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Mobile Colloquy review – version 1.0

Mobile Colloquy, the mobile counterpart of the popular Mac OS X IRC client, has hit Apples AppStore.

Even though this is the first release in its current form (there once was a version for jailbroken iPhones) and is only at version 1.0 right now, it already has quite a huge featurelist and a very polished UI. It’s built using the same framework, called Chat Core, as the desktop version.

The mobile version is opensource too, but unlike the desktop version – which is free – it costs $1.99 (€1.59). The sourcecode is freely available from SVN though, so you may build your own version – provided you do have Apples iPhone SDK.

As already mentioned, the user-interface is really clean and intuitive for Mac-users – but users coming from other operating systems won’t have a problem with it either as it is kind of self-explanatory and everything does what you expect it to do.

Auto-connect on startup is there, auto-join channels is included – although that is currently lacking the ability to automatically join keyed / +k channels which you however can do manually. In the Advanced Settings screen you can configure stuff like SSL for connections, change the port you connect to and specify a password for Nickserv and the likes.

Once you’re done configuring your stuff you’re presented with a two-tabbed screen where you can see your current connections on one (“Connections”) and on the other tab (“Colloquies”) you do have your channels and private messages. This screen is sorted by networks with each networks open channels and private messages associated to it. Each of the channels and queries can have a small bubble next to it that displays the numbers of unread lines from the last time you looked into it and if somebody highlighted you it’ll display a red bubble next to the blue one – very neat and very clearly laid out.

One thing IRC nuts may hate to see is the timer in the Connection tab – you now easily can see how much time you are wasting on IRC – Advice: turn a blind eye.

In the Colloquies tab you can see the last few lines of every channel and PM so you can determine whats going on even when not paying attention to a particular channel. Speaking of highlights – by default it’ll highlight when somebody says your nick – but the list of things to highlight on is expandable. And to top it all off – when somebody highlights you, the phone vibrates – or not, when you disable it.

Choice on what to en- or disable seems to be a strength of Mobile Colloquy – there is a boatload of options to choose from and each one comes with a pretty sane default, not all bells and whistles are enabled by default which i think is a plus. Bells and whistles it does have quite a few, you even can pick one of various styles. Want your conversations to look like you know from the SMS app on the phone? No problem, just pick the according style! The downside of changing styles is that you have to close down Mobile Colloquy for that and go to the iPhones settings, change it, and start it again.

But not all is lost – literally – as it saves parts of the last chatter on the channels you visited and displays it once you get back into them – not quite a bouncer with log replay, but hey…

Aside from the “usual stuff” like color support and basic formatting like writing in bold and underlined it does have a few notable and distinctive features too. For one, it sports nick completion from the input box – you start to type and it matches your input against the nicklist; you then only have to tap the upcoming hint to have it “tab-completed” – very cute and useful. iPhone users with firmware 2.2 and up do get graphical emoticons too (not pictured here as i’m still on 2.1).

Revolutionary for IRC apps on the iPhone can the next feature be called: Typing in landscape mode! Yes, you read that right – tilt your device to the side and there you go. But this is not only for the chat screens, also the two-tabbed main screen works in landscape mode – nifty!

Also unique is the searchable nicklist you can reach by hitting the “people” icon in the upper right in channel view. From there you can do the expected things: /whois and query the selected person. Not so unique but useful nonetheless is the built-in browser you can use to surf to a link from within Mobile Colloquy – you can open that link in Mobile Safari from there then too (or open it with Mobile Safari by default if you set it like that) but that involves closing down the chat app as you already might have guessed.

To sum it all up, chatting with Mobile Colloquy is a great experience and not far from that offered by desktop software – it’s just that seamless and intuitive! The few quirks here and there are probably ironed out in the near future as the developer-team is pretty open to suggestions and with a 1.0.1 bugfix release just around the corner they’re already one step closer.

