JetBrains’ Omea Pro and Its Awful Consequences of Lack of Commitment

If you have been reading this particular blog for a while or if you are one of the folks who have asked me in the past to suggest or recommend an offline feed reader client, you would probably know that for a good couple of years I have always been saying that Omea Pro (From the folks over at JetBrains) was just it: all you needed to have, a powerful offline feed reader that would allow you to keep everything under control and without the hassle from some other clients. Well, that statement is just about to change and here is why. Something that happened during the holidays and which I may never recover from, although I am starting to think that it may well have been a good thing, after all. Who knows…

Anyway, it all started with making use of Adobe AIR to play around with a couple of Twitter clients: Snitter and Twhirl, which was causing some kind of weird white screen Windows crashes. Looks like Adobe AIR Beta 3 still produces those crashes on the Windows machine. And lo and behold one of those crashes, while I have been away on vacation, is the one that has caused me an enormous deal of trouble.

Yes, that is right. I thought, ok, Windows crashed again. No problem, used to it for a while now, I would re-restart and back to normal. Or so I thought. When trying to get Omea Pro back to life I got a nasty error that didn’t allow me to start up the application as normal. It was asking me if I would want to load the data from previous backups. I tried a couple of them I had from the past and to no avail either. I still couldn’t load it and slowly started to get worried about the whole thing.

I searched and searched all over the place for similar symptoms to the one I was experiencing and found nothing! I reported the problem in the Omea Pro forums nearly a month ago and not a single word! I contacted several folks from the support team and still nothing! I just couldn’t get Omea Pro started to get back to my archives and daily feed readings.

By then I was seriously doubting I would ever be back to normal with my favourite feed reader client. No response in the forums, nor from the support team, nothing I could do to fix it that I didn’t try out already. Yes, I know, plain desperate!!

Well, for those folks who may have been using Omea Pro for a while you would remember how it used to an application that you would have to pay some money for. Then after a while something happened and it became freeware and, supposingly, Open Source. And, unfortunately, that is where it went down hill, because from there onwards the lack of support and commitment to a great product has left it in shambles and without a clear guidance of where it will be heading. Perhaps the next step would be to kill it. Permanently. Forever.

I know that is not a good thing, nor a good signal for the thousands and thousands of people who are currently using it. But let’s face it, if you are in trouble, you are on your own. No support, no commitment to help out. Nothing. You and your machine hoping it will be fixed. But it won’t. That is just what happened to me in the last few weeks, while I was away during the holidays.

End result? Hummm, how can I say it? … I still cannot access Omea Pro, getting the same error messages, help is not coming any time soon from anywhere, not even from the people who supposingly fully support it. And to my increasing frustration, while all of this was happening, I realised that I would no longer be able to access over 100,000 articles from several hundred feeds over the course of the last three years that I have been accumulating! All of that is now… gone!!! For good! But that is not all of it.

One of the great features from Omea Pro was the fact that you could create various different annotations for each of the articles, so over the course of the last few months I developed the habit of drafting blog posts directly into Omea Pro which I could then paste into my favourite offline blogging clients and share across various different blogs, both internally and externally. Alas, that is also now gone!!! All of those drafts I had put together and which were going to hit my blogs at some point in time are now locked and cannot get them back! OUCH!!! That is exactly how I felt when I first realised about it!

By that time I was in full panic mode. Losing over 100,000 articles of feed readings is not pleasant at all, but losing the several dozens of drafts I had is just something I am not going to get back any time soon either! Double ouch!! So … fast forward to today, nearly a month afterwards. Still cannot access Omea Pro, lost the over 100,000 articles from all of my feeds from the last few years, lost as well all of the different drafts I had piled up over the course of months. Lost my faith in technology. For good. At least, till I can ever manage to get that data back, which is not looking good thus far, I must say.

Oh, and all of this happening as well with the several dozen feeds I have got for behind-the-firewall resources. So if anyone out there was hoping I would be sharing a particular blog post, both internal and external, on a particular blog entry from last year, I am afraid that is a thing of the past! It’s not going to happen. At least, not any time soon!

So is this the fate of freeware, Open Source? Can we rely on such applications where the support goes from being incredibly good to incredibly bad, or non-existent, in just a few weeks? I surely hope that this is not the case, but right now I feel like I have just lost three years of my Internet / Intranet history. Just like that! In a split second! And without remedy!!

