Cozahost Newsletter Archive

Cozahost newsletter - 26 April 2005
Here is your Cozahost newsletter:

In an ever changing world, it is getting harder and harder to stay on top of things.  In this issue we discuss RSS news readers and how they can help you stay up to date and save you time.

..:: In This Issue ::..

RSS News feeds
Your smile for the day
About Cozahost
Subscribe to this newsletter
..::  Hello :-)
The world sure is changing fast, isn`t it? 

I remember reading about a US patent officer who, in the late 19th century,  said that everything that could be invented, was already invented. 

This was before fighter jets, digital computers, television, radio, internal combustion engines, microchips, mp3 players, mini-skirts, nuclear weapons...and the internet.

The first airplane flew in the mid 1920`s.  By the mid 1960`s mankind set foot on the moon.  In 40 years, mankind went from barely controlled fall to space travel.

In the mid 1990`s the internet was opened for public use.   Do you remember when people did not know what you were talking about if you said "Internet", "Web" or "Email", and the shop assistant gave you a vacant look when you asked about their web site?  Today there are hundreds of millions of web sites and billions of internet users.  You can walk down the street and pull a weather report from the internet on your cell phone.  The internet became the biggest repository of information and knowledge in the history of the world.

In the mid 1980`s IBM sold the first PC. The PC ran at about 4.7 Mhz and had 64K of memory.  It cost about R10 000. (That is about R 38 000 in today`s money).  The average home computer today runs at 2500 Mhz, has 512 000 Kb of memory and costs about R 5 000.  About 100 000 times more powerful and 90% cheaper in 20 years.

It is estimated that the average PC today has about the same processing power as that of an insect brain.  If current trends continue, by 2020 the average home computer will have the same processing power as a human brain.

Even with this very limited computing power, a computer system "life guard" alerted it`s human coworkers that a child was drowning in a public swimming pool in France - thereby saving his life.  Think about that:  software watching people play in a public swimming pool and spotting a drowning child before a human could.  Similar technology is used at some USA airports to watch crowds for suspicious looking individuals by sensing when they look nervous or their behavior is out of the ordinary.  (Note to self: Don`t fly to the States with a hang-over)

One can get a serious case of paranoia unless you remember that, no matter how powerful a computer, it still has to be "taught" (programmed) by humans - right? 

Well, yes and no. 

New research into artificial intelligence teaches a computer the basics about the English language (how to deduce facts and collect information) and then sends it off to Google to search 4 billion web pages of teach itself.  Instead of 5 years of programming to "teach" a computer about, say, the world economy, it can now theoretically teach itself in 5 weeks.

It is said that the value of a network is equal to the square of it`s nodes.  In braai-speak that means that the more machines and people on a network, the more valuable it becomes: insect brains or not.  At Cozahost we just had our 9th consecutive month of record growth - a small testimony that the value of the Internet is increasing at an unprecedented rate....

Do you think it`s worth your while to learn more about it? :-)

..:: RSS - Your own, custom newspaper

On the subject of learning more:  Most of us regularly use the internet to check for the latest news, articles and info about our professions or hobbies.  We do this to find out about events that might shape our day, our lives or our business, or, in the case of Stormers rugby, drive us to drink.

Literally millions of web sites produce news and articles that matter to us, but it is simply not practical to check them all on a regular basis because to do that we have to wade through bloated web pages that take ages to download.  In the process we are assaulted by web advertising, pop-up windows and all kinds of junk.   The noise is so loud, it`s difficult to hear the music. 

Wouldn`t it be great if one could tell a program to check out all your favorite sites and summarize the new items only?  After all, computers are supposed to save you time - not make you work harder.

We want our cake and eat it - a nice juicy information cake with just the icing:  the news and articles relevant to us. 

Close your eyes and wish for a personal butler that will build a custom newspaper for you every day - with just the information you are interested in - so that you can stay on top of the subjects that matter to you.....


Your wish is granted!  (Pardon the fairy dust)

Let me introduce you to a relatively new information service on the Internet: It is called "RSS".  (Really Simple Syndication). 

It brings the power to build your own, customized news feeds with relevant, fresh information - completely automatically.

What is RSS?

In a nutshell, RSS is a special format used to summarize information.  Web sites publish RSS files in the same way they publish HTML pages.

The RSS files are read by special software to condense and summarize new information.

News feeds can be used to build your own list of news sources (like a personal daily paper) on your desktop or to display news/articles/information published on another web site on your own.  (For instance, to display the latest internet news on your own web page)

How to use RSS to bring your news to you

Just like you need software to view web sites (ie a web browser like Internet Explorer) you also need special software to view RSS news feeds.

To use RSS and have your news come to you, you have to download and install RSS reader software.  Fortunately there are quite a few excellent and free RSS readers available:  Sharpreader, FeedReader, NewsDesk.  (They all do more or less the same thing - try them all and pick the one that suits you best)

All of these programs quick to download and easy to install.

Once installed, you tell your RSS reader about your favorite news sites or you pick some of the thousands of feeds available from sites like CNN, New York Times, MSN, SportNetwork, discussion forums and blogs...and Cozahost of course. 

