Wednesday, 30 September 2009 23:24

I'm sold (maybe)

A great "preview" of the forthcoming Nokia n900 has been posted at my-symbian.com. I say preview with quotes because after you finally get to the bottom of the page you'll reallize there's 3 more!

I've been using a Nokia n800 for several years as many of you know. I've really liked it but have had reservations with recommending it to others. First, if you use only Nokia software it's a stable device but with the plethora of Linux apps out there who would do that? I sure didn't but in order to have room for everything I wanted to run I had to move the OS to the flash card so I'd have more room. After installing about 200 really unstable apps I finally got my list down to about 30 things I use and even then those things aren't completely stable. So my complaints about the n800 was size, maturity of the apps, worthless hardware buttons, size, bad connectivity (with wifi only) and size. You'll notice that I'm a bit unhappy with the size. This is why I'm posting this photo and a link to my-symbian.com's review of the Nokia n900. How it stacks up to the Nokia n800 and iphone 3GS. -

 

 

  n800 n900 iphone
CPU 400 mhz omap2411 600 mgz core8 600 mhz core8
DSP Not used 430mhz 430 mhz
GPU
Not used PowerVR 430mhz PowerVR 430mhz
Storage
256MB (+64GB flash) 32GB (+16GB flash) 16/32GB
RAM
128MB 256MB w/500MB swap 256MB
Camera
640x480 5.1 MP 3.0 MP
Video
640x480 848x480 640x480
Screen size
4.18" 3.5" 3.5"
Screen res 800x480 800x480 320x480
Keyboard
onscreen Slideout/onscreen onscreen
Wifi 54Mb 54Mb 54Mb
Cell Net none 10 Mb HSDPA 7.2 Mb HSDPA
Published in Gadget Blog

I've been pondering a smart phone since they've been getting better and it's not because I want a phone but I want a MID (Mobile Internet Device) that connects everywhere so I have constant connectivity to IM, email, web etc.. With the n800 you have to be near an open wifi access point which gets irritating to say the least. Using DNS tunnelling you can connect through many access points that are open but require monthly fees but since AT&T opened their access points at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble this is less useful. I was really excited about the n810 wimax edition but Nokia pulled it because of a lack of wimax network. Now I see Sprint advertising 4G with their Palm Pre which is wimax. We still don't have access in the Seattle area although it's coming. So I've narrowed my choice down to an Android phone (not the G1) the Palm Pre or Nokia's new MID/Phone the n900.

To be honest the Maemo OS on the n800 isn't that great but it gets the job done. It can be unstable, the apps are amateurish and it needs to be reloaded every so often so I wasn't that excited about the n900 but it seems that Nokia has actually gotten serious about Maemo. The screenshots look wonderful and it looks like they've decided to actually make an interface for a small device instead of a tiny computer Desktop.

 

Published in Gadget Blog
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:39

Mac OSX on Nokia n900? Sometimes I wonder..

Sometimes I don't know why people do what they do outside of the fact that they can. Here's a Youtube video of someone who got Mac OSX to work on a Nokia n900.

Published in Gadget Blog
Thursday, 22 January 2009 08:56

n810 wimax discontinued

I have been a long time user of the Nokia Mobile Internet Devices (MID) and but have always had a few complaints with them. I wish my n800 was smaller, faster, more stable and had better internet range. The OS and applications are getting more stable with time but I can't do anything about the speed factor. The n810 wimax would have taken care of the the size and range issues. That is if Nokia hadn't discontinued it.

According to Nokia the U.S. rollout of Wimax is taking longer than expected. My first thought is to sell it anyway because it's barely more expensive than the n800 but I can also see there point. They sell a device that can access internet anywhere in a city but it only works in 6 cities. Wimax is coming to Seattle in March I believe through Clearwire so I was waiting until then to buy it. If it takes another year to roll out Wimax in all major U.S. cities then Nokia could have another device out by then. Rumor has it that the next Nokia MID will have a 3g cell connection. At that point I hope Nokia finally invests some time into the OS because it's not up to iphone, Palm Pre or Google's Android phone OS. It's not a "Linux isn't good enough" thing because the last two in the list I mentioned are Linux, the first is Unix based. Who would have thought the 50 year old server Operating System would dominate the Smart Phone world?

