Why Rippy?

There are several Web sites (Slashdot, for instance) that I visit regularly or semi-regularly to check for the latest news; there are also several more (like, say, the EFF) that post regular updates and that I'd like to visit regularly, or that would like to have me visit regularly, but which I don't visit regularly because it's just too much work to keep track of all of them, and too disappointing when I remember to check and find nothing new.  I even run a Web site of my own which I'd like to have people check regularly - but since I don't spend time making the rounds of my friends' similar sites, I can't expect them to visit mine.  Rippy the Aggregator aims to solve all these problems.

There is a standard called RSS, for Web sites to publish their updates in a machine-readable format.  An appropriate client can quickly visit all the Web sites you're interested in, download their updates, and present you with a customized list of all the newest items.  Most "blogging", "portal", and "content management" software already generates RSS files (although its operators may be unaware of that!), and there are services like Syndic8 that compile lists of RSS "feeds".  So it only remains to get an appropriate client.

That presents a problem.  I hacked an RSS output onto my Web-site updating scripts, so I had that aspect covered, but then I wanted to start reading others' RSS feeds, and I discovered that the client programs you can get on the Web mostly suck.  Some of them are Windows-only, so those are right out.  I saw one in Java that looked pretty good, but its Web site didn't provide a way to download it except through some kind of weird Hot-Buzzy-Java-Scripted-Auto-Virus-Install-Plugin-Thing - there was no actual file.  I did eventually find its source code, but it required third-party libraries.  Then I looked at several RSS readers that were written in Perl or PHP and designed to run as scripts on a Web site.  Those had possibilities, but they required multiple third-party libraries (Perl) or an SQL server and compiled-in PHP modules that most people don't have (PHP).  The best attempt I found was one written in Python, but in order to make it run I had to start not one but two background server daemons, which would make it tricky to use on my office computer at school.  There are Web sites that provide the service of RSS reading, but they all require registration, cookies, JavaScript, etc.  I couldn't find an RSS reader (or "aggregator", as they're called) that I could just download and have it work.  Thus, it was necessary to create one:  enter Rippy!

The name "Rippy the Aggregator" refers to an Arrogant Worms song about a cute, cuddly little alligator who goes "chomp, chomp, chomp," down in the bottom of the swamp, swamp, swamp.  Abram Hindle has suggested that Rippy the Aggregator should go "grep, grep, grep," down in the bottom of the net, net, net.  Anyone wanna write the rest of the song?


  • Cute name
  • Written in PHP (needs 4.3.0 or above)
  • Doesn't require any compiled-in optional libraries that don't ship with PHP
  • Stores its cached data in flat files, no database needed
  • Freely licensed and customizable under the GNU GPL version 2
  • Downloadable in a well behaved tarball

You can see an example of Rippy in action by looking at my own installation.

Feeds I provide have been moved to the new Skippy page.

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Copyright 2018 Matthew Skala
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