And to think that I have been recommending Omea Pro all along as one of the best, if not the most powerful, of offline feed reader clients?!?! I think that this is going to change. And now! If you are one of the folks who I have been recommending this particular feed reader for some time, I guess that by now you may be worried about what might happen. Yes, you should be. I wouldn’t want any of you folks having to go through the same thing I have gone through in the last few weeks. Thus here I am, writing this blog post encouraging you all to start moving away from Omea Pro and as soon as you can. Because once you encounter a problem, you are on your own, with no further help, nor support and wishing you had changed whenever you had the chance.

My chance was when I moved to the MacBook Pro and started making heavy use of Vienna, which I really really like at the moment, and which has made my life easier back again. I mentioned I had the chance, because I wanted to migrate the stuff from Omea over to the Mac, but I didn’t do it fast enough and now I am facing the consequences. Never again, I tell you. So much so, that was the last drop that filled the glass for my final move away from Windows. Right after that happened I haven’t looked back! I haven’t even turned on any longer the Windows box. Perhaps wanted to save myself the grief of knowing the data is there, but cannot access it. Perhaps it was just the right move and start with a clean slate for 2008. No regrets. Who knows.

The thing is that I am surely never going to recommend Omea Pro any longer to anyone who may be asking for options. I know I lost three years of Web feed reading and several dozens of draft blog posts, so the last thing I would want to do is to send you through to the same hassle. No, I am not going to do that. If you are looking for a Windows based offline feed reader, I have been hearing lots of good feedback with regards to FeedDemon, which, by the way, is now available for free, and which I hope doesn’t go through the same situation that Omea Pro ended up in.

Oh, and if you are using a Mac, Vienna still rules.

Finally, one other thing you may want to do is to have a backup plan. I got myself two actually: BlogLines and Google Reader. Although right now I am not using either of them. Still prefer the Mac & Vienna experiences. And if you haven’t tried them out, by all means, go ahead and do that. You will see what I mean.

And with this long blog post (I really needed to get it out of my chest) I can certainly conclude that my full migration into the Mac environment is now completed. Yes, I know, it was a painful ending, a very painful ending, but … the future is bright and that is what matters.

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Eight Things You Didn’t Know About Me

While still trying to digest some of the fantastic, overwhelming and exciting reactions to the initial blog post on Next Generation Knowledge Sharing & Learning Online Conference Event – In Spring 2008? and while I am still trying to figure out a couple of things before I comment further back into that particular blog entry on further steps, I thought I would go ahead and do some light blogging on a topic that I seem to have been tagged from a couple of folks already, who I read on a regular basis and who have been participating in a couple of different memes on a very similar topic: Seven things you didn’t know about me by Martin Koser and Gullible about Work / Blog Balance by Reasonable Robinson.

Yes, that is right. It is another meme where the rules seem to be pretty straight forward:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.

2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself.

3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names.

4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

And although Martin’s meme post seems to be slightly different I thought about combining both of them since the overall outcome seems to be pretty similar. So here we go with the meme post and here you have eight random facts about myself that you may not have heard / read elsewhere:

1. I was born and raised in a very small village in León, which is where I have spent a good chunk of my life. Another good chunk is spread around The Netherlands (Where I lived 7 years) and, finally, Gran Canaria, where I have been living for nearly four years now.

2. I first got exposed to the world of computers in high school (Yes, I was one of the folks who owned an Amstrad CPC 464!) and back then my marks on computer lessons were really bad, which gave me the impression I would never, ever, work with computers. Fast forward to today … Already 10 years in the IT world and still going strong! :-)

3. After I graduated from University, I spent one year working in Thale, Germany, where I got to experience one of the most severe winters in my life thus far with up to -30C. for several days!! But I must say I loved the overall experience quite a bit!!

4. First time I came to Gran Canaria was in 1996 (For a very short period of time) and back then I knew I would be coming back at some point. It took me only 8 years to make that happen :-)

5. I actually got my job at IBM while I was spending a two week holiday in The Netherlands in 1997. Probably the longest two weeks I’ve ever known!! (Already heading for my 11th year in the company!)

6. While working for IBM, I spent another year of my life in Dublin, Ireland, where there is very little I would need to explain, if you ever have been there. Yes, I know, I need to get back there for a short visit and catch up some time soon!

7. I was first exposed to Knowledge Management by the end of 1999 and during that time I already sensed it was going to be the field / discipline I would be developing my skills & expertise over the course of the years. Two years later I was working, full time, in a Knowledge Management team. Till today. (And, yes, still going strong, in case you are wondering…)

8. And, finally, I initially got started with my blogging experience back in 2003, as a way to prove to myself how I could work smarter, not necessarily harder, relying on the community and my social networks to get the job done versus having to do the job myself re-inventing the wheel over and over again. Four years later, and just a couple of days after the 10th year anniversary of the word "Weblog", I still feel the same way. Blogs, and plenty of the various different social networks where I hang out, still make me work smarter. Much smarter! Not harder.

