Keeping Up with Gregarius

Read about Gregarius, the best Web-based, open source RSS feed reader.
One of the most important technologies in use today is RSS (and its kissin’ cousin ATOM). Don’t know what RSS is and why it’s awesomely cool? Then go check out Wikipedia ‘s article on RSS, or look at http://tinyurl.com/oz6gh to discover what you can do with it.
When it comes to aggregating your RSS feeds so you can easily buzz through them, you can either use a local client or a Web-based application. The latter is ideal, as it’s accessible from anywhere. Bloglines (at http://www.bloglines.com) is one online RSS reade. It’s free, powerful, and offers persistent storage (in other words, you can save posts in feeds forever, deleting them when you feel like it). Unfortunately, Bloglines is seemingly devolving into a buggy mess.
Fortunately, open source fans have excellent alternatives that make it easy for folks currently enduring Bloglines to bid it farewell. The best of those is Gregarius, a Web-based program that runs on LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP). It’s easy to install and configure, comes with plenty of add-ons, and runs like a dream. Let’s get it set up so you can start using it ASAP.
Download Gregarius from http://gregarius.net. For complete installation instructions, expand the .tar.gz archive and read the INSTALL file. If you’ve ever installed a PHP/MySQL program before, you already know what to do. Create a MySQL database, expand the Gregarius .tar.gz archive into the Apache folder you want to use (the INSTALL file calls this rss, but gregarius would probably be a better choice. Copy dbinit.php.sample to dbinit.php, edit dbinit.php to match your database name, user, and password, and then point your web browser to http://www.yourdomainname.com/gregarius to complete the process.
Once you have Gregarius up and running, it’s time to configure it. If you’ve been using another feed reader, export your feed list to an OPML file (the standard for storing lists of RSS and ATOM feeds). (If you’re using Bloglines, click on Edit, scroll to the bottom of the pane, click on Export Subscriptions, and then download the resulting export.opml file. Now that you have an OPML file, switch to Gregarius, click on the Admin link, then the Opml button, and import the file. Now you can continue from where you left off in your other feed reader. (You can export your Gregarius feeds as an OPML file on the same page).
To add new feeds to Gregarius, go to Admin& gt; Feeds. This page lists all of your feeds, but at the very top you can add new feeds by typing in either the actual feed’s URL (which will probably end with something like index.xml, atom.xml, or rss.xml), or the URL of the feed’s containing Web page. In the latter case, Gregarius will do its best to find the feed, and most of the time it succeeds. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to add the feed’s address manually. If you’re using Firefox, you can simplify the whole process by adding the Subscription bookmarklet — provided on the Feeds page — to your Bookmarks toolbar. Don’t know what a bookmarklet is? Click on the little [?] icon next to the word!
Now head to Admin& gt; Plugins. Gregarius is a project growing in popularity, so folks constantly write new plugins for the program. Several are included with the default install, and you should enable Extra Button, Mark All Read, HTML filter, StickyFlag, and Url filter. Additional plug-ins can be discovered by clicking the Plug-in Repository link on the top of the Plug-ins page. Recommended plug-ins include Clickable Image Fixer (this fixes an annoyance that will drive you insane!) and Individual Delete.
You can also change the way Gregarius looks by going to Admin& gt; Themes. The best theme for most people is Simplicity, which you can find by clicking on the Themes Repository link on the top of the page.
Since you’re working with a MySQL database, you need to prune unneeded items periodically. To do so, head to Admin& gt; Items, enter 1 to delete items older than 1 day, and press Delete. Keep your database lean and mean!
When reading your feeds with Gregarius, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You need to log in to mark items as read, so they don’t continue to show up after you no longer need them. If you can, install Gregarius on an SSL- protected site so that your login and traffic are encrypted. On top of that, don’t forget to make a small change at the top of your Gregarius home page when you log in. Next to Show Items, select Unread only instead of Read and unread, or you’ll view old items.
To learn more about Gregarius, check out its Wiki at http://wiki.gregarius.net. It’s full of excellent information, which is appropriate for an excellent feed reader. Bye-bye, Bloglines. It’s time to move on to something better!

Scott Granneman teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, consults for WebSanity, and writes for SecurityFocus and Linux Magazine. His latest book, Linux Phrasebook is in stores now. You can reach him at class="emailaddress">scott@granneman.com.

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