The Deliverator – Wannabee

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Introducing the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet!……meh

Posted by Deliverator on 18th October 2007

Yesterday, Nokia soft-launched their 3rd internet tablet product, the N810.

Nokia N810

The device will be available for purchase in about a month for around $470. I have been an avid 770 and N800 user, but I am not at all convinced that I need one or that the changes made to this latest device are for the better. I am definitely going to have to hold it in my hands and spend some quality time with one before I consider buying. Here is some of the good and bad:

Good:

-An OS release that will bring IT OS closer to desktop Linux parity. This will hopefully make for easier porting of applications. Commitment to maintain OS parity on N800 for at least several revisions. Thinking in terms of “platforms” and not products is good.

-Somewhat smaller, making it more easily pocketed

-Supposedly a 20% brighter screen, which some have said is transflective. I have yet to hear this direct from someone who can speak with authority.

-Ambient light sensor might help more intelligently use battery by auto-dimming screen in darker environments. I hope this functionality is directly exposed so that I can overide it.

-Faster processor

-More formats listed for media support (although I will believe it when I see it)

-Integral GPS is nice, although the GPS on my N95 absolutely sucks, so a lot depends on the quality of implementation.

-They got rid of the pop-out camera in favor of one mounted on the screen bezel. Remains to be seen if the quality is as atrociously bad as the one on the N800 though.

-Keyboard will be nice for quick replies to emails, im’s, etc. For serious typing, I would still carry a bluetooth keyboard. Keyboard appears to be backlit.

-Dedicated hardware lock key. This will make the N810 insensate to accidental key presses and screen taps while in your pocket. Having the device come alive in your pocket all the time was a big battery waster on the N800. The 770 had the best solution, a magnetic switch as part of the hard case. Put the hard case on, device goes to sleep. Take it off, device wakes up. Simple genius. In many ways, Nokia seems to have forgotten many of the things it learned in designing the 770.

Bad:

-The new OS breaks compatibility with OS 2007 in a way that will require that basically all existing 3rd party apps will have to be rewritten. If they were going to force this break, I wish they would have given me a real window manager and let me use almost any Linux app without major modification to support the joke that is HILDON.

-Moving the D-PAD onto the slide out keyboard is a BAD BAD idea. On the N800 and 770 the D-pad and all other buttons were within easy reach of your left hand’s thumb and index finger. This made it possible to access most device and software functionality one handed. Now, some of the primary device control keys are on the screen and some are on the slider. This NIT is a two handed device. Not only that, but as a two handed device, the positioning of these keys is rather poor. It will be very difficult to use the D-PAD easily while holding it naturally. I hope you all have very flexible fingers.

-VERY high price at launch, much much higher than the n800 while only delivering two major feature upgrades. Keeping the device at a lower price point makes it much more attractive to many people and a lot of people will look at the price and say “if I am spending this much already, I might as well spend a little more and get a MID or an ultra mobile pc of some sort.

-Previous Nokia GPS solutions have been atrociously bad performing compared to even garden variety $30 bluetooth GPS units that are scarcely bigger than a box of matches these days. While the unit comes with GPS mapping software, it sounds like certain route guidance and POI features will cost extra. Nothing worse than getting nickeled and dimed especially when cheap alternatives exist.

-N800 had two SDHC storage card slots allowing for a staggering amount of storage in a portable device. The N810 has only one and it is a smaller type, meaning it is no longer useful for viewing photos from cameras. A lot of N800 users have invested significant $ in storage cards and to have to make further card purchased and not be able to get as large a card capacity is a real kick in the teeth.

-2 GB of internal flash ram is nice, but is no substitute for a swapable card. Flash is also know to go bad from time to time, which makes this unattractive. I am also willing to bet that the flash is not formatted with a linux FS, but rather FAT, making it useless for program storage.

-Nokia has moved the speaker from the user facing front to side emitting. I bet the perceived volume will have gone down significantly and it will be easy to cover the speakers with your fingers while holding it. I think Nokia has placed too much emphasis on making the device smaller by moving things off the screen bezel and has significantly compromised device usability in doing so. I would have much rather seen a slider of similar size to the N800 with the D-PAD and speakers left in place, which would have also provided more space on the sliding keyboard for larger keys. The keys are extremely chiclet sized and don’t appear to be convex. Top row of keys is right against the side of the screen, which will make them particularly difficult to hit. I hope those emails you have to write are short.

