A Python script to read RSS feeds (and much more)

With the caveats that (a) I don’t know much about Python, (b) I don’t want to learn that much about it right now, and (c) I’m not concerned with performance at the moment, the following Python script does the following:

  1. Download an RSS feed from the URL given on the command line.
  2. Checks a database to see if the title of each feed is already in the database, and if so, if it was put in there more than 12 hours ago.
  3. Prints only the “new” RSS feed titles.
  4. For titles not already in the database, it writes the titles and timestamps to the database.

Here’s the admittedly-crappy-but-functional Python source code:


import feedparser
import time
from subprocess import check_output
import sys

#feed_name = 'TRIBUNE'
#url = 'http://chicagotribune.feedsportal.com/c/34253/f/622872/index.rss'

feed_name = sys.argv[1]
url = sys.argv[2]

db = '/var/www/radio/data/feeds.db'
limit = 12 * 3600 * 1000

# function to get the current time
current_time_millis = lambda: int(round(time.time() * 1000))
current_timestamp = current_time_millis()

def post_is_in_db(title):
    with open(db, 'r') as database:
        for line in database:
            if title in line:
                return True
    return False

# return true if the title is in the database with a timestamp > limit
def post_is_in_db_with_old_timestamp(title):
    with open(db, 'r') as database:
        for line in database:
            if title in line:
                ts_as_string = line.split('|', 1)[1]
                ts = long(ts_as_string)
                if current_timestamp - ts > limit:
                    return True
    return False

# get the feed data from the url
feed = feedparser.parse(url)

# figure out which posts to print
posts_to_print = []
posts_to_skip = []

for post in feed.entries:
    # if post is already in the database, skip it
    # TODO check the time
    title = post.title
    if post_is_in_db_with_old_timestamp(title):
# add all the posts we're going to print to the database with the current timestamp
# (but only if they're not already in there)
f = open(db, 'a')
for title in posts_to_print:
    if not post_is_in_db(title):
        f.write(title + "|" + str(current_timestamp) + "\n")
# output all of the new posts
count = 1
blockcount = 1
for title in posts_to_print:
    if count % 5 == 1:
        print("\n" + time.strftime("%a, %b %d %I:%M %p") + '  ((( ' + feed_name + ' - ' + str(blockcount) + ' )))')
        blockcount += 1
    print(title + "\n")
    count += 1

The database

When run with the Chicago Tribune RSS feed URL shown, the script writes data like the following to its “database” (which is a text file with the fields separated by a | character):

Tiger Woods won't play in U.S. Open|1401322649189
Photos: Giants 5, Cubs 0|1401322649189
Baker foils Giants' no-hit bid, but Cubs lose 5-0|1401322649189
Sox Game Day: Noesi still searching for 1st Sox victory|1401322649189
Bears claim tackle Ola off waivers|1401322649189
Stanley Cup Final to start Wednesday|1401322649189
Renteria pushing Samardzija for All-Star game|1401322649189
Chicago teen Townsend stuns French star in French Open|1401322649189
Emanuel: No Wrigley Field hearing next month|1401322649189


I use this code and database because:

  • I’ve started to show RSS feed data on my Raspberry Pi Radio using the xscreensaver ’Phosphor’ screensaver
  • The RSS feed data I’m showing doesn’t change that often
  • I hate to walk into the kitchen, look at the screensaver, and see the same data today that I saw last night

I currently get data from several different RSS feeds and then rotate that data for the screensaver every two minutes, so if there are no bugs in this script, when I look at the screensaver tomorrow morning I shouldn’t see the same data that I’m seeing this evening (as I write this post).

For example, right now I see a title that says, “Baker foils Giants’ no-hit bid, but Cubs lose 5-0”. That’s okay to see that now, but I don’t need to see it again tomorrow morning. In reality I don’t need to see it more than once, but because the screensaver isn’t interactive -- and I don’t want it to be -- I hope that removing stories after ~12 hours is a good compromise.