Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘Google Reader’

FeedDemon 2.6.1 [Regular Guy Reviews]

Posted by Fred on April 24, 2008

catalog_feeddemon As I noted earlier, now that NewsGator’s RSS products are free for individual use, I decided to try them out and see what worked better for me, a standalone reader or web application (specifically Google Reader).  NewsGator Inbox 3.0 did not work – while the idea of reading feeds in a mail client was promising, certain limitations of Outlook made it far less useful than Google Reader (first and foremost was Outlook’s inability to show how many items exist in a subfolder if the folder list is not expanded).  FeedDemon has been a far better experience, and in limited use I find it superior to Google Reader, at least for now.

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NewsGator Inbox 3.0 – good, just not for me

Posted by Fred on April 21, 2008

I’ve been using the new NewsGator Inbox 3.0 RSS reader for Outlook for a few days, and had high hopes for the product, which is now free.  Reading posts within Outlook seems a natural extension of the email client, and it sync nicely with NewsGator Online.  Unfortunately, two show-stoppers have led me to uninstall the software, neither of which are really NewsGator’s fault.

First, the server here runs through a filtering appliance, and NewsGator throws an error when updating unless I first go to NewsGator Online, invoking the filter.  I thus end up having both the web version and Outlook product open, defeating the purpose.  This won’t be a problem for many, but is a problem for me.

Second, because NG Inbox uses Outlook, it suffers from Outlook’s infirmities.  Specifically, if there are new messages in an Outlook subfolder, Outlook won’t show them in the parent folder when the Folder List is collapsed.  That’s a complicated way of saying that I can’t tell when there are new posts in a subfolder unless I keep the folder list expanded all the time.  That’s not NewsGator’s fault – the same behavior holds true for email folders and email messages.  Unfortunately, it makes managing feeds difficult the way I prefer to use a reader.

I’ve downloaded NewsGator’s stand-alone client, FeedDemon, and will give that a spin before going back to Google Reader.

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NewsGator Inbox 3.0 beta

Posted by Fred on April 17, 2008

NewsGator has released a new beta of version 3 of their now-free NewsGator Inbox, which lets you read feeds in Outlook, just like any other email message.  It has some useful features compared to my usual reader, the web-based Google Reader.  Grab a copy and install – it’s very straightforward, but here it is in pictures (click for bigger):

Let\'s begin.  Click Next.Your standard EULA. You know you\'ll ignore it, so accept and move on.Clicking install seems like a good idea.

Lookee, a progress bar.  Installation is fast, so don\'t blink.Already done.  Click Finish.Now set up synchronization.  Set up a new account or use an existing NG account.

Standard \Time to add some subscriptions. Use the OPML import to move feeds from a different reader.All done. Let\'s get started.

Some useful links here, but be sure to disable it or it will be annoying.

Installation was straightforward, but some issues came up right away.  The OPML import from Google Reader didn’t work properly for me, and it imported only the first feed in the list.  This is probably an incompatability with the XML file Google creates, but we can work around it.


An additional try with the XML file didn’t work any better for me, but NewsGator Online did.  Login to NewsGator Online, and click on Add Feeds. 

From here, click Import, and you’ll be able to upload the same XML file you used before:

Success! The Google feeds now appear in NewsGator Online, and because Inbox 3.0 syncs with NG Online, they’ll show up in Outlook.  To get there, however, you’ll need to update the subscriptions.  Clicking Refresh on the NewsPage (what you’ll get by clicking My News in Outlook’s Folder List) seemed to have no effect, but the toolbar button did (it’s the arrow next to the NewsGator Inbox dropdown).

Now you can read your RSS feeds in Outlook.  I’ve only been using it for a half a day, but a couple of features seem quite useful.  One problem with Google Reader is that if I don’t read items for a few days, they really pile up.  It would be best just to ignore the unread count, but I’m psychologically incapable of doing so.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to mark only certain posts as read.  NewsGator solves that problem, and offers to do so automatically:

You can also do this cleanup any time you want by using the NewsGator Inbox dropdown.

Inbox 3.0 also lets you easily post to your blog about any item.  Setup was a breeze – just open Options from the dropdown and click Posting Options.  Choose and fill in your account information.  Now you can post automatically using the NewsGator Publisher plugin.  Using the plugin is a bit clunky, however.  There’s no toolbar button, and no right-click option.  You have to choose Post to My Blog from the NewsGator Inbox dropdown:

If you use the NewsPage view, it’s a bit easier.  Each post has four buttons at the end.  The last one is a Post to My Blog link (I highlighted it in the image).  I don’t particularly care for the NewsPage view, however.  I know Dave Winer says I should like the River of News format, but I don’t.  I like folders – I don’t want a story on NewsGator Inbox to follow a story on how pitiful the Tribe is this year.  This brings up the other issue I have with NewsGator Inbox.  The Outlook Folder List shows your NewsGator folders, but it doesn’t tell you how many new items are in a particular folder, or if therre are any new items at all.  You have to expand the folder to see individual feeds.  You also can’t click on a folder to see a River of News-style list of all items in that folder, nor get a NewsPage view of a single folder.

