Replacing TPGoogleReader

Futurama quote pattern

Note: No actual code here.

Back in July 2013, Google discontinued its "Reader" RSS/Atom feed aggregation service. Basically: you subscribed to a number of websites via their syndication feeds. Google would periodically query the feeds for new content. It would also keep track of what articles you had "read". (More accurately: marked as read. You didn't actually have to read them.) There are a number of services that do that sort of thing. I used Reader because of the independently-developed TPGoogleReader Chrome extension. Specifically, for one lousy feature of TPGoogleReader. You could get it to:

  1. Query Google Reader for your unread articles;

  2. Automatically open up a number of browser tabs showing unread articles, up to a specified maximum;

  3. And this is the critical part: when I closed an auto-opened tab, TPGoogleReader would open up the next unread article in a new tab in the background.

This made browsing a large number of sites an efficient breeze. When I finished reading one article, a tab-closing control-W all by itself would bring up a new background tab with the next unread article in my feed. No mouse-messing. Concentrate on reading content. Bliss.

It took a few years, and numerous false starts, but I'm back at that point again. Here's how:

  • I moved to a free Inoreader account to take over the RSS feed monitoring. They are reliable, active, and seem to be hanging around.

  • I wrote a "fetch" Perl script that uses the WebService::Google::Reader to log into Inoreader and download unread article data. As you might guess from the name, the module author originally developed for Google Reader, but graciously made the necessary changes to make it work with Inoreader.

    I run this script periodically via anacron.

  • The final bit of the puzzle was the Chromix-Too extension for the Google Chrome web browser. This consists of a JavaScript client/server pair that communicate over a Unix-domain socket. The client bit has a simple command interface, and I only use two of them:

    1. Tell me how many tabs the browser has open:

      chromix-too raw chrome.tabs.query '{}'

      The output is a mass of detailed JSON, but that's pretty easy to parse.

    2. Open a new tab in the background with a specified URL:

      chromix-too raw chrome.tabs.create '{"active":false,"url":"URL"}'

I'm leaving out a lot of details, but they are pretty straightforward (and of very little general interest): storing a local list of unread articles, figuring out whether it's appropriate to open one (and if so which one), time delays, etc. I wrap all this logic in a "reader" Perl script which I run whenever I have the browser running.

But I'm back to web-surfing Nirvana again, so that's good. The only downside (sort of) is that all this happens on a single (Linux) host. That's OK for me.


Last Modified 2018-01-06 4:43 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-01-05

Woo, that's a lot of snow out there. Obviously, I should get started clearing the driveway blog.

■ Does Proverbs 17:25 say anything about procrastination? No, it's another gripe about kids' shortcomings:

25 A foolish son brings grief to his father
    and bitterness to the mother who bore him.

Note: this is pretty much the same Proverb as four verses previous. The Proverbialist is no fan of fools, especially ones in his family. He takes no responsibility for their foolishness though.


■ We try to keep things PG-13 at Pun Salad, but sensitive souls should skip to the next item: Judge overturns campus rape finding after officials call accused student ‘motherf—er’

Just before Christmas, a judge overturned the University of Southern California’s 2016 sexual-assault finding against an accused student, deeming him the victim of a process that was not “fair, thorough, reliabl[y] neutral and impartial.”

One of the errors made by the private institution? The Title IX coordinator and investigator repeatedly called the male student and his adviser “motherfuckers” after they forgot to hang up on a call with them.

In theory, it's possible for University student conduct investigators to be professional and unbiased. In practice, way too many of them are ideology-driven authoritarian thugs.

The only bright spot: a lot of them are also totally incompetent at making even the pretense of fairness, even at a school like USC.


@kevinNR has some legal advice for POTUS: If Trump Has Been Defamed, He Should Sue.

Michael Wolff has published a sensational new book about the Trump administration. In it, he quotes Steve Bannon, formerly the chief executive of the Trump campaign and chairman of Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, characterizing meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon also is quoted as saying that there is “zero” chance that Donald Trump himself was unaware of the meetings.

There are many amusing anecdotes in the book that tend to confirm the worst suspicions of the administration’s critics. Wolff writes of Kellyanne Conway’s maneuvering on Election Day, expecting a resounding loss but hoping to parlay her work into a lucrative Fox News contract. There are cabinet secretaries such as Rex Tillerson and quondam allies such as Rupert Murdoch who dismiss the president as an imbecile surrounded by dilettantes, opportunists, and con artists. Trump’s children maneuver fecklessly, and he himself retreats into a cocoon of fast food and cable news. It is the sort of thing that those who take an uncharitable view of the president — and no one takes a more uncharitable view than I do — would have expected.

From what I gather, Wolff has a long history of making stuff up. Trump should have, at most, simply pointed this out, and otherwise ignored him, but that's not in Trump's nature.


■ David Harsanyi has a bone to pick with journalists who breezily invoke tame anti-market economists in articles and columns: ‘Economists Say’ A Lot Of Things. But They’re Mostly Wrong.

“A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly,” opens a recent New York Times article surveying the state of the American economy.

One imagines readers of the esteemed paper were surprised to run across such a rosy assessment after being bombarded with news of a homicidal Republican tax plan for so many weeks. Not to worry! Over the next few thousand words, the authors do their best to assure readers that neither deregulation nor tax cuts are really behind this new economic activity — even if business leaders keep telling them otherwise.

For example, “There is little historical evidence tying regulation levels to growth,” the Times claims. A few paragraphs later we again learn that, “The evidence is weak that regulation actually reduces economic activity or that deregulation stimulates it.”

Pro tip: you have a good (but not infallible) chance of getting straight economy-related news from the Wall Street Journal.


■ Oregon enacted legislation that would allow (but not mandate) some rural gas stations to have self-service pumps. Alex Tabarrok notes the ridicule being spent on Oregonians freaking out at the concept of customer-operated gas pumps. But wait, there's a more general point being ignored: Collective Action Kills Innovation.

Most of the rest of the America–where people pump their own gas everyday without a second thought–is having a good laugh at Oregon’s expense. But I am not here to laugh because in every state but one where you can pump your own gas you can’t open a barbershop without a license. A license to cut hair! Ridiculous. I hope people in Alabama are laughing at the rest of America. Or how about a license to be a manicurist? Go ahead Connecticut, laugh at the other states while you get your nails done. Buy contact lens without a prescription? You have the right to smirk British Columbia!

… and Granite Staters should not chuckle at Oregon while under the soapy hands of a Shampoo Assistant Apprentice.


■ On the other hand, it's healthy to laugh. The Babylon Bee reports: Oregon Man Attempts To Decipher Gasoline Pump As Though It Were Advanced Alien Technology.

After a new law took effect January 1st overturning a ban on self-service gas stations, local Oregonian Brax Olson got out of his vehicle and stared mesmerized at a gasoline pump, attempting to figure out how it worked as though it were some monolithic piece of alien tech left over from an advanced race of visitors from the stars.

The man stared transfixed at the handle and surmised it was some kind of holding device used by ancient visitors to earth, who may have grasped the bizarre apparatus and somehow fueled their spaceships. Drawing on the wealth of knowledge he had attained gaining his Master’s degree in English literature, the 48-year-old barista figured out how to remove the hose from the eldritch machine and place it in his vehicle, the nozzle miraculously fitting in his Subaru, though it was clearly designed for some kind of interstellar vessel.

Funny. But if you're in New Hampshire, we have our own problems with government restrictions on market transactions. We trust people to be able to pump their own gas, but not to build houses people might want to buy, in places where they might want to live.