Wednesday, July 1, 2009

RIP AvantGo

A few weeks ago AvantGo announced that it would discontinue providing mobile content on June 30th, 2009. For those that didn't use a PDA in the early 2000s, AvantGo allows you to sync online content to mobile devices for offline reading. Despite wireless data connections via cellphone and proliferation of WiFi networks, I've still found a use for AvantGo. I'm not always online, and AvantGo is handy when I'm using public transit (whether it be a school bus or taking Metro to an internship or to volunteer at the hospital). The content is also formatted nicely for mobile devices, so even if I do have a wireless connection, sometimes I'll use AvantGo anyways. Besides that, I don't have a cell phone (yet), and even if I did, it's not likely I would purchase an expensive data plan.

Strangely enough, with the disappearance of AvantGo (which predated the proliferation of RSS, mind you), I was hard-pressed to find a new alternative. However, I was very lucky to find mDigger. mDigger is in many respects similar to AvantGo, although it also has a Windows and Mac client. Much of the content offered is similar, although mDigger doesn't have everything that I used to read on AvantGo, nor does it seem to have as much complexity in channels (mDigger calls them mclips). For instance, with AvantGo, you can save your ZIP code in the channel and it will always sync your weather. News channels also have multiple levels of nesting. With mDigger, only one level of nesting is there and I have to pick a specific mclip for my weather region (in this case, Washington DC). But my favorite change in going to mDigger is that it's actually FAST when it syncs! I think AvantGo may have been that fast when I used it back in 2002, but something happened and the service became sluggish and prone to spitting out errors (this despite have switched from dial-up to broadband). mDigger, like AvantGo, supports adding external RSS feeds. Unfortunately, there's no link traversal for feeds so feeds that only have headlines and short summaries aren't very useful for me (this is the same reason I didn't just pick an RSS reader). mDigger also doesn't let you add any old website that you want, although I admittedly rarely used that feature in AvantGo.

All in all, I think mDigger is something I can get along with. But as for AvantGo, RIP.

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