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Newsletter: SMS Routes, RCS, and more!

singpolyma@singpolyma.net

Hi everyone!

Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client.  Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

SMS Censorship, New Routes

We have written before about the increasing levels of censorship across the SMS network. When we published that article, we had no idea just how bad things were about to get. Our main SMS route decided at the beginning of April to begin censoring all messages both ways containing many common profanities. There was quite some back and forth about this, but in the end this carrier has declared that the SMS network is not meant for person-to-person communication and they don’t believe in allowing any profanity to cross their network.

This obviously caused us to dramatically step up the priority of integration with other SMS routes, work which is now nearing completion. We expect very soon to be offering long-term customers with new options which will not only dramatically reduce the censorship issue, but also in some cases remove the max-10 group text limit, dramatically improve acceptance by online services, and more.

RCS

We often receive requests asking when JMP will add support for RCS, to complement our existing SMS and MMS offerings. We are happy to announce that we have RCS access in internal testing now. The currently-possible access is better suited to business use than personal use, though a mix of both is certainly possible. We are assured that better access is coming later in the year, and will keep you all posted on how that progresses. For now if you are interested in testing this, especially if you are a business user, please do let us know and we’ll let you know when we are ready to start some testing.

One thing to note is that “RCS” means different things to different people. The main RCS features we currently have access to are typing notifications, displayed/read notifications, and higher-quality media transmission.

Cheogram Android

Cheogram Android 2.15.3-1 was released this month, with bug fixes and new features including:

  • Major visual refresh, including optional Material You
  • Better audio routing for calls
  • More customizable custom colour theme
  • Conversation read-status sync with other supporting apps
  • Don’t compress animated images
  • Do not default to the network country when there is no SIM (for phone number format)
  • Delayed-send messages
  • Message loading performance improvements

New GeoApp Experiment

We love OpenStreetMap, but some of us have found existing geocoder/search options lacking when it comes to searching by business name, street address, etc. As an experimental way to temporarily bridge that gap, we have produced a prototype Android app (source code) that searches Google Maps and allows you to open search results in any mapping app you have installed. If people like this, we may also extend it with a server-side component that hides all PII, including IP addresses, from Google, for a small monthly fee. For now, the prototype is free to test and will install as “Maps+” in your launcher until we come up with a better name (suggestions welcome!).

To learn what’s happening with JMP between newsletters, here are some ways you can find out:

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!

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SMS Censorship

singpolyma@singpolyma.net

Since almost the very beginning of JMP there have been occasional SMS and MMS delivery failures with an error message like “Rejected for SPAM”. By itself this is not too surprising, since every communications system has a SPAM problem and every SPAM blocking technique has some false positives. Over the past few years, however, the incidence of this error has gone up and up. But whenever we investigate, we find no SPAM being sent, just regular humans having regular conversations. So what is happening here? Are the SPAM filters getting worse?

In a word: yes.

It seems that in an effort to self-regulate and reduce certain kinds of “undesirable content” most carriers have resorted to wholesale keyword blocking of words not commonly found in SPAM, but referring to items and concepts the carriers find undesirable. For example, at least one major USA carrier blocks every SMS message containing the word “morphine”. How any hospital staff or family with hospitalized members are meant to know they must avoid this word is anyone’s guess, hopefully after being told their messages are “SPAM” they can guess to say “they upped Mom’s M dose” instead?

What We Are Doing

To preserve our reputation with these carriers we have begun to build an internal list of the keywords being blocked by different major carriers, and blocking all messages with those keywords ourselves rather than attempt to deliver them. While this seems like a suboptimal solution, the messages would never have been delivered anyways and this reduces the amount of “SPAM” that the carriers see coming from us. We have also insituted a cooldown such that if your account triggers a “SPAM” error from a major carrier, further messages are blocked for a short time to avoid repeated attempts to send the same message.

So what are the kinds of “undesirable content” the carriers are attempting to avoid here?

  • Obviously please do not use JMP for anything illegal. This has never been allowed and we continue to not tolerate this in any way.
  • Additionally, please avoid sexually explicit or graphically violent discussions, or discussions about drugs illegal in any part of the USA.

This is not really our policy so much as it is that of the carriers we must work with in order to continue delivering your messages to friends and family.

What You Can Do

Every JMP account comes with, as an option, a Snikket instance of your very own. As always, we highly recommend inviting friends and family you have many discussions with (especially discussions about sex, firearms, or drugs) to your Snikket instance and continuing all conversations there in private instead of broadcasting them over the phone network. Sending an invite link to your Snikket instance is easy, and anyone who uses the link will get an account on your instance, with yourself and others as a contact, set up automatically, so it is a great way to speak more securely with family and friend groups. Snikket will also enable higher quality media sharing, video calls, and many other benefits for your regular contacts.

Of course we know you will continue to need SMS and MMS for many of your contacts now and in the future, and JMP is dedicated to continuing to provide best-in-class service for person to person communication in this way as well.

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How to use Jabber from SMS

singpolyma@singpolyma.net

The Soprani.ca project, and Cheogram in particular, is pretty big on bidirectional gateways.  The most popular Cheogram-hosted instance, so popular that it gets to own Jabber IDs on cheogram.com, is a bidirectional gateway to the telephone network.  How is it bidirectional?  Don’t you need a Jabber ID to use it?  Of course not!

Sending a Message

From any SMS-enabled device, add +12266669977, which is the gateway’s phone number.  Send the following SMS:

/msg someone@server.tld Hello!

The user with Jabber ID someone@server.tld should shortly receive your message.  If they reply, what you see will depend on their relationship to the gateway.  If they have a backend route set (such as JMP, Vonage, or Twilio) then you will get an SMS from their associated phone number.  If not, you will get a message from the gateway’s number like this:

<someone@server.tld says> Oh, fun!

Joining a Chatroom

An SMS user can also join exactly one chatroom at a time.  Send this to the gateway’s number:

/join someroom@conference.server.tld

You should receive a message with the current list of participants, after which you will start seeing messages sent to the room.  After this point, any SMS send to the gateway’s number that is not a valid command (such as /msg) will be sent to your joined room as a message.  You can send /help at any time to get a list of other commands for leaving, setting your nickname, etc.

Making a Voice Call

To call a Jabber ID, first enter it into this form then dial one of the access numbers and follow it up with the extension generated by the form.

The extensions are often very long, so the easiest way to dial them on Android is to create a contact with a phone number of the form:

+access_number,*10816etc

If you have trouble with one access number, try another one.  If the Jabber ID you wish to call is very long some access numbers may time-out waiting for you to dial all the digits.

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