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Monday, January 11, 2010

Verizon LG enV Touch, Bitpim, and Open Source

Due to my new wage slave job, I have less time available for blogging. My parents are demanding I waste a lot of time entertaining them. I decided to get a PDA-enabled phone, so I could blog on the subway.

I decided against Android, an iPhone, or a Blackberry, because they have an expensive data plan required. The phone is cheap, but you pay for it with the data plan. I decided to get an LG enV Touch from Verizon. It only has a $10/month data plan required, so it's less expensive than the others. I just wanted a PDA I could type on and transfer data to my PC. The others seemed like overkill.

The LG Touch has a keyboard. You can type and save it to a text file. This enables me to work on my blog on the subway. I'm storing it on the phone, so I don't need a wireless signal. I'm not using the wireless data package when typing, but I did get the $10/month plan required to buy the phone. (Since it's a separate computer, I can also blog during slow times at work, without anyone noticing. I haven't done that yet.)

I bought a 2GB memory card. That's required for the PC USB link feature.

However, the notepad feature has a 300 character limit per note. I have 2GB of memory, but a 300 character limit! That's probably due to a lazy programmer using fixed buffer sizes.

It'd be nice if the notepad character limit were increased. Plus, there should be better navigation, like "beginning of line", "end of line", "pageup", and "pagedown" keys.

I found a workaround to the character limit. I put one paragraph per note. I number them, like in an old BASIC program!

There's a PC USB link feature. However, the software provided does *NOT* allow you to transfer the notepad text!

I found a program called bitpim that allows you to transfer the notepad text. Version 1.06 didn't work with my phone (VX11000), but fortunately 1.07 beta worked.

That is amusing. Verizon's software is lousy. Instead, there's an open source program that works. People like their phones, even if Verizon offers lousy support! Obviously, whoever wrote the phone intended for the notepad data to be copy-able. Verizon's software doesn't support that, but it's on the phone in a user-readable directory.

It turns out that Verizon sells separate software for $50 that lets you fully synch your phone. Bitpim probably is still better.

Bitpim seems to give you full filesystem access to your phone. I thought that the OS would be in a protected directory, but it seems you can overwrite that also. I didn't try and I'm not going to try; I just want the notepad/blogging feature. You can also "pirate" apps with bitpim, but I'm not interested in that. I'm only blogging and transferring text files to my PC. I'm using bitpim in "read-only" mode.

This is my first subway-written post. I'm still going to transfer it to my PC and edit/assemble it.

This system seems to be working for me. Line number my posts. Export to bitpim. Bitpim sorts by time. I really should sort by line number (1st line). Export from bitpim to HTML/XML. I should write a program that collates the bitpim output. Now, I'm just using notepad to edit the html and copy/paste to Blogger. Then, assemble the post in Blogger and do some final editing.

I wrote a PHP script to optimize the "assemble by line number" step. Now, my workflow is:

  1. Start bitpim.
  2. Load memos.
  3. "Print as" html.
  4. Save file in appropriate directory.
  5. Run PHP script.
I can 100% optimize this. Bitpim has a "command line" mode where you can directly copy a file from the phone. Then, I can also call the PHP script in command line mode. I can do the whole thing in one step! Plug in phone, run .bat file, then open notepad file with sorted notes! I used bitpim command line mode to transfer the file and then wrote a PHP script to parse out the notes file. My script filters and sorts by line number and removes the line numbers! As a bonus, my PHP script converts from UNIX-style carriage returns ("\n") that the phone uses to Windows-style carriage returns ("\r\n").

Overall, I do recommend the Verizon LG enV Touch (VX11000). It's cheaper than a Blackberry, iPhone, or Android phone. The 300 character limit is *ANNOYING* but I can work around that. First, I wrote a PHP program that collates bitpim's line-numbered XML export into one big text file. Then, optimized it to directly parse the sch\memo.dat file on the phone, downloaded via bitpim. The phone is good enough for my mobile blogging needs, but I needed bitpim to do what I want with my phone. When I next upgrade in 2 years, hopefully I'll have better choices and I'll be sure that I can (1) transfer data to PC easily and (2) write files bigger than 300 characters.


Master Doh-San said...

If you're lucky, maybe you can find some open-source app that will get around that ridiculously small 300-char limit. 3k wouldn't be so bad, but what were they thinking???


FSK said...

Unfortunately, there's no SDK for the LG enV touch that allows users to write their own apps. One was promised, but not published.

The 300 character limit was so stupid that I didn't bother checking that restriction before buying the phone. There's no sensible reason for the restriction, other than lazy software engineers.

Anyway, an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android phone would have been a lot more expensive. I'm stuck with the LG enV touch for now for two years during my service contract. It's good enough.

The 300 character limit was a huge disappointment.

Being forced to used bitpim to download data from the phone was a disappointment, but not a blocking restriction.

I found a decent workaround to the 300 character limit. I'm using line numbers for my post drafts! I use bitpim to grab the data from the phone, and then a PHP script parses the sch/memo.dat file, and then makes a notepad file.

I still do some editing before publishing the post on my blog. It's very good for writing drafts during otherwise-wasted subway time. I'm able to write 2 drafts per day! I was falling behind due to my new wage slave job.

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