Going Mobile

Posted on Tue 08 January 2008 by alex in geek

I spent bits of yesterday getting final meter readings in and cancelling my Sky account. The rest of it was taken up with a fair amount of cursing at Call of Duty 4 as I struggled my way through act 3. Having the rest of the household point out the danger of hand grenades every time I bit the dust again didn't help that much. I'm really quite enjoying the game but it does get quite hard in places. I'm tempted to say it's one of the best FPS games I've played and I'll stick my neck out and say the experience is probably better than playing on the PC. After all not many PC's have the wide-screen display my PS3 does. Although a lot of PC gamers pour scorn on the controller vs the classic mouse and keyboard I think it's actually a better control method. The two sticks give quite fine control when you are maneuverings and of course all the buttons for grenades and weapon switched are in ergonomically helpful places.

I switched my mobile tariff a few days ago to one that included a decent amount of data. I subsidised this by dropping the number of free minutes as I wasn't quite using all 900 every month. As a result I've been playing with the mobile web.

First up is Opera Mini. It's a little Java app that runs on your phone and runs as a clipping browser. This means it takes normal non-phone optimised web-pages and attempts to render them in a vaguely sensible form. Generally it works very well although I personally preferred the older versions rendering of the BBC new site. The new version added a panning display instead of forcing the text to flow down one column which was a little simpler to read. The only website that has so far failed is the ever present Facebook and that could just be down to finger trouble.

I've also played with some of the Google services. Of all the services Google Calender and Google Maps (separate application) are the most mature. The calender functionality is basic but enough to check your appointments while on the go. Adding a simple events with a natural language (e.g. "Meeting at 1400 tomorrow") works well enough. Given the growing ubiquity of mobile data services I can see my days as a loyal Palm user coming to an end. I've been using the calender a lot over the last year and especially like the ability to have different ones with different collaboration profiles. It's extremely handy for Fliss and I to have one shared calender for all out activities (even though I suspect I rely more on electronic memory augmentation than Fliss does). If the integration with Evolution pans out it will pretty much solve all my calender requirements.

The Google Maps application warns you it is data-intensive but on modern 3G networks it still runs pretty quickly. They have taken care with the design of the UI, especially in the zoom control. You can very quickly get a map of the right scale for navigation in the limited space of a phone display. The only disappointment is the non-GPS "My Location" service isn't supported on my phone. The list of supported devices is a little vague.

There is not much to say about the mobile version of Google Reader except that it works reasonably well. However I suspect the reading of large numbers of RSS feeds is going to hard to optimise for a mobile phone sized screen.

Google Apps is also available in a limited mobile flavour. You can't edit documents but you can certainly view documents and spreadsheets (if you select desktop mode, the default spreadsheet view is one column at a time which isn't all that useful) with Opera Mini. I don't expect to be using it much but it certainly could be useful if you just want to check the last time you called a certain utility company while in the pub.

The last app I played with was MidpSSH which is a GPL'ed Java ssh client implementation. I doubt you will be wanting to do much with the hassle of text-typing to the command line but it may prove useful for an emergency server reboot or service restart. Having said that I haven't managed to log onto one of my boxes yet (I haven't tried very hard yet).