Testing Twitter Apps for Android

I’ve had my HTC Hero now for about 3 weeks and I’ve already flashed it to @nprussell‘s excellent VillainROM 3.x (Android 2.1 “beta”).

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve become a bit of a convert to the whole Twitter phenomenon – very late to the party I know but hey …! Anyway I’ve been trying to find a decent Twitter app for the Android which I liked as I have several accounts and I wasn’t thrilled with the default HTC Peep which is single account only.

So my criteria started as just “find a multi account app, preferably free so I can play” which led me to …

Seesmic

This is a great app with a very clean interface and very easy to read being black text on a white background – now that I require glasses this is important to me for obvious reasons.

Seesmic has been my default app from day one but I never felt truly happy with it. In all honesty it’s a bit boring to look at, but it gets the job done and that is really all that matters.

But like a magpie, I decided to look for something more shiny and so onto …

Tweetcaster

You may have seen a tweet from me recently  that I’d got a free copy of Tweetcaster for publishing the tweet saying I’d got the free copy (if you see what I mean). Actually I felt very cheated as all one gets is the free, adware supported version whereas I (and others from what I can see) believed that I would receive the paid for Pro version.

Anyway this is a very pretty app and works as it should. But I returned to Seesmic fairly quickly as a) you have to wait ages for the splash page to disappear so you can see the tweets and b) I could read more tweets per page  than Tweetcaster which puts an advert at the bottom of the screen blocking a tweet. Yes you can close it, but it annoyed me so I uninstalled it.

Swift

Next came Swift which is now owned by Hootsuite, the brilliant web based client that I use (you can schedule tweets which is incredibly useful). I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like this at all – for me even worse that HTC Peep. A small status bar at the top with icons which were too small for my not too fat fingers. Uninstalled rapidly. Oh and single client only, which had I realised initially meant that I probably wouldn’t have installed it to start with.

Twicca

I read a rave review about Twicca this morning and decided to give it a go despite the fact that it is only a single account app – and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a super app with a very clever user interface. The black background can be a bit tiring to read but that won’t bother many people I’m sure. One thing I love is the ability to set Twicca up so that particular tweeters that you follow can be colour coded with a vertical bar beside their tweet. This is fantastically useful if, like me, you are waiting for a particular announcement for some such event/person to appear in the time line.

The downside is that this is a single account app and it feels a little rough around the edges still – hardly surprising as it is published as a beta version. But if it had been just a wee bit better, I’d have settled for this and used HTC Peep for my work a/c as that account isn’t used as much. I’m sure that development of Twicca will continue apace and if/when they go multi-account I’ll be back to do an extended test. This is staying on my phone so the Market can tell me when there is an update.

Touiteur

One of the comments in a story about Seesmic I recently read mentioned Touiteur. Having a French name, I almost felt honour bound to take a look. And I’m really glad I did. It has a great user interface and can be very colourful if you choose. I must confess I was almost 100% sure that this was going to be my app of choice (it came down to this and Twicca for me) but I was niggled by the fact that I could either have everyone’s tweets in graduated gray (not unattractive at all) or they could be colour coded automatically by the app so that each tweeter was allocated a colour which was used for all their tweets. To my eyes this looked garish, and I kept harking back to Twicca’s feature of choosing to colour an individual tweeter, i.e. I choose who I want coloured.

Then, miraculously, LevelUp Studio delivered an update to Touiteur a couple of hours ago and I went digging in the settings to see what had changed. And I stumbled across how to colour code a single tweeter. Yippee! It was almost certainly there in the original version I downloaded and I was being blind, but I don’t care as I have it working now 🙂

Conclusions

My first surprise was just how many good Twitter apps there are for the Android. I’m confident that anyone should be able to find an app that meets their needs.

My second surprise was how clever these apps are becoming with respect to the user interface. Twicca is leading the way here but Touiteur and Tweetcaster aren’t far behind.

But my keeper is Touiteur for the time being. But as I said, I’m still monitoring Twicca so Touiteur can’t afford to rest on it’s laurels.

My Blog Has Been Hacked
and What I Did About It

I don’t know about you but I don’t look at my own websites very often. Create a new page or blog post, check it looks OK and move on.

So imagine my surprise and horror when I was checking all my blogs after updating to the latest version of WordPress to discover that this blog had been well and truly hacked. What was interesting was what the hack did which is why I’ve decided to share this with the world rather than bury my head in shame.

When you loaded this site, everything looked normal for about 5 seconds and then you were redirected to another site via what looked like a couple of intermediate/proxy servers. When I first spotted this, I was taken to the listing page for a Chinese TV company which rather shook me as it is not as if my blog is mega popular (I wish!).

Given that in a former life, I founded and ran a very large UK based ISP, I’m used to dealing with hacks such as this. So I fired up an FTP client and logged into my hosting account to see what I could see. I wasn’t expecting to find much in all honesty as I reckoned that any halfway decent hacker would make sure that the date and time stamp on any changed files was the same as the original so as not to arouse suspicion. Having said that, I have seen instances of what we called “script kiddies” who changed things for fun and didn’t care what traces they left behind. Anyway, as I suspected, nothing obvious.

So then I logged into WordPress and decided to change from the K2 theme (1.08 RC) I was running to the default to see whether the hack was theme related or WordPress core specific. And the site worked so the finger was pointing at the K2 theme.

