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Making a Custom RSS Feed Reader with Google Sheets

I've talked before about how much I like RSS as a concept and as a technology. It allows you to follow your favorite creators without succumbing to the invasive tracking that is found on most creator sites like YouTube, Instagram, etc. For that reason, I'm always looking for new ways to help others engage with RSS, especially if they make things easier and more accessible.

Well I came across some new info recently, and it turns out you can make your own customizable feed reader using the inbuilt functions in Google Sheets. Normally, I try to stay away from proprietary apps like Google's, but unfortunately I haven't been able to recreate the functionality in any other office suites just yet, and I know that there are still a lot of you out there who use GDrive regularly. So hopefully this will be useful to some of you out there who either don't want to or can't move away from the Google suite of product just yet.

In the post below, I'll be outlining how I put this sheet together, and there's also a download at the bottom for a template sheet in case you'd just like to plug your own feeds in and go. Continue reading "Making a Custom RSS Feed Reader with Google Sheets"

Making a database-free online RSS reader in PHP

I follow a number of blogs and forums, and I've been looking for a while for a good way to pull the RSS feeds from most of these into one place for easy reading. On my Linux machine, QuiteRSS works really well. I like the features and interface, but I work on multiple computers throughout the day, and at night I read on my phone, so I really wanted one central place to go for checking up on things. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I went looking at the existing options, focusing on self-hosted solutions, because I really didn't want to throw all of that data into another for-profit site that would use my feeds to throw ads at me. And while I can deal with using a private server to install a fully-fledged RSS reader, I didn't really want to bother with logging into another service, then worry about updating it, and seeing that it is still maintained, etc. An RSS reader that stores a username/password combo is just one more security issue to worry about, and means that I'd have to make sure it's not easy to hack and get into. I'm not super concerned about being able to add new feeds on the fly, because I'm usually pretty close to web development tools, or I can wait until I get around to them--it's not the end of the world if I can't add something immediately.

So instead I decided to build my own. The scripts I've put together and modified work without a database because you must edit the file directly in order to add them, so the collection of feed is as secure as your site hosting is, plus there are no SQL calls to worry about. It's viewable anywhere you can run PHP, so there's no bother with logging into anything, and of course that means you can share it all you want just by sending people the link. Since it's all processed server-side, it basically acts like a static site for all intents and purposes, which was exactly what I wanted. There are some small downsides--right now it doesn't support Atom feeds, and there aren't any sorting options, but I'll probably come back to it and add those in the future.

I figured I might not be the only one wanting to do this, so I figured I'd share it here. Under the cut I've put a download link and a short explanation on how it works, so that you can add it to your own site if you like. Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments. Continue reading "Making a database-free online RSS reader in PHP"

Vintage Computers in your browser


Currently Feeling: creative

nyan nyan nyannyan...

Currently Listening: Tingting ASMR


Ever wanted to play around with vintage computing, but don't have the time/money/space? I get you. I love old PCs and other gadgets, but I'm really pretty limited on space and what I can bring into my house. And in some cases, I just don't have the money or time to devote to keeping them in running condition.

Fortunately a lot of really great, smart folks have taken the time to emulate a variety of different systems and you can run them right in your browser! I love playing around with these things and using them to run programs. A few of them let you upload and download files to them, so you can run your own applications and download any files you've created. I really like playing around with the paint programs in these in particular.

https://system7.app/ - Emulates MacOS 7
https://macos8.app/ - Emulates MacOS 8
https://macos9.app/ - Emulates MacOS 9

These MacOS emulators are great, and even let you add and remove files from them. They even support networking! Unfortunately I've had some issues with them crashing after a little bit of use in my case (on Windows 10). Hopefully you'll have better luck than me.

https://archive.org/details/win95_in_dosbox - Windows 95, courtesy of archive.org
https://jamesfriend.com.au/pce-js/ - This is another MacOS 7 emulator, but also contains links to many others!
https://classicreload.com/Windows-1-01.html - Windows 1.01. It's got a lot of ads, though, and I couldn't find it hosted anywhere else yet.
https://classicreload.com/win3x-windows-31.html - From the same site. Turn your adblocker on!
http://retroweb.maclab.org/ - Little hard to use, but this one has several emulated systems
https://www.pcjs.org/ - More emulated systems. There are a TON here and they're lots of fun to play with!

Software Review: Christian Greeting Card Factory

Greeting card software is such a weird niche to me. I think partly it's generational—the act of giving greeting cards seems to be less common than it was, and more and more people (of all ages in my experience) are forgoing the act of including cards with gifts as time goes by. I think this is probably because we're more connected than we used to be. I suppose the act of using greeting cards grew from the practice of letter writing, and since that has mostly moved online, giving decorative cards seems out of touch and unnecessary, especially when we have better ways of sending each other pictures, sentiments, songs, video, etc. This is a shame in a way, because looking at greeting card art throughout the years is an interesting window into the styles and customs of the time.

That said, there's probably always going to be a card section in most stores, at least as long as gift cards remain popular and need to be shoved into something. I don't think most of us really fret over which ones we're going to buy as long as they match the sentiment we're going for, so buying dedicated software for making custom cards is going to be left to hard-core card senders only. And that of course leaves out all the folks who would simply use an online card maker, of which there are TONS. How many of you even purchase software anymore? The few necessities, like office products and the ever-growing Adobe suite, are all going subscription only, and have scaled-down free versions for people who don't need full functionality. I've purchased a few things myself for specific hobby needs, but I'm weird and I like retro stuff, so I don't think I'm a typical consumer.

So when one of my family members found the "Christian Greeting Card Factory" at a local thrift store for a whopping two dollars, we all giggled and marveled at the novelty of not only a dedicated software package for making cards, but a niche religious one at that! And of course I had to install and review it. So if you're interested in old software and kitschy clip art, click below! Continue reading "Software Review: Christian Greeting Card Factory"