The roads I take...

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Displaying recent entries tagged with "maemo". Back to all recent entries

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January 2nd, 2011

First N900 impressions

I have mentioned in recent weeks that the touchscreen on my N810 stopped working (I could track it down to a problem with the ribbon coming out of the screen, right adjacent to its plug to the main ribbon, but that's nothing I can really fix) and so I have been looking for getting some kind of replacement for the usual tasks I performed on that device - mainly using ssh to get into other machines, do GPS tracking/mapping and accessing the web.

Now, I value the openness of the Maemo OS2008 system on the N810, as it's a full Linux that easily lets you have root access and install whatever you want on the device - even alternate operating systems if you wish to do so. Compared to that, even Android is a closed system (not to mention iOS or WinMobile). The Nokia N900 already came out in 2009 with the next version of the OS, Maemo 5, but that was some time ago, and meanwhile MeeGo had been announced as Maemo's successor (with the same level of openness) and new devices with that were originally expected for late 2010, so I had been waiting for those to jump to the new generation immediately, being eager to test MeeGo and Firefox 4 Mobile (which isn't available for the N810 any more).

Well, with the N810 problems and the delays in getting MeeGo handset versions ready and therefore the delay in the new devices becoming available, I finally settled for trying to get a used N900 from eBay - and I finally did win an auction for one at just 177 Euros. Not fully trusting private-to-private remote transactions, I didn't really want to believe it though until I finally had it in my hands a few days ago.

At first, I was a bit weary to do too much on Maemo 5 (and even more to use it as a phone), as I'd really like to go testing MeeGo, which has images for N900 available, but I figured I first should see how well the device itself works with the system it comes with. I updated the system to its latest release (which made it go into some strange start-install-and-reboot loop and had me actually flash it with the new version) and look for the application I liked to install, Mappero and Firefox being among them. And I even tried to get over the data from both the N810 and my Symbian phone, which worked fairly well (though getting SMS messages over required some fiddling with community-provided tools).

Once I tried and put the SIM card from my phone over into the N900, I realized I really can use the new device for that purpose as well - even though a few smaller improvements of the contact app would be helpful. Still, it works better than I expected. Even Firefox 4 Mobile (beta) works well - it's not very fast at startup but I expected it to be worse, and it performs reasonably well even with multiple "tabs" for being a full browser with all web-facing features that desktop Firefox 4 has.

All in all, for being more than a year old technology, this device still holds up better in comparison to the current generation that I would have expected, and it completely grew on me even in the just two days since I put it into full use. OK, it has some slightly rough edges, but I'm both used to doing beta testing (which this doesn't feel like, actually) and using very open Linux-based systems.

Oh, and I figured that while playing (Open!) Dune II is not that comfortable with a touch screen (but fun on a mobile device) it's absolutely awesome to play tuxrace with the accelerometer controls! ;-)

By KaiRo, at 15:17 | Tags: Firefox, maemo, MeeGo, mobile, N810, N900 | 1 comment | TrackBack: 0

August 28th, 2009

A Really Open Smartphone?

Back in 2007, I was wondering if a mobile device that fits me will ever be built and saw the unveiling of the N810 as a step nearer to that. It was a really open, hackable mobile device, with a Mozilla-based browser, but it lacked phone capabilities, so even when I bought one a few months later, I still needed to carry a phone around with me in addition to this surely nice device.

What I really wanted after all, was a smartphone, albeit one that was truly open and hackable at least on the side of software, reasonably fast, with a Mozilla-based browser that shows the web as it should be and a touch screen in a handy size - oh, did I say it should be a phone at the same time? Would it ever exist? I trusted it would, I was just thinking ahead of the time.

The OpenMoko was a phone that sounded interesting, but it never came to a state where it would have few enough problems to make the mass-market. When Google came up with Linux-based Android, it sounded good, but the G1 and friends are nothing like an open, hackable device. It goes without saying the the iPhone isn't, even though it looks cool and seems to be pretty functional.

Meanwhile, having the N810, I grew quite fond of the nicely sized touch screen, but even more of the maemo distribution, and of many things like maemo-mapper, which is my trusted OpenStreetMap-based travel companion nowadays. And I closely am following the maemo community through blogs, etc.

So, it was no big surprise to me when Nokia unveiled the N900, powered by maemo 5 this week. I've read enough rumors about this "RX-51" or "Rover" prototype device, esp. in recent weeks but even vague comments before that.

And still, it's a bit overwhelming for an open source guy like me. This is actually one of the largest mobile phone producers worldwide shipping a smartphone (yes, a phone!) based on Linux, with a fully hackable software stack and, importantly of us, a Mozilla-based browser! Shipping, as in pushing it out as their top-of-the-line product for consumers! Not just a geek thing like the OpenMoko, a normal consumer device that at the same time speeds up the heartbeat of any open source geek!

This is a bold step for Nokia, and I really hope it will be successful - this could be an important point in getting open software out to consumers, possibly even as large an impact as Firefox on the desktop. Thanks to Nokia for taking this step. This week, I'm really proud to be a Nokia - and maemo - user.

I'm not sure if the N900 is fully the device that fits me in every regard, I fear the screen might come to be a bit small of the things I've grow accustomed to (maemo-mapper, browsing, showing my pictures to people, even doing some programming), and I also fear that the smaller keyboard compared to the N810 makes typing even harder, but in any case, the N900 is another large step to the device I want. I think the fact that it's less a niche product but a general consumer product (even as a high-end smartphone) is overall the more significant matter than if it fits my requirements perfectly. ;-)

By KaiRo, at 23:12 | Tags: maemo, Mozilla, N810, N900 | 2 comments | TrackBack: 0

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