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Cybernaut

RSS — must-have or gimmick?

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If you’ve been browsing the web recently you might have noticed a growing number of references to RSS feeds, and probably were a bit confused by the reference. Like widgets and tickers and other extras, you probably consigned RSS to the big pile of things that only applies to the true geeks of the Internet world – and you would probably be right.

According to Forrester Researcher, just two per cent of Internet users are actively using RSS feeds – which means that 98 per cent of us are not.

If you’re not in the know, RSS stands for RDF Site Summary or Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, depending on who you talk to.

The technology harkens back to Netscape web browsers, and essentially refers to website content that can be easily shared between websites through automated publishing systems and syndication. Examples include news feeds, listings, and blog sites, all delivered as XML files.

Some companies using RSS include Reuters, CNN and the BBC.

Unless you’re in web publishing, you don’t really need to know how RSS works, but if you’re a big reader of online news or blog sites then try the following experiment.

Go to the BBC website at www.bbc.co.uk/ , and look for the day’s top stories. There will be a little orange block with RSS written on it. Click the box and you will be referred to a batch of headlines from the top stories filed within a preset time frame.

For another example, check out Arianna Hufftington’s blog site at www.huffingtonpost.com .

Some sites like Feedster ( www.feedster.com ) use little orange XML tags instead, but it’s pretty much the same thing from a layman’s perspective.

Basically RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website instead of visiting it, providing you use the right browser or hub. You can even download RSS aggregators, which are kind of like conventional browsers but only pick up RSS information as content is posted.

Some of the most-used aggregators include eNewsBar ( www.enewsbar.com ), the NewsGator RSS Reader ( www.newsgator.com ), and the RSS Reader ( www.pluck.com ).

Microsoft Internet Explorer, the new Apple Safari, and various other browsers also have built-in RSS plug-in features – when you’re visiting a site, click on the RSS button that appears in the URL bar, or visit the preferences to find out how you can make RSS updates appear on your navigation bars.

Try it and within a few hours you should easily get the hang of the technology. Whether or not you’ll continue to use it afterwards is another story.

Serving it Right goes online

If you’re looking to get a job in the bar or restaurant industry you’ll need more these days than tight pants and the ability to memorize a list of daily specials. In B.C. you also need your Serving It Right certification, a provincial program designed to teach bar staff how to safely serve alcohol to patrons.

With an increasing number of lawsuits against bars and restaurants for over-serving customers, Serving It Right grants establishments some legal protection, while simultaneously helping bars to avoid some of the drama, vomit and violence that occurs when customers drink too much.

Go2, a human resources centre for the tourism industry, recently put the Serving It Right program online at www.servingitright.com . Although the Whistler Chamber of Commerce offers courses ( www.whistlerchamber.com ), the online option might work best for people with tight schedules or are looking to start a new job tomorrow.

How Lance does it

With a record seven Tour de France victories in his back pocket, Lance Armstrong has retired as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

How does he do it? Obviously he’s very determined, as his recovery from cancer can attest, and many cycling observers have commented that, physiologically, Lance might have the perfect body for cycling – partly genetic and partly conditioned from all his years in the saddle.

For people who want to know more, the Human Performance Lab and the University of Texas has studied Lance over seven years using a variety of technologies.

For example, they found that his heart is about 30 per cent larger than that of an average five-foot-ten person, roughly proportional to a man six and a half feet tall, and continues to perform well at over 200 beats per minute. Only 100 other athletes have similar heart performance, and just two of them are cyclists.

Armstrong’s lungs have been conditioned to absorb twice the normal amount of oxygen while his well-toned muscles only produce half as much lactic acid, and disperse it more quickly to speed his recovery in the mountain stages.

Everything, from his ability to shed body fat to the quick twitch muscles in his legs, help to make Armstrong a winner.

To read Dr. Edward Coyle’s abstract, and link to other articles, visit www.utexas.edu/education/news/coyleArmstr.html.