wallabag, a read-it-later cloud service

wallabag is an open source project that allows me to capture web pages, much like Pocket and Instapaper. Unlike most other read-it-later type services, you can host your own wallabag instance on your own server or a shared server. wallabag includes features and an ecosystem that may not be quite as developed as its commercial competitors, but seem more than adequate.

wallabag – it’s wallabag, not Wallabag – lets you use it on their server for free. I don’t know how they do that, there are no ads, this is generous of them. I used their hosted wallabag to check it out and make sure that it met my needs. I was disappointed that it would not successfully import my 900+ articles that I’ve saved to Pocket/Instapaper over the past few years. But it seemed to work just fine for adding new articles.

This is what I was looking for:

  • easy to add a page from Firefox, both on my desktop and on my phone
  • an Android app or a very good mobile-friendly web app
  • full-text search and tags
  • options for exporting and sharing articles in various ways
  • ability to integrate with services like IFTT so that I can move articles into other services, like Evernote
  • all under my control, not at the whims of some company that could fold or decide they need to make more profit or support the latest UI trend

wallabag meets all of these needs and more.

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Adopting Qtile

OK, they're shingles, not tiles

Qtile is a tiling window manager written in Python for the X Window System (that means Linux and other *nixes). It’s been around for a while, and I’ve tried on several occasions to use it. Recently, I (and Qtile) made enough progress that it’s reliable and efficient to use as my daily driver.

You can watch a short and droll video about Qtile from 2011 on YouTube

Despite its name, Qtile has nothing to do with Qt nor KDE, in fact like most tiling window managers, it replaces a desktop environment. I was an XFCE user for many years, and more recently made extended trials of KDE and Gnome. Gnome ran pretty well on my middle-aged Thinkpad, but I found myself needing to use the mouse a bit more than I wanted to, especially because I was trying to use the trackpad instead of toting around a mouse.

Qtile has enabled me to do virtually all my window management using the keyboard with a minimum of effort. Because I can (when I want) dispense with any chrome or even a bar, Qtile lets me make most efficient use of my limited number of pixels (1368×768). I tend to be a windows-maximized-all-the-time kind of person, and of course that is easy to work in with Qtile. When I need to switch to side-by-side or tiled windows, it’s just a keyboard shortcut away.

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Comments on Quebec

Having recently returned from a short vacation in Montreal and Quebec, I noticed a few things I wanted to comment about.

It seems that Montreal is much more French than my last visit about 15 years ago. Signs seldom have an English version, and when they do, the English is often a shortened version and sometimes in a smaller or low contrast font. On the other hand – and maybe this is a consequence of traveling with children on this latest trip – spoken English seemed to be uniformly tolerated without any of the attitude I had noticed in a previous visit.

In a couple of ways, technology is more sophisticated in Canada than in any city I have visited in the US recently. In Canada, use of the wireless credit card terminals in restaurants and shops seems universal, but I have yet to see them in the US. And of course these terminals work with smart credit cards with the embedded chip that the rest of the world has migrated to.

Parking meters are more sophisticated in Quebec (and probably Montreal, but we didn’t park on the street there) than in my limited circuit of American cities. Every parking spot is marked with a number, and every block seems to have a parking payment kiosk. At the kiosk, you enter the number, select how much you want to pay for time, and then either insert coins (no dollar bills in Canadian currency, only one and two dollar coins) or a credit card, and when you complete the transaction, a slip of paper emerges with your expiration time and the parking spot number. So not only do you have a note of when your time expires, but you can add more time to an expired spot at any payment kiosk (in your sector, whatever that means), no need to go back to where your car is parked. This system is called Pay and Go, and I wish we had it where I live. The payment stations are wireless and solar powered! And there are smartphone apps (at least for Montreal) and a web UI that you can pay with (and the apps remind you to pay)!

Exporting LNG isn't as good as a carbon tax, but is there any environmental benefit?

Various senators and representatives are seeking to fast-track exports of the American bounty of natural gas to some of our trade partners (in Eastern Europe, primarily) as a foil to Russian heavy-handed tactics in Ukraine. In fact, there is competition to see who gets their version of “natural gas diplomacy” adopted.

Currently our improving supply of natural gas, which has increased largely by the practice of fracking – with consequences that are deferred to the future – is helping to keep home heating, electrical generation, and industrial costs down. Economics tells us that increasing the demand for a product is likely to increase the price of the product, and I don’t see why this relationship should not apply to natural gas prices.

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Furnishing the Cubicle

In which I extrapolate from a sample size of 1 to the general prediction that the denizens of the cube farm are about to embark in a wave of workplace embellishment – at their own expense.

My journey into buying my own equipment for my cube at my workplace started small enough: a mouse. Actually, it was a replacement for a mouse; I was using the mouse so much that by the end of the day, my shoulder was very tight. My solution was to buy a trackball, bring it in, and use it instead of the mouse.

Could I have requested that the IT department buy me a trackball? Sure, I could have asked, but I doubt they would have done it. So I bought my own: the start of a long progression.

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