September 11, 2003

Moblogging From Your Palm (Part 2 of 2)

As promised yesterday, there's a better way to post and edit Movable Type entries from your Palm. It's a free Palm program I found called Azure.

2) Azure: A Movable Type Blog Client for your Palm (and Other Devices)

LawTech Guru Rating: **** (out of 5)  Azure's Web Site

In concept it's similar to what w.Bloggar does on your PC by being a remote blogging client, and it's only somewhat scaled down in features by comparison. If you're not familiar with w.Bloggar, both of these programs allow you to create, edit, and publish blog entries without having to log into Movable Type's more limited control panel. They add a host of additional editing tools to make drafting posts and embedding HTML markup a breeze.

Azure is a J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) program that runs on Palm OS devices and J2ME-enabled cell phones. Yes, I said cell phones, if you're that driven to blog, although the Nokia 6800 would probably work quite nicely here.

It wasn't mentioned on Azure's list of tested devices, but the newer Blackberries are J2ME-based as well. So I'm thinking -- you guessed it -- that Azure might even run on a Blackberry. With their thumbpad keys, they could become interesting mobile blogging devices if you subscribe to the optional internet service feature.

Pretty versatile for a tiny 120K program, eh?

I've been using Azure's version 0.3 and 0.4 betas, which have worked surprisingly well over my 56K dial-up modem in my Visor. As long as your Palm can access the Internet with a full connection (i.e., not web-clipping), it'll probably work with a cell phone data connection or Wi-Fi. By the way, those version numbers are not typos -- these are beta releases, which brings me to the next point:

IMPORTANT TIP #1: Always hotsync your PDA to back it up *before* installing any new program.

As the hotync process installs programs first and backs it up last in the sequence, do two separate hotsyncs (one to backup, one to install, but disable the backup conduit for just this second hotsync) -- don't combine them. And please don't blame me if your Palm doesn't like the new software, I didn't write it. That's what backups are for. For which I heavily and heartily recommend using BackupBuddy from Bluenomad.com.
IMPORTANT TIP #2: Make sure your Palm has sufficient free availalble memory:

The Palm Java "engine" listed below has these minimum prerequisites for running on a Palm:

1) Palm OS version 3.5 and above.

If your Palm is running OS 3.3 or lower, don't try this. If you don't know how to determine your Palm OS version, don't try this. (Seriously though, you can easily find the OS version in the Palm Launcher: Tap on its pull-down menu, then tap on "Info" and then tap on "Version" at the bottom of the screen.)

2) Palms with at least 4 MB total memory.

Add to these requirements the fact that Azure takes up 120K, and the Sun Java "engine" for your Palm takes up 590K, so you'll need a minimum total of 710K free on your palm just to install it. You should leave some additional free memory to run it. New Palm devices should have enough memory to burn for this, but if you have an older device, try having at least 1 MB of free memory before you start.


INSTALLATION AND USE:

For general Palm use, you'll need to do the following. I've created this guide because there's not much installation documentation "out there" when I looked:

1) Download the Sun Java MIDP for PalmOS v1.0

You first have to install this Java engine on your Palm, before Azure, or Java apps like Azure won't run. It does for your Palm what the Java VM (virtual machine) download does for your PC -- it lets you run Java apps on it. In that Zip file, you only need to install the MIDP.PRC file on your Palm via the normal Palm Install Tool route. This installs the JavaHQ app on your Palm, so you can run J2ME apps on it.

The only preference setting I changed in the MIDP app was to enable the "Network" setting since I was going online with Azure. Leave the rest alone unless you encounter any serious problems.

You shouldn't have to run JavaHQ again by itself, as all other J2ME apps should be run by launching their own icons from the Palm launcher. Just think: You now have a Java-enabled Palm.

You can ignore the rest of the files in the downloaded zip file, unless you want to run the sample programs or need the included Java JAR/JAD converter for installing other Java programs from that format.


2) Download Azure for your Palm OS-based device and click on the Download link on the left side of the web page.

You only need the single AZURE_0-4.PRC file from the "Download PalmOS PRC" link. Install it on your Palm per the usual Install Tool method.

Launch Azure on your Palm. You'll need to tap on the "Add Blog" screen button and enter the following:

1) The complete web path to your mt-xmlrpc.cgi file on your blog site. (FYI, this is also known as the Blogger API, which is now a de facto standard for third-party software programs to interface with blog sites. This is how Azure and w.Bloggar talk to Movable Type.)

You'd want to enter something similar to this in Azure's "Weblog address" field, just like you would with any other remote blogging app:

http://www.yourdomain.com/cgi-bin/mt-xmlrpc.cgi

Note: You'll probably need to substitute "scgi-bin" for "cgi-bin" if you're running MT with cgi-wrap (aka "CGI Wrapper" in some hosts' CPanel app). I did this to increase my blog's security level. (As you may have guessed, this is no ordinary blog.)

2) Now just enter your MT username and password to login, connect to the Net and you're able to blog from your Palm. Very slick.

Personally, I was thrilled to see it work, as it definitely has that "wow" factor to blog from your Palm. And it made me very happy that I chose a widely supported blogging system like Movable Type -- there are tons of add-ons and plugins for it. This level of third-party support made all the extra web design effort bearable, and it reminded me very much of the Palm community -- if there's something you'd like to do with your MT blog or Palm, chances are that someone has already written a program or plug-in for it.

Enjoy your moblogging, and please leave me a comment if you found this useful or have additional tips to share.

Jeff

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

There is too, vagablog!!! it´s post in your blog with movable type...

Posted by: SÚrgio at April 18, 2004 08:33 PM

Hi Jeff,

thanks for suggesting Azure - it sounds very promising. I've just uploaded the java software and Azure to my new handspring treo, but when I click on the Azure icon, my Treo shuts off and reboots, bringing me back to my telephone window. Any guesses?

Also, do you know if there's a way to get MT's upload file feature to work via a palm device, whether through blazer or another tool? I have a photo blog and I'm trying to figure out a way for me to take pics with my treo then upload them directly to the blog. The problem is that MT's upload feature requires me to type in the pathway to the image file, and I don't have any idea how to figure out what the appropriate pathway would be on a palm os5 device.

thanks,
ac

Posted by: andy carvin at April 2, 2004 02:36 PM