When there's only one

...there's only one choice
Everything here is my opinion. I do not speak for your employer.
February 2004
March 2004

2004-02-17 »


So, rather than doing real work, I was talking to pphaneuf at work about RSS and NNTP the other day after reading Simon Law's comments. pphaneuf convinced me that Simon was essentially correct; RSS is nothing new, and most RSS "aggregators" are pretty sucky, and usenet newsreader technology is mature, established, and generally pretty good, so why not just make an RSS-to-news gateway and read your newsfeeds that way? Great!

So I did. Well, that was easy. Add noffle, 52 lines of perl (yes, I did do serious XML "parsing" in there using some really dumb regexes - what's it to you?), 15 lines of shell, and a few automated wgets, and there we have it - instant RSS-to-news gateway. (Anyone wanting my crappy script is welcome to it - just email me.)

The next step is to go track down one of those mature, excellent, efficient, user-friendly newsreaders and enter RSS heaven. Right? Right? But wait! I forgot! Newsreaders suck too! In the last hour or so, I've tried knode, gnus, mozilla-mailnews, pan, slrn, a horrible mutt-nntp hack, Outlook Express, and manually telnetting to the NNRP port. I have to say, the telnet is looking pretty good right now.

The all-time winner for worst newsreader UI ever is of course gnus, but mozilla-mailnews comes a close second. At least the others make some attempt at making sense; mozilla just kept on trying to connect to a host named 'news', which I didn't configure anywhere. slrn actually worked like I wanted, except it couldn't display html (which all blogs are written in, of course). Outlook Express, while annoying, was the sanest one of all, and it even has a cool "offline" mode that I don't need. Could someone just go and clone Outlook Express News for Unix, please? Hint: when I go to news://hostname, why not pop up a list of that server's newsgroups, and stop asking stupid questions about my "identity"?

Anyway, I think this finally explains to me the massive growth of so-called "RSS aggregator" apps compared to newsreaders lately. It's very simple: all newsreaders, like all RSS aggregators, are horrendous, and therefore people keep rewriting them. Maybe someday they'll get it right.

For my next adventure, perhaps I'll try an RSS-to-IMAP gateway. At least I know some reasonable mail clients exist.

More Curses

I realized that my ESC-is-a-key-and-a-sequence problem can be solved simply by making my own ESC key send something other than ASCII 27; after all, if I'm doing the "liberal" thing with input, I can have both ASCII 27 and my new ESC be treated as KEY_ESC. The 27 has the stupid delay, and my new key won't. Essentially no apps other than curses ones use the ESC key as input anyway, so this wouldn't be so bad.

As for people with their DEL key mapped to 127, well, they can just suffer with having their DEL key act like backspace. They probably won't notice anyway.

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