Posts Tagged ‘ Tweetdeck ’

Feedly – Easy to use, not too Feedly.

Feedly (Beta)

Since getting my first Android handset I’ve gone through my fair share of RSS feed readers. I’ve tried the official Google Reader app, Pulse News Reader, GReader and NewsRob amongst others. All were very good but still not the 100% perfect RSS reader that I was looking for (although I do love the interface on Pulse). Now a new app, Feedly, has stepped forward to be added to this ever-growing list and in the process offers up a unique new UI.
Rather than going for the standard ‘news listing’ layout Feedly goes for what it calls a ‘magazine-like overlay’. This involves a large front page for the latest news post with further posts becoming available as your scroll through them like you would turn a page. This ‘magazine’ aspect is very clean but also pleasing to look at making it a worthy download for those who want an alternative to Pulse Reader. On my HTC Desire it looked great, on an Android tablet it could possibly look excellent. Away from the front-end there’s also a built in browser in which to read posts with an option to open them up in your standard browser.
Setting up Feedly is utterly painless, it has a selection of default feeds to read and thanks to the way it integrates with the Android Account Manager it can import your Google Reader account with a simple button press.
Speaking of integration, Feedly also keeps your desktop based Google Reader account in sync with what you’ve already read on your phone therefore avoiding repetition when you transition between the two. Feedly really does a great job of allowing you to stay on top of your feeds, an aspect that I have found lacking in other RRS feed readers.
For those who like to share what they come across, Feedly also packs the standard share options so you can forward stories to Tweetdeck, Facebook or whatever you use to frequent your online social circles.

The pull out side menu provides easy access to all your feeds.

Another advantage is that Feedly also seems to happily take care of any number of unread posts making all your material available. This is an advantage over similar apps that only load up a limited amount of posts which can leave older unread items out of reach.
Sadly it’s not all sunshine & lollipops, whilst being used on 3G I found myself occasionally booted out of my Google Reader account but it was nothing a few key presses couldn’t fix.
There’s also a learning curve to navigating your way around your feeds. If you rely on the main screen to get around it’s possible to not find yourself in an unexpected place. In most cases it’s best to stick to the slide out menu to access a specific feed. Also, those people rocking a handset with a larger screen may also lament the lack of a landscape view. For sharing purposes there is a built in ‘Twitter share’ client but so far it seems unfinished as I couldn’t find a way to log into it.
The important thing to remember here is the ‘Beta’ tag, Feedly isn’t in its final stages so this is all stuff that’s ripe for a clean up when the app gets a proper release. When it does go official this app could well be one of the best of its ilk on the Marketplace.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 0.9.4
Requires Android : 2.2 and up , Category : News , Size : 2.6M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain, Official Page (check the guided tour on here for some Android based tips)

Bottom Line : It’s still not the 100% RSS app that I’m looking for but it’s very much on it’s way to getting there. Great stuff.

So I Finally Decided To Root My Android Phone

*There’s no app review today. Yesterday I decided to root my handset and write an account of how it played out. Hopefully this will help give an idea of how the process works. Normal service will resume in our next post*

I’ve been struggling for app space on my HTC Desire for a few weeks now and the idea of rooting my handset has become an increasingly attractive proposition; I have finally decided to make that leap of faith and dive into the murky world of software modding. To be honest I’m not entirely new to this, a few years ago when I owned an MDA Vario I managed to flash that with a custom rom that greatly improved its useability and performance. These are the reasons why I’m rooting and flashing my HTC Desire, plus the fact that I can’t help but fiddle with stuff I shouldn’t be fiddling with. I figured I’d take notes during the process so you can get idea of what’s involved.

Just to be absolutely clear this isn’t a guide on rooting / flashing and you should only undertake this task if you are absolutely sure about what you are doing. I take zero responsibility if you kill your phone as a result of reading this post (as I write this I havn’t actually rooted my phone yet and it’s possible that I may kill it before finishing this post). If you do decide to do this and you come across a problem I cannot help you, you’re on your own, much like I am right now.

Step 1 – Prep, Prep & More Prep : I decided to root my handset using this excellent guide over at XDA-Developers.com. I’ve read through the instructions a few times to familiarise myself with the process as well as downloaded any files ahead of time to a specific folder named ‘Android Root’ on my computer so that I’d have them handy should I need them. I find that for tasks like this you can’t do enough research so if you are thinking of doing this, read up on it first, then read up on it again.

