Tom Insam

iPhone use while in the middle of nowhere

I should write up ‘things learned from taking only an iPhone to the middle of nowhere where there’s no internet access‘. One of those things was, I really want a ‘that worked’ for updating my twitter status using Twitterrific. And anything else that does a write over the network.

Avoid notifying users of success.

If a read operation fails, meh. But if I just wrote a twitter update, and it doesn’t go through, I want to know. Twitter might fail, the app might fail, the connection might fail. I want success notification, rather than 1 minute of waiting for a failure message that might not arrive. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL SITUATION. But nevertheless. Maybe the rule should be ‘avoid notifying users of success where success is expected‘.

Another useful app - Byline is great when there’s wobbly bandwidth - usable even when the only connection is a spotty non-edge GSM link. Admittedly, you have to just put the phone down somewhere with a connection for 10 minutes while it slurps. But things stay slurped. It’ll pull the associated images of RSS items too, so I can look at my Flickr feeds easily.

It’s got disadvantages - you have to switch to Google Reader to read your feeds for a start. In the absence of a local Mac GUI client to rival NetNewsWire, this is painful (Fluid helps). And Byline doesn’t do ‘folders’ (tags? what does google reader call them? I’m new to this), so you just get a big flat list of unread items, which could be annoying if you subscribe to lots of feeds. I’ve recently gone through a grand purge of all my feeds and mailing lists, so my traffic levels are pretty controllable.

Except that my Economist subscription feeds did their weekly ‘the magazine shipped’ thing, and dumped 90 unread items in the list. And these are unread items that are interesting and might need reading. Unlike with the iPhone NNW client, I can’t selectively drop subscriptions from being visible on the phone - it’s all or nothing here, and Byline loads only 25 (I think) entries at a time for off-line reading. The Economist provides only a partial feed, so I had to sit where there was bandwidth and go through them in batches, ‘starring’ the ones that looked interesting then hitting ‘fetch more’ and waiting. Once I’d done this, and it didn’t take too long, the experience was great - I had the full content of the Economist articles synched locally for convenient reading (and the Economist has a nice one-narrow-column layout that lends itself well to iPhone reading).