-N810 uses a micro-usb plug instead of the much more common mini-usb. Still no ability to charge the battery via USB or hostmode USB support for use of USB keyboards and low power flash drives. Gee, another cable to carry around. Thanks Nokia! :(

-N810 lacks a hard cover case, which was also one of the major, widespread complaints about the N800 compared to the N770. I know 770 users for whom this was a deal-breaker in upgrading to the N800. The N800 also had a lousy slip case and the long promised flip over screen protector took a long time to appear and then never really showed up at market. If I am going to spend $500 on a device, I want to know that it isn’t going to get broken in my pocket after a week or have the screen scratched by my keys.

-While they have increased the processor speed to 400mhz, from the sound of it, the N810 is internally almost exactly the same beast as the N800. This likely means that the video sub-system issues that lead to inferior video playback performance are likely still present. The 770 actually had a faster video sub-system than it’s sucessor, the N800, despite having a slower processor.

-No listing of A2DP Bluetooth stereo support

-There is no integrated WWAN and No Bluetooth PAN support. PAN is increasingly becoming the standard for phones to share their internet connectivity. Bluetooth DUN remains the only option for WWAN support.

Posted in General, Linux, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

New Ubuntu Released – Feisty Fawn

Posted by Deliverator on 19th April 2007

Today, the latest edition of Ubuntu Linux, codenamed Feisty Fawn, was released into the wild. Ubuntu is self-described as “Linux for Human Beings” and it does an admirable job of meeting than goal. Ubuntu is really the first Linux distribution I feel that a casual, everyday computer user could pick up, install and use without outside help. I have been using Ubuntu through several generations and have been beta testing the latest version. It is a great product and in my mind is a direct competitor to Vista and OS X. You can download an .iso cd image from their international network of mirror servers or get the same .iso file using bittorrent and save them some $ on their bandwidth bills. An absolutely incredible number of people are downloading this right now, so the torrent is likely to be the faster option. Once you have the .iso image downloaded, you will need to burn the .iso to a disk as a cd image (not simply burn the file on the disk). If you are unsure of how to do this, you can always request a free cd . Once you have the cd, simply pop it in the cd drive and reboot (make sure that your computer is set to boot from cds before the hard disk in your systems boot order in the BIOS, usually accessed by hitting F1, F2, delete at system boot). Ubuntu will pop up and give you various install options. Unlike other operating systems, you can “test drive” Ubuntu without ever modifying your hard drive as the Ubuntu install disk is a “Live CD.” You can continue using Ubuntu like this, saving changes to a flash drive or other media, or you can install it on your computer in a dual boot setup, letting you choose between booting Windows and Ubuntu at startup. Give Ubuntu a chance, you might even like it!

Posted in Linux, Operating Systems | No Comments »

More Fun with Fon

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd March 2007

I had some more fun with my La Fonera this week. As in my last post, from hence forth the La Fonera shall be simply known as the lwb. The week started off with my lwb in a bricked condition thanks to an attempt to flash a new daily build of dd-wrt onto the device using the web interface over a wireless connection. Thankfully, I was able to still access Redboot after bricking my lwb and was able to flash to the version of dd-wrt from 0319. I heartily recommend that once you get your lwb up and running with dd-wrt, that you use ssh to flash to future version and not the web interface.

You can flash to the latest version via ssh by doing the following:

cd /tmp
wget <newest version of root.fs>
wget <newest version of vmlinux.bin.l7>
mtd write vmlinux.bin.l7 vmlinux.bin.l7
mtd write root.fs rootfs
reboot

Anyways, once I had my lwb unbricked, I was eager to try a rather neat feature present in 0319, the ability for the lwb to act as both a client to a wireless network as well as act as a wireless router….at the same time. Pretty neat trick for a device that only has one radio, eh? The lwb is capable of doing this juggling act thanks to its Atheros radio. I recommend upgrading to 0319, as this feature has been broken in many of the recent daily builds. Supposedly, the build from 0310 will work as well.

So, why would one want to do this? For one, it allows one to create a “repeater” for an arbitrary wireless network which may not quite reach to where you want its signal. It does it in a way which is compatible with security systems like WPA, unlike WDS repeating, which requires special set up and has a number of undesirable technical limitations. With the lwb, it is possible to create multiple virtual ap’s and create different rule sets for each.

