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Old 12-20-2003, 10:07 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Lightbulb eNews Creator Beta Review

Introduction:
While most eBook & offline readers are available on few platforms, Mobipocket is maybe the only true cross-platform reader with its support of multiple platforms & devices.
Mobipocket mainly has two services, eBooks and eNews. While the eBook service has grown to be very successful with its support for prc/pdb formats, easy conversion of HTML/text files and its own DRM prc format, the eNews service wasn't as good with a small selection of eNews and a non-customizable service, where eNews was only available through Mobipocket, until now.

Mobipocket is currently beta-testing the new eNews Creator. Now users have a chance to create their own eNews and share them with others.
Wondering how good this program is in comparision with other offline readers? Then read on...
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:07 AM   #2
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Install
MobiPocket eNews Beta installs the following three applications on your desktop:
  • Mobipocket Emulator V4.7.410 (to preview converted eNews on your PC)
  • Mobipocket Web Companion V4.8.4856 (to manage your personal repertoire of eNews files)
  • Mobipocket eNews Creator V1.0.6 (to create new, individual eNews files)

The full installation takes not more than 5MB harddrive space.
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:08 AM   #3
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First Start
The GUI of eNews Creator looks great, and gives you a similar experience to browing a webpage (snapshot01).
From the main screen, you can select either
  • to convert from an internet resource (1. RSS feeds, 2. mobile optimized links, 3. standard web pages)
  • to browse the official MobiPocket eNews Database,
  • to browse 3rd party resources (syndic8.com for RSS Feeds, pdainternet.com for
    mobile optimized links (but heh, they should have included turcic.com!)
  • to start a step by step tutorial (which is like most of the other help resources - under construction)
  • to get new web templates (sounds interesting, but - under construction)
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:10 AM   #4
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eNews from RSS feed
Insert the link (random pick http://www.djeaux.com/rss/insecure-full-bugtraq.rss), name it, and define how many articles you want to load from it (snapshot02).
Next we specify what parts of an article page are to be extracted. We do this by simply clicking on various blocks of text and image which correspond to the content of the article (snapshot03, purple area).
Finally we extract the feed and preview it in the Mobipocket Emulator (snapshot04). Technical note: the extracted eNews files are always stored in a subdirectory of eNews Creator:

Code:
Verzeichnis von C:\Programme\Mobipocket.com\eNews Creator\djeaux

20.12.2003  11:36    <DIR>          .
20.12.2003  11:36    <DIR>          ..
20.12.2003  11:37               443 djeaux.data.xml
20.12.2003  11:37           167.751 djeaux.data0.xml
20.12.2003  11:37             2.163 djeaux.enews
20.12.2003  11:37           171.674 djeaux.html
20.12.2003  11:37            71.080 djeaux.prc
20.12.2003  11:37             2.539 img0.png
Interesting here are three files: djeaux.enews, djeaux.html and djeaux.prc. The first is a xml file which essentially contains all channel settings. The second is the converted web page. The last is the converted PRC file that is installed on your PDA.

Sidenote: Not sure if this is a bug, but both the .enews and the .html files start with a 0xEF, 0xBB, 0xBF hex sequence, which essentially invalidates the ixl and html formats

Contribute to our repertoire:
When you post a new eNews channel to our forum in future (http://www.turcic.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=37), make sure to upload the .enews file. For those who are used to iSilo/X: the MobiPocket .enews is analogous to iSiloX's .ixl.
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:12 AM   #5
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eNews from mobile optimized site
Insert the link (random pick http://www.wired.com/news_drop/palmpilot/), name it, define the maximum extraction depth and whether you want to include images (snapshot05). That's it! iSilo/X users will wonder about all the other possible settings (margins, filters, tables, image quality, etc.) that are amiss here. The preview looks still good (snapshot06).
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:14 AM   #6
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eNews from standard site
This is probably the most innovative feature. I don't know any other application (such as iSilo, Plucker, etc.) which would allow you to point & click on the parts of a standard website you want to extract.
Let's see how it works. We insert the link (random pick http://www.foxnews.com/), name it, limit the number of articles we want to download, and choose to include images (snapshot07). Next we can select a logo for our eNews channel (snapshot08). Now to the interesting part. Before we define the areas of an article to convert, we must define the sections that cover the particlar articles, called e.g. "Top News, "Policits", etc. (snapshot09). eNews Creator then browses each sections and allows you define the area where the links to the articles appear (snapshot10). Depending on the choice of your web page, this works sometimes better than other times.
In the next two steps, we define the title area for the articles - this can also be the page title (snapshot11) - and the article content (snapshot12). In general, choosing the article link area for each section, and the area of the article content can be a pain. It would be a good idea if Mobipocket added an option which gives the user the choice to unify webpage selection under all sections, since most websites keep a constant layout structure. As mentioned, after creating the eNews file you can preview your extraction with the emulator (snapshot13).
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:15 AM   #7
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The Web Companion
As mentioned before, the MobiPocket Web Companion allows you to manage your personal eNews files. It is also responsible for the syncronization with your PDA. One special feature is worth mentioning. You can not only syncronize your PDA with your desktop, but also send the generated eNews to an eMail address of your choice. This is really cool! You can automatically have your desktop convert eNews, and fetch them from somewhere else (e.g. from the train) remotely with your (wireless-capable) PDA.

The Web Companion also has an 'express document publishing' option through which you can convert local HTML/text files to prc format.
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:17 AM   #8
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Summary:
The beta of eNews Creator is great, but it also faces a strong competition (iSilo, Plucker). We must understand that the whole idea of this program is to simplify and automate eNews creation, and not act as something as "high-tech" as iSiloX or JPluck. And indeed, eNews Creator is very easy to use!
eNews Creator basically runs a script, which converts the website within options selected, the output is actually an HTML page (see the directory output mentioned earlier), which then gets converted into .prc MobiPocket format. So before people start to complain about MobiPocket's proprietary format - you have the converted HTML output which you can access, manipulate, and use with another conversion tool such as iSiloX!

In conclusion, we think that MobiPocket's eNews Creator can become a powerful alternative to other offline browsers.

Reviewers: Saud & Alex

Positive
  • doesn't require a doctor in computer science
  • stable (for a beta)
  • extracting pages appears to be multithreaded and very fast
  • Emulator allows for instand previews
  • e-mail feature for extracted eNews
  • you can instantly publish eNews on the web
  • good support for non-mobile websites
  • good support for rss feeds
  • great reader - mobipocket reader has a huge repertoire of commercial ebooks, references and ebooks, includes text justification, drawing, seemless dictionary integration
Negative
  • MobiPocket WebCompanion is resource-hungry (it happened that the CPU usage reached 100%)
  • URL filtering: eNews Creator only has 'restrict to' option only used with direct mobile links which is not as good as filtering based on regular expressions and wildcards
  • Scheduling: limited; only allows to globally schedule syncronization and only if 'send eNews to email' is enabled. Otherwise, it updates by itself when changes to a website occur.
  • no table support
  • does not appear to support RSS 2.0
  • lack of advanced control over settings (however, you can directly edit .enews files to have some more control over the extraction process)
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:18 AM   #9
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Update 1: Unregistered visitors should now also be able to view attached screenshots. Sorry for the inconvenience.

free space for future addons - feel free to post your comments!
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