I love Robyn, Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Janeway, Python, Android, @peyta, and brownies. And men. With bikes. In shorts. San Francago, Illifornia
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Let’s all upgrade to version 4.5.0 of the NewsBlur Android app

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Here we are today with version 4.5.0 of the NewsBlur Android App. This is a great release because we took our time to update and improve a number of things about the app.

The app now has the common header shared between all of NewsBlur’s first-class clients (web, iOS, and Android).

Here’s the full changelog for version 4.5.0 (October 2015):

  • Reduced CPU and battery usage
  • New activities/interactions list
  • Updated feed list UI
  • Explainers for empty lists
  • Support for more types of alt/title text on images
  • Better error messaging
  • Tons of bug fixes, especially around offline usage

It’s a free download and continues to get faster and more reliable. If you want to vote on which features you’d like to see next, comment here on NewsBlur’s GitHub repo.

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jbouvier
2257 days ago
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SO happy to see this update!
Chicago, IL
Dadster
2252 days ago
WE LIKES IT
popular
2257 days ago
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2 public comments
Cthulhux
2257 days ago
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I never liked the look of that, I've got used to the News+ design long before I joined NewsBlur ...

(Also, I bought the News+ Premium license so it would be a waste.)
Fledermausland
Technicalleigh
2257 days ago
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Finally, I can see the notifications on my phone without waiting for and then squinting at the page in Firefox for Android! Among the other features, thanks especially for that one. :)
Vancouver BC
Ferdinand
2257 days ago
When will the Amazon Appstore version be updated? Could you provide a download of the apk? I have a Blackberry Classic and the Google playstore simply does not exist for me.
stavrosg
2257 days ago
You can get it from F-Droid [ https://f-droid.org/repository/browse/?fdfilter=newsblur&fdid=com.newsblur ] but it's still in the last beta there. It will get updated eventually though.
tuck
2254 days ago
Ferdinand, you can side-load the Snap app which allows you to access the Google Play store on BB OS 10.2.x and up.

Bible: tl;dr edition

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Cabbagetroll's masterful summary of the Bible (both testaments) on Reddi's /r/Christianity really captures the books' spirit. Read the rest

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jbouvier
2571 days ago
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_guys_
Chicago, IL
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A Downtime Irony

31 Comments and 44 Shares

So many things can go wrong and often do, but I spend a good third of my time working on infrastructure, monitoring, and analytics so that they don’t.

Here’s what happened: At approximately 4:30pm PT feed fetching ceased. The feed fetchers were still working, which is why my monitors didn’t fire and alert anybody. But I have a second large Mongo database server used exclusively for collecting data about feeds being fetched. There are approximately 75 servers dedicated to feed fetching. These analytics look at average fetch times on a per task server basis. I use these analytics to ensure that my task servers are humming along, as they each use a ton of network, cpu, and memory.

This Mongo analytics servers works in a curious way. If you right-click on a feed and go to Statistics you’ll see the feed fetch history for a feed, stretching back a hundred fetches if the feed has had any issues in fetching. I keep these statistics on an analytics server separate from the regular Mongo server. I do this so that if the mongo analytics server goes down, everything will operate normally.

But the mongo server didn’t go down. It merely gave this error:

OperationError: Could not save document (Can't take a write lock while out of disk space)

Mongo continues serving read queries while not allowing write queries. I didn’t plan for that! And it gets worse. The way MongoDB stores data is that is just keeps growing, even as you delete data. NewsBlur only saves the last few fetches, but deleting old fetches doesn’t give you back any disk space. Every other database server I use has an autovacuum process that takes care of this maintenance work (PostgreSQL, Redis, Elasticsearch, but not MongoDB). It’s unfortunate that this is yet another instance of MongoDB being the cause of downtime, even though the fault lies with me.

The server that is meant to only be used to ensure things are working correctly was itself the culprit for feeds no longer being fetched. This is the ironic part.

NewsBlur’s developer during happier times wearing the 2013 NewsBlur t-shirt in Big Sur

Now comes the painful part. On Wednesday morning (yesterday) I packed my car and headed down to Big Sur to go backpack camping for the first time. I’ve car camped plenty of times, but I felt confident enough to pack my sleeping bag and tent into a big bag and head ten miles into the woods of coastal California.

