In Which Greg Belatedly Discovers the Internet

Posted by Greg Stemp. I don’t think I have ever consciously tried to pattern my life after anybody in particular, but, subconsciously, I seem to have a lot in common with General George Armstrong Custer. Custer was a bit of an eccentric, and he did have some notable successes, particularly as a military commander during the Civil War. On the other hand, he was prone to doing whatever the heck he wanted, without always carefully considering the consequences or fully understanding the situation. But, hey, I’m sure everything turned out all right for him in the end, right?

Regardless, I can definitely empathize with Custer’s propensity for just charging ahead and assuming he’ll figure it all out as he goes along; I pretty much do that every day of the year. For example, when I stumbled upon and decided we Scripting Guys’ needed a blog, I didn’t bother reading any of the accompanying documentation, nor did I check out other blogs to see what they were like; instead, I just got an account and decided to make up the rest as I went along. For the most part, that was fine: figuring out how to post an article was pretty easy, and I even figured out how to change look of the thing. (Yes, thank you, thank you. But, please, hold your applause until the end.)

But that was about as far as I went. For example, I noticed that there was a little icon labeled XML on the blog home page, and I even went so far as to click it (and, lo and behold, I got an XML version of the blog). I had a vague notion that this might somehow be related to RSS feeds, but because I didn’t really know that much about RSS feeds, I pretty much just ignored it. Just like General George Armstrong Custer would have. (And, yes, it’s true: I didn’t – and don’t – know much about RSS feeds other than it was some way to get some things over the Internet. Or something. Hey, if you’re looking for someone who’s on the cutting edge of technology, you better hope the other Scripting Guys start posting things here.)

That would have been the end of it, except that over the past few days I’ve gotten a number of emails, each asking the same two things:

  • What’s the Login link for, and how come I can’t log in using my Passport account?
  • What’s the XML icon for?

The first question was easy to answer: the Login link is for the owners of the blog. We have to login in order to post articles, change settings, etc. If you’ve tried to login and couldn’t, most likely that means you’re not an owner of the blog. (I know, the Web is supposed to be about sharing and community and all that. But we’re still not going to make you an owner of the blog. Sorry.)

For the XML link, however, I actually had to do a bit of investigating. As it turns out, it is used for RSS feeds, and as I discovered, using an RSS reader is much faster and much easier than directly accessing a blog via the Web. (Yes, I’m aware that the rest of you learned that in 1946. Hey, I told you I wasn’t a cutting-edge guy!) Heck, I even found out what RSS stands for: Really Simple Syndication. And they said you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Anyway, if you’re not already accessing this blog through an RSS reader, I’d recommend you take one out for a test spin. I went to Google, typed in RSS reader, and randomly picked something called RSS Bandit. It seems like a pretty good little “news aggregator” to me (notice how I’m even picking up the lingo now?), and if you’d like to try it out, you can get the free download from here:

Is it the best RSS reader available? I have no idea. But I’d be interested in hearing what other people are using, and why they like (or don’t like) that reader better.

Incidentally, if you’re like me, and have no idea what you’re doing, install your RSS Reader, and then hunt around in the UI until you see a button or a menu item or something that allows you to create a new “feed.” To hook up to the Scripting Guys’ blog, right-click the blog’s XML icon and choose Copy Shortcut. That will give you the URL ( to the RSS feed for the blog. Back in your RSS Reader, paste that URL as the feed address, and you should be in business.

If you happen to be using RSS Bandit, right-click My Feeds and then click New Feed. In the Add New Feed dialog box, make sure is entered in the Url box. Type something in the Title box (e.g., The Scripting Guys) and then click OK. That should get you going.

As for me, well, I’ve succumbed to the inevitable: I figured I’d better learn something about XML (oh, and XSL, and XSLT, and XPath, and ….). I don’t have the slightest idea what I’m doing, and have even less idea how long it will take me to acquire an even rudimentary knowledge of XML. I did, however, manage to write one script this morning, one that doesn’t have much to do with XML per se, but that at least does something: it grabs the latest XML version of the Scripting Guys’ blog and saves it to a file on your hard drive. Why? No particular reason. But, hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? (Plus this is ostensibly a blog about scripting, so I feel obligated to throw a script here.)

Const ForWriting = 2


Set objHTTP = CreateObject("MSXML2.XMLHTTP")

Call objHTTP.Open("GET", strURL, FALSE)


Set objFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")

Set objFile = objFSO.CreateTextFile _

    ("C:\Scripts\scripting_guys.xml", ForWriting)

objFile.Write objHTTP.ResponseText


Yeah, yeah, yeah. But come back in a few months and we’ll see if I’ve managed to come up with something a little more interesting. (Which, of course, could end up being like General Custer saying, “Let’s look over there and see if we can something a little more interesting.”)