Jul 24, 2006

Tried Wayfinder

For various reasons I realised that Wayfinder runs on the A1000. Because I happen to have a Bluetooth GPS receiver I decided to give Wayfinder a try. This post as not a full blown review, but might help you to decide if Wayfinder is for you.

In sum, Wayfinder is an easy install and works surprisingly well. But it is so dependent on mobile access that I decided to not buy it after the 5 day trial expired.

After skimming through the information at their website I signed up be sending myself an SMS that contained an installation link. To my great surprise the installation (over the 3G network) worked flawlessly. Took a couple of minutes and reqired a couple of separate downloads and installs. It was equally easy to hook up and apply my BT GPS receiver (the built in A1000 GPS worked too, but with less good precision). I installed the Swedish language pack and the instructions came out load and clear.

My decision was to just use Wayfinder, without exploring all of its capabilities. It took me some experimentation to figure out how Route planning/navigation worked. I have used Tom Tom (V3) before and Wafínder has a somewhat different terminology and ways of doing things. In any case it was pretty ease to find a target and drive from where I was to where I wanted to go.

As with Tom Tom I quickly found at that too often the destinations I really needed to find my way to (on the country side of Sweden) was unknown to Wayfinder. On the other hand I got great help to find places like Systembolag and gas stations. On feature that I never tried, but seems great, is to select a destination through the Web interface and have it SMS:ed to the phone.

Maps where swiftly downloaded as needed, that is, when the phone had mobile access. Unfortunately, especially on the countryside, the 3 coverage is lousy and I got no maps. This is the main reason I decided not to pay for continued use of Wayfinder. One is supposed to be able to pre-download maps, but that is an hassle (and, I believe, is only possible for city maps).

If Wayfinder offered an option to preload the phone with maps of, say the whole Scandinavia, then I would probably have paid. Especially as the license is valid for other platforms. As I previosly have said, I will move to another phone/pda any month now.

01:57 PM in Reviews, SW: Utilities | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Feb 27, 2005

Checking out podcatchers

OK, I'm into podcatching the manual way. That is, downloading podcasted MP3s to my laptop and then move them over to the A1000 (see earlier post).

As podcatcher I started to use iPodder (podcast downloader), which creates sub-directories for each stream in the receiving directory. But, the A1000 refuses to recognize MP3 files in sub-subdirectories. That means I have to transfer the MP3s file by file instead of copying the whole receiving directory. Instead I decided to look at some alternative to iPodder. I didn't have too much time for this, so I simply checked the list of Windows-based software listed at iPodder.org.

I skipped evaluating Podfeeder (adware or pay) and Jäger (more like a browser plugin). After quickly trying Nimiq, Doppler, and Happy Fish I decided to keep the latter for a while.

All three require the .NET framework (easy download from Microsoft) and seems to do the stuff that most beginners want. Nimiq and Doppler allows you to edit the stream URL (e.g. if it is changed or you want to copy it). You may also define how many enclosures that should be downloaded per stream. Good points with Doppler are the possibility to have playlists created for the Windows Media Player or iTunes and the option of excluding certain enclosures in the podcast (such as video files). Catch scheduling with Nimiq is relatively basic, i.e. you define a time interval (e.g. every 2nd hour). The other two catchers allows you (in theory, have not really tried if it works) more flexible scheduling.

It turned out that both Nimiq and Doppler saves the enclosures (MP3 and other rich media stuff in the RSS stream) in separate directories for different streams. Happy Fish, on the other hand, asks for a directory for each individual stream. I just put all streams in the same directory.

Furthermore, Happy Fish offers a convenient "device synchronization" feature. I was able to define the drive of my Transflash card (when inserted in the laptop) as a "USB Flash memory device". So, new podcatches after the last synch are automatically transfered to the Transflash card when I insert it in the laptop (this really works). Then I have to move the Transflash card to my A1000 in order to enjoy the casts there.

Alternatively (and slower) is to tranfer the files over to the A1000 with the USB cable using the Motorola Desktop Suite. For I while I was hoping to find an application that would create a virtual drive letter in the laptop for my Transflash card inside the A1000. That is, a kind of flash memory drive thing accessed through the USB-cable. I tried the PC Mobile Drive, but it did not even work properly (a lot of "system icons not synchronized" whatever that means...). In any case, it seemed to provide nothing more than the File Explorer in the Motorola Desktop Suite.

Happy Fish is still in early beta, so I don't expect everything to work. There seems to be a lot of bugs. Some podcasts are simply not downloaded, others report errors (although they work with other podcatchers). For the moment I don't care, since I simply want to try podcasting without being depending on it.

Later on I'll do some podcasts, but other things are more urgent...

