Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Low-bandwidth networking

My series of basic how-to articles on keeping the family together over the Internet (see prior posts on subscribing to blogs, writing your own blog, sharing photos with Flickr and using Skype) has a big problem: Almost no one on my wife's side of the extended clan has a broadband connection. Ailish, who is currently in the U.S., recently tried to upload a few photos to Flickr using the in-law's computer and dial-up connection to AOL. It took an hour, tying up the household's single phone line. She didn't do that again.

But all of the family uses email, which is enough to subscribe to and post to blogs.


The best blog-to-email service I've found so far for subscribing to blogs is RssFwd. The Web site is slow and is very wordy, but once you get beyond that, the service seems to work well. Click on "subscribe to a feed" on the RssFwd's Web site (it's on the left), type in the address of the blog you want to track and then the "Preview" button. Given a Web address, the service should be able to find the blog's "feed" and you'll see a preview of what the blog's posts will look like in your email. Scroll to the very end of the preview, type in your email address and then click the "Subscribe" button. New posts to the blog will show up in your inbox.

If RssFwd isn't able to find the blog's "feed," you might have to find it yourself. There will usually be a "My Feed" link on most blogs, or an orange icon that says "XML" on it. My feed, for example, is:


Just copy and paste that into RssFwd's subscription form, click Preview and then scroll to the bottom of the preview page to enter your email address and click on the Subscribe button.


You can also post to your blog using your email. For those of you with an off-line email program such as Outlook or Thunderbird, writing a blog entry can be as easy as whipping off a message. To set this up on Google's Blogger service, for example, go to your Blogger Dashboard. Click on the little blue gear thingy under "Change Settings":

Then click on "Email" (it's one of the choices along the top of the page, just below the blue part):


There you'll find a setting called "Mail-to-Blogger Address." It will consist of your blogger username, followed by a dot, and then a secret word that you supply. Your address would be something like: username.secretword@blogger.com. If you click on the "Publish" option next to it, anything you send to this address will be posted to your blog immediately. If you leave the "Publish" option unselected, whatever you send will be saved as a draft that you can edit and post later.

I used the Mail-to-Blogger Address to start this posting while riding the Tube into work, and then finished it later. The feature isn't perfect. You can't use any HTML, or at least I couldn't from the Blackberry I was typing on, so you'll have to go back and edit it to add links to other sites or images. But it's good enough for a quick post to pass on an interesting conversation or anecdote.

Next I'll take a look at Flickr's support for so-called mobblogging, or using the camera and email software in your mobile phone to post photos.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,