April 8, 2010

483 words 3 mins read

AndroiDev: The project so far – Wikinews Reader

A lot of the code I post and tech bits I fix are things I find while working. Sometimes I can’t explain the bigger picture, sometimes it simply doesn’t matter. Most people don’t care about the why, but simply the how (to fix something) like the “[Cannot Save Attachment][1]” message in Outlook 2007. But with the recent [AndroiDev posts][2] I can actually share with you the “big picture”, and I think people might enjoy it.

Wikinews on the iPhone — Not so nice.
Wikinews Reader on Android — Much nicer.

I’ve been writing a “reader” application for Wikinews. By reader I mean it is an app that provides a simple, low bandwidth interface to allow you to read Wikinews on a mobile (specifically, Android) phone. By default, “big web” sites (ones for your computer) don’t generally work too well on the mobile web. Yes, you can get by, and sometimes they aren’t too terribly bad, but in the end you download a LOT of formatting & images that you can’t use, you don’t want, and sometimes can’t even see.

Take Wikinews for example, loading the homepage ONLY right now (downloading everything you need: HTML, images, JS, CSS, etc) is 272.7 KB. That is HUGE if you’re on (say) an EDGE connection (or pay per MB). Now lets say you happen to have a custom written reader application. The download size for the Wikinews front page AND the article text for the 20 most recent articles? 12.1 KB. That isn’t an exaggeration; the honest-to-(insert deity here) difference is 260.6 KB.

After the size, of course, is the formatting issue. To the left I have a screen shot of the Wikinews homepage from the iPhone, which most people argue has the best mobile browser, I think Android’s is about the same, but it doesn’t matter for this test. You can’t really read anything; of course you can zoom in, but that is more clicks, drags, and multitouches than you should have to do. On the right is the main page of the Wikinews Reader, it is readable and easy to scroll through the entire list. Of course the reader app is “reader” not “writer”, so you can’t edit (not that I personally would want to try and wiki-edit from a phone).

Anyways… I just wanted to show off a little bit of the app I’ve been working on. I’ll fully admit that it isn’t anything fancy, but it does the job — you can read the news. If you’re interested, there are a [few more screen shots][3]. As this is Wikinews endeavor, the project is open source. You can stop by our [Google Code project][4] and check it out. We’re always looking for new help, be it coders, graphic artists, testers, translation or even just documentation help.

[1]: /archives/554-Outlook-2007-Cannot-save-the-attachment.html “[blog] Outlook 2007 “Cannot save the attachment”” [2]: /categories/4-Code “[blog] Category: Code” [3]: http://enwikinews.googlecode.com/svn/ScreenShots/ [4]: http://code.google.com/p/enwikinews/