NetNewsWire and Syncing

I hope Brent Simmons got a lot of money for selling NetNewsWire to NewsGator, because he’s thrown the software’s reputation to the wind.

I mostly read news on 2 machines, a Powerbook and a dual G5 at work. Sometimes I also use the iMac we have upstairs in the study. Sometimes I’m on a machine I don’t own with a web browser. What I want is the ability to read a feed item on one machine and have the other machines know that I’ve read it and not show it to me again as new.

If I subscribe to a feed on one machine, I want the others to know that and show me that feed when I read feeds on another machine.

In short, what I need is reliable synchronization across machines.

I don’t think these are particularly unique needs. But NetNewsWire can’t handle this scenario.

In the days when I ran emacs over a terminal connection to and read Usenet in gnus, this was easy. Whenever I quit, my .newsrc got updated with my read/unread counts, and that was that. It worked.

NetNewsWire once worked pretty well in terms of synchronization. I could synchronize my Bloglines subscriptions with it, and life was good.

Then NNW got sold to NewsGator, and I was magnaminously offered a free 2 year subscription to NewsGator online. Not only that, but they ALSO had an online newsreader, so I could still read either on my Powerbook, my work machine, or a web browser, if I happened to be away from my own machines.

So I switched over to NewsGator syncing.

It has been an utter disaster ever since. NewsGator’s web based reader is an horribly broken shitty piece of crap. I have just spent the last hour making multiple attempts at deleting a folder in my feeds list. I right-click the folder. I select “Delete folder.” The folder disappears. I wait a few minutes to see if the change “took.” I refresh the browser. The folder reappears.

I delete it again. I wait. I quit the browser. I restart the browser and go to the NewsGator reader. The folder is there again. I repeat the process. I quit that browser and open a different one. The folder is still there.

I decide to attack it from the NNW end. I open NNW and tell it to overwrite NewsGator. It merges the list with the online list. There’s the folder still.

During my many replacement attempts, NNW/NewsGator appears to do things in an entirely arbitrary manner, randomly deleting feeds and setting read/unread counts on my feeds.

I do not appear to be alone. A search for “sync” on NewsGator’s NNW support forum yields 178 topics. And from what I can see there, the support staff has no idea what’s going on either. The typical entry has a user complaning about the same sorts of things I am – basically, that the syncing is just plain broken. In one hapless schmuck’s case, after trying every last “fix” in the book, we get this total left-field Hail Mary play from the support guy:

This is just getting weird! Is there any chance that someone else could have your username/password and be using the account at another lcoation? We’ve seen this happen when people sell computers etc and leave the software on it.

Even if you don’t think that is the case, can you try changing your password in NewsGator Online, and also NNW and see if that helps at all.

Of course, in the next reply, the poor user says that that didn’t work either, and then all is silence. This is the worst kind of “support” – the kind where it’s everything and anything’s fault except the software’s. Among the excuses trotted out in the support forum is to check with your IT administrator to see if SOAP headers aren’t getting through your firewall, that people are closing the application before it has a chance to complete the sync, and that perennial favorite – you’re not using a current enough beta.

Google Reader may not be a river of news, take full advantage of Mac OS X services, or be up to Gruber-caliber HIG snuff, but it has one distinct and overriding advantage:

It works as advertised.

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