Archive for Nokia 770

Why I won’t get a Nokia N810

I feel like doing more ranting today…

So I just read an article today on TabletBlog called “Teach Nokia Something,” and it got me thinking about the Nokia N810 device.

www.tabletblog.com/2008/06/teach-nokia-something.html

As all of my friends know, I used to work for Nokia. (I’m currently freelancing as a mobile UI designer.) Nokia is a great place to work for a lot of reasons, not least of which that you get to beta test new devices long before they’re launched. For example, I was an early recipient of the N800 device and filed a gazillion bugs & feature requests on it before it was launched. I also purchased a Nokia 770 with my own money shortly after it was launched in 2006 because it was such a cool and innovative product.

I love the concept of the N800/N810. A pocketable, infinitely expandable Linux-based computer! Plus, it’s extremely capable and a lot of fun to use!

Unfortunately, I think that the dream just hasn’t been realized with this device yet. And given the choice between a Nokia N810 or an iPod Touch, I’ll go with the Touch.

Holy cow! Did I really just write that? Oh yes, I did…

I think the N810 is missing several key features to really make it a strong competitor to the iPod Touch, which is in my opinion it’s target device to beat. The iPod Touch isn’t a true one-to-one competitor, but it’s the closest thing. And the iPod Touch has really raised the bar on what a pocket computer can be, leapfrogging the innovative N810 in many ways.

PIM FEATURES SUCK

Nokia has specifically resisted offering any competent PIM features on the device out of the box. They don’t want the press or customers to confuse the device with a Palm Pilot (ick!). Well, sure. I suppose that’s understandable. No one wants to buy a Palm any more and the Palm OS platform is dead. But at the end of the day, Personal Information Management (PIM) features like the Contacts, Calendar, and Address Book are core features of any mobile device. Purposefully under-developing those features is akin to giving your shiny new smart convergence device a lobotomy.

The fact is that convergence devices need to offer a platform-level mashup infrastructure with PIM features at the core. This is plumbing upon which third party software developers need to build innovative mashup-style products and services. All smartphone platforms offer Address Books with varying levels of open APIs (programming hooks) for just this purpose. Even the iPhone and Android have fairly open Address Book APIs! But the Nokia N8xx Maemo devices have an exceptionally braindead Address Book, lame ass email client, non-existent calendar, etc. The complaints about the native N8xx PIM apps ring loudly throughout the blogosphere ring.

And third parties have not really stepped up to the plate to fill in the gaps. The only company which was offering a competent suite of PIM applications for the early Nokia 770, Deja Desktop, discontinued its offering a couple of years ago. None of the other apps that are currently available on the Maemo.org download site qualify as suitable replacements.

Nokia, wake up and recognize PIM as the killer app suite for all of your mobile devices! It’s core infrastructure that, when well developed, makes your platform worthwhile to innovate on!

POOR MULTIMEDIA EXPERIENCEThe Nokia N8xx devices offer a fairly poor multimedia experience overall. It lacks out of the box support for a variety of common (MP4 video) and obscure fanboy formats (like Ogg Vorbis). So when I rip my DVDs for my iPod touch in MP4, I can’t also play them on an N810.

What’s worse, the media player is ugly as sin. It pains me to open the thing and look at it long enough to even launch a video or music file. The experience also doesn’t hold a candle to the rich and fun experience on an iPhone/iPod Touch.

And BTW, I’m not fond of Canola, either. It’s really pretty, but still a product with unrealized potential. It’s still too buggy and unstable for my liking.

INSUFFICIENT MEMORY

The cheapest iPhone and iPod Touch devices ship with more on-board memory than a Nokia N810. Yeah, I know that the N810 is expandable to 8 GB, but the smallest iPhones/iPod Touches ship with 8 GB and go up from there. Up to 32 GB for the iPod Touch! The next N8xx needs at least 8 GB!

And what’s wrong with offering multiple devices where the only differentiating factor is memory? It’s in decisions like this that Nokia’s handset roots show through. Apple, the computer company, get it that you can extract lots more revenue from the market simply by offering devices with different amounts of built in memory. Nokia? Yeah, not so much. Nokia has only dipped its toes into the water with such a strategy by offering a couple of mobile phones with extra memory. Nokia, you’re not quite there yet in learning how to be a consumer electronics company!

