Monday, September 30, 2013

Replacing Google Reader - Part 1


It's been a while since I've kept up with reading my RSS subscriptions.  Earlier I mentioned my issues with transitioning between jobs.  However, one big deterrent has been the demise of iGoogle and Google Reader.  Yes, I know iGoogle is still around for another month or so, but it no longer comes up automatically.

I used to love the convenience of having everything pop up on one page ... calendar, RSS feeds, news articles, etc.

Now ... it's all gone.  Supposedly I could upgrade to Chrome, but to be honest, I'm a little unnerved by what Chrome does to our computers.  It tries to take over everything ... it deactivates functionalities in the other (evidently "inferior") browsers.  It was the weirdest thing.  Once we removed Chrome, the other browsers started working again.

Also, do we really need to continue supporting Google's attempts to monopolize EVERYTHING?

But I digress ... I need to find a replacement for Google Reader.  If you're anything like me, you panicked in June and did the "Takeout Service" and created these cute little JSON files.  And then you did nothing with them, because you never got around to finding a replacement.

So, here goes nothing...

First up, I tried Feedly.  I've heard great things about them, and about how you can import your Google Reader settings and subscriptions ... but really?  I've tried to get it to work on my Mac, and I'm not having much success.  On the home page, there's a link "Import an OPML file."  I click that and it asks me to sign up through my Google account.  I say, "Sure" ... and then it peters out.  It doesn't ask for a location of the JSON files, or the subscriptions.xml file.  It just does ... nothing.

Then I did some research ... other people are having the same problems.  Plus, it appears Feedly will only take the subscriptions, but it leaves behind your starred selections, and other important Google Reader information.

Honestly, I'm surprised, as these JSON files are nothing much more than souped up text files.  If I had to, I could manually go in and set up every single subscription I had, and find the starred articles, etc.  But I didn't do the "Takeout Service" to have to resort to doing something a computer could easily do for me automatically.  I mean as a programmer, myself, I'm at a loss trying to understand what could be so hard to write some simple code to read in a text file and set up subscriptions ... heck ... even I could write that code!

But then again, I don't think that's the real problem.  I notice how fancy the website's trying to be ... the whole fancy look and functionalities.  Perhaps they're going way too fancy when all I'm looking for is a simple reader that will show me the text and pictures and videos.  What good is a "fancy" feed when basic functionalities don't work?  Mac Users need not even try?

I'm sure I could search the Help files to figure out how to make it work, but I searched for 15 minutes, and that was way too long.  By then, I've just lost interest ... and I'm just going to look elsewhere.

Stay tuned as I continue my quest.  Suggestions welcome!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 TV Fall Preview

Here we go ... this is the big week where most of our favorite shows have their Fall Season premieres.

I'm not sure if I'm starting to suffer from TV fatigue, or if TV shows are getting suckier.  This time around, there is only ONE new show that grabs my interest, and I'm dropping a couple of regular shows that I've been watching.

That ONE new show is none other than Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  (Tuesday nights at 8 PM ET.)

... and the only reason why I'm watching is because I'm interested to see how well the "Avengers" movies can be transformed to the small screen.  I'm having difficult remembering any recent successful attempts (other than animated knockoffs, which seem to be popular).  I suppose the closest is Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, but a lot of die hard fans don't like to accept the movie.  Hmmm ... that series was also by Joss Whedon.  I suppose if anyone can pull off a series spinoff from a movie, Joss Whedon can (unless the plug is prematurely pulled like in the case of Firefly).

We'll see how it turns out.  If anything, we gotta watch to see how Agent Coulson comes back to life.  Right?

Other than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the new fall offerings are woefully deficient of sci-fi goodness.  There's plenty of fantasy: Dracula, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (yes ... it's a spin-off), Sleepy Hollow, and The Tomorrow People.  But none of these strike my fancy.

When are we going to get another interesting hard-science offering?  At least we have Neil deGrasse Tyson in Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey coming in 2014.  Hurry!  Please!

