Get MSN Filter News (or Any RSS) on a SPOT Watch
by Phillip Torrone
January 03, 2006
Editor's note: This How-to was originally posted in the MAKE blog.
MSN Filter is a new blog with some pretty good posts about tech, music, etc. (even though no one knows who is posting them). Since it is from MSN, I assumed that it would be a channel I could add to my MSN Direct SPOT watch. But no, MSN Filter isn't one of the pre-chosen available options on the watch. This calls for a how-to! Here's how to get MSN Filter, or any other news via RSS, onto a SPOT watch.
What Is a SPOT Watch?
Before we get started, a lot of folks haven't heard of SPOT watches. They're wristwatches (manufactured as of this writing by Swatch, Tissot, Suunto, and Fossil) that can get news, stock, weather, messages and more. Here's the SPOT watch I use:
Microsoft explains their MSN Direct service, which is what feeds the information to the SPOT watch, like this: When you sign up for the MSN Direct service, you choose exactly which information you want to receive on your watch. This dynamic wireless technology discreetly displays the information that matters most to you. With a quick glance at your wrist, stay informed about news, weather, sports and more, and receive personal messages and appointment reminders. MSN Direct-ready watches are every bit as fun as they are informative. Enjoy making fashion statements with different watch faces and customizing your watch to fit your lifestyle.
For me, news is what I really wanted when I picked up my SPOT watch. I like having extra data on a device that normally just tells time. Over the past two years, MSN has added a lot of channels to their MSN Direct service, in categories ranging from News, Weather, and Sports to Lottery, Horoscopes, and Daily Diversions. Meanwhile, there's also a special Calendar channel which syncs with your Microsoft Outlook calendar and displays your schedule and appointments.
I like to read tech and science news from many of sources, but MSN Direct's "News/Technology News" subcategory only carries MSNBC Technology, Reuters Science, Reuters Space, Reuters Technology, and Space.com. So, when I saw that MSN had their new MSN Filter blog, I was hoping that they would make the posts available as an MSN Direct channel. No such luck. MSN Filter does let you sign up for alerts via phone, email, and MSN Messenger--but no MSN Direct/SPOT watch feeds:
But that's OK. There's a hack around all of this, to get the data you want on your SPOT watch--any data from a site that uses RSS, which includes many (if not most) blogs today. Here's how to get MSN Filter, or any other RSS-syndicated source, onto your SPOT watch.
- A SPOT watch (a.k.a. "Smart Watch for MSN Direct" or "MSN Direct-ready Watch") with service. I have the Swatch one.
- Microsoft Passport account.
- PC with an MSN Messenger account.
- SPOT Manager from SPOTDev or DirectRSS from PopLogix.
- .NET Framework 1.1+ from Microsoft
How to Get Your News On
Activate your watch.
If you're new to SPOT, follow the instructions that came with your watch to activate it. Usually it's a simple matter of signing in with Passport to msndirect.com and entering the code that's on the watch. This is when you'll also need to start paying the yearly fee.
Add your regular SPOT channels, locations, and anything else you want and need your SPOT to do "out of the box." Here's my set up:
I don't use Outlook for my calendar, but if you do, you can install the MSN Direct Calendar Add-in, and your SPOT watch will show your appointments. Also, check out the tip on DirectPOP at the end of this article, for how to get POP email onto your watch.
Why MSN co-developed super-techy watches that don't automatically support RSS feeds has always puzzled me. But anyway, both of these applications fill in this technical gap, and they both work fine. Which one of them you use is more of a personal preference. Here's a short rundown on each.
From SPOTDev's website: SPOT Manager is a program used to forward POP email messages and RSS news feeds to your MSNDirect enabled watch.
- Supports RSS and RDF news feeds
- Forwards RSS feeds to either the Messages or Calendar Channel (New!)
- Allows for messages to be split into up to 3 parts
- Support for multiple RSS feeds with individual settings
- Update checker to notify you of new versions
- POP Email support (Sorry, no SSL yet)
- Keyword message filtering to reduce spam
- Ability to leave forwarded messages on mail server
Get it here.
Here's how I configured mine. First, you need to enter your Passport info into SPOT Manager, so it can "spoof" itself as your MSN Messenger client.
Click RSS settings, and click "Add feed."
Add the RSS feed you wish to send to your watch, and set options like the number of items to send in each update. I added the MSN Filter RSS feed, which is at this location:
Feed successfully added.
Here are all of my feeds listed.
SPOT Manager can also send POP mail to your watch.
When you're done, test it out and see if you get the messages.
If you're signed in to MSN Messenger on a computer, you'll get signed out when SPOT Manager pretends to be you. On a side note, you may also need to add yourself as a contact. I don't recall if I needed to do this, but I know that some folks have needed to.
Test message worked!
Another app to consider is DirectRSS. From the PopLogix website: DirectRSS allows you to send items from an RSS feed to your MSN® Direct watch using the MSN® Messenger Service. The application polls the feeds you select at a specified interval. Messages are sent using the currently available mobile paging functionality available in the latest version of MSN® Messenger. The MSN® Messenger client need not be installed for the program to operate, although it may be useful for troubleshooting and initial account configuration.
Get it here.
DirectRSS has the same setup as SPOT Manager.
You add a feed like this:
Here are the settings for each feed:
I use SPOT Manager mostly because it does POP email and RSS feeds all in one, but as I mentioned, both apps are good.
And that's pretty much it!
Getting ContentNow you can get all the news you want, even if it isn't provided by MSN Direct. I had heard that there's a per-month message limit on SPOT watches, but my watch gets tons and tons of messages every day, and I've never had a problem with this.
Here's a message of this How-To, as it was posted the first time!
If you want to get POP mail on your SPOT watch, check out DirectPOP from PopLogix (the same company that wrote DirectRSS). SPOTDev can send POP mail to your watch, and also offers its own online calendar service that it will sync to with your watch's Calendar channel, in case you don't use Outlook.
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