May 16

I’m off on holiday to the west of Ireland once again in a couple of weeks time, hoping to keep in touch with the tech world using my trusty old Acer Aspire One netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Yes I know it’s old school – I don’t have a 3G smartphone yet so I have to go this route. I use Google Reader as my RSS reader but this only works when you have an internet connection as it’s an online reader. As I’ll be away from public WiFi most of the time, I need to be able to update the feeds when and where I can and then browse them at my leisure offline. When travelled there 2 years ago, Google Gears was still supported so I could use this to read my feeds in Google Reader offline.  But since then, Google has withdrawn Gears so I looked at the alternative they suggested in that post – Liferea (Linux Feed Reader), a desktop RSS aggregator for Linux.

No problems installing Liferea using

sudo apt-get install liferea

at the command line. To update Liferea with your Reader feeds, just click Subscriptions, New Source and select Google Reader from the dialog. Then enter your Google username and password. I have about 180 subscriptions in Reader and Liferea took about 20-30 minutes to read in all the feeds. And then I deleted the example feeds which weren’t of any use to me.

I’ve installed version 1.6.3 but I get the impression Liferea is very much work in progress or else it doesn’t play nicely with Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. It doesn’t update feeds in alphabetical order although I note this had been added in later releases. Also there’s no indication when it has stopped updating, other than the hard drive LED stops flashing. But apart from that, it seems to present my latest unread posts clearly in offline mode so it’ll do the job I want on holiday. Doubtless I’ll learn much more on how it works ‘at the coal face’.

Liferea

If you use WiFi, how do you browse your RSS feeds offline? Or is it time for me to get a smartphone? Or should I just switch off on holiday? Drop a comment below.


Aug 8

Gears2

I’ve already blogged about setting up my Linux powered netbook to work offline on holiday using Google Gears (or Gears as it’s now called) and HTTrack (website copier). HTTrack worked well but Gears appeared a little buggy and lacked fine tuning of features.

A couple of things that annoyed me with Gears were:

1. Items I’d already read in online mode in Google Reader were marked as unread in offline mode using Gears.

2. I generally read my feeds in list view in Reader. This lets me skim through the post titles and decide which are worth reading. I therefore end up with many unread items at the end of a session. That’s fine in online mode – just click the button Mark all as read in Reader. But this button doesn’t work in offline mode in Gears. So next time you get a chance to sync the feeds online, you end up with your (so-called) unread posts from the old session plus your new posts to go through. This isn’t satisfactory as you’ve already decided the old unread posts aren’t worth looking at.

I did find a workaround for this though. First of all, in Settings In Google Reader, under the Preferences tab, make sure that the box against In expanded view, mark items as read when you scroll past them is checked. Then, if you work in list view in Reader, once you’ve completed your session in Gears offline, change to expanded view and scroll down through all the items until all are marked as read. Not great if you have a lot of unread items, but at least when you sync up again online, all the old items should be marked as read, although I understand from this post that even this doesn’t work satisfactorily at the moment.

I’ll update this post when Google updates Gears to iron out these problems using Google Reader in offline mode.


Jul 19
Offline browsing
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Laptops and more recently netbooks have made us increasingly able to take our digital life on the road. I bought a netbook back in January but as I work from home, I don’t get much chance to go mobile. However, holidays are coming up this week and we’re all off to the west of Ireland. So I’m taking my Acer Aspire One netbook + Easy Peasy Linux with me, not to work, but to try and keep in touch with the tech blogs and hopefully to fire off the occasional tweet.

Problem is, I know there isn’t broadband where I’m staying in Ireland. I’m going to have to look out for wifi hotspots in cafes and bars in the area but I just don’t know how widespread they are yet down Ireland’s west coast. Googling and hotspot locator websites don’t seem to bring up many in the right areas for me. Guess I’ll soon find out.

So I may only be able to connect up say 2 or 3 times in 2 weeks and even then perhaps not for long. So what’s the best solution here to keep in touch? Googling ‘offline browsing’ bring up lots of possibilities but perhaps the most useful to me is Google Gears, particularly as there’s a Linux version for my netbook.

Gears

This will allow me to fetch the latest 2000 RSS items to Google Reader when I have a connection and browse through them later in offline mode. When I ran a test of what’s being downloaded by Gears, I noticed that for me, this seems to fetch about a week’s worth of posts. It’s a pity that there isn’t more control on this as I would have liked to fetch a few months worth to be able to browse back through stuff I’d bookmarked but hadn’t really had a chance to read.

So what about the occasional miserably wet days when it’s not possible to venture out into the great outdoors and you’re stuck without a connection? Well, I found this program called HTTrack, again with a Linux version, which allows you to download whole websites to your netbook to browse offline.

HTTrack

Installation was a breeze on the netbook. Just go to the terminal and type:

apt-get update
apt-get install webhttrack

Great, so I’ve picked out three or four great Ubuntu websites which I’ve discovered recently and downloaded them so now I can browse way back to my heart’s content and look at all the earlier posts offline.

So hopefully the combination of Google Reader+Gears and HTTrack will be able to feed my digital addiction while on holiday. What programs do you have on your netbook or laptop for offline browsing and keeping in touch on the road or on holidays? Am I missing anything useful here?


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