NewsGator Inbox thus isn’t perfect, but it has some advantages.  I’m in Outlook all day long, so it is an easy way to read news.  Posting to the blog from an item works well, and works even better if you use the Windows Live Writer plugin instead of Publisher.  Feed and post management is easier than on Google Reader.  It should also work well offline, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Google now has offline access to Reader, however, so this isn’t the advantage it once was.  Plus, it’s free.  I plan to use it for a while and review it more fully later.

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Another Lesson: How to Turn Public Into Sort of Private in Google Reader

Posted by Fred on December 28, 2007

Are you among those who think Google has invaded your privacy by publicly sharing the items you have elected to publicly share via Reader?  As you know, I think the whole thing’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing (other than that many people are idiots).  Google has suggested a workaround for those who want to kinda, sorta share items. Use tags instead.  Here.s how to do it:

Step 1: Create a new tag (aka folder) for items you want to kinda, sorta share.  Google doesn’t make it easy to create a new tag, but one way to do it is to click the Edit tags button at the bottom of an item in Reader. If it’s a post with no tags, type one and click save.  If it’s a post with one or more tags, add a new one to the end (separate tags with commas):


Step 2: Click on Settings, then Tags.  Find the tag you just created and click on the icon next to the word Public to change the tag from Private to Public:


Step 3: You’ve now created a kinda, sorta shared items list that acts like the old Shared Items functionality. You can click to view the page or email the link to your (real) friends:


Step 4: You’re done. You now have a page that your (real) friends can see if you tell them the URL, or they can subscribe to the feed in their RSS reader of choice.  It’s still not private or anonymous, but you can feel kinda, sorta secure in your newfound Googley obfuscation:


To add new items to your kinda, sorta shared page, just click Edit Tags instead of Share.

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Today’s Lesson: Public Doesn’t Mean Private, Even at Google

Posted by Fred on December 26, 2007

Google recently combined some of the functionality of Google Talk and Google Reader, making it possible for items you’ve chosen to share via Reader to automatically show up on the feeds list of your friends who also use Reader.  Here’s how Google describes it:

So, we’ve linked up Reader with Google Talk (also known as chat in Gmail) to make your shared items visible to your friends from Google Talk. Once you’ve logged into Reader and been notified of the change, these friends will be able to see your shared items in the Reader left-hand navigation area under “Friends’ shared items”. We’ve provided an option to clear your shared items in case you don’t want your friends to see what you’ve shared in the past. We’ve also added a Settings page so you can choose which friends you see and invite friends who aren’t yet sharing to try it out.

And here’s what it looks like (I don’t have a lot of Google-style “friends” because I tend to think social networking is kind of useless):


This feature really has people up in arms, with lots of loose comparisons to Facebook’s ill-fated beacon feature being thrown about.  Reader users in the Google Group thread announcing the feature call it “the worst ‘feature’ [Google has]ever introduced” and “a major privacy problem.”  Scoble says that Google screwed up and needs to introduce granular privacy controls as soon as possible. Mashable’s running a poll asking if the new feature violates privacy (although currently “not a privacy problem” is beating “hands off my data” fairly handily). TechCrunch says “there is a creepy surveillance aspect to this that might also turn some people off, or keep them from sharing anything at all.” Slashdot readers are doing what Slashdot readers do, and overreacting to everything.

reader_icons.pngI just can’t see what the issue is.  A month ago, if you clicked the Share icon on one of your feed items, it got added to a page that anybody with a web browser could read, or anybody with an RSS reader could add as a feed. Now, if you click the Share icon, it gets added to a page that anybody with a web browser can read, creates a feed that anybody with an RSS reader can subscribe to, and adds a link to your shared items for the subset of people who (a) are your “friends” as Google Talk defines them and (b) also use Google Reader.  Google certainly defines friend more broadly than I do – although Tyler is probably a good person and fun to have a beer with, I “know” him only because we exchanged a couple of e-mails a year ago. The people on my Google friends list who I actually care about don’t use Google Reader.  But your shared items have always been public to the world.

The problem for Google seems to stem from two things.  First, Google provided some modicum of privacy through obscurity by obfuscating the shared items URL – Scoble’s is, which is hardly obvious.  But privacy through obscurity is no more private than security through obscurity is secure, so the idea that shared items used to be private but now are not is kind of silly.  Second, people are idiots.  Google should know this, and should have baked in privacy controls that really didn’t do anything but made people feel better anyway.  They already half did this – I can hide items shared by my friends but can’t hide my shared items from my friends.

