The majority of my ‘I am going to learn this if it kills me!’ lessons come from when I’m just dead frustrated with a product. Today it’s Google Reader.
I like RSS feeds. They work well for me, I like having them sitting there, waiting for me to pay attention. It keeps news out of my email (which is for communication) and makes sure even if I miss a tweet, I see the article later. The world comes to me. This is also a part of my evil ploy to keep myself at Inbox Zero (current status – Inbox has 7 emails at home, 11 at work). I only leave emails in my queue when I know I need to hang on to them for a good reason, and even then I’m likely to save them off line (I use IMAP) to keep anything long term.
For the last few years I’ve been using Google Reader because I check my RSS feeds at work (Windows XP, still) and home (Mac), and it lets me sync between the two. Google Reader remembers what I’ve read, and I don’t have to re-read things. But recently Google screwed me over, hard, with their inability to update feeds in anything resembling realtime. Specifically, all my WordPress.org feeds were days, if not weeks behind, and I couldn’t force them to update! What was going on?
At first I thought it had to do with WP’s recent(ish) server upgrade to nginx, as certainly the problem started around that time, so I asked Otto and Nacin if there was a thing going on. Otto replied that there was, but it was Google. See, Google uses PubSubHubbub, which allows for updates in near-real-time. Sounds cool. If it worked. Now before you say it’s clearly me having the problem, it’s not. I asked around, and everyone who monitors WordPress.org related feeds with Google Reader has agreed: the feeds ain’t in real time anymore.
I switched to another feed reader and, lo and behold, it worked just fine. Well that sucks. Now how can I handle all this? I could use a dedicated feed reader, but then I’m stuck only reading on one computer, which I certainly could do, but it’s 2012, and I like portability. What sort of options am I left with? After two weeks of experimenting and testing with various web-based readers, I decided that Google really was the best of them, and I was depressed. But I wasn’t defeated. I knew, I just knew, that some clever soul felt my pain and wanted to help me out. And I was right.
Enter Tiny Tiny RSS. Tiny Tiny RSS is an open source web-based news feed (RSS/Atom) reader and aggregator, designed to allow you to read news from any location, while feeling as close to a real desktop application as possible.
On the grand scheme of things, it’s easier to set up than RSS2Email (which I use on another account on this server), but due to me being on CentOS, which doesn’t really daemonize well for users, I had to cron job my feed updates at first. I set it at 15 minutes, after I ran it manually a few times to catch up. There are a few ‘quirks’ that aren’t as nice as Google reader. Like I have to manually refresh the back to get the read/unread counts to work right, and even with
define('ENABLE_UPDATE_DAEMON', false); set, it keeps telling me that the update daemon is off. Turns out I also had to delete the
Meanwhile, I dug further into this and found the pretty easy setup for ‘screen’:
$ cd /public_html/tt-rss $ screen -S updaterss $ php ./update.php -daemon
And detach from the screen with CTRL+A+D shortcut. Now someone mentioned that this will ‘break’ if the server is rebooted, so I left my cron job running just in case. I’m happy with cron, if it comes down to brass knuckles.
I’m happy with this, and it’s only been a couple hours. The actually install process was easy, but this isn’t something I’d suggest if you’re the sort who wants a lot of help and hand holding for an app. I’m monitoring my CPU/memory consumption right now, but it seems pretty minimal, so I’m really pleased I have an alternative I like. My wish list is insanely small:
- A ‘click to refresh all feeds’ button, instead of relying on cron/command line(I could probably code this myself, just haven’t yet)
- Auto-refresh of the page resets the read/unread counts correctly
And the ‘fix’ for now for those is cron/cli and refresh the page. So I’ll live, quite happily.