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Making the Tiny switch from Google Reader

2013 May 10
by matthew

With Google Reader officially marked as “Dead Man Walking” as of July 1, 2013, I immediately started looking for an alternative RSS reader. Google Reader was probably my number two destination on the web after Google search.

I’ve played with RSS Owl and Vienna on the Mac and although they are fantastic tools in their own right I need a portable tool. I read on my laptop, my phone, my tablet, and who knows what devices coming down the line. I can’t  have my data locked in a single device. So the solution had to be mobile. Although I love my Gmail account I was never comfortable using it until they started offering IMAP and I could get my mail out of their system. I was never happy with handing over all of my data to a service that I ultimately have no control over but until recently I never found a self hosted solution I was happy with.

I checked out Feedly and although it is available in the Chrome store that’s not the same thing as being on the web. I tried the iOS app as well and although it was beautiful it wasn’t utilitarian enough. I’m not looking just for a sexy interface to be entertained – I use my reader as an educational and research tool.


I’m a strong believer in the power of the web. After hearing how sites like could deliver fantastic mobile experiences I started looking for a web based alternative, preferably one I could host myself.

I tried selfoss again and initially it was my strong favorite since it worked out of the box on both my desktop and mobile devices. In the end however I went with Tiny Tiny RSS. Both seamlessly imported my OPML from Google Takeout but selfoss seemed to just dump my carefully arranged tags and folders across the UI however it wanted, and I couldn’t easily resize the navigational pane on the desktop.

However the true deal-breaker was selfoss’s inability to actually update my feeds. I have almost 14.5K articles in my RSS reader (I told you I was a serious RSS user) and the selfoss updater was apparently never designed to handle feeds of that magnitude and it just feel over and died with out of memory errors every time it was run. I increased the memory limit for PHP (well over 128 MB for a simple update script?!?) and in fact I briefly flirted with the idea of setting up a VPS for my reader but decided against it.

I’m glad I didn’t because Tiny on the other hand mowed through the updates like a champ.  With a little more digging I found a mobile version that works just swimmingly on my iPhone and iPad. In fact there are native apps for AndroidiOS, and BlackBerry. You just need to enable access in your account preferences :

    • In Tiny Tiny RSS go into Actions -> Preferences
    • Configuration -> Enable external API

Tiny has multi-user support which meant only one copy of the software to install and only one database to maintain for my wife and I. Configuring a cron job for Tiny was straightforward as well, though in case your host runs multiple versions of PHP make sure you’re using the right one (PHP 5.3+ at the time of this writing).

A few more tips.

Since I’m using Chrome I wanted a custom app icon to replace the one for Google RTiny tinyeader. I ended up using the one from the tt-rss users group.

I use my RSS reader to follow folks on Twitter.

Quick example:

Why would I do this when I have features like Twitter lists? It’s probably not the way Twitter would prefer me to use their service, but I don’t always want to have to follow someone just to get their public tweets. I also don’t want yet another way to manage my information feeds. Same thing for YouTube:

I also use Google Alerts which allow results in RSS.

With the RSS Subscription Extension of the Google, by the Google, for the Google (Chrome) you can automatically detect any RSS feeds on a site and add them directly to your Tiny installation.

  1. Get the RSS Subscription Extension.
  2. On the Extensions page, choose the RSS Subscription Extension‘s Options link.
  3. Click Add…
  4. Enter whatever you like for the description, and the following URL:
    2. where is the where you installed TIny. You need enable the external API in preferences for this to work.

One more – I don’t use it but Google News supports RSS as well.

The best part of all this is I have complete control over the entire software stack (PHP/MySQL application running on a standard LAMP stack) based on open standards and all of my data belongs to me. So far I haven’t missed Google Reader at all and I don’t anticipate doing so in the future.

I think Tiny and I are at the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

If you use Tiny please share your tips in the comments.

Enjoy free food and fun prizes at the 19th Annual Wessington Springs Area Farm & Home Show

2009 February 1
by matthew

Cinnamon Roll and Fork 11-1-09 -- IMG_9386 by stevendepolo.Over 60 vendors from all over South Dakota will be setting up their booths at 8 a.m. sharp to shareCoffee Beans by Refracted Moments™ their expertise and display their wares on the campus of Wessington Springs Grade School.  To make their setup more enjoyable the local 4-H chapter will have hot coffee and delicious cinnamon rolls for sale starting at 7:30 a.m. The doors officially open at 10 a.m.

