Snackr


2500 downloads and counting! The Power of the Intar-Webz[tm] never ceases to amaze me. I remember way back in the Old Days, when freeware was only to be had by floppy disk or modem; back then, it was difficult to imagine a few dozen people, let alone thousands, using some random software you’d put out. Nowadays, between blogs and twitter, word seems to spread like wildfire.

So, just for grins, I decided to start a Snackr twitter account. Follow snackr on twitter to get up-to-the-minute news about test builds, new releases, and what I’m having for lunch.

Web 2.0-ness aside, I’ve also put up a test build of Snackr, version 0.31, that should properly display non-Western characters, and fixes a couple of other bugs (including adding multi-select in the feed list, so you can delete a bunch of feeds at once). If you read this post, I’d appreciate it if you’d install it and try it out, and let me know if it seems to be working for you.

I’ll probably fix a few more bugs before making a new official build, which will arrive through the standard autoupdate mechanism; if you install this test build manually, you should still get the next official build when I put it up.

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Wow–nearly 600 people have downloaded Snackr in the last two days! Thanks to everyone who’s sent mail or posted comments; it’s great to know people like it. The most common requests so far seem to be:

  • Allow multiple selection in the feed list, so you can delete a bunch of feeds at once. It seems like a lot of people imported large feed lists from their existing blog readers, then realized they didn’t want to actually see all of those feeds in Snackr.
  • Support Asian language characters. Currently, Snackr uses Myriad Web, and the font is embedded in order to make fade animations work properly for text, but that font only has Latin characters. I’ll either need to add an option to use the system font (and turn off fade animations), or maybe build a version that embeds a font with Asian characters in it (though that would probably lead to a huge installer).
  • Ability to keep a list of items to read later (e.g. by starring them). I’ve been wanting this for awhile but haven’t gotten around to implementing it yet–now I have some incentive!
  • Posting the source. I do really want to do this, but I need to set aside some time to make the code slightly less embarrassing 🙂

I also noticed today as I was using it on my machine that for some short posts, the popup seems to “bobble around” a bit and end up at a very thin size (it’s different from the jittery animation on Vista/Linux; this is happening even on OS X). It’s intermittent, but it reproduces pretty regularly on certain kinds of posts. Has anybody else seen this? I’ll have to look into it–it must be a recent injection, as I never noticed it before.

I’m planning to make regular updates to Snackr, though things are pretty busy; I’m hoping I can carve out enough time to release a new version in a couple of weeks. Snackr should automatically notify you when an update is available.

Keep those cards and letters coming!

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I realized a few months ago that, unlike pretty much everyone else I know, I don’t regularly use an RSS reader. Not that I haven’t tried—I used FeedDemon early on, and more recently tried out Google Reader—but never managed to form the habit of checking them regularly. Both of them are fine apps; the problem was with me. Every time I sat down and saw that I had a gazillion unread items in my hundreds of feeds, I didn’t know where to start. Eventually I just gave up trying to keep up.

Around the same time I came to this realization, Adobe AIR 1.0 was publicly released. I wanted to try to write an AIR app just for fun, and it occurred to me that I might be able to make something that would solve my RSS problem.

The result is Snackr, a ticker-like widget that lives on the bottom (or side) of your screen and scrolls random items from your RSS feeds. (It’s called “Snackr” because it lets you nibble on your feeds. Guffaw.) Here’s what it looks like on my desktop:

I’m actually finding Snackr really useful—it helps me keep up with blogs I want to keep up with, and also gives me a great smattering of items from sources I wouldn’t normally read regularly. Please try it out and let me know if you like it! (Of course, it’s still an alpha, so please expect bugs; there’s a list of known issues on the Snackr website.)

Snackr has also been really fun to write, and along the way I figured out some tips and tricks for doing various things with Flex and AIR. Some notes on that after the jump.

(more…)

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