AmphetaDesk

The popularity of free news and discussion Web sites like NewsForge (http://newsforge.com), Slashdot (http://www.slashdot.org), and Use Perl (http://use.perl.org) and the explosive growth of weblogs has created a need for good Rich Site Summary (RSS) aggregation software. (RSS is an XML-based file format that allows sites and weblogs to "export" headlines and story information for use elsewhere.) RSS aggregators monitor web sites and weblogs for new content, and create a list of the latest headlines and abstracts (when available).

http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk/

The popularity of free news and discussion Web sites like NewsForge (http://newsforge.com), Slashdot (http://www.slashdot.org), and Use Perl (http://use.perl.org) and the explosive growth of weblogs has created a need for good Rich Site Summary (RSS) aggregation software. (RSS is an XML-based file format that allows sites and weblogs to “export” headlines and story information for use elsewhere.) RSS aggregators monitor web sites and weblogs for new content, and create a list of the latest headlines and abstracts (when available).

AmphetaDesk is becoming a popular RSS aggregator. As the AmphetaDesk website says, “AmphetaDesk is a free, cross platform, open-sourced, syndicated news aggregator. AmphetaDesk obediently sits on your desktop, downloads the latest news that interests you, and displays it in a quick and easy-to-use (and customizable!) web page.”

Playing on the Server-Side

Unlike many of the “headline grabbing” tools you’ll find by searching Freshmeat (http://freshmeat.net), and contrary to it’s description, AmphetaDesk is a server process (written in Perl) that you interact with using your favorite Web browser. That means you don’t necessarily have to run it on your desktop. If you use several computers (even some non-Linux machines), you can install AmphetaDesk on a Linux box, and access it via a browser running on any of them.

Out of the Box

Setting up AmphetaDesk is easy. Simply download the latest tarball from the AmphetaDesk web site (http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk), and extract the files:


$ tar -zxvf amphetadesk-src-v0.93.tar.gz

Then, start it up:


$ cd amphetadesk-src-v0.93
$ ./AmphetaDesk.pl

Once AmphetaDesk starts, you’ll see output similar to Figure One. The last part of the output contains the URL of your AmphetaDesk page. Do just what the output says: point your browser at the URL (e.g., http://127.0.0.1:4888/index.html) and get started.




Figure One: Starting AmphetaDesk


Disobey.com’s AmphetaDesk v0.93 has started (using wrapper v1.0).
Copyright 2000-2002 Disobey.com – http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk/

Checking for a newer version than 0.93.
0.93 is the latest and greatest version! Good!
Visit http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk/ for the latest info.

Downloading the latest channel data. This may take a few minutes.
Wait patiently, eh? The latest news will be yours shortly!

Downloading amphetadeskdocumenta.xml – local copy doesn’t exist.
Downloading lockergnome.xml – local copy doesn’t exist.
Downloading reutershealtheline.xml – local copy doesn’t exist.
Downloading researchbuzz.xml – local copy doesn’t exist.
Downloading consumernaturalhealt.xml – local copy doesn’t exist.
Downloading gamegrenecom.xml – local copy doesn’t exist.

If your browser doesn’t load, go to <http://127.0.0.1:4888/index.html>.

Workin’ It

There are four main links on the AmphetaDesk page that you’ll need to understand.

Channels Home is the page you’ll visit most often. It contains all of the headlines and summaries that AmphetaDesk has aggregated for you. The sites are sorted based on update time, where newer sites are shown at the top of the page.

My Channels provides a quick list of all the channels (or sites) that AmphetaDesk is watching for you. You can easily add or remove sites on this page.

Add a Channel contains a large pre-built list of sites that you can choose from if you’re not sure where to start. You’ll find many popular Linux, Open Source, and programming sites listed in the index.

My Settings is where you control how AmphetaDesk behaves: How often should it check sites for updates? Do you need to use a proxy server? Should links open in new browser windows?

AmphetaDesk will save you loads of time, especially if you’re used to checking a handful of sites several times a day. Rather than visiting each site to look for new headlines (and being annoyed by the animated ads), you’ll only need to scan your AmphetaDesk page.



Have an idea for a project we should feature? Drop a note to potm@linux-mag.com and let us know.

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