Ultimately, however, people are still idiots. Don’t click a button labeled “Share” without expecting the item to be, well, shared.  Don’t use a shared item feature as something it is not, such as a way to “back up” RSS feeds (all you’re doing is duplicating one bit of bits on a Google server as another bit of bits on a Google server).  I love privacy as much as the next guy, but the idea that you ever had an expectation of privacy in the Google shared items feature is just silly.  This isn’t at all like Beacon.

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What Should Google Mobile Do Next? Fix the Broken Stuff.

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007

Judi Sohn at Web Worker Daily wants to know What Should Google Mobile Do Next?

As Google expands their supported platforms and applications in the mobile space, what do you want them to tackle next? Sync for Windows Mobile calendar? Gmail contact syncing? Stand-alone Reader or Docs? More iPhone-friendly browser applications?

To paraphrase the comment I left over there – should Google introduce new mobile products? God no. They should fix the ones they already have, most of which are broken in some way (other than the ones for the JesusPhone):

  • Gmail introduced IMAP support, which in theory should allow you to keep the messaging application on your phone and the web application in sync.  Unfortunately, on Windows Mobile it’s horribly, horribly broken.  HTML messages just show up as message headers with empty message bodies. Google knows it’s broken, they’ve known for over a month, and they haven’t said anything other than “Windows Mobile is not supported.”
  • An alternative would be the Gmail java application, which does a lot of neat things like prefetching messages for speedy access.  Unfortunately, on AT&T the application is unusable, thanks to the crippled java implementation AT&T uses to promote its own service offerings.  This isn’t Google’s fault, but they could easily fix it by either (a) releasing a signed java application, which would get around the security restriction (what Nokia ended up doing to get Widsets to work on the e62) or (b) releasing a native Windows Mobile application (like they did with Maps).  At the very least, Google should acknowledge the issue and explain what the problem is.
  • The new beta of the Maps application has a cool feature called My Location, which uses cell tower location to provide a rough GPS-like functionality for non-GPS phones.  Great if it works, but many handsets just say “location temporarily unavailable.”  The Blackjack and the Q are two primary examples.  Each of these devices does report location to the OS, which some applications are able to use (i.e. PhoneAlarm).  Google apparently doesn’t like the data the phone provides.  Again, this is not entirely Google’s fault, but they could fix it, if they wanted to.
  • The last time I used it, the Google Reader mobile site crashed Pocket IE any time you tried to mark all items as read.  The Q9h comes with Opera Mobile, which seems to work OK.  Opera Mini also works OK, although it suffers from the same problem Gmail does and is unusable on AT&T phones.  Google Reader also doesn’t play nice with Opera Mini – keyboard shortcuts don’t work.

It bears repeating that these problems are not necessarily Google’s fault.  Other mail applications can deal with Gmail’s non-standard IMAP implementation, for example.  But the mobile world is what it is, and if Google is going to play in the mobile space, they should figure out a way to make their applications work properly.

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Google is taking over the mobile world (kinda, if you’re not using WM)

Posted by Fred on December 5, 2007

Scoble says that Google is taking over the mobile world, and wants to know if you are getting sucked in too.  As I said in a previous post, I like Google’s mobile offerings and I use Google’s mobile offerings, but virtually all of them have serious problems under Windows Mobile on my Blackjack.  HTML messages under Gmail IMAP are blank.  Google Reader still crashes the default browser if you try to mark all messages as read.  The My Location feature in Google Maps doesn’t work.  Now I see that not only does it not work, it will never work on the Blackjack, Moto Q or Treo 700W, supposedly because these phones do not “support the APIs (application programming interfaces) Google requires to find cell towers.” Perhaps this is a problem with the hardware, but PhoneAlarm SP reports some sort of location information (Settings >> Profile Extras >> Options >> Location).  Right now, I’m at 10800-10018, but I have no idea what that means.

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Friday Rant: Why Won’t Google Make It’s Applications Work With Windows Mobile?

Posted by Fred on November 30, 2007

Let’s start with a confession.  I’ve bought into the Google ecosystem big-time.  I use Gmail as my primary personal e-mail account.  I use Google Apps for the email on the domain.  I use Google Reader for RSS and Google Maps for directions.  I haven’t yet jumped on board the web apps bandwagon for word processing and spreadsheets, so the added features in Zoho haven’t been enough – on the few occasions I’ve done a spreadsheet or quick document online, it’s been on Google Docs.  Plus Google for search, of course.  With all that said, Google is really starting to bother me.  Specifically, the way that Google’s mobile offerings work with Windows Mobile.  Or rather, the way that they don’t work.  Granted, many of the problems are at least as much the fault of AT&T and/or Microsoft, but Google could make them work better.   So here in no particular order are some glitches in the Google Matrix:

