For some time now I’ve been looking for a RSS feed reader that suits me. I’ve tried a couple out there; Blog Bridge, firefox and IE’s inbuilt feed reader, Feed Demon, Yahoo Mail. I’ve even built my own in Adobe AIR porting an old Ext JS example across and tweaking it. Still I’m not happy.

The problem is that they all seem to do a part of what I want, but none of them seems to do everything all in one place. If I had to lay out the criteria of what I want in a feed reader it would look something like this:

  1. Cross-platform

    I use Linux at home so this is an absolute must. I’ve been pretty impressed by Feed Demon but it’s not available for Linux.

  2. Work online and offline

    I often wish I could read my feeds on the bus or somewhere else where I don’t have connectivity.

  3. Notify me when new posts are available

    I absolutely loath having to log in every time, or open the application to check my stuff. I want timely delivery of information dammit!

  4. Keep track of read and unread posts

    Sounds simple but you’d be surprised how many don’t offer this.

  5. Allow me to organise my post into some logical structure

    Again, simple but loads of readers out there are really inflexible when it comes to managing your feeds.

  6. Provide some sort of stats on what I tend to read and what I dont seem all that interested in

    This is great as it allows me to recognise when I need to prune my feeds and tidy up, or conversely when I’ve been neglecting things I really should be in the know about.

  7. Provide some sort of distributed subscription model

    To clarify, I don’t want to have to maintain two lists of subscriptions; one on my laptop and one on my workstation. This is where most of the desktop readers fall down (bar Feed Demon which uses the News Gator subscription service).

Fussy I know. But a man wants what he wants and well that’s the way it is right?

Anyway Feed Demon was mightly close. It had many of the features I’m after but a few critical shortcomings. So I continued my search. Recently I’ve been having a bit of a play with Google Reader and I have to say that I’m impressed.

Looks can be deceiving, and this is definitely the case with Google Reader. When I first looked at it I thought it was rather plain and uninteresting, but once I started digging a bit deeper and getting the hang of it I found that it offers nearly everything I want and more besides. The only thing lacking is the notifications bit (MSN style desktop popups and such), but I’ve got a google widget on my iGoogle page that keeps me up to date quite nicely. If anything it’s nice to not have the distraction like Feed Demon whirring away.

The best feature by far IMO is the Google Gears integration that allows me to view my feeds offline. All you need to do is click a button and it will sync your feeds with the Gears DB and viola! Your feeds are available whenever you are.

Check it out if you’re interested: http://www.google.com/reader/

The weirdest thing happened tonight. I was just cruising along minding my own business when Ubuntu or Compiz or whatever just suddenly decided that I no longer required title bars on my windows. They were there one second, and gone the next. All my windows were still open, I just couldn’t drag them anywhere, minimize, maximise or close them. Kind of a big deal.

Being rather put out about this new development I immediately set about trying to find a cure. Here’s how I fixed it:

  1. Turn off extra visual effects in the System -> Appearance -> Visual Effects [tab]
  2. Turn visual effects back on
  3. Open a terminal session
  4. Run emerald –replace

I can only imagine that something went drastically wrong with Compiz because after doing that, everything is back to normal. Other than that little hiccup I have to say I’m still not missing Windows.

Python is something that I’ve been looking into lately, mainly because I use Jython a lot at work in administering our Websphere Application Servers (their admin shell makes extensive use of it). More recently though I’ve been thinking that maybe I should be looking more seriously at it. It wasn’t that long ago that Google released their App Engine which currently only runs Python apps. This is really exciting stuff for anyone interested in cloud computing.

Anyway in my travels I stumbled upon what is possibly the smallest application server implementation I’ve seen in my life, written by Pierre Quentel. Admittedly it’s pretty limited in functionality, but I thought it was quite a nice demonstration by Pierre of the power of Python as a language and the breadth and depth of the standard libraries. Amazingly it even handles sessions!

You can check out the full post at: http://aspn.activestate.com/ASPN/Cookbook/Python/Recipe/392879

I’d be interested to see if anyone has come across anything smaller, that demonstrates the relative ease and elegance of implementation in one language versus another (I’m sure that some of your Perl guys have something amazing up your sleeves).

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