Andrew Connell

Musings on the state of RSS aggregators and NNTP readers...

This is by far in no way the first time I’ve ranted about the state of RSS aggregators and newsgroup readers. I came across a post that Nick Bradbury wrote last week ( and again, earlier this week ), the guy behind the popular RSS aggregator FeedDemon (which I’ve been using for the last year or so… and I’m quite pleased with it), added that mentioned a new feature coming to a future release of FeedDemon. I travel a bit, and I’m frequently disconnected. When in an airport or on a plane, I don’t like to do real work like coding and such… rather I like to use that time to either triage my email inbox or my unread RSS subscriptions in FeedDemon. This environment is not very conducive to reading blog posts that have included linked images and such because of two reasons:

  1. Bloggers tend to upload their images to their server and reference them in their posts. Most blog engines treat these image URL’s relative references which is fine when you’re reading the post while connected via a browser. But when you’re reading it in an aggregator (online/offline), it’s making a reference to the image somewhere on your local disk because of the relative reference.
  2. When disconnected, you can’t see the images (duh). If the post isn’t interesting, I’ll mark it as read, but if it is interesting, it usually sits there as unread until I have time to read it… something I usually don’t do when I’m connected. Arg! Catch-22!

No more… Nick is adding a new capacity in a future version of FeedDemon called “Prefetch Unread Items for Offline Reading” to the File menu. This will parse unread posts and cache images locally referenced within those posts all the while being smart enough to not download links to PDF’s or large downloads (ala: Visual Studio 2005 SP1). I’m very much looking forward to running this before I shut my laptop down and packing it up for the trip to the airport.

I just wish FeedDemon had better comment reading & notification support. That’s the only gaping hole in terms of functionality to me.

Ranting about Newsgroup readers again…

Sorry, I know I’ve done this a few times… dunno why I’m doing it again. Why is it that for every one I’ve tried, just about every newsgroup reader out there just flat out sucks? To me, there are just a few minimal features I’d want in a newsgroup reader:

  1. Like my email & RSS aggregators, keep track of the read & unread items.
  2. Let me flag posts to (1) never be archived/purged and (2) make it easy to read later.
  3. Give me auto archiving/purging capabilities so my newsgroup database doesn’t end up being larger than my page file.
  4. When I post to a newsgroup, or reply to a post, notify me when there is activity on that thread. When I was very active in the newsgroups, I couldn’t keep track of all the threads I was active in.

And I thought that’s all I wanted. So I got Omea Reader which seemed to give me everything I wanted (the only reader I found that gave me #3 in my list… a big feature). Unfortunately Omea is a resource hog. It takes up to a minute to open… and can take even longer to close. I by no means subscribe to a great number of newsgroups, but the fact that my Omea database is over 1GB is pathetically insane (what in the hell are you guys storing??? It’s just TEXT!). I haven’t picked apart how it works, but there are two things I’ve noticed that Omea does that is just flat out stupid in my mind:

  1. Once you start Omea, it rebuilds/loads a ton of indexes… uh… why? For search? Fine… can I turn that off? Nope… arg!
  2. Once Omea is running, it immediately starts indexing content (another CPU hog). So my first step after opening Omea is to pause indexing.

It’s such a bad experience I don’t spend nearly the time I’d like to in newsgroups… primarily because the experience just sucks. I don’t need or care about searching the posts I download… heck, that’s what Google Groups is so good at.

At this point, I’m willing to fork over a modest sum for a good newsgroup reader that I can cozy up to this winter. Anyone have one they prefer? I’ve already tried and passed over on Outlook Express and I don’t care for RSS Bandit’s implementation… I really want the above four features at the bare minimum. Need to give Vista’s newsgroup reader a try as I heard it was completely rewritten, but I’m not optimistic (hey, it’s a free, included app on an OS… how good can it really be?).

Help me newsgroup gods… you’re my only hope.

Andrew Connell
Developer & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to delivering industry-leading on-demand video training to professional developers. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.