gmail_imap.png1. Gmail via IMAP results in blank message bodies

When Google introduced IMAP for Gmail, it sounded great.  Finally, I could access Gmail on the Blackjack without using the java application.  You could always use POP, but that resulted in mailboxes that were horribly out of sync.  Plus, you lost the benefit of Gmail’s tagging system.  IMAP promised to be better.  And it is.  Via IMAP, I can grab messages on demand or automatically, using the same messaging application I use for Exchange Direct Push.  Not so fast there, fella.  Most, but not all, HTML messages show up with blank message bodies.  WM5 doesn’t do HTML mail, so I didn’t expect the HTML to come through intact, but I should still get the plain text.  Apparently, Gmail’s IMAP implementation isn’t reporting certain optional fieldsGoogle apparently didn’t bother to test IMAP on WM.  WM6 doesn’t seem to be any better, so unless a third-party app like Flexmail can fix it, or Google fixes it, IMAP on the Blackjack is fairly useless except as a glorified Gmail Notifier.  Some have reported success using AT&T’s Xpress Mail, but I have no interest in encouraging AT&T to push its own services.

gmail.png2. The Gmail java application doesn’t work in AT&T’s broken Java

This one is clearly not Google’s fault, but Google could fix it.  AT&T intentionally crippled the Java implementation on the Blackjack, the 8525 and the Tilt (and probably other recent phones like the Moto Q Global and Blackjack II, but I don’t know for sure).  If you try to run an unsigned Java midlet on the Blackjack, it will ask for permission every time it needs to send data to the internet.  This is not part of the J2ME specification, and is not part of the stock midlet manager AT&T uses.  They intentionally crippled it by removing the option to grant permission on a per-session basis.  What does this mean?  It means you have to click OK many, many times before you ever reach the Gmail inbox, and you have to continue to grant permission every time you open or send a message.  That makes the application completely unusable.  The same is true, incidentally, of the Google Maps java application, Opera Mini 4  and anything else that accesses the net.

AT&T did this, they say, for security purposes, but that’s a load of crap.  They did it to avoid cannibalizing the market for their own services.  If you can use the Gmail application, you don’t need Xpress Mail.  If you can use Opera Mini, you won’t be impressed that the Q9 Global includes Opera Mobile.  If you can use Google Maps, maybe you don’t pay $10 a month for AT&T’s GPS service.  There is, however, a workaround.  By installing another midlet manager, such as IBM’s J9 or Esmertec’s Jbed, you can install java midlets that offer per-session permissions.  That shouldn’t be necessary, however, and Google could fix the problem by either (a) offering a signed java application or (b) offering the Gmail application as a native WM application, the way they did with Google Maps.  All is not well in third party midlet manager land, however…

3. The Gmail java midlet crashes Jbed

Among the alternative midlet managers, I like Jbed better, because it renders Opera Mini better than does J9.  Unfortunately, if you try to run Gmail under Jbed, it crashes upon sign-in, and does it every time.  Therefore, my Blackjack now contains three midlet managers, the stock AT&T one that I never use, Jbed for Opera Mini and J9 for Gmail. If Google isn’t going to fix Gmail for all the AT&T customers, they could at least make it work under the workaround.

4. The Google Reader mobile site crashes Pocket IE

Google hasn’t introduced a Google Reader Mobile application, but there is a quite usable mobile site for Reader users.  You can view all items, or view individual subscriptions or individual tags (which most people, including me, use like categories).   So far, so good.  Unfortunately, if you try to use the Mark These Items As Read link, which should mark the nine items on-screen as read, all it does is close Pocket Internet Explorer.  That makes it unusable for me, as I don’t want to open each item individually when I’m reading it on the Blackjack.  Opera Mini works just fine, so this is some sort of PIE issue, but it’s still a pain.  Although there’s probably a work around for this, too, under Jbed Opera Mini won’t respond to keypad number shortcuts, so I can’t push # to mark all items as read.  So even the Reader workaround needs a workaround.

maps.png5. The new Google Maps Find My Location feature doesn’t work

The new version of Google Maps Mobile includes a neat feature that attempts to use cell tower triangulation to provide a rough location for devices without GPS.  Unfortunately, on my AT&T Blackjack, GMM just says my location is currently unavailable.  Lots of other people are reporting the same problem.  I have no idea whether this is a Windows Mobile problem, an AT&T problem or a Google problem, but it appears they didn’t do adequate testing with WM devices.

With the announcement of Android and the Open Handset Initiative, along with the customized Google apps on the iPhone, it’s doubtful Google is going to work too hard fixing these problems.  That’s unfortunate, as I have zero interest in the Apple product, and Android is a long way away.  There’s no good alternative, but Google deserves criticism for the way their products interact with WM.

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