Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘RSS’

Assembling a Blogger’s Toolkit in Linux: Not Good

Posted by Fred on May 9, 2008

As previous posts should indicate, I have been using Ubuntu Hardy Heron (aka 8.04 LTS) almost exclusively on the Compaq Presario laptop for a while now.  After some early hiccups related to wireless networking and printing, the setup works pretty well.  The OpenOffice suite does just about everything I need MS Office to do, browsing is almost the same experience in Firefox for Linux as Firefox for Windows, and there are applications to do just about everything else I do on this laptop.  One big problem, however, is blogging and the tools I generally use to do so.

On Windows, my basic blogging toolkit consists of:

Of these, Firefox, the GIMP and Inkscape are all cross-platform, so the experience is identical.  OpenOffice does everything I need done with number-crunching.  I miss using Paint.net for lightweight image processing, but the Linux tools are adequate for that job.  With regard to the latter two categories, the Linux tools are, in my opinion, woefully inadequate.

Think what you will of Microsoft, but its free Windows Live Writer is, hands down, the best tool for off-line blogging available.  Basic features of that program that I use everyday in Windows include support for WordPress tags and categories, image uploading and manipulation (including automatic resizing, adding drop shadows, etc.), creation of tables and live preview (the application downloads your blog’s stylesheet, so you can see exactly what a post will look like).  To be comparable, a Linux app would have to have all of these features.

I looked at each of the Linux applications listed in the WordPress Codex, including BloGTK, Drivel, Flock, Gnome Blog, JBlogEditor, QTM, ScribeFire, and WriteToMyBlog. I prefer an off-line editor for various reasons, including the ability to automatically save local copies, so the Flock browser, ScribeFire extension and WriteToMyBlog web service, while interesting, are not really comparable.  All of the Linux clients are much simpler than WLW, and none offer true support for WordPress tags or the level of image manipulation offered by the Microsoft product.  I actually thought the best client was one not on the list, Kblogger, which is part of the KDE application suite.  Kblogger is still relatively featureless, and does not support WordPress tags, although it does appear to support Movable Type keywords.  Further, most of the Linux applications with the exception of Kblogger appear relatively dormant, and few have seen recent updates.

I next attempted to install some Windows clients via Wine.  Virtually all Windows blog clients use Internet Explorer DLLs, so installing via Wine just won’t work.  I was able to achieve some success by first installing IES4Linux, and then running the client installation program through IE.  BlogJet appears to run well via Wine in this way.  Unfortunately, there appears to be a conflict at some level between the version of Wine in the Ubuntu repository, the IES4Linux script and Hardy Heron, as IE will install and run fine the first time, but crashes if I exit and try to restart it.  BlogJet likewise would run once, but would fail if I exited and restarted unless I re-ran the IES4Linux script.  In any event, I found BlogJet’s most recent version to be inadequate, as it too does not support WordPress tags.  My attempts to install Windows Live Writer, BlogDesk, Post2Blog, Zoundry Raven, Qumana and Ecto via Wine all failed.

The same general experience held true for RSS clients.  I’ve written before of the reasons I prefer FeedDemon, including its support for clipping folders and watch bins, powerful feed data and feed management and the Panic Button (which allows the user to mark posts older than a certain timeframe to be automatically marked read).  On Linux, I looked at Liferea and Akregator.  Neither offered the full feature set of FeedDemon, particularly the tools for feed management and the automatic watch lists.  Neither integrated feed reading and posting as well as FeedDemon and WLW.  Of the two, I far preferred Akregator, which has a more user-friendly appearance and UI, and which organizes the feed list in a more intuitive manner.

FeedDemon did install under Wine and IES4Linux, but I found the experience to be vastly inferior to FeedDemon on Windows.  It runs more slowly, and it’s just a less coherent UI, with aspects of Windows and GTK jumbled together.

Why is blogging and RSS reading so much better on Windows and Mac than Linux?  It appears that many of the Linux offerings are, like many other small Linux apps, personal scratch-an-itch development projects.  Unlike OpenOffice (supported by Sun) and Firefox (run by Mozilla), these projects have no corporate-level support and no drive to support a large userbase with feature development.  In Linux, of course, I could just learn Python and add features myself, but I don’t have that kind of time.  So for now, I’m back to Google Reader and ScribeFire when on the laptop, but blogging is the one area I find to be inferior to Windows (but not so inferior as to make me boot back into Vista).

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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 WordPress.com 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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