Sunday, June 30, 2013

Good Bye, Farewell and New Beginnings

In March Google announced that by 1st of July Google Reader will cease to exist. I am sad to say this, but after half a decade so will NewsRob - as we know it today.

My day job and my health don't really allow me to spend enough time on NewsRob to keep it going forward. Because I didn't want to let the NewsRob community down for some time now I fooled myself into believing that there is a practical way to keep things going forward, but this is just not the case and you and I have to acknowledge that. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience it causes you. 
And thank you for staying with me and NewsRob for so long. I know a few users by name who used NewsRob since the beginning of 2009 until now and we meanwhile know each other on many different levels. 

So alongside Google Reader the name NewsRob will disappear, as will the apps on Google Play. A little later this blog and the mailing lists will go away too, but I will keep them open for now as point to coordinate follow up activities.

However after unpublishing the app and letting go of the NewsRob name, something new and more exciting may be around the corner. 

I published the source code under the MIT open source license. At some point a new RSS reader may emerge as a whole. Or some features will surface again in other RSS readers. A likely candidate for this would be the offline capabilities, which are pretty well encapsulated.

In the same way that Google pulling out of the RSS reader market may likely turn out to be a blessing in disguise, so will me letting go of the code that was NewsRob hopefully result in other people taking over. People who will give it the attention that it deserves and that I can't devote at this point in time. 
I am really looking forward to this, as I haven't found a good replacement for my own news needs yet ;)

Travis already works on an integration of NewsBlur and published a functional beta. He agreed that his contribution is also part of the code repository I linked too.

If you want to have a look around what else is happening in the RSS arena, you may find this article useful as a starting point.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Social Features Dropped From Google Reader

As you have probably learned by now Google dropped the social features in Google Reader.

More information here and here.

Unfortunately that means as a consequence in NewsRob "Share (in Reader)", "Share With Note" and "Like" need to be removed also.

I intend to release a new version of NewsRob without the aforementioned features.
Apart from the lack of social features it will be the same version of NewsRob, so that there shouldn't be any bugs in there.
However due to the lack of lead time I don't want to release the new version today, but wait until Monday and see if the beta testers on the mailing list find something that I broke.

If you don't want to wait or help test the new version, you can access it here.

If the backend of Google Reader drops the functionality sooner than Monday you may need to use that version anyway. Otherwise NewsRob will not be able to delete read articles that you recently liked or shared and have not been synced with the server.
This would be a temporary glitch though and repaired when you install the new version.

Btw. Work on a tablet version of NewsRob is still underway.

Update: Release 4.8.3 is live in the Android Market.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NewsRob 4.8

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NewsRob 4.8

Faster Downloads

If you never had issues with slow sites / downloads, then you can skip this section.

A few people were complaining that the download phase of the sync took to long and it ran down their batteries.

It seems to me that this happened, because they used the "A + I + Full Web Page" option on sites that are extremely slow. NewsRob stops each article download after 180 seconds, but if you have 500 articles from a major news outlet that still sums up to a day.

Some sites, I suspect for example, also seem to "protect" themselves from automatic downloads and do so with an indefinite waiting time.

So from this release on:
- Three articles are downloaded in parallel (except for hosts that are download with the Instapaper mobilizer, there we just have a single download at a time)
- For each article up to 15 images are downloaded in parallel
- Hosts that time out are not tried for new downloads again in the same sync. (However they will be tried again in the next sync.)

More can be done, but that's it for the moment.

If you never had issues with download times then these changes will not be noticeable for you.
For example for feeds where you selected "Articles + Images" in my tests it was an improvement of 20%, which is likely not noticeable, but if you use "Articles + Images + Full Web Page" or use slow/high latency/blocking sites you should see a huge difference.

Even though the actual work the device is doing during the downloads is higher now than before, the phone's UI responsiveness should not suffer from that. Let me know how that works for you on your device.


You can now like/unlike articles in NewsRob and this status is synced with the Google Reader service.

CPU Usage

For some people NewsRob were using CPU even when in the background. This should not happen anymore, except – of course – when a sync is running in the background.

Readability as a Mobilizer

In the experimental settings you can now select Readability as a mobilizer. The integration is experimental for the time being and will be improved upon over the next releases.

New capacity setting 2,000

You can now set the capacity to 2,000.

But before you do that, are you aware that if you mark articles as read, NewsRob will fetch older unread articles to match the configured capacity? So if you are not going offline for long, e.g. on an airplane, a smaller number is likely more efficient.

Also are you aware that you can mark old articles as read in bulk on the Google Reader webapp? You can do so globally or per label/folder or feed This might be the solution to the articles that you may never read anyway. And a smaller number of unread articles makes everything, in particular the sync, go faster.