11:57 PM in Podcasting, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jan 08, 2005

doHeadlines reviewed

My third review of newsreaders concerns doHeadlines (a 15 USD download from Handango). Finally, a reader I found user friendly, capable and well worth the money.

  • Pros
    fairly customizable
    off-line reading
    easy to use
    multi-lingual (I think)
  • Cons
    no URL pasting
    no support for atom
    unused feed content

You can customize doHeadlines in terms of both looks and functionality. Regarding looks it is far from a skin-type approach. But you can select zoom level (text size) and organize your feeds into custom-made folders.

There are many ways you can choose how doHeadlines function. Under Main Settings you select preferred browser (for full access to the news source), update frequency (manual or user selectable intervals), when downloaded articles should be deleted, and whether or not the connection activites should be displayed. For some reason I did not get any MIDlet security question about Net access. Whereas (perhaps) insucure, I like it because it's rather annoying being forced to confirm access all the time as other newsreaders do.

For each added feed you not only specify the URL and name, but also update frequency and when articles may be deleted for that specific feed. The service of getting the feed name automatically with the help of "verify" is very convenient. But as with the other newsreaders I've tried you cannot paste URLs. So, entering a long URL with special characters is tedious.

When the available feeds are listed they can be assigned to a category. Either to one of the pre-defined categories or anyone created with the edit category function. It would be nice if one could specify the category at the same time the feed is added.

Reading on- and off-line
The feed currently open or all feeds at once may be updated at any time with the click of a button. Once you update a feed, it's articles are stored in your phone until they are deleted (manually or after the user-defined time). Each unread article is highlighted in the feeds list. In addition there is a handy menu option for marking all articles as read.

Another great feature is that feed names and headlines that are longer than the width of the screen are automatically scrolled when selected. Clicking on a title opens the feed/article and display its date, headline and downloaded text. While reading the article you may click a browser button to access the full story. You can also scroll up and down in the list of articles by clicking arrow buttons (instead of being forced to returning to the list of articles) - very user friendly. You can also navigate in the headlines with the joypad. Hopefully future versions will improve the use of the joypad (e.g. jumping to the next/previous article while reading one).

No URL pasting
Again, I don´t know if it's me or UIQ - but I find it extremely annoying being forced to manually enter long URLs when adding new feeds. I think it would be great if you could just paste the URL. Even better would be adding feeds by mailing in source data that doHeadlines (or any other newsreader) could import (compare downloading games or SMS/MMS/service settings).

No support for Atom

According to the specs doHeadlines does not support feeds with tha Atom standard(s). Have not checked this, but I guess it's so.

Unused feed content
As with the other newsreaders I have reviewed doHeadlines do not show any embedded links or text formatting. (I am beginning to think this is the norm for newsreaders, fixed as well as mobile. Wonder why).

In sum

doHeadlines is a relatively high priced newsreader, but it does its job well. The user interface is good, feeds are easily managed and reading articles is straight forward. Of the three newsreaders running under Symbian I have tried, this is the only one I consider useful. When it becomes easier to add URLs, one might talk about excellent newsreaders. Until then - doHeadline is a very good one.

p.s. Fireseed, the company behind doHeadlines, are looking for people that want to translate apps to different languages. In return you'll get the product for free (Spanish, Swedish, German, Dutch, Danish and Turkish already done). For more info, see bottom of www.fireseed.com/content/view/1/1001 d.s.

08:09 PM in Reviews, SW: newsreaders | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Test of FeedBurner MFR 2

The last two days I've tested two other newsreaders. Here I will briefly comment on my experiences with FeedBurner MFR 2 (Mobile Feed Reader, version 2.1). Handango charges 7.99 USD for this software developed by Burning Door Syndication Services, Inc. My reason for being short here is simply that I found a better, though pricier, product (doHeadlines, see following review).

Actually I started out trying a previous version of MFR. But yesterday the new one was released. So, this review is maybe the first...

FeedBurner MFR takes a few seconds to start (other readers are instant). Through the Preferences menu you may change font size, number of recent posts to download, update frequency, default action for feed items (describe or browse), and how to browse (WML, xHTML or Platform).

When you add a new feed, MFR presents a field for the URL as well as three buttons (WWW, .COM, and "/"). Perhaps these buttons are shortcuts for text entries, but hitting them on my A1000 aborts the program. Still not possible to paste an URL, but the developer's say they will support an automated upload feature in the future (the menu option "Load OPML" says "this application must be licensed to use this future").

When viewing an item (news post) you may access the original story by browsing to the source. In addition you can e-mail the item - a nice feature! All items are ended with a time stamp, but no text formatting or embedded links are available.