To get you started quickly, the news reader programs come with pre-defined news sources.

The software connects to your news feeds at regular intervals (defined by you) and "pulls" a summary which is then displayed in a nice tree view - with summaries.  When an article looks interesting, you simply click on the link to read it.

The big sites (eg CNN, MSN, etc) are an essential part of your information diet, but I also find blogs fascinating.  "Blog" is short for "Web Log" - an online journal where people write about their lives, experiences, culture, travels or anything they want to share with humanity.  You get to "meet" and read about people and things you would never have experienced were it not for the Internet.  Many crazies to be sure, but also a lot of gems - ordinary people like you and me traveling the world or writing about themselves.

A cool RSS feed provided by Yahoo lists the most emailed news stories.  This is a good place to get the most important, interesting and wackiest news of the day.  Monday`s feed for instance, covered exploding frogs in Germany,  a train derailment in Japan, hybrid car sales soaring in the USA, traffic congestion management by using computer linked cars and a woman breastfeeding two tiger cubs in Fuji.

Another cool feature of the Yahoo news site is the ability to create a personalized RSS feed by specifying search terms.  This is very useful to keep an eye on your competitors or anything that mentions your company name / product on the Internet.

Armed with your RSS news reader, you can build your own internet newspaper where all the articles come from your own hand picked list of sites...automatically and within minutes.  Free as rain, easy as pie.

To really appreciate the power of this technology, you have to experience it for yourself!

Very brief technical background, a.k.a stuff you don`t really need to know

News reader software use RSS files to collect and organize information.  RSS files are published by web sites to make a news feed available.

A RSS file is a text file (like an HTML file) - written in a standard way so that computers can understand it easily.  It belongs to the broad family of XML files - in other words, files that are text, but they follow a specific standard for presenting information. 

For instance, if I want to store a company name in an XML file, I would write it like this:


In essence, I identify the piece of information that is to follow "" then I specify the actual data "Cozahost" and then tell the reader that the end of the data is reached, by going: "".

Just like rock, rap, gospel and pop are all types of music, RSS is a type of XML.  (I`m kidding about rap.  It`s not really music.)

The advantage of XML is that it is very easy to write software to read the data in the file.  So, because everyone uses a standard way of storing data, it becomes a lot easier for computer programs (and web sites) to exchange information.  This translates into a richer way to retrieve and store information for all of us.

(To see what the "raw" Cozahost news feed looks like, click on this link.)

RSS for webmasters

Webmasters (people responsible for publishing web sites) can use the RSS technology in two ways:  Firstly to publish their own content in RSS format - which allows news reader software to pull in the feed, and secondly to publish fresh content on their own sites.

In the first instance (publishing your own RSS feed), your content is made available to news reader software, so potential clients will be notified immediately when you publish new content.  Many search engines index news feeds, so a quality feed will bring lots more visitors to your site.

To build a feed is very easy.  Simply create a text file and call it newsfeed.xml.  Then paste the following text into the file:

My news feed

Description for my newsfeed

First story

Description for my first story

Second story

Description for my second story

Upload the file to your web server and you have a news feed.  (You will want to change the titles, descriptions and links of course)

News software will now be able to extract news from your site, and other web sites will be able to publish your content directly on their sites.

In the second instance, you can publish feeds from other sites on your own, so that your site has live and dynamic content - automatically.  (NukeX has a built-in news feed module)  The two best known services are MoreOver and NewsTrove.  Visit them and sign up for a free account to test it out.

(We will be making a RSS guide for webmasters available this space)

..:: About us

At Cozahost we help small companies and professionals tame the internet so that they can concentrate on making money.  We take care of the technical stuff so that they can take care of business.  Here are some of our products and services:

About us - Background information on Cozahost: who we are and what we aim to do. Contact us - We would love to hear from you on any issue related to your internet business or this newsletter.
Your own internet domain name - Find out what it is, how it works, what it costs and how to get one. Faster modem, ISDN or ADSL - You are paying too much for internet access, whether you use a modem, ISDN or ADSL.
Your web site - Come see what we can do for you. Fax to email service - Receive your faxes privately, hassle free and anywhere in the world for a few cents a day.

..:: Your smile for the day - The gift

A tour bus driver drives with a bus full of seniors down a highway, when he is tapped on his shoulder by a little old lady. She offers him a handful of peanuts, which he gratefully munches up.

After approx. 15 minutes, she taps him on his shoulder again and she hands him another handful of peanuts. She repeats this gesture about eight times.

At the ninth time he asks the little old lady why they do not eat the peanuts themselves, whereupon she replies that it is not possible because of their old teeth - they are not able to chew them.

"Why do you buy them then?" he asks puzzled. Whereupon the old lady answers:

"We just love sucking off the chocolate around them............."

..:: Subscribe

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..::Goodbye! :-)

Thanks for reading this newsletter and we hope you enjoyed it!  Please contact us if you have comments, suggestions or questions - we would love to hear from you!

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