So I guess I hang out and keep using the n800 until I know more. Or God forbid start looking into a smart phone. I will NOT go down the iphone route because I don't want anyone telling me that I can't install something on a device I bought nor do I think using one application at a time is adequate. I'd like a Palm Pre but after using a 4.13" screen I'm not sure I could browse the web on a 3.1" screen. Maybe in the coming months more Android phones will come out. I'll wait.

Published in Gadget Blog
Saturday, 28 May 2011 18:43

New Photography galleries

I haven't done a lot in the way of photography blogging or even uploading photos lately since I've not been on vacation. Most of the photos here have to do with food or travel but I've just added a new menu item under Photography labelled Galleries. Generic I know and I'll probably change it but these are galleries that have to do with photography itself as opposed to photos for other purposes. What spawned this was that I have a gallery of photos taken with my Canon S90 where I'm just showing off the camera to see what it can do. I decided to share. Another thing happened that spurred this decision is that I bought a Nokia n900 cell phone. If you're wondering what a cell phone has to do with photography you've obviously not seen the photos this thing takes. I'm not going to say they're camera quality but I'm very very impressed so far especially within the context of "cell phone". The photo to the right was taken with the Nokia. See what I mean? So in the future I'll be taking more photos with both my S90 and the n900 just to show off what the cameras can do. Currently I'm thinking of taking a Vehicle mount for the Nokia and hacking it into a tripod mount since it doesn't have a mount on it. It might seem silly to take photos with a cell phone but it's also fun to see just HOW good they can be. The standard Nokia software is about as good as aftermarket Android camera software. I downloaded Bless900 which allows me to take RAW and HDR photos with the nokia so I'll be playing with that too.

Published in Photography Blog
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 03:59

Nokia n900 live

I've been a maemo MID user for several years and when I bought my Nokia n800 I was amazed at how easy wireless networking and bluetooth were. At the time Linux was very difficult to setup in this area. Times have changed and the Maemo OS has pretty much stood still. Each successive release we got a new set of bugs and not much else. Things have gotten slightly more stable but for the most part the n800 is underpowered and the UI is aimed at desktop users but with a 4 inch screen. The new Freemantle is supposed to be a drastic change from the past and by this video it looks like it. From the beginning Nokia wasn't committed to the Linux based mobile Internet devices and put all of their resources behind the Symbian OS they own and the Linux OS always seemed more like an experiment than anything. I guess the experiment is over because they've done a ton of work on Freemantle. I've read that it's the first of the next gen Linux MID OSes but it isn't the final one. Freemantle will have a GTK gui and the next one after that will be QT which Nokia now owns. The one improvement that I think they need is to stabalize the software. I don't know if a Communist/Apple approach is best but you have to admit that iphone apps generally work and maemo apps don't. Anyway check out the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrYqemylpIo
Published in Gadget Blog

I've been very excited about Android for quite some time. It's nice to see a form of Linux take over the mobile device market. Until the beginning of the 2011 year though hadn't personally experienced Android. For the couple of year before I got my phone I'd been using Nokia's Mobile Internet Devices (n800/n810) which have served me well outside of not having Internet connections everywhere. Nokia understood this and made the n900 a cell phone and released a new more finger friendly Maemo 5 operating system for it too. Because they needed to get the phone out as soon as possible they kept Maemo 4's Hildon (gtk) based gui with the idea of going to a QT based GUI for Maemo 6. Nokia had just purchased QT for millions of dollars. And then something happened, Android started to gain traction so Nokia did what any smart company would do - join resources with another large corporation getting the snot beat out of them - Intel. Intel had a mobile operating system called Moblin which was designed primarily for tablets. Nokia's Maemo had largely been a small tablet OS and since both were based on Linux it made sense to merge and form MeeGo. This however, put an already late project (Maemo 6) an additional year behind in the merging Maemo and Moblin into MeeGo. This resulted in Nokia being in a bad position as their Symbian OS was getting very long in the tooth.

Years ago I had a Psion Revo+, the forerunner to Symbian which I liked a lot. I wrote applications for it in the included OPL language. Then Psion spun off the OS and every major cell phone company jumped on the bandwagon but it was really Nokia that carried the torch. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when a company called MobilePC accidentally sent me a Nokia N97 instead of a Nokia N900.

