HowTo: RSS Owl 2.0 rendering problem

After the recent move to Ubuntu

…for my primary computer’s operating system, I’ve mostly been happy, but as always there are a few gripes.

I finally managed to eliminate yet another one: RSS reading. I’ve always been an avid RSS consumer, and while I retain GreatNews as my RSS reader on my now secondary Windows computer, I was unable to find one to suit my advanced needs for Ubuntu.

The one RSS reader that I knew would probably work out for my tastes, simply refused to do it’s job. I’m talking about the RSS Owl 2.0 reader of course, (known as boreal, to some). The main problem I was facing with this one was that it would simply would not show the posts in the main view!

RSS Owl looked like it was working fine – i.e. it was displaying the standard Eclipse RCP UI, progress bars, everything but it simply would… not… render.. posts. Nothing would happen when I would click an RSS feed. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what the problem was, but there was absolutely no symptoms as to why this was happening, so I gave up on it, (incorrectly) assuming it to be a bug with the (afterall preview milestone 8a) release and decided to wait for the next version.

Then, on a repeat round of surfing some blogs, and missing subscribing to them by an RSS reader, I re-visited the boreal, in hopes of a new release. Didn’t find a new release, but I did find an interesting post in the boreal FAQ, and I quote:

What are the steps to use Mozilla as Browser in RSSOwl?

Note that you can only use the rendering engine of Mozilla inside RSSOwl. Any other feature of Mozilla or Firefox can not be used from within RSSOwl. Download XULRunner for your operating system:

Then follow these short instructions on how to complete the installation after the download. Make sure to restart RSSOwl. It will use XULRunner from now on automatically until you uninstall it again.

On a hunch, I did some checking, and found that while I did have a xulrunner installed, it was version 1.9.x and it looked like RSS Owl was expecting 1.8.x! Fired up synaptic manager and yup, found a xulrunner 1.8 that was not installed – installed that and…. voila! RSS Owl was showing up the feeds just fine!

My Point?

The fact that I solved my RSS reading problem is not really what I wanted to talk about here. I just wanted to put down, and this is especially true for open source projects depending upon support from the community:

NEVER assume that your users are all knowing. I did not realize that I’d be needing a separate component just for reading, and that too just on linux. And mind you, this is not a secondary function in a software that is meant to perform other duties, it’s called an RSS READER for crying out loud! If there is a dependency, it should be ideally packaged, or at least stated!

NEVER assume that when people have problems with your software, they will immediately stand up or raise their hands and tell you about it. At least 95% of people who face problems in “getting it to work” or even have questions will simply move on, and only if they really, really liked what they saw (or have a compelling enough reason – like no better alternative) will they ever even come back.