Critter's Cave

Tag: Tech News

FeedDemon 2.0 – definitely worth the wait!

by on Jan.09, 2006, under Uncategorized

On February 9, 2005, Nick Bradbury released the most recent version of FeedDemon – version 1.5. In the almost year since a LOT has happened. Nick’s one-man show, Bradsoft, was purchased by NewsGator, Nick underwent brain surgery, and became one of the founding Board members of the AttentionTrust non-profit organization. With all this happening he still found time to work on the next version of FeedDemon – 1.6. After a lengthy beta period, and nearing a releasable product, he decided to add features that had been clamored for but were always promised “for the 2.0 version” :) and is going to skip 1.6 and go to version 2.0, which should be out in public beta very soon.
I have been honored, along with Andrew “Spyder” Herron to be the first non-Newsgator-employees to take a look at and provide feedback on FeedDemon 2.0
One of the most striking (and welcome) differences between 1.5 (and the 1.6 betas) and 2.0 is the change in the UI. Something that frustrated me (and many others) to no end was how groups of feeds (folders, which were called channel groups in older versions of FD) were handled. It should be noted here that FeedDemon was one of the earliest RSS feed aggregators out there and as such, some of the decisions made during the initial design of the program turned out to be not very well-suited to how the usage of news feeds evolved over the subsequent two years. The most obvious aspect of this was his choice to show only one folder (channel group in older versions) at a time. As it turned out many of us would subscribe to hundreds (even thousands) of feeds and having to go through a drop-down, pick the folder we wanted and then browse through those feeds was a significant drain on time. This led to one of the most common feature requests – a treeview/explorer view/whatever you want to call it view. With 2.0, a treeview has been implemented that allows one to see all their folders at once – no more going folder-by-folder. It is just an absolute pleasure to work worth over the current version.
There are some really neat things like tag search subscriptions for technorati, flickr, and deli.cio.us; keyword subs using popular blog search engines; and a subscription overview page that shows not only the unread counts, but also the feeds you pay the most and least attention to – which is really useful for getting rid of feeds that seemed neat at the time, but eventually lost their luster or just didn’t contain the content you wanted.
Probably the most significant new (well, completely revamped and updated) feature (which really was the biggest priority of the 1.6 beta series) is the feeed synchronization feature. Registered users of FeedDemon 1.5 get a free two-year subscription to the Newsgator.com service. As part of this service, they are allowed to synchronize the read/unread status of their feeds with Newsgator. This allows someone, for instance, to read their news feeds at work, let FeedDemon synch with Newsgator and then check for new feeds when they get home, or on the road, or wherever via Newsgator.com. Mac users should be able to sync with Newsgator – and therefore FeedDemon via Newsgator – when a new version of NetNewsWire ( which was also acquired by Newsgator this year) is released, thus allowing cross-platform synchronization (OK, technically cross-platform synching is currently possible because I was able to get FeedDemon 1.5 and the 1.6 betas to work under Wine in Linux :), though it took me a couple of hours and I’ve since lost my notes so I can’t provide any help and since I don’t work for Newsgator, they can’t help either – sorry!).
2.0 is just so much more usable than 1.x it is amazing. No way, no how would I want to switch back to the old version – no matter what bug I may encounter. And yes, I have encounted some bugs here and there, but hey, it’s pre-beta! It’s not going to be perfect but I’ve seen full-blown betas introduced by companies (*cough*Microsoft*cough*) that were a lot less ready-for-prime-time than this.
One of the big efforts that is being made for this release is making it new-user/non-techie friendly. Many of the dialogs have been revamped to be less jargon-y, the help and tutorials are going to be updated to help ease the new user into the world or RSS aggregation – Nick and the gang really, really want this to be accessible to the newbies (and I’m tired of “newbies” being used like a dirty word or insult – every single one of us was a newb at one point or another) while still having the power and flexibility to be attractive to us Power Users as well, and I think they have accomplished that goal.

