This weekend I had to resort to Joikuspot (software that turns your 3G-cellphone into a wireless gateway to the internet) for my web-needs. Because I encountered a few problems setting up a connection from my Ubuntu laptop, here’s a quick recap for documentations sake.
The rather fundamental issue was that I couldn’t get my computer (a Dell D620 running Ubuntu 8.04 with the iwl3945 driver) to join the ad-hoc wifi-network which Joikuspot (on a Nokia e61i) created. As connecting from my wife’s Windows XP laptop did work, I googled around a bit and it turned out I had to specifically set the channel used by Joikuspot to 1 or 6 instead of “automatic” or 11. Although NetworkManager still seemed confused, this did allow me to connect from the command line (disabling wireless networking in NM first and then using iwconfig and dhclient). But why joining an ad-hoc wifi-network on channel 11 doesn’t work in Ubuntu, that I still don’t know.
With the nineties browser wars and the quasi MSIE monopoly that followed after the Netscape debacle behind us, the desktop browser scene can be considered a mature market, with some verygoodproducts vying for our approval. Time to shift our attention to the next battleground; mobile browsers. Netfront and Pocket Internet Explorer dominated this emerging market for quite some time, but as of late some newcomers are making great advances in this area. And apart from Opera Mobile and Mini (the Mozilla-guys are really ages behind here), these all share the same open source core; WebKit.
The history of WebKit in 10 1/2 sentences
WebKit is a fork of KHTML, the html rendering-engine that was developed by the KDE-community for its Konquerer-browser. In 2002 Apple decided to build it’s own browser based on KHTML and thus WebKit was born as the core-component of what would become Safari. Since it’s inception, WebKit has gained enourmous momentum; Safari now has a market share of approx 6% on the desktop, but smaller projects such as iCab and Epiphany (the Gnome browser!) picked up WebKit as well. But there’s more; Adobe decided to incorporate it in Air (the Flex-like platform for building desktop-software). And Trolltech, the company behind the Qt GUI-toolkit and one of the primary backers of KDE, announced they would include Webkit in Qt 4.4 as well.
Mobile Web, but there’s more then One
So thanks to KDE’s great job on KHTML and Apple’s (and Nokia’s) subsequent work, we are at a point where users of ‘smartphones’ and similar devices can access the internet almost as if they were using a desktop-browser. But screen-size, text-input, data transfer (bandwidth and price) and context remain very different from normal browsing, so don’t believe the “one web”-hype just yet. But still; these sure are great web times for building mobile(-ready) websites and -applications!