And that would be it. Next on this blog post is to actually tag another 8 people who would be willing, hopefully, to take the challenge and share with us 8 factoids about themselves that we may not have heard elsewhere. So here is my list of folks I would love to hear some more from on this particular topic. In random order: Jasmin Tragas (a.k.a. Jazzydee), Thomas van der Wal (a.k.a. wanderwal), David Stephenson (a.k.a. DavidStephenson), Susan Scrupski (a.k.a. ITSinsider), Dennis McDonald (a.k.a. ddmcd), Stuart Henshall (a.k.a. stuarthenshall), Andy Piper (a.k.a. andypiper) and Jon Husband (a.k.a. jonhusband).

I am sure that I could have included a whole bunch of the folks I get to interact with on a daily basis, so feel tagged as well if you would want to chime in a well. Why not, right?

Either way, I am sure that with this particular blog post you actually got to find out about stuff on me that you probably haven’t seen / read elsewhere. Hope you have found it just as entertaining as it was for me to put it up going through that trip down the memory lane.

Now time to go ahead and digest some of the wonderful discussions going on Next Generation Knowledge Sharing & Learning Online Conference Event – In Spring 2008? and see where it would take us all… Fancy joining us on that wild ride, too?

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Vienna – The K.I.S.S. Approach to RSS / Atom Feed Reading for the Mac

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One of the things that I have been very conscious about this time around over the last few weeks, while I am putting things together to make my MacBook Pro my default work machine vs. the Windows notebook, is to actually apply the K.I.S.S. principle. Something that perhaps I should have done a long while ago, but that I didn’t. This time though I am learning my lessons and throughout the entire process I am keeping up with that minimalist flavour to get the most out of the Mac without having to clutter it right away.

And when I put myself to the test I knew that things were not going to be easy in certain areas. One of those being using a competent RSS / Atom feed reader client, one of the various essential tools that I couldn’t live without nowadays. On my Windows machine, and over the course of the last few years, I have probably tried out for a number of weeks / months several RSS / Atom feed clients. Most of the times running concurrently to test them out and see which one would make the winner.

For the last few months, this winner has been, still is, Omea Pro. To me, it is one of the best feed readers for offline reading available out there! No doubt! I would recommend it any time to anyone who may want to get things going. Still do. However, on the Mac things are different.

To start with, there is no Omea Pro for the Mac, so I had to dig in quite a bit and try out a number of different feed reader clients that I have been getting through recommendations, performing several searches or just by bumping into their Web sites and decided to try them, just in case. That is how I got to try out endo, NetNewsWire, Shrook, Google Reader, NewsFire, BlogBridge, etc. etc. The list goes on and on and on.

Overall, most of those readers do a pretty decent job. However, none of them cut it for me for one reason or another. Surprisingly for something so relatively simple as basic functionality. Perhaps at some point in time I will detail why each of those feed readers fails to meet my needs at the moment. And this is where Vienna comes into place, because after having played around with for a few days I can share with you all that it has now become my default RSS / Atom feed reader for the Mac.

You may be wondering why, right? Well, because apart from being freeware, which we all know is an attractive option for us all on its own, it also applies the K.I.S.S. principle very nicely: subscribe to the feed, get the subscriptions / articles, read them, flag those you want to keep and delete the others. Believe or not, this is where most of the other feed readers I have tried failed to come up front with what I would call some key basic functionality: delete what you don’t need and keep what you just need.

It may be pretty simple, but you would be amazed as to how many of those readers would not allow you to delete items you are not interested in. You would expect that the tools would allow you to keep things clean and tidy, but alas, it is not going to happen with most of them. On the other hand, Vienna does this job beautifully with just a single key stroke, which for filtering and quickly scanning through feeds is just … ideal!

So much so that I have been using it for the last week or so and it has become one of those tools I cannot live without in my Mac. Just brilliant, how can such a piece of simple software can get the job done without the hassle, the clutter, or complicated features that most of us are not going to make use of. Yes, I knew I was right when I decided to go minimalist on the Mac, and so far the software I have put together to be as productive as ever, if not more, has been working out like a charm. Vienna has got all you ever wanted to have in an RSS / Atom feed reader client and before you pay some $$$ for some piece of software I can certainly recommend you give it a try. I bet you will stop your search there. Just like I did. For good.

Vienna, simplicity at its best on the Mac!

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