Image of the glider from the Game of Life by John Conway
Skip to content

Tiny Tiny RSS - The Google Reader Replacement

With all the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth about Google killing Reader, I figured I'd blog something productive. Rather than piss and moan, here is a valid solution you can build for at most two bucks, using entirely Free Software, running on your own server, under your control. The solution is to install Tiny Tiny RSS on your own server, and if you have an Android smartphone, the official Tiny Tiny RSS app ($2 for the unlock key (support the developer- this stuff rocks)). Here are the step-by-step installation directions that should get you an up-and-running Reader replacement in less than 30 minutes.

First, create a directory on your webserver where you will install Tiny Tiny RSS. You will need Apache, lighttpd, Cherokee, or some other web server, PHP with the necessary modules as well as the PHP CLI interpreter, and either MySQL or PostgreSQL as prerequisites.:

# mkdir /var/www/rss
# wget
# tar -xf 1.7.4.tar.gz -C /var/www/rss/
# chown -R root.www-data /var/www/rss/
# chmod -R g+w,o+ /var/www/rss/

Pull up the web interface by navigating to (replace "" with your domain name). The default login credentials are "admin" and "password". Make sure to change the default password. Also, Tiny Tiny RSS uses a multiuser setup by default. You can add additional users, including one for yourself that isn't "admin", or you can change it to single user mode in the preferences.

After the setup is the way you want it, you'll want to get your Google Reader feeds into Tiny Tiny RSS. Navigate to Reader, and export your data. This will take you to Google Takeout, and you'll download a massive ZIP archive, that contains an OPML file, as well as a ton of other data. Grab your "subscriptions.xml" from that ZIP file, and import them into your Tiny Tiny RSS installation.

One awesome benefit of Tiny Tiny RSS, is that it has a built-in mobile version, if browsing the install from a mobile browser. It looks good too.

The only thing left to do, is navigate to the preferences, and enable the external API. There are additional 3rd party desktop-based readers that have Tiny Tiny RSS support, such as Liferea and Newsbeuter. Even the official Android app will need the option enabled. This will give you full synchronization between the web interface, your Android app, and your desktop RSS reader.

Unfortunately, Tiny Tiny RSS doesn't update the feeds by default. You need to setup a script that manages this for you. The best solution is to write a proper init script that starts and stops the updating daemon. I didn't do this. Instead, I did the next best thing. I put the following into my /etc/rc.local configuration file:

#!/bin/sh -e
# rc.local
# This script is executed at the end of each multiuser runlevel.
# Make sure that the script will "exit 0" on success or any other
# value on error.
# In order to enable or disable this script just change the execution
# bits.
# By default this script does nothing.

sudo -u www-data php /var/www/rss/update_daemon2.php > /dev/null&
exit 0

A couple of things to notice here. First, the redirection to /dev/null. Whichever terminal you execute that script from, it will send a ton of data to STDOUT. Also, if it doesn't succeed, the redirection to /dev/null may not display some error output. So, only after you are sure that everything is setup correctly, should you be redirecting the output. Second, is the fact that we are running the script as the "www-data" user (the default user for Apache on Debian/Ubuntu). The script should not run as root.

Now, execute the following, and you should be good to go:

# /etc/init.d/rc.local start

You now have a web-based RSS reader licensed under the GPL running under your domain that you control. If you have an Android smartphone, then install the official Tiny Tiny RSS app, along with it's unlock key, and put in your username, password, and URL to the installation. The Android app is also GPL licensed. Make sure you purchase the unlock key, or your app will only be good for 7 days (it's trialware).

Lastly, both Liferea and Newsbeuter support Tiny Tiny RSS. However, make sure you get the latest upstream versions from both, as Tiny Tiny RSS changed their API recently. For Newsbeuter, this means version 2.6 or later (I actually haven't tested Liferea). I'll show how to get Newsbeuter working with Tiny Tiny RSS. All you need to do, is edit your ~/.config/newsbeuter/config file with the following contents:

auto-reload "yes"
reload-time 360
text-width 80
ttrss-flag-star "s"
ttrss-flag-publish "p"
ttrss-login "admin"
ttrss-mode "multi"
ttrss-password "password"
ttrss-url ""
urls-source "ttrss"

Restart Newsbeuter, and you should be good to go.

You now have a full Google Reader replacement, with entirely Free Software. Synchronization between the web, your phone, and your desktop, including a mobile version of the page for mobile devices. And it only cost you two bux.

{ 12 } Comments