Step 2 – Rooting : Here we go, the scary stuff. The two things I’ve done before starting is fully charge my phone and backup the sd card, with that done it’s time to get rooting. Start the clock….

00:00 – Running UnrEVOked, rooting process started.

00:01 – Stuff happening, I am chewing on my knuckles.

00:02 – A couple of handset reboots.

00:05 – ‘Done’ message appears, handset is rebooting again.

00:06 – Handset rebooted. Hey, that wasn’t so bad. My knuckles hurt though.

So now my handset is back to its main screen, everything looks the same and it all works as normal but now I have root access to the handset. Let’s get flashing.

Step 3 – Flashing a Rom : Ah right, here’s the scary stuff. I’ve installed Titanium Backup and performed the app backup procedure, I went out to get lunch while that worked its magic. As I type I’m now performing the Nandroid backup, this is saving the current state of my phone so I can always go back to square one if I need to. Now that’s done the next step is the really scary bit, totally wiping the phone, deep breath… and done.

Hmmm that was quick, it took all of a nanosecond to wipe my complete Android history, somehow that’s slightly depressing.

Now with my blank phone it’s all set for a new Rom, there are countless Rom flavours to choose from. There are Roms based on the vanilla Android OS, some with modded extras with the HTC Sense UI thrown in, the CyanogenMod Roms are very popular. I have decided to go for ‘RoDrIgUeZsTyLe™ (0.11.12) MIUIMOD [V1.8.1] BLAZING FAST & STABLE’. MIUI is a chinese variant of the Android OS, it has just the slightest whiff of iOS about it and it’s proving quite popular with those who choose to root / flash their handsets. It’s been translated and tweaked into all kinds of variants and with this one claiming to be both ‘Blazing Fast‘ and ‘Stable‘ it’s hard to say no. Here’s a video of it in action (although this clip looks strangely sped up), you might want to turn your speakers down first though.

So here we go… installing… installing… installing… and done. That wasn’t too painful.

The first reboot is taking a short while, this is due to the app cache being rebuilt. Things are already looking good, there’s a swish bootup animation which has already got my excitement perked. Now it’s booted up and woah, it’s different.

Oooh, shiny, new, different. Plus it's FAST.

More home screen real estate than you'll know what to do with.

Can't.. stop.. looking.. at.. my.. lock screen. It's lush.

Well, it’s quick and it looks great. It’s weird not having an app tray and having everything live on the home screens but with an endless amount of homescreens to fill it shouldn’t be a problem keeping things tidy.

I can use Titanium backup to recover my apps from their previous state, Handcent SMS has come back with its settings intact but is sadly lacking my previous conversations. Tweetdeck however has come back exactly how I left it so if you undertake this be prepared to start afresh with certain apps. Speaking of which, fingers crossed that I havn’t lost my Angry Birds progress! I want to get the Apps2SD aspect setup but that’s a whole new set of things to research so I’m going to stop the blog here.

In summary, my initial reaction is that I’m happy I took the plunge with this, there’s now a bit of work to do with getting things back to how they were (settings, apps, contacts etc) but it will be worth it (although I’ve had two crash/resets so far in 24 hours, hopefully this is just a case of settling in). All in all it’s worth a try if you’ve done the homework and are felling brave, all at your own risk obviously.

Finally I just want to add a huge thanks to all those who have laid the groundwork to help me do this. From writing the guides on XDA-Developers.com, making the tools that get under the bonnet of Android and those who create the Roms that improve our handsets. Thanks guys.

Pulse News Reader – An Android App That Kicks RSS

Pulse News Reader

I use Google Reader to keep up with my favourite websites, it’s a great tool for managing RSS feeds and it translates pretty well to my Android handset via the mobile web browser. Despite this I’ve always felt that I’d prefer to have an actual decent app do the job of handling my new feeds on my HTC Desire and upon hearing the news that it had been price dropped to £0 I decided to give ‘Pulse News Reader’ a spin. Since making an appearance during the launch of the iPad the app has found itself on the recieving end of tonnes of attention across both the iOS and Android platforms to the point where it has landed a coveted spot in the ‘App Store Hall of Fame’.

Pulse News Reader allows you to take feeds from 20 RSS streams of your choice and have them displayed on your screen in a touch senstive ‘News Strip’ style interface. You can easily choose and organise your sources as well as share articles directly to Twitter, Facebook or any other app on your handset (complete with a shortened url).

When I first saw that video I didn’t even wait for it to finish, I dived straight into the Marketplace to download the app and I’m glad to say that Pulse does pretty much everything right.

Hey look! It's us, in RSS form.

