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Modern-Day Pointcast Replacement?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the information-dissemination dept.

The Internet 35

toastyman asks: "Is anyone out there using anything similar to what Pointcast used to be? For those who don't remember, Pointcast was a screensaver/taskbar program from the late 90's that constantly displayed news, weather, stock quotes, and more. Pointcast is gone now, but one of my clients wants something similar to install on a few PCs/monitors in a waiting room and have them display the local weather, headlines, sports scores, whatever. Unless there's a pointcast-like screensaver out there that I'm missing, the closest thing I can think of would be some kind of RSS reader meant for full screen unattended operation. It has to be easily readable from a distance, automatically rotating what is displayed on the screen (think automated Powerpoint presentation) and automatically updating the content. Has anyone come across something that would work well for this? If not, does the idea of an 'informative' screensaver sound appealing?"

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Well you could always google (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222582)

RSS Screensaver []

Re:Well you could always google (4, Informative)

toastyman (23954) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223181)

I'm kinda surprised to see this story. I submitted this article about 4 months ago, and just assumed it got rejected....


First page of google, 7 of those are programming examples or toolkits, not actual applications. The others are screensaves that simply scroll RSS text across like a banner. Not what I'm looking for.

Anyone who remembers pointcast knows that these are pretty different. Pointcast had weather maps, images, and looked more like a professionally made TV production instead of a window of scrolling text on the page.

That's what I'm after. I've seen a few businesses that have what look like commercially installed versions of these, but before I ended up writing it myself I wanted to see if there was anything similar already done.

I did google for this pretty extensively. :)

Macromedia? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11223462)

Why not use Macromedia? Sure, it falls into the "it's a toolkit, not an application" arena, but it will do what you're asking.

At one Fortune 100 company I worked for, they had their own internal broadcasting (as in Television) group. With that came their own cable system (as in Cable TV). Each of the facilities at the different campus locations had their own "channel" which was really just Powerpoint running in a loop with timed slides, then the video out was being sent to a TV capture card, and then piped over the cable system.

Almost anyone had the skills to do a basic Powerpoint, and it was rather low-tech. Only hard part is getting the video signal distributed. You might be able do do video over IP with some sort of streaming media server, as in Apple's streaming media server.

Macromedia?-Were's the Beef? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11224668)

Or it's free replacement. []

And with either a full-screen browser or a stand-alone Flash player. One can get the Pointcast look. The hardest part isn't all that, but the value-add. That's why the "$50 TV tuned to CNN/MSNBC" joke got such a laugh, because it's spot on about what's important.

Re:Well you could always google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11224493)

-- My job involves looking at naked chicks all day. Why doesn't yours?

Well being that i'm gay, having your job would seriously suck.

Re:Well you could always google (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 9 years ago | (#11225109)

I gotta ask: Is this project for your Cam Whores? Something for them to watch while they wait for their moment in the spotlight?

Lets see (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11222587)

If not, does the idea of an 'informative' screensaver sound appealing?


Easier Solution (2, Informative)

whoda (569082) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222594)

Buy a $50 television and tune it to CNN/MSNBC/etc

Re:Easier Solution (2, Funny)

exhilaration (587191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222733)

And, for the love of God, MUTE IT!

Re:Easier Solution (1)

sakshale (598643) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223324)

And, for the love of God, MUTE IT!
and turn on the closed caption feature so people can read if they desire.

Easy, kludgey solution (4, Informative)

ShmuelP (5675) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222689)

1) Find a web page or set of web pages that contain the desired information.
2) Set up a quick CGI to cycle through the pages and/or auto-refresh, using a hidden frame if needed.
3) Set the font on the browser to a large size for readability.
4) Set the browser to full screen.
5) Finally, lock the machine in a box.

That's it.

Dead Trees (5, Funny)

rf600r (236081) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222763)

All the waiting rooms I'm ever in have these things I understand to be called magazines. They're neat. Full of data; fast direct-access and they never seem to crash. Wave of the future, I tell ya.

Re:Dead Trees (2, Insightful)

Exocet (3998) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222940)

Full of data that was out of date by the time the magazine was originally delivered, not to even speak of when you're reading it. That's assuming you want to read People or Time or any of that crap.

Waiting - and waiting areas - blow. Bring some headphones, a book, PDA or laptop. Take some control over how your time is going to be pissed away.

