Read Blogs and RSS Feeds





Read Blogs and RSS Feeds

Aggregate and read blog posts from your mobile phone.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an XML-based content publishing format for syndicating news content from multiple web sites and information sources. Most news sites (e.g., cnn.com and sourceforge.net) and blog sites produce RSS feeds so that other sites and portals can aggregate their headlines. For more information about RSS, please see Content Syndication with RSS (O'Reilly, 2003).

Of course, RSS is not limited to aggregating web content across several web sites. Many blogging suites put the full text of blog posts, rather than just headlines and links, in the RSS feeds. In this case, you can read blog entries via RSS alone, without actually loading the HTML web site. In fact, many blog readers do just that. While many web browsers do not support RSS, some specialized tools, such as NetNewsWire for Mac OS X and Sharp-Reader for Windows, allow you to keep track of many RSS feeds and read them from a computer.

But how do you read RSS from a Nokia mobile phone? The Nokia default browser (i.e., the Services application) and other third-party browsers [Hack #50] cannot parse and render RSS. In this hack, I'll discuss ways to read RSS on your phone.

Use a Web Portal

The easiest way to read RSS content is to set up a portal site that converts any RSS feed to regular WML content, which is accessible from any mobile phone browser. You can use the free service provided by WINKsite (http://www.winksite.com/) for this.

Figure shows how to configure the RSS feeds in a personal WINKsite portal account. You can put any number of RSS feeds there.

Figure shows what those RSS feeds look like on a Nokia Series 40 phone's Services browser. Notice that long blog posts are divided into several pages for easy reading on a mobile phone screen.

Configuring the WINKsite portal to aggregate RSS feeds and convert them to WML for mobile phones


Reading RSS feeds on a Nokia Series 40 device via WINKsite


J2ME-Based RSS Reader

You can also download and install third-party programs to aggregate and render RSS content on your phone. The mReader program, written by Mark Allanson, is a J2ME-based RSS reader that works on Nokia Series 40 and Series 60 devices. It is available for free download from http://markallanson.net/html/technical/j2me/mReader.htm. mReader parses RSS content as well as basic HTML-formatting tags embedded in the RSS stream. Figure shows the mReader program in action on a Series 60 smartphone.

The mReader program in action


Typing URLs for RSS feeds on a mobile phone keypad can be tedious work. mReader supports importing a list of RSS feeds from an Outline Processor Markup Language (OMPL) file. You can create an OPML file by exporting RSS feeds from most RSS aggregator/reader programs. You can also download fully categorized RSS feed listings in the OPML format from directory web sites such as http://www.w3os.nl/logos/opml/.

Use a Web Proxy

The web portal and standalone Java client approaches have their benefits. It is easy to manage feeds on the web portal, and it is more economical, in terms of mobile phone bandwidth, to have the server polling the blogs for updates. The standalone Java client, on the other hand, provides a better user interface (UI) on the phone, which is crucial for successful mobile applications.

Litefeeds (http://www.litefeeds.com/) is a new service that combines the benefits of the web portal and the Java client approaches. Litefeeds provides a web site where you can create an account and edit your RSS feeds. The web site polls the RSS sources and keeps its content up-to-date at all times. On the mobile phone, Litefeeds distributes a Java client program that retrieves information from the web site as needed, using a compressed data protocol. The Java client presents the information in an effective mobile UI.


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