Life is a great adventure

My last blog post was almost 3 months ago, I would not be surprised if no one is reading this any more. Before that I have been blogging very little. Twitter is taking a lot of inspiration, I admit, but also most of my “writing energies” have been focusing on mobiForge. Writing for mobiForge, as part of my dotMobi duties, has been great and offered great visibility, of course. My adventure with dotMobi is about to end, anyway, after more than 2 years it is time to move on. With that, I expect some more time for this blog.

A few ideas are already taking shape, but the reality is that I am going back to the white board and start thinking about new ideas and new projects. They might be in mobile or they might be somewhere else. Of course I think the future is ubiquitous, so mobile will have some space in any plan I will make, but the bottom line is that I will have some time for myself. Some time to think about what is exciting on the Internet today and maybe what is not quite as I would like it to be. From this, I expect some new exciting project will come.

Do you have a cool idea? Do you want to share thoughts? Let me know!

Peculiar device recognition by Disney

Earlier today I followed a link on mocoNews about Disney announcing record visits on their mobile site. I remembered Disney has a nice disney.mobi address, so when I read that the article talked about visitors to “disney.com” I was a bit surprised and wondered if it was a mistake. With my Sony Ericsson V640i I went straight to the .com and to my great surprised I saw a nice mobile site. My curiosity immediately grew from 0 to 100!

I opened a nice xterm and started playing with curl and headers. Here are a few discoveries:

  • disney.go.com is the real address, no matter what you use, you are always using the .go.com domain
  • device detection happens in the very first page, once you’re on disney.go.com you are going to get the desktop site with flash, javascript, etc
  • the real mobile site is at m.disney.go.com, once you’re there you will always get the mobile site
  • the iPhone seems to go to the desktop site, but then gets a special layout
  • no matter what headers you set, if you go to .mobi you will get the mobile site
  • the desktop site is served with a Windows server, so I assume developed in .NET
  • the mobile site is served from a Coyote linux, using Tomcat
  • if you only provide the User-Agent string of a mobile device you will NOT be detected as mobile
  • in order to be detected as mobile you will have to provide a valid UAProf URI, and that’s actually enough by itself
  • the iPhone on disney.mobi gets the same presentation as all other devices, i.e. not the same as if you visited disney.com in the first place

There is definitely some broken flow here, although I think the mobile experience is very good and the detection at the root is a very good move. Now, will someone from Disney tell me how many visits they get from mobile compared to desktop? I’d love that. 😉

Some nerdy stuff if you wanted to replicate my tests.

Basic request (and then follow the redirects):

curl -D – http://disney.com

Basic request with mobile User-Agent:

curl -D – -A “Mozilla/4.0 SonyEricssonV640iv/R1EA Browser/NetFront/3.4 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1” http://disney.com/

And with UAProf:

curl -D – -A “Mozilla/4.0 SonyEricssonV640iv/R1EA Browser/NetFront/3.4 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1” -H ‘X-Wap-Profile: http://wap.sonyericsson.com/UAprof/V640iR101-3G.xml’ http://disney.com/

And just in case, with iPhone User-Agent (and no UAProf as it doesn’t serve it):

curl -D – -A “Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 2_2_1 like Mac OS X; it-it) AppleWebKit/525.18.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1.1 Mobile/5H11 Safari/525.20” http://disney.com

Even more nerdy note, the desktop site sends the following header:

X-Cnection: close

According to a quick search some proxy or gateway in the middle.

logme.mobi update

I felt like my little site to see a browser’s HTTP request headers, logme.mobi, would at some point die and that is why I have not updated it in months. The reality is much brighter and while I see crawlers visiting every other day (don’t care about those very much and I’m sure they do not care about the service!), I also see mobile devices and strange User-Agents coming every day. This is of course a good sign, a proof that it is useful to some and even if it’s very simple in concept it’s good that it is being used.

For this reason I have spent half an hour today to make a small change that I think can be very useful. Up until yesterday I showed the headers as PHP stores them which was probably OK, but less than perfect as PHP uses its own header names and changes everything to uppercase. Using a simple function (apache_request_headers) I have now changed to the actualy names as received by Apache. This is probably a change that will not make a huge difference to the most, but it’s a valuable improvement to some. I have some other improvement on my mind, but I need to install some software and unfortunately I don’t have time, but expect something soon.

I also removed the officially-dead-for-quite-a-while list of tests. I originally created them thinking of using them as a test suite for browsers and mobile devices and wanted to store results in a database. Eventually and thankfully, dotMobi came in and we developed a nice site for testing that is fully integrated with DeviceAtlas and so now I’m linking that site, if you want to run any tests (see the online docs for TA-DA). Remember that in order to login you will need valid mobiForge/DeviceAtlas credentials; on the up-side, all your tests results are stored with your profile.

Swedish Beers @ MWC 2009

In the last two years, when going to the 3GSM first and MWC last year, I always joined Swedish Beers. While it is a very informal event it is actually very well populated and it’s a very good opportunity to have a good beer, if you like and to meet good guys in the mobile space.

This year I am definitely planning to join the event once again and I look forward to meet lots of mobilists there!

Thanks to Helen for arranging everything, of course!

PS: Yes, dotMobi is a sponsor, but we sponsor because it’s a great event!