Keeping up with the days news is much easier, more efficient with an RSS newsreader.
Now there’s a way to have your Mac read your RSS news each day. Cool technology? Or, not ready for prime time player?
RSS is a superb way to traverse dozens, even hundreds of web sites with an efficiency that borders on insane—at least, when compared to reading daily newspapers and magazines.
Wouldn’t it be great if your Mac could read the headlines and summaries of all those RSS feeds that your eyeballs read now? Talk about multitasking.
The technology is already in Mac OS X. In most applications, you can select text, and your Mac can read it aloud for you using the built-in voices.
It’s easy. Select the text. Right click. Select Speech, then select Start Speaking. It works. The voices are, well, not Katie Couric or even Andy Rooney. But it works.
As soon as you try text-to-speech you’ll see the inherent problems with the technology. It’s more work than it’s worth. Select text. Select speech. Listen. Repeat ad nauseum.
NewsHawker comes along and helps to automate the process of speaking the news from your RSS reader—provided your RSS reader is NetNewsWire. Fortunately, NNW is one of the best. And it’s free.
Unfortunately, the whole process is flawed. Yes, NewsHawker reads the RSS feeds in NetNewsWire. One after the other. See the problem?
Normally, Mac360 doesn’t bother with reviewing or reporting on a new application release unless there’s apparent potential. While NewsHawker can read a huge list of RSS feeds, headlines and summaries, there are flaws, and there is potential.
NewsHawker’s preferences are straightforward. Select the current voice from the many within Mac OS X. Change the speaking rate via the slider bar; slower or faster.
Check the settings to allow NewsHawker to read headlines and read bodies. Spoken items can be marked as read, just as you would in any good RSS reader.
Other preferences include enabling Apple Remote integration (didn’t try that yet), and checking for new versions. The actual NewsHawker interface is even easier.
Click the big play button and NewsHawker begins reading the selections from NetNewsWire. Click the navigation buttons to move forward or backward in the list. There’s also a button to open the RSS link in your browser.
Just as the iPod has changed how we listen to music, AppleTV may change how we view media, iPhone may change how we use our cell phones, the Mac could change how we interact with our news. But not yet.
First, the voices in Mac OS X are weak and just plain annoying to listen to over any extended period of time. Even two minutes is too long.
Second, NewsHawker doesn’t provide a way to select which RSS news items you’d prefer to listen to. It just starts reading and keeps going like some kind of annoying technozombie newscaster.
Set it and forget is better than set it and have it bore you to death.
I want a few controls to determine what gets read and what doesn’t, prioritized or otherwise.
OS X Leopard should bring better text-to-speech voices, too. That will be an improvement. Beyond that, I want some kind of interaction with my Mac beyond point and click. NewsHawker isn’t there yet.
“Good morning, SparklyMac (the name for my Mac). What are the news headlines today.” And SparklyMac acknowledges with a, “Good morning, Carol. How are you today? The stock market is up in rather heavy trading…” or, for my husband Jack, something like, “I’ve prepared all the sports scores for you, Jack. St. Louis won their 11th straight game and 3rd straight shutout, beating the Yankees to win the World Series…”
Is that what you’d like to see on your Mac? Share a perspective in the Mac360 Comments section.