I headed out, away from cellular service, at 4pm PT, half an hour before the analytics server ran out of disk space. And then returned nearly 24 hours later to a bevy of alarmed tweets, emails, direct messages, and a voicemail letting me know that things were haywire.

But the real problem is that I set a vacation reply on both my personal and work email accounts to say that I’d be out until September 3rd. Now, I hired a firm to watch the servers while I’m at Burning Man starting this Saturday. But I figured I could get away with leaving the servers for twenty four hours. And I neglected to tweet out that I’d be gone for a day, so theories cropped up that I was injured, dead, or worse, ignoring the service.

Brittany, NewsBlur’s developer’s girlfriend, can handle any situation, including driving a hysterical developer three hours back to San Francisco without breaking a sweat.

If you’re wondering, I think about NewsBlur first thing in the morning and last thing at night when I check Twitter for mentions. It’s my life and I would never just give up on it. I just got cocky after a year and a half of nearly uninterrupted service. NewsBlur requires next to no maintenance, apart from handling support requests and building new features (and occasionally fixing old ones). So I figured what harm could 24 hours of away time be? Boy was I wrong.

If you made it this far then you probably care about NewsBlur’s future. I want to not only assure you that I will be building better monitoring to ensure this never happens again, but to also offer anybody who feels that they are not getting their money’s worth a refund. Even if you are months away from payment, if you aren’t completely satisfied and think NewsBlur’s just about the best thing to happen to RSS since Brent Simmons released NetNewsWire back in 2004, then I want to give you your money back and let you keep your premium account until it expires.

I would like to also mention how much I appreciate the more light-hearted tweets that I read while on the frenetic three hour drive back to San Francisco from Big Sur. I do this for all of your happiness. If I did it for the money I’d probably find a way to juice the data so that I could at least afford to hire an employee. This is a labor of love and your payment goes directly into supporting it.

Big Sur is where a good many new ideas are thought.
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jbouvier
2663 days ago
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Any developer knows downtime happens. The only thing you can do is your best to prepare, and when the shit hits the fan, be honest about the cause. This is how all developers & companies should treat these inevitable occurrences.
Chicago, IL
popular
2663 days ago
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28 public comments
rafeco
2661 days ago
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Don't feel bad, databases gonna database.
laza
2662 days ago
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Don't feel horrible, this just showed us how valuble Newsblur is for our workflow or procrastination :) , and i'm so jealous that you are going to Burning Man, you should write a blog post about your experience there.
Belgrade, Serbia
samuel
2650 days ago
Writing that post right now. My work made the national news a few times. Look for the heartbeat lotuses.
emdot
2663 days ago
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I absolutely love NewsBlur. Thanks to Samuel for the update -- things like this make me even more happy to use the service. Thanks for your hard work.
San Luis Obispo, CA
satadru
2663 days ago
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I'm considering it a hallmark of the intensity of the academic program I'm in that I didn't much notice the Newsblur downtime.
New York, NY
chengjih
2663 days ago
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Hah, I am so far behind on my feeds I didn't even notice the issue. 6000+ unread articles before the outage, 6000+ after.
llucax
2663 days ago
Same here, I don't have as many unread stuff, but this is just a RSS feed reader, come on! Let this guy have a day off!
loic
2663 days ago
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Murphy + mauvais timing + gestion de crise = super post
France
smadin
2663 days ago
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Well, here's what happened with Newsblur.
Boston
acdha
2663 days ago
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This is such a perfect sysadmin story. Kudos to Samuel for sharing the details.
Washington, DC
smilerz
2663 days ago
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Murphy strikes again.
Chicago or thereabouts
sirshannon
2663 days ago
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Exactly.
Cafeine
2663 days ago
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That combo of bad timing and technical glitch is just crazy. -_-;
Paris / France
Brstrk
2663 days ago
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Meh. No worries here. Murphy happens to everybody, man.
bronzehedwick
2663 days ago
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No intention of asking for a refund. :)
Jersey City, NJ
sredfern
2663 days ago
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Here here.
Sydney Australia
lkraav
2663 days ago
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What needs to happen in order for Sam to be able to hire an employee? How much would the yearly rate go up?
Tallinn, Estonia
2663 days ago
Thats a question I also want to raise. There definitely need some kind of business continuity for situations like that (or even worse one). I really appreciate the work Samuel is doing here and I love Newsblur, but I also see that its to heavily depends on one person.
samuel
2650 days ago
Going 24 hours without internet and not paying a server babysitter is pretty new. I often go without access for a few hours, but I almost always have Twitter and email on me and can post status messages. This was a one-time thing.
lkraav
2650 days ago
Well I think there comes a time in every genius' life where a delegation sidekick just leaves more energy for saving the world from bad feed readers.
jlvanderzwan
2663 days ago
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Gotta work on your bus factor, Sam! :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor
wmorrell
2663 days ago
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It is honest self-assessments like these, and the overall openness of NewsBlur, that makes it better than GReader for me. I remember a few downtimes there that were real downtimes, not just "it takes slightly longer to view feeds".
lasombra
2663 days ago
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Samuel, it sucks, but it's part of the job. I love NewsBlur and paid for a premium account after 1 hour of using it. I'm on the second run and all I have to say is "Great job man!"
UK
pablooo
2663 days ago
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$PWD
DrewCPU
2663 days ago
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The whole day, I thought "Poor Sam, he's gotta be going nuts!" I hope you enjoyed your much-deserved offline day.

