Saturday, February 28, 2009

NewsRob 1.5

Please remove any shortcuts you may still have that were created before V1.2.

Also after the upgrade change the schedule interval or capacity in the settings once to trigger the background synchronization schedule to be setup.

Changes since last week:

  • Automatic upload of article state changes

    Consider the following scenario. You ride on the bus to work (that would mean you're European I guess) and you read a couple of articles. Five minutes after you hoped off of the bus you arrive at the desk and fire up the web interface of Google Reader. There you see some of the articles that you just read on the bus are still marked as unread.

    The reason for that is that the next scheduled background synchronization has not happened yet.

    From this release on a countdown of 5 minutes is started every time you change the state of an article, i.e. you mark an article as unread, or you read an article, or share it or star it etc.

    When the countdown gets to zero all the changed article states are uploaded to Google Reader. This is not a full-sync though and should only take a couple of seconds as no new articles are fetched, no old articles are deleted and no web pages are downloaded.

    The countdown is reset every time that you change the state of an article so that in effect the countdown only runs down to zero when you are finished with the last article (or you're reading very slowly or a long article).

  • Lots of performance improvements

    Scrolling through lists as well as opening of lists (Dashboard and Articles List) is much faster for larger amounts of articles, e.g. 500.

    Also the speed of "Clear Cache" and the "Deleting Articles Over Capacity" phase during the synchronization is much faster now.

    I am not totally happy with the current performance though and will keep an eye on it. The list layouts are not optimal for example and will get an overhaul during one of the next releases.
  • Bug fixed that under some circumstances caused the synchronization to finish pre-mature

    The symptom was that even though the schedule interval was set to for example 1h, the status bar on the dashboard showed that the last sync was longer ago than that.

    It was a strange bug that isn't easily reproducible, but I have a little bit of confidence that it is fixed now and I have total confidence, that the current version does better in this respect than the last version.

    Let me know if you still see the above mentioned behavior. Please make sure though that you setup the background synchronization first though (see above).

    The same phenomenon was likely responsible for the hung NewsRob-In-Sync notification. I will keep any eye on that this week and if this is the case, I will re-enable this notification again in the next release.
  • An empty Articles List is auto-skipped

    When clicking on a label with only one article, instead of showing the Article List the article itself is directly shown.

    From this release on this is also true for the other direction.

    If you started from a Articles List with a couple of entries that are all read after you looked through them the back button will directly return you the Dashboard instead of to the empty Articles List.
    This, of course, only happens when you are in the "Hide read articles" modus.

  • Ads are not changing so frequently anymore

    In v1.4 from last week I forgot to change a development setting of a new ad each 15 seconds back to the usual 60 seconds. In v1.5 the schedule is 60 seconds again.

  • Downloading of web pages is more robust now

    Web Pages that cause some problems during downloads, e.g. parsing errors or sites are temporarily unavailable because the server is not there, or more likely unreachable as the connection is gone, are now handled more gracefully.

    On the other hand there are still some problems left that I cannot fix without getting rid of the current RegExp-based parsing and implement my own web site parsing.
    I will get around to that eventually, but as this takes a serious amount of time to implement other functionality will not be implemented during that time ;-( and therefore this is not a top priority at the moment.

  • Lots of typos fixed in this release

    ... and probably lots of typos left. Let me know if you find any.

Friday, February 27, 2009

MiniReview /Mentioning On GeekHerd.Net

There was an awesome mini review / mentioning of NewsRob on

NewsRob: If you are into RSS News Reading, and use google reader, this app is for you. It works awesome, synchronizes your google reader account in the background, you have almost all of the features found in google reader in the palm of your hand, and the developer is pretty great, updates the app frequently and listens to users for upcoming features. It has many other features. Check it out at or their google group at

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review of NewsRob at

Holland's biggest Android site just posted a review of NewsRob in Dutch.

NewsRob is really complete, it will be a considerable challenge to surpass it.
A must have on your home screen!
What more could a humble little NewsRob ask for? ;-)

If your Dutch skills are as good as mine here is a link to an automatic translation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

NewsRob 1.4

Changes since last Sunday:

  • As requested feed content is now downloaded too.

    When downloading of web pages is enabled in the preferences the feed content is downloaded too. This shouldn't take much more bandwidth as mostly the same assets, i.e. images, are referenced from both representations and NewsRob only downloads them once.
    This should lead to an increased flip-through speed as images don't have to be downloaded anymore.

    Some time after the middle of March there will be a version of NewsRob that will let you decide on a feed-by-feed basis if you want both representations downloaded, only the feed content including the assets, only the web page including assets or nothing.

    Probably even more importantly this preference will also be used to decide which representation to use (feed content or web page) when flipping through the articles.
    This means when you swipe to the right to navigate to the next article and it's from a feed that you declared as "download webpage including all assets" then it will be opened with the downloaded web page representation, otherwise it will use the feed content.

    This way you get the fastest flip-through speed, using the feed content, and the full content when necessary, e.g. partial feeds.

  • Ads from admob are now shown.

    We'll see how well that goes. I put in some extra effort to only show the 48px high ads in the vertical orientation, so that they are unobtrusive and don't take lots of screen estate.

  • Last synced is now displayed.

    As requested the last time synced and if it was incomplete (due to an error) is now displayed in the status bar of the dashboard, but only if it is in its horizontal orientation.

