August 07, 2003

Do You Want a Diary?

There’s a new world in cyberspace. It’s upsetting Search Engines. It’s moulding new opinions. It’s putting publishing power into the hands of individuals. It’s called blogging, and I’m going to look at how you can start your own blog – and use your Symbian phone to maintain it – no matter where you are in the world.

In the beginning there was notepad.exe and an ftp client. You manually hard coded your web page, adding in all the tags, formatting and info. Uploading them to a server, and voila. You had a website. You want to make a change? Dive back into the depths of the code, change it by hand, check it, and upload.

There was always a high barrier to starting your own website – but as the Internet became more pervasive, a new way to publish on the web came about. It started as Web Logging. A small application ran on a web server, so all the user had to do was type in the websites that they had visited, and it created a web page of those links. It didn’t stop at links. People started to post comments, what they thought about issues of the day, or perhaps they focused on one area (such as the current goings on in Eastenders). And another small app allowed people to leave comments at the bottom of the page for other visitors to read.

Thus blogging (weB LOGging) was born. Sites with short bursts of content that rapidly changed. Daily updates are the aim of most blogs, although many are updated throughout the day.

So, you want to join in? While you could start from scratch, download the Blog tools that run on your server, set it all up, fiddle about a bit, and finally get going, there is another option. There are many Blog communities out there that have everything set up for you to start blogging.

We’re going to look at Symbian Diaries. It’s specifically geared up to interact with your Symbian phone – and you can write about any topic under the sun. The front page (http://www.symbiandiaries.com/) has a list of popular sites on the right hand side. Browse them and you’ll find a wide variety of sites and uses.

You’ll have personal sites where the topics can be wide ranging (such as my own at http://ewan.symbiandiaries.com/). You’ve got the Liverpool Java Users Group page (http://liverpooljug.symbiandiaries.com/) which keeps members of the User Group updated as to what is happening. How about a site to host an application? Same Game is a good example of this (http://samegame.symbiandiaries.com/). Symbian Diaries is flexible enough to allow all of these with very little set up work on your part.

First thing, of course, is to get yourself a blank Diary to work with. Symbian Diaries doesn’t have an automated system, so a short email to [email protected] should see you sorted out. You’ll need to suggest a username and a password, and the return email will provide you a link to the Editing system.

The front page of Symbian Diaries provides a link to the Tutorials section. In here you’ll find a few useful articles, but the one you’ll want to start with is called “How to Get A Symbian Diary.” As well as the same information as the paragraph above, you’ll get information on configuring your Diary, helping you choose the look and feel of your diary, and how to make those all important entries. (Hint, it’s the button marked “New Entry” when you log in).

The Tutorials also link to two pages that show you how to jump from blogging to moblogging. Mobloggin (MOBile weB LOGing… cripes!) is the new buzzwored. Put simply, it means making your blog mobile.

Symbian Diaries can do this in a few ways. The first (and unusually) is to provide your Blog to anyone out there who is mobile themselves. Symbian Diaries generates not just web pages, but pages for WAP and XML browsers as well. Have a look at http://ewan.symbiandiaries.com/index.wml on your Symbian Phone and compare it to my full blog on the web. All the content is still there.

Making your WAP site is easy, just follow the tutorial provided!

The other service for Moblogging, is making posts to your Blog directly from your phone. Imagine you are at the Great British Beer Festival (it is next week at Kensington Olympia!), and you want to let the whole world (or at least those who read your blog) to know what you think about the Beer. With a mobile blogging tool, you can do just that.

Symbian Diaries provides a few ways of doing this. The first is to use your built in email client on your handset. You’ll need to ask the Admin team to set the address up for you, but once it is in place, you can do all the composing on the handset, and on sending the email, it will get turned into your latest post on your Blog. This has the advantage that MMS (which can be sent directly to an email address on most networks), can be used as well if you haven’t got email working - or you have a phone which only has MMS, though why you’d be reading Your Symbian if you didn’t have a Symbian phone…).

But one of the most powerful ways is to use an application called Azure. Azure (and surprisingly there is another template on how to use it!) allows you to log in from wherever you are, and not only create a new post, but edit your existing points (handy when you find a spelling mistake via WAP!), and work on entries, saving them as drafts as you go along. The majority of my site’s entries are drafted (at least in topics and areas to cover) over GPRS, and fleshed out at home. The great thing about using GPRS for this is that as you only pay for data transmitted, not time, you have a fraction of data as you log on, 15 minutes editing and typing, and another short data burst when you’re finished. Reckon on 4p at most for an update to your blog through Azure.

Some time ago, they said the Internet was mobile. Blogs are almost there, and Symbian Diaries has made it as easy as possible for you to join in the revolution.

Posted by Ewan at 10:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 28, 2003

[Tip] Don't Let Your Index Page Run Empty

If you don't update your Symbian Diary very often, you can change over the index page from showing Entries in the last "X" Days to The Last "X" Entries, irrespective of how far in the past they belong.

You can do this by editing your Main Index Template. Find the line that says...

MTEntries

...and alter this to read...

MTEntries lastn="11"

...where lastn is equal to the number of entries you want to show on you index page.

Save and Rebuild you Symbian Diary, and that should be that.

