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Building a better newsreader

Brent Simmons has always been diligent in considering user–requested features and enhancements to his wildly popular NetNewsWire newsreader and recently asked his readers what they thought of integrated browsing.

The gist of the idea is this: when you want to read a full post (given that many, if not most, news feeds only post excerpts) you could view it right there: within NetNewsWire. There’d be no need to fire up an external browser, and the net result would (conceivably) be time saved. I’d like to consider Rick Gregory’s point when I say ‘include integrated browsing, but not this way.’ Rick says he’d rather see NNW made into “a better newsreader than an OK browser”, and I wholeheartedly agree.

NetNewsWire is not a web browser, that much is obvious. Things like tabs, printing, save–as–PDF, and popup blocking are not part of its feature set, and likely won’t be any time soon. And however much I may prefer opening news items in a tabbed browser running in the background, I think there’s a solution to this dilemma that satisfies the ‘wants’ and the ‘don’t wants’ while also (also!) borrowing a little something from Jonathan Rentzsch’s excellent Widescreen NetNewsWire hack.

Column View.

Yes, column view. Consider the Finder’s handling of column view: starting at the top level, you successively drill down through your folders until you hit the level you want. Likewise, NetNewsWire could start with your subscriptions at the very left, drilling down into individual subscriptions’ latest entries, down into the entry text (or excerpt, as the case may be), and finally down to the entry’s web page. It makes beautiful sense hierarchically, it successfully translates the Finder’s column view paradigm, and it’s extremely keyboard friendly — just hit the right–arrow to drill down one level. If you’d rather view the web page in your default browser, just don’t hit the right arrow! Hit Enter or Return.

I’ve mocked it up, if you need further convincing. But frankly, I think it rocks.


Do it yourself

Thirty–something days ago, when I moved house, my roommates and I left the old place in pretty damned good condition. The real estate agent’s property condition report confirmed this, and we were slated to receive our bond back in its entirety. $880 can’t go astray for anyone, let alone a couple of poor–ass jerks such as ourselves. Receiving our bond notice in the mail, however, proved otherwise.

  1. Thirty dollars for extra rent. We figured that since rent day was a Friday we could move out on a Friday without any trouble… it turns out we were wrong and must pay for that one lousy extra day.
  2. Twenty dollars in excess water. This one is understandable, bills can’t be expected to match up to our ins and outs, can they?
  3. Sixty–five dollars for the replacement of tap washers.

What. The. Fuck.

Tap washers? Those eight–cent pieces of tin that prevent taps from dripping? Those things we could’ve replaced ourselves at a total cost of zero had we been warned ahead of schedule? Those things that we could’ve asked them to replace for us while we were living there, and they would’ve had to shoulder the cost? Awesome. God damned awesome.

A phone call to the fair trading commission has proved that Davey is indeed entitled to charge us for that maintenance, as weird as that may sound, so we’re stuck with it. Even though it’s only $65, a cost to be shared between us, it still seems like a jip. So much for ‘general wear and tear’.


A thought

I’m not sure if anybody else thought of this, since my Google finger is a little lazy tonight, but isn’t there likely a better reason for Microsoft’s acquisition of Virtual PC? Last I checked, everyone was bleating (or clucking, perhaps) about the sky’s impending descent upon our heads. Conspiracy theories abound, and concerned Mac users believe that Microsoft has acquired Virtual PC from our old pals at Connectix so they can simply discontinue it.

As I said, isn’t there a less paranoid possibility? Like… they plan to include the technology as part of a legacy emulation layer in Longhorn? It seems likely; they’d be stupid not to include some kind of ‘Classic’ environment, their fledgling OS would be completely useless without compatible software. We all know we can’t expect developers (developers! developers!) to jump on the new–tech bandwagon any more than we can expect consumers to, and as much as I’d like to disagree with myself, Microsoft aren’t idiots.