domenica 1 maggio 2011

Oculo: dynamic web content to your N900 home screen

Latest news, sport results, stock market quotes, currency conversions, web comics, picture of the day... The internet is filled with dynamic content that you might want to bring into your phone homescreen, but often you don't have a widget that supports the site you are interested in. But now, cry no more! Oculo is a homescreen widget for the Nokia N900 which can take any web site and render its contents into your homescreen. Not only it can render a complete web-page, you can also choose which specific parts of a web page you are interested in!

The mandatory screenshot. Three instances of Oculo: Flickr! explore, Google local news, Yahoo! finance.

As I'm writing this, Oculo 0.7 is in the Maemo extras-testing repository; I'm using it without problems in my N900, but it's still rather buggy, so if you try and find some problems, don't hesitate to report them. Unfortunately, it is already known that Oculo will not be visible if you are running the community SSU; this is apparently a problem with the CSSU and Qt home widgets which I'm investigating. Also, since the configuration procedure might not be as intuitive as it could be, I've created a video which shows how to configure it:

History and technical aspects

The idea of developing Oculo (which means “eye” in interlingua) came to me a few months ago, when I noticed that Radek, a colleague of mine, was checking the daily menu of our canteen in the intranet pages. I ironically suggested him that he should write a maemo home widget showing the daily menu, so he could have it always visible on his phone. The fact that I considered “silly” the idea of writing a homescreen widget just for that goal suddenly brought up the idea of Oculo: giving the user the possibility to put in his homescreen whatever web content he desires.

Using Qt and QWebKit to render the web page contents into an image was unbelievably simple, and boosted my motivation in developing the widget. In a couple of days I already got something that was usable to me; but as Mappero users know, my usability standards are quite low :-), and this time I realized that I couldn't just publish Oculo in that state. So I went on developing the configuration dialog, tried hard to improve the graphical appearance of the widget (which still looks bad, but you haven't seen how it was before :-p) and solve some performance issues. The biggest of which was the memory consumption of the widget due to keeping QWebKit loaded in memory; this has now been solved by moving the configuration phase and the web content retrieval/rendering into a separate process, which is running only when needed. The homescreen widget itself is just a container for the image.

Future developments

A quick roadmap of what should be coming for Oculo:

  • Minimum interval between updates will be configurable (this is trivial and will be coming very soon)
  • Speed improvements: try not to load external content which will not be rendered
  • Share configurations between users; let users upload/download their configuration to a central server — this will make the configuration much easier
  • Port Oculo to MeeGo (to be investigated)
  • Port Oculo to Linux desktops
  • If Qt on Android can be used to develop home screen widget, an Android port might also be possible.

That's all for now! Go and try Oculo out, and let me know your impressions. :-)

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12 Commenti:

Anonymous Chris ha detto...


This widget seems like a great idea form the category: "why didn't anyone think of this sooner?"!

I hope that you will be entering the MeeGo Coding competition with this! :)


1 maggio 2011 21:17  
Blogger gunni ha detto...

I like this one. Cant wait for its compatibility with CSSU. It is like the webslice plasma widget of kde.
One feature would be nice: Custom CSS configuration. I dont know if this is easy doable with webkit, but if would be really nice to change the look of the content.

2 maggio 2011 18:18  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

a really good idea! i like it and will try it as soon the next version will be out (with configurable update time).


4 maggio 2011 18:37  
Blogger David Hulbert ha detto...

I tried getting my Remember The Milk list (a todo list) but it kept logging me out. Does Oculo save cookies or am I doing something wrong? Thanks.

16 maggio 2011 10:51  
Anonymous Jim ha detto...

oculu is great...
but one problem...i configure that it should refresh the website every 30 minutes...but it does refreshes not before turning on the screen of the n900...then it lasts 2 or 3 minutes to reload the page...its too should refresh when the screen is turned off and my n900 is in the pocket...i think it is the same problem like withe the original nokia rss does also not reloads...

22 maggio 2011 20:40  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

excellent program!
its not refreshing after
switching on the n900.
then it has to activated
manually...maybe it could be
changed that it reloads the
page when turning on the phone...?!

23 maggio 2011 08:55  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

im using this since some weeks now...
great widget/programm that keeps me
staying with maemo....
use it for newsticker/news/weather/radar/facebook

up to now it functions proplem is/was that when you activate
your mobile after an hour oder several hours, it does not reload have to do it manually....and when you have 7 or 8 oculos on the homescreens then you have to make many clicks;-) the same after rebooting n900 or changing the batterie (i do a lot)...after that you have to refresh manually all widgets...

26 giugno 2011 14:36  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

cool did update to new oculu version some minutes ago and some of the problems seem to be solved....after restarting n900 it refreshes now there a changelog for the new version!? great work!!!!!! keep on!!!

26 giugno 2011 14:50  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

oh after second reboot oculo widgets do not reload automatically:-(

26 giugno 2011 15:09  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

Nice post, keep up the good work

6 luglio 2011 08:19  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

thank you. I have been using your widget for long.

how can we change the user agent to "mobile"?.

9 ottobre 2012 14:31  
Anonymous Anonimo ha detto...

is there a similar widget for linux Desktops?

28 giugno 2013 17:13  

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