Awasu » 2004 » October
Sunday 31st October 2004 11:04 AM [Awasu News]

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post, today we received a coincidentally-timed (we swear!) email from David Chamberlain letting us know that we were mentioned in this month's edition of (the British magazine) Internet User in an article about RSS. He also kindly scanned the article in and sent us a copy.

I was about to start moaning to him about the all-too-brief mention we got in the body of the article until I got to the full-page spread on how to install and get started with Awasu...

This is getting to be just so much fun! :-D

Friday 29th October 2004 8:31 PM [General]

As you are probably all aware, the number of RSS aggregators (what a horrible term :-() out there is increasing steadily. While this is maybe a good thing in the sense that it indicates the increasing popularity of RSS, it can perhaps make things a bit harder for the average RSS newbie to get started. I mean, Awasu is clearly the best news reader around :wink: but why exactly is it the best?

I got an email the other day from about a new thing they're putting together for their site. It compares a bunch of different aggregators, feature by feature, and allows you, the users, to join in the fun by adding your own comments and ratings. From the sneak peeks I've had already, it looks pretty neat.

Update: This part of their site is now live. Mosey on over here and give Awasu a boost :-)

The email contained a long list of questions about Awasu's features and capabilities and to cut a long story short, this is how we went:

So, out of the 26 things covered in the survey, Awasu missed out on, count 'em, two. One of them was localization (we just don't have the resources to do it well (and we're not interested in doing it badly) and frankly, not many people have been asking for it) and the other was the ability to drag a feed URL into Awasu to subscribe to it. Hardly a show-stopper.

And not only were we able to answer "yes" to most of the questions, in a lot of cases it was a resounding "Oh yeah, baby! We can do that and a whole lot more!"

I've posted our full response here.

We also came up with a bunch of other questions that should probably be included in such a survey. Now, I'd be the first to admit that I'm perhaps not the most unbiased person on the planet to be dreaming up questions for a survey of this type :oops: but some of them, at least :-), are quite reasonable. Awasu, of course, scores a perfect 100% on these bonus questions. Yay!

So, apart from the obvious reason that Awasu did rather well, why am I posting this?

One of my favorite questions in job interviews is "Describe some of your weaknesses" because I get a chance to be a smart-ass (and God knows, I need to do that more often :roll:) and say something like "Hmmm... Well, I set very high standards for myself which often means that I spend too much time and effort working on things to make sure that I'm satisified with the level of quality, not just the client (and my boss)." While this might sound like (and is often taken to be) utter crap, it is in fact true.

I've been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks goofing off and reading feeds doing a lot of usability testing and given the much snappier UI (due to the database optimizations made in 2.0.4) and a search engine that not only now works but works really well, the thought crossed my mind as I ploughed through my channels at a high rate of knots that Awasu was becoming a pretty classy piece of software. Even by my standards.

I've spoken several times about the reasons why I've spent so much time and worked so hard on Awasu (here and here, for example) and answering the survey questions really brought to my attention and made me think about what we've achieved. We're one of the news readers recommended by the BBC. These guys really like us. Over here too. We get thousands of new users every month downloading the software.


Thinking back to the very early days when I had stars in my eyes and a dream of what a cool thing this program was going to become, it's amazing to see how far along that road we've come. And we're not done yet, either. Not even close.

I so need to find me a smiley of a cat purring gently to itself... :-)

Wednesday 27th October 2004 10:49 AM [General]

...we don't.

Of course, I was having so much fun building the new features for the next release that it was hard to power myself down last night.

Hosing the web server while I was cleaning some things up may also have had something to do with it :roll:

Tuesday 26th October 2004 11:35 AM [Awasu News]

More stuff from the bleeding edge :-) This release focuses on the search engine and fixes a lot of the crashes, bugs and general ickiness issues it was having.

There will be at least one more alpha after this with some pretty cool new features that I've already mapped out and will start cutting code for today.

Woo hoo! Cutting code again! :jig: I love the smell of freshly cut C++ in the morning! :-D

Tuesday 26th October 2004 10:49 AM [General]

The push is on for the next general release of Awasu (by the end of the year) has started and part of that is updating all of the documentation. And we have a lot of it, especially when you compare it to the other aggregators out there. Sigh...

