in tech

Feedafever for ~Free

I’ve been reading Chris Anderson’s “Free” and while I pay for the occasional service or app, my endeavor is to get as much as I can, for free.

Fever, an RSS reader that’s clever, quick and time-saving, is a recent purchase that I’m finding to be just amazing. What’s more amazing is that the product is worth $30 but I found someone who didn’t need it any more so he sold me his activation key for much lower…

Anyways, the look and feel of Fever is great and despite the really small app ecosystem, I’m really enjoying the app. The only problem? I’m a fan of RSS and follow just about any blog or feed that I find on the Internet. That’s kind of why I needed Fever – it has features such as sorting the feeds based on their relative “hotness” and presenting it in a very coherent format. But all those feeds being polled so many times were causing a bit of a problem – too much storage and too much bandwidth.

I recently shifted from free web hosting to paid web hosting. I chose nearlyfreespeech.net because they’re really good in terms of cost, speed and general availability. But even with a pretty cheap host, my ~150 RSS feeds proved to be massive bandwidth hogs. Of course, since this was paid hosting, I didn’t get kicked out, just a bigger bill than I expected.

So, in the spirit of Free, I set out to look for alternatives. My first stop was Google Apps Engine. I thought, that if there’s any place that I can run some code for free, it’s at Google. Unfortunately, Google’s got a mandate that the Google App Engine can run languages like Python and Go, but not PHP, on which Shaun Inman’s Fever is based. Digging around, I found that a Java implementation of PHP called Querus can run any PHP code on the App Engine. However, since the latter half of Fever is based on MySQL and GAE cannot possibly run MySQL, I’d have to change the code from the inside out. That’s not an easy task to do.

So, I left Google and ventured past. In a moment of weakness, I decided that I should look at Amazon’s EC2 to run Fever. It was a good idea, except, I’m just about to run out of Amazon’s One Free Year of Web Services to new members, so it was going to cost me to host it there. Since I have no plans to remove RSS feeds from my list but only add them (Fever is built-in a way to encourage adding feeds), I knew that the cost is only going to increase.

Finally, I summoned the great power that is known as Alternativeto.net. This is a magical site, with every possible web service compared to its alternatives based on their platform, price and ranking. If you don’t find an alternative, of course you can suggest one.

Here, I discovered that some of the free alternatives to GAE are Heroku, AppFog and dotCloud. Heroku doesn’t support PHP and dotCloud was free only in a sandbox mode, which I wasn’t sure was the right option for me.

We’re left with AppFog and it’s child, PHPFog. Of these, I found that the former was better suited to my needs than the latter. I set it up, MySQL, subdomain et al, removed Fever from my current installation on nearlyfreespeech and pushed it out there along with a copy of my feeds OPML file.

It’s running right now. I’m using Fever more than earlier, trying to push the limits. Checking to see if I can cause AppFog to gimme a warning. It’s not happening. So far so good!

Tutorial coming soon, if I feel like it. 🙂

Update: I’ve added a tutorial to do this here. Enjoy! 🙂

Update 2: Heroku lovers, I’ve not left you high and dry… Use this tutorial by Justin Morris to set up Fever for free on Heroku. It’s possible I’ll be redirecting everyone to go to Heroku instead because it seems that AppFog no longer allows new free users to use  their own domain with an app.