NO BLUETOOTH STEREO HEADPHONE SUPPORT

I want an N810 to offer Bluetooth stereo headphone support (A2DP) out of the box. Yes, you can add it in as an end user with third party software while by muttering weird incantations under a full moon. But who does? The N810 needs to get to the point where a whole suite of brilliant apps and features are THERE, right out of the box! Then it will have more likelihood to become a consumer success. Hackers will always hack and it’s really cool to see what they come up with. But consumers never do. Consumers personalize; they don’t hack.

DESKTOP MEDIA MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

The killer feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch is the brilliant integration between iTunes on the desktop, the iTunes store web services, and the devices. One click and they’re all in sync! The Nokia N8xx series doesn’t necessarily need that level of integration. But it would be really nice if it were at least easier to manage my media collection on the device from my desktop! And that includes RSS news subscriptions too.

I’m sure there are more nits to pick here, but the day is getting on and I’ve got other work to do. And of course, this posting neglects to go on about all of the features I love about the device, such as the excellent browser and seamless Bluetooth connectivity for piggybacking on my Nokia E65′s data connection while on the road. The iPod Touch can’t do that!

BOTTOM LINE

I really love the Nokia N810 device and its siblings. But I won’t buy a replacement for my aging Nokia 770 until there’s a really competent alternative to my iPod Touch.

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Apple Announces SDK for iPhone, iPod Touch

Well, what do you know?

Hot on the heels of Nokia’s announcing the N810 Internet Tablet, Apple tries to steel some thunder by announcing an SDK for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In normal people’s language, this means that Apple is going to let other companies make software for the devices, as well. Currently, those devices are locked to prevent installation of non-Apple software.

This is great news for the masses of software companies who are chomping at the bit to create cool software for these devices!

As you may have heard by now, some extremely clever people have already figured out how to unlock the iPhone and iPod Touch to install software from non-Apple sources. Apple hasn’t been happy about that, and they’ve been bricking unlocked devices with the latest software update in retaliation.

(I love the fact that the process of unlocking your iPhone or iPod Touch is called jailbreaking!)

Perhaps now this means that Apple will lighten up and stop bricking unlocked iPhones?

Anyway, the new Apple SDK will be released next February if all goes according to plan. Cool news!

(And yeah, even though I am lusting after a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, I’m also lusting after an iPod Touch. What can I say? I love these gadgets…)

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New Nokia N810 Internet Tablet Announced Today!

When I left Nokia last January, I was one of the beta testers for the Nokia N800. I loved that device and was an enthusiastic beta tester. So it kind of broke my heart when I had to turn it back in on my last day…

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet
Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

Today, Nokia announced its successor, the Nokia 810 Internet Tablet. Yay!

A friend of mine joined the beta testing program for the N810 and finally showed it to me last weekend. It’s niiiiice….

The device’s UI has been spiffied up. The UI is much faster now. It has a slide out keyboard, which is cool. It has the new Flash 9 built in, which means that you can now finally watch YouTube! (Plus regular Flash-based web sites — which has been a real let-down with my 770.) It has built-in GPS, which is a fantastic feature. (And goodness knows we need it here in New England where towns inexplicably and purposefully don’t put street signs up. What the heck is up with that?!?!?) You can read more in the enthusiastic Engadget review:

Nokia N810 Gets Official on Engadget

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet (announced today) 

So as much as I loved the N800, I’m glad I waited. Because now I’m thinking that I’ll just have to get my mitts on the 810 instead. After all, I’ve been intending on getting a GPS device for awhile now. Might as well get one that comes with it built in.

Now that the N810 comes with a full Mozilla browser, with Flash 9 and GPS built in, plus Skype and Gizmo (I have accounts on both and use them because AT&T has zero signal in my apartment, the bastards), it definitely becomes a compelling purchase for me. *drool…* 

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Nokia E61/E62 Themes

Yesterday, I wanted to take some screenshots of the iSkoot software running on a shiny new Nokia E61. (Nice devices, but only available overseas. The E62 is its U.S.-only sister.) But instead of taking yet another bunch of screenshots with the same well-known default Nokia “blue spotlight” theme, I thought it’d be fun to put a new theme on it. But where to get themes for this device?
Good news:   A kind Nokia staff person who works on the the E series device team has posted a bunch of cool themes on his blog. Some are official Nokia themes, while others are from contributors who are regular folks around the world. Quality varies, as a result. But the good thing is that they’re free and don’t have viruses! Check them out:

www.e-series.org/nokia-e61-themes

Note that before you install any themes for your E series device, you’ll probably need to adjust its security settings, or the device won’t install the theme. This is especially important for themes from third party contributors (not Nokia). Our friend on the E series team has posted info on how to make this work, as well:

www.e-series.org/archives/192

Enjoy!

