Get off my lawn.

Friday, May 29, 2009


On occasion, I've had opportunity to talk to people who are really into what they do. Musicians, programmers, people who paint, people who roast their own coffee beans, recording engineers, etc. The ones who really stand out and are really good at something usually react a certain way when you bring up their topic of interest. They practically light up. A lot of the time, they'll immediately launch into a conversation about it, talking about the finer points of what they do. It's pretty easy to tell that they spend a lot of time thinking about it, and really like talking about it to someone. What they have to say is usually pretty informative, and it's also cool to see someone so enthused and excited about what they're doing.

Today, I had a conversation like that with the security guard who sits at the entrance to the building where I work. I've walked past this guy at least 200 times sitting at his desk. He's a pretty quiet guy. I figured if he daydreamed about anything, it was probably bass boats or Megan Fox or something (not that there's anything wrong with any of that). Anyway, he was drawing a picture of a raygun similar to the one in the picture above. I said "Hey, cool gun", and he reacted like I described above. He pulled out a small notebook full of pictures he'd been drawing and started showing them to me. There was a Robinson Crusoe beach scene in full color. Another picture showed a crew on the bridge of a huge spaceship looking out the window at another (burning) spaceship in orbit around a planet. There was a post-it note with a pencil drawing of a guy's face on it, some variations on the picture above, and a lot more. Just one amazing picture after another. I took a few pictures of his pictures with my phone (hence the blurry quality) and brought them home.

He said he drew the one above while he was talking on the phone. That probably sounds like bragging, but some of the pictures in his book had phone numbers and other notes scibbled on them, like they were phone-doodles he decided to keep. I do know that I watched him demonstrate how to draw a convincing-looking eye, and it took him all of 40 seconds to do it. From what I saw, a guy with his apparent level of talent could crank out a space-guy picture like the one above in 10 minutes while on the phone.

He said he does some work for hire too. He does portraits, and he's working on artwork for a sci-fi comic right now. If you're looking for someone who can draw really well, I know someone...

I think it's pretty interesting, finding people and things like this in unexpected places.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Greed update: Scaled Images

I just put out another Greed update. Since I just flashed my phone with the Cupcake update, this is probably the last version of Greed to not require Cupcake. (Of course, I think I said that about 2 updates ago.)

Some new features:

Compressed pages: Well, not actually "compressed"... Essentally, there's a new option in the article viewer (and on the context menu in the article list) you can use to view a "mobile" version of a given page. This uses Google's site compressor to strip the fluff out of web pages so they load faster on a mobile device.

"Cache All" improvements: Up till now, the "Cache all" action executed from the main menu could not be canceled. That is fixed now, and a progress dialog displays while the caching operation takes place. Canceling the progress dialog cancels the caching operation. "Cache All" is still a work in progress.

Image Scaling: The article viewer now (optionally) scales images so you don't have to scroll the viewer to see all them. You can long-press a link or an image in the article viewer to toggle these settings.

Follow Links: The last update included a change to keep the article viewer from opening links you accidentally click on while scrolling through the article. This feature has been added to the context menu in the article viewer. If you want to follow a specific link in the article viewer, you can long-press it, select "Follow Links", then the link will open in the browser when you click on it. Note that this doesn't change the setting, just the behavior for the article you're viewing.

Improved German Translation: Many thanks to Sascha, who translated the resources to German.

That's about it for this update. I'm going to start working on a widget now, so Greed can be Cupcake-compliant.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Greed: More incremental stuff

Another Sunday, another group of Greed updates. I had plans to change a couple of other things, like YouTube link support and a Widget in preparation for Cupcake, but there were a couple of annoyances I wanted to take care of first.

The first one was the issue of performance. Greed sometimes seems kind of sluggish, especially when navigating through a list of large articles. The reason for this is that up until this update, Greed has been loading up all of the articles in the article list, along with their content. As you scroll down through the list, more and more articles get loaded into memory. If the articles are long, that takes a lot of memory, which makes the whole device slow down. So what I do now is separate the content from the articles as they're downloaded, and only load the content when it's needed. I think it makes it a lot snappier. I'd be interested to know if you see the same results. A side benefit is that Greed should now be more stable and less apt to die for lack of memory.

By the way, you might want to clear your cache if you notice Greed acting weird.

The second issue was the "read/unread items" radio buttons at the top of the feeds and folders lists, and the article list. These were taking up screen space, so I did the "animated panel" trick with them. They display for a few seconds when the screen is first displayed, then they fade out of view. To get them back, just touch the area where you expect to see them, and they'll reappear.

One last thing that I put up earlier this week, but didn't bother posting about: Greed's annoying tendency to follow every link in the article viewer. Man, I hated that. In an article with a lot of links in it, navigating through an article was like walking through a small (and admittedly totally non-lethal) minefield. I had developed a habit of always looking for a "safe" place to touch the screen. Then I remembered it was possible to suppress that behaviour in the WebView component, so I did that. Duh. If you prefer to have this "feature" enabled, you can do so in the preferences screen with the "Follow Links" option. I worked on the idea of putting a context-menu handler in the view to turn this feature on and off on the fly, but didn't like the way that turned out. It's on my list...

That's about it for this week's updates. Stay tuned for YouTube link support and a Widget!

Also, thanks to everyone sending feedback on Greed. The criticism is always constructive, and the compliments have been appreciated too.

Finally: My apologies to the German user community for the translations. I built a GWT application for translating Android resources to different languages, and tested it on Greed. I've been notified by a couple of users that the translations leave a little bit to be desired. I believe the exact words were "Simply Horrible", which I assume is German for "sub-optimal." In any case, one of them kindly offered to translate them for me. On that subject, if any of you reading this know of other languages you'd like to see Greed translated to, there's a free copy of Greed and a big strings.xml file in it for you. :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Greed: Offline Support

I just released a new version of Greed, 1.1.2. The big update for this version is improvements in the offline support.

My goal with Greed was to make offline support as seamless as possible, where you wouldn't really notice it was in any sort of "offline" mode when it was. If it had a connection, it would try to keep things up to date, and otherwise read content from the SD card and synchronize it. That's why you see it do things like load articles from disk, then update from the network as soon as it has a chance.

Anyway, this version of Greed has several updates in it toward the goal of good offline support.

First, the "Cache All" function (accessible from the main menu) works better now, and is more conservative with memory. When you click "Cache All", you get all of the articles that can be downloaded, plus the content and attachments of any feeds you've explicitly marked for caching.

Second, Greed now takes a bit more of an explicit "offline" approach when a network connection isn't available. It sticks strictly with pre-saved content, and doesn't try to update automatically until it can do so smoothly. There's an option in the preferences that tells Greed to assume it's offline if the network connection is weak or slow. If you're in some kind of "1 bar" area or something, Greed will assume you're offline, and stick with the content saved to the SD card. You should be able to read feeds without disruption in areas with low-or-no-quality network access. (Provided you've downloaded them beforehand, obviously.)

For update operations such as "mark as read", "add star", etc., Greed takes care of that by queueing all such operations while it's offline, and then "playing back" those actions when a network connection becomes available.

Besides that, I'm also working on some feature requests (embedded browser, built-in media player, share with note), as well as new features for Cupcake when it finally arrives.

Suggestions and feedback are welcome as always.