Monday, March 18, 2013

It's a thing

Somebody on Twitter reminded me of this when he mentioned using Excel as a random number generator.  Here's an alternative from the world of Python. It of course assumes Python is installed and that the interpreter is in the command path.

c:/ > Python

Python 2.7.3 (default, Apr 10 2012, 23:31:26) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

>> import random as r

>> r.randrange(25)



Replace the "25" with whatever range you want. 

It takes all of 20 seconds once you get the hang of it, no saved shortcuts required. Other than the shell, which any good geek will have on the desktop.

You can also specify the lower bounds of the range.

>> r.randrange(3,7)


You can also do a thing with a list of items, but who needs all that typing?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End of Google Reader

Update 2: Forget FeedDemon, they were dependent on the Google Reader API and have no idea what to do without it, so they're shutting it down.

Update: NetVibes? I can't figure you out.

In an innocuous bullet point, Google announced the end of Google Reader.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader

There's also some nattering about how to export your data.

But that's it. No fanfare, no polls or other awareness efforts, just, *pouf*, it's gone.  For those of us smugly secure with our gmail-as-primary-mail strategy, this is a bit like a mild temblor near the San Andreas rift. Is this just what it appears, or is something about to blow?

I could wax poetic on the injustice of it all and how this just shows how unreliable Google really are, but plenty of people are already doing that (see: slashdot). Time's a wastin', we have to find a new home!

A few years back I started writing my own RSS feed reader using Mark Pilgrim's wonderful feedparser library. There are two points of irony here: 1) he, himself, works at Google (go ahead with the conspiracy theories now), and 2) he himself abruptly disappeared from the ineternet in 2011.  I think I still have that around, and possibly I might investigate.

But I'd rather have something like Google Reader that lets me read and sync up from multiple locations at once. The requires the "cloud", which is a trendy way of saying that I need one server that I can talk to from multiple points and have actions from one location reflected to all.  To that end and to make my life a little easier, a list.

  1. Feedly – Chrome extension, IOS and Android apps. Depends on Reader's API but claim to be working on their own.
  2. Pulse – Another magazine-ish alternative, not sure I like the interface, and importing Reader subs looks like it might be a problem.
  3. NetVibes – haven't looked into this one yet, but it looks really slick and is getting a bit of buzz.
  4. NewsBlur – No experience with the UI yet, but the crawlers it uses are somewhat ferocious, based on my server logs. Expect this one to always have up to date feeds.

Incidentally, efforts to sign a petition or whatever in order to get Google's attention and show them just how much Reader is actually used is kinda pointless. They have the server logs. They know when you logged in, what you clicked, and how often you use it.  A popularity contest won't hack it. You have to put this in terms that they will appreciate. Considering that they hadn't even updated the Reader blog since October 2011 (coincidence, Mr. Pilgrim?) I would say that internal interest is what has declined the most, and that that is what you have to get going to save Google Reader.