Complete Geek Boutique

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Aside from all the coding with this program, zFeeder is just fun to use. Too bad it is getting “long in the tooth.”

And a lot of people have been using it, including Movable Type. It is currently frozen at version 1.6 because the author wanted to “take some time off.” Its copyright date states “2003-2004,” so I’m assuming it hasn’t been really updated since then. Still, you will find it does the job. And quite handily.

This program is actually easier to use than SimplePie, and is as flexible as rss2html, which also uses templates to display RSS text. You can also place more than a single feed on a page.

A list of features:

– simple to include on any php page
– uses only flat-text-files, and works without SQL database
– simple to install and configure
– remote RSS files are cached for better performance and to prevent IP banning from certain sites which have protection for their RSS files
– you can configure it to show what RSS remote file you want
– stores feed configuration in OPML file for easy exporting to other aggregators
– supports importing subscriptions from other aggregators
– supports autodiscovery of feeds
– bookmarklet for browser to easy add a site to your page while you browse the net
– administration panel for easy configure of subscriptions
– template driven so that you can make your own appearance of the content
– supports CSS templates
– recognizing RSS versions 0.9, 0.9x, 1.0, 2.0 (does not validate them though)
– online/offline refreshing of feeds via browser or cron
– multiple categories (subscriptions files)
– WAP (wml) output

You can hand-massage the coding, or you can use the included Admin Panel, reachable by your favorite Web browser. I chose to use the panel, where I set the admin password, defined which feed I wanted, and grouped feeds into categories. The panel has these tabs: main :: add new :: subscriptions :: config :: import feed list :: updates :: logout.

Main: Basically just a splash page explaining what the other pages are/do. Add new: Add a new feed, and then decide on what category you want it “filed” under. Subscriptions: What feeds you are subscribed to. Config: Configure the program. Import feed list: Import opml feed lists. Updates: Checks to see if there’s a new version of zFeeder available. Logout: Buh-bye.

One of the handiest tools is in the “Add New” tab. You have three choices as to how you get your feeds: 1) Type in the site URL, 2) Type in the feed URL, or 3) Create a droplet so that you can add a feed, from whichever site you visit, to your list of feeds in zFeeder. This is one COOL feature. You have to see it for yourself.

If you want to create a new category that’s not on the list that comes with the program, you just go into the Categories folder and duplicate the “empty.opml” file and give it another name. You don’t need to open the file. The program fills it in for you, as needed. Sweet.

You can get your feeds to fill the categories: 1) By your browser or 2) By cron job. Believe me, you want to go the cron route. If you opt for the browser, you must specifiy each category that should be refreshed, so if you have a lot of categories it’s going to take you awhile. If you create a cron job, ALL feeds are refreshed simultaneously.

For the cron job, I would suggest you create a script to get each feed, then call on the script as part of the cron. Use this script as an example:

/sw/bin/lynx -source
/sw/bin/lynx -source
/sw/bin/lynx -source
/sw/bin/lynx -source

By using this script, you only have to run a single cron job, instead of many.

For those who don’t have access to cron, though, just use the browser whenever you want to refresh the feed. Once you have your feeds brought in, you can place them on the page.

Including php code on the page, whether it be an existing page, or a page for just feeds, is a breeze. Just follow the instructions you’re provided. You can use your own template definitions, use the CSS on the page you’re putting the feeds on, or use one of 18 templates provided for you by zFeeder loyalists in the zFeeder Templates folder.

I would rate this program five stars: It’s well documented, has plenty of demo files and plenty of templates. The only cons are that it’s development has an indefinite “start-back-up” date, and that its forums have been filled by hackers’ bots with porno, drug, and casino links. Fortunately, though, you’re given enough documentation with zFeeder to figure things out quite easily.

Final note:

Hopefully the program won’t be hacked, now that the author has had so much “time off.” As of April 4, 2014, it’s still at version 1.6. But the pages are still posted on SourceForge.



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