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    NevOn is the archive weblog of Neville Hobson, a British business communicator based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, a record of commentary and conversations from December 2002 until 22 February 2006. This site is no longer updated - please visit www.nevillehobson.com.
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27 April 2005

Comments

Nick Bradbury

Hi Neville,

I know what happened here, and luckily it's not a virus (although it's almost as annoying). I'll need to provide some technical background to explain the problem, so here goes:

Whenever any program contacts a web server, the server returns a status code which lets the program know the status of the file being requested. Among those status codes are two designed to enable redirects. HTTP status 301 means the requested URL has moved permanently, while HTTP status 302 is a temporary redirect. When a server returns a permanent redirect (301), the program requesting the URL should - if possible - remember the redirected location, as described by the W3C:

http://www.w3.org/Protocols/rfc2616/rfc2616-sec10.html

When you use a WiFi provider such as the one you used in the hotel, they redirect HTTP requests through their service, and they should be using temporary redirects (302). Unfortunately, I've heard reports such as the one linked below of WiFi providers using *permanent* redirects:

http://www.iunknown.com/CommentsWithEntry.aspx?EntryId=8492bcd0-b916-462b-aabf-22dc4e5ea101

In other words, some mis-behaved WiFi providers give permanent redirects for every single URL you request while using their service, which is obviously a bad mistake on their part.

Now, when most RSS aggregators encounter a permanent redirect, they change the stored feed URL to point to the new location (as they should). This is important, since it enables feed producers to move their feeds around without affecting those reading their feeds. The problem, of course, is that accessing your feeds through a misbehaved WiFi provider like the one you used will cause all of your feed URLs to be changed.

I have experimented with alerting the user when a feed is redirected, but it's such a common thing that it results in alerts popping up all the time. Perhaps a better solution would be for FeedDemon to show an informational dialog the first time a permanent redirect is encountered, which would describe the above problem and provide a way to temporary disable the redirects when using a WiFi provider.

Neville Hobson

Nick, many thanks indeed for that clear explanation.

After running antivirus and spyware checks turned up nothing amiss on my system, and if FD wasn't the culprit, then I suspected that it must something related to yesterday's hotel wi-fi connection. Indeed, reading the post you linked to (the second link in your comment) confirms this.

John Lam, the poster, talks about precisely what I did on Monday night - left my PC on all night with FD running so it could update overnight. FD was open in the channel group concerned which updates every hour. What he explained in his experience looks like what happened in mine. And of course, it also explains why only this channel group was affected.

Again, thanks for clearing this up. Your thought re a one-time FD alert is a good one, I think.

So now I need to re-do all 28 channels in my affected group. Note to self: remember to export all RSS channels to OPML files as backups before you go on your next trip...

sig

Hi Neville,

funny that one, exactly same happened to me. My NetNewsWire in OS X would not refresh at all until kill and restart. And of course, never killed it, nor restarted since sitting in the Senate :-)
BTW, enjoyed talking to you in Paris!

Neville Hobson

Hi Sig. I heard about wi-fi woes from quite a few people in Paris. Not so much the overload at the Senat but just unable to connect. Stories like two people stting next to each other, one gets a signal the other doesn't. Or one using a Mac, the other a Windows PC, where one gets a signal and the other doesn't.

Similar woes re our colleagues from the US with their cell phones and weirdness in making calls, but that's another story...

Great talking to you as well!

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