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Charly's Column – urlwatch

Article from Issue 230/2020
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Experienced system administrators attach great importance to always being up to date when it comes to information technology. Urlwatch is a command-line tool that presents the latest news from websites that do not offer RSS feeds by email.

Some years ago, I reported on the Miniflux RSS feed aggregator [1] in this column, and I still use it. Miniflux is lean, fast, and easy to use. The media have been predicting the death of RSS feeds for what feels like an eternity, but it still has not happened. However, some websites simply don't offer feeds. I have to do something different here. What I need is a tool that alerts me when a particular website changes.

That's far more complicated than it sounds at first. Using a web service for this purpose (there are countless numbers of them) is out of the question for reasons of data economy. However, the biggest problem is something else. Things on websites that I don't find relevant are constantly changing. For example, a daily newspaper that I regularly read displays job ads that change with every reload. If I was notified every time, it would drive me crazy. There has to be a better way – and there is: urlwatch.

Written in Python 3, urlwatch is included in most popular distributions. If you want to know exactly if and which version of urlwatch is available in your favorite distro, you can find out on Repology.org [2]; DIY enthusiasts can use GitHub [3]. For example, I instructed urlwatch to keep an eye on the online news page for Linux Magazine (Listing 1) – pointlessly, because it actually still offers RSS.

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