited for the job because of its intrinsic ability to deal with dates. The resulting program has about 100 lines of code compared to 3000 in the original... and does more too.


C-Kermit 9.0.304 Dev.06 or later must be installed on your computer in order to be able to run this script; CLICK HERE if you need to download and install it. Assuming you have C-Kermit installed, then just use the getkermitscript to download the remind script to the desired directory, which should be in your PATH so you can run it. Optionally also download the help text file, which should be installed in the same directory. You can also download the script by clicking HERE, but then you'll need to edit the "kerbang" line and give it execute permission, as explained in the getkermitscript page.

The .remind  file

This is like the other ”dot-files” in your login directory: the associated applications read them automatically when they start. So when you run 'remind' (either directly, or from your shell profile, or any other way), it reads and processes your ~/.remind file. A typical .remind file looks like this (blank lines are ignored, and so are comment lines (which begin with '#' or ';'):
# This is a comment
; This is also a comment
monthday 1 Turn the page on the wall calendar
monthday 1 Pay rent
weekday Wednesday 3:00pm Staff meeting in conference room

fuzz 7
date 17-jan-2016 Document the Remind script
date 22-Jan-2016 2:30pm Dentist
fuzz 21
date 5-Mar-2016 Mom's birthday
date 29-Dec-2015 Columbia server cutover
date 31-Mar-2016 Deadline to renew domains at Directnic
date  5-jun-2015 Donate blood 2:00pm 52nd Precinct
The result of running remind on this file on Sunday, January 17, 2016, selects and displays the following reminders:
Every sunday: Why are you using the computer?
TODAY     17-jan-2016: Document the Remind script
Friday    22-Jan-2016: 2:30pm Dentist
With “setlocale es_ES.ISO8859-1” the result is:
Every domingo: Why are you using the computer?
TODAY     17-ene-2016: Document the Remind script
viernes   22-ene-2016: 2:30pm Dentist
The Spanish words ("domingo" for Sunday; "ene" for enero, which is January) come out automatically from C-Kermit's date functions, the others are from the script or the ~/.remind file.

The .remind file directives are:

Syntax: monthday n text
The given text is displayed on the nth day of every month, where n is a number between 1 and 31.
Syntax: weekday dayname text
The given text is displayed on the given day of the week (spelled out in full), for example every Wednesday, or if that doesn't work (depending on limitations of your computer's operating system), the first three letters of the day, e.g. Wed.
Syntax: date dd-mmm-yyyy text
The given text is displayed on or before the given date. Historically the date had to be in dd-mmm-yyyy format, where mmm are the first three letters of the English month name. The new remind scripts accepts other formats too, as long as they don't contain any spaces, but if month names are spelled out (abbreviated or in full), they must be in English (for now).
Syntax: fuzz n
Events for specific dates are shown as long as the date is not more than n days in the future. By default, the fuzz factor is 365.

Running the remind script

Typically you would create a .remind file in your login directory, and then you would edit your shell profile (e.g. .profile or .bash_profile), adding a line that just says "remind". Assuming the remind script is stored in a directory in your PATH and has execute permission, you can also type "remind" at the shell prompt any time you want to see reminders. Then over time, you can edit your .remind file whenever there are new events you want to be reminded of. You don't have to remove old ones, they are automatically skipped by the script.

About the script

The script was designed to handle all existing .remind files. Results of running it can vary according to the underlying date and locale functions of the operating system (read about locales). For example, some OS's might only know 3-letter day names, in which case you must use 3-letter English day names in any 'weekday' directives. It might help to set a specific locale by giving commands such as these at the shell prompt:
export LC_ALL 

The most interesting thing about the remind script its use of C-Kermit's built-in functions for handling dates:

Returns the name of the day of the week for a given date. By default the result is in English but it can also be in other languages depending on your Locale.
Compares two dates and tells whether the first one is later than, the same as, or before the second one.
Converts the given date into a given format. In this case we convert "human"-style date into a sortable date so the list of events can be easily sorted into chronological order internally before display in human-readable format.
In all Kermit's date-handling functions, a wide variety of date (and time) formats can be recognized. Read more about them HERE.
Remind / The Kermit Project / kermit@kermitproject.org / January-February 2016