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Thoth Newsreader for Mac OS X

Thoth is a trialware ($25.00 to register at this writing) newsreader for Mac OS X. I tried it out under rather adverse circumstances but in spite of some small difficulties I did purchase the registered version.

First, the adverse circumstances. We had a 14.5 inch snowstorm here in February. Light and fluffy, but even so that's a lot of snow. I spent about an hour shovelling our driveway. I do it by hand because I just don't like the noise and pollution of snowblowers. After finishing the driveway, I stepped into the street to get to our front walk, slipped on hidden ice, and a moment later I was on my back in tremendous pain. After a minute I managed to get up and, using the shovel as a crutch, somehow made it back into my house, but that was the end of being erect: from then on even crawling was horribly painful and slow. Being a typical stubborn male, I insisted that I'd be all right, and just crawled to the couch to rest. When I still wasn't able to stand up the next morning, I gave in to my wife and had an uncomfortable trip to the hospital by ambulance.

Well, nothing was broken and eventually they got enough drugs into me that I could go a short distance with crutches, and I returned to the couch at home. I had my wife run a 50 foot patch cable from my office so I could at least do some work and it was in this painful and drugged condition that I decided to evaluate Thoth.

Thoth was, after all, the Egyptian patron god of all arts, sciences, and intellectual pursuits. I certainly wasn't up to any physical activity, so intellectual pursuits seemed like the right track, but more to the point I have been unhappy with Mozilla as a Mac Newsreader. It just takes too darn much memory on my iBook. The iBook maxes out at 640 MB so this is more of an issue than it was on my Linux machine where I have happily used Mozilla for years. I though about looking for a Trn port because I do like that also, but I had seen a number of recommendations for Thoth so I decided to give it a try.

Before I get into the details, you should know that when all was said and done I decided to fork over the $25.00 to register it. There are things about it I would like to see done differently, but overall it does meet my needs in a smaller memory footprint, and the price is more than reasonable. Most of the time I still use Trn on another server I can ssh to, but this is OK too.

Initial Setup

I found this the most confusing and difficult part. In fairness, part of that may have been from the pain and the drugs, but I do think this could be improved considerably. The procedures detailed in the "Getting Started" pulldown under help will get you going. The oddest part to me was having to drag a newsgroup from the full listing to the subscribed groups listing. It surprised me that there was no shortcut key for that, but the reason has to do with the design: you can have multiple sets of newsgroups defined. With that in mind, dragging makes perfect sense.

Using Thoth

Having been a Trn user for many years, I'm used to using TAB to move from article to article. The equivalent in Thoth is Apple-I, which is two fingers. That distinction is meaningless to a touch typist, but for a one or two finger hunt and peck typist like me, a simple TAB is a little easier. But you can't begin to compare Thoth to Trn: this is a very different animal.

The initial version I tried was 1.60, and I had some problems with unexpected crashing at inopportune times. More recently I downloaded the 1.70 version, which seems to be much more stable. Of course Mac OS X has moved from 10.2.4 to 10.2.6 in the same time period; Thoth's difficulties could have been helped by OS fixes too. By the way, the upgrade was as simple and painless as it possibly could have been: just copy the new files right on top of the old. I didn't have to re-register and no settings were lost.

Thoth contains just about all the News reading features you would ever want. I only say "just about" because somewhere there must be someone who needs some feature it doesn't already have, though I have to say it has everything I need and more. The preferences pane just goes on and on and on: very few people will need even a small percentage of what is there. The vast number of features and settings does mean that Thoth can sometimes be confusing: I had defined a newserver I no longer use, and had an awful time finding out how to get rid of it. The trick was the select it in Edit->News Server Settings; a button therein lets you delete it. You are bound to have difficulties like this with something so feature rich; but the common every-day features are easy to find.

Personalities

Thoth lets you define multiple "personalities" which lets you easily use different signatures, mail settings, header lines, etc. As I use slightly different signatures in different newsgroups, I found this very helpful.

cartoon

Binaries

I haven't looked at binary newsgroups in years. The alt.binary hierarchy is mostly junk now. I have no philosophical objection to *redacted* in general if it's not violent or appealing to pedophiles, but neither do I have any interest in it. Nevertheless, I selected alt.binaries.erotica.pornstar to see how Thoth could handle images automatically. Sure enough, as advertised, simply Apple-I'ing would automatically download and display any images. Simple settings can cause downloaded images to be automatically removed when the newsgroup is closed (Preferences->Viewing attachments->New Images Default to Trashed).

Thoth also apparently has extensive support for posting binaries; I didn't try it.

Off-Line reading

A nice feature of Thoth is that it allows articles or entire newsgroups to be "Kept": downloaded and made available for offline reading. This is just as simple as it sounds: mark whatever you want as "Kept" and then select "Go Offline" from the "Special" menu. On-line articles disappear; but those you marked "Kept" will still be available.

No question about the value

Many a time I have spent $30.00 or more on shareware distributed software and have been more than mildly disappointed. That's not the case here: Thoth would have been quite satisfactory even if it had cost quite a bit more. At $25.00, it's a definite bargain.



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Fri Sep 15 19:05:15 2006: 2462   anonymous


Thoth is no longer available to new subscribers. Existing paid subscribers only can upgrade to version 1.8, but there will never be a version 2.0.

See the Thoth (link) developer's home page for more info.

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