August 31, 2004

PDA-compatible blogging - part 2

(also posted on Rocket Jones)

In part one we saw how easy it is to create a PDA compatible version of your blog. It only takes a few minutes, and once complete you don’t have to do anything special, because it updates automatically every time you post.

In this part, I’ll go over the steps needed to download your blog (or other PDA friendly web content) into your PDA. It’s pretty easy too.

(in the extended entry)

There are several places online that offer this service, but the one I use is AvantGo, mainly because the reader came preloaded on my iPAQ. You may have to download the appropriate (and free) software to your PDA, which is simple to do, just follow their directions. The basic service is also free, although you can upgrade your account to allow more content to be downloaded. Personally, I haven’t found it to be necessary. Also, please keep in mind that I’m using an iPAQ, but most PDA’s should work in similar ways. Details may differ for you if you use a similar device. If you’re having problems, read the manual or do like I do – Google is your friend. AvantGo also has .pdf versions of their help guides online for Pocket PC’s and Palm Pilots.

Setting up an AvantGo account is easy and free. Using your PC, go to their homepage and after picking your User ID and password you select the content you want downloaded to your PDA.

There’s a huge selection of content, including many newspapers and specialty magazines and newsletters. Obviously, you don’t get the full versions, usually you get major headline stories. Each ‘subscription’ has a maximum downloadable size, and most of these count towards your limit that you must stay under with a free account. The limit on my account is 2000k. I currently subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC news, Sporting News, USA Today and PocketPC Life. Add in the blogs Off Wing Opinion, Simon World and Flying Space Monkey Chronicles, and I’m using 1150k, so I’ve got plenty of room to spare. You can change subscriptions at any time, and you probably will do that often at first as you look around for the best mix for you.

To set it up to read blogs, AvantGo offers what they call “Personal Channels”. This is the ability to take any webpage on the net and make it downloadable. Note that if the page isn’t formatted in a PDA-friendly manner, then trying to read it after downloading will be an exercise in frustration. Stick to the dedicated PDA-style pages, there are plenty of them out there, and more coming all the time (Q&O, Minor Perfidy, and many others, are you listening?).

All right, we’re ready to create a new personal channel from the latest Munuvian to go PDA compatible – Flying Space Monkey Chronicles. After you’ve signed in, click on the My Account tab on the right hand side of the page. Below that is your account information and then a section called Account Management Tasks. In that section is a link called Create A Personal Channel, that’s the one we want. Click that.

Now you’ll see some blanks to fill in. The Title is whatever you want to call it, it’s the name that’ll show up on your PDA, and the Location is obviously the URL. Type those in, then make sure you click the VIEW button to the immediate right. This gives you an idea of what you’ll be seeing when you download.

Below that, I generally put a maximum size of 100k on blogs, which is probably way overkill because I input zero for link depth and check ‘no’ for image downloads and links. I want straight text, and if I see something later I want to follow up on, I make a note of it (hey, it’s a PDA!) and do next time I’m on my desktop PC.

The last section is Channel Refresh. For my iPAQ, I ‘synchronize’ once a day, usually in the evening. So by selecting Refresh On Every Sync, I get the latest content every evening, and read it the following day. You can set yours to update however you want, it’s pretty flexible.

Don’t forget to click the Save Channel button at the bottom of the page when you’ve got it all set up.

Then do it all over again for each channel you want to create.

Next time you synchronize your PDA, all that content will be loaded, and you can tap the AvantGo icon (or whichever service you used) to read it. And all your friends will refer to you as a technological trend-setter, and be jealous.

Posted by Ted at August 31, 2004 12:49 PM

Alright, Ted. You convinced me. My PDA version is available at

Posted by Daniel at August 31, 2004 04:58 PM

Thanks again, Rocket Ted. I've added this post to Useful Thingys as well!

Posted by Madfish Willie at August 31, 2004 05:53 PM

Ted, are you suggesting that the Ministry actually work on something, rather than just hope that the need passes?

Posted by buckethead at September 3, 2004 06:24 AM

OBE, the favorite acronym of Ministries everywhere. :D

Posted by Ted at September 3, 2004 11:02 AM
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