I tested this single radio repeating at Hacknight this week, connecting as a client to the the internet cafe’s wireless network with the lwb acting as a wireless access point with routing as well. In this mode, the wired port on the lwb which is ordinarily used for wan connectivity acts as routed port, enabling wired devices to join in the fun. One can also put the lwb into a bridging-client mode, where the lwb acts as a wireless client and transparently passes traffic to the wired interface, but I haven’t tested this yet. This can be useful for connecting NAS appliances, network printers and other conventionally wired devices to your network, without any real limitation as to where you can place them. Don’t have enough room in your office? Put the printer in the linen closet! Wireless bridges really let one unclutter one’s environment.

I did one little last bit of hacking on my lwb this week. Erik Butler commented on a video he’d seen on YouTube in which the plastic casing of the lwb had melted due to the heat. The lwb is a *little* white box and doesn’t have almost any ventilation. A number of users on Fon’s own forums have commented that their units seem to be overheating and spontaneously rebooting as a result. At least two people have explored this issue in a pseudo-scientific like manner. The general conclusion seems to be that the ventilation in the lwb is woefully inadequate and that the high temperatures are likely to result in a drastically decreased operating lifetime, with the likely cause of death being capacitor failure. I have definitely noticed that my lwb runs quite hot, so decided to protect my investment of 0$ by adding a fan to the unit. I managed to scrounge a fan from an old motherboard chipset cooler which was of an appropriate size and voltage rating and with the help of my soldering iron and dremel tool, was able to add it to the lwb. My lwb now runs MUCH cooler, with no appreciable heat build up.

Posted in Linux, Rants and Raves, SWN Hacknight, Tech Stuff, Wireless | 2 Comments »

Fix a Dead Internal SD Card on Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

Posted by Deliverator on 20th March 2007

So, I recently experienced my first hardware related glitch with my N800 Internet Tablet. The internal SD card slot stopped functioning. I tried multiple cards and none of them were being recognized when inserted into the internal slot. The same cards when inserted into the N800’s external SD card slot (the N800 has two SD card slots) work just fine. I did some googling and found a number of other people who had suddenly had their internal slot go dead. Nobody seemed to have any firm idea as to why this was happening, although some suspected the rather flimsy metal clip holding the internal card in place. I tried wedge in a piece of paper to better hold the SD card in place, and also used a jewler’s screwdriver to slightly bend up the metal contact pins, in case one of them had been depressed and was no longer making contact. Neither of these remedies worked for me. The most common suggestion was simply to send it back to Nokia. I have heard some real horror stories about people trying to get their units serviced in anything under a month, so this wasn’t a desirable option for me.

I went back to reading other people’s reports and made a posting on Internet Tablet Talk about the issue. Something mentioned in a few reports suddenly hit me. It was a comment to the effect of “and don’t forget the door has to be in place to register card insertion.” This actually makes a lot of sense for the internal card, which among other things holds a swap file. By providing a sensory mechanism to determine whether the door is on or off, it gives the N800 a chance to flush the page file and prevent possible crashes from sudden SD card removal.

My thought at this point was “ok, so there is some mechanism to detect whether the door is on, but what is that mechanism?” I remembered that the previous Nokia Internet Tablet, the 770, used a magnet on the case to autodetect when the metal slip case was slid over the screen (causing the unit to go into suspend mode). I looked in the n800 and found what seemed to be a magnetic sensor, with a small matching depresion on the inner face of the door with a bit of adhesive still visible, but no magnet. I took a big actuator magnet from a dead hard drive and waved it over the apparent sensor and instantly the SD card registered in the internal slot. As soon as I removed the magnet the SD card disappeared. Bingo!

My hard disk magnet was much to big to fit inside the case, so I tried cutting up a refrigerator magnet, but the resulting magnet was much too weak to trigger the sensor. I finally hit on using a magnetic driver from a cheap pair of earbuds I had sitting on a shelf. These magnets are usually quite strong and just waving the earbud itself lightly over the sensor was enough to trip it. The magnet I extracted was plenty powerful, but still to big to fit comfortably in the little rectangular depression on the inside of the case. I used some metal cutters to shear off a small shard, inserted it in the depression and then mixed up a some epoxy to ensure it stayed there for good. Problem solved.

I’ve only owned my N800 for a few months and have definitely been babying it. Given the number of complaints I have already seen about this issue, I suspect this will only become a bigger issue as time goes by. The poor quality adhesive attachment method used by Nokia to secure their magnet does not speak well of their hardware design.