Meanwhile, I was looking at all of my feeds manually and realized that I didn't need some of them and did some cleanup.
New Jersey
kazriko
2660 days ago
Hah. I was doing the same, but mostly moving sites that haven't updated in years to my "Dead Sites" folder. I keep them there just so I can see if something suddenly revives on me.
rewingau
2663 days ago
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The main thing I learnt from this downtime was just how much I value Newsblur. Hint - a lot!

And as for the downtime - the demon Murphy laughs at your camping trip...
Canberra, Australian Capital T
alannashaikh
2663 days ago
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This is really no big deal. Stuff happens.
rtreborb
2663 days ago
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Hard to be upset with you, Samuel. Thanks for all you do!
San Antonio, TX
tedder
2663 days ago
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it's all good. you have a great story to tell at a conference now.
Uranus
samuel
2663 days ago
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Ugg, I feel so horrible about the downtime, and so soon after feeling so wonderful.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
sredfern
2663 days ago
I'd rather you have a holiday and I deal with a couple of hours of downtime :)
brucealdridge
2663 days ago
you deserve a holiday ... and 75 feed servers?!?!
samuel
2663 days ago
That's only the feed fetchers. I also have a few dozen apps servers and a dozen different database servers. NewsBlur's a hungry beast!
larand
2663 days ago
Stuff happens. Thank you for all the work you've put into NewsBlur, and I have absolutely no intention of asking for a refund. Hell, I'd renew early if need be.
mp4328
2663 days ago
have an amazing Burning Man experience!! - don't worry about us while you're out there.
jqlive
2663 days ago
No worries man. Stuff happens. Enjoy Burning Man. Thanks for all the hard work.
rikishiama
2663 days ago
no worries here too. great honest post that makes me feel good I'm a year-plus paying user.
[deleted]
2663 days ago
Ditto to all these comments!
acdha
2663 days ago
Enjoy a break. The rest of us can use some practice dealing with not clicking refresh like a rat in a behavioural study…
kpjackson
2663 days ago
Let me add my note of appreciation for your honesty and dedication to this great product. Downtime happens and we can all learn lessons from our mistakes. It's when we don't learn that we should really feel horrible. Oh, and I plan to be a happily paying customer for years to come. Also, any plans for a 2014 NB Tee?
ScottInPDX
2663 days ago
Having been in similar situations in the past, I totally understand. You're doing good work here, and NewsBlur is the only reader I use. I'll be paying for it as long as you're willing to accept payment.
samuel
2663 days ago
I would love to get a 2014 NewsBlur t-shirt out there, but I haven't found a designer yet. Most want $1000+ for a design, and I'm telling them there's only about a hundred of these things that are going to sell. Happy to hear ideas!
[deleted]
2662 days ago
So sorry that it had to happen while you were away. Thanks for the status update - but mostly, thank you for the wonderful service you've built. It's invaluable to me (I feel like I owe you more than I pay.) Thanks!!!
DavidForest
2663 days ago
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Thank you for the explanation. I value it when services I use break explain what occurred. Things like this happen, as anyone in technology based roles would know. I for one still really like using NewsBlur and will continue to do so as a paying customer. Keep up the good work and enjoy Burning Man.
rubin110
2663 days ago
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Thanks for rocking the thin blurry line between open source and able to financially support you and your work. In all honesty a random day of down time is a blessing with the number of feeds I've got going. Thanks again for all you've done.
San Francisco, CA, USA
kazriko
2663 days ago
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No chances for requesting a refund here. The service is too good, and has been too stable. This is a really unusual bit of downtime. Thanks for being on top of it for so long. I was still able to fetch and read the important feeds by instant-fetching then looking at each feed separately, so no real issue other than being time consuming.
Colorado Plateau
denubis
2663 days ago
I completely agree. Downtime happens, and developers deserve vacations. This is a wonderful service.
g_hoges
2663 days ago
+1 from me too. I love the service, and tolerate far more downtime from things like banking platforms. Continue to rock, Samuel
lasombra
2663 days ago
Right on man. Downtimes happen and Samuel has been rocking on the downtime arena for a very long time. It wasn't the end of the world. It sucks, but happens.
murrayhenson
2663 days ago
Seconded. Also, Samuel took the time to quickly comment on what went wrong and to really accept responsibility. You can't buy that but it's worth a hell of a lot.
JamesDiGioia
2663 days ago
And the thing about it is it's not strictly "downtime" - you could access the service, and with some minor hacky workarounds, continue to use it. Definitely not asking for a refund.
JimB
2661 days ago
I quite agree with you. Everyone is entitled to a break from the grind, and *sometimes* computers do unexpected things. The amazing thing is that you sorted out so quickly once you found out.
cmarshall
2660 days ago
Every system has issues occasionally - the important thing is how you handle them. The two keys are communication and getting it fixed. You done good.

