WURFL PHP tools Version 2.1 released

Dear WURFL users I am here announcing the release of the PHP library version 2.1 Final (changelog). This release has been sitting there for quite a few months, it includes the patches I received, includes the new debug feature that was introduced in Beta 3 and a few more tweaks.
browser_is_wap has been there from day 1, but in the last year or so has proved to be outdated. The property is still there, but I strongly suggest that you use the WURFL capabilities (is_wireless_device and device_claims_web_support). The property now gets values from the WURFL capability is_wireless_device when available, just like Tera-WURFL. If you want real web/mobile distinction, I suggest you get the web patch.

The only major issue that I fixed is the exact matching that sometimes did not happen in specific circumstances.

I know I had promised to add the multiple patch support, but it never arrived. If you want to implement it should really take something between 5 and 10 lines of code.

This is my last release of the library, as you know I will not be active in the WURFL project anymore. At the same time I don’t see much space of evolution for this library. If you are unhappy with the speed of this release, you should probably give a try to Tera-WURFL, if you are unhappy with PHP 4 and want PHP 5, you should probably re-write it from scratch. For these reasons, I believe this is the last release. If anyone has an issue and wants to contact me, feel free, if you want to pick it up, I’ll be happy to see it keep living. MPL 1.1 gives you the freedom of picking it, just play nice with the license rules.

Hopefully there will not be release-time bugs. 🙂

WURFL is great, but I also need to move on

I have been working on WURFL since 2002. It has taken a lot of my work and off-work time and I put in a lot of energy in it.
The project has grown from 6 devices into more than a thousand and a few thousands user-agents, from 20 capabilities to almost 500.

We started as 5 people from around Europe with the same problem and we ended with hundreds of developers from all over the world contributing and thanking us.
The W3C invited me to join (as an invited expert, a quite rare thing) the Mobile Web Initiative thanks to my experience with WURFL and mobile site development.

During these years I worked for small companies, developed small sites, but also worked on big on-portal services, worked on off-portal sites, delivered ringtones, SMS’s, MMS, java midlets. I would say almost everything that is related to mobiles.

WURFL has achieved great results and worldwide fame and I like to think also thanks to my contribution and the time I spent regularly on it and in the mailing list.
Now has arrived a time for me to move ahead a look for something new. It is time for new challenges, put on the table what I learnt so far and see what I can do.
WURFL has been a HUGE success, being able to do something as good can be scary, but should be a lot of fun, not to mention the personal achievement!

Stay tuned for an update about what I’m going to do in the years coming. It’s going to be BIIIG.

If you are a WURFL fan, have no fear, the project will stay alive and I actually hope it will grow better every day, Luca is still committed to keep WURFL alive. If you want to make your voice heard in the project and are willing to share some of your time, this is a good time. Get on wmlprogramming and make your voice heard.

Sun’s Mobility Pack uses WURFL

According to Lukas Hasik, Sun’s Mobility Pack 6.0 now uses WURFL to determine device capabilities. Lukas wrote about the new release of Mobility Pack citing that many developers wanted to get more information about devices. Thanks to WURFL they are now able to dig in and see device information.

Mobility Pack 6.0 is still under development, there’s a page to read the updates, Mobility Pack New and Noteworthy.
Mobility Pack is part of NetBeans.

Nokia suggests WURFL for device recognition

Nokia recently (May 29, 2007) released Version 1.0 of a document describing the guidelines to develop Mobile Web sites specific for their devices, of course. The document is specifically aimed to developers and authors that want to target the most recent and advanced mobile browsers, based on Apple’s Webkit. The document is called “Nokia Web Browser Design Guide” and you can download it for free (after registering) from Forum Nokia.

It is good to see another big company, shortly after Ericsson, to suggest WURFL.

Betavine and GPL software

Vodafone’s Betavine has launched a serie of updates, including a section for the development of open-source, much like SourceForge.
To kick-start the site they have included some libraries that Vodafone is releasing as open-source. I am especially happy about the GPL release of the drivers for the Mobile Connect Card. It’s for linux at this time, but one of the big issue for non-Windows users and getting on internet while on the move has certainly been the lack of drivers for proprietary PCMCIA cards. I think that the raise of the USB modems for mobile networks is a sign that more and more customers wanted non-Windows support, now that the drivers for a PCMCIA card are available I expect developers to take it and extend it.

Good move, Vodafone.

GAIA Image Transcoder

A few weeks ago I had a nice lunch with two guys from Open Reply, Michele and Patrick. Reply is an italian IT company, very big. Open Reply is a division that is focused on open-source projects.
Our lunch has been a work-lunch, of course, and was centered around the idea of releasing some of their software as open-source.

GAIA Image Transcoder or GIT is a Java library to transcode images. The project was born as part of a bigger project to provide content in many different formats that would be suitable for the web, for WAP browser and more. It is an ambitious project built of a set of modules that allow them to produce the desired layouts.
GIT is part of that and is the part that takes care of reading an image in “any” format and produce, if needed, a new image suitable for the browser requesting the content.

The project is developed on top of standards and de-facto standards like JAI, Apache Commons Discovery and WURFL, of course.
Needless to say that WURFL is the source that is used to understand what size and format is supported by the browser.

What I really like about the release is that it’s a pure open-source project, licensed with the very permissive LGPL license, but has the big shoulders of a big IT company and you can see this by all the documentation and the comments in the source.
This is another good sign of how a company can take good inspiration from the open-source and try to give something back to the community.