Without knowing it was a mess-up I took the Nokia from the box and immediately I thought I'd been ripped off. The phone said N-Series and felt very very cheap. My first thought was that it was a Chinese clone of the N900. I powered it up and the operating system looked like it was from a different era, it felt very clunky and not very intuitive. It was only then that I looked under the LCD screen and saw that it was a Nokia N97. Having only dealt with the Nokia MIDs I was shocked that this hunk of junk could be a Nokia. Looking at the specs it looked great - 32 GB of flash, 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens,  3.5 inch screen, Quad Band cell radio and more. This appears to be a thoroughly modern phone - however, I'd be ashamed selling it. Without thinking (or doing a proper review) I put it back in the box and sent it to MobilePC then waited patiently for way to long for my N900. In hindsight I probably should have spent a day or two with it so I could give it a proper chance but since I didn't my opinion that it's a hunk of junk stands.

As soon as the N900 arrived I took it out of the box and immediately knew I was dealing with a completely different animal. Even though it is only 1 ounce heavier it feels good. It feels like it was made of good solid materials. The screen is sharp and clear, the keyboard slides with a satisfying clunk and the plastic case even feels better. They clearly are spending more money making this phone than the N97. The specs look similar with a 3.5 inch screen, 32 GB of flash, Quad band, same lens and so on but boy is there a difference. Powering it up introduced me to Maemo 5 which is definitely different than Maemo 4. A lot of the same applications are available in updated versions, the gui effects show off the beefier hardware and it's way faster than my old N810 tablet. It however, doesn't have the "start menu" for lack of better term. Instead it has desktops not unlike Android and it has a "view all applications" mode just like Android. What's different though is how widespread widgets are and how easy it is to switch between running applications. I'll be doing a video later but for the record Maemo is a breath of fresh air after using Android for 5 months. My biggest concern going back to Maemo was that Android has about 160,000 apps and Maemo has about 400. What I'm finding out is that if an OS is designed properly you only need about 10 apps. With Android I spent a lot of time just trying apps and finding out none of them did what I wanted. Things like having a weather widget on the desktop showing the next 4 or 5 days weather forcast. I can glance at it while I'm getting ready to launch an app without having to start a weather app, then leave it running because Android doesn't shut anything down. With Maemo I have more than one weather widget that does exactly what I want. There will be apps I miss though like Yelp and OneBusAway. I'm looking into writing a version of the latter for Maemo though.

Overall it's a very nice piece of hardware. I LOVE the stylus (any screen under 5 inches needs a stylus no matter how clever the interface designers are), the OS is fast and shows no noticeable slowdown when multitasking, it doesn't need to be "rooted" to work right, it's Linux so if you want to overclock the CPU to 1100 mhz you can, it has Video Out, FM radio, FM transmitter, 32 GB built in memory and expansion for another 32 GB, decent audio, a really nice camera for a phone and it seems very stable.

Update two weeks later:

I've now been using my n900 for a couple of weeks and I'm very frustrated, not with the n900 or Maemo but with Nokia. Are they really that stupid? Their plan was to move to QT for Maemo 6 then that got shelved for the MeeGo joint venture with Intel. The reason I'm frustrated is that Maemo 5 is a very very nice product. Once in a while you'll find an app screen that doesn't look finished (the app manager) but it's rare. The overall user experience with Maemo 5 and the apps built into it is so much nicer than Android (I have 2.2) that I'm just speechless as to why Nokia couldn't make a decision or stand behind a product. I just don't know what to say. Really Nokia, are you on drugs? I'll do a proper review of the n900 when I calm down. :-)

Published in Gadget Blog
Sunday, 02 December 2012 16:14

Open Mobile Linux History

Due to the fracturing of the  (remaining)  open mobile platforms I thought I'd do a brief history and where they've ended up now. When I refer to open mobile platforms I primarily mean Linux based mobile operating systems, most of which come from one tree - Maemo.

The Early Years of the MID

Maemo is/was largely an unrestricted Debian based Linux operating system. There was no reason to "root" it as we have to with other Mobile Operating systems outside of just installing a package and typing sudo gainroot. From that point on you could treat it like any other Linux platform.


Nokia named this OS2005 (Mistral) starting the yearly mobile OS release pattern. A year later OS2006 (Scirocco/Gregale) came out improving performance and allowing it to access 2 GB memory cards. Both of these operating systems were used on the Nokia n770 MID. OS2007 (Bora) was released for the n800, arguably the first usable MID from Nokia. I had an n800 and used it for several years. The OS would remind a lot of people of Ubuntu's Unity desktop, although not as irritating.

