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news2mail Tool for Radio UserLand

Doug Kaye's thoughts on web services, web hosting and managed services.

news2mail: What is it?
 news2mail automatically sends email messages containing the most recent stories from the channels you've subscribed to. Messages can be sent in either or both of two formats:
 Batch Format: In this format, news2mail gathers up all of the new stories discovered by Radio during its hourly scan, and sends them as a single message in HTML format, suitable for Outlook and other (untested) email clients. (Here's a sample screenshot.) news2mail runs immediately after every Radio scan of RSS sources, so you may receive a message every hour.
 Individual Format: In this format, news2mail sends each new item as separate text-only email message. This is particularly handy for delivering news to a pager, PDA or Blackberry. You can control which feeds are sent as individual messages, as well as the maximum message length.
 So what good is news2mail, and why would you want to use it? Radio scans RSS feeds so that you don't have to visit dozens of Web sites on a regular basis, but you still need to visit Radio's own News page to check for new items. news2mail automates the process further by delivering the results of each hourly scan directly to your email inbox. Many news2mail users find, for instance, that they never use the Radio News page. They read all of their news in Outlook.
 You may subscribe to dozens or even hundreds of RSS feeds, in which case it can take a very long time for Radio to render (display) its News page. news2mail solves this problem, since you'll rarely need to view that page.
 You can even blog (re-post) stories viewed in email just as you can from Radio's news page. Associated with each story in news2mail's HTML messages is a Blog button. When you click on a story's Blog button, a Web page for posting new stories to your weblog appears in your Web browser, and it's pre-populated with the contents of the story you're blogging. (For this feature to work, you must also install Jeremy Bowers' customBlogPost tool. [documentation])
 The individual message option is a terrific way to have the very latest news delivered directly to your Blackberry or email-capable pager or PDA. All from your Radio desktop, and entirely under your control.
 Another advantage of forwarding your news to email is that you can use your email client's filtering to automatically file your news in a dedicated folder, and you can use your email client's archive and search capabilities to find old news stories.
Legal Stuff
 news2mail is free. You may use it, copy it, modify it or give it away. Just don't charge for it. That wouldn't be nice. But you get what you pay for. It's as-is software and comes with no warranty of any kind. It probably has bugs--I just don't know where--and they could be serious, including some that could cause loss of data. Use at your own risk.
 Click here to download the most recent version of news2mail.
 Copy news2mail.root to the Radio Tools directory. (If you're reading this page from your Radio Web server, you've probably already done this.)
 Go to the news2mail preferences page and configure news2mail to meet your needs.
 If you want to use the individual-message mode, go to the news2mail subscription page and check the feeds that you want to receive as individual messages.
 That's it! It's installed. But to test it, click on the Tools menu on Radio's menu bar. Select the news2mail sub-menu and click on "Send HTML Batch Message Now" or "Send Individual Messages Now" as desired.
 Check your inbox to make sure the message(s) have arrived.
 All options are configured via the news2mail preferences page. Most preferences are obvious, but here are some further explanations:
 Subject Lines
 You can modify the subject line of messages sent by news2mail. This is particularly helpful if you want to configure your email client software to automatically filter messages from news2mail as they arrive. The subject fields may contain the following macros that will cause important information to appear in the subject line.
 Batch format macros
 <%storycount%> the number of stories sent
 <%channelcount%> the number of RSS sources with at least one story
 Individual format macros
 <%channeltitle%> the title of the RSS feed
 <%time%> the date and time at which the item was received by Radio
 Blog Post Template
 If you're using batch messages, you'll be able to blog directly from your email inbox, so ong as you've also installed the customblogPost tool. The news2mail preference page allows you to change the customBlogPost tool template. The default value is newsItemLike, the default template for the customBlogPost tool.
 There isn't any.
 But if you want to receive announcments of new versions and features, subscribe to the news2mail mailing list. This is also a good way to suggest and discuss enhancements
How it Works
 The main news2mail script is called by Radio's postScan callback after every aggregator scan. It walks through the aggregator database looking for non-empty stories that have not already been sent by news2mail.
 If batch format is enabled, news2mail creates a single HTML message containing all the items it finds, and sends the message to the specified email address.
 If individual format is enabled, news2mail creates and sends an individual message for each new story it finds, so long as the item's category has been selected on the news2mail subscription page.
 news2mail doesn't delete items. It depends on Radio to do this according to the settings on the Archiving options page.
 The news2mail tool references two externally-hosted gifs (images), both of which may go away. They could be hosted on your local Radio server, but then you might not be able to reach them if you read your email from a remote system. They are:
 a globe icon at http://static.userland.com/shortcuts/images/qbullets/remote.gif
 the "blog" button at http://www.rds.com/assets/gifs/blog.gif
 Because Radio's tcp.sendmail verb doesn't report success or failure, news2mail doesn't have the ability to detect, report or deal with errors. In other words, the only symptom of a problem sending messages will be the lack of such messages.
Doug Kaye
 9 January 2002

©2002 RDS/Doug Kaye ()