Posted in Linux, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Fun with Fon cures Frustrations

Posted by Deliverator on 24th February 2007

After a day filled with frustrations, I decided what I needed was a good, challenging late night hack session. I’ve had a funky little “La Fonera” wifi router sitting on my shelf for a while, so I decided to see what I could do with it. The “La Fonera” is from a spanish company called Fon, which is trying to build a hotspot network by literally giving away access points. The idea is that if you host a Fon hotspot, you can get on any of the other hotspots in the network for free, but non-members have to pay. I am not sure how that business model is working for them. As Matt is fond of saying, “its not my job to support your *^*&^*& business model.” For a while they were giving away WRT54GL’s, but despite a rather large cash infusion from google, I guess this proved too expensive. So, they rolled their own solution in the form of “La Fonera.” I am getting sick of saying La Fonera, so I will just call it the little white box. The little white box is quite little, and white. The little part makes it an interesting target for hacking, while the white part just makes me want to kill whoever started this particular design craze at Apple. So, lets see what we can do with this little white box, eh?

fonera

Sebastian Gottschall, chief developer of the excellent dd-wrt wireless firmware project, recently started releasing builds of dd-wrt for the little white box. OpenWRT is also a possibility. In fact, the little white box ships with a highly modified and locked down version of OpenWRT. Unlike most devices supported by dd-wrt, getting the firmware on the little white box isn’t as simple as just hitting the upload firmware button in the webmin interface (like you can on a WRT54GL). To start with, the little white box checks for a cryptographic signature on any firmware you try to upload using their web interface, so we have to find another method. The little white box uses an unmodified version of the Redboot bootstap environment, so if you can somehow get access to Redboot, you can use it to upload a new flash image from a TFTP server. There is a serial console with pin headers on the little white box. Unfortunately, it is a TTL type serial port, so you would need to build an adapter to use it. Eric Butler was kind enough to offer me the parts I would need (particularly a MAX232 TTL converter chip), but I was in no mood to wait, so I needed to find another way to get access to Redboot.

For this, it sure would help to have root SSH or telnet access to the little white box. I found a page which described a neat form submission data injection attack, similar to what was first used to open up the WRT54G. Unfortunately, my little white box came with a firmware which validates form submissions for things like escape characters. At this point, I am getting sick of the little white box, so I will now just call it lwb. Fortunately, I was able to downgrade to a firmware revision that doesn’t! Once you are at the lower firmware revision, be careful to keep your lwb from going online, as the lwb auto-updates! Using the above linked method, I was able to get myself root SSH access.

Fonera SSH

I quickly used vi to make the change permanent and keep the box from updating itself behind my back. Once into the lwb, I was able to swap in a different kernel, which can be found with some difficulty at this site. After rebooting with this new kernel and a few steps I don’t understand, you get access to Redboot via telnet on port 9000 on the lwb’s wired port.

Once into Redboot, you need to set up a tftp server and use it to serve up the latest dd-wrt firmware files to the lwb by carefully typing the instructions. If you screw up at this stage or any other stage, you are likely to your little white box into a little white brick. Thankfully, all went well and I now have a Fonera which is free as in source as well as free as in beer.

dd-wrt fonera

Once I’ve had some fun with my Freed Fonera, I will probably flash it back to the original firmware, as Fon’s business model just might catch on if google’s deep pockets allow them to give away a few million more of these things.

Many thanks to all those who did a great job documenting the technical details of getting dd-wrt running on the lwb.

Posted in Linux, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Wireless | No Comments »

Is that a Shub-Niggurath in your pocket?

Posted by Deliverator on 20th February 2007

For quite a while, it has been possible to play Doom on the Nokia 770 and Nokia N800 internet tablets. Recently, it became possible to play Quake 2 on the n800, thanks to a port of Quetoo, a speed optimized Quake 2 engine, to the Maemo platform. The port requires the user to copy the original game files to the external SD card slot manually, after installation of the applcations itself, and then edit a config file to set key-bindings and other options. The game clips along at a decent pace at 800*480, although for smooth frame-rates you are better off sticking to the default 400*240 resolution. I found playing Quake 2 on my n800 using a Nokia SU-8W Bluetooth keyboard to be almost tolerable. Having to drag the stylus across the screen left something to be desired, however. I hope someone gets bluetooth mice working on the n800 pronto! Quetoo on the n800 really demonstrates the power of these amazing little internet tablets. It really is like being able to carry around a full fledged computer in your pocket. Quetoo also demonstrates the benefit of using Linux as a basis for portable devices. To my knowledge, this port was pretty much a straight recompile from the Linux source. I can’t wait for OpenMoko! Now that will be a real smartphone!

