Reader Refugees – The Death of Google Reader

English: Screenshot application of google read...

It has been a long two weeks since Google announced the death of Google Reader. This left many people scrambling for new solutions as the clock countdowns to its shutdown on July 1st, 2013.


There are many alternatives out there of various types. Feedly, for example, has been working on a Reader alternative that uses the same API. The service is also working to offer more Reader like features to welcome the over half a million Reader Refugees. They seem very determined to be the new Reader, and are even welcoming those interested in their API-compatibility to enable their applications to keep working.


For me, however, this was too fancy. Most of us who are interested in replacing Reader emphasize text. We want the experience of a newspaper, not a magazine. Most Readers use the traditional Inbox style of receiving, akin to email programs. The information is the most important part.


For this, I skipped over TheOldReader, which was designed to mimic the original Google Reader design, and went straight to two open source projects.








Newsblur is the brainchild of Samuel Clay. In addition to the standard Inbox display, it allows you to view the original site in context, or the feed version. It also offers options for sharing a feed of what you find most interesting with others, and teaching the application what you find interesting, so it will highlight that. Newsblur offers a public API for people to build on, and the entire codebase is open source.


There is an Android app, and Clay is looking for an Android developer, but complaints of crashes, as it is an open-source project, were quickly cleaned up by a volunteer. There is also an iOS app.


The exciting thing is that with the renewed interest, Clay is ramping up. A new host for the service, more robust infrastructure, and more.


Newsblur can be installed by you as a standalone product, or you can pay for their hosted service, currently at $24/year.


Tiny Tiny RSS


Tiny Tiny RSS(TT-RSS) is another open-source project. Like Newsblur, it offers an API, a web interface, and an Android app. There are no hosted options for this, so you have to roll your own, which is what I did, using a Low-End VPS.

It can run on simple hardware, out of your home or on rented space.



The truth is, if you host your own solution, you can be reasonably sure it will continue to be there(as long as you keep paying the bills).

But there is something to be said for having someone else worry about it, as well as supporting the developer. So, even though I’ve settled into TT-RSS(and gave the developer the $2 for the Android app), I paid for a year of Newsblur so I could see how it develops. I never considered self-hosting of a Newsblur instance.

Next, I’ll spend a little time on where I’m hosting TT-RSS and why.




Feed Changes

English: This icon, known as the "feed ic...

To All RSS Subscribers:

Due to the recent uncertainty regarding the future of Feedburner, we are removing all redirects to Feedburner. All links on the site will now use local feeds. If possible, please update your subscriptions.

If not, the Feedburner feeds will continue to be maintained for as long as Google continues to offer the service, but we feel that self-hosting all feeds is the more prudent long-term move.


Improving the Blog: Full-Text vs Summary Syndication

Here at Gadget Wisdom we are testing distributing full text of our posts over RSS. This will be available to you in your feed reader.

English: This icon, known as the "feed ic...
Image via Wikipedia

Every so often, we spend some time doing a redesign of sites to see if they can be any better. None of the things we are putting in are revolutionary. What we really want out of all of them is increased participation in our sites. Over the 5 years we’ve been blogging, we’ve always wanted to produce more interaction with readers. We enjoy the topics we write about.

In researching improvements, there were a lot of points for and against full-text feeds. The biggest risk is that others would scrape our content and place it on other sites. To that end, we’ve added a link to our site at the bottom of every feed. We may take more measures. We, like most, want to protect what we’ve written from being used by others without attribution.

To those of you who use feed readers, we hope you will enjoy the improvement. You can add it to your favorite feed reader and read without interruption. We know how much people hate truncated content.

This also allowed us to release Gadget Wisdom to Google Currents. You can subscribe here( We’ll see how that works as well.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how we might protect ourselves from being scraped by other sites, and how we might improve your experience here at the Weneca Media Group collection of sites. There is more to come.

Moving Back to RSS from Twitter

This icon, known as the "feed icon" ...
Image via Wikipedia

It is amazing that we would come full circle from where we were when we started with Twitter in January of 2009. When we began using Twitter, part of the appeal was as a real-time replacement for RSS reading. But, recently, we’ve returned to RSS feed reading as a much more reliable manner of ensuring we get our news.

That does not mean Twitter is not still a big part of our news delivery, but it has become overwhelming. But if your feed consists of nothing but your news feed piped into Twitter, then we will now go back to following you in Google Reader. We will now take advantage of the greatest benefit of Twitter to someone looking to get news and information…curation. The most valuable stories will float to the top as people tweet them.This will make Twitter much more social for us.

In January, an article made the rounds, maintaining that RSS was being ignored, and we should be worried. Google Chrome has no native RSS support built in, Mozilla is killing off the RSS icon in Firefox 4.0. How RSS integrated into systems may need to be rethought. Google Reader is all well and good, but that is a website, not a browser. That same article has some good suggestions.

  • Why can’t, when you visit a blog article, the browser reads the comments RSS, and when you next come back to that article, it can tell you that there have been new comments since, and highlight them on the page?
  • Why do we go through the same daily routine of checking certain sites over and over again? Can’t our computers be more intelligent here? Isn’t the purpose of the computer / browser to save us time!? Why doesn’t the browser, when you open it, tell you how many new items there are, on what sites you commonly visit, without you having ever configured this?

Dan Frommer, on Business Insider, countered that RSS is not dying, normal people never used it. In his opinion, RSS is a fine backend technology. In fact, many who moved to Twitter are reading feeds pumped to Twitter from RSS. That using RSS in an RSS reader has never been mainstream, which is valid. O’Reilly points out, as a backend technology, RSS never blocks you or goes down.

We wanted there to be a Twitter alternative, and there very well might be. Twitter is a stream. Twitter Lists would allow everything to be neatly organized in an intuitive way,  but the issue is that there is no adequate solution to reading longer and in-depth on your desired sources for Twitter. There is and the Twitter Times. There are social feed readers. We will be exploring these at some future point for discussion. But magazine/newspaper like feed readers seem to be the rage right now.

What do you think?

MiroBridge – A Link Between Miro and MythTV

Image representing Miro as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

The MythTV wiki defines MiroBridge as a script which “enables Miro to emulate a MythTV recording device.” However, we feel this is rather inaccurate.

MiroBridge doesn’t appear as a recording device. It does create a channel, defaultly assigned to 999, to assign the Miro recordings to, but it is more an importer of Miro downloaded programs. You configure Miro with your desired online programs, and then set up a cron job to have MiroBridge run.

Miro is an Internet television application that downloads videos from RSS-based channels, manages them, and plays them. It does incorporate a Bittorrent client, but torrent features are disabled in MiroBridge for legal reasons.

MiroBridge in Action
MiroBridge in Action

MiroBridge will let Miro download new episodes, then it will symlink the downloaded episodes into the MythTV recordings directory and import the details of the program as a Recording. It can also move the episodes to MythVideo.

This is an amazing addition to MythTV. Scripts to do this have existed before. We used MythNetTV, which takes RSS feeds for Podcasts and imports them into MythTV. It has never been an official part of MythTV though. MiroBridge is now becoming official, and relies on Miro, which is a popular piece of software in its own right, and well maintained.

If you think about it, with cable becoming more expensive, a MythTV box with a broadcast based system, adding in internet produced programming. If you don’t have cable, at the very least, in the news department, the websites of various cable networks offer limited versions of their programming as RSS feeds you can incorporate in.

Youtube can be distributed as an MP4-based RSS feed as well, using some secondary sites, and thus incorporated in as well. Essentially, there is nothing you can’t do if you can find RSS-distributed video.