  • The NewsRob icon shown in the status bar when synchronizing is gone for now.

    There is a bug that annoying the heck out of me. The sync-in-progress notification hangs around even though the synchronization is over.
    I completely disabled this notification for the time being, because my time is better spent on other stuff (features) than hunting down that particular bug.

    In my development/debug version of NewsRob that I carry around with me all week, the notification will still be there and keep me honest not to forget about it.

  • "Reading List" is now called "All Articles".

  • New pseudo label "Friends's Shared Articles".
I am very much interested in feedback, here in the comments on Twitter or in the recently created Google group.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Review of NewsRob at

I was traveling a lot this week, so I am bit late on the news front.
But better late than never, there was a great review of NewsRob at

androitpit seems to be the most active German Android site with real editors that create original content instead of just quoting other sites.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

Sie sind ein Kind "unserer Zeit" und überbrücken lästige Wartezeiten inzwischen mit dem Lesen von Nachrichten auf dem Handy. Gleichzeitig "aggregieren" Sie Ihre Nachrichten gerne über sogenannte News/RSS-Reader und bevorzugen hierbei das Angebot des Google Readers. Allerdings wohnen Sie auch in einer Grossstadt und nutzen regelmässig die U-Bahn als Fortbewegungsmittel. Ärgern Sie sich dann nicht auch desöfteren, wenn Sie dann sitzend oder stehend in der U-Bahn keinen Online-Zugriff haben und somit von der/einer "News-Welt" abgeschnitten sind. Wenn es Ihnen somit so wie mir geht, dann schauen Sie sich doch mal NewRob an, diese Android Anwendung löst dieses Problem - wahrscheinlich - für immer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Android Market seems broken

Currently the Android Market seems broken.

For one it doesn't seem to be possible to upgrade to 1.3.0 at the moment from within the Android Market. It seems to work fine though to install from scratch.

Also the description of NewsRob keeps changing back to the old description. The current one should read like this:

Please remove any old shortcuts from before V1.2.

NewsRob is a Google Reader client:

- Two-way background sync
- Download full & partial feeds
including assets
- Offline capable
- Mark all read
- Share by email/in Reader
- Hide read items
- Categories/labels
- SD card support
- Finger Gestures
Hopefully Google will figure this out quickly.

NewsRob 1.3

From the bottom of the Android Market ratings barrel a new release of NewsRob emerged ;-)

Changes since last Sunday:

  • The articles limit has been temporary raised to 500. See the previous blog post for more details.
  • "Mark All Read" is now supported on a global level as well as for a specific label.
  • "Share Article in Reader" now enables you to mark articles as "shared" in Google Reader.
  • Lots of stuff under the hood for better performance, stability and future enhancements
  • The layout of should look ok in IE again

NewsRob For Free (kind of)

Unfortunately Google take their sweet time to open up the Android Market for paid apps. And even though US and UK based developers can post their paid apps in the week from the 16th on, they will not open the Market for German developers for the time being.

To not take it out on the NewsRob users I decided to lift the articles limit to 500, which in effect is the full version. Later today I'll make it available at not cost at the Android Market until it opens for paid apps from Germany.

It will probably contain ads in a non-obtrusive way. At least I will test out how un-obtrusive they are and what the users' feedback is.

Afterward the free version will be limited to 50 articles again and ads-free. As we don't know how long it will take Google to open up their Android Market, this will happen by way of update. That's probably the fairest way.

Please think about this transition time as an extended trial period, not about me taking something away from you after the free version will be restricted again.

The eventual price of NewsRob has not been decided yet. If you have an opinion on that or on the use of ads in the app, please let me know.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Follow NewsRob On Twitter

NewsRob now also has a twitter account.

NewsRob 1.2

Update: If you get an error message when starting NewsRob please check if you launched it from a pre-existing shortcut please delete it and create it again afterwards.
Special thanks to Tim Suh for helping me to find and isolate the problem.

I just released the new version of this genius masterpiece with an average rating at the App Market ;-)

Changes from last Sunday:

  • NewsRob now supports labels. Say hello to the Dashboard.
    (This will only take effect for the articles you fetch from now on, not for the already fetched articles. You can, of course, clear the cache and re-fetch the articles.)
  • On the Article screen you can now use swipe gestures to navigate to the next or previous article. See the documentation here.
  • Less CPU is now used during the downloading/parsing of WebPages.
    Also NewsRob is giving up CPU more easily to other applications now.
    This should make a huge difference in the phone feeling slow during synchronization.
    Also downloads shouldn't "hang" anymore as they were due to a Java bug.
  • Scrolling is faster now.
  • The WebView cache is now managed more aggressively which results in NewsRob
    needing less of the phone precious memory.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

NewsRob 1.1

I just released version 1.1 to the Android Market.

Changes since last Sunday:

- Articles can now be marked read/unread using a swipe gesture.
- Running synchronizations can now be cancelled.
- Downloading of web pages can now be limited to WiFi-only.
- The current phase of the synchronization process is now displayed.
- NewsRob now needs less memory to fetch new articles (dom -> xml pull).
- NewsRob now needs less memory when displaying the articles list with many items.
- When auto-sync is disabled the login will also not trigger a synchronization.

And lots of smaller fixes for bugs or inconveniences.

Full NewsRob documentation.