Display RSS feed as alert using PHP

Our school district had a need where we wanted to have the no school notice show on all of our district pages when an alert is sent out.  I wanted to automate the process so that there wouldn’t need to be any intervention last minute.  The alert system we use, Alert Solutions, has an option to output to an RSS feed.  By using this and a small amount of PHP, I was able to get the alerts to show up on the site automatically and display for 18 hours without any special intervention other than when the admin makes the notification, they have to remember to check the “RSS” box as well. 

The issue became that the RSS feed never lets go of any posts, and on top of that, it outputs the oldest at the top.  To fix this, we look for the number of keys, then pull only the latest key.  This means that we are only looking at the most recent entry.  If it is less than 18 hours old, it is displayed automatically.  Otherwise the div is set to display:none; and doesn’t show.

Below is the code I used.

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/alert-rss.css" media="all">


	//Set timezone and load array with only the fields we need
	$rss = new DOMDocument();
	$feed = array();
	foreach ($rss->getElementsByTagName('item') as $node) {
		$item = array ( 
			'title' => $node->getElementsByTagName('title')->item(0)->nodeValue,
			'desc' => $node->getElementsByTagName('description')->item(0)->nodeValue,
			'date' => $node->getElementsByTagName('pubDate')->item(0)->nodeValue,
		array_push($feed, $item);
	//Find the last entry array key so we only display current RSS feed
	$key = key($feed);
	//Set variables to pull appropriate data from array
	$title = str_replace(' & ', ' &amp; ', $feed[$key]['title']);
	$description = $feed[$key]['desc'];
	$date = date('l F d, Y H:ma', strtotime($feed[$key]['date']));

	//Set $end_date for when RSS expires.  Calculation entered as (hours*secondsperhour).
	$end_date = date('l F d, Y H:ma', strtotime($feed[$key]['date']) + (18*3600));

	//Set how today is calculated for comparison purposes
	$today = date('l F d, Y H:ma');

	//Display what we have found if it is current
	if($today < $end_date) {
		echo '<div id="blinky-div"><p><strong>'.$title.'</strong><br />';
		echo '<small><em>Posted on '.$date.'</em></small></p>';
		echo '<p>'.$description.'</p></div>';
	//Hide DIV if there is no current data
	} else {
		    echo '<div style="display: none;">No current RSS</div>';




And here is the CSS I used:

@keyframes blink { 
    50% {
   	border-color: #ff0000; 
   	border-style: solid;
   	border-width: 4px;
   	0% {
   	border-color: #fff; 
   	border-style: solid;
   	border-width: 4px;
#blinky-div {
    animation-name: blink ;
    animation-duration: .5s ;
    animation-timing-function: step-end ;
    animation-iteration-count: infinite ;
    animation-direction: alternate ;
Posted in Computers and Hardware, Technology, Web/Internet | Comments Off on Display RSS feed as alert using PHP

Clean your DHW tankless coil

We have hard water and we heat our water with an oil boiler and a tankless coil.  This is, admittedly, a very inefficient method of heating water but it came with the house so we are making it work.  Once a year we need to have the coil cleaned so that we get full output again.  In the past, our service company covered this under our contract, now they don’t so I have taken to doing it myself.  Here’s how I do it:

Wayne WaterBUG pump (any plastic submersible utility pump works) – $100
Washer hoses (pair) – $15
2 gallons of white vinegar – $6
New 5 gallon bucket – $3

For a total of $124 plus tax, I have everything I need to perform the cleaning.  Considering it was going to be $200 to have it done professionally, this was good.  Also, next time it is only $6 for the vinegar.

Of note, I already had the tankless coil isolator valves plumbed in, if you don’t have these you will need them and they cost about $60 for the set.

Procedure: Turn off boiler, let it cool down to at 110F or cooler.  Put pump in 5 gallon bucket.  Fill bucket with 2 gallons of vinegar.  Hook one hose from top of pump to one end of the coil.  Hook other hose from remaining coil hookup and put the loose end into the bucket.  Turn isolator valves off from water main and on to the pump and exit hose.  Plug in pump, let it run for 1-2 hours.  After that, I drained the vinegar and did the same process with clean water for a few minutes to get all the vinegar out.

It worked perfectly for us and is a known DIY solution, but I thought I’d share it here for you folks!

Posted in Home and Homestead, Wood Heat/HVAC | Comments Off on Clean your DHW tankless coil

Driveway alignment, do it yourself!

I’ve always been under the assumption that alignments should only be done by professionals on an alignment rack.  While I do still believe that this will give the best results, in a pinch, it can be done in the driveway as long as you are looking for zeroing out your toe adjustment.  It worked well for me as my Subaru Forester prefers zero toe-in anyway.

Simply use a piece of string and attach it somewhere behind the rear wheels (license plate or trailer hitch works well).  Then bring the string half way up the rear wheel and up to the front of the car, half way up the front wheels.  Adjust the tie rod end until the front tire touches the string at both points it crosses the rubber (front and rear of the front tire).

Here is someone else who uses this method and made a great YouTube video displaying how this works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuYsd7SUwTA

Posted in Cars, Trucks and Tractors, Hobbies, Home and Homestead | Comments Off on Driveway alignment, do it yourself!

Biking update

Since the last post I have:

– Replaced old bashguard with new BBG
– Replaced crankset with Shimano FC-M361 165mm crank
– Replaced front 3x gears with 1x 32 tooth N/W (Blackspire Snaggletooth)
– Removed front derailleur and added an N-Gear Jump Stop
– New chain
– Lezyne air pump
– Green Guru Saddle Bag and Frame bag
– Removed reflectors, added reflective tape for visibility

I’ve been riding my new 1×8 setup for a few months now and I have to say, I’m sold.  I really love the simplicity and don’t feel like I’m really missing out on anything.  With my shorter 165mm crank arms, I don’t really spin out until above 25mph, which is more than plenty on a trail bike.  I would like some lower gearing, and I plan on replacing my 11-30 cassette for an 11-34.  I can definitely see where an 11-40 10spd or 11spd would come in handy, but I think I can make plenty of action happen on the old 8.

I’ve even been adding some trail around the homestead, that has been really fun and the kids enjoy it too!  I do need to get over to the Wilder Hill Trails here in town as well as the Freedom Trails behind MSLC in Skowhegan.

Posted in Hobbies, Home and Homestead, Upgrade | Comments Off on Biking update

Excited about biking

I’m stoked to get back into the mountain biking scene.  I haven’t done much of it since graduating college 10 years ago.  I’ve been tuning up my bike, a 2005 Giant Rincon.  I need to adjust the front derailleur and lube the chain.  That’s pretty much all that’s left.  But I’ve already done a lot.  So far I have:

– Trimmed my custom bash guard (140g down to 80g)
– Upgraded from heavy 635g cable lock to 40g for two Hiplok Z-Loks
– New grips (Lizard Skins – Moab)
– Removed kickstand
– Trimmed and marked height on seat post

I can’t wait to try out the new local trails, Wilder Hill Trails in Norridgewock.

Posted in Health, Hobbies, Home and Homestead, Upgrade | Comments Off on Excited about biking