I wonder if the men reading this column have the same problem as me. Hold on, it’s not what you’re thinking. Thanks, but it’s all hunky-dory down there. I am talking about my inability to multitask. I can’t watch Heroes and talk at the same time, but my wife, while watching the same show, can without much ado, handle two phone calls, tap out an email on her laptop, quell a mutiny in the teenage ranks and toss a withering comment on my yet-to-do ‘to-do-on-Sunday’ list all at once.
Since donning the cloak of GG along with the prerequisite superhero uniform of underwear over tights, I’ve been increasingly concerned about my sartorial tastes and the alarming number of gizmos stockpiled in my locker awaiting review as a result of my affliction. I am kind of partial to the simple, but dubious caveman theory that evolution has hard-wired into the male psychology the Ahab-like obsession of the prehistoric hunter that singularly focuses attention on the job at hand, while screening out peripheral thoughts. (Cue to wife snapping her fingers in front of my face to bring me out of a ‘what to review next week’ trance.) Therefore, my sharply attuned brain, when confronted with a long list of tech to review, tends to react to it like a multiple-choice question: Tick one.
So, this instalment of GG will deal with the singular objective of navigating the World Wide Web on my cellphone. This idea was triggered by the arrival of the Blackberry Pearl for review. The push-email service worked flawlessly right from the beginning and now I can’t imagine life without instant email.
For me, the Web by cellphone is often a strange and unfriendly place. However, one day I found my 11-year-old son glued to the Blackberry in question, studiously copying cheat codes for Grand Theft Auto on his PS2 from www. cheatplanet.gamesradar.com.
Now, during gameplay, I can equip myself with a jet-pack any time by just pressing a combination of buttons to escape from a sticky situation! OK, if an 11-year-old could access the Web so easily, I decided to explore further since the Blackberry has a nifty browser and near always-on Internet access. Now I find that I use my Blackberry Web browser more and more frequently, and I’m sitting at a desktop less and less for email.
Since email was running flawlessly, the first thing I did was to download mobile search portals, Google Search and the new Yahoo! Go 2.0. Optimized for mobiles, these work very well indeed. I am partial to Yahoo! Go, which has a very cool interface. At its core is the carousel, used to navigate intuitively among the various Yahoo! Go widgets: personal channels for email, local info and maps, news, sports, finance, entertainment, weather, Flickr photos and search—just like widgets that Google Desktop, Mac OS X and Windows Vista offer on your desktop. Simply use the carousel to scroll over to the widget you want. Since my widget content is automatically and continuously “pushed” to my phone, it’s always right there when I want it. I don’t need to endure lengthy downloads or navigate loads of links to get to what I want.
The bad news is that most websites are phone-unfriendly. It can be extremely frustrating waiting for the Blackberry to choke down a page designed for a bigger desktop screen. A few sites such as The New York Times, CNN and, er, Playboy automatically detect that you are using a cellphone to access their site and automatically optimize the web page for your phone. In a perfect world, one day, Web developers will write their pages in a way that will allow easy access by all devices. Sadly, this is still a pipe dream.
So, instead of making the screen bigger, I decided to shrink the Web. I use free websites that reformat web pages, removing unnecessary code from web pages with the graphics downsized or removed completely. Each link that you follow will also be shrunk to fit accordingly.
I visited a few complex pages, including www.livemint.com, using conversion services by Google (google.com/gwt/n), skweezer.net, phonifier.com, iyhy.com, evmo.com and the Bitty Browser (M.bitty.com). These sites can’t make every website usable for your phone, but they minimize the frustration of reading phone-unfriendly sites on the road.
These services work well on some sites, but not on others, so bookmark these sites and you can quickly toggle between them to reach your favourite Web address on your phone.
Most of these services also allow your PC to set up your mobile ‘Favorites’. Simply go to any of these sites in your desktop browser and start viewing/adding pages to your ‘Favorites’ as if you were using your phone. Once you’ve stored your assortment, then do all of your “Save on home page” edits with your desktop browser for quicker responses.
A lot of times when you’re browsing the Net using these conversion services with a mobile phone that has a limited memory size, the content is broken into multiple page sections for the user. A really great way to see what’s going on in a website is to browse the site’s RSS feeds. This is especially good for someone just “looking” before they commit to viewing. A user can conveniently go down the list and decide what to view.
So, I may not be able to give up my Apple Macbook laptop entirely, but I sure will be leaving it zipped up in its case a lot more often now.
TRIVIA: Watch a promo for the upcoming Onion News Network at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2C0ZZIKi3Y and decide for yourself whether the April Fool’s Day launch date means anything.
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