Episode 2: Kobos, Kindles, and Highlights

Today, I talk about my experience with Kindles (Oasis, Paperwhite) and the Kobo Libra 2. I touch on what I’m currently reading and I take a quick look at a highlighting workflow I recently built (episode 3 will dive more into that).

Transcript


Auditing Our Non-Profit's Software

I’ve been in charge of auditing my non-profit team’s software use and changing directions where we need. With some software, I have lots of leeway, with others there’s none. But it looks like we’re going to be using this set of products going forward: Quickbooks (existing), ProtonMail (from Google Workspace), DropBox (from Google Drive & Docusign), Notion (existing but consolidating lots of stuff), Todoist (from a white board).

Some of our goals in doing this are increasing privacy & security, modernization, lowering costs, and future proofing. It’s not locked in stone as of yet (still awaiting some communication from a couple of the companies), but it looks to be headed that way.


Tiny Theme 2.7: Fundamental Changes to 'More' Tag Usage

Tiny Theme has been updated to version 2.7 and includes a fundamental change to how posts can be truncated with a Read More tag. Previously, you needed to use a Summary Posts plugin (now archived). The feature is now built-in for all users. Simply add a more tag within your post and it’ll be properly truncated on your main blog page.

That’s hardly breaking news, but here is where things change. Hugo (and thus Micro.blog) has limited support for formatting and handling this style of truncated posts/summaries. Typically, all HTML formatting (links, photos, etc) would be stripped out when using that tag. Obviously, that’s not ideal. Tiny Theme will now handle that how you might expect. Your blog feed, even when using the More tag, will show all HTML as intended on the post feed even when you use more tags.


My Top 5 Flashlights to Carry

For years, I’ve been in what many call the EDC Community. Basically, that means I’m more cognizant of what I carry on a daily basis. Technically speaking, everyone has an EDC (or Every Day Carry). For most people, that includes a phone, keys, and wallet. Others take it a step further with a pocket knife or leaps and bounds further with a fully stocked sling/bag.

One of the most common extra items is a flashlight. If you’re questioning the necessity of carrying a flashlight by asking, “Why not use the flashlight on your phone?” then you likely aren’t the individual who needs to carry a flashlight. But if you find yourself needing a legitimate standalone flashlight often (perhaps due to your job) or just want to see what it’s like to carry one, this list is for you.


A Child Theme for Tiny

Tiny Theme comes fully designed out-of-the-box, but many people like to tweak things here and there. Perhaps you want to add a background or increase the width. As a quick example, I’ve designed a child theme using only 3 lines of CSS.

Child Theme for Tiny Theme for Micro.blog

I’ve added a background color, modified the page width, tweaked the margins, rounded some corners, and centered the header. You can copy and paste the code below into your Custom CSS (access it via the Design page on Micro.blog). Use it as is or modify it to your needs.

As you can see, making wholesale design changes to Tiny Theme is pretty easy.


My Top 10 Historical Fiction Novels


New - Tiny Theme 2.0 with Microhooks

I’ve been very happy with the success and development of Tiny Theme since its inception. However, there has always been one big obstacle I’ve had trouble over-coming. Basic CSS customization has always been possible, but I wanted to create a way for more advanced customizations without requiring users to over-write major elements of the theme (and thus missing out on future updates).

Introducing Microhooks

I’m calling this new feature Microhooks. It allows users to add (or modify) elements without having to over-write critical parts of Tiny Theme. For example, previously, if you wanted to add an email subscription box to the bottom of each post, you’d either have to code that in to every post OR completely over-write the single post implementation of Tiny…and if the single post implementation of Tiny ever got updated, well…good luck. Now, there’s another way.

Due to the growing popularity of Tiny Theme, I have created a documentation site that has information more current than this post.


Default Apps for 2023

There have been a bunch of “what apps am I using?” blog posts recently, inspired by an episode of Hemispheric Views. Robb Knight has a page with links to other people’s posts.


A New Plugin for Tiny Theme: Adaptive Photo Layout

When I first created Tiny Theme, I knew I wanted to allow users to create posts with more than a handful of images. While technically possible from day one, the default layout was a simple vertical stack of images. While this is to be expected on mobile devices, it’s less than elegant on larger screens.

The solution comes in the form of the Adaptive Photo Layout plugin for Tiny Theme.

