Tag Archives: RSS

Prepare for the upcoming Google Reader shutdown with 5 alternatives

Google ReaderIn an effort to consolidate its services, Google Reader shuts down on July 1, 2013. The rise and growth of Google+ has seen a bunch of shutdowns and we can expect to see more as the company looks to focus more on its key products.

With Google Reader gone, it is time to look for alternatives for subscribing to RSS feeds. Here are five alternatives that should help you get everything – well, nearly everything – you got from Google Reader.

1. Feedly

Feedly, under the project called Normandy, had been preparing for a Google Reader API clone since the shutdown for announced, and you now have an alternative that should help you seamlessly transition from Google Reader to Feedly. The Feedly service is supported on iOS, Android, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. This Feedly blog post shows you how you can make that seamless transition and ensure you do not miss any updates from your favorite blogs now that Google Reader is gone.

2. NetVibes

NetVibes opened a new home for millions of Google Readers recently by offering a dual dashboard-and-reader combo which, unlike other alternatives, is powered by its own real-time RSS engine that is completely independent of Google. NetVibes comes with an ecosystem of over 260,000 apps and feeds, social search, syncing across multiple devices, and works on iOS, Android and desktop browsers.

3. NewsBlur

This is a personal news reader runs on iOS, Android, and on web browsers. It is a free service with premium subscriptions if you want to support growing services and unlock a few restrictions. The service offers four RSS feed views which are Original, Feed, Story, and Text. Original offers readers the original design and typeface of a given site. The Feed view is the plain old RS feed you are used to. The Story view shows individual blog posts one at a time, and the Text view shows the original story’s extracted article text, which may not be 100% perfect.

4. FeedDemon

For Windows users, FeedDemon will continue to offer its services which includes keyword tagging, Feed Watches, the ability to search feeds, and the ability to automatically download audio podcasts.

5. Google Currents

It’s not all bye-bye from Google. Google Currents is another excellent alternative available on iOS and Android devices which turns your blogs into an attractive, shareable and favoritable magazine. It is able to aggregate your content into categories to help you better enjoy your content.

There we have it, 5 Google Reader alternatives that you can use to ensure you are updated on what’s new on your favorite blogs and online destinations.

WordPress: How to Fix Author RSS Feeds with the FD Feedburner Plugin

If you run a WordPress-based website and offer RSS feeds to your readers, the WordPress plugin FD Feedburner is invaluable. This plugin automatically redirects any RSS feed on your website to the correct Feedburner feed with very simple configuration.

One problem with FD Feedburner is that it doesn’t support individual author RSS feeds. Since we have a team of writers here at Techerator, each author has their own individual RSS feed that follows the format http://www.techerator.com/author/{author’s username}/rss2. By default, FD Feedburner automatically redirects individual author pages to the main RSS feed.

The fix is straightforward, but requires you to log into your web server via FTP and copy-and-paste code into a PHP file. If you do not feel comfortable with these tasks, seek assistance before making any changes. And above all: always make a backup!

Step 1: Log into your web server with your FTP client of choice. I prefer WinSCP (free).

Step 2: Navigate to FD Feedburner’s plugin folder within WordPress (by default, it should be located at /wp-content/plugins/feedburner-plugin) and edit the file fdfeedburner.php.

Step 3: Locate the following code (in current version 1.43, it’s located at line 220):

if (($cat || $tag) && $options['feedburner_no_cats'] == 1) {

And replace it with the following code:

if (( ($cat || $tag) && $options['feedburner_no_cats'] == 1) || preg_match("/^\/author\//", $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'])) {

Note: This code is designed for standard WordPress configurations. If you’ve made changes to your directory structure, you’ll have to change the regular expression specified in the preg_match() function.

Now when you link to an author’s individual RSS page, like mine at http://www.techerator.com/author/ewondrasek/rss2, you’ll be taken right to the individual author feed! Special thanks to my former MakeUseOf colleague Jorge Sierra for figuring this out.

Android App Roundup! Abduction! 2 (Game) and my6sense (magical RSS and social network reader)

It’s been a while, but welcome again to another exciting edition of our Android App Roundup series! This time I’ll be showing you how you can kill some free time with Abduction! 2 while Evan explains how you can discover the best articles from your RSS feeds and social networks with my6sense.

If there are any Android apps you feel you can’t live without, we’d love to hear about them! Drop us a line by commenting on this article, sending us an e-mail, or talking to either of us on Twitter.