Learn to stay safe, save money, and more

There will be four free presentations throughout the course of the day, all located in the band room.  All of the presentations will be open to the public.  Starting at 10 a.m. Matthew Orstad will show how to shave hundreds of dollars off your phone bill with Skype.  He will show how to call millions of people all over the world for free with your computer and internet connection. This free presentation will show you exactly what you need to know to start saving money on your long distance today. The material covered will be Skype Phone by re-alityclear and understandable to all computer experience levels. If you’re a Grandmother who just wants to chat with her grandkids, this talk is for you too. Folks can enter to win a Desktop Internet Phone for Skype from Belkin (over a $100 value) just for attending.

Next, at 11 a.m. Dr. Tom Dean will take over with a presentation on anemia – what it is and when to worry about it.  You will be able to learn about the different types of anemia and their symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options.

At 1 p.m. Representative Quentin Burg, Representative Peggy Gibson, and Senator Tom Hanson will join us as part of the legislative forum.  Participants will be able learn what is happening in the 2009 South Dakota Legislature.

Finally at 2 p.m. agronomy extension educators John Cairns of Davison County, Irene Graves of Sanborn County, and livestock educator Heather Larson of Jerauld County will present "Where Does My Nitrogen Go?"

The presentation will cover the nitrogen cycle in a typical agriculture operation.  Starting from Cattle on the Move by BugMan50how nitrogen is utilized, to how much goes back into the ground, and where the nitrogen is carried in the ground.  They will also answer the questions about cattle raised on the residue: how much will they utilize in their system and then return to the environment.  They will also answer how to recapture some of the nitrogen in the system so farmers can apply only what they need.  They’ll also cover how the quality of feedstuffs is affected by the nitrogen that is put down.

Come Hungry

good-morning-pancakes by chocolate monster melHopefully folks will come come hungry for the free pancake feed from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m..  There’ll be plenty of hot stacks, syrup and butter for all to enjoy.  From 12 until 2 p.m. there will also be a free baked potato feed.  The scrumptious baked potato will come with barbecue, and nacho cheese, broccoli, and sour cream. Baked Potato by ex.libris

For those of you that are hungry in between the free meals, the Wessington Springs high school junior class has donated their inventory of pop, bottle water, and candy bars to the Tyler Easton benefit committee.  Those will be available all day at the concession stand.

This event is sponsored by the Wessington Springs Chamber of Commerce, and interested businesses and individuals who would like more information or request a registration form to reserve booth space may contact the Wessington Springs Chamber of Commerce at 605-539-1929.

Registration deadline is Friday, February 6th, 2009, however be sure to call the Chamber of Commerce at 605-539-1929 as there may still be slots available.

Thank you

We’d like to thank all of our sponsors that help make this event possible

  • Baker’s Repair and Design
  • American Bank and Trust
  • Krohmer Insurance
  • Springs Auto
  • Weskota Memorial Hospital
  • Weskota Manor
  • Farm Credit Services
  • Wheat Growers Association
  • Total Construction


19th Annual Wessington Springs Area Farm & Home Show


Monday, February 16th  from 10 a.m. To 3:30 p.m.


Wessington Springs Grade school gymnasium

Don’t lie to your customers

2009 January 31
by matthew

Perhaps I should tone that down and say don’t misrepresent yourself, your company, or your product and services in your advertising. Let me give you an example.before-after

While doing some research on the web over the last few weeks, I’ve been expose to the ad for on several of the sites that I’ve visited.  Of course it makes the amazing claim of losing over 29 pounds of fat just by following one simple rule.  So after being exposed to the ad several times, I finally gave into my curiosity.

If we click on the link and follow the ad, we’re introduced to Melanie Thomas.  Mel goes on to say:

Hi everyone, my name is Melanie Thomas and I’m from South Dakota. I decided to write this blog first as a journal for my personal use, but then decided to post it publicly.

south_dakota_markedThat’s very nice of you Melanie.  It’s also very nice that she paid for all those skyscraper advertisements plastered all over Digg and Facebook out of her own pocket too! She’s even a South Dakota girl – it’s nice to see another South Dakota native publishing on the Internet.  Thanks for looking out for us Mel!