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Nokia 770 :: Packet Data Settings for Cingular

One of the coolest things is that with a Nokia 770, you’re never far from the Internet. Obviously, it has WiFi access, so if there’s a free & open WiFi hotspot around, then you’re online in a jiffy. What’s also really cool is that if your phone supports Bluetooth and you have a good data plan, then going online that way is also wicked easy. Thank goodness for the unlimited data plan on my work phone!

Well, once quite recently, I put an experimental version of the operating system on the device. And when I went to set up the device to connect to the Internet via my phone — the list of known operators in the US was missing Cingular. Oops! It was a bug in the software build and it was quickly fixed.

This issue stymied me for a few days or so until I ran into a co-worker who happened to know the magic settings for Cinguar. I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on randomly going onlinne — whether to check email or kill some time reading Google News — until I couldn’t do it any more via the phone connection. So just in case someone else ever faces the same issue, here are the magic settings. (And it’s not easy to figure out where to put them in, either!)

  1. Click on the Programs icon > Tools category > Control Panel.
  2. Click on the Connectivity icon in the Control Panel.
  3. In the Connectivity dialog, click on the Connections button.
  4. If “Cingular Internet” is listed there, then you can click the Edit button. If it’s not listed, click New instead.
  5. The Connection Setup Wizard introduction screen will display. Click Next.
  6. Step 1, Name and Type. Enter these values, then click Next.
    • Connection name:  Cingular Internet
    • Connection type:  Packet data
  7. Step 2, Packet Data. Click next after entering these values:
    • Access point name: wap.cingular
    • Dial-up number: *99#
    • User name: wap.cingulargprs.com
    • Password: cingular1
    • Prompt password at every login:  (Leave unchecked)
  8. Advanced Settings: Don’t modify any of the advanced settings.

That ought to do it! Now you’ll see Cingular Internet in the list of connection options. The device will attempt to connect to the Internet via the current phone using the Cingular Internet settings above.

I’m still not entirely sure how it works — I’m just thankful that it does! And I didn’t even have to sacrifice a goat to get the magical settings values…

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Nokia 770 :: Getting Gmail to Go

One of the most compelling features of the Nokia 770 I find is the ability to get Gmail on the go. It’s way more addicting than I’d have expected!

Sure, if you have a mobile phone that can run Java applications, you could put Gmail on it. (Along with Google Maps — both compelling downloads for your mobile phone, but that’s another post. And without a good data plan, or a qwerty keypad, it would be both expensive and unpleasant.) With the Nokia 770, you can use the built in email application to run Gmail — or any other POP/IMAP email service. In fact, I put both Gmail and my old Univ. of Michigan email accounts on it. Cool!

Unfortunately, the Google web site doesn’t give explicit instructions for adding Gmail to your shiny new Nokia 770. They tell you how to do it for a bunch of other clients, but not the 770. Because it won’t work unless it’s set up exactly right, I’m here to save the day with step by step instructions!

1. Fire up your Nokia 770′s email application. Click on the People icon > View Inbox. Alternately, click on the Programs icon > Contact group > E-mail.

2. Click on the Main Menu part of the titlebar, then Tools > New account… The Account Setup wizard dialog appears.

3. Intro: Read the Intro screen (blah blah blah), then click Next.

4. Step 1: On the Account Setup (1/4) screen, give the account a name, such as “Gmail”. For the Account type, select “Pop3″. Click Next.

5. Step 2: On the next screen (2/4), put in the following values. Imagine your name is Clark Gable. Enter the following information, then click Next.

