Wateronmars — my news reader and bookmark saving web app — has recently got some new features: every items (feed sources and bookmarks) can now be easily edited and removed.
Not too soon, right ? I’ve actually been using it since a little more than 1 year to consume my feeds and store some links and the need to edit a bookmark title or to un-subscribe from some feed wasn’t a big urge, but eventually became big enough to motivate to add the missing forms and bit of REST API.
This was also the occasion to clean a little more some of the pages, which, in turn, is a just a prelude of the next big feature to come: internationalization (more on that later).
The result has a certain feeling of completeness and can be seen on the demo site on heroku and in the sources on github.
WaterOnMars provides bookmarklets to do basic actions like subscribing to an RSS feed or to bookmark a web page.
Bookmarklets are very handy and they work pretty well with desktop browsers, but mobile browsers hardly support them. Unfortunately, since a few months I’ve been browsing the net and reading news on WaterOnMars almost exclusively from my (Android) tablet.
A common solution to get similar functionality as bookmarklets on mobile platform is to develop Android-specific applications.
However I did find an alternative solution, which may not be 100% user friendly, but remains quite handy: the Bookmarklet Free app !
When I started developing WaterOnMars, the fashionable toolkit for web GUI work was the version 2 of Twitter Bootstrap. Of course, by the time my project reached a truly usable state, the version 3 of bootstrap was released and the version 2 stopped being maintained. Another example of the perpetual obsolescence developers have had to face since the dawn of time (e.g the 70’s).
Version 3’s major feature being its first class support for mobile platform and my main usage of WaterOnMars being via a tablet, migrating was really tempting but I had no idea how much work I’d have to put into it.
I did it a few weeks a go though and the good news was that it’s been much much easier that I thought.
Despite spending currently more time using my WaterOnMars feed reader than developing it, I’m still making small improvements to it. And to make my life easier I could count on a solid little project: fabric !
fabric is a Python based command-line utility designed to help running commands remotely: typically to deploy a web app on a remote server.
So I’m using it to deploy WaterOnMars on my personal server and also to deploy the demo version on heroku. But more recently I added fabric’s configuration file (the “fabfile”) to the sources of the project as an officially maintained helper for development tasks. It’s now usable to run the test suite, to launch the web app locally, to set-up the db and to deploy it on custom servers.
I’ve been using wateronmars on a daily basis for approx. 3 weeks now and here are my first impressions:
- Christmas time is the worst possible time period when to test a news reader (most of the feeds I’m subscribed to where on a break then)
- considering a beta test period before bragging about one’s software is a must (the last two big shameful bugs were detected and corrected during the first week)
- it’s really great to use a news reader again ! (I stopped trying other readers after the shutdown of Google reader)
Apart from that wateronmars has improved a little with some bug fixing and some speed optimization but most of all I’ve added a new way to display the sieve that is specific to mobile devices. It can be seen on the demo site (and even without a mobile device by selecting the “carousel” view).
By customizing a little Twitter Bootstrap‘s carousel and pluging in the TouchSwipe-Jquery-Plugin library it was relatively easy to handle a”(touch) swipe”.
So we can now go through the news as with a pysical newspaper, and it’s become my main way to use wateronmars :)