Thursday, August 29, 2013

Roll Your Own Cloud: Tiny Tiny RSS

Okay, I might be a vocal opponent of "the cloud." What's the big deal, anyway? "The cloud" is just a buzzword thrown around marketing circles to sell products. Even my old high school was in the process of embracing The Cloud when I graduated.

But The Cloud isn't some fancy new technology - it's basically just the old ones. The Cloud is just a name for a way that we use the Internet - file storage, document editing, streaming music, even coding (though I haven't jumped on that particular ship yet).

Honestly, I didn't even realize how much I used Cloud-like services until Google axed one of my favorites: Google Reader. I've used Google Reader almost every single day for almost as long as I've had a Google account. Google Reader was an RSS aggregator - and every day, I used it to get the latest news, blog posts, YouTube videos, comics, you name it. I even paid for an app from the Mac App Store to read it from my desktop. It was that good.

When they announced it's impending closure, I clung to it like a captain sinking with his ship. There were no good alternatives. I tried Feedly, but I hated the interface. I tried The Old Reader, but it had no mobile client. Whenever I heard of a new alternative, I tried it. No luck.

...until I found Tiny Tiny RSS.

The most attractive thing about TTRSS is that it is self-hosted - meaning that it is hosted on my own web server, and the only thing that would make it stop working is if the computer itself went belly-up. It uses PHP, HTML and Javascript - a true "cloud app," if you will, and it is extremely easy to set up.

The wiki has a good installation guide, but it pretty much boils down to this:
  1. Set up Apache, MySQL, and PHP
  2. Place TTRSS in Apache's document root
  3. Go to the install page in the browser
  4. Set up the feed update daemon
After setting it up, it was pretty easy to export data from Google Reader via Google Takeout and import and organize it in TTRSS. It even has an API available, so you can find clients for it, or make your own. There is an official, paid client on the Android store, but the one I prefer is open source and free (which is why I prefer it).

Using Tiny Tiny RSS opened my eyes to a new, liberating world of open source projects that bring the functionality of "The Cloud" into my own hands. In the coming days, weeks, months, or whatever, I'm going to talk about a few other applications I've found that have really impressed me and allowed me to have a bit more control over the services that I use.
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