Here is a video of Quake 2 running on my n800.

Posted in Gaming, Linux, Portable Computing/Gadgets | 1 Comment »

Explosive Growth in N800 Development

Posted by Deliverator on 7th February 2007

Since the recent release of the N800, Maemo related development has really taken off. Nokia has really helped foster this development with the sourceforge-like development site Maemo.org, well documented SDK´s and even a preconfigured dev environment released as a VMWare virtual computer image. They have also given away some 500 N800´s to select OSS developers. Whatever the reason, the dev community seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Here are a few tidbits of dev news:

-Quake 2 has been demonstrated running on the N800 at quite acceptable frame rates. This really demonstrates the drastic improvement the more modern 330mhz Omap chip in the N800 offers over the older OMAP chip in the N770.

-Dual boot from a SD/MMC card is now available for the N800. This really makes it possible for developers to muck about with the OS internals without worring about needing to reflash or possibly brick their device.

-Probably as a direct result of the previous news item, some people are fooling around with full blown windows managers and producing windows manager switching scripts. The Hildon UI is well adapted to the constraints of a mobile tablet, but it also requires existing applications to be tweaked to work properly. Having a full window manager available to run unmodified applications will allow the use of a much wider range of OSS without anything more complicated than a recompile.

-Developers discovered that the N800 contains two previously undocumented chips on the motherboard, hidden under metal RF shielding. The first is an FM radio tuner. A desktop applet to control the FM radio was released by Nokia shortly after the discovery. The radio works quite well, using the headphones as an antenna. The applet has the ability to switch the sound between the internal stereo speakers and headphones when using the headphones as an antenna. With the new alarm framework, this should make it easy for a FM radio alarm clock to be developed.

The other chip discovered in the N800 is a USBOTG power controller. While currently unsupported, many people hope that this will allow for powered hostmode for external devices. Currently, plugging in things like USB keyboards requires the use of a powered USB hub or the construction of a USB power injector.

-Nokia released an updated version of their Mediastreamer application, which supports streaming of various forms of content such as pictures and music from uPnP enabled media servers. The new version adds support for video as well.

-There are now instructions available to get Mono, a OSS implementation of the .NET Framework, running on the N800 and N770. There are still no MAEMO specific bindings in MONO yet, but this is a good step towards having applications that can run on the desktop and on the Nokia Internet Tablets without recompilation.

Posted in Linux, Mobile Blogging, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Got Me a N800!

Posted by Deliverator on 9th January 2007

I managed to get a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet a few days earlier than they were supposed to go on sale. A kind store employee took sympathy on me and sneaked me one out of the back and walked me through the register to ensure my purchase didn’t hit any snags. Nokia apparently has talked about reprisals against stores that sold the N800 early, so the store and employee will remain nameless. Nevertheless, thanks ***, you know who you are!

So far, I really like the N800. It is a nice evolutionary upgrade to the 770 in almost, but not quite every way.

Here is the good:

-Much faster processor. This time they went with an OMAP 2420 processor from TI. It is clocked at 330mhz and has support for floating point, 3d acceleration and other things that the OMAP 1710 in the N770 didn’t have. This should make it possible to better support processor intensive video codecs at higher resolutions and framerates. The system feels much snappier.

-128 MB of ram and 256 MB flash storage (little under 200 available to the user). Both of these were much needed upgrades, providing more space for 3rd party applications and enough ram to run a few apps at the same time comfortably.

-Has two full size SD card slot. One is in the back compartment along with the battery. The other is on the bottom right side of the unit and is easily accessible while running. The max officially supported size is 2 GB, although several users are reporting that some 4 GB cards seem to work. These are not SDHC compliant cards and are outside of the normal SD spec, so use with care as many devices will not work with these non-compliant cards.

-Screen is even better than the already amazing one on the 770. Same unrivaled 800*480 resolution, but the backlight seems smoother, pixels smoothly blur together instead of standing out and off axis visibility is improved. I was impressed with the quality of the display on the 770 and am even more so with the N800. Combined with SD support, the N800 is going to make an excellent photo previewer/manager.

