BitNami has added Tiny Tiny RSS server to its collection of LAMP appliances. This makes it very easy to replace Google Reader with something you can rely on. Perhaps this is the way all software should transition to the cloud.
I Programmer uses RSS as part of its news gathering as do most other web news outlets and as a consequence we need a replacement for Google Reader when it is killed off at the end of this month. After a short analysis of the problem it was obvious that the best solution would be to keep the implementation in our own hands. This is the only way that there is any guarantee of continuity of service.
We eventually settled on Tiny Tiny RSS or tt-rss. This is an open source RSS aggregator. It allows multiple users to each build a list of RSS feeds that they want to read and it downloads the new data on a regular schedule. Users then sign in to the web site and read their RSS feeds anytime they like. Feeds can be categorized and items can be starred for retention in a folder after everything has been marked read. Of course it imports a list of feeds from Google Reader.
There is also a Rest API which is used by a very useable Android app which in many ways provides the best interface to tt-rss. The system is written in PHP and is fairly easy to customize. The only customization we have done so far is to modify the style sheet to make it easier to scan large lists of headings. But as it is open source we have the option of much more customization in the future.
It works and is mostly does what we want, but the big problem is setting it up and hosting it - and judging by the comments on the tt-rss forum this is a common problem.
Like most open source projects, it isn't supported at a level that a complete beginner could simply start using it. You need to be happy about setting up a LAMP stack and configuring things. Not difficult but not as easy as it could be.
Now we have an implementation of tt-rss as an appliance by BitNami. You can download a complete installer for Windows, OSX and Linux. You first use the BitNami WAMP, MAMP or LAMP installer and then install the application. While installing on a spare machine you might have around is reasonable, a more flexible option is to use one of the complete virtual machine images. All you need is WMware or VirtualBox and you can load the machine image and start working at once with everything installed and configured - right down to the passwords.
The final option is the one that might make the most sense for the most users - a cloud deployment. All you need in this case is a credit card.
The virtual machine images can be deployed to either Amazon EC2 or Windows Azure and all with minimum fuss. You can even have one server for free for a year, but after that its $24 per month plus Amazon or Azure charges for three servers. Note that using the installers or VM images without cloud hosting is free.
The only problem is that BitNami charges are in addition to the Amazon or Azure charges, which makes it more difficult to work out what the whole package will cost - but if you just want simplicity of deployment then this is the way to go.
Packaging complete systems as appliances which can be deployed either on a local VM or a cloud VM seems like a good idea, and one that could be used more widely by open source projects. After all, one of the huge advantages of open source is that you can create such VMs without having to worry about licensing problems.