Open Reply is not only looking for contributors, but also for comments, bug reports and suggestions of how to improve it. I think they have the best approach and a lot of openness to new ways of making business.
The project is hosted on sourceforge and the files can already be downloaded and tested.

Best wishes to this new product in the big family of the open-source and of WURFL.

Ericsson chooses WURFL as “industry solution”

One of our loyal users of WURFL and wmlprogramming posted on the mailing list a reference to a new developer tool provided by Ericsson (not Sony Ericsson!) to produce mobile-optimized web pages.

a1zydi writes on wmlprogramming “WALL and MobileFaces library” (free subscription to the mailing list is required) to name this new library from Ericsson called Mobile JSF Kit.

Quoting from the site:

The Mobile JSF (JavaServer Faces) Kit consists of the MobileFaces core library, a developer’s guide and sample applications to help Java EE developers to rapidly develop internet mobile applications.

The library comes with a complete documentation describing how to install and use and even an expected timeframe to learn JSF and the toolkit. Very nice.
Modules are also supported and they already released an extra template module for dotMobi compliant pages and CHTML (i-mode).

What I think is a great news for WURFL is that they decided to use our little project as the foundation to build their own implementation.
The documentation goes down into the details of how to download the XML, the Java API, install and configure.

Quoting from Chapter 4.4:

You can determine a lot of device features from the request head. But it is still restricted. For example, you cannot determine the screen size from the request head. Is there any better solution for the device feature source in the industry?

WURFL is such an industry solution for the device feature source.

If you like JSF and want to start a mobile project, this library is probably a good place to go, download and have something already done to use as a foundation.

Open-Source as in “work for free”?

It seems like I really can’t sleep tonight. Too many thoughts rambling in my mind and sleeping is probably the last thing I can do. I will try to tire myself until I fall asleep on this chair writing something here on the blog as I haven’t been really good at writing in the last few weeks.

Coming back to the subject of this post, a few weeks ago I was browsing and for some reason I stumbled upon Ari Jaaksi’s Blog, a Nokia guy that follows the development of the N800 among the other things. Specifically I read about the development on the N800 and Ari gave his Status Report regarding the available software. What strikes me is that the N800 is already on the market (and so was at the time of the article) and Nokia is asking people to do some open-source development to add software and features that were present in the N770, but that Nokia could not make work for the N800 in time for the launch.
I am a big supporter of how Nokia helps developers and I think they are the best in the mobile space, but honestly, this really seems to me like asking the open-source community to take over some development that Nokia could not or did not want to do.

I don’t think this is fair to the developers that will eventually do the work (if any). They are effectively working for free to give some more profit to Nokia. It’s an open call from Nokia to ask for free support.
One thing is to develop a software and open your API (and maybe eventually making some money out of this as Google does) another thing is to ask someone to do the work you did not want to do and also expect it to be free.

WURFL 2.0.4 ready for download

A bit more than 2 months have passed since the last public release of WURFL (Nov, 16 2006: WURFL 2.0.3 is ready).

I originally hoped to be able to make a new release every month or so, but Christmas and new Year were in the middle. Also, we always have so many great contributions that it’s hard to say “STOP, we make a release and then we can restart collecting data”.

So WURFL keeps growing, our community of users and contributors keeps growing and keep getting better and better. We have almost reached 2000 unique devices (1984) and passed 9600 unique user-agents. I can tell you from now that I already have a queue of updates and that our run for the coverage of all the mobile devices won’t stop.

If you are serious about web browsers too, you should not forget to check out the web patch. There are some updates in CVS, see here: WURFL web browser patch (please use the CVS client as the web interface is very good to check logs, but not as good to download big text files).

So go ahead and download WURFL 2.0.4 (zipped is easier).

Community resources for the mobile

I wanted to recap a few valuable resources that developers can find on the web to help them start or improve their skills to produce sites for mobile devices.

My favourite, of course, is The Wireless FAQ, simply because of the time it took to bring it to a Wiki. I think it has done a big step ahead since that day and thanks to the wiki approach we have been able to add a number of resources about very important topics such as DRM, Video downloads, multimedia content delivery and more.

On the same track you might also want to check out the Techniques for the Best Practices, originally developed and maintained by the W3C. It’s another Wiki site and it’s about the Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 that the group has produced. The Wiki was chosen because the group is looking for user contributions. If you are interested you should go, read, ask questions and add content, if you feel like willing to share with the W3C community.

A more specialized site, maintained by Barbara Ballard of little spring design inc, is Mobile User Interface Design Patterns. The title says it all, Barbara is a super-expert of User Interfaces for the mobile. She has already created a lot of valuable content and while it’s less technical from a certain point of view as compared to the other two sites, it actually provides great guidance about the general UI and presentation that you should use in your mobile site. Barbara’s Wiki is certainly something to read and put in practice in your mobile sites, maybe using some techniques suggested in the other 2 sites previously named.

The last site I wanted to remind to the community is mTLD‘s developers site. The site does not have a Wiki, but rather a forum, blogs and a few selected articles, all about the mobile. The site is relatively new and the administrators are working hard to provide more and more resources every day. It is obviously a different approach, the site aims to provide all the guidance and help to develop mobile sites, also linking to external resources, of course. It’s another great place to start from and to ask questions if there’s something you can’t do or is not clear. You can reach it at dev.mobi. The site can be visited both from your desktop computer or on the move.