-Supports Bluetooth 2.0 and has out of the box support for Bluetooth Keyboards, at least the one I am using, a Nokia SU-8W. I paired up my keyboard using the applet in the control panel. I can start typing more or less instantly after powering it on! This is the way it should have been from the start, Nokia, so you get no points from me. You hear that Nokia, NO POINTS!

-The N800 has a hinged stand that pops out and lets you set it on a desk at one of two helpful angles. There is also a ridge along the back of the unit which places the N800 at a better viewing angle even when placed flat on the table and makes it easier to hold in one hand.

-New OS2007 feels a bit more refined and end-user friendly. Feels very responsive on the faster hardware. Sadly, Nokia announced that it will not be back ported to the N770. Applications compatibility between the two releases seems to be pretty good so far, so hopefully this doesn’t split the development community.

-Browser has received an upgrade to Opera 8.5. So far, it has worked well with every Web 2.0ish site I have thrown at it. Flash appears to work with Youtube now, albeit slowly.

-Stereo speakers instead of the monaural speaker on the 770. A whole four and a half inches of stereo separation, wooo!

-All the connectors have been moved from the bottom to the right side of the device. This makes it much easier to leave power, usb and headphones plugged in while it is being used on a desk (especially with the intergrated stand). This also makes it much easier to use as a media player, as the end mounted ports work much better with jacket pockets. With up to 8 GB of storage available, the N800 makes a formidable portable media player for both audio and video.

-The headphone port accommodates standard 1/8″ stereo headphone plugs, but also provides stereo headphone + microphone support with a cleverly designed headset which is included standard. There are already a number of VOIP phone solutions available including Google Talk, Gizmo Project. Skype support was additionally announced at CES as part of the official product release, but it will be months to a half year before it is available.

-OS 2007 supports a feature called “Single Click Install” which allows users to simply click on a file to add a repository and install software from it. In the past, users could install 3rd party software by clicking on .deb files, but there wasn’t an easy way to upgrade (or find out about upgrades) as new versions of the software came available. You could add a repository, but this feature was somewhat buried in the Application Manager applet and required you to laboriously enter the repository info using the on-screen keyboard. This change should be helpful for end-users and power users alike, as it allows end users a simple way to install 3rd party software and keep it up to date and allows power users to keep a backup of their repository lists without having to mess with apt’s sources.list file. Specifics on this feature can be found here.

Meh (things about which I feel relatively neutral):

– The N800 has a webcam that pops out of the left side of the unit and can swivel to face the user or 180″ to face away. I haven’t fooled around with the video phone software much, but the quality of the video is pretty low. The sensor is quite noisy. Frankly, I could have cared less about the webcam and would have prefered not having been charged for that particular feature. I haven’t heard a single user cry out “you know what they really need to add/improve when they release a new one of these things? – a webcam!” On the contrary, I have heard several users and system administrators complain that they won’t be able to purchase the new unit because of rules against cameras (including phone cams) in many businesses.

– The much maligned email app has not been improved. The built in email application is one of the most common sources of complaint about the N770. Thankfully, an updated copy of Sylpheed has been released and it runs well on the N800. The dialogs are much closer to being fully Hildonized and full screen switch support is forthcoming.

– A large number of people seem to not like the new grey and silver styling of the N800 and preferred the black finish of the N770. I too liked the more professional styling of the N770, but don’t feel overly strongly about it.

– The N800 no longer comes with a protective metal screen cover like the one found on the N770. I never found the included metal slip case to be very good, especially as it blocked stylus removal. I much preferred the nice aluminum case from Brando Workshop. The N800 comes with a felt fabric pouch like you would use to carry eye glasses. It doesn’t provide any real protection against firm pressure from a hard object or a fall to the ground, but will keep your screen from accidentally getting scuffed up by your car keys. I will definitely be searching for a good after market case onces 3rd party accessories become available.

Things that suck hard vacuum:

