RSS Readers for PocketPC

I really like surfing the web on my PDA while taking a bath. Every morning before leaving home for the office, I use my PDA to check my email and read some news-sites like Slashdot or the Heise Newsticker (which is available in a PDA-optimized version, which I have linked here)

Some days ago, I thought that actually reading all the RSS feeds I’m subscribed to could help me prolong my bathing-expirience, so I went looking for a decent RSS-Reader for the PocketPC. Here’s what I found (all products reviewed here understand all the RSS-variants and Atom 0.3 and work without a permanent connection to the net):

Egress

Egress is Shareware and costs $12. Like all the readers I’m reviewing here, I began using it by importing this OPML file. After importing, Egress insits on checking all the feeds for new entries, so don’t do that if you are connected via your cellphone. Of all the readers reviewed here, Egress has the best UI: The whole Channel-List is compacted to just a little menu bar at the top of the screen, leaving lots and lots of space for the entry itself. To the left is a drop-down menu showing all your feeds, to the right are two arrows to navigate within the feeds containing unread items.

While there is a “Manage Channels” function, it’s not possible to move imported channels into subfolders – at least I have not found out, how to do it

The content viewer somewhat supports HTML, though I’m missing support for the <pre>-Tag as I’m reading quite a bit of programming-blogs. Another thing that bothers me is the support for the four-way navigation button of my iPaq: Accitentally hitting left or right insted of down will switch to another unread blog. Paging back will not scroll to the point where you were interrupted reading. Additionally, in contrast to PocketIE, scrolling down using the nav buttons just scrolls a few lines instead a whole screen.

By clicking on an entry you can toggle it’s expanded/colapsed state. The former is used to read the whole entry, the latter just presents it’s title. Unread items are bold-faced

The reader has quite an extensive preferences screen and is the only application tested here where one can set the User-Agent-Header with which it should request the feeds.

A Today-Screen-Plugin provides an alternating view to new entries, but is not really useful.

Unless your are constantly connected, you should turn of Egresses feature to automatically refresh the feeds as it will trigger the Windows CE autodial routine for every feed in your subscription list, not stopping the process when you hit cancel, which is a major pain in the ass

PocketFeed

PocketFeed is the only free software I’m reviewing here. It’s interface is devided in two parts: At the top there is a tree view containing the feeds and the entries. Unfortunately, unread ones are not displayed in boldface or any other way.

The bottom half is the reader which does not support scrolling with the navigation buttons.

There is no today-plugin or a way to automatically check for updated entries.

All in all, PocketFeed is a nice start, but many features are still missing.

PocketRSS

PocketRSS, like Egress is Shareware. It costs $5, so it’s slightly cheaper than Egress. The user interface is similar to the one of PocketRSS (with a tree view taking a lot of precious screen estate), though this time, the viewer is at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, scrolling with the navigation buttons changes from entry to entry and does not scroll the current one.

Like Egress, PocketRSS has a Today-Screen Plugin – the most featureful of all the readers.

Settings-wise, there’s not much the user can change and the settings are devided into a “Preferences” and a “Configuration”-Menu. Not that useful.

Just by looking at the review-length alone, you should be able to see, which reader I prefer: It’s Egress. Egress is the only one that’s really parctical for me (many full-content feeds subscribed). The problem with taking screen estate and the non-working navigation buttons is reason enough for me not to use the other two programs

Granted: You can switch off the panel, but it involves always more tapping than with Egress

Additionally, Egress is the only program properly displaying the unread-state of the feeds – an absolute must for me.

While there are some somewhat annoying buglets, I probably will pay those 12 bucks, but not without directing it’s author to this review here, in the hope that those little problems get fixed eventually.

PS: I’m writing this entry on the just repaired IBM Thinkpad. I will write about the wonderful experience I had with the IBM support in another entry.

What the heck?

Friendly error messages?

Then tell me, what PHP wants to say me with this:

Parse error: parse error, unexpected T_PAAMAYIM_NEKUDOTAYIM in /home/pilif/…/include/simple_news.inc on line 131

Whatever. Back to work.

Unforeseen annoyance

Today something happened that I never though could happen:

My Thinkpad died.

And I really mean it. The device did noting more than beep once long and twice short. A quick look at the very informative support pages of IBM showed me that the worst possible thing happened: Failure on the System Board or the RAM (which is just as bad as I have only built-in RAM).

