Get off my lawn.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Greed: Big News

In my last post, I mentioned the big marketing push going on here at Fognl, and the goal of using pictures to increase the impact of a given post. The idea is to use pictures to reinforce the message. In the last Greed update, there were several noteworthy, but somewhat small, updates. A picture of several kittens lined up in a row seemed like an appropriate way to really drive the message home. (Also, a picture of kittens was pretty easy to find.)

This time, there's only one noteworthy item, and it's bigger. Thus, the following:

The big news is a widget. Greed now has its own widget, in case you want one.

To create a new Greed widget, just do what you normally do to create one, and you'll see a Greed item on the Widgets menu.

Select that item then select either the feed, label, or state you want to see in the widget from the feed selector screen.

Then, um... There's the widget.

The widget updates once per hour, and shows the most recent headline in the chosen feed. You can create as many Greed widgets as you want, with a separate feed in each one. When you touch a widget, it loads the article list for the feed it's watching so you can read all the items.

For now, there's only one widget size. I'm thinking of creating a "tiny" widget as well, which may just show unread counts or something. This wide one seems to take up a fair amount of space.

Well, that's all for now, enjoy the widget...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greed: A few notable improvements

I just put out an update to Greed with a few notable features. As part of a new high-powered marketing plan here at Fognl, I'm going to include pictures in my posts to give them more visual impact. Brace yourselves.

I'm not sure which feature is the most noteworthy, so I'll list them in order of how recently I worked on them.

Customizable Menus

As of this release, you can customize the main Greed menu. If you have certain feeds you always go to first, or other things on the main menu that you never use, you can now change the menu to suit your way of using Greed. Not only that, you can create any number of custom menus and switch between them with just a couple of clicks. Here's an example:

The "Folders" item is the same "Folders" item you know and love from the standard Greed menu. The "Podcasts" item is a Google Reader label, and the remaining 3 items are regular old feed items. Clicking one of them takes you directly to the article list in that feed.

Editing a menu is pretty simple. Just click the "Menu" button from the main screen's options menu, and follow the prompts. Use the options menu to create new menus and menu items, and long-press to manage items that are already there. Here's a picture of the menu editor:

Picking a feed, label, or state item is straightforward. Just click the "Add item" option and pick the feed, label, or state item from this screen:

To use a given menu, just long-press it in the menu list and select "Use this menu". To go back to the default main menu, just click the cleverly-named "Default menu" option in the menu list screen.

I've been experimenting with exposing Greed's functionality as objects that can be used via a JavaScript interface in HTML inside the WebView component. My initial idea for a customizable UI was to make it where you could supply your own HTML-based view, for example on the SD card, and set an option for Greed to use that. I tried out the idea, and it worked well enough. The problem was avoiding making it too fiddly to use. That's how I arrived at the idea to just make the main menu customizable. I'd be interested in knowing peoples' thoughts on whether the
HTML idea seems like it's worth pursuing. Personally, I think it's kind of cool.

YouTube Videos

This update also adds YouTube video support. If you have a Podcast with an attached YouTube video, you should be able to navigate to the link in the "Attachments" dialog box and select it to view it in the YouTube player.

Note that you can't download a YouTube video to your SD card the same way you can download an audio file. Who knows? It might be useful to have the ability to convert and download videos. I don't know if that violates some kind of licensing agreement or something, but if it's legal, I think it would be useful.

Podcast Support
A recent comment about Greed reads as follows:

Good RSS reader, lamentable podcast support.

Maybe it was the fact that the commenter was articulate enough to make good use of the word "lamentable", but something about his/her comment inspired me to improve Greed's Podcast support.

The main improvement here is that now when you download a Podcast, it shows up in the Music application.

The audio file is downloaded to /sdcard/Music/Podcasts/Greed, and the Media Scanner is used to scan the file for any ID information it might have. Thus, in most cases it shows up in the music application with a proper title, "artist" information, and even an album cover. The best part is that when you play the Podcast from there, the Music player acts like it should: You get a call, it pauses. Hang up the call, it resumes. Is it just me, or is this a lot less lamentable than the old approach?

There is also an option you can set to have Greed manage the Podcast files. When it's set, you can clear downloads from within Greed, and the Media database is updated properly. When the option is turned off, you can manage the Podcast files yourself in the Music application.

Compressed Pages
There's also a new option for caching compressed (mobile) versions of pages. When you select it, Greed downloads a reduced-content version of a given page instead of the full version. (Thanks to Stephane for the suggestion.)

That's about it for the new features. The one remaining update has to do with Feed Notifications. The last update included a definitive fix for new feed notification. The method it uses for detecting new feeds is much more reliable than the previous method was. However, a few people notified me that the Updated Feeds screen was no longer acting right. I discovered a problem there with the way it was updating the unread counts, and fixed that. That should be working correctly now.

As always, suggestions are appreciated.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Greed: A few incremental updates

I think I've mentioned about 3 times already that my next planned activity WRT Greed is to write a widget for it. Soon after that, I find something else either more pressing or more interesting to work on, so I do that instead.

Folders View
This time, it was the folders view. I had always intended to eventually make the folders list into an actual hierarchical view of folders with feeds nested in them, and I got around to doing that. As a result, I think the folders view is a lot more useful than it was before.

Along the way to putting that in place, I discovered a number of things I could do to make the feeds and folders load faster, so I put that in place too. The UI in those areas should be a lot snappier now, with the feed and folder lists loading instantly.

I also realized that although my HTTP client code was checking for a "Content-Encoding" header with a value of "gzip", I wasn't actually taking advantage of it. I am now, so network performance should be faster.

Feed Notifications
Several people had mentioned that they weren't getting notified on new feeds properly, and I found a defect in that area of Greed which I fixed. You should be notified reliably whenever one of your feeds has a new item.

Android 1.5 updates
I noticed that the fonts on the Android 1.5 update where really big, making Greed look like some kind of cartoon app. I adjusted the sizes of the fonts down in some of Greed's UI elements to compensate. There are other 1.5-specific updates to take advantage of some new WebKit features (more on this to come).

Other than that, a small list of updates and bug fixes.

Next up: NOT a widget. I'll get to that eventually, but I've got an experiment I want to try. I think people will be more interested in the experiment than a widget anyway.