Awasu » Awasu and PDA’s (redux)
Sunday 19th August 2007 8:53 AM [Awasu News]

The question of running Awasu on PDA's and other mobile platforms has come up again recently in the forums and I thought I'd post a more detailed explanation of the situation here.

Let me start by saying that this is something I'd really like to be able to offer. However, there are a number of technical and business reasons why we haven't done so already.

First off, there haven't really been that many people asking for it :roll: As JackInBpt points out, the last time it was discussed in the forums was 2003 :-) (I also wrote about it here). At that time, we had been working with a few people to get Awasu integrated with some existing PDA applications but they dropped off the radar and the whole effort just kinda stopped. As a privately-funded company, our resources are very limited and so we have to carefully decide what we work on to provide the most benefit to the most number of people.

To the right is a screenshot of what a mobile feed reader looks like. The screen is obviously much smaller than a desktop's but that's not the only thing that's small. CPU's are significantly slower and there is much less storage space so if we were to "port" Awasu to run on a PDA, we would have to strip it down so much it would no longer be Awasu, it would just be another mobile feed reader that happened to be written by us :roll:

There are two approaches to giving Awasu users access to their content on a mobile device:

  • Transfer Awasu's content from your PC to your mobile device, then provide a small program that lets you read that content (i.e. only a viewer program, not something that can get online and update channels). Once you get back to your PC, Awasu would update its record of which feed items have been read.
  • Run a fully-fledged feed reader (i.e. one that can update channels) and provide a means of synchronizing it with Awasu on your PC.

The first option is something we actually did way back in the 1.0.x days :blink: , in conjunction with Plucker, but not being able to update channels while you're on the road is obviously a bit of a bummer.

So, the second option is the preferable one and since we already have the ability to synchronize with other feed readers, it wouldn't actually be that hard to do. Awasu can already synchronize with Google Reader, Bloglines and Gregarius using an extensible framework, so adding another is straight-forward. The only issue is that the other feed reader needs to also offer the same ability and that's the sticking point. The API's offered by both Google Reader and Bloglines are not really designed for synchronization so Awasu is somewhat limited in what it can do. Gregarius, on the other hand, is open source and so we were able to make the necessary changes to provide a fully-featured synchronization service.

The executive summary:

  • Writing our own feed reader that runs on mobile devices is, unfortunately, out of the question (at least for the time being) due to limited resources.
  • Both Bloglines and Google Reader offer mobile versions of their online feed readers and Awasu can synchronize with both these services. However, due to limitations in their API's, the synchronization service may not do everything you want :-( [1]

However, another possibility occurred to me as I was writing this post that might actually work out really well. If someone can recommend a decent open-source mobile feed reader, we would be able to make the necessary changes to that and offer a fully-featured synchronization service. Alternatively, if the authors of a closed-source mobile feed reader are willing to work with us to do the same, we'd be happy doing that as well [2][3].

Finally, if you cast your mind back to the very start of this post, you will remember that I said one of the issues was an apparent lack of interest in this kind of feature so if it's something you'd like to see, post a comment! :-)

[1] Of course, what Awasu can currently do despite these limitations might be perfectly adequate for your needs, in which case you have a working solution already! :-)
[2] We have actually had discussions in the past with a few companies about doing exactly this but it turned out they didn't want to do much more than cross-sell our respective programs and we're not really interested in these kind of "partnerships" that don't offer any real benefit to our users.
[3] Awasu uses SIAM to handle synchronization so if someone adds support for this to their feed reader, they will be able to sync with any feed reader that also supports it, not just Awasu. This kind of co-operation between feed readers is something I'd really like to see more of.

One Response to this post

I have a working solution to your problem, and if you want, I can provide hourly/daily/weekly/whatever Plucker versions of your feeds for your users to download..

You can see in the first screenshot below, what the Gentoo Weekly News rss feed looks like in this format:

I'll be making my internal tool public shortly, which will allow users to convert any valid rss/atom/xml feed to Plucker format at any time..

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