Posted by Ewan at 09:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

How To Update your Diary from your Phone

Here at Symbian Diaries we're big fans of Symbian OS and the phones it powers. So whenever a Java Midlet comes along that says you can update your blog from your Handset, we alway try it. Finally, here's one that works. Azure is still in it's early stages, but it's already a promising tool. Download it and you can post on the move. Here's some set up instructions.

(1) Download Azure from http://web.vee.net/projects/azure/. Look for Install via a Personal Computer and grab the JAR file.

(2) Install Azure onto your phone. It's a Java Midlet, so if you're using a Nokia/Series 60, it'll be under the Midlet Apps Icon.

(3) Run the app. You'll be asked for three bits of info.
Your Weblog Address is http://www.symbiandiaries.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-xmlrpc.cgi
Your Username and Your Password are the same as when you log on via the Web Interface.

(4) Select your blog from the list presented. Most Symbian Diaries users will only have one, but you can have multiple blogs.

Now have fun! I'm sure the author of Azure would like some feedbakc (as would the Symbian Diaries team!) so let us all know how you get on.

Posted by Ewan at 09:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 05, 2003

Viewing Your Diary on a WAP Browser

Given the number of Symbian Devices which have a WAP Browser (ie all of them) and the number of people who will only use the WAP Browser (rather than NetFront, Opera, WebViewer or any of the other WWW Solutions), it makes good sense to have your Symbian Diary viewable on a WAP Browser. Here's how to do it.

Create a New Template

Log in to Movable Type and select "Manage Blog." On the toolbars on the left, select the "Templates" option. Choose "Create a New Template," and fill in the following options:

Template Name: WAP Index
Output File: index.wml
Tick rebuild this template...
Leave blank the "Link this template to a file" option

Cut and Paste the WAP Template

Copy this WAP Template into the Template Body, changing the first paragraph text and the bottom "home" link to reflect your Symbian Diary

Rebuild

Now rebuild your site, and the link www.symbiandiaries.com/YOURSITE/index.wml will be your Symbian Diary through WAP.

Why We Use The Excerpt option

We don't use the Entry Body or Extended Entry text in our WAP page, because WAP is very specific in how it uses text and it would be very easy for loose tags to stop your WAP Index working. The way to get around this is to use the Excerpt function of Moveable Type.

This allows you to either have an alternate short entry in the Exceprt dialog (when you write the entry) or to take the first X words of an Entry and use these as the content in the WAP page. Initially this X equals 20 words, but to get a decent length of entry displaying, it is recommended you increase this to 1500-200 words.

Things to Look At

At the moment we're still working out how to view comments and add comments from a WAP browser. When we work this out, we'll let you know.

Links

WAP Template

Posted by Ewan at 08:00 PM | Comments (22)

April 13, 2003

How to get a Symbian Diary

So, you're here and you want your own Symbian Diary? Getting one is easy. Here's how.

The first step is to decide on a username and a password. Jot these down in an email to [email protected]. Your username is NOT the title ofyour diary, you can change that in the settings of your Symbian Diary.

Once we get your email, we'll do the set up, and then email you back with your URL for your site, and for the Administration Page for you to edit your Diary and start posting!

Posted by Admin at 06:00 PM | Comments (3)

Starting a Symbian Diary

So, you've emailed us at Symbian Diaries, and we've set up your own diary. You've logged yourself in, and are now staring at the Moveable Type control panel, and a rather white (and empty) diary. Let's have a look at how to get started on your Diary.

Setting Variables

Unlike starting from scratch, the Symbian Diaries team will have set up the majority of the settings that your Diary needs. You won't need to worry about the archive path, local files, or anything like that - we've done it for you.

What you probably will want to change is the name of your Symbian Diary. By default this will be set to "David Levin's Symbian Diary" (that's of course if David Levin decides to start a Symbian Diary!).

In the Blog Config section (look on the left hand toolbar of the "Manage Blog" section), apart from the Blog Name, you can ignore the Core Setup (that's the bit we've done for you). Preferences will allow you to add in a description of your Symbian Diary, and other items that will change what is shown in your Diary.

Deciding on a Look

Your Symbian Diary will be a bit black on white when you first get it - and you'll probably want to change the look to something that's more to your liking. Go to the Templates option and you will find out how to change the look of your site. Your Symbian Diary has a Style Sheet and template files. The Style Sheet decides the font, background colours, and other elements.

If you are familiar with Style Sheets, dive right in and edit in what you want. If you aren't familiar (so that's around 95% of you reading this), the easiest thing to do is go the Movable Type example Style Sheets page, which is here. Choose one of these looks, and cut n paste the text into the css file.

The majority of existing Diaries have used these default templates, and then changed a few details to get to their own individual look. Of course, if you play around and get something completely incomprehensible, then you can easily use these to get the Diary running properly again.

Detailed Editing Of The Look

In the same way you tweaked the Style Sheet, you can also tweak the actual templates. These control where things go on a page, and a quick look at the template code as you look at your main page will let you see what controls what. We'll have a detailed tutorial available later, but for the meantime feel free to experiment. If you need to return to the default settings (ie ones that work) they can be found here.

Any questions?
Comment on this article with any advice or questions you have - and the rest of the Symbian Diaries community can help!

Posted by Ewan at 05:00 PM | Comments (3)