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Published: Wednesday, 12/7/2005

Taking advantage of RSS

The computer has been running barely 5 minutes, but I ve already checked headlines and other new information from about 30 different web sites. General news, medical discoveries, money stuff, sports, and a lot more. Several articles looked interesting, and I printed them for a close read later on.

I d brag about finesse at the keyboard and mouse, except that I have a little help with this first-thing-in-the-morning news and information blast.

Rather than visiting each web site individually, I m reading RSS files that a program called a news aggregator collected and delivered to my computer.

This amazing technology has been around for several years. It s now is taking off in popularity, with more web sites offering RSS feeds, and more people taking advantage of the offers.

If you haven t discovered RSS yet, get set for an oh-so-pleasant surprise that can change your computer into a news and information hub.

RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. RSS files are lists of headlines or summaries of articles from web sites that constantly change. The summaries usually are one or two lines long, and include a hyperlink that takes you to the full text of the article.

Some take you to an audio file that you can download and play on the computer or a portable audio device like the iPod. Those files are called podcasts.

Many non-RSS users have been vaguely aware of the technology.

Have you noticed web sites displaying those little orange buttons with RSS or XML inside? (XML is eXtensible Markup Language, the file format for RSS.) Click on the button, and you can subscribe to RSS feeds from that site.

To use RSS files, you need an RSS reader or aggregator program, which collects headlines and summaries from scores of different web sites and lets you see them at the same time. These programs are easy to setup and use. Some are free. You have two choices.

One involves downloading an RSS reader or aggregator onto your computer s hard disk drive. Some of the most popular for PCs are NewzCrawler (www.newzcrawler.com), FeedDemon (www.feeddemon.com), and FeedReader (www.feedreader.com).

For Macs, try NetNewsWire. (http://ranchero.com/netnewswire/). To find others, search the Internet for RSS reader.

The other option involves using a Web site and online service that collects RSS feeds for you. Web-based aggregators have advantages if you work from several locations. You can continue getting your RSS feeds anywhere with an Internet connection.

Among them are Yahoo!, which allows you to add RSS feed to your personal page (My Yahoo), and Google, where you can add RSS feeds to your home page. Click on My Yahoo at the site. Newsgator (www.newsgator.com/business.aspx) is a site that lets you read RSS online or delivers RSS feeds directly to Outlook, the popular e-mail program. For others search for online RSS reader.

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