EmailTweetor for #Android v2018.01.09 retweets

To retweet, just paste the URL of the Twitter message.

If the message contains no other letters other than the URL, it becomes a reweet. Else, it will be a new tweet.

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Subhash TweetsToRSS v2018.01.01 for Linux/Android/Windows/Mac makes retweets optional

Account info includes tweet count, language & location.

A new check box is available in the search page to include/omit retweets. By default, retweets are now omitted from RSS feeds.

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Kerala Pooram Festival Firecrackers Storage Design for Explosion Containment

Yesterday, I went to my native village for their annual pooram festival. There were five adorned elephants and a chenda troupe. It was great but there was no grand fireworks.

Kerala pooram festivals are famous for the fireworks shows. After a mishap few years ago, the Supreme Court and the local Communists ensured that the centuries-old practice of lighting fireworks was abandoned. The ban was placed after a mishap killed dozens of people and injured a lot more. The fallout was amplified because the firecrackers were stored under a concrete roof. This one-off event has been exploited to ban fireworks permanently.

Here is a simple design for storing firecrackers. It uses cheap local materials and does not require much more than manual labor for digging a ditch and constructing a light shed over it. A storage platform is built in the ditch using bamboo or casuarina poles. The ditch is half-filled with water so that the explosives will be submerged in case there is a fire. The water barrels and sandbangs will also absorb the force of the explosion and flood into the ditch.

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Grand Circus at Palakkad Stadium Stand

I am just back from attending the show at Indira Gandhi Municipal Stadium (near Stadium Stand). The circus arena seemed like one that had fallen on hard times.

The one time I had been to a circus was when I was in primary school. We got a free ticket each to the Jumbo Circus. It was a neat marketing trick by the circus management because we also brought our parents who had to buy their tickets. Jumbo had a fabulous production. There were elevated wooden stands for us to sit. They had wild animals like tigers, lions, bears and elephants. The Indian government stupidly banned circus animals several years later. (Zoos continue to imprison animals.) Since then, circus troupes have fallen on tough times.

My initial impression at Grand Circus was not great. It seemed like a failure. But boy was I surprised!

The publicity handouts said something about African and Manipuri performers along with Indians. What a show they put on! It was not a totally flawless performance but they had everything you expect from a circus. Trapeze acrobatics, various gymnastic performers, a strongman (a lady), dog tricks, motorcycle cage, bicycle stunts (no brakes, just two wheels and a frame) and the children’s favorite clown show. The Manipuri boys & girls did many of the gymnastic stunts along with some feats using iron rods and sharp knives. The Africans did mostly non-African stunts – the famous Brazilian leg acrobatic thing and the Caribbean fireplay thing.

Indian crowds are hard to please. They are extremely reticent when it comes to applauding. But by the end the crowd was clearly won over.

My favorite stunts were the gymnastic stunts and the woman who balanced herself above three wooden boards with glass tumblers in between and a plastic cylinder below everything.

Shows are at 1 pm, 4 pm, & 7 pm.

Grand Circus Kerala

Grand Circus Kerala

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Google News unhides the RSS option – it may not last

Past experience suggests that it could be a bait-and-switch tactic.

RSS option in the new and old Google News

Google News used to have an RSS option. There was a RSS link in the footer of the page. There was also a LINK RSS tag in the HTML source code for browsers to turn on their RSS buttons.

After Google and other big companies launched the unofficial war on RSS, the LINK tag disappeared and after a while the RSS button too. Initially, it disappeared on mobile-friendly version of Google News. RSS links that used to work in the mobile-friendly version of Google News also stopped working. I solved this problem by mimicking Subhash Browser as a desktop browser when the Google News page was loaded. (RSS feeds are important for me because Subhash Brower bundles an integrated RSS/ATOM/RDF feed reader, the only browser app with such a feature. I wanted users to search their favorite topics in Google News and use the served-up RSS link in the feed reader.) Then, Google removed the RSS footer link from the desktop version too. (The RSS service continued to work but ordinary users were not going to manually construct the links.) In a recent update, I overcame that by mimicking Subhash Browser as a very old desktop browser – Opera 12.x. That did the trick. Google serves source-controlled versions of its search and news pages for different versions of browsers. When I mimicked Opera 12.x, the RSS link magically appeared back in Subhash Browser. That was just over a month ago.

A few days back, Google served a news item in the RSS feed service indicating that the current RSS link is going to be obsoleted and that users should migrate to the new version.

Currently, the old Opera version serves news like this:
HTML: http://www.google.co.in/search?q=aadhaar&tbm=nws
RSS: http://news.google.co.in/news?q=aadhaar&output=rss

It remains to be seen whether the RSS feed will really be removed from old source-controlled versions too. The notice is clear:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated
This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

In new browsers, the links are:
HTML: https://news.google.com/news/search/section/q/aadhaar
RSS: https://news.google.com/news/rss/search/section/q/aadhaar

Actually, in the new version, the URLs are slightly more confusing but the above ones will work. I have simplified it. (The search term is aadhaar.)

If past actions is any guide, then Google will remove the RSS link from the News page footer in a sneaky manner. Bing had an RSS option but they also removed it without notice. When Twitter dropped their RSS support, I wrote TweetsToRSS server app for PC and Android. Even very early on, Google tried to promote ATOM feeds as a competitor to RSS. It failed. I thought this war would end at some time soon but no. Someone’s really angry with RSS.

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How to create a cheap DIY backlit keyboard

Well, it is not really backlit. It is rather “overlit”. I took a clear-plastic-and-cardboard case, added a few LED bulbs and a transistor and connected them to 5 volts from a USB port. It is a cheap solution but far less expensive than a real backlit keyboard.

A cheap DIY solution for lighting up your computer keyboard.

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How to power 12v LED strip using 5v USB port – add a step-up transformer

USB ports supply 5 volts. The 12v LED strip requires at least 9 volts. I bought a step-up DC-to-DC boost transformer circuit which can step up from 1.5v and up it up 24 or 32 volts. It took 5 volts from the USB port and boosted it up to 12 volts to the LED strip.

WARNING: Before connecting the output to any equipment, measure the output. The output voltage can vary widely depending on the input voltage. I fried an MP3 player module with 24 volts. So be careful. The circuit has a nut in the three-prong resistor which changes the output voltage. You can turn it several times in either direction to fine-tune the output voltage.

12v LED strip is powered by USB port using a step-up transformer circuit

Plastic box housing the transformer circuit has 2.1 mm plug (12 v) and socket (5v). I also added a 2.1 mm socket to the LED strip and a plug to a USB cable. (The USB port on the cable from the power bank was custom-built. I use it for electronic testing.) The power bank is also a custom-built one from 18650 batteries salvaged from a laptop battery.

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