Tag: Reader

Any free solution for the demise of Google Reader?

Last week Google announced it will shut down its Reader service. It is a web-based RSS reader. It therefore allows to be kept updated of news from around the net in a central location. I liked the service for 3 reasons (on top of the fact it’s free, 0$, to use):

  1. It’s web-based, accessible from anywhere/everywhere with a simple browser;
  2. It’s text-based, you can quickly scan headlines and use the powerful search function from Google;
  3. It’s backed by an API so you can use it via different apps on different platforms and they all stay synchronised (the web/mobile version of Reader is not as efficient as the web/desktop version; hence the proliferation of apps using Reader as a backbone).

Of course it frustrated a lot of people, from scientists to consultants … to name a few only. People are looking for alternative (you can do a search on Google while the Search service is still working). Feedly is cited very often as the next best alternative. However its nice, graphical interface conflicts with my second reason to like Google Reader: it’s text-based. The Old Reader looks also interesting, it is text-based but no apps on different platforms yet. But both are also proprietary and can be turned off (or changed to a pay-for-use model) at any moment 😦

An interesting solution could be an Evernote RSS reader. Evernote has already a portfolio of application ranging from a note-taking software, screenshots, drawing, food, … They have a synchronisation process in place. Why not a RSS reader then?

Back to the main track … Fortunately – in a way – Google Takeout allows you to retrieve all your data from Reader, along with an OPML file containing all your subscriptions. You can feed this file in another reader and you can go forward. Starred items are also retrieved (but which reader can use them?). And if you are interested The Guardian has an interesting article about the average duration of Google free services (1459 days, see below) and other nice facts. I guess they will keep Search alive 😉


But what can be done for free (as in free speech)? One of the solution is Owncloud (AGPL) and they recently released a RSS reader add-on. Another solution could be pyAggr3g470r, a news aggregator written in Python. And I was wondering why there isn’t just a simple API that would allow any kind of application to connect, update and display RSS feed. Something like the NewsCredNews API but free, simpler to use than Owncloud and with apps/website interface for mobile devices. And a poney with that, please.

Do you have any other solution?

The 6 Android apps I really appreciate(d)

For some reasons, I had to choose between a new, simple Nokia phone (but fortunately not a Windows one!) and my 1-year-old Android phone. Before I leave this Android phone, here are the few 6 Android apps that I really appreciated and used daily.

 FBReader is a very nice e-book reader for Android. It supports a lot of e-book formats like epub, fb2, (partially) mobipocket, html, RTF and plain text. It works very well with Calibre (a free software e-book reader / manager / converter) – or is it the opposite? I also really like the fact FBReader can browse and download some free e-books directly from the internet. Of course, reading an e-book on a small 3.2 inch screen isn’t the perfect user experience. However, the night mode (white text on black background) is very handy to read something when it’s late and you don’t want the harsh white background. You can find FBReader on the Android Market for free (it’s a free software, under the GPL).

Google Reader is the Android version of the web-based Google Reader. If you follow RSS/Atom feeds with the latter, you will be interested by its Android version. A very nice feature is that all your feeds will be synchronized between the different versions of your Reader: read a post on your phone and the web version knows you already read it (and vice-versa). This time the small screen isn’t really a handicap since posts are usually quite short (compared to books and short stories you could read on FBReader). Up to a certain version, I thought the Gooogle Reader for Android was not really using all the capabilities of a touch screen. But in a version recently introduced you just have to swipe a post to read the next one (a bit like turning a page with only one finger). You can find Google Reader on the Android Market for free.

Mustard is a Twitter client for Android. It is also a StatusNet client. Being both on Twitter (@jepoirrier) and Identi.ca (@jepoirrier too), it’s quite interesting to be able to read and post on both platform quickly one after the other. I may have missed something but Mustard lacks the possibility to post on all registered platforms at the same time. And it’s impossible to have all timelines merged in a common one with duplicates removed. But apart from this small annoyance, it’s a very good and fast microblogging client. You can find Mustard on the Android Market for free (it’s even a free software – under the GPL).

According to its own introduction, Shuffle is “a personal organizational tool, styled around the Getting Things Done methodology”. In layman’s words, it’s a very easy app to use to remember things you have to do. Beside just adding a note, you can also give them a deadline, a location and a context. I know I didn’t use everything (for instance, I didn’t use the synchronisation feature since I don’t have any Tracks installation) but it’s a nice tool to remember small ideas on the way and help prioritize them (note: a Moleskine is also good for that purpose). You can find Shuffle on the Android Market for free (and it’s even free software – under the Apache license).

Finally, I really liked the last versions of WordPress (the one that introduced the big white panels/buttons in a “dashboard”). First, these last versions crashed much less often than before (in fact I didn’t see them crash anymore). Then, its developers made it easy to quickly approve comment, add pictures/videos directly from the phone, read the stats and edit some previously posted messages (of course, it’s not very handy to edit a lengthy post on a small screen but it’s not WordPress fault here). If you have a blog on WordPress (or using the WordPress engine at your own website), it’s a must. You can find WordPress on the Android Market for free.

One last word about apps for kids (the “sixth” application). The free versions of Whiteboard and Kids ABC Letters are quite interesting for a 3 year-old boy.

As you can read, I mainly use free software (as in free speech) and apps to read things on the phone. Another use is for small, quick, tasks (like posting a tweet or adding something to remember). I think I will be able to live without that 🙂

Waiting for PDF comments in Evince

Evince defines itself as “simply a document viewer” (for Linux/Gnome and now for Windows too). However it can already read a lot of formats: PDF, TIFF, PS, DVI, DJvu and plans to support a lot more in the future.

But for me there is one important feature missing: the ability to read comments in PDF files. I sent PDF versions of draft documents to my PhD thesis promoters and they send them back with their comments. Open them in Evince: you’ll only get the balloons but no possibility to click on them (see Figure 1 below). Open them in Acrobat Reader and not only you can see that there are comments but you can also see their content (see Figure 2 below).

Reading a PDF with comments in Evince
Figure 1: reading a PDF with comments in Evince

Reading a PDF with comments in Acrobat Reader
Figure 2: reading the same PDF with comments in Adobe Acrobat

It’s in the roadmap and Carlos García Campos already has an unstable release that includes annotations. So I’ll keep Acrobat Reader for the moment. As soon as Fedora packages Evince with annotations, I’ll not see any reasons to keep Acrobat Reader on my laptop 🙂

Btw, both Okular and KPDF also seem to miss this feature.