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Bloglines and Firefox

by on Nov.04, 2004, under Uncategorized

I had started using Bloglines a few weeks ago after Nick Bradbury announced Bloglines integration with his FeedDemon RSS aggregator. Shortly thereafter I made the complete switch to Firefox as my web browser.
However, after I switched, I noticed that Bloglines no longer worked properly with Firefox – whenever I would click on one of my feeds, a new blank tab would open with no content and I could not bring up the feed. After some searching, I found that there was an issue with the Tabbed Browsing extension and Bloglines, but one setting in about:config would fix. Unfortunately, this didn’t help me as I didn’t use the Tabbed Browsing Extension.
However, I DO use an extension called Single Window from AAron Spuler which expands the tabbed browsing capabilites of Firefox. After poking around, I saw there was an option for “Open JavaScript links in new tabs” that was checked. I unchecked it, restarted Firefox for the change to take place, and found that Bloglines now worked perfectly!
So if you’re experiencing the problem with a new tab opening when you select a feed in Bloglines, but that tab is empty – check your Single Window extension settings.
critter42

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Build-it-Yourself Systems vs. pre-built systems

by on Oct.14, 2004, under Uncategorized

It has kind of always been a given that you can save money on a computer by building it yourself versus purchasing a pre-built system from one of the “big guys”. At least, I’ve always been convinced of that, so I decided to run a little test. I picked the lowest-end “value” or “entry-level” system from 3 major manufacturers (two, actually, since Gateway now owns eMachines) and then two home-built systems – one with the same specs as the pre-built systems, and one that runs in the same price range as pre-builts. Frankly, the results were surprising.
Click here for a table comparing all the systems, which I’ll reference during this article.
First some notes: All include a dial-up modem, as the initial impetus for this comparison came when I was asked to spec out a system for a friend that is still on dial-up. Also note that the “same price” home-built system does not include a mouse or keyboard, so expect to add ~$25 total for it, so call its real total $466.
Analysis
As can be seen, there is only a savings of about $29 between building it yourself and the lowest-cost pre-built system, with the same specs on both. One might argue that since there is a bundle of software included with the Gateway, the price difference is almost eliminated. However, I disregarded that factor as there is good freeware equivalent to most of the software included (most notably OpenOffice as the Microsoft Office replacement). What is interesting is what can be gotten by setting the price bar to the high end of the pre-builts range ($469). I was able to double the RAM (using PC3200 vs PC2700 to boot), and include an nForce IGP motherboard (includes a built-in GeForce 4 MX video card – not great by today’s standards, but MUCH BETTER than the integrated graphics in any of the other offerings on this page) that can use more video memory (doubling from 64MB shared to 128MB shared).
Just for giggles, I went and configured a high end(“Gamers”) system from Gateway and specced a home-brew one out at Newegg.com. It would actually be about $150 MORE to build it myself than to pick Gateway’s.
One other con to building it yourself is the warranty factor (although it must be said that Gateway’s default warranty is the weakest at 90 days part/labor – pathetic) – on the homebrew, instead of calling one company (Gateway, Dell, etc) for support and warranty repair, you have to deal with the manufacturer of each component. This can get tricky if you’re purchasing OEM versions of hardware (if there even is a warranty on the OEM parts. Often there’s not), but most “retail” or “boxed” pieces of hardware will have decent support. If you want to save a few bucks, or want the really rewarding experience of building your own system, then go for it. Just don’t expect to save $$$. Not anymore.

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Infopath Lab from Microsoft

by on May.17, 2004, under Uncategorized

InfoPath (included with Microsoft Office 2003), when I saw it in action during Microsoft’s Office 2k3 launch last year, looked like something we could really use in my office. I received my free copy of 2k3 and installed InfoPath, but I’m not much of a programmer, so was at a loss as to how we could leverage its capabilities. I found this lab from M$ that goes into good detail about using InfoPath. If you have to use InfoPath, but are still confused about it, this series of articles should help.

Learn to complete a form and add new sections, merge and export data, and sign data with a digital certificate. (Lab 1 of 16)

[MSDN: Microsoft Office]

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PC Accessories of the Bizarre for 4/20/2004

by on Apr.20, 2004, under Uncategorized

For you gourmand geeks out there: PC EZ Bake Oven
Edit: Shoulda known…this one was a ThinkGeek April Fool’s day joke…OK guys, you got me… :)
And for those late nite beer-guzzling chain-smoking lan parties, I present the Thermaltake X-Ray
Edit: This one appears real :)
Sigh…what’s next, a port-a-potty that doubles as a CPU cooler?

[Listening to: Tears For Fears, Shout (CLUB 977 The 80s Channel (HIGH BANDWIDTH)) - ]
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