Desperately seeking a (console) feed reader

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  1. Desperately seeking a (console) feed reader

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m a little addicted to RSS/Atom feeds. At current count, I have close to 400 feeds (though a lot of them are Flickr pools). My problem is, I’ve yet to find a feed reader that has everything I want. First off, let me just limit things to console-based feed readers. I do a lot of work in screen, and don’t even have X configured on my main system currently, so something that works in text mode is an absolute must, as it’s the only system that’s mostly guaranteed to be on at any given time, and have network access…

Now, I started with Firefox‘s live pages, or whatever it’s called. When I finally got fed up with the stability issues and loss of open tabs even with extensions, I switched to Opera, with its feed reader. It was OK for a while, but it would regularly, but inconsistently, corrupt its storage, mis-filing feeds in other random feed folders. It would also slow dow a lot if there were a lot of unread articles in the feeds (or even just a couple slow sites). It also ran on my laptop, which wasn’t connected all the time, not to mention that there are some feeds that aren’t exactly work-appropriate.

So I started looking at raggle, and it seemed to be good. Except within minutes, i managed to crash it. And raggle has this…nasty…habit of wiping out your entire feed list when it crashes. I figured it was a fluke, until I did it again. And again. And again. By this time, I was making manual backups of my feeds.yaml file, to the point when I have a cronjob set up to back it up hourly.

I decided to just live with it for a while, as I could anticipate when I would cause a crash, and modify my behavior to avoid it. That was until the day that raggle decided to refuse to start back up. After a couple hours futzing around, I determined that it had something to do with its cache of articles (mostly unread by me, of course). Nuke that, and it starts…and crashes as soon as some undetermined feed updated and sent down whatever data it didn’t like. Time to move on, I thought.

Next I tried snownews, which seems rock solid. Except…it doesn’t handle Atom feeds (just strictly RSS), even though there’s a “plugin” of sorts that uses xsltproc to convert Atom to RSS. It…worked sometimes. Unfortunately, a lot of the feeds I do read regularly don’t provide anything other than Atom feeds that don’t seem to parse.

There’s also the problem with updating. snownews doesn’t. At least, not automatically. You either need to restart, or issue a command to explicitly update one or all feeds. Not a problem, right? Right, unless you happen to go away for a few days, and happen to not be around to update so those high-volume feeds get updated.

That brings up another problem I’ve had with snownews: it has no memory. it remembers just the last N articles in a feed, the same number the feed provides. This, of course, ends up being useless for me, when it can be days or weeks before I get around to reading specific categories/feeds. Categories…good luck if you have more than 26 or so. They’re listed, but you can’t actually select them (I have 44 currently).

After several months with snownews, working around its warts, I finally got fed up, and switched back to raggle. I know that at this point, it’s just a matter of time before some random feed comes along with data that causes raggle to crash and stay crashed. And the other crashing, I can still trigger at least once a day, even trying to be careful.

If anyone has any suggestions, for a console-based feed reader, that can handle both RSS and Atom feeds, update the feeds regularly, save old articles at least until I’ve marked them “read” (better is “deleted”), supports categorization, and is stable or least stores all data in a mostly-transparent way (snownews stores raw feeds, but raggle uses a much more opaque ruby PStore), I’m all ears.

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8 Comments

  1. Have you considered trying out newsbeuter? It supports basically all you need:
    – supports RSS 0.90, 0.91, 0.92, 1.0, 2.0 and Atom 0.3 and 1.0
    – can regularly update all feeds on its own in the background
    – can keep unread articles forever
    – supports a flexible categorization system based on tags (every RSS feed can have 0 or more tags, and you can filter RSS feeds by tag)
    – stores all the downloaded feeds in a local SQLite database that can e.g. be used for custom SQL queries.
    I hope I aroused your interest in this program. View all comments by ak

  2. @ak:
    Yeah, I just went and downloaded newsbeuter and also downloaded and compiled all of the dependancies and I can assure you that it *doesn’t* handle atom feeds.

    For instance, the main reason newsbeuter was a draw for me was Mark Pilgrim’s blog (champion of the well-formed) and newsbeuter chokes on his atom feed.

    So, no, newsbeuter *does not* handle atom feeds.

    And the search continues… View all comments by Phil McClure

  3. Pingback: Looking for a Bash / Perl script to read the New RSS feeds (XML url)

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