What are you trying to sell me

We find out that the one simple rule is apparently buying two simple products – Acai Berry and Body Cleanse. Body Cleanse sure sounds like a nice friendly name – what does it do?  Apparently it is another name for “colon cleanser.” Apparently colon cleansing is “intended to remove fecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract”. Colon cleansing can sometimes include the use of enemas to inject water mixed with herbs or other liquids into the colon. Anything to lose those love handles though, right?

However Body Cleanse looks to just be oral cleaning, which probably means it’s only loaded with a daily dose of dietary fiber, herbs, and laxatives. body-flush Let’s just ignore that there is currently no scientific evidence that supports the benefits of colon cleansing for right now. For those of you that slept through high school biology class that means that science has no proof that it actually works.

This is a very sophisticated advertisement.  It uses multivariate testing with multiple landing pages.  I found at least four of them before I stopped looking.  These people obviously know what they’re doing.  Not surprising given that Americans spend an estimated $30 billion a year on all types of diet programs and products.  It’s also not a surprise when we started seeing the ad – the beginning of January.  New Year is that magical time when we get to wipe the slate clean and start over with a brand new year.  Part of our American traditions consist of making New Year’s Resolutions for ourselves. Unfortunately a lot of people have trouble keeping them, especially when it comes to weight loss. The really bad news is when it comes to losing weight, there probably won’t be any magic pill.  Folks will just have to lose it the old fashioned way – good diet and exercise.

Let’s get back to the advertisement. I’m used to outrageous claims, but what made me really suspicious is that she allegedly lives in South Dakota.  South Dakota isn’t a illinois-marked very big state (only about 804,194 according to a recent estimate) and so it seemed to me that Mel would have gotten some sort of press about this (“Local SD Woman Makes Good on the Internet”).  So I looked Mel up in the White Pages and found only five occurrences of an “M Thomas.” So to check her story out I went to a free proxy server and brought up her site.  A proxy server basically acts as a middleman when you’re surfing the web.  You ask it for a web page, it goes out and gets it for you.  However the web site that you got the page from doesn’t know you’re the one that asked for it, it thinks you are the proxy server.  After viewing her site through the proxy server, I found out that Mel apparently moved to Illinois.

On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog

When you visit a web site, they may not know who you are, but it’s very easy to tell where you’re coming from.  Your computer is assigned a unique IP address by your Internet Service Provider (or ISP).  There are databases available of what IP addresses are being used at different geographic areas.  In other words, when you visit a web site, the site can look simply look up the city and state you’re coming from.  So when I visited her site through a proxy server that was physically located somewhere in Illinois, it said that she now lived in Illinois instead of South Dakota. For those of you close to a state border, just drive across to a neighborhood coffee shop with free wireless internet to try it yourself.

Back where I come from in [insert-state-name], they that call misrepresentation.

logo I could go on to say that the average antioxidant capacity of açaí juice was ranked lower than that of pomegranate juice, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, and red wine, and roughly equivalent to that of black cherry or cranberry juice.  At least red wine may help you stay younger, destroys cancer cells from the inside, and help you lose weight.   Or that they might be using the logo (a free service that allows anyone to publish themselves on the web) just to make it seem like Mel really is some sweet little gal from Small Town, South Dakota.  Which would be too bad since at least one of my favorite bloggers appears to use to handle some of the updates and commenting on his web site.

As for Mel’s Diet blog – it’s a good thing that she’s using a colon cleanser, because apparently she’s full of crap.

Forwarding this email could be hazardous to your health!

2009 January 27
by matthew

WARNING! The following article contains EXTREME!!! punctuation and poor attempts at humor.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Terror in your Inbox smacked

While checking my email recently I received a forward with a serious warning about a computer virus attached to an email with the subject line “BEWARE OF : Osama Bin Laden”.

I could tell it was a serious warning due to the use of excessive punctuation:

It  is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which  ‘burns’ the whole hard disc C of your  computer!!!!

Extreme underlining:

Do not open it! Shut down  your computer immediately!