Kevin’s Pick – Abduction! 2

In an article on Android games earlier this year I extolled the virtues of Psym Mobile’s Abduction!. At the time it was one of the finest games in the Android Market, and it’s sequel (the aptly named Abduction! 2) found its way into the Market late last week. Don’t let the screenshot fool you, Abduction! 2 is more than just a simple update, and well worth the roughly $3 it will set you back.

Abduction! 2 takes the polished gameplay of its predecessor and piles tons of extras on top. You’ll still be guiding an animal (a cow by default) left and right using the accelerometer, bouncing off platforms in an effort to reach the top. There are some additions, such as different types of platforms, including spikes and a trampoline, and new powerups, but for the most part the core game remains largely unchanged. The draw of the game lies in the revamped Adventure mode and various unlockables.

For purists there is a game mode similar to the first Abduction!, called Classic mode, that plays almost identically to the first game. However, it’s likely you’ll spend the majority of your time in Adventure mode. In this mode, each stage has two objectives. Each level contains three caged animals for you to free. As you free more animals, more goodies are unlocked for purchase in the game’s shop. You also want to make it to the top of the level as fast as possible, which means you’ll be doing several runs through each level, one to free the animals and another to get to quickly make it to the top.

Depending on your time, you’re awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal. These medals are then used as currency to purchase the aforementioned goodies in the shop, including new characters, accessories to trick out your animal, and extras like an 8-bit or 3D mode. With 60 hand-crafted levels to go through, the Adventure mode alone will keep you busy for a long while.

If you’re looking for something to kill the time between classes or any other spare moments you get throughout the day, you can support one of the best Android game developers and pick up Abduction! 2 by searching for it in the Android Market or scanning the QR code below.

Evan’s Pick – my6sense

I’ve gone back-and-forth with ways to read news, social networks, and RSS feeds on my Droid X. Sometimes I’ll check out mobile versions of my favorite tech sites like Techmeme, and other times I’ll use a specific publisher’s app like USA Today or TIME.  These methods all give me plenty of news to read, but there is never a guarantee it will be something I’m personally interested in.

my6sense is a new app for Android that lets you import news from your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Buzz as well as your RSS feeds.  my6sense then uses a proprietary technique they call “digital intuition” to figure out what news is most important to you, and sorts items by relevance instead of chronologically. This gives you a personal news feed taken from your favorite news sources and only shows you information you really want to see.

Digital intuition is based off how you interact with your news items, so at first it won’t be very good (a bar at the bottom of the screen will show you how “smart” it is).  my6sense will keep track of what articles you interact with, including how long you read the article and if you read the whole thing.  After awhile, it will become very good at suggesting relevant articles for you to read.

This is my digital intuition after using my6sense a few times.

my6sense is so proud of their digital intuition technology that they boast on their website:

Digital Intuition is a secret. Something sort of like the Da Vinci code, except Tom Hanks isn’t involved and no one is trying to kill us. Yet! If you think you figured it out, send us an email with a video or description to whatisdigitalintuition@my6sense.com

Since I’m a big fan of Google Reader, I simply logged in with my Google account and it automatically imported the 25-30 feeds I follow.  If you don’t use RSS, my6sense provides a large “Topics” directory where you can subscribe to any categories that interest you.

If you add social networks, my6sense will automatically pull tweets and status updates with links into your news feed and combine them with the other news sources you’ve imported. You can fully interact with social network items, including Liking the article on Facebook.

Since some news is only fun when its shared, my6sense lets you easily send articles to your friends.

Simply put: my6sense is my new favorite way to get news and follow my social networks on my phone.  It’s completely free, and can be found in the Android Market or by scanning the code below.

Want more great Android app reviews?  Check out the rest of our Android App Roundup series!

How to Fix Chrome’s Broken RSS Feed Handling

If you’ve ever tried opening an RSS feed in Google Chrome, you may have been dismayed to find that it does a horrible job of handling them.  RSS feeds (like ours) are meant to provide an easy subscription method to a website, allowing you to view your favorite websites all in one place with an RSS aggregator like Google Reader.  I use Google Reader to help manage the dozens of sites I follow for personal interest and article ideas.

Most browsers can interpret RSS feeds properly and give you the option to subscribe to the feed with several services.  Chrome, however, just dumps a bunch of text to your screen.

Luckily for us, there’s an easy fix for this problem.  Head over to the Chrome Extensions Gallery and install the RSS Subscriptions Extension (by Google).  This extension was developed by Google (as you might have guessed) and adds some much-needed functionality to Chrome.

After you’ve installed the RSS Subscriptions extension, a small RSS notification will appear in Chrome’s omnibar when the site you’re viewing has an RSS feed available.  Clicking this icon will take you straight to the site’s RSS feed.

