Evaluating iPad as blogger’s only device

As I mentioned in my post about publishing a Paper.li online magazine that I’m running an experiment about using iPad as blogger’s only tool, from idea to publishing. I’m now going to share the results of the experiment, and the workflow I found suitable for my purposes, and working well together with an iPad.

Cause I’m lazy doing the actual write work I tried to figure out a workflow which minimizes the effort of the last push, and concentrates more on preparing beforehands. I’ve divided the flow into four phases: Phase 1 – collecting ideas, Phase 2 – gathering the material, Phase 3 – drafting and Phase 4 – publishing. It’s not that I always go through all four phases and then start again from phase one for another blog post, but I may have several posts cooking up simultaneously. For example I’m currently in the phase three, drafting, of this post when writing it first time, but I have other posts in phases one and two. In the next chapters I’m going through each phase detailed.

Phase 1 – Collecting Ideas

I usually might come up with an idea for a blog post any time and any place. I also tend to forget the idea in half a minute if I don’t write it down. There the iPad comes to rescue. After I bought the device, I’ve been carrying it around where ever I can, and even at home it usually follows me to the same room I happen to be in. So when ever my mind pops up an idea, I can easily write it down right away.

For storing ideas I use Evernote, where ideas can be saved as notes which can include text, images, audio and video. Evernote has an application for iPad which makes it more convenient to use than through the web service. Evernote allows tagging of notes with multiple tags to make them easy to find later. I use one note per one idea, tag it as “blog”, “idea” and with other suitable keywords which describe the content. For instance I used “publishing”, “iPad” and “Evernote” to tag the idea note of this blog post. When ever I feel I have some extra time, I pick any of the ideas and carry it on to the phase two.

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Phase 2 – Gathering the Material

Ideas which are carried to phase two, are the ones I feel most confident writing about. Also another criteria to be carried through is that I need to be convinced the ideas are worthy of spending time on finding the related resources and content. For saving the material, I also use Evernote. Usually when I bump into a good website, blog post or even a public email which relates to my upcoming blog post, I use the Evernote Web Clipper to save the resource for later use. I’ll tag it as the best I can, to make it easily findable later. Time spent for well thought tagging is paid back later with a multiplier.

When working with iPad, the Evernote Web Clipper is a life saver, but it needs a little gimmick to get it working with Safari. I used these instructions to have a fully working Web Clipper on Safari. This is the bit where I might cheat a bit, when considering the topic of this post. I also have web clippers in my PC browsers as well, so if I happen to bump into a must read resource while I’m sitting in front of my PC, I might clip it with a desktop version of the clipper. That still happens quite rarely since I have replaced 95% of my PC usage, with usage of iPad since I bought it. Fortunately also with these cases, All the clips will be synced into my Evernote account, which I can access later, and read the articles with my iPad.

Phase 3 – Drafting

Third phase of the flow starts when I think I have enough material to start drafting the post itself. As material I consider my own notes about the subject, related links and tips, photos and screenshots. Usually if I’m attaching screenshots as imagery in my post, I take them in the drafting phase if I can. This gives me most time to draft the architecture of the post, to know which kind of imagery I would like to attach.

If I’m able to take the screenshots with iPad, it’s dead easy once I got it. Pressing sleep + home button simultaneously takes the snap and saves it to your image stream. The native iPad photo app is perfectly capable of doing most of the editing work like cropping, enhancing and rotating. For resizing the image, you’ll need separate app, but I let WordPress app to do it for me when attaching the image to the draft.

The writing of the draft I do straight in the WordPress app for iOS. Only thing needed to do before starting to create the draft is to change the publish status setting into draft, as default, it will be published.

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Phase 4 – Publishing
As the final push, there is the actual publishing phase. This is the phase where I create the formatting of the post. The WordPress app has easy to use html interface which allows me to create bold, italic or quoted text. It also allows to create bulleted lists, hyperlinks, code formatting and some more functions I haven’t even needed yet. It has also possibility to preview the post. The preview window renders accurately how your post will look like when your blog’s theme has been applied, and all the formatting takes place.