A call to the IBM support line got me a ticket number and about half an hour later, they told me to send the machine to their repair center but because I can reach that by train and foot in about 15 minutes from my office, I’ve asked whether I can bring it to them which they accepted.

So now I’m working on a helplessly underpowered Thinkpad T41 that was lying around in the office. Starting Delphi takes a bit more than a minute just to give you an impression of it’s speed (256 MB of RAM is much too less for me)

They told me that the computer will be fixed in two to three days, so I will have to live through the week-end without my beloved Thinkpad. Too bad.

This is the first of about 7 Thinkpads in my life where something like that happened which should speak a lot for their incredible quality. And while this whole story was certainly annoying, the support was helpful and speditive. This is all I could ask for. Thanks IBM.

In case you ask how I could get to work on the new computer so fast: I’ve removed the harddrive of the defective machine and put it into the older one. While Windows XP comlained a bit about the graphic driver on the new machine, the rest of the hardware was detected flawlessly, so this was extremely un-painful. To be on the secure side non the less, I’ve created an image of the partition containing my personal data [note to self: Finally blog about your partition scheme].

Eclipse 3.1 M2

The Eclipse team seem to have stopped announcing Milestone releases on the front page, so it’s a bit tricky to know when a new one is released.

So it may be old news, but Eclipse 3.1 M2 has been released.

It contains some nice new features.

The Milestone builds are extremely stable, so there should be no problems using it.

Is that still POP3?

My mobile phone provider here is sunrise. I am subscribed to what they call “Onebox”, a unified messageing solution.

I did that because I have access to my voice mailbox via their web-interface which is much more comfortable (and cheaper) than to use the mobile phone.

Unfortunately, their interface does not allow forwarding those messages to another address. While they say they do, entering a forwarding-address actually forwards the emails sent to the sunrise mailbox, but the voice messages stay where they are.

Today I though about accessing the box via fetchmail and sending it to my regular mailbox.

While this turned out to work extremely well (even the simple notification flag gets cleard on my handset when the fetchmail job forwards the message), the protocol the server speaks is awfully strange. It’s supposed to be POP3 passing around RFC2822 messages, it’s actually something else… Just have a look:

pilif@galadriel ~ % telnet um.sunrise.ch pop3
Trying 212.161.159.6...
Connected to um.sunrise.ch.
Escape character is '^]'.
 1 +OK POP3 umsi3-c04d2.mysunrise.ch vUMSI v1.6.0.0 (UM2 Build 030408) server ready
 2 user [phonenumber]
 3 +OK User name accepted, password please
 4 pass [password]
 5 +OK Mailbox open, 1 messages
 6 stat
 7 +OK 1 192931
 8 retr 1
 9 +OK 1421099 octets
10 From: [calling number] <[calling number]@mysunrise.ch>
11 To: -                      <[phonenumber]@mysunrise.ch>
12 Date: 04 Oct 2004  09:29 +0200
13 Message-id: 0xe97d4b80-0x40-0x3735-0x50
14 Subject: Voice Message
15 Mime-Version: 1.0 (Voice Version 2.0)
16 Content-Type: multipart/voice-message;
17   boundary="2448314160_4000_141330_5000.04102004_0929"
18 Sensitivity: Normal
19 Importance: Normal
20 X-Priebity: 1 (Highest)
21 Content-Duration: 64
22 X-UMSI-Transferred: Server-Id="1"; Server-Type="INFINITY";
23     Profile="[phonenumber]@4:6";
24     Original-Message-UID="244831416 004 005 14133"

(I’ve added the line numbers myself)

Line 7: Oh nice. There’s a message and it’s about 188 KiB large

Line 9: Wait a minute… 1300 KiB? Didn’t they say otherwise in Line 7? Actually it’s the server decompressing the Voice message and converting it to WAV just after the retr

Line 13: Is that supposed to be a valid Message-ID? Don’t think so

Line 15: What’s that? That’s not a valid Mime-Version Header

Line 18+19: Are those really valid message headers?

Line 21: What the heck is “Priebity”? That’s not an english word.. Maybe they mean “Priority”?

Line 22: Is this a valid header?

I pity the developers of mail user agents: They must cope with such rubbish and in the end, they are blamed if they do not. It’s never the vendors of the brolen servers because those are not visible to the end users.

Different question: Why is it always closed source commercial software doing such stupid things? They get paid to create working software and what you see above is not what I’d call “working”.

When I’m writing software communicating with some other component not written by me, I follow the defined protocol to the character whether the software is going to be publically released or not. It’s just polite.