RSS Subscriptions will also kick in whenever you access a feed directly.

You can choose from four popular RSS readers: Google Reader, iGoogle, Bloglines, and My Yahoo. If you use a service not listed, simply click the Manage option to add your own.

From now on, Chrome will properly render your RSS feeds!

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out the rest of our articles about web browsers and Google Chrome.

Android App Roundup: ‘NewsRob’ (RSS Reader) and ‘4 teh birds’ (Game)

Dearest Android readers:  Thanks to a fantastic suggestion, Kevin and I are starting a weekly feature about some of our favorite Android apps.  We’ll be covering apps we love, apps that improve our phones, games, and newly-released apps that are worth checking out.

If you have any suggestions, hit either of us on Twitter, send us an email, or post in the comments at the end of the article!

Kevin’s Pick – NewsRob

Since Google hasn’t released an official Reader app yet, Android users can either use the mobile Reader website or download an app that syncs with Reader. I prefer the latter and have been using one called NewsRob since I got my phone, and it suits my needs perfectly.

NewsRob comes in two flavors, free and Pro. The free version is ad-supported and lacks some of the more advanced features of the Pro version, such as widget support. If all you plan on doing is checking your feeds, though, the free version will work just fine.

Synchronization can be configured through the options menu. There are options to sync automatically, only when connected to Wi-Fi, or only on demand. You can also set the time interval between synchronizations. In addition, NewsRob can be set to download only text, text and images, or text, images, and the web page the item points to.

Navigating NewsRob is as easy as it gets. Your feeds are broken down into any folders you might have set up in Reader, and then into individual feeds. Cycling through the items in a feed is handled by the volume buttons or on-screen arrows. Getting to the web page of an item is as simple as clicking its title. The page is rendered directly in NewsRob, so it isn’t even necessary to have a separate browser open!

NewsRob can be downloaded from the Android Market by scanning the QR Code below with the Barcode Scanner application.

Scan to download NewsRob

Evan’s Pick – 4 teh birds

Since Kevin went with something useful, I decided to go with something fun and pointless.  4 teh birds (nope, not a typo) is a super simple game for Android where clusters of cute, chubby birds fall from the sky, and your objective is to match three same-color birds together.

This game sports a fantastic physics engine, so those bulbous little birdies bounce all over the place as you try to match them up.  This game has wonderful artwork and animation, making it a great way to waste a few minutes during the day.

4 teh birds has several game modes, including time attack and survival.  In Hey, not too rough mode the clusters of birds can always be moved, but in Time Attack and Survival modes the birds can only be moved for a limited amount of time.  This quickly brings your game to the panic-inducing end game of Tetris when you’ve got a screen full of birds and no way to match them all up.

Overall, this game is addictive and has some of the best art direction, albeit simple, that I’ve seen in an Android game.  And hey, who doesn’t enjoy throwing obese birds around every once in awhile?

4 teh birds is free and can be found in the Android Market, and can also be downloaded by scanning the code below with the Barcode Scanner application.

Scan to download 4 teh birds
Image credit: lwallenstein

How to Create Custom RSS Feeds for Specific Subjects or Authors with Yahoo Pipes

Now that I’m writing for both Techerator and MakeUseOf, I wanted an easy way to publish links to articles I’ve written on my personal website.  In the past, I’ve also wanted to create custom RSS feeds for specific topics or authors I enjoy reading, instead of subscribing to the full “firehose” of a popular site’s RSS feed.

Yahoo Pipes is an incredibly powerful online service that allows you to do just that – and provides tools to perform advanced manipulation of content from around the web.

When I say Yahoo Pipes is powerful, I’m not kidding – you can combine many feeds into one, sort, filter, and even translate them.  After you’ve built your custom pipe, you can subscribe to the pipe’s RSS feed instead of the original so you’ll only have the content you really want to see.

How to Filter Feeds using Yahoo Pipes

In my case, I wanted to make an RSS feed that only displayed posts written by me.  Click the Create a pipe button on Yahoo Pipes to get started.

You’ll start off with a blank slate where you can drag items from the left onto the palette.  Think of this system as tinker toys; you can connect different pieces together to form a more complex system.

The first step to building a custom feed is to add a source (or sources).  This is where the data you want to manipulate originates.  Since I’m working with RSS feeds, I added a Fetch Feed block.  I wanted to work with articles from both Techerator and MakeUseOf, so I clicked the + icon to add a second feed.

The next step is to manipulate the feed.  Open the Operators tab on the side and drag a Filter block to the workspace.  This powerful block allows you to specify what is allowed (or not allowed) to show up in your new feed.

