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Messages - johnk [ switch to compact view ]

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It's not a useability nightmare, I think, as much as it is a marketing and PR nightmare.

That sums it up for me, really. I've never understood the criticism of its usability. Once you get your head around what the RT desktop can and cannot achieve, it's fine, and fulfils my needs.

But in asking the marketing department to explain a new OS with "a desktop that isn't really a desktop", the designers gave the marketing people a tough task, and they just weren't up to it. Having read all the negative publicity, I long ago decided not to buy an RT product. It was only after deeper reading, and seeing the discounted price, that I decided to give it a go. I'm very glad I did.

I'm a bit late to this debate but my recent experience with Win8 prompts me to add a few words. I tried Win8 as soon as it came out but had to roll back to Win7 as my HP laptop had one of those hybrid AMD/Intel video cards and there was no driver on the horizon.

Fast forward to last month, and I found a Nokia Lumia 920 at a very good price, and decided to try Windows Phone 8, fully expecting to dislike it. Right now, if asked, I'd say without hesitation that Windows Phone is the best mobile OS (although the bar is very low -- they're all far from perfect). I use the 920 every day, and my once-loved Razr i is sitting in a drawer. Not at all what I expected. WP8 is well thought out, with features that make me reluctant to go back to Android. Glance for one...

And then a couple of weeks ago I bought a Microsoft Surface (RT), as they're now priced very reasonably. And again it far exceeded my expectations. Almost every piece I have read about the RT OS has been violently negative. And having used it for a couple of weeks, I just can't see the problem (for tablet use). It's a gorgeous bit of hardware, which cost me £250 including the touch keyboard (which I use all the time), and full-fat Office, including Outlook. And the crippled desktop still gives me full access to the registry editor and all the other system applets. I wanted to enable network shares? Simple -- open services.msc as normal, switch on the sharing service. It's all there. I no longer use my Android tablet. A pattern is emerging...

For what it's worth (something between very little and nothing), if I were boss of Microsoft I would bet the farm on RT. Demote full-fat Windows to a niche product and merge Windows Phone into RT (why on earth is there a separate phone OS in the first place?). The only people who object to walled-garden OSs are consumer geeks (i.e. the sort of people who inhabit this forum). I'm guessing that if you offered corporates a walled-garden OS (RT) that communicated seamlessly with Windows Server/Exchange and offered VPN access/whatever else might be essential, then said corporates would be perfectly happy.

Having said all that, I still run Win7 on my desktop, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I remain a consumer geek, but will keep an eye on Windows 9...

I think the main form of automation that the average PC user should but does not use is the humble text replacement macro. I've been using Macro Express for this purpose for many years, and I've built up a list of a few dozen text replacement macros that are now instinctive, and save me a lot of time, month in, month out.

So when I type ",jm" (without quotation marks), it's replaced with my main email address, ",ad" is replaced with my full postal address, ",es" contains positive feedback for an eBay seller, and so on. Over the years, it's been a huge time saver. Macro Express is also powerful and flexible, so for example I use "CTRL+F9" to call a NirCmd action that powers off my monitor.

Any number of programs, including AutoHotkey, can take care of text replacement, and most average PC users would benefit, far more than they would from more complex forms of automation.

While I applaud getting non-programmers interested in programming, automation is one area where I would just encourage people to get an appropriate existing program (there are so many), or if someone is determined to dip their toe in the programming waters, they can introduce themselves to scripting automation with Autohotkey (I did replace Macro Express with Autohotkey for a while, just to prove to myself I could get Autohotkey to do anything that Macro Express could do, but really, Macro Express just made everything much, much easier, and encouraged me to add more macros).

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: September 11, 2013, 08:34 PM »
Another recommendation for After trying feedly I've switched to Bazqux and been really happy with it. I've had to switch from Reeder to Mr. Reader on the iPad, which is ok too. Still looking for a good Android client though.

Bazqux now supports the Fever API, which means you can use the excellent Press reader on Android.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: July 30, 2013, 09:08 AM »
That's why I asked.  He said it only supports 5 feeds in parallel... then when someone asked if it would support 600 feeds (surely an arbitrary number) he came back with snark.

The "5 feeds in parallel" refers to the method for refreshing feeds from the UI. I don't know what that means, to be honest, maybe someone else can chip in. I use a cron job to refresh feeds, which updates all feeds reliably.