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When I’m satisfied with the looks, I usually proof read it through a few times before changing the status to published.

Recap of iPad as the only tool

As I already mentioned, iPad has replaced most of my PC usage since it goes with me where ever I go. Also the christal sharp and clear retina display gives it most of the capabilities to work with text and images as well as one could with PC. Also I haven’t found a missing app for any purpose I’ve needed, and all the apps I’ve installed so far has been free. These qualities make the device sufficient for quite efficient workflow.

Of course every rose has its thorn, so does this. One quite annoying thing is when I’m editing text, and I need to manually place the cursor to any given point, I seem to always hit one row up or down. Another weakness is actually caused by me. I was cheapskate and bought the wifi only version. I don’t know if the problem is in the poor broadcasting of my Lumia hotspot, or poor wifi receiver in my iPad, but looks like it’s not possible to browse any online content with this combination, for example when traveling by bus. Luckily Evernote comes to save here too, I can write notes offline and Evernote syncs them online when ever it gets a working network connection again.

As a whole, there are much more positive than negative things, so I can recommend iPad for bloggers if you are still figuring out which tablet to buy, or even if tablets are useful for anything at all. I think they are.

How to install SailfishOS SDK on OSX – the Dummy Guide

Two days ago I started to install SailfishOS SDK on my Mac Mini using the instructions from Martin Grimme published in SailfishOS mailing list. As a non-seasoned Virtualbox (or a Mac) user it took me several hours and lots of questions in the mailing list to take me where I am now. Currently I have fully functional SDK installation on my Mac Mini, and I decided to write down this guide to help others do the same. The guide will be based on the bullet point guide from Martin, but will have some additions such as tips and don’t dos from me, to avoid readers to do same mistakes I did.

Step 1: Get Linux Running on Virtual Machine

* Install VirtualBox on your host OS. Give it at least 1.5 GB of RAM. After the whole setup process, you may push this down to about 500 MB, if desired.

* Install Linux in a VirtualBox. Ubuntu 12.10 32 bit works just fine.

Give it at least 12 GB of hard drive space, otherwise it runs out when installing the SDK. Dynamically expendable should be fine. After the installation you’ll be asked to reboot Ubuntu. At least for me, the Virtual machine got stuck for ages in “The system is going down for reboot NOW!” phase, so I decided not to wait and manually powered off the VM, and started it again from the VirtualBox manager. That seemed to be ok.

* Don’t forget to install the guest additions as well, because we will have to use shared folders.

You can install them from the Devices menu, selecting Install Guest Additions.

Step 2: Get the SDK in it

* Install VirtualBox on Linux and install the Sailfish SDK afterwards.

Select 32 bit version of Sailfish SDK, if you installed 32 bit version of Ubuntu. After you’ve downloaded SailfishOS SDK run
sudo chmod +x SailfishOSSDK-linux-32-offline.run
to make it executable and start the installation
./SailfishOSSDK-linux-32-offline.run

* The suggested installation path /home/<user>/SailfishOS is fine. Do not install the SDK into a shared folder as shared folders don’t support creating symlinks.

Step 3: Get the Virtual Machines Out of It

* Open the VirtualBox configurator on Linux and export the two virtual machines ‘MerSDK’ and ‘SailfishOS Emulator’ by selecting ‘File -> Export Appliance’. This will take some time. Move the resulting .ova files to your host OS (Mac OS-X in my case).

* Create a directory ‘MerHome’ on your host OS, e.g. /Users/<user>/MerHome. Inside MerHome, create three directories:

– emulator
– mersdk
– projects

Now you have to copy stuff from your virtual machine to your host OS. I used shared folders for that. You can share folders from your host from the virtual machine shared folders settings, and then mount and unmount them in Linux
sudo mount -t vboxsf mount_name mount_point
sudo umount mount_name

* Copy the SailfishOS/emulator/ssh directory from Linux into the just created directory ‘MerHome/emulator’ on the host OS.

* Copy the SailfishOS/mersdk/ssh directory from Linux into the just created directory ‘MerHome/mersdk’ on the host OS.

