Help with RSS feeds and feeder software

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a family of web formats used to publish frequently updated digital content. It has commonly been used to update news articles and other content that changes quickly, making it useful for monitoring station observation changes.

How do I use RSS to get NOTAMS?

Programs called feed 'readers' or 'aggregators' collect RSS XML formatted content and present it in a user friendly format. Newer versions of web browsers and email programs offer built in support for RSS feeds. The user 'subscribes' to a feed by entering the link of the RSS feed into their RSS feed reader; the RSS feed reader then checks the subscribed feeds to see if any have new content since the last time it checked, and if so, retrieves the new content and presents it to the user.

Where a feed is available, you will see a small orange symbol with a 'loudspeaker' style logo on it, as displayed just above this text. Rather than go to long explanations of RSS feeds, go to this web site for advice on free RSS readers, and here for another selection. If you want to integrate RSS into Outlook Express, then go here for info. Other email clients also offer RSS as an option. Outlook Express needs an add-on to do it; the better email clients have RSS capabilities built in to them.

If you want to know what NOTAMs are applicable to your area, the best way is to use the RSS Feed that is provided by this web site. To get a feed, you will need to register on the site first. Once registered, you can use the 'Set up Maps and Feeds' section to specify your local area.

Why use RSS?

It bypasses lots of problems with email:
  1. No subscription required. So no unsubscribing during your holidays/resubscribing when you get back.
  2. It doesn't matter if you forget your password, or your email changes.
  3. No email exposed = no spam received.
  4. No AOL/Yahoo spam black holes. No endless support requests. No email bounces from people who are 'out of the office'.
  5. If you come back after a long time away, you don't find an overloaded in-box; you get the last few messages, but you don't miss everything.
  6. You can also use RSS for all sorts of neat non-flying stuff, like keeping track of items of interest via BBC news, Google, or Ebay, or whatever.

Setting up the Feeds:

Outlook Express

  1. Go to here, and download RSSPopper.exe.
  2. Run it to install it into Outlook Express. You may also have to download and install .Net 1.1 to run it if you don't already have it installed.
  3. Load Outlook Express. This will download a whole load of RSS feeds that are pre-set up. You may remove these later.
  4. You will see a folder called 'RSS', containing the preset RSS Feeds.
  5. You will also see a menu at the top of the page, containing 'Edit Feeds' and 'Settings', amongst other things.
  6. The 'Settings' menu item lets you set the interval time to go fetch the latest news items. This is initially set to 900 (15 minutes). Don't make this smaller- it just loads the web site unnecessarily.
  7. Go to 'edit feeds'
  8. Get rid of the stuff put there with delete button against each feed, (unless you want the pre-supplied feeds, that is).
  9. Hit the 'new>>' button, and select 'RSS/Atom' feed.
  10. In the 'link' field, insert
  11. Hit the 'get title from feed' button. The title field should get filled with 'NOTAMinfo' or similar. If it doesn't, you have entered the feed address incorrectly.
  12. Once the title has been fetched, you can change it to whatever takes your fancy, and hit OK.
  13. Repeat the process for each feed that you want.

Evolution Mail

  1. Go to 'edit/preferences
  2. Select 'News and Blogs'
  3. Hit the 'add' button
  4. Fill in the URL(s) as above. The new feed will appear under a new 'News and Blogs' folder.
  5. Repeat for all feeds required.

Mozilla/Thunderbird email

  1. Go to tools/account settings (or edit/account settings)
  2. Select 'Add Account'
  3. Select 'RSS news and blogs' ,and hit the 'Next' button
  4. Alter the account name on the next screen, if you want to, and hit 'Next'
  5. Hit 'Finish' to add the RSS feed account, which you will now see in the list.
  6. Hit the 'manage subscriptions' button
  7. Hit the 'add' button.
  8. Fill in the URL
  9. Ensure that you have ticked the checkbox 'Show the article summary instead of loading the web page'. If you do not do this, Thunderbird will actually go to the web site, and load the map when you select each NOTAM.
  10. The feed will be added to the 'News and Blogs' folder, and the most recent items fetched and displayed.

RSS Feeders that Send You Emails

If you went here to look at the readers available, you will see some that deliver RSS feeds to your email. I haven't tried them, but this method may suit you better.

Instructions for any Browser

  1. Click on the orange RSS icon at the top of the page (Internet Explorer) or at the right-hand side of the URL field (any proper standards-compliant browser).
  2. Follow the instructions. (usually just click OK to add the feed to your browser). Then you can select the feed without actually coming to this web site.

Windows Vista/Windows 7 RSS feed gadget readers

Vista and Windows 7 users who want the news delivered direct to their desktop can use gadgets available for the Vista side-bar. Most of them use the Internet Explorer 'Common Feeds'. This means that the easiest way to set them up is to run Internet Explorer, and click on the RSS icon at the top of the page. IE then asks you if you want to subscribe to this feed (it also displays the last 30 items). Click yes, and save in 'common feeds'. After this, you can use several 'gadgets' to read RSS, independent of running IE. Most of them use the IE common feed by default - some ask if you want the IE feeds loaded. NB. You may want to remove the Microsoft feeds installed by default, or you may be overwhelmed by hundreds of messages. There is one gadget called 'unread feed' which only shows you stuff that you haven't read, and can beep if someone posts something. The others seem to display the entire feed, regardless of whether you have read it or not. On all of these gadgets, you can read the whole NOTAM without going to this web site at all, conveniently on your desk top.

Linux RSS readers

The best I've found is liferea ('Linux Feed reader'), which can be set up permanently minimised on your desktop, and pop up to tell you when new items arrive. To run it by default, set it up in your startup programs with the command:

liferea --mainwindow-state=hidden

Setting the update interval

This web site automatically updates the NOTAMS every hour, and acquires a 7-day advance listing. There is little point in updating your feed more than few 6 hours - it just strains my hosting services without purpose. The feed specifies a 6 hour default. If your reader is capable of observing the feed default, let it do so; then any changes I make will be automatically applied.