Searching for monkeys in Cyberspace

It’s gears, not clockwork

clock June 4, 2008 20:41 by author offbeatmammal

GoogleGears One of the biggest problems with using the Internet for crucial day-to-day applications is when you can’t get connected. On a plane, at a WiFi hotspot you don’t really trust, or even in a building with poor data network reception for your phone.

For most desktop applications the answer is simple… your data lives locally and you work with it there not rely on connectivity, and then sync what you need to. At MIX this year for instance we demonstrated a prototype of a Cirque du Soleil application that demonstrated exactly that.

For web applications it’s a little harder as they run inside the browser sandbox, and for mobile web applications… well, logic dictates that should be even harder.

Well… turns out it’s not that hard for developers to build an off-line version of their site that’s able to cache data locally and the really interesting thing for me was discovering how well it works on Windows Mobile. That solution is Google Gears.

buxfer I use Buxfer to try and make sense of my personal finances (a pretty major challenge). The reason I’m leaning more to this solution rather than, say, Mint (an otherwise excellent solution) is that they let me take my data offline and access it on my Windows Mobile phone.

Now they could have developed a native Windows Mobile application to do this, which would have given them a rich UI and dynamic synchronization and probably a whole load of other goodness, but they reasoned that they’re web developers, they don’t really “get” mobile app development and there’s probably a dozen different platforms they’ll want to support so… why not let someone else do the heavy lifting (and that someone is Google with their Gears API and javascript extensions) – all they have to do is develop the application using the Gears API and they get, for very little additional development overhead, a portable offline solution that runs anywhere Gears does (Windows Mobile, OSX, Windows XP/Vista and various flavors of Linux)

I think it’s pretty impressive that Windows Mobile is the first supported phone platform and a testament to how popular it is as a data access device.

Gears is only a 0.2 release so there’s probably lots of things that will be added over time. My wishlist for those additions is pretty simple:

  • Ability to synchronize changes back to the web (MS SQL Sync Framework supports this
  • Ability to auto synchronize – as a user I have to manually choose to go “offline”… if I don’t do that before disconnecting then I don’t have the latest copy of the data. It would be great if a Gears enabled app could detect it was running on an authorized device and in the background update me and then if I try to return to the site in (say) Flight mode it automatically switches to offline mode.

Native apps will always have a richer interface and more powerful capabilities because they operate outside the browser sandbox, they have access to the hardware (eg camera) and features like the network stack directly so they are ideal for more sophisticated users. But for simple look-up applications like mobile versions of Buxfer or Zoho this is a great solution

Feed Reading on the go....

clock January 10, 2008 22:52 by author OffBeatMammal

rss_icon_glass_reflection128 What with my UMPC and my new phone and my laptop I have a lot of places to consume blog posts. The problem is that it's very easy to get very out of sync and confused very quickly - especially throwing in reading on the web on a bunch of machines in various places.

Admittedly with a lot of the blogsphere you're not sure if it's deja vu because you're reading the same post twice or because a meme has suddenly popped and everyone is writing about the same thing!

I've tried a bunch of different solutions over the last year to try and manage it. Google Reader, Bloglines, RSS Bandit, new the Origami Experience (which has such a good RSS reader on the UMPC platform I hate to be without it! It's coming soon Steve), Outlook, IE, Viigo ... and while they're all good in their own ways it comes down to keeping in sync, being able to flag things for follow-up and just making good use of my time and attention.

The other day I saw on Brads blog that NewsGator was making it's clients free. That was the most ridiculously good bit of news for managing my problem! Greg Reinacker explains why they made the change, but it quickly makes it the best solution for Windows, Mac, Mobile and Web users.

I now have NewGator Go! on my phone, Newsgator Desktop on my UMPC to keep that in sync, Newsgator Inbox running in Outlook for when I'm at the laptop and when I'm sitting at someone elses computer... NewsGator Online of course!

I can now read, clip and stay synchronized over pretty much any device I use. The only exception is on my UMPC where I can't clip posts to follow up later - must ask someone about that...

Looking to the future, like Steve I'm keen to see ... I just hope it supports my mobile, distributed, attention disorder, reading and posting syle!



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