iPhone’s not as tasty as I’d like: Delicious Bookmarks App

I’m a huge fan of Yahoo!’s Delicious social bookmarking service. There are copycats but it was the first (it was originally called del.icio.us and used that as a domain name), and it’s still the largest. Yahoo! bought it because it was so popular, and they took a very long time to release their version 2.0 of the service not too long ago. What is it? Instead of (or in addition to, if you like) of using your web brower’s built-in Bookmarks (or Favorites) feature, you can instead save the page to your Delicious account. Instead of putting links in folders, you can assign freeform tags to the entry (kind of like multiple separate folders), and enter a description of up to 1,000 characters in length.  Unless you mark the item as Private, anyone else can see your links, and they aggregate into a large tagged database of links useful at multiple levels. But you probably just want to get your links back out when you need them, and it’s pretty good at that, too.

The desktop side is great, and I have close to 2,000 links right now saved in my Delicious account. But what about when I want to visit one of those sites from my iPhone? Well, there’s the Delicious website, which I could use from Safari. But I’d like a native app. I was very happy when I saw the App called “Bookmarks” and saw the description!

My excitement was misplaced. The extent of the App is a Settings dialog box, where you enter your Delicious username and password and press Login. For a week or two, I’d tried this a few times and it didn’t do anything. No response, the Login button just didn’t “do” anything visible. Maybe it was a Delicious backend problem, maybe it was the number of tags I have (remember, about 2,000 bookmarks, and those are tagged with 2,300 different tags!). Regardless, no feedback. Then, almost as if by magic, I had a list of keywords. The entire actual program consist of an “All Tags” screen you can scroll through (but not search) like Contacts, only it’s a list of every tag you’ve ever used, alphabetically.

No offence, but scrolling through 2,300 tags is not my idea of the way to find something quickly! Definitely need some search. Supposing I do find the tag I want, tapping it shows a list of the links tagged with that tag, intuitively. But each entry is on one line, and it runs of the end of the screen giving merely an elipsis to indicate it was too long to fit. How about tapping a link for a description? Nope, that closes the app alogether and opens Safari, the iPhone’s web browser, taking me directly to the link without passing Go and without collecing $200! That would be OK if there were a smaller “details” button or some way to view additional details if I wanted to, including the full title. I would be even better if I could edit or delete links so I could fix erorrs as they pop up. But no, I’m stuck with a long list of hard-to-find tags that get me to a list of short, unreadable (in their entirety) link names with no URL, description, or other information. And I can’t browse sites tagged a particular tag by other people, one of the good ways to find meta-information that others have so graciously saved for you about websites! No way to even view links people who “subscribe” to your links save back for you!

So what does this app do for me? Nothing. I never use it. It’s small, and it sits on my iPhone for now, as I keep hoping an update will show up on the App Store that will make my dreams come true. For now, I’m snoring. Really, I will be in a few minutes. (Although it’s only due in small part to this App.) Give it a miss for now, unless you have very few tabs and meager bookmark access needs!

Remote Desktop for the iPhone: WinAdmin ($11.99)

WinAdmin is the best app I’ve paid for ($11.99) and it’s more than the cost of all l other apps I’ve bought combined! (So far at least.) Worth every penny.

Even though there are free and cheaper RDP clients, the features and polish of this one win hands down and I won’t even try the others. And that was before the latest upgrade adding console support (oh yeah!), more resolutions (I think), and Vista/Server 2008 support! I have had issues connecting to Vista/Server 2008 but haven’t investigated further yet and it’s not a deal-breaker (so far it looks like it’s connecting but never shows the screen). Not hard to RDP to an XP/Server 2003 box and re-RDP out to the Vista/Server 2008 box, using mRemote for example (an excellent, free Windows RDP/VNC/SSH/HTTP/HTTPS/etc client!). This is the first release claiming Vista/Server 2008 support so issues are forgivable for now; like I said there are workarounds.

I’ve used this to fix server problems at both places I work already. Reviewers on the iTunes Store that say to use VNC obviously don’t administer Windows servers or have RDP experience. VNC has its place and I have an app to do that too (Mocha VNC Lite, haven’t needed the paid version yet), but in general RDP is faster, more reliable, and built-in to all Windows systems (XP home doesn’t count :-) Plus RDP is the way to get on a Terminal Server if you have the need.