Thanks go to jane and kiji from the Mobile Colloquy team for providing me with a free copy of it to write this review – i guess i’ll keep using it if i am allowed ;)

Thanks go to avarus too as he helped me getting that image stuff right – finally…

Note: Just as i’ve hit the “Publish” button, the 1.0.1 update was available in the AppStore so grab it while it’s hot.

Client Review: Rooms for the iPhone

When the iPhone first hit the stores, it was a long time where there was no native IRC client available for it and there was no other option than jailbreaking the phone to get one.

Luckily for all IRC users among the iPhone owners, Björn Teichmann created Rooms to fill that gap.

Now being available in version 0.6.8 (and 0.7.0 in a few days) from the AppStore, it already has matured quite a bit, is pretty usable and incorporates most features one could think of to make it a full-blown client that caters to almost everyones needs.

It supports auto connect on start as well as auto join, multiple nets and channels at the same time and even lets you connect using SSL if the network of your choice supports it. Joining keyed (+k) channels isn’t a problem either and even lets you save those so you’ll also be autojoined on connect in these if you want it to. It has a built-in browser which you can use to go to websites directly from within the Rooms GUI so you don’t have to close it down in order to check a link someone pasted in a channel.

Logging your conversations is possible too, auto identifying to NickServ as well as password support for servers which lets you connect to your bouncer easily. If that isn’t enough you can also make it supply arbitrary commands on connect so the possibilities are really endless in that regard.
It supports actions (/me), private messages and has a raw console if you really have to perform a command that is not possible otherwise.

Now with Rooms nearing it’s 0.7.0 release it there have been a boatload of bugfixes and feature additions (complete changelog here). The UI has undergone quite a few changes here and there in the upcoming version of which i will include a few screenshots below.

The main chat window:

Rooms main chat window

Rooms main chat window

As users of the current 0.6.8 version will notice, Rooms now supports colors and has gotten a new icon on the lower left instead of the old “i” (0.7.0 was sent in for review with an apple as the icon which Apple didn’t seem to like, as it is the reason why they delayed/halted the release…).

A look at the popup windows that let you select some options and the nick you want to PRIVMSG:

Rooms nicklist

Rooms nicklist

Rooms main menu popup

Rooms main menu popup

And finally, let’s have a look at the revised settings dialog (the screenshot just shows parts of it, there’s quite a bit more to fiddle with):

Rooms settings dialog

Rooms settings dialog

Another thing users of non-jailbroken phones will love is the possibility to turn off the at times annoying spellcheck – fix this on a global scale please, Apple :)

Oh and you can now, provided you have sufficient rights in that channel, kick and op users too – so Rooms is really getting there to become a full-featured client that doesn’t need to hide itself from it’s desktop counterparts. The author encourages Rooms users to submit bug reports and feature requests on his bugtracker so stuff that needs to be worked on might be just an update or two away.

Summing it up i have to say that chatting on the iPhone with Rooms is quite a pleasure and you sometimes forget that you are doing so on a mobile handheld device. Also, being available for just $2.99 (2.39€) it is more than worth it’s price (calling it cheap would be insulting i guess ;) ).

Hacker Close to Cracking iPhone

Hackers united in #iphone are close to cracking the iPhone, several media reported this week.

Once cracked, the phone can be used with different providers, and third party software can be used on the phone. Additionally, the phone can then be used in parts of the world where it is not released yet, such as Europe and Asia.

Jon Lech Johansen, well known as DVD Jon, was one of the first to release a hack for the iPhone. The hack would activate the phone and the Wi-Fi capabilities. The device can not yet operate as a telephone with this hack however, but Jon has an answer to that on his blog, “Stay tuned!”

Hackers from #iphone are now working on an assembler utility for the iPhone’s processor. “This is our last major hurdle to overcome in order to write programs for the phone,” a spokesman of the hackers said last week.

When they can run their own programs on the iPhone they will be able to circumvent the provider lock, which is AT&T’s EDGE network.

Others hacks released so far include one that will allow users to select their own ringtone.