Moving around the numerous feeds and menus is intuitive, easy work and for the most part it does a great job of grabbing images from each article to populate your streams.  As a result it looks great, there’s minimal lag and it also makes short work of showing you what you want to see, even on 3G. A little tip to help save on battery drain, you may want to dip into the settings and disable ‘Background Updates’. You can also, via Pulse, log into your Google Reader account, choose from any feeds you have set-up and stick them in Pulse’s main screen. I love that using this app I can easily share an article with Tweetdeck and have it create a tweet complete with a shortened url, I can then edit the tweet and send it from any one of my three Twitter accounts; all within a few steps. Brilliant! Pulse is a clever idea excellently executed. If you use RSS news feeds then this is a great way to stay on top of them.

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Website

Bottom Line : A visually slick app that quickly delivers your RSS feeds in a dynamic fashion. Excellent stuff.

Winamp Beta – It’s The Llama’s Pyjamas

Winamp Beta

If, like me, you rock an Android handset then I guess that, also like me, you’re thinking it must be Christmas right now. At the time of writing this we’ve had Angry Birds, Tweetdeck, an updated YouTube app, all in the last 10 days and now Winamp Beta has popped up on the Marketplace to a rapturous reception from the Android community.

Hello old friend, it's been a while. My, you're looking nice.

I’ve always struggled to find an Android based music player that I’m 100% happy with but the Winamp team, thanks to their talent for appealing and intuitive design, have ported their popular media player to the Android platform with great success. This truly is the trusty old Winamp experience scaled down to your Android handset right down to the familiar ‘Winamp, It Whips The Llama’s Ass’ soundclip when you first start up the app; it’s like meeting an old friend who happens to have kept themselves in great shape.
Hands down the UI on Winamp is the best I have found on Android so far for playing music. It’s not overly flash or fussy but it helps you get the job done with ease. From the home screen you can access Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, History or the Search function, menus are responsive and the program runs perfectly. Wherever you are in the UI you can usually get to wherever you want to go with a minimal amount of navigation thanks in part to the excellent ‘drag-up’ Now Playing screen. For me, the Now Playing screen is the most important part in any music player and should be accessible as easily as possible (take note Audiogalaxy), the ‘drag up’ feature of Winamp makes this possible.

In this case the Now Playing screen also includes some shameless cross promotion.

The Now Playing screen features everything you need, play/seek controls, album art, access to the current playlist, a list of all tracks / albums by the current artist, shuffle/repeat controls and the all important home button. Creating and editing playlists on your handset is easily done via long pressing on songs when in a tracklist. Also tucked away in the long press menu are options to use a particular track as a ringtone and a search function to find the track on Youtube or the Internet. For widget fans Winamp also comes with a very tidy widget with all the basic controls you need to control your music from your home screen, there’s only one size at the moment but I would assume that more will be developed as the program moves closer towards a final release.
Scrobbling to Last.fm is also possible, you’ll need to install the Last.fm app on your handset; as yet there are no options to share info on currently playing tracks to Twitter or Facebook.
If you install the new Beta version of Winamp on your PC you can also stream your music library to your handset via Wi-Fi. Sadly I could not get the Winamp Beta program to install on my Windows 7 installation. That’s the downside of a Beta I guess, someone will always be at the worse end of the testing experience, in this case it just happens to be me. Even without the streaming capabilities Winamp Beta has easily pushed aside all other media players on my handset, if they include shoutcast radio or video playback in future versions then I could be finding myself throwing all kinds of other apps on the scrapheap (or should that be Appheap?, sorry).

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Winamp Blog Post

Bottom line : Boasting a superb and robust UI with easy to access features; this is the best audio player app I’ve used on Android so far. As a music player it ticks all the boxes, if you can get the streaming library to work then it’s an utterly essential app.

Tweetdeck – Worth Tweeting About or RT to Sender?

Tweetdeck

Once upon a time the main use for my mobile phone was to send text messages, it seems like ancient history now but in reality those SMS based times were only just over a year ago. These days my handset has almost totally dropped texting and become a Twitter hub pumping out nonsense Tweets of 140 characters or less to whoever wants to read them. And I’m not the only one. Twitter clients on mobile phones are a very particular thing to each individual, you try a new Twitter app, you become wise to it’s funny ways, making it work in your favour so your Twitter experience is optimised to how you like it. But then one day you say “Enough! There must be a better Twitter app out there for me.” and so you start all over again, learning from scratch. My android/twitter journey has already taken in four apps..

