Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

nntp//rss

So in the News Aggrgeator arena I’ve so far tried: Newsmonster (nice, but didn’t like how it took over Mozilla, and stopped working after first aggregation), Feedreader (very nice, but lacks content:encoded support, thus making it useless for many blogs), Syndirella (nice features, but poor interface and very slow) and AmphetaDesk (good, but didn’t like the interface).
It’s now the turn of nntp//rss, which creates a Newsgroup server and virtual ‘newsgroups’, which are, of course, your RSS feeds. It’s in Java, so it’s cross platform.
And that’s also it’s big weakness. On my machine at least, Java is sloooooowwww, and it sucks up memory. In fact, XP had to enlarge the swap file while the app was running, and it took ages to get settled. It’s a little complicated subscribing to feeds too – you have to add it using the web interface, and then subscribe to it in your newsreader. Too much effort, in my opinion.
But the concept is good. Newsgroup programs have been around for years, so they’re mature enough to be very usable. My programme du jour on this occasion was Mozilla Mail, which also has a capable newsreader. I did find it a little cluttered, but then I do also manage 4 mail accounts through it, one of which has umpteen folders for different things – if only you could use mail filters for tidying your room…
Other than the self-inflicted claustrophobia, the idea of using a newsreader is a good one – I didn’t have to start another program and I was familiar with the interface. The messages were formatted well – they were in HTML with clickable links, and links to the entry, and the comments, if the feed specified it (like mine does). However, the ‘date’ field wasn’t used to its full advantage – whether that was a Mozilla thing I don’t know, but it would have been better to have the actual posted time there.
So have I finally found the answer? No. If adding RSS feeds was easier, and it either wasn’t in Java or was faster, then it would be a definite maybe. But as it is, it was really impacting system performance, to a noticable extent. And I ain’t having that.
Feedreader looks promising though. Hopefully, if I concentrate more on learning Delphi, I may be able to muck in and forward the project a little. How does Xteq X-Feed sound? 😉

3 Comments

  1. What didn’t you like about AmphetaDesk’s interface? Anything I can tweak for you? The browser-based interface of Ampheta is customizable to the nth degree. See these hacks:
    http://www.cantoni.org/projects/AmphetaDesk.html
    http://www.decafbad.com/twiki/bin/view/Main/AmphetaOutlines
    http://rasterweb.net/raster/code/amphetaskin.html
    http://www.sunpig.com/martin/projects/amphetadesk/amphetaframes/

  2. Neil,
    Thanks for spending the time to check out nntp//rss. A few things that may be of interest to you –
    First, regarding the adding of RSS links – Ben Meadowcroft has contributed a useful bookmarklet for those sites that support RSS autodiscovery. This is located on the nntp//rss site under Contributions. This bookmarklet will allow you to automatically add those links from your browser directly into nntp//rss without having to cut and paste links.
    On the subject of performance, now that nntp//rss has reached a reasonable level of functionality, as of the 0.3 release, I’m starting to do some more focused performance tuning. This process is initially focused on the embedded database that is used by nntp//rss. These changes will be rolled into the version 0.4. I’ve added some additional indexes to improve start-up and query times, and there will be a way to vary the disk/memory caching of articles for machines with restricted resources.
    Finally, version 0.4 will have support for both pubDate and dc:date. When feeds supply either of these values, the date within your newsreader will correctly reflect the item’s publication date.

  3. Sounds great, thanks for letting me know. Hopefully my Java performance will have improved now that I’ve reinstalled Windows (and done it properly this time 🙂 ).