The Late Years of the MID

OS2008 (Maemo 4 - Chinook) was released on the new Nokia n810 but also worked on the n800 if you wanted to install it (I did). Maemo 4 was a much more matured product which also switched out the Opera web browser for a cut down version of Firefox (MicroB). Maemo 4.1 (Diablo)  was released as Diablo and offered as an upgrade to OS2008. This included the ability to update the OS without reflashing and a WiMax stack for the n810 WiMax device that didn't survive long because the WiMax network was virtually non-existent.

I owned both an n800 which I upgraded from OS2007 to OS2008 and eventually Diablo. I also owned an n810 although at that time I was getting ready to move onto a more powerful device that would give me Internet all the time - a smart phone.

 

Open Smart Phones

Maemo 5 (Fremantle) was released on the Nokia n900 smart phone and had a completely redesigned user interface. It looked less like a computer desktop and more like a mobile device interface. It did however, still have a real Debian based operating system underpinning it. Nokia bought the QT interface system and announced they were moving all platforms to it. All previous versions of Maemo used Hildon (GTK) so Maemo 5 shipped with the QT libraries included although they weren’t really used for anything. This meant Maemo 5 could run QT applications.

I own an n900 and love the hell out of it. I don't have apps for Yelp or some of the other things I need but I do have a real ssh terminal, Xchat, rsync and most anything else I want. The multitasking on it is amazing and more powerful than virtually any other Mobile OS platform. Overall it's a great little operating system.

Maemo 6 (Harmattan) was a Debian based OS released on the Nokia n9/n950 mobile phones with an entirely new interface. At this point Nokia had decided that teaming with Intel to create one Linux based mobile platform was a great strategy. This merging of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin was named MeeGo. Confusingly enough Nokia labeled Maemo 6 - MeeGo 1.2.  Maemo 6 moved the interface to QT which opened up a lot of mobile apps because Symbian also used QT. I would buy a Nokia n950 in a heartbeat if I could find one. It was released only for developers. I may buy an n9 anyway.


The Death of Maemo

With Maemo 6 (Harmattan) Nokia started using the MeeGo label even though it was really Maemo underneath. The official MeeGo spec existed and used a Redhat package based Linux distribution as it’s base. Maemo 6 (Harmattan) was clearly a Debian based revision of Maemo.

MeeGo
MeeGo was announced by Nokia and Intel in 2010. The real MeeGo also existed at the time Nokia released Maemo 6 (Harmattan) but wasn’t ready for production. The merging of Maemo and Moblin set back the release of MeeGo by at least a year, some say two.

MeeGo was a very aggressive movement that was going to be THE mobile platform for everything from phones, entertainment systems, handsets, netbooks, tablets and in-vehicle-entertainment. Underneath would be the same MeeGo operating system using different graphical interfaces. The Netbook interface was basically Intel’s Moblin. The Smartphone interface was all new (and not the interface Nokia developed for Maemo 6 (which they dubbed MeeGo too).

MeeGo continued the use of QT as it’s graphical interface and used RPM as it’s package format. The last version of MeeGo released was (confusingly again) version 1.2. The official MeeGo 1.2 has very little to do with Nokia’s MeeGo 1.2.


The Death of MeeGo

Nokia hired a former Microsoft guy named Stephen Elop as it’s CEO. Elop decided that it would be in Nokia’s best interest to kill off MeeGo and Symbian smartphone operating systems and adopt Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.  At this point Symbian had 22% of the cell phone marketshare, Windows Mobile had 3%. Symbian though, was on a downward spiral as it had 73% in 2006. In those 5 years it had lost 50% to Android and Apple’s iOS. Nokia before Elop planned on MeeGo taking over the torch. Nokia after Elop planned on offering ONLY Windows Phone devices.  Nokia’s stock went from $10 in early 2011 to $3 in late 2012.

Nokia started work on yet another Linux based Mobile platform called Meltemi to replace low end series 40 smartphones which they sold 1.5 billion of. In 2012 Nokia laid off the Meltemi development group and canceled Meltemi. All non-Windows mobile operating systems are now dead at Nokia.

After Nokia’s announcement Intel immediately responded with a message pledging its support for MeeGo. Several months later after realizing they haven’t written one single line of decent software in decades they realized they were in trouble and canceled MeeGo.


Open Mobile Linux Phone Branches

The first open Linux mobile platform LiMO (which went mostly nowhere) changed it’s name to Tizen in 2011.