Relevant quote: "Miniflux uses an Ajax request to refresh each subscription. By default, there is only 5 feeds updated in parallel."

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: July 30, 2013, 06:22 AM »
Miniflux only supports 5 feeds also it appears... unless I'm reading something wrong.

Not sure where you got that? I'm using it on about 100 feeds without any issues.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: July 29, 2013, 08:57 PM »
As I stated in a previous post, if you're looking for a hosted reader, I would recommend Bazqux. I've been using it since GR's demise, and it's working well.

But as the death of The Old Reader shows, there is likely to be a lot of volatility in the RSS reader market in the coming months, and as others have said, hosting your own is the most reliable option.

I had almost given up on finding a self-hosted option that I liked. Although I subscribed to Bazqux, I kept a lookout for new self-hosted options. A week or so ago, I came across Leed. It's the first self-hosted option that I've really enjoyed using. Certainly worth a try. I'm now using both Bazqux and Leed in parallel, and I'll do that for as long as it takes for one to stand out as the best option, although Leed has an automatic advantage because it's self-hosted.

Leed and the Leed web site are French, with no built-in translation, but one user has put together an English version, and that's what I'm using.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that I'm also testing another self-hosted option, Miniflux, which is promising (although it's a "river of news"-style reader rather than a folder-based reader)

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: July 06, 2013, 01:37 PM »
I agree Inoreader is one of the best of the new breed of RSS readers. But I am wary simply on the basis that it lacks a business model. At first it was a one-man project, with no charge to users, then recently it was adopted as a project by the company the creator works for. But there's still no concrete plan to charge, just the notion that it will be "freemium" at some stage.

Now that everyone has gotten over the "shock" of GR's closure, and realised it's not such a big deal swapping readers, I guess people will worry less about some of the new alternatives closing. But close some of them will, and at the moment I feel more comfortable supporting a reader with only paying users. You know where you are, and so does the creator of the reader. But this market will continue to evolve rapidly. Already, the owner of Feedbin has raised his monthly charge to $3/month or $30/year (for new users)...but I will consider InoReader again when they reveal their fee structure.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: July 01, 2013, 02:13 PM »
I'm sure I've already posted far too much detail about my seemingly endless search for the best Google Reader replacement. But as I seem to be nearing the end of my journey, I feel obliged to sum up. Briefly:

Previously: Google Reader (just for sync, never used it to read), FeedDemon on desktop, Press on Android.

Now: Bazqux on desktop, JustReader on Android (only option at the moment).

First of all, many thanks to Nosh for his encouragement to try BazQux. Indeed I had already tried it, very briefly, but there was so much I didn't like about the web interface:

  • the all-white background, with no option to change it (why do they do that? Am I really the only person who can't stand all-white backgrounds?)
  • The left (feeds) column was too narrow (many feed titles truncated), with no option to change it.
  • Default font size settings seemed odd -- again no options.
  • And a few other things besides. Overall, it seemed inelegant.

But Nosh wasn't the only person recommending BazQux. I kept coming across favourable reviews on the web. So I though I'd have another go. And pretty soon the speed was addictive. I think I've tried most of the GR alternatives, and BaxQux is the fastest. Feedbin (which was my favoured option before Bazqux) is almost as fast after its recent server upgrade.

I was impressed enough to spend a couple of hours re-jigging the BazQux interface to see if I could achieve a usable UI (using userContent.css in Firefox), and I came up with this: grey background, wider left column, lots of font and colour changes, padding where I thought BazQux needed some air, etc.

So BazQux it is. I like the fact that it is a paid-for option, it has been going for a year (i.e. before the GR meltdown) and the developer has said on Twitter that revenues are already more than covering his costs. Nothing is risk-free, but...

The only disappointment so far: that I can't hack Feeddemon to use it with Bazqux the way you can for Reedah. I have hex-edited a version of FeedDemon and tried to use it with Bazqux (which also has a Google API clone), but I can't log in. But that was a long shot anyway, and not exactly a long-term solution -- the developer of Basqux is supporting the Open Reader API initiative, and that seems sensible. Let's hope it comes about. And what makes Bazqux stand out in any case is that the speed of its interface means it is a real option for reading in volume. I might not miss FeedDemon as much as I expected.

