September 10, 2003

Moblogging From Your Palm (Part 1 of 2)

Wouldn't it be useful to post new or edit existing Movable Type blog entries from a Palm OS-based PDA, smartphone, etc., while traveling?

If you have a Palm with Internet access (via modem, Wi-Fi, cell phone connection, etc.), there are several ways you can post blog entries from it.

1) The PDA Web Browser Approach

LawTech Guru Rating: ** (out of 5)
(Limited results for now, but stay tuned)

I've successfully entered new and edited existing posts to my Movable Type blog database from my Visor using the AvantGo browser (v. 4.2) and the Handspring Blazer 2.0. I say entered, but not published, for a reason.

Both browsers hang when I tap on the "Rebuild" button, with a message at the bottom of the screen that it's rebuilding the page. However, the modem is idle and nothing happens after that. Here's why: The Rebuild web button normally pops open a new browser window, and it's probably a javascript feature. The problem is that many Palm-based browsers can't run java or javascript commands.

So I can add new entries but they never can get rendered to the visible blog page if all I use are these browsers (can't rebuild).

Lesson Learned: Your Palm browser needs to be compatible with the data entry method of your blog. Many pared-down Palm browsers don't support scripting and more advanced HTML coding methods. Why? Because most of them are proxy-based. In essence, the PDA browser doesn't fetch web site content directly from the source. Instead, the browser first contacts a separate proxy server (usually run by the browser developer or PDA manufacturer). Then, that server goes out and fetches the web site content, strips out the advanced features, and sends it down to your PDA browser. This keeps the pages small in size so they load faster and use less of your PDA's limited memory.

So why did I mention this? Supposedly Palm's newest browser, Web Browser Pro, is much improved in these areas. It's advertised to handle javascript and even CSS (cascading style sheet) formatting. So there's still hope for the browser moblogging method for Movable Type. However, the downside is that it's only bundled with three models of the Palm Tungsten line: Tungsten T, T2 and W. But why not the "C" model? It's ready to surf the web via the built in Wi-Fi. Instead, they bundled the AvantGo browser, which as you can see, is limited. I guess we'll have to wait for "C2", coming next summer to a theater, er, Best Buy near you.

Here's some good news on this front: Palm Infocenter has some updates on both the Palm Web Browser Pro and the upcoming Handspring Blazer 3.0 browser.

No news so far on whether either browser will run on older Palms running OS 4 and lower. Seeing as Palm OS 5 devices run on a completely different processor than all of their predecessors, I'm not holding my breath.

As I said, for now this is "so-so" at best. However, the very good news is that I've found a much more elegant and free solution for Palm moblogging. It really works, and I'll share it tomorrow. See you then.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard