Mobile Dev Joy : The Adventure with Mobile Browser

My post today will be rather technical, but I’m sure some will find it interesting because it’s about a topic that’s not as widely discussed as others. Some may even find it useful. It’s about my brief stunt with mobile development.

Some time ago I was asked to look at a web-based apps which is to be used with a mobile phone. A Nokia E70 to be exact. It’s based on Symbian S60 3rd edition platform. Basically, a Javascript which is supposed to run won’t. So I looked into it.

This piece of Javascript is vital for usability reasons. Without it, the input process will take up to 50% longer. So I thought, yeah I’ll set aside a bit of my time and hack this.

Then I realized that when I thought the browser situation on the PC / desktop platform is a mess; it actually look very tidy and well-ordered compared to the situation on the mobile platform 🙂

First, mobile platform is much more limited — in terms of CPU / processor power, memory capacity, secondary storage (hard disk / flash ram) capacity, power, etc. These limitations in turn must be taken into account by all mobile browsers. Which causes various quirks / incompatibilities to surface when you dig deeper into it.

Second, free(dom) software has not yet made as much impact here as it is on the desktop. Therefore we have plethora of proprietary technologies, which sometimes doesn’t work together / conform to the open standards.

Third, there’s not as many documentations available on the topic. As I googled around, I realized in horror that I may have to hack around much more than I thought necessary.

Back to the hack – first thing I tried was to install Opera mobile (not Opera mini). Yes, we’re willing very willing to pay Opera if it works. In short – the Javascript works on it.
Unfortunately, Opera mobile crashes around so much, it’s impossible to enjoy any kind of productivity with it.

Also there are a LOT of quirks with Opera mobile when used with keypad.
They are small things, but gets annoying very quickly. Which doesn’t help when you’re trying to accomplish good amount of work.

Maybe it’d be better if I try an older version of it, but seeing it consume too much RAM anyway; I thought I’ll give the built-in browser a try first.

Called “Nokia Mini Map Browser” because of its “mini map” feature, it’s speedier than Opera mobile and doesn’t use as much memory. However, the Javascript on our web-apps doesn’t work there.

So I thought, perhaps this browser doesn’t support the latest version of Javascript. Or worse, perhaps it has its own version of Javascript. That would suck greatly.
Anyway, I started to try looking for documentation on the topic, also for a tool to help me debug the problems there.

I found Nokia Mobile Browser Simulator 4.0. It’s Java-based. However, it seems to be hard-coded for Windows, with Windows installer too. Ok so I found a Windows machine, and set it up.

To my dismay, it doesn’t work very reliably. To be precise, it won’t even load the web-apps. While the actual browser in Nokia E70 will display it correctly.

With documentation on the subject (Javascript capabilities of Nokia Mini Map Browser) also very lacking, this is starting to look like a dead end.
Until I found out that the Nokia Mini Map Browser is actually an open source project !

Code named “S60browser”, or “S60Webkit”, it’s available from opensource.nokia.com
There’s hope – if there’s code available, then anything can always be traced / found out.

My sharp-minded readers will quickly realize another thing – yes, it’s basically the same as the Safari browser, the one on Mac OS X 🙂

Nokia Mini Map Browser aka S60browser aka S60Webkit is based on another open source project called WebKit. Which happens to be the foundation used as well by Apple to build their browser, Safari.

Now this is getting interesting 🙂

I dug deeper into these new clues, and began to feel sure that both browser’s cores are indeed identical. Which means that I’d be able to debug the problem with Safari browser.

safari-pref-advanced
I fired up Safari, invoked the Preferences screen, and clicked on Advanced icon. I enabled “Show Develop menu in menu bar”, then I restarted Safari. A new menu then showed up. I chose Develop – Show Web Inspector (also accessible via Cmd-Alt-i)

I got the detailed error message in no time. It’s “Object [object HTMLInputElement] (result of expression document.getElementById(“testForm”).submit) does not allow calls“.
As I already mentioned, the script works on Firefox and Opera, but somehow it doesn’t work on Safari. So it’s Googling time again.

Turn out it’s a generic error message whenever Safari have problems executing a function.
So it could be that the function doesn’t exist. Or the function name is mispelled. Or any other function-calling related problems.
Great, looks like this will cause more questions than it answers…

Thankfully I wasn’t on the wild goose chase for too long. A comment on a blog post gave me the hint I needed :

I gave a form button the *same name* as the function it was calling in its onclick. This error was the result.

Joshua, thank you. That’s exactly what happened in my case 🙂
A line in the script is as follows :

document.getElementById(“testForm”).submit();

While there’s also a button on the same script named, you guessed it, submit :

<input type=”submit” name=submit />

So Safari got confused, and threw this generic error message.

And it’s very easy to fix, I just need to change the button’s name value to something else – and it works now on Safari & Nokia Mini Map Browser, as well as on Firefox and Opera.

I love happy endings 🙂

Moral of the story ? Open source software empowers developers.

And this is not the first time – my MSc thesis was about to fail; when I found ping’s source code on the Internet. It gave me the hint needed to continue the project. The thesis got among the best mark at that year.

With availability of the source, we can learn from the brightest minds on Earth with ease. The knowledge and wisdom become available for all.
Even to the ones with feeble minds, like me.

Here’s another cheer for free(dom) software movement : May the source be with you 🙂

(oh, and also, all hail Google !)