Installation

  1. Go to the Plugin Page
  2. Install It

Usage

To create a gallery, you have to follow a few steps manually. This allows you to only use the adaptive photo layout when you’re sure you need it. Here’s the sample code:

<div class="adaptive_photo_layout">
	<ul>
		<li><img src="LINK TO IMAGE 1" alt="IMAGE 1 DESCRIPTION" loading="lazy"></li>
		<li><img src="LINK TO IMAGE 2" alt="IMAGE 2 DESCRIPTION" loading="lazy"></li>
		<li><img src="LINK TO IMAGE 3" alt="IMAGE 3 DESCRIPTION" loading="lazy"></li>
		<li><img src="LINK TO IMAGE 4" alt="IMAGE 4 DESCRIPTION" loading="lazy"></li>
		<li><img src="LINK TO IMAGE 5" alt="IMAGE 5 DESCRIPTION" loading="lazy"></li>
		<li></li>
	</ul>
</div>

The last empty <li></li> is suggested for formatting purposes.

There are no limits to the amount of photos you can use. As long as your code is formatted like the above, it will work. If you’d like, you can even link each image to a standalone version (or to anything else) as well.

Shortcode?

I made the intentional decision to not include a shortcode with this plugin. Shortcodes create longterm lock-in to a plugin. I wanted you to be able to switch themes and plugins in the future without your site breaking or you being required to manually remove every shortcode.

Shortcuts!

Thanks to the excellent work of Jarrod Blundy of HeyDingus.net, this plugin is launching with 2 included Shortcuts for iOS/MacOS.

Both shortcuts require you to validate your Micro.blog account upon initial use. They also give you the opportunity to view and add alt descriptions to each photo in your album. The results are then added to your clipboard. Easily paste the html into your new post/page and publish!

Jarrod did an excellent job with these plugins. Checkout his library for more shortcuts. Best of all, you can even hire him to create one for you.

Support Development

Tiny Theme and its plugins are provided free of charge to Micro.blog users. I do not receive payment from Micro.blog in any way. If you’d like to help offset expenses and ensure the future of Tiny and its plugins, please consider supporting its development.

Buy Me A Coffee

Example

With the Adaptive Photo Layout plugin, you can create albums that look great on desktop and tablet browsers. For this example, I used the iOS shortcut.

  • Kalena at beach
  • Matt and Kalena in Lithuania
  • Kalena in Mexico
  • Isla Mujeres
  • Kalena in Savannah
  • Matt and Kalena in Hawaii
  • Kalena in Breaux Bridge
  • Kalena and son at beach
  • Matt and Kalena at Truist Park
  • Kalena and son at beach
  • Kalena and son with dinosaurs
  • Kalena and daughter in San Antonio
  • Kalena and son at Minute Maid Park
  • Kalena in Pensacola
  • Matt and Kalena in Lafayette
  • Matt and Kalena and family
  • Kalena and son playing baseball
  • Kalena and son at baseball game
  • Langford family in Pensacola
  • Matt and Kalena in Oklahoma
  • Kalena holding rock

Creating a Custom Branded File Sharing Service for Free

I had a first-world file sharing dilemma. I wanted to be able to simply share files with others that didn’t require a convoluted process. I wanted to be able to set expiration dates and passwords when necessary. I wanted it to be custom branded. And here’s the kicker, it needed to be affordable.


Introducing Font Choices for Tiny Theme

When I started developing Tiny Theme, I set out with goals of (1) accomplishing everything without scripts, (2) make it as light as possible, and (3) use as few media queries as possible. To date, Tiny still has zero added scripts, is very light, and uses only 1 media query (to enable dark mode). However, shortly after releasing the theme, it became apparent that people wanted font choices. How could I enable that without adding any scripts or additional weight to the theme?

Going this route limited me to using system fonts. My first inclination was to leave the theme as is and allow users to decide if and how they wanted to customize font stacks (something you can still do). But with more requests, I realized a lot of people would prefer to have built-in options.

While attempting to build out my own capable font stacks, I came across Modern Font Stacks. It is a collection of pre-defined font stacks (with fallbacks) that have almost perfect cross compatibility with different browsers and systems. It was an easy choice to build off their work.

The next hurdle was deciding how to allow Tiny Theme users to select fonts. I could build in a sort of font selector dropdown, but that would require a settings page (which has certain Micro.blog hurdles) that could stand in the way of future updates. I also considered a separate plugin to enable the feature, but decided that was unnecessary.

Ultimately, I decided to integrate the font family choices directly into Tiny Theme. You can use Micro.blog’s built-in Custom CSS options to choose your preferred font stack from Modern Font Stacks. Visit their site for quick visual aids.

