Shallow Thoughts : tags : plucker

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 12 Feb 2010

The cure for unbeamable PalmOS files

Okay, I know Dave and I are probably the last two people on the face of the earth who use PalmOS. But we still do, to read news and ebooks prepared with Plucker, only there was one big frustration: none of our Plucker files were beamable. So if I downloaded a really interesting article and wanted to share it with Dave, I couldn't (unless we went back to our desktop machines and transferred it that way.) The Palm just said Unhandled exception, error code = 5395.

I tried all sorts of things in the feedme code that calls Plucker -- adding --beamable, moving it earlier or later in the argument list, trying other arguments. --beamable is supposed to affect the "copy protect bit", but checking on the Palm devices confirmed the copy protect bit wasn't set, and still beaming didn't work.

And I just stumbled on the answer tonight, and since it's not documented anywhere, I must document it in case somewhere, there's someone else who still uses PalmOS and Plucker struggling with this problem.

It turns out that a document with a colon in the name can't be beamed. On any PalmOS device we've tried, regardless of generation or manufacturer. This of course isn't documented anywhere I can find.

So Fri: BBC World News isn't beamable. But simply give it a colonoscopy -- rename it to Fri BBC World News -- and beaming works great.

Sheesh! Ain't debugging grand?

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[ 20:43 Feb 12, 2010    More tech | permalink to this entry | ]

Tue, 20 Oct 2009

Gathering RSS files for a Palm PDA: FeedMe

For years I've been reading daily news feeds on a series of PalmOS PDAs, using a program called Sitescooper that finds new pages on my list of sites, downloads them, then runs Plucker to translate them into Plucker's open Palm-compatible ebook format.

Sitescooper has an elaborate series of rules for trying to get around the complicated formatting in modern HTML web pages. It has an elaborate cache system to figure out what it's seen before. When sites change their design (which most news sites seem to do roughly monthly), it means going in and figuring out the new format and writing a new Sitescooper site file. And it doesn't understand RSS, so you can't use the simplified RSS that most sites offer. Finally, it's no longer maintained; in fact, I was the last maintainer, after the original author lost interest.

Several weeks ago, bma tweeted about a Python RSS reader he'd hacked up using the feedparser package. His reader targeted email, not Palm, but finding out about feedparser was enough to get me started. So I wrote FeedMe (Carla Schroder came up with the all-important name).

I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and I'm very happy with the results. It's still quite rough, of course, but it's already producing better files than Sitescooper did, and it seems more maintainable. Time will tell.

Of course it needs to be made more flexible, adjusted so that it can produce formats besides Plucker, and so on. I'll get to it.

And the only site I miss now, because it doesn't offer an RSS feed, is Linux Planet. Maybe I'll find a solution for that eventually.

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[ 21:08 Oct 20, 2009    More programming | permalink to this entry | ]