And of course the proclamation in all caps popular among chain letters and pyramid schemes demanding that I immediately forward this on to everybody in my address book:


But of course the email must be genuine since it included this declaration:

Just  verified this with Snopes and it is REAL

But just to make sure I decided to do a little checking with Google for myself.  So I typed the following into Google: osama

If you’re following along at home you should get something like this:


Basically what that search does is searches the entire Snopes site for the keyword osama.  Rather than searching the entire Internet I have limited my search to only the Snopes web site.

I could have used more keywords but I figured that osama was probably not too common of a term.

Sure enough, osama turned out to be a pretty unique keyword. 


However I have to say that I was surprised to read that Osama bin Laden Owns Snapple and Bert from Sesame Street and Osama bin Laden have some sort of nefarious connection.

Facing the Cold Hard Truth

Imagine my disappointment when actually reading the article I find that Snopes has declared that this story is “Real, but outdated.”:


Snopes goes on to say:

Both trojans were easily detected and removed with updated virus protection software, and neither Osama message is circulating widely or poses much of a threat to PC users any more.

So if you’re running anti-virus software you probably don’t have anything to fret over. You are running anti-virus software right?  So now I checked the email out on the official Snopes web site and found out that I don’t have anything to worry about, right?

Not so fast.

If you browse around the Snopes site for a while you will probably come across The Repository of Lost Legends, or TROLL for short.  If that acronym doesn’t make you suspicious, perhaps the text on the page should:

We created The Repository of Lost Legends (TRoLL for short) for those of you who don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who writes controversial or inflammatory messages, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response.

So does that mean – gasp – that not everything on the Snopes web site is true?

I’ve been beguiled and bamboozled!

I don’t mean to say that Snopes isn’t a great resource – it really is. I use it all the time in fact (usually to check the veracity of emails just like this one). It’s just that Snopes (or any other site for that matter) shouldn’t be your be-all-end-all source for truthful information. 

You can’t turn off your brain and abdicate all responsibility for your actions, no matter who you’re reading or listening to.  Unless it’s something you’re reading on this web site of course (that last statement was said with tongue firmly in cheek).

So the next time you get an email in your inbox that gets you hot under the collar, take the time to do your own due diligence before blindly forwarding it on. 

The time you save could be your own.

Publish your articles in a fraction of the time with batch publishing

2009 January 14
by matthew

In this example we will show you how to create several articles at once and then publish them in quick succession using Windows Live Writer. 

The actual publishing image_thumb[4] phase is the slowest part and by placing it at the end we can get our site updated without waiting for the editor.

For this example we will use the first three chapters of H. G. Wells classic novel The Time Machine for our content.  You could just as easily create two, four, or any number of articles and then publish them all at once.  The basic procedure is the same.

Begin by creating your first article by creating a new post.  Once you’ve done that you should have something like this:


Then go to File and choose Save local draft:


You should see your first draft saved in the Task Pane:


Create your next article:


Save a local draft as you did before.  You should now see two drafts listed in the Task Pane:


Continue creating and saving local drafts using the steps outlined above.  When you’re done creating your articles and ready to publish, you should have something like this in the Task Pane:


Simply click on the first article you would like to publish to open your local draft. 

Then go to File and choose Publish to blog:


Wait for article to be uploaded to your site:


You should now see one less drafts listed in the Task Pane than before:


Click on the next article you want to publish in the Task Pane and publish it using the same method.

Just continue these steps until there are no more drafts listed in the Task Pane:


Create your first article in three easy steps

2009 January 14
by matthew


This example will show you how to create your first article in three easy steps using Windows Live Writer.

Go to the File menu and choose New post:


Or click on the new post button in the toolbar:


Or you can just use the keyboard shortcut Control-N.  Just use the method you’re comfortable with.

You will then see an empty document for your article.


Second, enter a title:


Third, just enter some content:


You’ve just successfully created your first article using Windows Live Writer.

Edit your website in 5 minutes or less

2009 January 14
by matthew

First fire up your copy of Windows Live Writer.


Next select the Blogs menu and choose Add blog account…


In the window that opens choose the radio button next to Other blog service.  Then click Next.


Enter the web address of your site along with the username and password you have been given.


Note: Mark the checkbox next to Remember my password so you don’t have to type it in every time.

Just wait a few moments for Windows Live Writer to work its magic.


You’re done!  Just click Finish to close with setup window and starting editing your site.


Watch this space

2009 January 1
by matthew

For the latest updates on Skype.

More coming shortly…