How to Use

(Requires Tiny Theme 1.8 or higher)

  1. Go to Edit CSS in your Micro.blog Design Settings
  2. Add the following code:
body {
    font-family: var(--font_system_ui);
}

The code snippet above is the default setting. To change your font stack, you can choose from the following options:

  • --font_system_ui
  • --font_transitional
  • --font_old_style
  • --font_humanist
  • --font_geometric_humanist
  • --font_classical_humanist
  • --font_neo_grotesque
  • --font_monospace_slap_serif
  • --font_monospace_code
  • --font_industrial
  • --font_rounded_sans
  • --font_slab_serif
  • --font_antique
  • --font_didone
  • --font_handwritten

For example, you could use:

body {
    font-family: var(--font_old_style);
}

If you’re familiar with web inspectors, you can easily cycle through the options to see a live preview on your site.

Target Specifics

The above example will change the fonts used on the entire site, but you may also prefer to target certain elements. This can easily be done in a very similar way. Let’s say you’d like to only change the font for Headers, here’s how:

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {
    font-family: var(--font_industrial);
}

Dealing with Font Weights

Some fonts have heavier and lighter weights by default. If you like a certain font choice, but think the implementation is too light or too heavy/bold, you can experiment with different weights. Modern Font Stacks gives you your options, but here’s an example specific to Tiny Theme.

body {
    font-family: var(--font_antique);
    font-weight: 100;
}

Backwards Compatibility

If you’ve previously changed your font in another way, this won’t break it. It’s only a simpler way to switch fonts to pre-defined stacks for those who want it.


My Favorite Mac Apps and Utilities

As someone who uses a Mac almost every day, there are a quite a few smaller utility-type apps that I frequently use. I decided to make a list, perhaps it’ll be useful to someone.


How to Verify your Domain on Nostr and Bluesky (for Micro.blog users)

Adding domain specific verification to Nostr and changing your Bluesky username to your own domain can be accomplished by creating .well-known text files. If you’re using Micro.blog and would like to do this, it’s pretty easy.


My Safari Extensions in 2023

Here’s a quick rundown of the Safari Extensions I keep enabled on my devices (iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS).

Wipr

For ad blocking, many people go with 1Blocker, but I prefer Wipr. It’s a no nonsense, install it, and forget it app. 1Blocker is a fantastic app that allows almost limitless customizations and settings. Wipr is a fantastic app that has no customizations or settings. There’s a place for both, but Wipr wins for me.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking Soda and Vinegar are made by the same developer. Together, they change almost every video embed across the internet to use your device’s native video player. This means things like Picture-in-Picture are always available.

Stop the Madness

Stop the Madness essentially fixes broken sites and common annoyances across the internet. See full links instead of shortened URLs, hide banners on common sites, enables autocomplete on sites that have it turned off, stop link trackers, stop videos from auto-playing, and so much more. You can choose settings globally or per site.

There are other apps on my devices that have extensions available, but I have all of those disabled. In addition to Wipr, I use a paid NextDNS account for ad blocking and privacy.


How to Change the Color Scheme in Tiny Theme

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have chosen Tiny Theme for their micro.blog. It is built to be both simple and customizable. One of the most common changes to make to the theme is a change in color scheme.


Where Have I Been

I decided to jump on the trend of listing places visited. For my list, I’m limiting it to locations where I spent meaningful time (ex. no airport only stops).

Countries

  • United States of America 🇺🇸
  • Mexico 🇲🇽
  • El Salvador 🇸🇻
  • Honduras 🇭🇳
  • Jamaica 🇯🇲
  • Cayman Islands 🇰🇾
  • Lithuania 🇱🇹
  • Latvia 🇱🇻
  • Belarus 🇧🇾

States within the USA

  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Colorado
  • Utah
  • Arizona
  • Nevada
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Wisconsin
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Washington D.C. (not a state)

I’ve spent way more time than I care to admit in Frankfurt, Germany (Interpol mixup, for real); London, England; and Seattle, Washington (USA). But they were all limited to airport adventures.


Introducing the Tiny Theme for Micro.blog

Recently, I’ve been working on a new theme for Micro.blog for my personal use. Others have expressed interest in using it on their site, so I decided to make it available for anyone. I hope you enjoy the Tiny Theme.

Tiny Theme for Micro.blog

Overview

My goal in making the theme was for it to be as functional as possible while also being lightweight and blazing fast. It doesn’t include any added scripts or custom fonts. On the CSS side, it’s fully responsive without size related media queries. In fact, the only media query used is for dark mode.

Tweaking the Design

You can easily tweak elements of the design by going to the Micro.blog Dashboard and navigating to Design → Edit CSS.

  • Use CSS variables to make wholesale changes to the colors used throughout the site.
  • Change the sizing of the entire site simply by changing the body font-size. Everything automatically adjusts to fit your preferred font-size.
  • Easily hide categories from single posts or the bio section in the header.
  • And infinitely more possibilites!