By the way, the author of BazQux puts the speed of the site down to coding in Haskell. I'm not a programmer, so it means nothing to me, but the conversation may interest others here.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 25, 2013, 09:03 PM »
The search stated above, Feedbin is my favourite so far, but in the end I'm quite nervous about relying on what appears to be a one-man operation.

I'm looking forward to trying the Digg reader when it appears, but I decided today to have one last look at Feedly and try to deal with the things that annoyed me. I keep coming back to it because it's one of the few readers that syncs with Press, my Android reader of choice. I intended using the NoSquint Firefox extension to deal with the colouring of the site, as advised by IainB, but I decided first to look for themes online.

One undisputed benefit of Feedly being popular is that plenty of people will be tweaking it, and sure enough Userstyles has plenty of themes.

One of them, IamEyeFriendly, got me halfway to what I want, changing the colour scheme, and once you have a base CSS it's easy to keep going. I found the IamEyeFriendly defaults too dark, so I brightened it. By messing around, I found I was able to adjust more or less anything, including, critically, the font for the article text (currently I am very partial to Bitter as an on-screen reading font -- I also use it in Press. I also reduced the padding around the article text. There was far too much space wasted.

I then found a script called Feedly Enhancer, which allowed me to make one more important change -- making the left pane wider. The default is ridiculously narrow, and many of my feed titles were truncated. The script contains a few other useful, space-saving tweaks. If only I could find a way to remove all those annoying social/sharing buttons...The remaining weakness of Feedly is that it doesn't seem to use a mobilizer to grab the text content of RSS feeds that don't supply full-text RSS by default. Feedly just sends you to the web page. Feedbin wins here (I believe it uses Readability).

Here is a screengrab of my current Feedly setup to give you an idea of what I did. So Feedly is a contender again. Digg needs to impress...

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 24, 2013, 05:20 PM »
The problem with things like Fever isn't so much what they don't do as it is what they try to do. I have zero use for 'social' anything.

I think I mentioned this before: although the Fever web site concentrates heavily on its "Sparks" feature (the ranking system it uses for "hot" stories), it is very easy to ignore this feature. If you don't put any feeds in the Sparks category, Fever behaves like any other RSS reader -- it's just folders and feeds. Self-hosted options are limited, so if you think the interface would suit you, it's worth a try. Keyboard navigation works well. The only problem is that there is no trial version.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 24, 2013, 03:15 PM »
Someone else tried that... and posted the results here somewhere, I think...
The only reference I could find to it was this post. And this was all that was said about TinyTiny RSS:
I concluded in an earlier post that hosting your own reader was the only rational solution. But although I have tried my best to like both Tiny Tiny RSS and Fever, neither gives me everything I want.
I ruled out TTRSS quickly. It just seemed a bit clunky to me...
Does that constitute an actual try I wonder? ;D

Okay, admittedly that was an unhelpful summary of my experience. To elaborate slightly: although TT-RSS has been around a long time, it still feels a bit beta-ish to me. The interface is not slick, but it does work. It is slow and clunky in use compared to others I have used (and I have used many in the last couple of months). For example, TT-RSS refreshes and reloads were very slow compared to Fever, which I was self-hosting at the same time on the same server.

Fever, was better in almost all respects. Easier to install (much easier), and an elegant interface that is a pleasure to use, and far quicker in use. I only ruled out Fever because the basic UI design is not as good in practice as a more traditional three-column interface, if you read large volumes of material on a daily basis. That's the only area where TT-RSS was better. But overall, if you want a basic three-column web-based RSS reader, in my opinion Feedbin is far better than TT-RSS.

I hope that's more helpful.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 23, 2013, 06:40 AM »
It is easy to get the Feedly background changed to whatever you want - if you use Firefox with the NoSquint add-on.
Thanks for that. I've never come across NoSquint before. I'll have a play.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 22, 2013, 08:52 PM »
Well, I only read Google Reader on my desktop, and I expect I'll do the same thing with FeedDemon.
I think you've made a good choice. If I only read my RSS feeds on the desktop, I'd certainly stick with FeedDemon. I'm still testing Google Reader alternatives, currently using Feedbin, syncing with Press on Android, but I'm keeping an eye out in case something better comes along. Digg Reader beta launches on Wednesday...

