SiliconFilter

Don’t Like the New Google Reader? Here Are Three Alternatives

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Once upon a time, Google Reader was just one of many RSS readers out there. Today, though, it can often feel as if Google Reader really is the only game in town when it comes to subscribing and reading news feeds. Today, Google launched the largest update to Google Reader in a long time. While it brings some new features (especially integration with Google+), it also does away with a number of useful tools that many users came to rely on in the past. Reader’s social features, for example, are now almost completely gone. You also can’t bundle a set of feeds and share them with friends anymore, just like you can’t share comments about stories with your friends in Google Reader.

Given all of these changes – and a new design that isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – here are three alternatives that are worth checking out. Most of them don’t recreate the social features that Google Reader used to have, though, but given that those aren’t coming back as Google is moving to Google+, now may just be the best time to switch to a new feed reader anyway.

Feedly

Given that you probably already manage all of your feeds in Google Reader, Feedly is a nice way to transition to a different style of feed reader. Feedly syncs with your Google Reader account, but uses a more magazine-style interface. The minimalist interface thankfully doesn’t put as much emphasis on whitespace as the new Google Reader, either. The service offers support for a plethora of social media services, but doesn’t include any built-in substitute for Google Reader’s social features.

Just in time for the launch of the new Google Reader, Feedly also just launched version 7 of its web service (there are also various mobile and tablet apps).

Go Desktop: FeedDemon (Win) and NetNewsWire(Mac)

Before Bloglines, Google Reader and numerous other web-based RSS readers, most of us relied on desktop apps to regularly ping and update our feeds. The idea of using a desktop app may sound odd in this day and age where everything is on the web, but there is still something to be said for a good desktop app that neatly integrates with the rest of your system.

netnewswire_text_logoQuite a few of the older readers are now unmaintained, as their developers have moved on, but for Mac users, NetNewsWire is still more than worth a look (though I can’t really recommend NetNewsWire 4 Lite, which is the only version that is in the Mac App Store) and for Windows users, FeedDemon is still the app to beat. Both of them are still under active development, sync with Google Reader and offer at least some support for social sharing features (NetNewsWire, for example, also support Instapaper).

Personally, I use a combination of Feedly and NetNewsWire as my main setup for reading feeds.

Host Your Own: Fever

fever_smallIf you want total control over your feed reader without using the desktop because you want the convenience of being able to access your feeds wherever you are, take a look at Fever. It’s one of the prettiest and most fully-featured self-hosted RSS readers out there today – but you do have to pay $30 for a license.

What makes Fever stand out is its speed (it can ping a lot of feeds and can do so pretty fast) and its built-in memetracking feature which ranks stories based on how often they are being talked about by other sources in your feeds. You can even put feeds you don’t normally read into a separate folder that you don’t read but that influences the Fever algorithm.



3:16 am


Taiwanese Law Forces Apple to Institute 7-Day App Return Policy

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One thing that has always bothered me about Apple’s app stores is the fact that all sales are final. While Apple has sometimes made exceptions – as in the case of its own Final Cut X – you can’t test an app for a few hours and then return it if it doesn’t live up to your expectations. Now, however, it looks like Apple could be slowly changing this policy. As MacRumors notes, the company’s Taiwanese Mac App Store, App Store, and iBookstore now allow for returns within a seven-day window after a user has purchased an app or book.

“YOU MAY CANCEL YOUR PURCHASE WITHIN SEVEN (7) DAYS FROM THE DATE OF DELIVERY AND ITUNES WILL REIMBURSE YOU FOR THE AMOUNT PAID, PROVIDED YOU INFORM ITUNES THAT YOU HAVE DELETED ALL COPIES OF THE PRODUCT. UPON CANCELLATION YOU WILL NO LONGER BE LICENSED TO USE THE PRODUCT. THIS RIGHT CANNOT BE WAIVED.”

Apple’s policy change isn’t just due to the company’s drive to help out users, though, but is necessitated by the fact that Taiwan’s consumer protection law requires that any product bought over the Internet to feature a “trial period” of at least 7 days. Google ran into similar issues with its Android store in Taiwan and was fined because of its violation of Taiwanese law. Indeed, Google and Taiwan are still at odds over this issue.

Is this Policy Coming to the U.S., Too? Probably Not

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a similar policy in the U.S., where Google offers a 15-minute return window and Apple only handles these things on a case-by-case basis. Still, I know that I’ve often shied away from making a purchase in Apple’s Mac App Store (where prices are generally higher than the $0.99 we’ve become accustomed to in the iOS app store) because I couldn’t try an app before buying it. It would be smart of Apple to allow for at least a 1-day return window everywhere – and this would likely benefit developers as well – but somehow I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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5:17 pm



Apple's Mac App Store: First Impressions

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Earlier this morning – and somewhat earlier than expected – Apple launched its App Store for the Mac. After using it for a while now, it’s clear that this will be a major shift in how Mac users buy and upgrade their apps. There are, however, also some issues with this new app-buying paradigm for the desktop that Apple still needs to solve. Most importantly, developers can’t offer trials for paid apps, a problem that is highlighted by the absence of a return policy.

The store currently features just over 1,000 apps, organized in the usual categories like Education, Games, Graphics & Design, Lifestyle, Productivity and Utilities. Apple also used this opportunity to release unbundled versions of its iLife ’11 and iWork ’09 apps.

[list type=”blue”]

  • Apple needs to rip the iPhone and iPad app store out of iTunes as well. The new app store feels fast and lightweight, something that really can’t be said about iTunes anymore at this point.
  • Installing apps is as easy as in the mobile app store. Click buy and the icon appears in your dock with the same progress bar underneath we’ve become accustomed to on iOS.
  • Don’t expect iPhone-like pricing in the Mac App Store. Developers will surely experiment with their pricing schemes, but some apps (like TiltShift for an “introductory price” of $25 and Bejeweled 3 for $20) are clearly overpriced right now. Of course, it remains to be seen what Mac owners are willing to pay for their apps, too. Apple’s own Aperture is currenly the 9th most popular paid app at a price of almost $80, though Angry Birds ($5) and Chopper 2 ($1) are leading the pack of paid apps.
  • iWork is featured prominently in the store (in unbundled form). Sadly, this is still the ’09 version.
  • No trials and no refunds? Given the price of many of these apps, that could become an issue for developers. Most offer trial versions of their apps on their own websites, but what happens if the App Store becomes the de facto method of finding apps for most users?
  • Overall, Apple does a nice job at recognizing the apps you have already installed on your machine. Some, it didn’t recognize on my computer (TextWrangler, OmniFocus, for example), but most showed up as “installed” in the App Store.
  • [/list]



    10:44 am