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The Future of RSS Clients

I get most of my news via rss feeds and I read them on different devices: A PC at an office desk, a tablet in the sofa, a phone when waiting in line in the supermarket. For each device I have a preferred client: feedly, Press, gReader… Google Reader ties it all together, synchronizing read status and stars across the clients.

On July 1, 2013 Google Reader will close down, apparently because the number of users has declined. That is probably true, especially if the users counted are those that visit Google site to read their feeds – with alternatives available on all platforms, it is natural that the Google site has fewer visitors and thus less revenue.

I don’t know what will happen after July 1. According to the client vendors, they are all working on solutions that will ensure a seamless transition when the day comes. Well, software development being software development I expect hiccups, but I am really more concerned whether the vendors are working towards a common solution, or if we will see yet another proliferation of standards.

I fear the latter will happen, with different clients no longer able to share and synchronize feed data. Then again, this is an opportunity for new business models. If Google’s ad supported model may no longer be commercially viable, what is? . I doubt we will see a coalition of rss client providers create a shared infrastructure, so what will happen?

This is also a good reminder that Google is a business and that the free services provided still generates revenue somehow.

Update, May 14: Today feedly.com posted a questionnaire, asking for users’ input on possible subscription models, use of ads and  3rd party client support : )

Dilbert.com – now with Keyword Search

I just found out that dilbert.com has a keyword search feature that allows you to search for old comic strip based on strip text.

Excellent.

This probably isn’t new, but my daily Dilbert is delivered by rss and I didn’t see the keyword search when I signed up. And so I just wanted to share in case others didn’t notice either.

The reason I found out was that I was looking for a specific frame I once saw in a calendar and forgot to keep: Bob the Dinosaur actively waiting for troubles to go away. With the keyword search I found both the frame and the strip it was taken from. Good stuff. I also found the strip where a marketing guy with a magazine is hunted down with tranquillizer darts. Good stuff too.

(check the strip – it is not that I have anything against marketing people working in marketing, but I know so very well what such magazines can do…)

20 years ago today…

…the Internet was launched at CERN.

The news today is full of enough stories about how far we have come since then, so I won’t bother adding yet another one.

Instead I will try to remember where I was back then. That would be as a first year university student who was elected to get access to the university’s Unix server AND to get my own email address. Then I followed computer science classes in front of huge CRT screens and looked at the info on the network between exercises (we didn’t call it browsing yet) . I remember looking for R.E.M. lyrics with the gopher, playing a MUD and telling friends about this amazing database wealth of all sorts of thinkable and unthinkable information that I had suddenly gained access to. And then week by week the www moved in and NCSA’s Mosaic become the place to spend idle time between classes.

What a privilege to have been right there when it happened.

And what a reminder to always be open to emerging technologies, some of which may just fade away as easily and better forgotten fads, and others that will transform the world in ways we can’t even start to imagine.

MIUI Test Run – Part 2

Thursday
After several days of MIUI leaving good impressions, I have decided to add a handful of social network apps to see what happens to performance with those running in the background. Again Link2SD is needed to squeeze it all in: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. And somewhere during the installations of these four, with their checks for status and integrations to contact list etc. the phone start being more sluggish.

Friday
more  sluggishness, also the Play store is moving down towards the slow performance on the other phone. So the more apps that are running, the more sluggish the device. No big surprise and certainly not the  fault of the OS. Just a reminder how much smartphones have evolved since the 2010 launch of the Desire.

Saturday
I settle for the final theme, called something Chinese and “Iphone”. Surely some icons look familiar from Apple screenshots I have seen and surely there are more Chinese  Characters showing up on screen, though nothing that impedes usage in any way.

Sunday again – conclusion 
My initial expectation when I started this test run was that it would be different from the Android experience that I am used to. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. As it turned out,  I am pleasantly surprised (which maybe I shouldn’t be – MIUI is one of the major custom ROMs).

In use the system is running at least as smoothly as I am used to,  and the different themes are a fun to customize the experience to my own mood and preference. Not surprising it looks like packing more apps unto the device slows it down regardless the ROM being used, so in this very qualitative study I will not draw any conclusion of MIUI vs. CM7 performance. Perhaps more interesting to investigate are the launchers where ADWLauncher EX offers a lot more customization that the MIUI launchers,  customization that must come with some cost on performance (that could also be said about MIUI’s theme support –  is it coincidence that I first noted performance  degradation when I started applying new themes?)

I am back on my usual phone now (its camera is better), but look forward to trying out a newer version of MIUI if it supports whatever my next handset will be.

Windows 8 – Teething Troubles

Yesterday we got a new laptop for my wife, since the time had come where her old Acer 4810T with its Intel Core 2 Solo CPU has become too slow (probably some update to OS security or anti virus). The new one is an Asus ux32vd laptop. Nice piece of hardware. It is running Windows 8 which my wife is looking forward to get properly acquainted with. She is an experienced computer user, by the way, having worked with scientific computing for many years and even designed a cluster computer for high performance calculations.

I have used Windows 8 for almost 6 months now and has grown quite happy with it, in spite of its eccentricities (especially the Start screen, once rightly configured, is a powerful new feature). Still, it is interesting to observe someone new that start using the OS. And so, with a little guidance from me, for example on hidden functionality like the active corners on the screen and the sometimes peculiar menus, she was up and running quite soon and growing comfortable with the new OS.

However, things got difficult when we went through the different apps. The Games app had to be updated before it could be used and so we duly went to Store app to update it together with 22 other apps. And we selected update and nothing more happened: app updates froze in pending state with no download/install progress. Error messages were initially useless, but finally they started at least including error codes like “8024001e” which still isn’t informative, but is an identifier that can be used to find a solution on the www. And so we googled the code and found frustrations and suggested solutions which many couldn’t get to work.

What worked for us was this instruction from answers.microsoft.com:

Method 3: Rename the Windows Update components folder.
a) Press “Windows key + X” and click “Command Prompt (Admin)”.
b) Type “net stop wuauserv” and press enter.
c) Type “rename c:WindowsSoftwareDistribution softwaredistribution.old” and press enter.
d) Type “net start wuauserv”and press enter.

Note the capital “W” in the path – we couldn’t get the method to work with small “w” like it is posted on the Microsoft support sites, so that might be the reason that the method didn’t work for some. Also we had to do step a) twice before the service actually stopped.

So we solved the problem. Still I am annoyed that my wife’s first experience of an OS that I have pitched should be problematic like this. A bug is a bug (to fixed according severity etc.), but how come one like this, that effectively disables the app store has not been fixed? If nothing else, then by making restart of the service available in “Advanced settings” somewhere in the system (but why doesn’t restarting the computer not restart the update service?).

The computer is fixed and it looks like my wife’s disappointment with something new computer that didn’t work properly is gone as well. My annoyance with an bug in an otherwise excellent OS may last a little longer. Then again, having found the solution and having shared it already makes me feel better.