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 22, 2013, 07:36 PM »
FeedDemon Pro is excellent, I've been using it for years. But as mentioned earlier in this thread, it has gone free because the program is now dead. The developer has explained in some detail why the program will no longer be developed. FeedDemon now only makes sense for people who will only read their feeds on the desktop. I imagine that's now a small minority, but I may be wrong...

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: June 06, 2013, 09:15 AM »
I concluded in an earlier post that hosting your own reader was the only rational solution. But although I have tried my best to like both Tiny Tiny RSS and Fever, neither gives me everything I want.

I ruled out TTRSS quickly. It just seemed a bit clunky to me. And although Fever is very slick, it's almost too slick. It has that iOS/Mac feel with lots of sexy white space that should actually be used for content (I'm a "fill the screen with plain text" kind-of-guy).

To cut a long story short, at the moment I'm trialling Feedbin, which has a nice familiar three-column setup, and I can see my folders and feeds Google Reader-style.

It still feels unfinished in places. For example, in Firefox the first column has a fixed and very narrow width, so all the feed titles are truncated. I pointed this out in the support forum and it turned out it was a bug the developer was aware of but had not dealt with. With a bug like that, Feedbin should still be calling itself a beta.

Like many of these new-ish offerings, Feedbin is basic in other ways. For example you can't adjust fonts or background colours unless you're fairly techy (e.g. you can use userContent.css in Firefox to make adjustments, which is what I did, but it's trial and error).

Rant: why does everyone use white backgrounds? Particularly for sites where you're going to spend a lot of time, it's the worst option. For anyone who feels the same, I already use this excellent Greasemonkey script, which does a great job on 95% of sites, including this forum (and can be tweaked to suit your own tastes). The reason I dismissed Feedly is that it's impossible to change the article background colour. It's always white, no matter what theme you choose, and no amount of playing with userContent.css or the Greasemonkey script could change that.</rant>

The most intriguing offering to me is actually Feed Wrangler, although I haven't tried it. Again looks a bit Mac-y to me, lots of white space. But I like the fact that it already offers smart folders (a.k.a. smart searches/virtual folders). That's not common, and very desirable.

But it doesn't look as if Feed Wrangler offers a basic folders/feeds view like Google Reader. I know it's old-fashioned, but if you have a lot of feeds, it's very efficient. I may be wrong, but Feed Wrangler doesn't offer a trial, so you'd have to be prepared to take a subscription and then ask for a refund if you don't like it, and I'm not that interested yet. I'll keep an eye on it.

Living Room / Re: SSD's - How They Work Plus Tips
« on: May 29, 2013, 08:47 AM »
Thanks for that, pilgrim. I'm also surprised at the level of reservations about SSD in this thread. From everything I've read, I think Mark0 is right in that most problems are down to faulty controllers/firmware. You need to do your research and buy with care.

It's common for people who have switched to SSD to say that it's the biggest single performance improvement they have made to their computer. I'd agree with that. To me, any marginal increase in the risk of disk death is more than worth it. But of course I never encourage anyone to switch, because if you did and they subsequently lost any data...

PS: just upgraded my main PC from a 64GB SSD system disk to a 250GB SSD. I will move the 64GB disk to one of my other systems.

Living Room / Re: SSD's - How They Work Plus Tips
« on: May 28, 2013, 11:24 PM »
When it comes to cache and temp files if you have enough memory put them on a RAM Disk, no loss of speed and if you want to save it on shutdown you can.

There have been one or two lengthy discussions here on the pros and cons of RAMdisks. Do you see significant benefits, pilgrim?

Living Room / Re: SSD's - How They Work Plus Tips
« on: May 28, 2013, 01:20 AM »
  No matter how you look at it, SSD's have a higher failure rate than hard drives, and until they get that problem fixed, I'll be sticking with my 7200 RPM drive......
I swapped to an SSD for my system drive about a year ago, and couldn't go back to a hard disk. The increased speed is worth it, to me. Although I used many of eleman's tips when I first installed the SSD, I recently moved my browser cache to the SSD to speed up browsing. I'm willing to take the risk of shortening the SSD's life for the speed it brings. The SSD is imaged regularly and all important data lives on hard disks.