* Copy the ~/.scratchbox2 directory from Linux into the just created directory ‘MerHome’ on the host OS.

* Open a terminal on Linux and pack up the targets directory:

cd SailfishOS/mersdk
tar -czf targets.tar.gz targets

* Move the file targets.tar.gz to your host OS into ‘MerHome/mersdk’ and unpack it there:

cd MerHome/mersdk
tar -xzf targets.tar.gz

Step 4: Get the Virtual Machines on Your Host

* Open the VirtualBox configurator on your host OS and import the two recently exported VirtualBox appliances by selecting ‘File -> Import Appliance’.

* Edit the shared folders settings of the ‘MerSDK’ virtual machine:

home -> <your MerHome>
ssh -> <your MerHome>/mersdk/ssh
targets -> <your MerHome>/mersdk/targets

* Make sure that you don’t change the mount names during this action.

Be careful with this one, cause I managed to change “home” to “MerHome” even without touching the target name.

* Edit the shared folder settings of the ‘SailfishOS Emulator’ virtual machine:

ssh -> /emulator/ssh

Make sure that you don’t change the mount name during this action.

* You may optionally also want to activate audio while in the ‘SailfishOS Emulator’ settings.

* Test-run the MerSDK virtual machine on the host OS. Does it come up with the message ‘mounted home and targets successfully’? Then the shared folders settings ought to be OK. Close the virtual machine (saving machine state instead of shutdown is fine).

Step 5: Prepare your workspace

* Add the directory ‘MerHome/projects’ to the shared folders of your Linux virtual machine. This may be done while the machine is running.

* In your Linux home directory create an empty directory with the same name ‘projects’.

* As root, add the following line to /etc/fstab on Linux:

projects /home/<user>/projects vboxsf rw,uid=1000,gid=1000 0 0

Replace with your username and use the GID and UID of the user. On Ubuntu, the first user normally has GID = 1000 and UID = 1000.

If you have multiple users or groups, or want to be sure, you can double check them using id tool
id -u <username>
id -g <username>

* As root, mount the projects shared folder:

mount projects

* Open the VirtualBox configurator on Linux and change the host keyboard key in the global settings to something different than on the VirtualBox on your host OS.

Step 6: Fake VBoxManage Output

* Start the two virtual machines on Linux with the VirtualBox configurator. They will be very slow (as you’re running VirtualBox inside VirtualBox), so you need to have some patience until they’re fully loaded. Fortunately this has to be done only once. You will later never have to use VirtualBox inside VirtualBox again.

* Record the output of VBoxManage that the Sailfish SDK expects:

VBoxManage showvminfo MerSDK --machinereadable
>/var/tmp/VBoxManage_885215c435c21d083b077b43317cc642
VBoxManage list runningvms
>/var/tmp/VBoxManage_59f2c7dff31ccbe383c7cc12541bdf1b
VBoxManage showvminfo “SailfishOS Emulator” --machinereadable
>/var/tmp/VBoxManage_16de532e1ffcdb602a512c49138ccca1

The names of the record files contain the md5 sum of the command, so
they must match exactly.

* Stop the two virtual machines.

* In the Linux virtual machine, locate your VBoxManage program. On my Ubuntu installation, this is ‘/usr/share/virtualbox/VBoxManage’. Become root and move the file to VBoxManage.orig

On my installation, the binary was found from ‘/usr/lib/virtualbox/VBoxManage’.
If you don’t find it from either of the locations, you can locate the binary using find:
find / -name "VBoxManage" 2>/dev/null

sudo su
cd /usr/share/virtualbox
mv VBoxManage VBoxManage.orig

* Save this script as VBoxManage. It will record the output of VBoxManage and later replay that output for the Sailfish SDK.

#! /bin/bash

VBOXMANAGE=`dirname $0`/VBoxManage.orig
COMMAND=`echo “$@” | md5sum | cut -d” ” -f1`
RECORDFILE=/var/tmp/VBoxManage_${COMMAND}

if [ ! -f ${RECORDFILE} ]; then
${VBOXMANAGE} $@
exit $?
else
cat ${RECORDFILE}
fi

Dont forget to give the script executable rights:
sudo chmod +x VBoxManage

Step 7: Finalize the installation

* Start the two virtual machines ‘MerSDK’ and ‘SailfishOS Emulator’ on your host OS. Their performance will be far better than inside the Linux virtual machine.

