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Buy Dutch cheese and several other Dutch products online. Perfect for corporate gifts.

Wafelhuis Stroopwafels
Freshly baked stroopwafels in Japan. Sold online or at various outlets in Japan

Estate Wines Japan
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Hilton Nagoya hotel
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Hilton Osaka Hotel
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JapaneseStreets
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KLM Japan
Book KLM tickets online.

Nederlandse Vereniging in West Japan > article

• Internet • Getting news quick and easy

The Guardian, by Ben Hammersley

I don’t mean to brag but it’s 8.30am and I’ve already got up to date with 75 different websites. I’ve read all their headlines, perused the articles of interest, and I’m only half way through my coffee.

I’m also cheating. I’m using an RSS newsreader. Now, most of you are unlikely to discuss the vagaries of different data syntax down the pub, so news of a massive growth in the use of the RSS format may have passed you by. Here’s the deal: thousands of website publishers, from big-content companies to teenage bloggers, are making their systems automatically produce a summary of their site in a special format called RSS. By using special RSS-reading software on my laptop, I can grab the RSS files from all my favourite sites while the kettle is boiling, and see instantly who has updated, and with what.

It’s awesomely useful. You don’t get the pictures, the layout or the advertising of the real version, but the meaty bits are there for the chewing. And this means you can grab the contents of 100 sites in one bite, and taste exactly what’s new. Your morning is no longer spent trawling your bookmarks for interesting stuff, your phone bill is lower, and you can feel smug in the cutting-edginess of it. Is there anything better for an Online reader such as yourself?

So, software first. The original desktop newsreader was Carmen’s Headline Viewer. It has been around since 1999 and has steadily improved. It is free to download and use, and taps directly into various directories of RSS “feeds” for your browsing pleasure.

One desktop reader with an increasingly vocal following is Amphetadesk. Written by the improbably named, and unnaturally helpful, Morbus Iff, Amphetadesk is free and runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux. It is open source, and it uses a very clever way of exposing its innards for the so-inclined to tweak away at: programmers with just a slim knowledge of the Perl language will be delighted with it. It is wonderfully easy to use and the support is superb.

The one thing that Amphetadesk is not, is pretty. Of course you can always change this, Amphetadesk being skinnable, but those of us running the best looking operating system of all, Mac OS X, will be looking for an Aqua-themed news reader to go with everything else.

The most popular, and certainly the best, is Brent Simmon’s NetNewsWire Lite. Like Amphetadesk, Net NewsWire Lite is the product of one man, and is free to download. The source code is not available, but the average user probably couldn’t care less. Especially when they see the way the system runs. It is very pretty indeed, with a three-panel display very similar to standard email programs. Sadly, it is Mac OS X only, so Windows users will miss out on this one.

Did you notice how all those programs are free to use? If you like it, send the author an email and express your gratitude. They love that. Money is nice too.

Now, having installed your reader, you need to find your feeds. Many sites, the Guardian Online weblog for example, display a link to the RSS feed. This may be either a text link, or a small orange button reading “XML” (it’s another file format, that RSS is based on, but bear with me). Copy the URL that the link points to, and subscribe to it via your newsreader’s relevant menu. Your newsreader will update itself once an hour, and you will forever be on top of your news.

For people looking for RSS feeds on a specific subject, there are various directories to browse through. Syndic8.com is the biggest, offering pointers to more than 15,000 of the blighters. Also, in the growing tradition of blogging pushing technology in interesting ways, people are now publishing their own subscription lists in a format (this time called OPML) that allows some newsreaders to import whole groups of feeds. If you find a blogger you like, you might like to read the same sort of stuff. Downloading his “blogroll” is the way to do this. There is a link below to my own blogroll, and Amphetadesk users, in particular, will have no problems importing it.

There are many other newsreaders to experiment with, and a world of interesting RSS development going on at the moment.

Have a look at the Open Directory Project listing below for some pointers, and have fun.

Links:

Originally published in The Guardian.

11 February 2005 - Kjeld Duits

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