21 August 2015

Fixing Qt5 themes in Xfce

A lot of my Qt apps (e.g., qpdfview, VLC) recently stopped respecting my GTK theme. I did some checking, and it turns out they are all Qt5 apps. Google led me to the QT5 apps don't obey GTK theme settings post at the Manjaro Linux forum, which has some interesting things to say (generally applicable to all distributions).

What I eventually did was add:

# Workaround for Qt5 app theming.

to the end of my my .profile, logout and log back in. Works now.

16 August 2015

Looking for a new RSS news reader

Tiny Tiny RSS is a very decent if not glamorous self-hosted, FOSS news reader. A while back the developer decided to make the install and update process git-based. In addition, "shared hosting accounts, windows and other alternative OSes, free tiers of PaaS services of any kind, is not supported. Not supported in this case meaning: it may work in your particular case but if you have problems you are on your own."

I don't know with any certainty if the deprecation of shared hosting support has anything to do with some weirdness I'm experiencing on the shared hosting account where I have my TT-RSS installed. So, I am preparing for the worst.

I want a self-hostable and FOSS solution if at all possible. The solution also needs to play well with mobile (Android), either through really good Web site design or a dedicated app. I also insist on keystroke article navigation (next and previous).

I'll update this list as I try things.


ownCloud sports a news module. I'm taking it for a spin through a free as in beer provider. The desktop experience is fine--apart from the ordering of articles, which is almost chronological. The mobile Web experience is nearly tolerable. There is a dedicated News app, the usability of which is pretty good, but it has some arcane sync setting configs to get it to sync with the "main" (i.e., Web) list of read articles. You'd think it would do that by default.

FreshRSS looks promising, but I am having issues with the app's not marking read articles as read. I don't know if this is a problem with my provider's DB connection. (It's not the same provider as my TT-RSS install). Keyboard navigation is fine, and the mobile Web experience is workable. It's claimed that the EasyRSS app can connect to FreshRSS, but I have yet to try it. The desktop web interface also has what I feel is a significant usability issue: if you set articles to me marked as read on scroll, then when you scroll the page to select the category of feed you want to read, you manage to mark whatever articles you scrolled through at the same time as read.

Proprietary hosted

AOL Reader comes as a bit of a shock: it's quite decent. Has the needed features and the mobile Web experience is tolerable. It has a 1000 feed limit.

Feedly comes highly recommended. Its Google login isn't too heinous as far as permissions it's granted are concerned. The Twitter login however is. The desktop experience is generally good. (I haven't tried it on mobile.) The privacy policy is riddled with potential share points. The service itself serves up mixed https and http content.

G2Reader also comes highly recommended. But it lacks keyboard navigation, so poop.

Digg Reader looks promising, but I don't like that the only ways in are via Twitter ("Read Tweets from your timeline. See who you follow."), Google ("View your email address, View your basic profile info, Manage your data in Google Reader"), and Facebook (no thanks).

Feedreader doesn't seem to get a lot of ongoing love from its developers, with the most recent news being from 2015 and 2013. This makes me think it could go away without much notice.

The Old Reader has a 100 feed limit for free accounts.

NewsBlur has a 64 feed limit for free accounts.

Current thoughts

If I can't get either of the FOSS options to work to my satisfaction, I may end up using AOL Reader--subject to its not being subject to awful privacy and terms of use policies.

04 April 2015

KB3033929 - or the joys of dual booting

I have been bitten by the bug described in Microsoft's KB3033929.

What I did to fix it:
  1. Dug around and found my Windows 7 install disc. Luckily I had one. Woe be to you if your computer came without one.
  2. Started my computer with the  Windows 7 install in the CD drive. Did the obvious things until I got to a dialog that gave me the option to Repair your computer--which I selected.
  3. In the following window, I selected Command Prompt and ran Bootrec.exe /FixMbr
  4. That seemed too easy, so I also ran the option to check for and correct startup issues.
  5. Removed the Windows 7 install disc media After the automatic reboot (into Windows--bye, bye GRUB), then manually rebooted.
  6. Prompted windows to try (again!) to install the offending update.
  7. Rebooted to confirm that the update took.
  8. Reinstalled GRUB using Rescatux.
So far, no drama.

07 February 2015

Ubuntu phone?

Ubuntu phone

It looks like an Ubuntu phone is going to see the light of day. While I really want to see this launch be a success, the description of the phone by BBC News has me less than blisteringly hopeful. And not because the offering is a low-end device. Rather, it's because the phone won't have the most valuable distinctive feature promised by the platform--conversion to desktop mode when hooked up to external devices--and it will place front and center a largely app-less Scopes UI--which seems to try to be different mostly for the sake of creating some kind of distinction.

I think history has shown that different for different sake doesn't work out well in crowded, high-tech consumer markets. Different in and of itself doesn't offer the user value. In fact, different in and of itself represents friction for the user, a friction that something of greater value must overcome--be it improved performance, better usability, increased visceral appeal (with longevity), or useful new features. In addition, the problems of being different are amplified when when it comes from an upstart that lacks the marketing muscle to boom-crash-firework users into thinking it's not what it really is.

Yes, you need product distinction to succeed in a crowded market. But it has to be a distinction that represents value, not novelty. Inaugurating the platform with  a product that's crippled in the way this one is may forever give the platform a bad reputation--which would suck.

Then again, maybe Scopes solves a problem I didn't realize I had. Which would be pretty cool.