Dumbphone: Using a US smartphone to navigate Europe with RMaps

After we got married (!) last month Melissa and I spent 10 days in Europe on our honeymoon. London, Paris, and Rome! It was an amazing trip, especially since neither of us had been to Europe at all before. But this post isn’t going to be our amazing trip’s slideshow. On the more technical side of things, I was fascinated at the idea of using our smartphones (we both have a Motorola Droid on Verizon) in Europe.

A little background: not all US cell phones work in Europe. I’ll avoid the nitpicky details and just say that in general AT&T or T-Mobile phones will work in Europe, but Verizon and other carriers won’t. While we could still open and use apps on our phones, anything that required a cell network connection would be dead.

This distressed my inner techie – I’ve become hopelessly addicted to navigating with my phone’s google maps, and google maps pulls the maps over a cell connection. I really wanted to use it to find our way around. The one thing that still worked on the Droid in Europe is the GPS – it can get your position in latitude/longitude. But with no data connection It has no maps to plot that point on! All that Google Maps would show me is a blue dot on a grey background. Not exactly handy for finding my way.

But with a little foresight and pre-planning, I set up my Droid to cache the maps locally before we left for Europe. This process was a bit of a pain, because it’s not well documented anywhere that I could find. Here’s a tutorial: Continue reading

Mobile Site Generator Update: v1.1 (RSS feed parsing)

Last night I pushed out the first major update to the Mobile Site Generator. There’s one big new feature: It can now pull in content to a page from an RSS feed! This feature assumes your web server is running php with cURL enabled. If you don’t know whether your server meets these requirements, there’s one easy way to find out: Try it out 🙂

I consider this feature to be pretty experimental, so I’d love any feedback on how well it works and whether I’ve explained what it does well.

Note that this isn’t a feature you have to use. If you want, you can keep using the generator and pretend it doesn’t exist. I also recommend not using it more than once in your generated mobile site – pulling in multiple RSS feeds can slow down the page dramatically. I hope to build in some ways around this problem in the future.

I’ve been thrilled to see the response to the generator! I’m glad that people are finding it useful. If you’ve launched a site and used the generator at some point along the way, please let me know about it. I’d love to build a practical showcase of what this thing can do.