Chromecast Will Use Ultrasonic Sound For Location-Based Casting On Separate Networks

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Just yesterday Google announced that it would soon allow users to send video and other entertainment items to a nearby Chromecast even when they're not connected to the same WiFi network, with the backend relying on location data for verification. It looks like there's some even more interesting technology going on behind the scenes. GigaOm reports that the upcoming update will allow Chromecast and Android devices to authenticate each other using ultrasonic waves.

google-io-2014-770

Here's how it works. You're at a friend's house, and you've just got to show him the latest Honest Trailers video. If his Chromecast has the upcoming "nearby devices" option enabled, you won't need to get on his WiFi. Just cast from the app as normal, and the Chromecast will emit a series of noises from the television speakers that are above the human audible range. The phone will "hear" these sounds and verify the Chromecast, make the connection over the mobile network, after which the device will stream directly from the home WiFi. The Android user should still be able to pause, advance, and what have you from the phone or tablet. There's no reason this functionality couldn't also be added to other Cast-enabled devices.

Keen observers will recall that Google acquired SlickLogin back in February. This startup used phones as authentication tokens for logging in to web sites on a standard desktop web browser, with extensions that authenticated the user with the same ultrasonic sound waves verified by the phone. Google didn't mention this particular acquisition when talking about the upcoming Chromecast feature, but it's a safe bet that some of the talent and/or tech went into it.

Source: GigaOM

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jbouvier
2719 days ago
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Chicago, IL
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Looking east on Belmont from Seminary, 1908, Chicago. The L...

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Looking east on Belmont from Seminary, 1908, Chicago.

The L platform is visible just past Sheffield.

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jbouvier
2945 days ago
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Chicago, IL
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Well, He's Got a Good Handle on Science

5 Comments and 18 Shares
Well, He's Got a Good Handle on Science

Submitted by: Unknown

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jbouvier
2973 days ago
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*headdesk*
Chicago, IL
popular
2977 days ago
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4 public comments
Romanikque
2976 days ago
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Best new meme fodder in awhile.
Baltimore, MD
mkalus
2977 days ago
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Ummmm....
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
dreadhead
2977 days ago
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I am glad they have such a forward thinking person in this position.
Vancouver Island, Canada
DrGaellon
2978 days ago
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I am... just beyond words. The stupid, it BURNS.
Yonkers, NY
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