Now that I knew I could stop the hack immediately, I put the K2 theme back and had a play with the site. That was when this hack became interesting. If I clicked on a link within a topic (I have Twitter Tools installed so this was easy to do), I was correctly taken to the linked page. I had just reloaded my blog when the phone rang, and when I looked back, I had been redirected to the link I had just chosen. Further testing showed that this hack always redirected the site to the last clicked link. I’ve not seen this before but I thought/think it was rather neat in a sick kind of way.

Anyway I’ve now upgraded to the latest version of K2 (which was long overdue) and changed the passwords on all my sites as a precaution.

You have been warned!

Is a software flaw worth a life?

For about 18 months I’ve been a very happy user of VAServ’s cheap and cheerful VPS platform. The control panel was called LXAdmin (later renamed to Kloxo). A major series of security bugs was found a few weeks ago, and last Sunday the security company that identified the bugs decided in their wisdom to publish the bug list online because they had not had a response to their emails to LXLabs.

Well the sky fell in, and the fall out has been very painful. VAServ lost just about everything: over 100,000 domains taken off line while they tried to fix the break-in/security breach(es). For this company the pain is awful as they have been forced to be acquired (as far as I understand the email I received) by their UK datacentre partner who supplied man power to help out. I doubt the owner, who spent years building his company up, received very much if anything for it.

I lost all my domains. The reason you are seeing this is because I was forced to move to Hostgator to try and get my domains back up and running – I’m one of the lucky ones in that I had full backups of all my sites, both SQL and themes/plugins etc. Not everyone will have been so lucky.

Which brings me to the unfortunate owner of LXLabs who sadly appears to have committed suicide on Monday.

Is a software flaw, no matter how serious, really worth a life?

Some WordPress plugin update broke K2!

I just updated 2 plugins to their latest version on 2 of my websites – this one and Enhancing Clarity. When I went back to check them later, I saw, to my horror, that they were no longer centered on the screen.

Despite deactivating both plugins, the problem refused to go away so I had to tweak my themed style sheet with the advice I found here.

And it worked!! Hurrah!!

Google as a saviour

The CEO of a company I chair has created a very interesting blog based around irrevent thinking.

Unfortunately it was hosted temporarily on my now defunct hosting platform.

I thought he had a backup of the database. He thought I did. Result? Panic all round!

But Google Cache saved the day. We lost one comment, but as I knew the commentator personally, a quick email telling them what had happened resulted in them recreating it.

End result? Blushes all round (and a proper daily backup routine) but ultimately a huge sigh of relief!

Google is getting an increasingly bad press as people worry about how much power it wields and how much personal data it collects, but in this case it really did prove to be a saviour. Respect.

Moving My Web Hosting

After almost 2 years with my current host I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of the sluggish page loading and really slow control panel access so I changing.

As I have several domains on my account, this is not a decision I’ve taken lightly as it will be, I suspect, a nightmare. Why? Because I’m changing control panels to CPanel and it isn’t a simple swap over from my current panel. In fact I’ve spent that last few evenings writing scripts (still to be completed) to do much of the donkey work for me.

But 1 thing has bugged me for days – how to forward an email address to multiple people as the online CPanel help was pretty terse on the subject. Well Google’s your friend and it came up with this little gem

So I’m sorted, if a little mad ….

Is BlogRush for Real?

I stumbled across a new blogging tool today called BlogRush. You can see it in operation here on the sidebar.

The idea behind BlogRush is that it is a “Cooperative Syndication Network” (their words), i.e. your blog is syndicated to other members of the network and theirs to yours. The idea, naturally enough, is to increase traffic to your blog.

I’ve included it on this blog to see how effective it is – my webstats are fairly flat so if it works, it should be easy to spot.

New Website for My Professional Career

I rebuilt my professional website using WordPress and I’m thrilled with the result. A great theme and I found lots of excellent plug-ins to make it do exactly what I want/need. The site has new and, dare I say, better content as I’ve had some professional help

When I took some time out at the end of last year, I spent much of it looking at Google and how search works to see how to work with the search engines rather than trying to outwit them – the latter will mean that I would have to constantly monitor what was happening (not that I don’t do that anyway) and make changes on a site wide basis whereas the former means that the site should just “work”. During this thought process, I came to realise that most sites like mine are completely static and if they have a blog, it is an afterthought tacked on to the main site. Given how impressive WordPress is as a content management system (CMS), it makes a lot more sense to built the website around the blog so that the search engines get a site which is being constantly and consistently changed and added to. So this is what I’ve done 🙂

The only problem is the name! As it is my professional site, it can’t have a funky blog name (well it could, but my market might not understand being suits!). So it has to be the boring old Philip de Lisle.

I hope you like it as much as I do.

Video Diaries

I had a great meeting today with an old friend, Stephen Harvard Davis. I showed him how easy it was to create a video for uploading onto YouTube/Google Video/MySpace etc using the default tools in WinXP and a cheap DV video camera.

The results were surprisingly good with titles, credits, voice overs etc. After about 15 minutes of thought, it looks like we might have come up with a new business so stay tuned!

Time to think about a video diary too …

It’s behind you!

One of the things that I love about panto (a particularly British phenomenon) is the way that one of the good characters can never see the baddie while the audience, i.e. the children, scream “It’s behind you” at the top of their voice. With 2 small boys of 6 and 4 at the time of writing, the joy in their eyes while participating in this event will remain with me forever.

So what does this have to do with a business mentor and a blog? Actually, quite a lot. It’s about change.

In my life.

My personal change of direction will be channelled into Mapping Beauty, my core process.

My corporate change of direction will be focussed on Enhancing Clarity.

And my work direction can be followed on my personal website www.philipdelisle.com.

And this blog? It’s just a bit of fun …

It’s behind you!