BitDepth 473 - May 17

RSS feeds are a fast and easy way to keep tabs on a fast changing websites.
Website tickertape

News on the Net. An aggregator can organise summaries of vast resources of current information at the click of a mouse. You can also look at online comics.

The first time I heard about RSS and Atom feeds, I imagined one of those old black and white films with a guy in a suit frowning with grave concern at a paper tape spewing out of a chattering, glass-encased machine.
The principle is the same, but the execution is very different. RSS feeds, like financial tickertape, offer a useful overview of a vast resource of information, and since we're talking about the Internet, "vast" is really something of an understatement.
There's no scrolling line of text and most popular web browsers can't handle these feeds natively, which is exactly where they would be most useful.

An RSS feed is a tight summary of updated content on a website. It's a text feed, so it downloads quickly, and offers live links to specific stories so you can quickly browse a list of new stories and click on a link to go to something that interests you.
It is, in short, one of those really good ideas that can make your life easier and your web browsing less time-consuming.
RSS, like DVD, is one of those acronyms with a shifting expansion and now is said to be short for Really Simple Syndication. Links will most commonly send you to a web page such as a weblog or a news website, but some will load comics or download a podcast audio file.
The Opera web browser and Apple's Safari for their new OS, 10.4, will load RSS feeds, but an even better way to manage them is with an aggregator. Aggregators are designed to manage feeds from multiple sources and update them.
Since RSS works the same way on Windows as it does on a Mac, I tried a few aggregators on my PowerBook, finally narrowing the offerings down to NetNewsWire Lite, a free version of its shareware sibling NetNewsWire.

NetNewsWire, even in its freeware form, is a spectacular application, offering hundreds of pre-listed feeds from which you can choose. Windows users will want to take a look at DeskShare's freeware Active Web Reader (
In choosing an aggregator, you'll find that simple courtesy makes a big difference. You can easily add newsfeeds by copying them from any website you visit now that has the RSS link (usually a tiny orange rectangle with XML written in it), but feed browsing in an aggregator is addictive.
I found myself linking to websites I would never have otherwise considered based on stories that popped up in their feeds and that's the magic that makes the web such a rich and interesting place to loiter in.

No Tiger in my tank.
Normally, I'd be fooling around with Apple's latest and greatest operating system by now, but that won't be happening for months yet. It isn't that 10.4, or as Apple's hyping it, Tiger, isn't a worthy version of the software that runs Macs, it's just that its immediate predecessor, version 10.3.9 is just so good.
I switched to OSX with version 10.1, which was functional. Version 10.2, or Jaguar, was a distinct improvement, but with 10.3 or Panther, the OS finally came into its own, with an across the board functionality and stability that only got better with each incremental revision (Apple's holding on to the magic 10 by doing full, roughly annual upgrades as 0.1 increments and adding lesser features as 0.01 updates).

Despite the dozens of oddball applications and system-level doohickeys I use, I've found 10.3.9 to be both robust and compatible, running for weeks at a time without having a crash. That gets addictive, to be quite frank.
My fears aren't really Apple's fault. It's going to take a little while for third-party authors to fix problems that may crop up in Tiger, and I'd rather give that whole process a miss.
Getting my wife to upgrade will be even harder. We have a laptop household (except for a desktop running as a server off in a corner) and her iBook, which she uses the way most people use computers, has been running for 425 days.
Now that I've foolishly added her laptop to a
worldwide challenge list for OSX uptime, getting it out of her hands is going to be impossible.
Eventually we'll upgrade to Tiger, but Apple's latest big cat is going to have to wait while their last feline still purrs away contentedly.
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