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RSS Feeds - Fast Information

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 22 Dec 2004
 

Part of being a well-informed professional is keeping up with the current events in one's field. For many decades, this has been done through newspapers. While this is great for knowing yesterday's news, it's not what I would call up to the minute. For a number of years, I have been carefully bookmarking my favorite news sites, visiting each of them diligently several times each day. I thought I was pretty current. I remember a co-worker saying to me once, "Hey, did you hear about Google's new gmail?" I responded with, "Yes, would you like me to send you an invitation to get an account?" I was on top of it, at least until a fellow Linux professional broadsided me with some news about Linux that I hadn't yet heard. How on earth did someone beat me to the punch?

"Where did you hear that?" I asked him, furiously searching my news sites. He told me that he had gotten the information from an RSS feed. I said, "Well, how much does it cost, and what's the URL?" He smiled and said that it was more of a protocol, an acronym meaning "Really Simple Syndication". He said that it was a service offered by many websites as a way to expedite news and information to the end user's desktop. He explained, "It's just a way to get a hold of the news that much faster." Speed is always great in my book.

After getting the lowdown on how to use these RSS feeds, I soon found that I could not live without them. I spent the first 2 hours just trolling the feeds. What an interesting, useful, and practical tool. I wish to pass on this wonderful discovery to anyone to whom it may be of benefit.

Novell Linux Desktop is a desktop operating system geared towards the working professional. It is a business solution that is offered as a much more cost-effective and efficient alternative to Windows. Interestingly enough, a vanilla Windows installation is void of any ability to process RSS feeds. A new installation of Novell Linux Desktop, however, does bring with it the ability to pull in and display them.

One of the first pleasantries that I found after freshly installing Novell Linux Desktop was that it came with Mozilla's excellent Firefox web browser. Solid as a rock and matchless in its power, to do it descriptive justice would require a whole article in itself. It is this browser that allows us to access the RSS feeds. Go ahead and fire it up. Let's set up some news feeds.

  1. Go to http://slashdot.org/. As the page loads, look in the lower, right corner of the browser window. You will see a little orange rectangle that says "RSS" in it:


  2. When you click on it, a one-item menu will appear saying, "Subscribe to 'Slashdot RSS'...":


  3. Click on this option. A small "Add Bookmark" window will appear:


  4. Click the "Add" button. Wait a moment for the browser to load the news feed, and then click on your "Bookmarks" menu:


  5. Hover your mouse cursor over the "Slashdot" folder. You will immediately see the latest news feeds appear right in the menu:


  6. Any time you wish to check Slashdot news, you pull down that menu and you have immediate access to the very latest articles. This is just one of the thousands of web sites that offer RSS news feeds.

Any time you see the orange box with "RSS" in it in Firefox's lower right corner, the website currently loaded into the browser offers you an RSS feed. You can subscribe to it right then and there.

Imagine being able to jump straight to what interests you without having to wade through six other pages first. RSS feeds offer this direct access to you. Instead of the traditional method of manually searching for and retrieving the information you seek, it is brought right to you.

If you would like a bit more flexibility in using these news feeds, I would like to suggest a great application. It is called RSSOwl. Go to:

http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/rssowl/rssowl_linux-1.0-0.6.i586.rpm?download

Select a mirror from which to download this great tool. I had it downloaded, installed, and managing my RSS feeds in about 8 minutes. The tutorial (available from the very first screen) is brief, yet informative. It explains the bare minimum for someone to get started using it in an abbreviated amount of time.

I believe in the philosophy of "Knowledge is power." RSS feeds keep me up to the minute on all of the information that affects me. This valuable information is delivered automatically to my desktop in seconds. It is doubtlessly a required tool in the tool belt of any professional who wishes to stay current in their field.


For a more in-depth explanation of RSS, visit the following web site: http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/12/18/dive-into-xml.html


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