So, I was flicking through the doco on plugins and channel hooks this afternoon and it struck me how cool these things really are. As far as we know, there are no other aggregators that offer these kind of features and they are real killer features since they mean that you can monitor anything at all, not just RSS or Atom feeds. Corporate databases, web services, source control systems, the Windows event log, you name it, you can write a plugin and monitor it using Awasu. There are services popping up around the web that provide some non-traditional feeds such as tracking FedEx packages but 1) they only work over the Internet, not your intranet and 2) third-party services being what they are, you never know if they're going to be around tomorrow, or customize them to meet your exact needs, or be sure they're not selling all your personal details, or... :-(

Anyway, the list of plugins already available for you to download, free of charge, is growing steadily but I figured it would be a good idea if I transferred some of the ideas for plugins and hooks I've had from my ever-burgeoning to-do list to a public forum. So whether you're a hobby programmer in search of a quick project to do or just want to get a feel for what these things can do, check it out and see what you think.

/taka crosses a few things off The List and rejoices :jig: :jig: :-D :jig:

Sunday 24th October 2004 1:04 PM [General]

I posted the other week about the conversation that was going on in the RSS world about synchronizing aggregators.

One of our users, the intriguingly-named Squeg, suggested that you could install Awasu onto a USB thumb-drive and just carry the whole thing around. What a cool idea!

There are just a few issues to take into account:

  • Awasu uses your account name to identify you so if you logon to each computer using a different account, Awasu will think you're a new user each time and create a new setup for you. To stop this from happening, create a DEBUG.INI file in the Awasu installation directory that looks like this:
  • Awasu stores filenames using full paths so you need to mount the USB drive using the same drive letter each time.

And it works great! Granted, it's a bit slow but it's the ultimate in making sure everything's always in sync :-) You could even use one of these if speed is an issue.

Of course, given the whole Japanese thing that Awasu has got going, one of these might actually be more appropriate :-D

Sunday 24th October 2004 12:03 PM [General]

People who know me will understand why this article made me laugh:

Scientists have discovered a way of manipulating a gene that turns animals into drones that do not become bored with repetitive tasks. The experiments, conducted on monkeys, are the first to demonstrate that animal behaviour can be permanently changed, turning the subjects from aggressive to "compliant" creatures.

Then I thought about it for a bit and realized it's actually really scary stuff:

The experiments ... involved blocking the effect of a gene called D2 in a particular part of the brain. This cut off the link between the rhesus monkeys' motivation and reward.

... The scientists say the identical technique would apply to humans.

"Most people are motivated to work hard and well only by the expectation of reward, whether it's a paycheque or a word of praise," said Barry Richmond, a government neurobiologist at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, who led the project. "We found we could remove that link and create a situation where repetitive, hard work would continue without any reward."

I posted a while back about some of the career choices we all have to make but this kind of thing would really throw a spanner in the works :-)

Oh, brave new world (that starts putting this stuff in the water supply :roll:) ...

Monday 18th October 2004 1:34 PM [Awasu News]

Well, it's back to the old grind. Woo hoo (I think)! This is an alpha release so only install it if you like living on the bleeding edge :-)

The main change is a bunch of database optimizations that improve the overall responsiveness of the GUI. If you've been having problems with the UI being a bit sluggish, especially if lots of channels are updating in the background, this release should fix those.

One minor addition was adding a drop-menu to the channel window navbars that let you change the content presentation e.g. how many items to show, full content or extracts, etc. A few people asked for this and I must say that while my first reaction was "Geez, why don't these mouse jockeys just learn to use the keyboard properly like the rest of us?!" "What an excellent idea, I'll get right on it", now that it's in, it's pretty handy. So, if you have an idea or something you'd like to see, let us know. There's a good chance it might actually be implemented. Even if I don't like it! :-)

Finally, as part of the testing for some of the changes, I had to go way back in time and run Awasu 1.0 which was totally freaky. Awasu has gotten so much more powerful and sophisticated since then, it's hard to believe. People who have only joined us recently may have missed our first birthday earlier this year in February where we put together a retrospective on Awasu's development. Check it out - it's interesting reading! :-)

Have fun y'all! :-)

Thursday 14th October 2004 3:22 PM [General]

Geek phobias:

5. Codexplodaphobia - Fear that the one line of code you changed will completely screw up the program or entire application.

Tell me about it. Sigh... :-(

Wednesday 13th October 2004 1:38 PM [General]

OK, so checking this out has been on my to-do list for ages and I'm a bit late to the party but this is a neat extension to FireFox 1.0 PR1 that works with Awasu.

When you browse to a page that is advertising one or more RSS feeds, FireFox will show an icon in the status bar that you can click on to start the Channel Wizard. It will even launch Awasu for you if it's not already running.

For this to work, you need to make sure that Awasu is the registered handler for the feed: protocol. You can do this by ensuring that the "Enable feed: protocol" box is checked in the Advanced tab of the Program Options.