  • Touiteur – Lovely, has the best bird tweet alarm sound but became buggy, wouldn’t always update.
  • Twitter – Official app, nice presentation but bloaty, plus you’re stuck with Twitter’s way of doing things (no old school RT, no multiple accounts)
  • Twidroid – My fav so far, but no free multiple account support (and I’m a notorious cheapskate)
  • Seesmic – Good, but not my favourite, free multiple account support though.

You can sign in to Twitter, Facebook, Foursqaure and Google Buzz (if you're mad).

Tweetdeck is out of beta, it’s been officially released for Android and it’s now that I find myself on my fifth Twitter app (sixth if you count the excellent Gravity app from back when I had a Symbian handset) and hopefully this is my last. First impressions are good, a simple menu to setup Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz* and Foursquare** accounts. Tweetdeck already gets a huge smile from me for allowing multiple Twitter accounts (I currently rock three Twitter accounts, get me) a feature a lot of Twitter apps currently charge for. For the record, the first Twitter account you enter will be set as the default account, you can always change your default choice in the future from the ‘accounts’ screen by long pressing on an entry in your account list.  Integration with Facebook seems solid too, with posts and pictures appearing nicely in your feed to which you can like or comment on. Tweetdeck have promised to work more on this and make Facebook integration ‘deeper’, already it seems good enough so I guess it can only get better with further updates.

The first thing you’ll notice is how blindingly fast things are, screens whiz up & down and left to right in a flurry, it’s a joy to behold. Tweets are displayed with an avatar and user name, with the timestamp shown in the bar at the top of the column. This bar also acts as a ‘move to top’ or ‘refresh’ button depending on your position in your news feed. Selecting a tweet will also bring up information on how that tweet was posted. Thankfully you can now change the text size of your tweets (a feature missing from my beta version) to allow room for more posts at a time on your screen. My main, or ‘Home’, timeline consists of my posts from my default Twitter account and Facebook feed with simple colour coding to seperate the two. Timelines are displayed via columns which you scroll through from left to right, scrolling is quick and fluid which makes using Tweetdeck a very pleasant experience. There’s a flexible choice of what columns you can have and how many, I’ve currently got six columns on the go with no sign of slow down or complication. You also have fairly flexible control over how often each column updates which, if you’re juggling multiple accounts, is very useful. Annoyingly you only seem to be able to manage your default account, so if you want to follow someone with your other twitter account you need to set that as your default account before doing so.

Hey look! It's Android Apt on Twitter. Please excuse the low follower count, we've barely been here two weeks.

Composing tweets is great, you can choose how many accounts you want to tweet from (yes, you can tweet from multiple accounts simultaneously. Aces!), add a picture, add your location or browse through your contacts to add them to your tweet. With RT’s, Tweetdeck gives you the choice of classic RTing or official Twitter RTing, thumbs up for giving us the choice. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any built-in URL shortening, which can lead to an issue with overlong tweets. In my experience overlong tweets fail to send and there’s no way to go back and edit them, they stay stuck in your notification bar with the option to retry sending them, all you can do is clear the alert and start again. Tweeting pictures is done via Yfrog and there is no option to change to another picture host so if you’re a fan of Twitpic or another service you’re out of luck. In it’s favour Tweetdeck does a great job of handling pictures, select a tweet with a picture link and a preview image will appear. Tweetdeck can even pull a preview image from a Youtube link, nice. Tweetdeck also has a conversation view which is a godsend for keeping track of those back & forth messages between users on Twitter.

When it comes to options there aren’t really any to choose from, compared to other clients which offer a wealth of options Tweetdeck’s approach seems to be limiting but the reality is the opposite. I have found that trusting the app to do want you want seems to yield the best results as it really does hit most, if not all, the marks. It’s as if Tweetdeck is light on options but full of features, there’s so much more to discover but doing so would delay this review by at least another week. If anything a manual would be handy as there are all kinds of functions in there, you just have to know where they are. Tweetdeck is a great app and a recommended download, I am glad to have given Tweetdeck a chance and it has now become my final ‘go-to’ app for Twitter.

…. unless I get that itch again, oh god no!

* I didn’t try my Google Buzz account because.. well, it’s Google Buzz, what’s the point?

** I didn’t try Foursquare either, I’m not on Foursqaure. Nor do I ever plan to be.

Links : Official Android Page, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : After just over 24 hours use I am happier with this than any other mobile Twitter client I have used.  Sure, there’s something of a learning curve but it’s worth sticking with this app to unlock it’s full potential. Recommended.

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