  • Name: Clark Gable
  • User Name: clark.gable@gmail.com (Yes, put your full email address here.)
  • Password: *****
  • E-mail Address: clark.gable@gmail.com

6. Step 3: Enter information about the incoming and outgoing servers (step 3/4), then click Next.

  • Incoming Server (POP3): pop.gmail.com
  • Outgoing Server (SMTP): smtp.gmail.com
  • Use connection-specific SMTP servers: (leave this unchecked)

7. The next screen says that account setup is complete — but they lie. Gmail requires a few advanced settings to be checked. So click on the Advanced button.

8. On the Retrieval tab, set the following values:

  • Retrieve: Headers only (Change this if you want, but it’s a good idea to keep this if you sometimes connect over a mobile data connection)
  • Leave e-mail on server: Checked (Do you like to use the Gmail web site? If yes, definitely leave this checked.)
  • Email size limit (kb): 1000 (Or whatever you prefer.)
  • Password authentication: Normal
  • Security: SSL (POP3)
  • Incoming email port: 995

9. On the Sending tab, set these values:

  • SMTP Authentication: Login
  • User Name: clark.gable@gmail.com
  • Password: *****
  • Security: SLL
  • Outgoing Email Port: 465

10. Leave the Security tab with its default values, but change any of the Composing tab’s values per your preferences.

11. That’s it! Click OK. Then back on the original Step 4 dialog window, click on Finish and the dialog window will close.

12. It may start to pull down your email immediately. If not, speed things along by clicking on the Inbox’s Send/Receive icon. (It’s in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen on the far right; the one with the up and down arrows on it.)

Adding a Second Account :: University of Michigan Email

The above will get your Gmail account all set up. If you’d like to add a second account, be sure to check their settings closely. For example, to set up my University of Michigan account, all of the settings were the same as Gmail’s except the following:

  • Step 2: On this screen, I put only my unique name in the User Name field — not the full email address. So if my full email address were cgable@umich.edu, then in the User Name field, I’d put only: cgable.
  • Step 3: Be sure to check how your service names their incoming and outgoing servers. U-M’s incoming server is: mail.umich.edu. It’s outgoing server is: smtp.mail.umich.edu.
  • Advanced :: Sending Tab: Again, the only difference here is to use your uniquename in the User Name field: cgable.

Set the Default Email Account

If you add a second email account, be sure you note which one is the default one. The default one is the one which all outgoing emails you write on the 770 will be sent from. To see which account is your default account, click on the Main Menu part of the titlebar, then Tools > Account settings…

In the Account Settings dialog, it’ll say, “” next to the account name. (Naturally!) If you want a different one, just highlight it with the stylus and press the “Set as default” button. It’s that easy!

Feature Request

Please, please, PLEASE Nokia 770 software developers, add a smart feature to the account setup wizard so that it recognizes a Gmail account and it just does the magic for you! I would like to simply add my Gmail email address and password, and VOILA! The rest is done. After all, these are pretty well known and stable settings and the service is immensely popular.

Actually, if it could recognize the world’s most popular 20 or 30 email services and save users the pain of mis-configuring accounts and trouble shooting alone in the dark, that’d be even better! The Intellisync email service does this for many popular services already, so talk to those folks in Enterprise Solutions (MSU) if you need any help on that. I beg you! :-)

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Nokia 770 :: Combo Screenshot Utility and CPU/Memory Tracker

As a UI guy, the one of the first things I wanted to install on my 770 the day I bought it was a screenshot utility. Not only do I like to collect screenshots (seriously!), but such a utility is extremely useful for bug reporting and general UI design. In my day job designing cross-platform enterprise communications software at Nokia, I frequently use a cool free screenshot utility for S60 devices by a guy named Anthony Pranata. (Thanks, Anthony!)

(By the way, I have a gazillion screenshots primarily of web pages from the late 90′s. One of these days, I swear I’ll put them online, perhaps some of them with comments…)

So imagine my delight when I saw a screenshot utility listed in the Nokia 770 software catalog today. Could my prayers finally be answered?

The product is gloriously called “CPU/Mem/Screenshot Apple” — a name that reeks of the Soviet-era consumer product naming style. What it lacks in naming panache it makes up for in sheer utility, though. It does 3 things and 3 things only. Fortunately, they seem to be done pretty well.

Screenshots

Either immediately or with a short delay. The default delay is 7 seconds, but you can change that in settings. New screenshot images are automatically saved in the device’s Images folder. You can change the default name, “screenshot”. A number 1 – 99 is appended to the file name to avoid overwriting existing screenshots. Not bad — but could be better (see below).

