I recently got an email about a new service to add my blog RSS feed to Live.com (note the new icon on my blog, if you visit it). For some time, I've been wanting to look into an AJAX-based web client for reading my blogs because I've found, like newsgroups, I just don't like having to set up everything I'm subscribed to on every computer I use. At the same time, I do want a good UI.
Well, I've been putting off doing the research for it (and my blog reading has suffered for it). Today I thought I'd check out what Live.com is like as an RSS reader, so I first tested using my new link to add to Windows Live. It works and basically adds a little RSS reader gadget for my blog. So then I thought I'd check out how it'd work with all my blogs, so I got the latest OPML (based on my blog roll here) and used Live.com's import feature to import them all.
At first, I was a bit disoriented because it said it imported but it wasn't showing them anywhere (I expected them to be put on the page I was looking at when I imported them). But then I found them in the My Stuff section. So I started building out my layout.
I started with the default two-column, but I quickly realized that wouldn't work, so I switched to four column, which seems to be just right at 1280x1024. I knew I wouldn't want them all on one page, but I did want some categorization, so I came up with non-technical blogs, architecture blogs, and other technical blogs, one Live page for each. Then, if it made sense, I categorized by column. The results follow.
This is the "Other Technical Blogs" page.
This is the "Architecture Blogs" page.
Now great, you may be thinking, I can use this as well. Let me warn you, there were a couple MSDN blogs that repeatedly and totally hosed IE7 (I'm running Vista B2 x64 on this box). I figured out which blogs they were and removed them from my stuff. But even doing that, IE was still having problems, and as you can see from the image below, there's a reason for that.
Note the top entry. IE is running at 50%, but this is a dual-core Athlon CPU, which means on some machines it'd be trying to use 100%, and the memory usage is out of this world (350MB), even bigger than Visual Studio!
Beyond the performance issues, it also has no tracking of read/unread and no notification of new posts, both of which I think are indispensible for any kind of RSS reader. Now, I understand that maybe I'm abusing what they intend for the usage scenarios to be, but why else make it possible to subscribe to RSS feeds than to be an RSS reader? As it is, the gadget is only good for limited use for maybe news services or the like where you don't care about having your read/unread tracked.
I will say that it has a neat little image capture feature where it'll grab any images in the feed and thumbnail them for you, even do a fade in/out if there is more than one. It also has neat little mouseover previews, which I like. It's not totally unusuable in terms of features to be sure, but it would be nice to see a better blog reader gadget that maybe would offer some basic categorization, read tracking, and possibly some sort of notification, though I'm not sure how that'd fly given it is web based. I'm going to keep trying out Live.com like this to see if they improve it.
On the positive side, this motivated me to blog about it and, in the process, try out a new blog authoring tool, WB Editor 2, based on the recommendations of John Forsythe. It has a pretty friendly interface, is easy to set up (as these things go), and it is cheap. This post is being authored with it, so if there are any issues, well, there you go, but it was easy to add the images, and it created the thumbnails for me and uploaded them along with the main images. I also like that it has a plug-in architecture that is .NET based, even if it is 1.1. So far, I like it even better than BlogJet.