Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blogging Tools | by Adrian Cockcroft | April 20th, 2006

I've been using blogger for the last 18 months, it was an easy way to get started but now I don't see some of the features I want. The basic service has changed very little in that time, so it doesn't seem to be getting much investment and development.

The three missing features I see in other blogs are tags, a blogroll, and posting categories.

I want to have an easy way to add a series of tags to each blog entry, without having to create custom html. I did it once the hard way and don't usually bother.

I'd like a blogroll so that people can see which blogs I think are worth reading, but I don't want to edit my html template to get one, I want to import OPML or have a table to edit.

I'd like to be able to separate categories so that I can label rants like this separately from technical info on capacity planning, thoughts on the industry, personal stuff.

I like the web based blogger service, I can post from anywhere using any device (I've posted to blogger from Linux, Solaris, Windows, Mac and Treo/palmOS). I don't want to host my own blog or have to install a blogging tool.

I use bloglines as an aggregator to read blogs, I could also use bloglines to host my own blog, since it does seem to have some of these features, and it would make referring easier.

What other options are out there, is there a slightly better blogger competitor that I should check out? Is there a way to migrate existing entries to a new blog? Comments requested...

Cheers Adrian

Comparing Smart Mobile Phones | by Adrian Cockcroft | April 19th, 2006

Its been a while since I last posted, mostly due to a long vacation. We stayed with friends in New York for a few days, spent 10 days on Bermuda (very nice and relaxing) and spent a few days in New York again on the way home.

In the last week or so I have been trying out a new phone. I got a Nokia 6682 which runs the Symbian S60 operating system and which has fairly good third party support for applications that use Java, Flash and Opera. My history with phones started out with Nokia for many years, and then I switched to the Treo line. I've had a Treo 270, 600 and currently have a 650. Going back to Nokia was is some ways familiar, the user interface has some similarities to the older days, but overall I miss my Treo and I'm going to switch back. I thought it might be interesting to discuss the differences and what I think a state of the art smartphone should be able to do for me.

The Nokia 6682 has a decent spec, large color screen, 1.3Mpixel camera and a 64MB removable flash card included. The spec page even says that you can "Bid on eBay on the go" but that is available to any phone that can browse to With a normal Cingular GSM service its not using a 3G high speed network, so data network access is similar in speed to the Treo 650.

My main problem is that I've been spoilt by the Treo's touch screen and keyboard. When using the Nokia, at first I was poking at the screen in vain trying to select things. The screen is fairly high resolution, but its an eye test in that the text size is too small for many features, and the colors available in the default set of themes have poor contrast. The Nokia is actually much harder to read. For text entry I'm actually used to using Nokia's predictive text feature but it is still extremely painful to enter a text message or URL.

The Treo' browser (Blazer) is easy to use but is not well supported in terms of javascript and many sites don't recognize it properly. On the Nokia there is a built in browser (called Web) and Opera 7 is included, with a free upgrade to Opera 8.5. I found the "Web" browser OK to use, but Opera was very annoying and unintuitive. With the Treo I can quickly get on the web to look something up, it just takes too long on the Nokia, and with Opera I found the navigation commands to be confusing and awkward. I tried to make use of the javascript support in Opera, but it didn't work for Google maps, despite Google claiming that Opera 8 is supported.

I also had problems with the Nokia after browsing the web. The phone keeps applications running in the background and tends to run out of memory at awkward moments. I tried to use the camera, but at the point of taking a picture it failed with a lack of memory. I had to bring up the web browser and explicitly exit it, meanwhile the photo opportunity had gone. The Nokia's camera is higher resolution and has continuous zoom that works for video as well as pictures. For the Treo, you have just 1x and 2x zoom settings and a 640x480 resolution. Its not really enough to snap pictures of whiteboard scribbles clearly. The Nokia has a sliding cover for the phone, which activates the camera when opened, but its too easy to open by accident when getting the phone out.

Other phones I've seen recently include the Verizon LG VX9800 which is a very fat clamshell with a nice big keyboard, 3G networking and a real eye-test of a small hi-res screen. A friend got one but is taking it back, its more suited to gaming and entertainment than business. My son has a Motorola SLVR L7 with iTunes and seems happy with it. It looks cool, fits his interests but he doesn't try to use the web from his phone.

Some co-workers have Windows mobile phones, I haven't tried to use them myself, but I've heard a mixture of good and bad comments, opinion seems very polarized as love it or won't touch it..

So in summary, the things I can't do without on a phone are a touch screen, full keyboard and a large (not just high resolution) display with fonts and icons that can be read easily. The things I don't like about the Treo 650 are its lack of support for Opera 8 (which may be more usable with a keyboard and touch screen), Javascript and Flash.

My favourite applications on the Treo are the Chatter email client, Planetarium for identifying stars and planets, and Solitaire for mindless time wasting - which would be a pain to play without the touch screen. I also find that the mobile version of bloglines works well with the Treo's browser, so I can keep up with my feeds.