List Active Processes

It displays a list of active processes and how much memory they’re taking up. The “List processes” feature is similar to the feature on the Microsoft Windows Task Manager’s Processes tab. You can “watch” or “kill” a process, but you can’t sort the list by name or memory usage.

Live CPU & Memory Usage Graphs

The product sits in the top status bar as a plugin, active all the time. The icon has two sides: The left side shows a vertical bar graph with 4 sections for real-time CPU usage. The right side shows another 4-segment graph for memory usage. Launch an application and watch the CPU bar light up all 4 segments. Launch a handful of applications and browser windows and watch the memory graph fill up. Cool! Now I can keep half an eye out for avoiding overtaxing available memory by multi-tasking with too many open apps.

What’s it missing?

Given my interest in the screenshot feature in particular, I’d love if I could select the image format. I prefer PNG because of its versatility. (Stick a PNG in a Word doc or Visio diagram and it looks great on the screen and also prints very well.) Fortunately, PNG is the default format. But some folks like to collect screenshots in other formats, such as JPG or GIF, so it would be nice to be able to choose.

I’d love it if the product could remember the last number across device bootups. For example, if I take a screenshot right now, the first file’s name will be “screenshot00.png”. If I forget to move that file to my computer, then I restart the Nokia 770 and take a new screenshot, the product resets its numbering scheme at 0. So the new screenshot overwrites the old one and is saved as “screenshot00.png”, as well.

Feature Request: Let’s adopt the file naming system that S60 uses for cameraphone pictures. Basically, it’s like: screenshot. And because the app remembers where it left off even if the phone is restarted, it doesn’t overwrite any existing pictures.

Given that this product’s source code is available on Maemo Garage (the open source project site, similar to SourceForge), folks have taken this product and forked it. One variant has Swapon/Off, while the second variant adds another new feature related to having it execute and store arbitrary commands. To be honest, I’m not really clear on what either of these variants add to the party. Undoubtedly, software developers would find these useful, though.
The the product really needs is a spiffy name! I went to WordLab’s Naming Tools page and played with some of their fun naming tools. After clicking on the name generator buttons a few gazillion times, here are my favorites:

  • JangoNut (Name builder tool)
  • BrainSister (Name builder tool)
  • Burn5 (Name builder tool)
  • ZengaShot (Name builder tool)
  • Blazin’ Axe (Name your band tool)
  • Finodexy (Drug-o-matic tool)
  • Lenfloxa (Drug-o-matic tool)
  • Fega (Morpheme Machine tool)
  • Datrino (Morpheme Machine tool)
  • Antipix (Morpheme Machine tool)

What do you think? Do any of those names work for a product like this?

Use it or snooze it?

Use it. Even regular folks will appreciate all of its major features. Geeks and hackers might try one of the two variants with the extra stuff. But regular folks should stick to the basic product.

Summary

Product Name: CPU/Mem/Screenshot Applet

Publisher: Individual contributor (a Nokia staffperson, I think…)

Price: Free

Download it at: Maemo Software Catalog (Maemo 2.0)

Project Homepage: https://garage.maemo.org/projects/load-applet/

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The Nokia 770 Software Catalog

When I bought my Nokia 770 back in March 2006, I used to visit the software catalog on Maemo.org all the time, hoping to discover something cool. Well, back in those days, there wasn’t a lot available yet and by July or so, I stopped traveling as much (the primary time I’d been using the 770), got distracted by my day job, and kinda forgot about exploring new software.
Boy, have times changed…

I went back to the online software catalog today and discovered that folks have been busy during these past few months. Thank you, Maemo contributors!

I swear that the catalog has doubled or tripled in length since last time I looked! There are a ton more games, PIM apps (like calendar and contacts management), cool new multimedia apps, more networking apps, and a PC-based theme builder. Plus lots and lots more… Cool!

So what should one do with this software explosion? Why, try it all out, of course.

I’ve resolved to find the most interesting and compelling software out there for the Nokia 770. Of course, what’s interesting and compelling to you might be different from what’s interesting and compelling to me. So let’s explore what’s out there together. I’ll let you know what I like and you can let me know what you think about these products, too. Sound like a plan?

Nokia 770 Software catalog: www.maemo.org/maemowiki/ApplicationCatalog2006

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