Yesterday, I decided it was high time to scratch an old itch, so I built myself an RSS feed reader. It uses CaRP Evolution's MySQL plugin to store parsed RSS feed items in a database. I think this is the first time I've used that plugin for a real project.

My three biggest complaints about Google Reader are that it doesn't use a 3-pane view, doesn't support password protected feeds (eg. my Tweet subscription stream and tech support feeds), and it's sometimes extremely slow to update feeds. I'm guessing that they update commonly read feeds faster than those only subscribed to by one or two people (eg. my subscription Tweet stream and tech support feeds :-)

With CaRP Evolution, I get password protection and by setting up my own polling schedule, I get frequent updates of everything.

My only complaint about NetNewsWire is that I can't keep synched between multiple computers. I use 4 different computers regularly depending on where I am, so that's pretty important. In the past, it means I've used NetNewsWire on my main computer and Google Reader everywhere else. But especially now that I'm seriously investigating Ubuntu (Linux) as an alternative to Mac OS, that solution just isn't up to snuff.

By the way, there are 3 things that need to be kept in synch: my subscription list, flagged items, and which items have been read. With a web-based solution, that's all automatic.

My new feed reader doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but that's okay, because I don't need bells and whistles -- I just need a feed reader that does the things I want the way I want them done. So that's what I built. The only thing that feels lacking is a few keyboard shortcuts, which I could probably add if I decide I really want to.

There are a few things keeping me from releasing this as a product at the moment:

  • It's a little tricky to set up. You have to install CaRP Evolution and its MySQL plugin, alter the MySQL plugin's database, and set up a cron job, which either has to run as the same user as your webserver or has to trigger a web script or you have to use MySQL caching in CaRP. None of that's horribly daunting to someone familiar with such things, but not everyone is.
  • It doesn't support multiple users, so if multiple people wanted to use it, they'd each have to have separate installations of everything except CaRP. If they subscribe to any of the same feeds, at the very least there'd be duplicate data in the MySQL plugin's database.
  • For password protected feeds, the passwords are stored as plain text in the database, so if any of those are really sensitive, it wouldn't be a good idea to run it on a shared server that wasn't extremely well locked down.
  • It doesn't support OPML or any other method of importing subscriptions -- you have to enter each feed, one at a time. I don't subscribe to so many feeds that that's a big deal (though it was a bit of a pain), but many people subscribe to way too many for that to be a workable solution.

Maybe someday.

Reader Comment:
Antone Roundy said:
Changed my mind. I loved Lobster (that's what I called my feed reader) so much, that I decided I should give it to all CaRP users. It's now a freebie with either CaRP LE or CaRP Evolution (though it's much better when it can use Evolution's advanced ...
(join the conversation below)

For now, I've finally got a feed reader I can love...and fix as needed.