General Software Discussion / Re: thunderbird alternative
« on: April 09, 2013, 10:39 AM »
It rocks.

I'll try to be a bit more specific! I use The Bat because:

I have tried every IMAP client I can find, and I cannot find another client that will reliably update the folder count for virtual folders.

I do most of my communicating by email (I'm old-fashioned that way) and I live in a virtual folder ("saved search" in Thunderbird-speak) which I call "ToDo". That folder contains all of my unread mail and all of my starred (flagged) mail.

I can create a similar virtual folder in Thunderbird, but the folder count does not update reliably. I often have to refresh the virtual folder manually. Outlook won't even update the folder count reliably on standard IMAP folders.

This alone is enough to tie me to The Bat. UI-wise, I'd far prefer to be using Outlook, or even Windows Mail.

EDIT: I must admit that the last time I tried Outlook was the 2007 version. I got bored paying for upgrades, and I figured if they hadn't solved something as simple as updating IMAP folder counts by then, they were never going to do so. I am happy to be told I am wrong.

General Software Discussion / Re: thunderbird alternative
« on: April 05, 2013, 04:04 PM »
IMAP support is amazing. Even compared to Thunderbird.

Agreed - The Bat remains the best IMAP client, despite the slow development (I've been waiting a long time for something as basic as the option of a two-line message list, but still use it for its unparalleled IMAP support).

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: March 27, 2013, 02:00 PM »
Heise Media UK recently published a fairly extensive article on their H-Open  :-* blog about replacing GoogleReader functionality with currently available software and hosting solutions. Read it here.

Thanks for the link -- that's the best summary of options I've seen so far. One thing I'd add -- in the article's description of Fever, it concentrates on the fact that Fever can rank news items by "temperature": a particular news item is hotter the more it is being talked about. But it's worth noting that if you don't include any feeds in Fever's "Sparks" list, then Fever behaves like a normal RSS reader, with all your feeds visible in full, in folders if you use them. I've been using Fever this way -- I haven't used the temperature feature.

Living Room / Re: Google Reader gone
« on: March 26, 2013, 07:03 PM »
The closure of Google Reader has been a painful lesson for many people. Although I have been increasingly worried about my reliance on The Cloud, I tried to be careful about the cloud services I chose.

I was sure that Google would never shut Reader, because although it's a niche service, it's a service used mainly by the early adopters/opinion formers/call them whatever you like -- the people in each household who know about computers, the people who give advice to other household members on what services to use. Google couldn't possibly be stupid enough to shut Reader and face the wrath of the early adopters.

I was wrong.

Lesson 2: the closure of cloud services that you use heavily is more painful than the disappearance of your favourite piece of desktop software. Generally, you can keep using the desktop software for years. The closure of Reader gives me a relatively close deadline to reorganise my online life. I spend most of my online day reading stuff in software that syncs with Reader.

I've installed both Tiny Tiny RSS (free) and Fever ($30) on my own server. I’m currently running both and switching between them to see which I prefer. Fever is easier to set up than TT-RSS.

I already use my own domain for email and use a paid email hosting service. I have no intention of trying Google's new service, Keep, despite my addiction to note-taking apps. Google have made their position clear. In so far as it is possible, it is time to de-cloud, and particularly to de-Google, my life. Hosting your own services is the only rational long-term solution.

I did take a look at Benubird and I'm sure it's a fine app, but unless I'm mistaken, Benubird creates its own database, rather than using the Windows file system. I want a system where changes I make in Windows folders are immediately reflected in the document management program, which is why I opted for Filecenter.

I spent some time recently reviewing the various options for a document organiser, and ended up going with Filecenter.

One of my criteria was that the program should use the Windows file system for storage, rather than move or copy the files to a separate database. That did limit the options.

In many ways, Filecenter is just a pretty interface to the Windows file system. Its UI, based on "Cabinets" and "Drawers", just represent folders and sub-folders. The Standard version ($49), doesn't even have a built-in search engine (it uses Windows Search or one of a selected number of other third-party options, if you have them). PDF is its main focus, but it will store any type of file, and the built-in viewer will preview many of them.

It works well, it encourages me to be methodical, and it offers everything I need (scanning, filing, searching, previewing) in one program. May not suit you, but worth a look.

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