Just fyi ... over the next releases I will implement Honeycomb support.

Monday, January 31, 2011

NewsRob January Release / 4.7

NewsRob January Release / 4.7 

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NewsRob January Release / 4.7

NewsRob Turns Two -– Special Promotion

NewsRob was initially published roughly two years ago and now enters its third year of life ;) It has been a great time and I'd like to use this occasion to offer NewsRob for €1.99 (€2.37 incl. Tax in the EU) until the end of February.

If you just very recently purchased NewsRob for the full price and feel cheated now, please contact me:

Subscribe to Feed in Google Reader

You now subscribe to feeds in Google Reader from within NewsRob.
Either you select it from any article lists' option menu or you send a link to NewsRob from another app or NewsRob itself.

The subscription dialog shows you a list of possible feeds for your keywords and works interactively. The actual fetching of new articles happens in the background during the next sync.

This is the implementation for the #3 feature suggestion at uservoice.

Google Ads - Full Screen Available in Free Version

Unfortunately AdMob dropped the support for narrow ads in their current SDK. As this was the only reason to still use AdMob, those ads are now replaced by Google Ads. NewsRob was showing Google Ads already on the bottom of the lists, but will now also do that on the article detail view.

Those are a bit taller than the narrow AdMob ads. To sweeten the deal the full screen mode of NewsRob is now available in the free version too and in full screen mode you should now have more space than you had before.

You can toggle the full screen mode with a double tap on the content area.

End of Support for Android 1.5 - 2.0.1 Devices

Meanwhile there aren't that many Android devices accessing NewsRob anymore that run an Android Version below Android 2.1. See the graphic on the right for a distribution of Android versions for NewsRob Pro.
As a consequence I am now dropping the official support for versions below Android 2.1.

This is the last version of NewsRob that is available for older Android versions and will be frozen. Hopefully that strikes a good balance between moving forward and not leaving the users of old versions totally behind.

At the beginning of March you will see the following message if you use an old Android version:

NewsRob kept compatibility with old Android versions for quite some time and to some extent will continue to do so. 
However this comes at a cost and as meanwhile there are only a few users left who use NewsRob on Android 1.5 - 2.0.1 devices, this cost became harder and harder to justify over the last releases.
To pick up speed with development the support for the older Android versions will be dropped from the main version of NewsRob. 
However to make sure that you are still able to install NewsRob and get an update when I discover a very critical bug, a new version of NewsRob is on the Android Market for devices running older versions of the AndroidOS. 
Please install the new version using the button below. You then need to uninstall the current version of NewsRob. 
If you have the Pro version of NewsRob this will also be recognized by the new version. 
Also your per-feed settings will be picked up by the new version, but you need to login again and configure the basic parameters. 
Thanks! – Waiting for you on the other side. 

New Authentication

It seems that the new authentication – introduced in the previous release – works well for the vast majority of NewsRob users.

However as there were a few disgruntled one-star-comments on the Android Market I'd like to say again that this only works for proper Google accounts. These are all accounts that end with or as well as the Google Apps For Your Domain accounts that Google already migrated.
If you don't have one of those, please continue to use the classic method.

Well, if you didn't read the previous release notes explaining that, you probably aren't reading these either and I am preaching to the choir ;) Anyway, there is also now a hint text on the account list / login dialog.


A lot of small performance/responsiveness improvements went into this release. Please come to the mailing list if you still see a black screen or an Application Not Responding dialog.

Another small enhancement should be valuable for web comics. When "Image Fit-To-Width" is enabled the resizing will be done again when changing the orientation of your device, at least until you first scroll into the article.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NewsRob December Release / 4.6

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NewsRob December Release / 4.6

New Authentication

NewsRob now supports the built-in authentication mechanism for Android 2.1+ devices that have the Android Market.

For now the old approach, the classic method, still works too. However when your Google Reader session expires, after 14 days, you will be asked to use the new method. Please do that unless you encounter any problems or you use an old Google Apps For Your Domain account.

Google Apps For Your Domain accounts that have not yet been migrated to become proper Google accounts don't work with the new mechanism. You will not see any articles.
When Google finishes the migration of all the old accounts the classic authentication mechanism will be turned off for Android 2.1+ devices.

If you have any problems, let me know on the mailing list. At least in this release you can always logout and use the classic method.

Exact Syncing

You can skip this part if you are not frequently switching between NewsRob and the Google Reader web app / other 3rd party apps.

If you're not into details / techno mumbo jumbo you may also skip this section and hope that NewsRob does the right thing by default, which it probably does.

