Blogging from Linux without a Client

There is no usable blogging client that works across Linux distributions, leaving me to use the Vim editor and the GoogleCL command line interface.

I have been using the Blogger.com web interface to write posts for several years now and I have found it usable, but limiting. The interface works OK, and it has three different views showing the html code, the html as it might be seen on the web and a hybrid composing view. I switched between the html and web views and found it worked reasonably well as long as the internet connection remained.

But since most of free time I have available to write posts involved a note-book computer withou internet I started to look for an offline blogging client. All it had to do was let me edit the text and upload it to the Blogger web-site along with a title. I am not big on images or embedded videos, so I didn't think I was asking much.

First up was Gnome Blog. Presented as a bare bones client, it was just that. It functioned well though for simple blog entries, with the ability to format text and include images. But it was unable to access Blogger with the Atom 2.0 interface, so it dropped to Atom 1.0. This was a deal breaker, as Atom 1.0 does not seem to support post titles. So, out with Gnome Blog, and 'aptitude install drivel'.

Drivel looks good and has more features than Gnome Blog, but was more buggy and less stable. And it, too, could not supply post titles to Blogger, or retrieve posts to edit. It seems to work well with other blog hosting sites, so it seems to be a problem with Blogger, but I am not keen on transferring this blog to another host just yet, so onwards.
Blogilo (previously called Bilbo, but it attracted legal problems) was the most promising, being rated highly in a Linux Format magazine review. It was the most feature complete and polished, with all the bells and whistles you could want.

But it turned out to be a heavily integrated with the KDE desktop. This meant that, since I wasn't running KDE, it pulled in a number of KDE dependencies. This is not normally a problem, since I had plenty of RAM and the extra libraries could be loaded without slowing the system. It required the use of KDEwallet, which is an encryption keyring. I had no need for another keyring, so I disabled that, but then I discovered that KDE had started taking over my system! The fonts, window decorations and icons, file browser and a bunch of defaults were all KDE'd.

I started to de-KDEify one problem at a time, but ended by removing the whole KDE Desktop invading hoard. All the problems went at once, along with Blogilo.

What's Left?

The most reliable way of uploading pre-written posts to Blogger turned out to be the command line GoogleCL. This is a set of tools for the Google Data API, which includes the Google run Blogger.com, so there is no Atom 1.0 / 2.0 shenanigans. I just type in a terminal:

google blogger post --tags "taglist" --title "title" blogpost.html

GoogleCL is aimed, really, at developers who want to integrate Google services with their software, but it is easy to use at the command line. And, seeing that none of the clients I tried correctly handled uploading or paragraph html tags or titles reliably, GoogleCL is a good stopgap until something better turns up. I am using Vim as an editor, so an added bonus, if you can call it that, is that I am forced to learn the simpler HTML tags.

One Thing Well

The Linux philosophy for software is for each program to do one thing well and to link them together to do more complex tasks. You would think that a dedicated blogging client would be able to do that one thing well, but you'd be wrong. But Vim will always be a good HTML editor and GoogleCL will always be able to upload to Blogger. Who needs a blogging client anyway?

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DRM has Hijacked my DVD Player, Again

The government should be brave and make breaking DRM legal, even if the distribution of copied media remains controlled.

Would YOU steal?

My movie viewing last weekend was interrupted by the antisocial behaviour of the DVD I was trying to watch. I arranged the sofa and TV, poured the wine and sorted some nibbles. The DVD started, but the film didn't.

I had to sit through a series of trailers for films I'd never watch. I pressed fast forward, I pressed skip-on and my player told me that the actions were forbidden. Forbidden! My own player, playing a DVD I had paid for! And the DVD would not let me control the playback. I tried the disk menu button, hoping to get straight to the play options, but the disk skipped back to the start, so I had to watch the trailers again.

Eventually, we got to the main feature. Or would have done if there wasn't a compulsory viewing of the copyright notice. And a jarring and jumpy clip showing a ne'er-do-well breaking into a car and stealing from it, ending with a statement equating copying a DVD to theft. You wouldn't steal, would you? So don't copy stuff it said.

Now, I could be pursuaded that Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a good thing that protects the income of poot artists, but after muttering my way through a long series of video clips in my own home that I didn't want to watch and could not avoid, I was rather less sympathetic. Bypassing DRM and copying media is illegal. But it has it's benefits. Say I buy a DVD, but don't want to watch the same trailers and warnings every time I watch the film. Let's say that I bypass the DRM and copy the film to my PC and strip everything except for the main feature, so that I can watch the film the way I want to watch it. That is illegal.

But can it be equated to stealing? Who on Earth has lost in the process? Stealing is a strictly zero-sum game: one person's gain is another's loss. In this case no-one has lost anything, but I gain plenty. DRM which prevents uncontrolled copying is arguably, maybe, a reasonable thing, but it will never work. Copying and free distribution is rampant, and DRM will never prevent that. It will never be more difficult to copy data bits which are being decoded in my player or PC CDROM drive. But DRM does stop me format shifting, cutting out adverts or making backup copies if I wish to comply with the law.

And when DRM is used to make watch adverts in my own home when I am watching a bought DVD on my own equipment, I has gone beyond a joke.

The government is considering making legal the copying of audio CDs for the purposes of format shifting, backing up and giving to relatives. CDs do not have DRM, so these tasks are technically very simple for end users. They should extend their plan to allow DRM breaking for these purposes. Hollywood shouldn't have special protections not available to recording artists.

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