Re:Dead Trees (1)

mrzaph0d (25646) | more than 9 years ago | (#11231837)

i actually don't mind reading the magazines in the doctor's office, they're always interesting [] , but ones i would never buy for myself.

Re:Dead Trees (3, Funny)

rueger (210566) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223126)

All the waiting rooms I'm ever in have these things I understand to be called magazines.

Just last week I was at the doctor, reading the magazines in her waiting room, and I read about the perfect answer to toastyman's problem. It's a brand new software called "Pointcast", and they say that it's going to be the next big thing.

Oh - Ok... nevermind....

Re:Dead Trees (1, Insightful)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223156)

So what's the three-day weather forecast then?

Were you thinking just Windows? (3, Informative)

Proud like a god (656928) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222817)

For linux and whatever else it's ported to there's Karamba [] , which has components and forks created for RSS, weather feeds, stocks etc. There's a GNOME rival app too iirc.

Re:Were you thinking just Windows? (1)

OctaneZ (73357) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223076)

My favorite of this ilk is eRSS [] from the enlightenment project.

konfabulator (2, Informative)

comwiz56 (447651) | more than 9 years ago | (#11222879)

check out konfabulator [] .

Re:konfabulator (1)

toastyman (23954) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223222)

Konfabulator is what we're using now, but it doesn't really meet his requirements. There's no cycling of what's displayed, we just tried to arrange everything we wanted on the screen. But, unless he buys some massive 40" display, there's no way you can read that unless you're sitting in front of it.

Re:konfabulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11223259)

so whats your job?

Gdesklets is close (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223208)

Gdesklets is nice for having such info on your desktop on a Linux box.

For "screensaver" style stuff, I'm not sure. One could probably do some gdesklets hacking to get similar info.

I used to publish content for PC... (2, Informative)

BrianRaker (633638) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223416)

I just need to remember where I put the authoring tools, the server application and the desk-side apps. If you set the client to look at your server and not the now defunct PointCast servers, you might be able to get it to work. (I did this for the business customers of the ISP that I worked for back in Tennessee... the suits really enjoyed it)

I agree, I *really* miss PointCast. I can't believe that someone didn't buy the tech or IP and implement it somewhere else. Shame.

You think it could be considered 'abandonware' yet?

Pointcast to LaunchPad to Infogate to AOL to ... (1)

maggard (5579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11232693)

Pointcast turned down an approx. $450 million buyout offer from Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp in '97. They then tried to IPO in '99 but that fell apart. It was then sold to LaunchPad Technologies (one of those Idealab shops) for $7 million.

That became Infogate and in 2003 after their stock went down to pennies was sold to that graveyard of many technologies (no, not CA, the other, AOL.)

Supposedly AOL was looking into either relaunching some sort of Pointcast-y service or integrating the technology into their Communicator client product. Neither seems to have happened (what, at AOL?!)

So it's not 'abandonware' yet, it's still a 'valuable corporate asset'; just sucked into the AOL/Time-Warner/etc. vortex of doom. In the meantime the many flavors of RSS & Atom cover most of what Pointcast or it's later descendants could do and are quickly becoming as polished, all at a lower cost of entry.

Oh, and the domain sold in late 2003 for just over $16 grand. It's now one of those sad "parked" sites full of nothing-links and an offer that it, too, is for sale.

Pointcast HTML engine (3, Interesting)

green pizza (159161) | more than 9 years ago | (#11223652)

The saddest thing I ever saw was a computer lab of newbies surfing the web on semi-modern Macs.... using Pointcast as the browser!! That beast made Netscape 4 look like high class code.

It's been ages since I've used pointcast, so I don't even remember how one went about enabling it's browser (rather than just have it pass the URL off to Netscape or IE).

Online News Screensaver (3, Informative)

phatbuddy (648676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11224140)

If you have Windows, this one costs almost nothing and does have the nice formatting, selectable background pictures, rss feeds, and weather: Online News Screensaver []

ModeElevent (2, Informative)

gengee (124713) | more than 9 years ago | (#11224187)

I googled for 'push screensaver' and found ModeElevent Broadcast Screensaver, which looks promising: ts &subsec=ModeEleven_Products
And a review:,1759,1401393, p

Samurize (1)

idolcrash (836925) | more than 9 years ago | (#11224391)

Samurize [] (this site appears to be down, a german version of the site is up at be manipulated to do that, you just have to find the right plug-ins and create your own configuration, which isn't very difficult, once you get the hang of it.

linux (1)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 9 years ago | (#11224496)

I'd would first get xplanet as the desktop background with 5 min updates and weather maps enabled. Then I'd fire up Karamba with your other goodies and place those around the screen.

