Some notes about RSS

If, like me, you have a number of favourite Web sites that you visit frequently for information, then you need to find out more about RSS. No, RSS does not stand for “Really Simple Stupid”, but “Really Simple Syndication”. (See Wikipedia) You may also have noticed some small icons popping up with an item labeled 'feed', these are labeled RSS, XML, Atom and sometimes 'Java'. If you indulge in podcasting, then you may have already heard mutterings about 'RSS'. Thus RSS is shown by the icon RSS is present here and is a method of providing specific information from any Web site - kind of half way between e-mail and a Web page - and not intrusive like those nasty popup windows. RSS is very easy to use, especially if you use the Firefox browser. For a Web site with a 'feed' the Firefox browser will display a small orange icon in the bottom right hand corner. Put your mouse pointer over it and the title Add live bookmark for this page's feed appears. If you click on the icon, then "subscribe to RSS" is displayed. Selecting this adds a special live bookmark to your bookmarks folder. Firefox also has software addons (extensions) to help with these feeds and podcasts. So, Get Firefox!
The RSS feed for the Maji Safi Projects Pages is at http://www.majisafi.co.uk/msp.rss.

Another way to get RSS Feeds uses a News Aggregator to collect, update and display RSS feeds. I use AmphetaDesk (below) which sits next to my Firefox browser icon on the Dock (of my Mac). If I open AmphetaDesk a browser window opens, mine says Below are the newest items from your 9 channels. The channels have the information being fed (hence feeds) from the Web sites that I want to watch.

AmphetaDesk, my favorite and it is free!
NewsGator, is also free
NetNewsWire, favoured by some Mac enthusiasts

How RSS Works

The Web site has to provide an information file about it's latest stuff, this is held in a file which (typically) might be called index.rss and is coded in a particular format, XML {eXtended Markup Language}, the big brother of HTML. Hence the little icon XML is present here. The RSS code is relatively simple to write, but as with all XML it has a strict syntax, for example it is case sensitive. The impression that it has to be written automatically, and with information taken from a database, is not correct. Whilst it is convenient for large sites to generate their RSS files automatically the code is easily handwritten. For more information, Mark Nottingham, has written a good technical tutorial, and WebDesign's RSS page has lots of articles and information, together with a section on Podcasting