Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Off Thunderbird RSS, onto RSS Bandit

I like the Mozilla community. I’ve moved over almost entirely to Firefox — particular, in thanks to IE View, a plug-in that allows me use Firefox for surfing, and then start up another window in IE when the page calls for it. For personal e-mail, I was a long time user of Eudora, but switched over to Thunderbird when it was released.

On my work e-mail on Lotus Notes client, I typically work up against the 3-month expiry deadline, with somewhere between 200 and 300 message in backlog. A lot of these are push e-mail, as subscriptions from magazines such as Business Week and Forbes. (I used to subscribe to the paper editions by mail, but my stack was so huge, I had to do something to simplify my life).

So, with Thunderbird v1.5 supporting RSS, I stopped my e-mail subscriptions . Unfortunately, as I started having problems with the RSS feeds stopping, the clock has been ticking. It’s not absolutely crucial to keep on top of everything, but there doesn’t seem to be much encouragement in terms of movement on Bugzilla. I’m sure they have their plate full.

So, I started search around again for another newsreader, … and ended up choosing RSS Bandit. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Web newsreaders don’t cut it for me, because there’s the latency of waiting for pages to load. I’m trying to find way to speed things up, and I know I’ll get frustrated waiting for a page to load.
  • Of the Windows platform choices, RSS Bandit is an open source, sourceforge.net project. Although part of my motivation is open source philosophy, I’m also pragmatic in choosing packages that have a lot of activity. There’s some other alternatives that don’t seem to have much going on.
  • I had previously installed RSS Bandit when I was trying to find a route to manage blog feeds down onto my Palm TX. I did figure out how to get Bandit2Plucker working, but settled on Sunrise, instead. Still, I may have to revisit that choice sometime in the future.

I’ve already done some “weird” customization of RSS Bandit that I may not ever be able to do on Thunderbird. I’ve moved one of the menu bars (so that it’s easy to get to “next unread’ and “mark unread”) from the top of the page, to the right side. In addition, I’ve positioned the reading pane at the top, and list of headlines at the bottom, so my eye doesn’t have to move so much when I switch from reading one article to another. So far, it looks like subscribing to audio (i.e. podcasts) works, too.
I had complained that tabbed messaging would have been nice in Thunderbird, and it’s already a feature of RSS Bandit . RSS Bandit seems to be usable a browser by itself — I’m not sure how it does this, but pages look fine. On newsfeeds (e.g. Business Week), Thunderbird use to render a full web page, whereas RSS Bandit seems to focus on just the text. Is this because RSS Bandit has actually downloaded and cached the pages, whereas Thunderbird would just load the page dynamically?

The immediate crisis of dropped subscriptions is over, so I’ll have to see how I like RSS Bandit. One thing that bugs me is to have yet another application open on my desktop — Lotus Notes, Thunderbird, Sametime, AIM, MSN Messenger and Skype are just the beginning before I actually do any work! — but maybe that’s what the operating system is for.

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