Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Internet Emergency: Google Reader is Shutting Down; Here's What to Use Instead

This was me in March, but I guess I'm coming to terms with it....

I posted about this on my Facebook page, but I haven't mentioned it on my blog yet - Google Reader, the best (or at least my favorite) web-powered RSS reader, is shutting down on July 1.

For those of you who don't know what RSS is, you should get to know it - it's a very powerful content delivery platform that lets you very easily (and quickly) follow and digest the content from tens, hundreds, or even thousands of websites and blogs. For bloggers like me, RSS is an absolutely indispensable tool for trying to sort through all of the junk on the web to find the jewels of content we want to share, write about, argue about, or expand upon.

As with many web services, Google moved into the RSS space several years ago and quickly became #1 - but as the web has become more like Facebook, Google has moved its resources towards services like Google+ and has decided to shut down Google Reader. This is very bad news for those of us who depend(ed) upon Google Reader every day, but we've got to suck it up, move on, and find a replacement.

I looked at several alternatives (there are a few other paid alternatives, but I won't address those here, as I was looking for a free alternative):


After having done all the work, I figured I'd share my recommendation with you and spare you the effort - the best Google Reader alternative thus far is Feedly, hands down. Feedly offers a few other advantages over the other alternatives:
  • Feedly is fast, fast, fast, like Google Reader used to be.
  • Feedly offers a one-click import of all your subscriptions (and even your most recent 250 starred articles) from Google Reader.
  • After import, Feedly sorts your feeds sanely (i.e. alphabetically), while still letting you customize the layout of your feeds if you want.
  • Feedly is developing an open API, so that you'll be able to use 3rd-party RSS readers with Feedly, if you prefer the look and feel of a different reader.
  • Critically, Feedly is the only alternative (of the above options, anyway) that offers a native Android and iOS app.
Of course, there are a couple problems with Feedly - the biggest one being its lack of a search function, but I'm sure they're working on rolling that out. I also don't like the default color scheme, but that's a small gripe.

The only other alternative even halfway worth considering is The Old Reader - it's not as fast as Feedly, but it's fast enough, and it already offers a crude search function (though nothing as sophisticated as Google Reader). However, the feed import is much more onerous, and it seems to arrange the feeds at random, requiring a lot of cleanup if you want to use the service permanently (which I never bothered to do, since I'm moving to Feedly).

The other three I looked at were so slow or buggy that I can't imagine dealing with the frustration of trying to use them on a daily basis. I'll probably check back in on them in a few months to see if they've matured, but I can't recommend them now.

So, head on over to Feedly and sign up sometime in the next 5 days, if you're a Google Reader user - you may be a little disappointed, but Feedly is getting better all the time, and you've got to go somewhere ....

And while you're at it, subscribe to my RSS feed, if you haven't already ;)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not Surprisingly, the Richest Are the Biggest Moochers Off the Government

I remember with great joy the day when we got to meet the real Mitt Romney - you know, the dude who really, really hates poor people and thinks that 47% of the country are worthless government moochers.

Well, the non-partisan CBO crunched a bunch of numbers recently (.pdf warning), and wouldn't you know - the biggest government moochers, sucking at the teat of big government, are actually the richest Americans, not the poorest ones. In fact, the richest Americans enjoy about five times as much government largess as the poorest Americans (charts from the Wonkblog):

"But wait," I can hear the right-wingers saying, "the richest pay more in taxes, so it's only right they they get more government moocher cash in the form of tax expenditures!"

Well, I don't agree with that premise, but even IF one were to agree with that statement, it is utterly indefensible that the richest Americans also get more government moocher cash as a percentage of their income than even then poorest Americans - that is just super wrong:

Ah, America - land of the oligarchs, and screw everybody else, at least since the 1970s.

[Personal note: I'm about to take off on my annual, male-bonding, Canadian fishing trip with my dad and younger brother, so there will likely be no more posting for a least a couple weeks - though thanks to the Babycrat, I've been having trouble posting even every other week anyway. Oh well - one of these months, I'll get this work-life-parent-blogging balance worked out, I'm sure.]

Sunday, June 2, 2013

DC Has the Fastest, Most Under-Utilized Fiber Internet Network in the USA

Why can't the citizens of DC use DC's super-fast
fiber internet network? Image source.

As I occasionally do, I was fantasizing this afternoon about moving to Chattanooga, TN or Burlington, VT to start my own internet-based company - and the reason I fantasize about moving to those places is because they are the only cities in the country that offer affordable gigabit fiber-to-the-home internet connections, which is about 100x faster than my current crappy Comcast connection. (I realize Google Fiber offers the same speeds, but they've yet to offer it in a city/state that I'd consider moving to). In Burlington, a gigabit internet connection costs $150/month, while in Chattanooga, it costs a somewhat steep (but still manageable, as a business expense) $300/month.

The same service is simply not available in DC, at any price that is close to reasonable - I haven't been able to find prices online, but my best guess is that similar service from Comcast would likely cost at least several thousand dollars per month (maybe more than $10k/month), plus tens of thousands of dollars in connection fees.

I don't understand WHY gigabit fiber-to-the-home service isn't available in DC, however. I just learned that DC has the fastest fiber internet network of any city in the United States - a 100 gigabit backbone, running through most of the city.

But, as best as I can tell, not much seems to happen on this super-fast network, and it is only useable by a few select institutions and businesses.

Why can't we just hook up all DC houses to this awesome network? I'd gladly pay $70, $150, or even $300/month for gigabit internet to my house.

My DC and federal taxes helped pay for this network - why don't I get any use from it?

Is Mayor Gray in Comcast's back pocket? Is the DC government just short-sighted and incompetent?

It's time to regulate and build internet infrastructure the same way we do electricity and water - as public utilities, with universal service and super-fast speeds at affordable prices. Other cities have done it, and they didn't have the advantage of already sitting on the fastest municipal network in the USA.

Get with it, DC!