I wanted to filter by author, so I set the filter to Permit and entered item.dc:creator (this specifies the post author) in the first blank, chose Contains, then specified Evan Wondrasek in the last blank.

The last step is to connect the blocks together by clicking and dragging between the bottom of a block and the top of the next block.  The feed will follow these connections in order, so make sure to connect them from Source -> Filter -> Pipe Output.

A handy debug menu at the bottom of the workspace will show you what your new feed looks like so you can tweak settings as you go along.

That’s it!  Now just click the Save button and click the Run Pipe link at the top to see your custom pipe’s page.  From this page you can subscribe to the new feed via RSS and many other methods.

Filtering by Subject (or anything else you feel like)

Instead of filtering by author, you can filter by pretty much anything you can imagine.  For example, you can make a filter that looks for Android-only posts by adding RSS feeds and setting a filter to look for subjects containing “Android”.

You can also create a custom feed for multiple subjects, like if you wanted to display posts about Windows 7 and Windows XP only.  It is important to set the filter to any in this case (using all requires both subjects in the title).

When dealing with a popular RSS feed, you can use the Truncate block to limit the number of posts that appear.  This is a great way to make RSS feeds from publish-crazy blogs more managable, and you could also add in a Filter block to restrict unwanted subjects from appearing.

So Much More…

Yahoo Pipes gives you a crazy amount of control over data on the internet, so take some time to play around with it and see how creative you can be.  For more examples, check out Yahoo’s Pipes directory to see how pipes can be used to manipulate your favorite sites.

Make sure to check out the getting started video below.

Photo credit: Danndalf

How To: Make The Most Of Your Bookmarks In Firefox

Bookmarks have evolved from the static entries they once were, and with the right Firefox add-ons you can get the most out of your bookmarks.  Listed below are a couple add-ons that will get you started with improving your bookmarking experience in Firefox.

rss-iconLive Bookmarks

Often an overlooked feature, Firefox’s Live Bookmarks feature allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds and have bookmarks updated when the feeds are updated, removing the need for an external RSS reader.  By default there is no notification of new feed items, and you must manually check.

You can easily subscribe to RSS feeds with Live Bookmarks by clicking any RSS icon on a webpage or the RSS icon in the Address Bar.

LiveClick

LiveClick is a Firefox Bookmark add-on that adds several features to Live Bookmarks.  Added features include:

  • New bookmark notification
  • Bookmark previews
  • Display site’s Favicon instead of the regular RSS icon.
  • Live Bookmark homepage access.

Another handy feature of LiveClick is it’s ability to mark differently which Live Bookmarks have been read and which are unread, making it easier to keep track of your Live Bookmarks.

xmarks

Xmarks

Xmarks (previously known as Foxmarks) is an add-on that allows you to synchronize your bookmarks and passwords with multiple computers.  Xmarks also allows you to view your bookmarks from any computer by visiting http://my.xmarks.com.

Another feature of Xmarks is that it allows for multiple profiles.  For example, this would allow you to have different bookmarks on a home computer as you would have on a work computer – with each profile backed-up on the Xmarks servers.

What are your thoughts on these bookmark enhancers?  Is there another bookmark add-on you’d like to recommend?  Let us know by commenting below.

WordPress Fix: How to Properly Align Images in RSS Feeds

This image is on the right here, but in the RSS feed it would appear without formatting.

One of the only complaints I’ve ever had about WordPress is that images didn’t maintain alignment in our RSS feedRSS feeds are used to offer subscriptions to visitors and can be used with applications like Google Reader.

When adding an image to an article in WordPress, you have the option to align it on the left/center/right side of the screen – but when viewed in the RSS feed the images appear with no formatting.  A little searching revealed why images weren’t aligning in the RSS feed: WordPress developers removed the deprecated align attribute from image tags.

Removing the align attribute was the right thing to do to stay compliant with web standards, but it had the unfortunate side effect of breaking alignment in RSS feeds (the alignment for the web version of an article works because it is defined by in a CSS file).

The Fix

Fixing the alignment is as simple as installing and activating the Align RSS Images plugin for WordPress.  After activating the Align RSS Images plugin, images will automatically appear with the correct format in your RSS feed.

Align RSS Images works by finding any images in a post and applying the correct formatting to them in the RSS feed.  This is done dynamically when the RSS feed is generated, so no code gets added to your original post.  Best of all: the feed still remains compliant with W3C feed standards.

Note: After activating Align RSS Images, it may take a few hours for the changes to appear in your RSS feed.

Check out a before and after comparison below!

Before, no image alignment.
After, now properly aligned!

[Align RSS Images – WordPress Plugins]