WinAdmin works great through the iPhone’s VPN connection capabilities, which is how I usually use it if I’m not onsite. If you don’t know how to use Remote Desktop, figure that out first using desktop computers and then get this. If you’re a Mac user, you should look at alternates like VNC since RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) is a Microsoft-only thing (another uninformed complaint from iTunes Store reviewers). WinAdmin right now has four out of five stars and 222 reviews on the iTunes Store, even with the dumb complaints from users who can’t figure it out!

If you’re a network or systems administrator, this is worth well more than twice what it’s selling for. Thanks to Andrew Mitry in the #citrt IRC channel for first bringing it to my attention and endorsing it!

It looks like my reviews so far are only of the paid apps I have! Probably because they were useful enough to me to pay for. I won’t part with my money for junk apps! Plenty of free stuff I’ll get to reviewing though :-)

UPDATE: I forgot to link to the official WinAdmin support site, which has an FAQ and some tutorials. It’s available from the Help link in the program, but you can look at it now: WinAdmin Support. The FAQ has not been updated to reflect the newest version’s features such as Vista and Server 2008 support yet (but hey, what developer likes writing documentation, right? :-)

UPDATE on Sept. 3: I’ve seen a few people looking on search engines for something similar to WinAdmin on the Mac. Microsoft makes the only Remote Desktop client for Mac that I know of, to connect to Windows machines from a Mac workstation. It’s called Remote Deskto Connection Client for Mac 2, and it’s free. I’ve used it just a little bit, and it’s acutally pretty good, possibly better in some ways than the Windows Remote Deskop Client! (But not better than mRemote on Windows).

If you want to connect to your Mac from your iPhone remotely, a different scenario, you should look for a Macintosh VNC server for the Mac (use Google, I’m not familar with any I can recall but I have set it up once before) and use a program like Mocha VNC Lite or Mocha VNC (the paid version with more features). There may be others, I don’t use VNC very often. You can also install a free VNC Server like Ultr@VNC on your Windows machine to connect remotely, but I prefer Remote Desktop in most (but not all) circumstances for this.

IRC on the iPhone: Rooms (99 cents)

The Rooms app came out a few weeks after the iPhone was released. Someone in the #citrt IRC chat channel mentioned it to me, as I don’t generally keep up with apps that aren’t free, and Rooms is $0.99. But it’s well worth the price! It’s still in beta but it’s very usable, and as far as I know it’s the only native IRC option on the iPhone (although if you have a Mac there’s a way to connect through a program there in some cases, which I’m unfamiliar with).

The biggest issues with the Rooms app are that IRC commands, like “/me” to show an action, aren’t supported yet, and that the app drains the battery very quickly. The battery issue is not going to go away since using the internet costs battery (you can set the app to stay connected while the screen is off, which is great, or not go to sleep at all, which is nice but eats a lot more battery due to keeping the screen on). However, additional features including the “/me” command are planned for a future release according to the developer on his blog. Also coming is SSL and IRC server password support, as well as support for identifying your nickname with nickserv.

I have had Rooms crash occasionally, which is not surprising given that it’s a beta. One day I had it reboot my phone twice in a row (before I could use it), twice. It didn’t otherwise cause problems and since I’ve upgraded my iPhone to 2.0.2 firmware I don’t think I’ve had an issue (and in fact, my iPhone issues have mostly gone away entirely, which I may post about at some point). It’s hard to tell in many cases whether bugs are the fault of Apple or an App developer, since the platform and the apps are both so new and Apple is still rather close-mouthed (and limits what developers can talk about in some cases, too). But that’s a story for another day, and maybe another blog (there’s plenty of discussion out there!).

(Normally I’d link to the apps I’m mentioning online, but the only official place to link that I know of is a direct link to the Apple Store in iTunes. Rather than find and link those URLs for these quick posts, I will probably just give the name of the app, since it’s so easy to find with a search in the iTunes Store or even from the App Store on the iPhone itself, and you can purchase from either place! If I have the URL handy I may make some exceptions. You can probably find an iTunes link for most Apps with a simple Google search, but again, just search the iTunes Store, unless you’re searching for additional reviews!)