242 thoughts on “Mobile Dev Joy : The Adventure with Mobile Browser

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Sarah

    http://grillsblog.com

  2. Input tags submit dengan name=”submit” memang dosa masa lalu yang terus menghantui. Banyak kode2 lama saya yang masih seperti itu, dan akan menimbulkan masalah di browser baru maupun di kode javascript menggunakan framework, seperti jQuery.
    Banyak sekali ilmu sesat dari dahulu kala, yang sadar atau tidak sudah kita gunakan di kode yang kita tulis. Saatnya sekarang mengikuti standar W3C 🙂

  3. Wah posting yang sangat menarik mas.
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    jangan lupa DAFTAR ya.. ditunggu… 🙂

  4. I like the analogy clint but you’r e frogetting one other player:Microsoft they’ve had eindows moblile phone for quite some time now and there doesn’t seem to be the same mass market shift that you’r e talking about.Perhaps it is because the cailber of the apps on windows moblie are not as compelling or is it because windows suffers form having too many installed and slow dowen or corrupt the phone

  5. What about BlackBerry?
    .
    I found no words explaining on it, or maybe I overlooked at it 🙂
    .
    Thanks for the info…

  6. I love happy endings too… hehe

    and I agree with U… Open source software really empowers developers…

  7. Interesting post, but I don’t agree new devices with mobile platforms are limited of resources. I have no problems browsing, but had a lot with programming for mobile platforms. Thanks for the post!

  8. You’re right, it was a bit technical, but I was able to follow along. This was a great post. Very informative and helpful. I personally run Microsoft Mobile from my phone.

  9. Oh wow, Nokia’s browser is based off of webkit?! I had no idea, that’s totally awesome. I love my blackberry, but I’m now I’m envious of Nokia owners.

  10. I didn’t know that Nokia’s browser was based off of webkit either! I have a Motorola, i’m pretty happy with its microsoft applications. I think you should write more posts in english! i really liked this one!

    -nick

  11. Interesting post, but I don’t agree new devices with mobile platforms are limited of resources. I have no problems browsing, but had a lot with programming for mobile platforms. Thanks for the post!

  12. @yonna – blackberry is a mystery to me 🙂 I don’t know much about it. I own Nokia E71, considered as BB’s rival. Technically more powerful, but usability-wise, not as excellent. But I’m a techie 🙂 hence the choice.
    .
    Sorry for not answering your question, hopefully someone else will be able to answer it.

  13. Wow these are looking great..Thanks for your good information keep it online and one more think your blog load faster.can you share where you host your blog..i think you can email me..

  14. Very nice post! But as for me I have no problems browsing, but have a lot with programming for mobile platforms. I have the same mobile phone as you are and in concept I dont regret that I bought it.

  15. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Sarah

  16. Thank you so much for giving me a lot of information. I could say that I personally run a Microsoft Mobile from my phone. I now know that Nokia’s browser is based on webkit.

  17. Opensource has really changed the landscape of software and indeed, may the source be with you too !!

  18. You’re right, it was a bit technical, but I was able to follow along. This was a great post. Very informative and helpful.

  19. I’m also using the Opera Mini! Awesome little browser… 🙂
    I’m waiting for my new N97, I should get it in a few days, and I’ll see what improvements they have there.

  20. While the Simbian browser is pretty good when compared to other mobile browsers, I think that the Opera Mini browser is the best mobile browser available. I’m using it on my N95…

  21. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.i am very happy to read this blog.

  22. Interesting post, but I don’t agree new devices with mobile platforms are limited of resources. I have no problems browsing, but had a lot with programming for mobile platforms.

    Anyway Thanks for the post!

  23. Nice article
    Thank you so much for giving me a lot of information. I could say that I personally run a Microsoft Mobile from my phone. I now know that Nokia’s browser is based on webkit

  24. Mobile Web Server lets you name your device and make it accessible in the Internet with a browser. The software includes several applications from content …

  25. How do we enable javascript to work in the e51? In laymens terms pls.

    The settings say javascript enabled but i still cant access certain links or functions. Im using nokia’s builtin browser too.

  26. That’s good you’ve decided to write on mobile dev and mobile browsing in particular – it’s not often onecan find an article that makes sense related to the topic.
    My colleague actually has Nokia E70, so I forwarded the post to him – hope he’ll have the same interesting time reading it that i had

  27. Ya i too agree you have discussed a topic that is quite different. Your information about mobile browser seemed to be effective. You elaborately explained certain aspects which proved to be fruitful.

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  30. meskipun english sy acak2an.. pi sedikit2 saya bisa nangkep isinya…. nice info pak harry…. keep posting..

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  32. Your experience is very important to be shared. We have many things that can be shared each other in case we find the same problems. Thank you for your information.

  33. Mobile Dev Joy is great software to maximize our mobile’s function. Yes, it’s great solution to get maximum improvement of our phone. Thanks for sharing

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  37. I personally don’t like nokia coz it’s easy to get some virus. But I guess there are a lot of tools to get rid of it. Still most tech freaks still prefer this over other brands.

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  40. agree with this comment:
    I like the analogy clint but you’r e frogetting one other player:Microsoft they’ve had eindows moblile phone for quite some time now and there doesn’t seem to be the same mass market shift that you’r e talking about.Perhaps it is because the cailber of the apps on windows moblie are not as compelling or is it because windows suffers form having too many installed and slow dowen or corrupt the phone game pc download gratis

  41. It would be the Best tech gear. who wont love to use it? Despite basic things now mobile usage will definitely grow for special purposes like internet technology as well.

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  43. I know that computer is a necessary for most of people. People can’t work without computer. With the development of tech. More high speed computer was develped and people can improve the work easily. Happy every body.

  44. I have no problems in browsing, but have a lot of problem with programming for mobile platforms. Hope your tips will be helpful for me to solve my problem..

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  46. Thanks for the interesting post. I look forward to reading more from you in the future. Keep it up!

  47. This post but why i used it.If my mobile have slow down when we use it and install is to symbian s60 mobiles.S60 already have many advantages which i do simply then why i use such a difficult task.

  48. ! think that I don’t like mobile browser. always with small display. too small sometimes

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