* Make sure that your host OS runs a ssh server. Find out the host IP and connect to it from Linux, tunneling the ports used by the SDK.

From Mac OSX you have to tick “Remote Login” from System Preferences -> Sharing to start the ssh server. You can then find out your ip using ifconfig, or use your mac’s local name.

ssh -l \
-L 2222:localhost:2222 \
-L 2223:localhost:2223 \
-L 8080:localhost:8080 \
-L 10000:localhost:10000 \
-L 10001:localhost:10001 \
-L 10002:localhost:10002 \
-L 10003:localhost:10003 \
-L 10004:localhost:10004 \
-L 10005:localhost:10005 \
-L 10006:localhost:10006 \
-L 10007:localhost:10007 \
-L 10008:localhost:10008 \
-L 10009:localhost:10009 \
-L 10010:localhost:10010 \
-L 10011:localhost:10011 \
-L 10012:localhost:10012 \
-L 10013:localhost:10013 \
-L 10014:localhost:10014 \
-L 10015:localhost:10015 \
-L 10016:localhost:10016 \
-L 10017:localhost:10017 \
-L 10018:localhost:10018 \
-L 10019:localhost:10019

This ssh connection needs to be established all the time while you’re using the SDK.

* Start the Sailfish SDK QtCreator on Linux. It should be able to connect and use the virtual machines on your host OS now. You cannot start the virtual machines via QtCreator, though.

* IMPORTANT: Your Sailfish projects must all reside in the projects shared folder so that the MerSDK virtual machine will be able to find them.

Now you are ready to test your connection to the emulator in QtCreator.

Troubleshooting

If you’re seeing port 65535 in the ssh setting in QtCreators devices settings, go back to step 6. Probably something has gone awry with the VBoxManage recordings, and QtCreator cannot see the running SDK VM’s.

If the previous is not a problem, and the device connection test goes well, but you still see errors like “SailfishOS Emulator is not running”, you can try to hit “yes” when QtCreator asks if it should start the simulator, even if that does really nothing. Also it might need some certain combination of build/deploy/run to get your project run on the emulator, and QtCreator stop whining about not finding the SDK, but patience is good, and I hope you will have less problems with that than I did.

And finally the image I sent to Twitter, as soon as I got it working. I was pretty exited 🙂

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How To Become a Paper.li Publisher – Five Simple Steps

Matrixxreloaded is back after dead long silence, enhanced with a few gadgets. One of the most interesting gadget is an iPad, which I’m using right now to write this blog entry. At the same time I’m testing if this works as a blogger’s only tool. The subject I’m posting about is how to create an online newspaper using (free account of) Paper.li service. The service lets you aggregate news from several sources using keywords and hashtags to find content matching your theme. The first paper I created was Qtech, a slightly mobile biased paper about everything related to Qt technologies. The second paper I created was iPadTips, which I will be using as a reference in this article.

Step 1: Create Account

When you land into Paper.li site and end up creating a new account, you are given two options. You can login with either using your Twitter or Facebook account. The service assumes you have one of those accounts, and at least seemingly it doesn’t offer any alternative login method. The same account is used later when logging in after account creation.

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Step 2: Create New Paper

After you’ve created your account, your publisher info is drawn from the account you used when logging into paper.li. Now you are ready to create your first paper.

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You’re asked to fill in the name of the paper, subtitle and update frequency. I recommend to choose something short which really describes best the contents of your paper. Also subtitle should be short, descriptive and catchy. Don’t worry if you don’t come up with the perfect ones yet, you can change both name and the subtitle later. Next you can select update frequency from weekly, daily or even morning/evening editions.