Other reading options (accessible through a drop-down menu) are back, browse item, next, and previous. Personally I would have preferred if all applicable buttons were placed on the bottom of the screen. Another annoying thing is that you cant´t change font size except on the main menu (and the chosen size affects only the list of feeds, not its headlines or contents).

A (new?) nice feature is that you can update all feeds with one click. As with the other newsreaders I have tried you must still explicitly (an extra click and mental energy) allow acces to the Net. But, by now I have learned to allow access for the session (previously I OK-d the current access and had to OK every update).

In sum, version 2.1 is better than the previous one, but still not good enough as I know a better newsreaders on the market. Perhaps I would give it a paid try, if I had some indication on upgrade possibilities.

04:47 PM in Reviews, SW: newsreaders | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jan 06, 2005

A1000blog reviews NewsFlash

Yesterday I purchased NewsFlash(UIQ) (a 4 USD download, no free trial, from Handango). The version I got was 1.0, released December 13, 2004. According to the developer (www.twistsoft.com):

"NewsFlash is a RSS News feed reader which helps you in staying in touch with the World with latest News Updates on your handheld AnyWhere AnyTime."

After some playing with the application I can see that it helps, but far from enough. In other words, I'm disappointed and I cannot recommend anyone buying NewsFlash.

  • Pros
    it gets (some) news
  • Cons
    bad user interface
    limited newsformats
    unused feed content
    meaningless customer support

I know of three other readers: Cabot, doHeadlines and FeedBurner. All offer trial-versions for free. Cabot seems too limited for me needs (in terms of feed formats), but I will return with reviews of the other two later on.

Minor installation problem

Initially I didn't find NewsFlash among my applications in the A1000 after I installed it with Motorola's Desktop Suite. I tried to remove NewsFlash and then install it again but that did not help. Then I realized that the installation package (.sis) only enabled installation on the A1000. That is, I had to also use the Application Launcher's installation feature (in the A1000) to complete the installation. All other apps I've installed so far does a full installation. That is, the application can be run directly.

Limited news format

There are a myriad of newsfeed formats, versions and file types out there (RSS 1, RSS 2, Atom, XML, RDF, and you name it (see feedvalidator.org). None of the first three feeds I tried worked (Error Connection to the server failed!). A1000blog (xml) and Kommentar.net (xml) are run on Typepad, which supposedly is a major blogging hotel. Skolmarknad (xml) is run on Movable type 2.61. The fourth one, mymarkup.net, did work (rss 2). Just to be sure I checked Kommentar.net's feed with Blogspot, and it worked.

My contention is that NewsFlash can only manage a few newsfeed formats. And which ones' is not specified.

Bad user interface

I will not go into detail here, just a few examples will illustrate why I consider NewsFlash's user interface a result of sloppy design (or perhaps a too early release).

The Main Menu offers four choices (News Update, Bookmarks, Help and About). Clicking the first option offers you a list of available categories (you cannot edit these). A click on a category takes you the the corresponding feeds. Then, clicking on any of those feeds does nothing more than selects it. You have to also click the "OK"-button to update your selection (or click the "Back"-button). If you click "OK", UIQ (I guess) kicks in a security question about a MIDlet that wants to access the Net. This question always comes up. In other words, updating is cumbersome.

Then we have the layout of buttons. "OK" is to the left of "Back"  - and "Delete" is to the left of "Save". In other words, it is easy to delete a bookmark by mistake (trust me - done that) since OK shares the same space as Delete.

Another stupid thing is that you can´t read news off-line. That is, update a feed and then read it off-line. In other words, no newsfeeds can be read without first updating the feed.

Maybe it is UIQ's fault (or my unwitting), but you cannot paste URLs into the appropriate field when you add new bookmarks. Furthermore, URLs are typically long, but the size of the field for entering them is very small. This means it is difficult to input, and hard to see, the newsfeed addresses.

Unused feed content

When reading the updated newsfeed, the only thing one gets is the headline and the body of the post. No date/time information, text formattning, or links. Not getting links is a great limitation, because if you want to read more - you cannot do that. This is potentially a bad thing for publishers, because they typically see feeds as a way to increase traffic to their web site. But without a link - nowhere to go.

Meaningless customer support

As I was writing this review I went to the developers website and described my problems with accessing newsfeeds (including sample URL:s for feeds not working). In less than an hour I got the following answer:

Dear Customer,
NewsFlash supports standard RSS feeds.
Customer Support
Total Wireless Solutions
To put it mildly, that was a meaningless answer. There is no such thing as "standard RSS feeds" (see above).

In sum

NewsFlash is not a ready product. in my view it is at best in an early beta stage. No one charges for betas. Spend your money wiser, that is elsewhere. Why not on the victims of the Asian Tsunami?

02:36 PM in Reviews, SW: newsreaders | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack