Rick Hurst Web Developer in Bristol, UK


Category: mobileweb

Mobile Claustrophobia

Just before xmas I installed the Path app out of curiosity, as I had noticed that a few of my friends were using it. It’s a lovely app, and I really like their policy of limiting connections to 150 to encourage it to be used as a communication tool for friends rather than a crazy marketing scatter-gun to be used for self-promotion by individuals and businesses, as most social networks inevitably become.

However, i’ve barely used it, partly because it doesn’t have a critical mass of people I know using it yet, but also because it doesn’t have a web version – currently it is restricted to app-only for iPhone and Android (will it always be?), and even though I carry my iPhone everywhere, I feel restricted and claustrophobic if I am forced to only use a mobile app.

This post isn’t a criticism of Path though, it’s about mobile internet usage in general. By mobile, I mean smartphone, rather than tablets/ netbooks. Nearly always when i’m using a mobile version of something, I feel claustrophobic – from ham-fisted accidentally liking or retweeting stuff to not being able to find missing or hidden features, I feel myself desperate to get on a laptop and use the “full” version instead.

Mobile web usage (by which i’m including standalone apps which transfer data via the internet) is going through the roof – but how much of that is people using it only because they happen to be somewhere where they haven’t access to a laptop/ desktop computer, versus people who would actively decide to use a mobile version of something in preference to a “full” version on a laptop?

There’s been much debate recently about responsive web design in the last year and about favoured approaches to making websites and web applications adapt to different devices. One of my arguments in that is that I like the option to zoom out and in of the full “desktop” version of a web page when i’m using my iPhone – I like to scan around and zoom in to parts of a page, particularly on a news site, rather than scrolling through loads of text on a mobile version of the site, feeling like i’m missing stuff, and anxious to at least see the desktop version, zoomed out to see where I am in relation to everything else.

However, that doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion – I wonder if i’m part of a dying “desktop orientated” generation – I can use and enjoy a mobile version, but always feel shortchanged – it’s never as satisfying as the “real thing”, whereas the next generation, introduced to the web via a mobile device don’t feel that lack of wider context (wider meaning literally wider in some cases), and feel shortchanged when they get something aimed at a desktop/ laptop computer?

Rick on the Road – New blog about mobile working

Rick on the road blog

I’ve started a new blog covering my experiments with mobile working – from working in cafe’s and the garden to planned road trips. I’ll be covering reviews of equipment and gadgets, techniques, experiences and places visited.

It’s also a trial for a new offline blogging/CMS engine i’ve been working on (i’ll write another post about that later – something I hope to release before the end of the year).

Have a looksie:-
Rick on the road – adventures of a wannabe nomadic web developer

3 mobile broadband on OSX

I finally succumbed to buying a 3 mobile broadband USB modem on pay as you go, seeing as they have come down to £50. Installation went fine, when I realised the software is on the dongle itself, not a (I assumed missing) CD in the box. Seems to work OK – only tried it in a couple of places. It instantly payed for itself yesterday when I needed to connect to a windows server via remote desktop, which appeared to be blocked on the watershed open wifi I was using, at the pervasive media studio (open fridays). One gripe would be that to register with my3 (so you can top up online), you have to install the modem on a windows machine, so you can receive the password via SMS. Not a big deal though, assuming you have a windows machine you can use for this as a one off. Will report back my experiences when i’ve tried it out in a few other locations.

Mobile web and AJAX

I tried out a friends pocket pc (or is it windows mobile now?) smartphone recently – a cool little device with a slide out QWERTY keyboard (I think it was a variation of this htc device). It also had wifi support so I thought I would try to blog from it. However, he hadn’t got opera installed and the wordpress gui completely failed to work in pocket internet explorer. I’m sure there is a solution to this, but I was disappointed that the wordpress online admin didn’t gracefully degrade.

This is something to consider when designing web apps – whilst AJAX could potentially be used to provide huge usability enhancements to people using mobile web devices with small screens – the majority of people are going to be using windows mobile with pocket internet explorer – your app should work with no javascript support at all. and then be progressively enhanced with AJAX as a seperate consideration.

watch that page

i’ve just set up an account with watchthatpage.com in attempt to find an easier way to keep track of sites that have not yet joined the RSS revolution. There are plenty of sites still out there that do not provide an RSS feed for their news pages and blogs. As Robert Scoble pointed out a while back – 98% of people don’t use RSS, but that means 2% of users do – which is a hell of a lot of traffic, reading the web via an RSS aggregator rather than actually visiting the site. It seems backwards not to have an RSS feed for frequently (or infrequently) updated news/blog content. I’ve used this analogy before, but i’ll use it again – expecting people to visit your web site just to see if anything has changed is a bit like standing on someones doorstep and not knocking or ringing the bell, but hoping that someone will come and open the door occasionally just to see if anyone is a standing there.

I don’t actually use my RSS aggregator (bloglines.com – an online service, so I can keep track of news and blogs from any web device, including my mobile phone) to read all the sites I visit – some sites (scobelizer, register etc) are updated so frequently that I know thay will have updated since I last looked, so I just have them bookmarked (via foxylicious firefox extension – my bookmarks are maintained from my del.icio.us tags), otherwise my aggregator gets full of unread content and this reduces the value of it, as I tend to skim read and dismiss stuff.

archived comments

I arrived at this website from Yahoo after seeking out an alternate to WatchThatPage since Watch That Page has become unavailable. I wound up registering with ChangeDetect. This is a great service, but in contrast to claims on their web-site is not really cost-free. But at least the site is most effective for watching web content changes.

Mark Nagode 2010-10-07 15:36:23

cheap powerbook battery

I threw this question out on the underscore mailing list today (typos corrected – at least you can do that with blog posts):-

i’m gutted that my powerbook battery isn’t eligible for replacement due to the recent recall, as i’m only getting about an hour out of now, so looking for a cheap replacement. Looking on ebay there are two cheapskate options :-

1. supposedly genuine apple batteries, coming from china
2. non-apple batteries

anybody had any good/ bad experiences with either of these options? anyone been stung for import duty with stuff coming from china? anyone lost any body parts to an exploding battery?

I was then pointed in the direction of coconut battery, a handy little app for analysing your battery. It shoes that mine has about 40% of the capacity that it had when it was new – translates to about an hour of use on a full charge. So it it obviously needs replacing – anyone out there able to recommend or warn me off the cheap batteries I found on ebay, as opposed to forking up twice the price for a genuine replacement from apple?

archived comments

Have you found a battery?? And where??

Christian Berggren 2007-10-15 08:21:26

Yes, I bought one off ebay in the end- an unused orginal

Rick 2007-10-15 08:26:54

obsessing about a mobile web device again

once again, I have been obsessing about the idea of owning a mobile web device. I’m not sure what my business case is for owning one, other than the desire for something that can be carried around with me most of the time to use for email and full web browsing, smaller and lighter than a laptop and with better battery life than a laptop. The device needs:-

  • wifi
  • full featured DOM supporting web browser
  • decent battery life
  • small and light enough to not be noticeable when carried around in my bag (i’ve always got one with me, to carry various wires, adaptors, chargers, wet wipes, nappys etc. not quite a “manbag”, but close.)
  • at least 800 pixel width resolution
  • integrated qwerty keyboard

Only the nokia 770 comes close at the moment, but doesn’t have a qwerty keyboard. I keep seeing other devices crop up, such as sony’s forthcoming mylo, but the screen resolution lets that one down. I’m quite tempted by some of the clamshell smartphones, but I don’t want a phone that big, valuable and breakable.

pinhole to the outside world

The BBC ran this article about how the majority of the users of the WAP version of the BBC news site are based in African countries. It reminded me of something I wrote about a few years ago about how there were (are?) more people using the internet via their mobiles in Japan than people accessing via PC’s. Although using the mobile internet, even on so-called smartphones is an inferior experience to using a PC, it is actually much cheaper and easier for the “average” person, worldwide to get themseleves onto the net this way than it is to get access to an internet enabled PC – something to consider when deciding whether to provide a WAP version of a website, or at least a sensible seperation of presentation and markup to allow simple HTML browsers to get to your content.