Samsung the second largest manufacturer of phones after Nokia and lover of every operating system on the planet wants to better control it’s destiny so enters into a deal with Intel to develop -
Tizen. Tizen will have a lot of MeeGo and LiMO underneath but use HTML5 as it’s graphical Interface. A bunch of companies sign on to produce Tizen devices just like they did for Symbian and MeeGo. Supposedly the first devices come out Q1 2013. Last year they said Q2 2012. We’ll see.

Samsung announces that applications created for it’s other open source mobile OS -
Bada will work on Tizen. Bada is reportedly based on BSD but I don’t know much more.


The open source
Mer project which had focused on bringing Maemo 5 to Maemo 4 devices changed it’s focus to continuing the development of MeeGo.  Mer should be considered MeeGo core only and will be used as the foundation for other Open Mobile devices.

Nemo Mobile is one such project.
Nemo uses Mer as the core and the user interface is based on MeeGo Handset.

A Finish company comprising mostly of ex-Nokia developers called Jola has announced that they’re developing an OS called Sailfish using Mer and Nemo and sporting a custom phone interface. I may be that Sailfish is the first Mer device to be in production.

Plasma Active a KDE group uses Mer as the foundation for it’s mobile OS. Plasma Active gained fame for being the OS of the Spark Tablet which due to legal issues was renamed the Vivaldi tablet. There were issues with the Chinese manufacturer changing the hardware and then not offering the kernel source code for it. Thus the Vivaldi tablet never made it into production. You can however, make your own Vivaldi Tablet by buying a Zenithink C71 Android Tablet and install Plasma Active on it. The C71 is no longer available and there's no garauntee that Plasma Active would work on a newer tablet.




Plasma ActiveWhere does that leave us if we want an Open Mobile Linux device?

You have several options if you’d like to have an Open Mobile Linux device.

There are supposed to be Tizen devices by Q1 2013 so wait.
There are supposed to be Sailfish devices by Q1 2013 so wait.
There is already supposed to be a Plasma Active device (hardware supply problems) so wait.
You can always use a Maemo 5 (n900) or Maemo 6 (n9, n950) phone like do while you wait for these solutions.
You can try your hand at Open WebOS which isn’t based on Maemo is an Open Mobile Linux platform using javascript as it’s user interface. It doesn’t actually seem to run on anything but you can always hope.
You can keep using Android hoping that at some point Google will improve it instead of just moving widgets around. After-all you do have Connectbot for ssh so why are you complaining?





Published in Gadget Blog
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 13:25

The Chinese are coming!

I've been a long time user of Nokia's Internet tablets and have been looking at upgrading to something that has a cell and/or wimax connection to the internet so today I started googling. I've heard of people getting iphones refurbished for under $100 and just signing up for a data-only plan at AT@T so they essentially have an ipod touch with a cell connection (as apposed to wifi only) for $15 a month. I considered that but have issues with Apple's policies concerning what *I can do with the device that *I own.

Anyway as you may remember from past articles I've also been looking at Nokia's n900 phone. It's more Mobile Internet Device than phone although it does make calls. This is very similar to the iphone being a better media player than phone. The n900 though is still pretty pricy and there's questions about it's future since Nokia and Intel have merged their mobile OS efforts into Meego. Some n900 owners don't know if the n900 will be able to run MeeGo or not so I'm undecided on it. However I did turn up this "N900 Style" cell phone device made in China. From a distance it's pretty convincing until you read the comments and the FAQ. I'm providing a link but also giving an excerpt.

Interesting Specs

  • Support Extend (Memory) Card  2G
  • Camera Pictrue Resolution  640×480/240×400/400×240/160×120/80×60
  • Screen Resolution VGA(240×320 pixels)

Question and Answer

Can anyone tell me if the N900 style phone being sold by LightInTheBox has the linux based Maemo operating system like the actual Nokia N900? If so this is the tech deal of the century.

Sorry - this phone is based on the MTK operating system.

Does this have resistive or capacitive touch functionality?

Sorry, but this device does not have a touchscreen function.

Does this phone has a wifi ??

Sorry, this phone doesn't have WiFi.

Interesting device but there sure a lot of sorrys in the answers. It looks like an n900 down to the bulge around the camera bezel. However, where the n900 has 32GB of ram built in with support for another 16GB this pile of crap can be *expanded to 2GB max. Instead of the 5MP camera on the n900 this thing has a .7 MP webcam. Instead of Maemo Linux this has something called MTK operating system which nobody knows anything about and more than likely is also crap. The nice thing is it only costs $125 or so. It's even compatible with your Nokia charger.

Published in Gadget Blog