Step 3: Find Article Sources

This is probably the most important step since what is a newspaper without its stories. There are three main categories for possible story sources:

  • handpicked news categories which include plenty of choices from existing online newspapers and web sites
  • your linked accounts, at first iteration they include only the one used when logging in
  • wild card search from social media including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and RSS feeds

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The handpicked news categories are shown by default when you first see the find sources screen. Under My accounts you will see your linked accounts and can select your timeline, lists, saved searches etc. as a sources for your paper. Available source types vary between account types. By tapping the search field above enables you to find hits from social media using keywords and hashtags. Add any of the result feeds as a source by hitting the plus icon on the right. If you are satisfied with the sources and hit next, the first edition of the paper is created. It takes a while to process all the sources, but the content should become visible within a few minutes. When you see the content, you will probably see articles that doesn’t fit into your theme, or even whole categories which have improper or even offensive content, depending of your sources and possibility for multiple interpretations of your keywords and hashtags. Don’t be alarmed, you’re the only one who will be notified about this release, so hardly no one can see the content yet, even though it’s public. In the next two steps we will go through how to finetune the content and remove improper material.

Step 4: Finetune

Now it’s time to hit the gear icon on the top right corner of the page. You will be taken into settings.

  • The Settings tab lets you revisit the paper title, subtitle and update frequency, if you didn’t get them right when creating the paper.
  • The Content tab lets you add new sources or remove existing ones, if you are not satisfied by the contents coming from a particular source. It also lets you to drag the paper.li publish button to your browser’s bookmark bar to let you easily manually add articles to your paper. If you are using iPad like me, you’ll need to hack a bit to get the bookmarklet into Safari. I used instructions from this blog post, but replacing the evernote javascript snippet with this. In this tab you can also select the language of the paper. The default is all languages, which had the impact that half of the articles of my paper ended up being of japanese language. Also here you can add or remove subcategories inside your paper. I found out only technology and education categories offered suitable content for my paper, and removed all other categories. Video and image categories would have been proper if I was going to publish a porn magazine which I wasn’t. If most of the contents of a single category is ok, step 5 can still save you and you don’t need to remove the whole category. Experiment with the categories and update the paper to see the changes.
  • Blacklist tab you don’t need yet, I’ll tell you more on step 5
  • Promotion & Emails tab let’s you select how your paper is promoted. Email is always sent for subscribers every time the new issue is published, but in addition, you can promote it by letting the service automatically tweet about updates if you have linked your or logged in with your Twitter account. You can also invite friends to subscribe by sending email. Only notable downside in the free account is that you can’t review your paper when the new edition is published before the notifications about the edition are sent to subscribers, so you’re better be there to curate your paper when the automatic update occurs.
  • Appearance tab lets you modify the looks you your paper. Thumbnail image, paper background image or color, color theme and font are customizable. For my iPadTips magazine, I used an image of my iPad desktop as thumbnail image.

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  • background I left white since I like black/color on white most, but you can experiment with different background, color theme and font combinations. The service offers you a few handpicked color themes which are known to have good contrast on white, but especially if you are using dark background color or image, you could try out one of these websafe colors.

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  • On Discussion corner tab you can select if you allow commenting or not
  • Add units – only for Pro account
  • On Stats tab you will see various stats about your paper like the amount of views or subscribers. Also you’ll see how many times your blog has been embedded inside another website in past 30 days

Step 5: Curate

This step let’s you iron out the last wrinkles in the quality of selected articles in your paper. You can delete posts, block persons or websites in edit mode. Blocked websites and people will appear in the Blacklist tab in the settings, where it’s possible to unblock them. Click the Edit mode button in the top right corner to make the last changes.

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Now you can hit the X mark on any article which doesn’t seem to fit in the theme. If you find out the topic is completely wrong, you can block the whole website. If you think the author doesn’t provide material suitable for your paper, you can block the author. If you think the article is slightly not suitable for your theme, you can only delete the post and see if the website/author can deliver something more suitable next time, it’s your call. If you are satisfied with the content, you can hit Done editing button and you’re all ready to start promoting your publication through social services of your liking.

If you have created paper.li papers, or ever happen to create one (possibly using these steps), I would be glad to read it, please leave the paper subject and url in the blog comments.