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 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 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.

What do you think?


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  • Those of you who’ve read my blog before might have read the recent post – “Feedafever for ~Free” where I talk about installing an instance of Fever (by Shaun Inman) on AppFog, thus running a database and bandwidth heavy application for absolutely free.
    I promised a tutorial for that and here it is –

    1. Head over the AppFog and sign up. It’s free, so don’t worry about pulling out your credit card.
    2. Once you’ve signed up, the first thing you need to do is go ahead and create a New App. The screen that shows up will give you a lot of options for the “Type of Application”. Notice how you can install WordPress, Drupal, Django, Node and so many others. I have a note down below concerning WordPress. For now, select PHP, as shown in the image.

    3. Then, you’ll be asked to choose an infrastructure and a sub domain. Pick the one closest to you. I chose Amazon US East. Since I have not used Rackspace, Azure or HP OpenStack, I can’t vouch for those. Besides, Amazon is extremely stable. Also, you will not need to sign up or pay for these services separately. AppFog takes care of all that for you. The last bit shows you your current system usage. AppFog allows you to install up to 10 apps using a total of 2 GB of RAM for free. Anything beyond that and you have to pay.

    4. Once you click Go, AppFog sets up the app for you and takes you to your app.

    5. Congrats, your set up is half done. Your app is running with 128 MB RAM and you’re ready to set up MySQL and other functions. Head over to Services and create a new database by selecting MySQL and giving it a nice name. Once the database is set up, it’ll show up in the other services section and you just need to click Bind to connect it to your installation.

    6. Your Database installed, head over to the “Update Source Code” tab. Here you’ll learn how to upload the Fever code to AppFog. The first thing you need installed is Ruby. If you’re on a Mac, you already have Ruby installed. Just start terminal and run ruby to confirm. On Windows, I recommend you install Ruby from the RubyInstaller website. It installs everything you need to set up AppFog. If you’re on a Linux, well, you probably already know how to install and run ruby and take over the world with a SuDo command. 😛 (in case you don’t, ask in the comments section)
    7. AppFog has a nice ruby gem called ‘af’ to handle your account and applications. The Update Source Code tab gives you all the info you need, including how to install the gem and login (which you must do). After you’ve done those steps and before you run the update command, understand the following – AppFog puts some basic stuff into your application at the time of installation. Your job is to upload all the relevant files and replace this default setup. Also, AppFog is a little strange about how it gives you information about your MySQL database.According to the tutorial here, you can install PHPMyAdmin to manage your database. I did not do that. Instead, I uploaded a simple PHP script to get me the relevant info. You can download the file here.
    8. Now, to set up your code, make a temporary folder in your computer and cd to it. Place the PHP file you just downloaded here and from within it, run the terminal command “af update”. This’ll upload the file to AppFog. Now, from the AppFog Dashboard, click the “Visit Live Site” button and when it opens, add the filename – “find_info.php”. This will give you the following information –

    “Hello world! uwItlnwCaYkkN pauDL3zd5cmjL d21a9f68185b8464d8575b05efc2d98c6“

    I’m sorry for the dirty way it presents, but my knowledge of PHP is ghastly limited and this is all I could whip up. Copy all this information onto a file on your computer.
    The string starting with “us01…” is your database host. You can skip the 3306 port number at the end. After that, follows your database username, password and Database name.
    9. Once you have all this info, you’re ready to install Fever. If you’ve installed it before, you know that you can install a Fever compatibility package from the Feedafever website. This will give you confirmation that Fever works on your server. Download the zip file and extract its files (not the single folder, the files in it) into the same directory where you placed the find_info file. Then, delete the find_info file as it’s work is done and you don’t want anyone to know your database information. Finally, run the “af update” command again. AF will upload the files and restart the app. But you’re not done just yet.
    10. When you bought fever (or are planning to buy it), you bought it for a particular domain name. Shaun Inman forbids you from installing it on any other domain. But the domain on which your app is running is not that. So, you need to set up DNS. Head over to the Domain Names tab. If you’re planning to run fever on a sub domain like me (I have, add the entire sub domain as shown. Else, if you’re dedicating a whole domain to your fever install (someone out their own, add that. Accordingly, AppFog shows you what A or CNAME record to add to your DNS settings. Go to your domain’s DNS settings and add the correct DNS record. This process takes some time, so to pass the time, I’ll show you another neat thing you can do for Fever to run smoothly.

    11. Like I said, AppFog gives you a total of 2 GB RAM to run your apps. If you’re not planning to run any other app, you can designate a lot of that RAM to your Fever installation. To do this, go back to Mission Control and check under App Resources. You will see Instances and Memory Quota. Increase the Memory Quota to something like 600 to 640 MB. Do NOT increase the number of instances. Fever does not understand instances and it’ll screw up your installation. Trust me, I tried. Now click Update and when that’s done, hit the restart button. This will restart your app with the new settings.

    12. By now, your DNS settings should have made their way through the pipelines of the Internet and you should be able to open your dedicated fever website ( for me). If you’re not able to, try cleaning your browser’s cache and wait a little longer. Once you get through, the Fever compatibility Suite will run. It’ll tell you that Browser Flush won’t work on this server (a small price to pay for free service), but move on. Insert the database information you got from the find_info file and then your Fever credentials and Activation Code.

    Image Courtesy MacStories’ Fever installation Tutorial
    Your Fever setup is ready. Import your favorite blogs and RSS Feeds and enjoy.
    Notes, Caveats and Issues –
    1. AppFog, though they’re committed to providing world-class facilities for free, have a small problem in their system – they do not have persistent storage. This means that some times, your Fever installation will reset. Since they don’t have proper storage, your Fever compatibility suite will run the next time you open Fever. Never fear. Remember that Fever stores all your feeds in the database. Just enter the database values from the file I made you save and your Activation information and Fever will be back up with all your feeds intact. I faced this problem a couple of times initially, but I haven’t in quite some time, so perhaps AppFog is improving their service.
    2. I just mentioned that AppFog doesn’t have persistent storage. This means that any additional, non-database files get flushed in the event that their system resets. Which non-database files can you quickly recall? WordPress Plugins, Themes and templates. That means that if you install WordPress and the AppFog system resets, you’ll have to install the themes and plugins all over again. To test this, I installed a WordPress blog on AppFog and setup a few themes and plugins like BuddyPress on it. (Shameless plug here – I installed BuddyPress to run my own social network as an experiment. Read about it here and join the social network here). Ever since I installed it, I have only had to set it up once more after an AppFog reset. It’s been stable ever since.