Friday, May 29, 2009

NewsRob 2.3

I am going on vacation for two weeks. So here is a quick update with some pending stuff:

Mark All Read

It sometimes feels like Mark All Read is the most important feature of NewsRob ;-) - at least it's the feature I get the most feedback and suggestions about.

From this release on the confirmation dialog is gone. So when you hit Mark All Read, you better mean it.

You can also reach Mark All Read now from the context menu (long press) on the Dashboard and Feed List. Btw. From the latter you can also select Manage Feed now.

And of course you can still use Mark All Read directly from the Dashboard to mark everything as read: a real time saver ;-)

Last Compatibility Fix for Cupcake

On Cupcake sometimes a change in the Settings didn't take effect until the next reboot. I meanwhile found a workaround to solve this.
I think this is the last change to make NewsRob run smoothly on Cupcake.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NewsRob 2.2

What's new and changed in this release?

Articles Are Now Browsable By Feed

If you have comments about this new feature, please add to this discussion.

Bugfix: Sync

Fixed a bug that caused NewsRob to sync more often than expected. 

Mark All Read Now Possible During A Running Sync

Many of you have asked for that.

Flurry Integration

Testing the use of flurry ( to track data like NewsRob and OS versions, session durations, usage frequency of "Mark All Read", etc.

It came as a surprise to me that so many of you complained about "Mark All Read" not being possible during a running synchronization. I considered "Mark All Read" not being important at all, but it seems many of you are using it. Hopefully flurry will over time give me some more insights about things that don't fit my expectations. 

BugFix: Fast Sync

After each change (unread -> read, unshared -> shared, etc.) a countdown runs down from 5 minutes to 0. When reaching 0 only the local changes are upload to Google Reader. When you change another article during this 5 minutes the countdown restarts. 

The idea behind this is that NewsRob should do a sync with Google Reader during the time you need from the train/tube/metro/underground/bus to your desk. So that when you access Google Reader from your desk the articles you just read on the train are not showing up anymore.

The fast sync will be signaled with "Uploading Changes" in the status bar.

This was already implemented, but at least in the last release it was doing too much and taking too long. With this release it is actually working as intended: fast.

Sync Notification Is Back

As longtime NewsRob users will likely remember there used to be a notification in the status bar when NewsRob is running. At that time sometimes the notification would hang around even though the sync was finished. As a result I removed it.

I think I now got it right and re-added it. Let me know if there is still a problem.

The idea behind the notification is to show that NewsRob is doing something in the background with your phone. It shouldn't slow it down in theory, because those background activities run with a very low priority, but in reality it is just a phone and so you will be impacted a little bit.

It's a NewsRob-Anti-Marketing feature ;-)

NewsRob Testing

Once again, many thanks to Matthias for testing this release. We were off with a very rocky start this time ;-)

Thank you, Matt!

Bug Fixes

Like with the the other releases, bugs that are reported now will be fixed right away and new versions might come out rapidly over the next hours, maybe one or two days. After that I will only bring out a new release when I encounter a serious bug.

So if you don't like frequent updates, wait for a short while.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Update 2.2.1:

  • Some images weren't downloaded and the article was marked with a red dot, most notably this sometimes happened with engadget and gizmodo.
  • Removed sync notification again. In some cases it still seems to hang around, even though the sync is finished.
    Also some users seem to be a strongly and loudly against this feature. So if I will fix it, it will come back as an option only. 

Midterm Future Of NewsRob

Just to keep you updated on my current thinking. Everything might be subject to change.
The Near Future

Until the end of May I want to expose the feeds themselves. Currently NewsRob knows feeds under the hood and you can change the download and display preferences on a per feed basis, but you can't browse your articles by feed. That will be added.

I am always trying to make NewsRob as simple as possible to use without sacrificing important functionality. A redesign of the GUI symbols should help to make some more complex concepts, e.g. full and partial feeds, more self evident.

The Midterm Future

I will then have one or two vacation releases ;) and start afterward with re-working the website and shooting some videos that explain and promote NewsRob. The current plans include making some task focused videos accessible from within NewsRob, I will resume implementing new features after that. There are a lot of feature requests. One is notifications. Quite a few users mentioned they want a notification when new articles have been downloaded.
Also noteworthy on my list of feature candidates are subscribing to and unsubscribing from feeds within NewsRob.

It should also be possible to launch the built-in YouTube player from within an article in NewsRob. Futhermore embedded short URLs get more and more weight due to Facebook and Twitter status updates. It's unfortunate that there is no proper support for that in NewsRob. I will think about better ways to handle those embedded URLs.

I am also interested how many people are using Cupcake then. If >90% of the users have Cupcake installed I might implement a Widget that shows the latest articles or a smart folder doing something like that.

And there is lots of stuff that I want to make better, faster, more lightweight and more intuitive.

Will NewsRob support podcasts?
As the infrastructure for podcast support is in place already it might seem obvious to offer downloading, playing and managing podcasts. But I have to draw the line somewhere and right now the line is at podcasts. I am very focused on details and there are many details that can use more work in NewsRob. So I would rather spent more time on cleanup than on opening NewsRob up for another use. I am also not sure if both concepts play well together. I wouldn't want to dilute the user experience to let NewsRob be everything to everyone.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

NewsRob 2.1

NewsRob 2.1 mostly carries bug fixes/adjustments to better cope with Cupcake.

- WebView's zoom controls look good again (see screenshot, near the bottom).

- When an OutOfMemory error happens (bug report subject: Unable to start activity ....) on a Cupcake phone the resulting bug report will now include a heap dump. This should finally give me a clue how to solve this issue, at least to see what is taking up all that memory.

- As suggested by Greg KH "Mark All Read" now works much faster.

- As a result of the changes I made for the latter a "ConcurrentModificationException", as reported by Troy, should be gone now too.

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