RSS – a simple tutorial

RSS BandiIf you are like me on the computer, you have one or more websites you like to visit most times you sit down at the screen. For me, it’s CNN for news. For my wife, it’s EBay for various treasures.

Of late, the number of sites I’ve been visiting has expanded and it’s become tedious to move from one to the other though my Favorites list or using icons I’ve dropped on the screen. But I’ve discovered a real time saver technology called RSS.

RSS is generally accepted to stand for Really Simple Syndication. If you are a techno-weenie and would like to read an in-depth piece on RSS, try this Wikipedia article. Here, I’m going to tell you in simple terms what RSS can do for you and how to set it up on your system.

There are many RSS programs available. I run RSS Bandit here and because it is the one I’m familiar with, I’m going to talk about it. You can download a free copy of RSS Bandit here.

RSS programs like Bandit, are often referred to as ‘news aggregators’. You give them a list of websites and blogs you are interested in and the program will watch these sites for you automatically and note when ever new content appears on any of them. On my system, a small box appears at the lower right of my screen periodically saying something like ’10 new postings on 5 sites”. I can dismiss or ignore this box if I want (it goes away automatically in a minute or so) or I can click on it and RSS Bandit will expand onto my screen and show me a list of all of my sites of interest and which ones have new content. And, I can read the new content right there within Bandit without having to actually go to the website or blog which is really convenient. Or, if I’m too busy to look at the new stuff now, it will hang onto it and continue to accumulate it until I’m ready. RSS Bandit runs silently in the background and puts a negligible load on your system so you never know it is there until you need it.

Unless you’ve been paying attention to RSS technology, you may not know that many websites and blogs these days provide RSS feeds. To link a web site or a blog to RSS Bandit, you simply give Bandit the URL (the web address – something like http://www.ccn.com) once and ask it to locate and connect to any RSS feeds on that site. That’s it. From then on, it will watch that site and as many others as you like for you automatically.

Now, here’s the shameless plug in all of this. If you download and install a copy of RSS Bandit on your system and you want to test it, well why not use my blog to do so?

Directions: (asumes RSS Bandit is installed – those directions are further down)

– In RSS Bandit, pull the File menu down and choose ‘New Subscription’
– The Add Subscription Wizard will appear – click ‘Next’
– Click ‘I will enter the URL of the web feed or page’ if it is not already checked – click ‘Next’
– Enter ‘samadhisoft.com‘ without the quotes and make sure the ‘Auto discover’ box is checked – click ‘Next’
– RSS Bandit will search for an RSS feed and then show you its title and category – click ‘Next’
– It will offer you the opportunity to enter a username and Password. This is not necessary here – click ‘Finish’
– Next, it offers you some configuration choices. Just leave these and click ‘Finish’
– You are done.

You can manually run RSS Bandit each time you fire up your computer. I prefer, however, to add RSS Bandit to my Startup folder so it will run each time I start my system so that it is always there scanning the sites I am interested in automatically.

Before you know it, you will have added 10 or 15 different websites and blogs to RSS Bandit and be able to scan what’s new and interesting in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. That’s great news – it leaves more time in the day to hang out at Starbucks.

Directions for installing RSS Bandit:

Now, explaining how to download and install RSS Bandit gets a bit more complicated and I could write for a very long time here explaining how to do it if you are not a computer literate type. But, a better plan is to find someone you know who is a bit computer literate and have them do it for you. Just about any 12 to 18 year old should be up to the task of following the simplified instructions just below. If you’ve ever passed the ‘program your VCR’ test successfully, you could try it yourself.

Basically, they have to go to the RSS Bandit website here and look around until they find the download area. Make sure they get the latest and greatest version. My copy is version 1.3.0.42. Anything equal to or later than that should be fine. They should download the installation package to your system and place it into a folder of its own. Then they will Unzip it into the same folder and this will generate a file named RSSBandit Installer.msi. Once they have RSSBandit Installer.msi, they should right mouse click on it and choose ‘Install’. When the Installer asks questions, the default answers should be just fine. When they are done, a nice little RSS Bandit Icon should be sitting out on your desktop. If you want Bandit to run automatically each time you start your system, ask them to copy this Icon into your Startup folder.

Happy RSS’ing.

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