Head in the clouds, feet on the ground: Part II (Feed Reader)

In Part I of this series, I argued that we should have a fully functional offline version of every important cloud service that we use. A feed reader is an important cloud service for me. In this post, I explain how to set up a cloud+offline feed reader.

A feed reader must by its nature have its head in the cloud so that if we read a blog post from any device, it appears as read in all other devices. But a feed reader that lives exclusively in the cloud is also problematic as we learned during the discontinuation of Google Reader a couple of years ago. While Google Reader could be easily migrated to Feedly, we still lost some of the functionality that we were used to. Google Reader also allowed us to export all our data, but the exported file is not directly usable without writing some python (or other code) to parse the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) files.

So I want a feed reader with its feet on the ground – everything must be available offline with full functionality. When the internet is switched off or the cloud provider is down, all old posts should be readable and searchable, all “starred” posts should be accessible and so on.

Email appeared to me to be the best way of ensuring such offline functionality. In Part I of this post, I showed how to use offlineimap to download the email folders from the cloud so that they are available offline using any maildir compatible email client. So if feeds are turned into emails, offline functionality comes with no extra effort.
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Head in the cloud, feet on the ground: Part I (email)

My approach to cloud services is “Head in the cloud, feet on the ground”. By “head in the the cloud” I mean the effective use of cloud services to allow seamless access across multiple devices from anywhere. By “feet on the ground”, I mean a fully functional offline backup of the cloud so that all old data is usable even if the cloud is not available.

Head in the cloud

In my experience, backing things up to the cloud is the easier part of my “Head in the cloud, feet on the ground” strategy.

I use cloud storage services (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box or Microsoft Onedrive) to backup critical local files to the cloud. This backup is important because:

  1. I do not want to lose important data if my hard disk crashes or I lose my phone.
  2. I might need some of this data when I am not carrying my laptop with me.

  3. I might want to work on the same data from multiple devices.

Using multiple cloud providers ensures some degree of redundancy so that if one provider fails or imposes unacceptable terms, I can quickly shift to another.

Sensitive files are always stored encrypted. I use 7-Zip to compress lots of files into a single archive and encrypt the archive. Both the cloud password and the archive password are quite strong (say 20 letters, numbers and punctuation characters with about 100 bits of entropy). These two layers of protection should be sufficient to thwart a casual intruder, though they would not of course protect my data against the resources of a nation state. But then a nation state would probably find ways to get hold of my laptop and grab the files from there.

Feet on ground

“Feet on ground” means a fully functional offline backup of the cloud. I regard this as absolutely critical for several reasons:
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