Compatibility

  • Uses Micro.blog’s built-in “Edit Footer” feature (Design → Edit Footer)
  • Works with @sod’s Conversation on Micro.Blog plugin
  • Works with @sod’s Reply by Email plugin
  • Includes tweaks for @manton’s Search page plugin
  • Includes tweaks for the default Photo page feature
  • Includes custom styling for comments (enable on the Design page)
  • Includes custom styling for the replies page (enable in Pages)
  • Includes custom styling for the archive page (enable in Pages)

Support

If you have any problems with the Tiny Theme for Micro.blog, you can contact me for help. If you’re the Github type, you can also report stuff on the repo.

Get it now

You can install the theme directly from the Micro.blog plug-ins page (login required).

If you decide to install it on your blog, let me know in the comments.


Touchscreens in cars are dangerous? Oh.

Now, new evidence shows those touchscreens are far less safe and efficient than the old school alternative, according to the findings of Swedish car magazine Vi Bilägare.

I’m amazed that manufacturers haven’t realized and acted on this. Anyone who has driven any vehicle that’s mostly touch screen knows it.


A Few Thoughts on My Blogging and Social Media Setup

Even before the Elon-Runs-Twitter era, I was starting the process of creating a more seamless and less time consuming online strategy. I knew I wanted to keep my blog. I knew I wanted to limit my social media exposure without completely leaving it behind.

The first steps were easy:

  • Delete my Facebook profile along with the Facebook and Messenger apps
  • Make my Instagram account read-only, private, and largely inactive

But What About Blogging?

I wanted a place to put my thoughts and writings, even if it didn’t get as much attention as it would’ve in other places. And I wanted to own it.

I’ve tried just about every blogging platform and method out there, so I’m familiar with the options. I was an orignal Micro.blog kickstarter backer, so I decided to return. I set everything up and began blogging again.

I use MarsEdit on Mac and the official Micro.blog app on iOS (although Gluon has seen some use lately).

Twitter and Mastodon

Micro.blog has solid cross-posting features that allows me to send all posts to a variety of places. For me, that meant Twitter and Mastodon.

So my next steps were simple:

  • Setup crossposting to Twitter through Micro.blog
  • Setup crossposting to Mastodon thorugh Micro.blog

I’ve been largely happy with this setup. I do have some wishes (consolidating replies as comments on my blog, for example1).

What about Micro.blog’s Mastodon Support?

Micro.blog does offer limited support for Mastodon directly. This is different that cross posting. What happens is Micro.blog creates a username for you without an actual Mastodon Instance. This means that Mastodon users can follow your blog within their Mastodon app/instance without issue, but you can not do much more from your side.

If they reply to your post, it’ll show up as a comment on your blog. That’s awesome! You can reply back to them from within Micro.blog (although it’s a little buggy), and they’ll see it. Again, awesome. However, there is no instance for you to login and manage the specifics of this account. This is great if you want to make your information readily available to Mastodon users, but don’t want to manage your own profile/account.

In my case, I have enjoyed having a separate Mastodon account that can crosspost from my blog and allow me access to the full Mastodon experience.

Note: You can follow Mastodon users from within the Micro.blog apps. While it works well, I would say it’s for low volume consumption. If you want to follow a significant amount of people, similar to Twitter, it’s not a viable solution.

Preferred Mastodon Instance

I started out at mastodon.social. Next, I setup my own private instance and quickly realized I didn’t need the extra work. After some research and suggestions form others, I decided to move to one of the only instances I could find that includes a monetization plan. Social.lol, powered by OMG.lol. Now’s a good time to take a minute and follow me on Mastodon.

I’m currently using a few beta apps for Mastodon, but am most excited about Ivory.

Replacing Instagram

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I want to truly replace Instagram. After all, I can simply post photos to my blog. I’ve experimented with Glass, but that’s not exactly what I want. Pixelfed has a different approach that seems intriguing, but I don’t see myself posting there often as of now.

For now, I’m just leaving this open.

The Wrap Up

  • I have a blog, powered by Micro.blog ($5/mo)
  • It crossposts to Twitter (where I can fully interact)
  • It also crossposts to Mastodon (where I can fully interact)

That’s it!


  1. Micro.blog’s built in Mastodon support can do this, and there are third party services (Bridgy, etc) that attempt it. But, in my experience, they are limited at best. ↩︎


Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough With Blast of 192 Lasers

That changed at 1:03 a.m. on Dec. 5 when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond.

This is over-my-head for the most part, but when a paragaph includes phrases like “192 giant lasers” and “frozen nubbin,” you have to share it.