Wait, what am I saying... AOL's Instant Messenger gives me stocks, news, weather and all sorts of other crap without me even asking for it. Just fire up the program and you'll be bombarded. There's your answer!

Snap files (1)

cuteseal (794590) | more than 9 years ago | (#11224986)

There are a few candidates in the link below, including KlipFolio and Netropa: ws.html

I remember attempting to get into these things a couple of years back. I installed a few news tickers on my 2nd computer at work in the hope that I would stay informed of news, weather, stock quotes, etc. throughtout the day.

However, I found that despite it being always there, I tended ot ignore it. To assimilate the information, I had to consciously watch it, which sort of defeats the purpose. I found it more productive to actually take five mins to hit a news website, and then get back to my work.

Just my 2c.

Corporate network killer (1)

gothzilla (676407) | more than 9 years ago | (#11225799)

I remember pointcast and loved it. I also remember reading stories about how corporate networks were dying on the hour every hour because so many employees installed it and it didn't have a system to randomize the update time. []

I'm just as happy now using BlogExpress []

Newsmap (2, Informative)

maggard (5579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11226050)

Newsmap [] is a Flash-based interface showing Google News in color-coded boxes scaled according to rank. It self updates, broad catagories can be seleted or deselected, supports country-specific news, etc. Use an old Windows box with Flash & MSIE set to run full-screen and you're good to go.

MythTV/MythWeather (2, Informative)

mcknut (759166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11226297)

While only answering one part of your problem, I've always been impressed with the data retrieved by MythWeather. Perhaps you could put that on one Workspace then use what I'll mention below.

A few people have mentioned using, say, gDesklets and placing a number around the screen. Could you perhaps put one large one on each of a number of workspaces then work out some simple little program that would tell the window manager to flick workspaces every 5 minutes or something?

(For the record I don't remember if "Workspace" is the correct word these days. Virtual Desktop would be another word...)

I miss PointCast for my grandfather (1)

Krellan (107440) | more than 9 years ago | (#11235369)

I miss PointCast. It was my grandfather's favorite application, and the "killer app" that motivated him to get a PC and dialup Internet access, back in the mid-1990's.

Having everything in one place is a great feature for those who appreciate some handholding as they use the Internet. It is also a great boon to those with slow/unreliable connections: you can just hit "Update", and it goes out and grabs all new content (auto-retrying as often as necessary). Then, you can read the content offline, taking as long as you need, without needing to be online -- a plus when in an old farmhouse with only one telephone line!

PointCast provided just enough Internet functionality to be useful: reading web pages, gathering preselected web pages from many known-good content sources, and providing the ability to track stocks and investments as well. If PointCast had included an email feature, that would be icing on the cake: my grandfather would have never used any other application.

The screensaver feature of PointCast, while not needed in this case, was also some good eye candy. It made him feel like his computer was powerful and well-connected to the world, sitting back and watching the headlines and stock prices flying by.

What I liked about PointCast is the content was always presented in a professional way: instead of the constant pop-up advertisements and demeaning "Hey, click here now!" headlines of AOL, PointCast simply presented you with everything that was available, and let you discover/consume the content at your own pace. The small square advertisement in the upper right corner was acceptable and unobtrusive. A single Post-It note, strategically placed on the monitor, did wonders :)

It would be wonderful to see another service like PointCast today, customizable via RSS feeds. It would gather information from various sites on the Internet, instead of one central clearinghouse, so it would scale better and be cheaper to run. No central server would be required, as the client would be capable of going out and connecting to the various websites directly on its own. Maybe this would be a good idea for an open source project?

RIP PointCast and RIP my grandfather....

I miss PointCast for my grandfather-Intercast. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11235659)

Intercast [] was a 1990's technology that delivered push technology. However it primarily used TV tuners and "theoretically" could deliver a richer experience, in a pre-broadband era.
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