Unfortunately Google dropped an API that NewsRob was relying on to sync efficiently. The effect is that state changes for articles that are already on your phone will not be synced. More specifically the removal of those states will not be synced. In particular this is about the read, starred, liked and shared state.

Here is the essence: If you unstar an article after it is already available on your phone, the article on your phone will still keep the star.

This may be a big issue for you, if your workflow relies on that, but for most users it probably isn't.

There is a way for NewsRob to cope with that situation. Unfortunately it is less efficient in terms of computing time and bandwidth than it was before when the proper API was still in place. In the big scheme of things it is not a drama though. Downloading articles etc. still takes more time and bandwidth than the work around.

I called the work around "Exact Syncing".
It explicitly syncs each article's state with the server side.

By default it only runs when you are on WiFi or the last exact sync is more than 24 hours ago. However if your workflow relies on the exact states of the articles at all times then you should turn on "Always Use Exact Syncing", which does exactly that.


Besides a lot of small improvements and bug fixes NewsRob now also supports the ADWNotifier of ADWLauncher.

Due to popular demand the action bar is now also available for devices with small screens.
Because of bugs in Android 2.0, it is not available for devices with Android 2.0/2.0.1 anymore though. If you want to use the action bar please upgrade to Android 2.1 ... and sorry for the crash the previous version caused for Android 2.0 devices ;(

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NewsRob November Release / 4.5

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NewsRob November Release / 4.5

New Action Bar

NewsRob now sports an action bar that is more in line with what meanwhile seems to be the standard way on Android. It mimics the visual appearance and functionality of the Twitter app's action bar

From left to right:

Tapping on the NewsRob logo always brings you back to the Dashboard (the home screen).

Tapping on the title will give you some contextual information: On the article list it is the chosen feed, on the feed list it is the chosen label and on the dashboard a tap will reveal the last time a sync has run.

Tapping on the refresh icon will trigger a sync as before, but with a twist. The sync icon will turn into a circular progress indicator. Tapping it will reveal a detailed progress indicator. Tapping it again will hide it.

You can also interrupt a running sync by tapping on the "Stop" button.

This functionality replaces the sync-in-progress notification from before and so hopefully this will be the end of some devices randomly rebooting during sync.

Tapping on the check mark will mark all articles of the current view as read. Depending on your settings a confirmation dialog will be shown first.

Tapping on the circular button will toggle between show / hide read articles.

Not depicted above, but available on the article list, is an arrow up / down icon. Tapping it will toggle the sort order "newest first" and "oldest first".

In line with the Android standards the action bar is on the top. In the settings however, you can set the location of the action bar to the bottom or disable it completely.
For Android 1.5 devices and for devices with small screens (Xperia X10 mini, HTC Tattoo & Wildfire) the action bar is always disabled.

With this release usage data collection is re-introduced. There is a dialog in NewsRob that will explain this to you in more detail and asks you for to explicitly allow this usage data collection. Without this permission no data will be collected.

Thanks to Roman Nurik for giving me some great recommendations regarding NewsRob's UI. Some of the results you will see in this release, e.g. more spacious article list, and some in the releases to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NewsRob October Release / 4.4

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NewsRob October Release / 4.4

Rich Article List

The new version now sports a richer article list. 
If possible it contains a snippet of the article and a thumbnail of a significant image from the article. 

Snippets will be prepared during the import of new articles. So if you want to see this new feature in full action right away you should do a Clear Cache / Sync.

Obeying Global Auto-Sync Setting

When NewsRob is configured to automatically sync in the background it already obeys the global, system wide, background data setting. With this version NewsRob will also obey the global auto-sync setting.
You can now conveniently turn off all automatic syncing (Gmail, Facebook, NewsRob ...) in one place.

It might be confusing that now syncing can be turned off in more than one place. To prevent this confusion NewsRob will now warn you when auto-sync has been disabled globally, but is enabled in NewsRob.

For the programmers amongst you: When turning the global auto-sync setting back on I would like NewsRob to check if the last sync is longer ago then the configured interval. If that is the case it should run a sync right away.

However I don't know how to get notified when the auto-sync status changes and so I can't implement it at the moment. If you do know, please leave a comment or come to the list:

As always, many more small improvements and fixes are in this release. Here are two of those, that may affect you directly or where many people wrote me about:

Accidental Swipes

To prevent accidental swipes, e.g. left-to-right to mark an article read on the article list, swipes must be now more explicit. This means that the direction of the swipe must be more pronounced. To mark an article read you still must swipe from left-to-right (at least 45° to less than 135°), but also the horizontal movement of your finger must be significantly longer than the vertical movement.

Twitter URLs

Twitter changed their URL scheme and it broke some of the links in feeds when shown in NewsRob. This should work correctly again now.