Two great and free aggregators (and BlitzMail on your cellphone)

Several weeks ago, I wrote about news aggregators and recommended two, Radio and AmphetaDesk. A number of readers who responded to that post were interested in the technology but dissatisfied with these options. Radio, probably the best aggregator for Mac or Windows, costs $40 per year and includes a number of features (like content management, blogging, etc.) that many don’t need. AmphetaDesk, despite its (unexplainable) popularity, is somewhat unpolished–many basic features (like knowing when a news item has been read) are unimplemented and the program is a bit too utilitarian in its design. Further, the two aggregators use the web browser for all user-interface, and thus sacrifice much interactivity.

So, with a bit of work and some asking around, I have found the two best free aggregators for Mac OS X and Windows:

– If you’re using Mac OS X, you should definitely try NetNewsWire. The program is fast and simple to use and boasts a well-constructed Macintosh interface. Of note are its color highlighting options, configurable toolbar, and informative dock-icon (it shows how many new items are unread). Also, if you have Jaguar (that is, OS X 10.2, released on Friday), try this…pretty cool, eh?

– If you’re running Windows (98, ME, 2000, or XP), then you should use Aggie. It is lightweight, fast, and surprisingly full-featured (given that it is a < 100 kB download). Aggie requires the Microsoft .NET framework, which can be gotten here for free (note that this is a 20 MB download) if you don’t already have it. Like NetNewsWire, Aggie uses its system’s native interface to its best advantage; this is to say that Aggie works well for a Windows application but lacks the sublime usability of NetNewsWire. Also: Aggie was written by Joe Gregorio, a Dartmouth alumnus.

A quick reminder of how news aggregators could be useful to Dartmouth students and alumni:

– You can read your BlitzMail in an aggregator.

DartLog and both have RSS feeds (i.e., they can be read in an aggregator).

– Several hundred thousand (that’s right) public news feeds are available on the Internet. If you want to stay up to date with the NY Times, CNN, the BBC, and Fark, an aggregator is the easiest and fastest way to do it. A few thousand of the most popular feeds are in a directory here. You can create your own news feeds (e.g., all stories containing the word “Dartmouth” in major publications) here.

Also: In a few days or a week, WAPBlitz should be ready for testing. WAPBlitz (WAP being “Wireless Application Protocol”) will let you check your BlitzMail on most any cellphone, with most any service. If you are interested in testing WAPBlitz before it is released, email me. Be sure to note your cellphone’s make and model and your service provider. Up to a point, the more people who test it, the sooner it will be released.