– The buttons on the N800 are absolutely atrocious. While the width of the unit has actually increased slightly, the size of the four way rocker has actually shrunk. The rocker was already small enough on the 770 to elicit complaints. The back, menu and home buttons have been merged into a single mega button. The space for each function on this larger 3 way button is smaller than before and because this button is flat, it is very hard to find the right button by touch and thumb presses sometimes mis-register on the far too small button pad. Both the rocker and 3 function pad feel cheap and plasticy and actually have some play to them. Buttons on a premium device like this shouldn’t wiggle, period. If you can believe it, they did much worse to the top buttons. The top button on the 770 and 800 control full screen switch for applications, a plus and minus button used for volume, brightness and used by a lot of 3rd party software for functions like page up/down and a multifunction power button, which is frequently used to lock the screen, put the unit in offline mode, etc. On the N800, these buttons have been reduced to button so small that you pretty much need to use your fingernail to activate them without simultaneously squashing the neighboring button. The full screen button is no longer in the top left, where it was easy to activate with one’s index finger while scrolling around with the rocker. Now, it is sandwiched between the + and – buttons, with no space in between with which to tell them apart by touch. These are amongst the most common buttons used by apps and it is now exceedingly easy to hit the wrong one. FBReader, an excellent multi format book reader for the Nokia 770 and widely considered to be one of the platform’s killer apps is now next to useless due to the exceedingly poor button design of the N800. I have honestly seen better button quality on $20 pirated Hong Kong game systems. It is my earnest, sober opinion that Nokia should fire the designer of these buttons. I know of at least two stalwart and highly visible Nokia proponents who have returned their N800s and gone back to the N770 for this reason alone. The other improvements are significant enough that I don’t think I will return it, but only because I plan to buy a dedicated e-ink book reader in the near future, and don’t otherwise have to use my N800 in the dark much. Still, this is a major slip from the usually high overall build quality of Nokia products and seems to be a common thread amongst detailed reviews I have encountered.

Posted in General, Linux, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | 7 Comments »

New Nokia Internet Tablet to be released RSN (real soon now)

Posted by Deliverator on 5th January 2007

Nokia 800

While there is still no official announcement, quite a few pictures of “unboxing” can be found on flickr. It is anticipated that the official announcement will be made at the Consumer Electronics Show being held in Las Vegas this next week. Several active members of the Internet Tablet Talk community are going to be there to cover the event, including ThoughtFix, who runs one of the better blogs devoted to the Nokia Internet Tablet(s).

The only new information revealed by the pictures is that the final name for Nokia next generation tablet will be the Nokia 800 and not 870, as many people assumed. Also, it does appear that the 800 has stereo speakers, as predicted by some. Still no word on more fundamental stats such as cpu speed, memory amount, etc.

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Nokia Internet Tablet Errata

Posted by Deliverator on 29th November 2006

Some new pictures and info on the successor device to the 770 (presumably named the 870) have popped up on Engadget. There are some small differences between these pictures and those previously released, as well as some conflicting information provided from reputable inside sources. This has lead several people (including myself) to conclude that the 870 is at a late prototype stage and probably won’t see store shelves for another 3-6 months. In particular, the following is new/conflicting to what has been previous reported:

-Camera will rotate (contradicting previous information), allowing for use of screen as a viewfinder. Camera quality is fairly low and intended primarily as a webcam – in keeping with the device’s “walkabout web” role. Don’t expect this to replace your digicam.

-Comes with a leather case.

-Comes with 180 MB of memory. I presume this to mean 64 MB of flash and 128 MB of ram. I would have preferred more flash for application storage, but 128 MB is about right for the ram needs of such a device.

-There will indeed be two memory card slots. A Mini-SD slot can be found sharing the battery compartment. The external slot remains a RS-MMC slot. This contradicts previous information that the device would have two Mini-SD slots.

The new pictures on Engadget are worth close scrutiny, as they show the built in stand and top buttons for the first time.

In other 770 news, Canola Media Player will be launching today and will be released on Maemo Garage. Canola is one of the most impressive applications created specifically for the 770. It is a media player for both local and streaming media sources and includes support for a number of popular UPnP media servers. Canola is capable of playing a wide variety of audio and video standards, as well as popular picture formats. There are a number of excellent videos of Canola in action on YouTube and beta testers have been singing its praises. With the 770’s excellent 800*480 screen and wireless connectivity options, Canola may just be the killer app for the 770. Forget the Zune’s crappy wifi integration, this is how wireless capability should be leveraged for media! I look forward to being able to pull out my 770 and have access to my full media collection whenever it strikes my fancy.

In a last bit of news, the Maemo dev team announced a fork off Sardine, the bleeding edge version of the Hildon Application Framework. Sardine as it stands now will be forked off into a stabilization branch called Herring. Herring is feature complete and all work on this branch will be of the bug fix/polishing variety. The creation of this stabilization branch is a strong indication that Nokia is trying to wrap up the next version of the IT OS (presumeably IT 2007, if they follow their naming convention) for release on the Nokia 870.

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