Returning shows I'll be watching:

Haven (SyFy - started Friday, 9/13)  It still looks like it could be interesting, but how much longer can it go?  It's on my chopping block.
Persons of Interest (CBS - Tuesday 9/24)  Yes ... it's still going strong, and it's still interesting.
Revolution (NBC - Wednesday 9/25)  I have to see what happens next, now that the lights are back on, and missiles are flying.
The Simpsons (FOX - Sunday, 9/29)  I can't stay mad at little Bart.
The Walking Dead (AMC - Sunday, 10/13)  It can't come soon enough.  The Governor's true nature is revealed, and he is now at large.  The prison is now overrunning with humans.  Can Rick and company support them all?  Is Rick really done with his crazy spells?
Grimm (NBC - Friday, 10/25)  Nick is a zombie now?  That could be interesting.

Series in waiting:

Warehouse 13 (SyFy) -- I could use a "last season" like Eureka before I lose interest entirely.
Psych (USA) -- also on my chopping block ... it's just getting too raunchy while getting less funny.
Doctor Who (BBC) -- we got the anniversary special coming on 11/23, and then the Christmas special (which will probably have the regeneration into the next Doctor), and then hopefully the next season will come after that.  And hopefully some questions will be answered!

Some new shows I picked up over the summer:

Downtown Abbey (PBS - 1/5/2014)  What's Mary going to do?  I also wonder if we Americans will get to see any of the shows sooner on Amazon Prime?  I mean ... the UK gets to start watching Season 4 this month!
Sherlock (BBC - Possibly November 2013)  How did Sherlock do that last bit?  We'll find out soon...

Shows that I've given up on:

The Neighbors (ABC - started Friday, 9/20)  It turned out to be much funnier than I expected last year, and I enjoyed watching, but over the summer, I came to realize that I just don't care what happens next.
Once Upon a Time (ABC - Sunday, 9/29)  I still can't get over the introduction of Mulan and Robin Hood, who are more of actual historical legends than they are fairy tales, and their existence in this show is only because they were in Disney movies.  Also, the overuse of Deus ex Machina  has caused me to lose interest.  What good is a dire situation, when some magical cure can always be found at the last minute?

I hope you all have better luck finding some good new shows to enjoy.  I suppose I'll be hitting up Netflix and picking up good shows I missed in the past ...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And the Band Played On

I am proud of the six years I spent marching in high school and college.  Now, the torch passes on to my oldest son who has just started his first year.  Last week, I got to see him march for the first time, and that night, I saw something amazing, which I'll get to in a moment.

First off, you can watch the following video, and see if you notice anything interesting.

Perhaps you heard how noisy the crowd was, or how difficult it was to hear the music over them.  Perhaps you noticed the majority of those caught on camera NOT clapping when the performance was done.  Yeah, it's pretty strange, as it didn't appear they were doing anything else while sitting there.

Yes ... I noticed that though the crowd had "spirit," and cheered on their team ... and though they sat down in reverence to honor an injured player ... and though they showed how to enjoy a game ... yet when it came to the band, the crowd largely ignored them.  "Who needs them?"  You'd think that the largest band in the county would be appreciated by their own school!

Then, as is custom at this school, the band hung back at the end of the game to perform the halftime show for the parents.  The reason for this, I found out, is that it's usually too loud during the "real" performance.  So, evidently the band is used to this disregard, and has taken steps to re-perform the show after the noisy teenagers have left.

I watched the re-performance, and it was nice to be able to enjoy it without distractions.  But something else happened...

The football players (on our team) also hung back at the end of their game.  They went over to the end zone and sat on the grass, watching the band's whole performance.  This was not normal.  When the performance was done, the football players stood up and clapped.  Then they converged on the band.

One of the parents yelled, "They're mingling!"

Down on the field, the coach explained that the football players wanted to thank the band for their support.  The last week, the team had to play without the band's presence, and they noticed the difference.  The band helped everyone to cheer the team more, and helped them feel better about themselves.

As the football players walked off the field, the band played the fight song.  They all looked happy.  It was something I had never seen before, and may never see it again.  It's good to know that someone else enjoys the band!