Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Aggregators

I have opened my blogger.com account and conducted various tests so that I felt confident that I can use it effectively. I have come to the conclusion that blogging is rather useless without syndication and aggregation and so have been hunting for an aggregator. I have determined that the two main syndication options are atom and rss but at blogger.com, the host controls how this is done, and this is with atom.


I have tried and have now given up on Awasu. It had a nice look and feel but when it came to get any documentation is was considerably lacking. Upgrading was difficult because there was no documentation relating to how to do this. It was trial and error and ended up being as simple as replacing the files in the Awasu program folder with the downloaded files. Upgrading was necessary to get access to atom feeds.


I should have looked in sourceforge.org first rather than last as I found two good suspects for aggregators there. 'Feedreader' and 'rssowl'.


'Feedreader' It is free but only works on windows. It says that it needs IE4 or better but it seems that it can be configured reasonably easy for Mozilla. It is a small download and appears to be a pretty lean and functional product.


'rssowl' This might end up being the preferred candidate because it is cross platform and also Open Source. I like the fact that it displays more of the text from the feed, by comparison with Feedreader, giving more of an idea of what the post is about. I noted that I needed to have Java 1.4.2 or better installed but a link to this is available on the homesite for download. Rssowl seems to be rich in tools eg options to output as rtf, html and pdf. It comes with a host of feed specifications built in, most of which I deleted but the education related feeds looked good and i added them to the ones that i already were using. Adding feed sources was easy.


I do not know how either of these tools will work on a school network. It would not be useful for one student to be able to overwrite the feed sources for another student. We really need each student's configuration to follow them around the school and have good export options.


I was thinking of maintaining both feedreader and rssowl and run them in parallel for a while. I think that I will simply stay with rssowl for now and continue to work finding out about things like its use on a school network.


3 Comments:

  • At 8:48 am, Blogger na said…

    I have had a go at RSSowl and Feedreader. RSSowl seems to have quite a few display problems and way too many buttons for our average student.
    Also, it seems to be effectively blocked by our firewalls, maybe due to the use of some higher order ports.

    Feedreader. Works a treat... on Windows :-(
    Once the necessary proxy settings are entered, it gladly displays any blog, with due respect to formatting. I have only tried it with RSS-feeds.

    Feedreader stores its information in the users Windows profile, including proxy username and a password hash of some kind.
    Before we decide to deploy a thing like this, we need to work out whether the hash/username combination can be used by other users, as all users have access to all profiles...! Or we wait, and handle the problem through our new DC, which uses roaming profiles.

    Nice work!

    Samps

     
  • At 9:39 am, Blogger Wara said…

    Display problems with rssowl - try using the menu options 'tools' and then 'display newstext in browser' or the key combination of ctrl-b

    problems with proxy - I use an ip address for the proxy in the 'tools' and then 'preferences' 'proxy' settings and have no difficulty.

     
  • At 9:07 pm, Blogger Wara said…

    Hmmm - rssowl was working well until you re-boot the computer. It tends to loose connection then. This might be caused by the proxy issue that Samps mentioned.

    Feedreader is now elevated to preferred option

     

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