no longer a nokia fangirl

Posted in gadgets on February 1st, 2009 by fabienne

so after all those nokia posts over the years, for the first time ever, i don’t use a nokia as my mobile device [updated feb 6th, 2009, see bottom of post] (mobile phone? cellphone? does anyone make calls anymore with these devices?). yes, i broke down after seeing eliot‘s dev version g1 android google phone and bought a new phone. i was waiting way too long for a replacement for my aging nokia e70, and i couldn’t wait any longer after the release of the curse of silence at the end of congress (my pics of 25c3 here). so why would i break down and use a google phone after all my anti-google rants? i can’t stand the iphone’s touchscreen soft keyboard: the iphone is just a pull device for me, not a push device. the openmoko is great in theory, but once again i need a keyboard. the google phone is pretty much the only option for me right now, short of getting another nokia that i’m not happy with.

it’s a bit shocking to realize the uptake in the open source mobile development community around the android. i guess i never thought about the iphone app store having a competitor in the google android market, but it’s got crazy uptake. some thoughts on my g1 in the last 21 days i’ve had it (largely compared to e70, rockstar of an old phone that it was):

  • 24 days ago: omg omg omg my g1 dev version arrived just now! my g1 android phone’s back battery cover smells like rubber in new shoes. i’m like a kid in new clothes on the first day of school. yay data plan working in g1 android dev phone. (i must find a shorter way to say that.) i feel so dirty as an ex-nokia-fangirl.
  • 23 days ago: acquired 8gb micro sd for g1, 1tb ext hdd for photo backup/processing. space: i has it. yay k9 mail on android g1 phone works with self signed imap certs! i can haz email on my new phone! i want a real jabber client for the g1 phone (general xmpp, maybe off smack?, sexier than this. ) who wants to help?
  • 20 days ago: @timbray The truth bout multi-touch and the Android G1.
  • 17 days ago: the g1 dev version standard headphones suck so so bad. guess i will have to mod them with minijack. oh wait wasn’t i doing this in 2005?
  • 14 days ago: g1 shows up fine over usb with g5 tower at work, not on ubuntu media server or g4 tower at home, with card reader or tethered. frak. 1gb micro sd from g1 mounting just fine on ubuntu media tower, syncing just fine with amarok. 8gb frak up is a mystery. arg found a how-to for repartitioning large micro sd cards for g1 android right when i needed to leave the house. less travel, more nerding.
  • 13 days ago: so amarok did sync all the songs, id3 tags, file folders, + even album art to g1. BUT: no playlist file. meh, “repeat all” for my shower. cannibalizing hacked nokia popport to mod g1 headphones. deja-freaking-vu.
  • 8 days ago: weird bug on the g1, camera takes one pic, then says i need to insert sd card. playing music at the same time off sd card.
  • 4 days ago: my g1 has lost connection to my cell carrier 3 times in 2 days and requires hard reboot. wtf?

so the basic thing is, this is a sexy phone, with a backlit full keyboard, but it’s definitely beta to the max. the battery life sucks (haven’t tried different battery mod patches yet), and it has some issues with keeping a cellphone connection in places of crappy signal that cuts in and out. however, that being said, the android market with its over-the-air downloads and installs is a huge HUGE huge contender to the iphone app store. i must say that’s the big point of this phone, it’s in an interesting position of open source and useability. when i bought it at the beginning of the month, i did not expect to be inspired to write or patch apps for it. and now, well, i very well may code some stuff up. final verdict for my g1: i don’t hate it i’m going to switch back to nokia for the time being.

update feb 6, 2009: i tried tethering and couldn’t even get this broswer proxy server to work. not being able to share my 3g connection with my laptop was the last straw for me. i am going to switch back to my nokia until the g1 has:

  1. a jabber client that deals well with disconnects and saves your login credentials.
  2. better battery life.
  3. a way to share a calendar without going through gcal.
  4. a way to tether 3g properly to a laptop, either cabled or wireless.
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Two weeks with the Nokia E90

Posted in gadgets on September 2nd, 2008 by fabienne

I was offered the chance to test out a Nokia E90 (aka the newest Nokia Communicator) for two weeks. As I’m a gadget hound, I jumped at the opportunity and here are my thoughts. Be forewarned that I used the E90 in place of my usual E70. Many of the criticisms found in this post have to do with comparisons between my E70 and the E90. Right off the bat I noticed that the keys on the E90 felt less “clicky” than the keys on my E70. I personally love responsive keys on a tiny keyboard, otherwise I can’t really touch type. The hinges on the E90 are a bit strange, and they grew on my slightly by the end of the two weeks. However, I would have loved to have a 45 degree angled mode between completely open and 90 degrees.

The screen was nice and bright, but often too bright at night. I tried adjusting the brightness and having the screen brightness auto-adjust with the light sensor, all to no avail. Also impeding proper usage of the E90 in the dark is the very dimly backlit keyboard in the fully open qwerty mode. My E70 has keys that are much more brightly backlit than the E90 when open. As far as I could find there was no way to increase the keyboard backlight’s brightness; it supported either on or off. Another usability annoyance for me were the two select buttons (they look like blue parentheses up to the right of the screen in the photo above). The select buttons are difficult to reach while thumb typing on the qwerty keyboard. On the E70 those buttons are on the screen in the middle and are very easy to access without any reach or stretch.

One happy feature of the E90 is the strong vibrator. It makes my E70 seem positively wimpy, and I have missed calls on my E70 in silent mode since switching back a few days ago. The four-way joysticks on both the outside and inside of the E90 work significantly better than on my E70. Coverage of 3G (UMTS) seems to be very similar to the antenna strength on my E70.

Now let me discuss current mobile apps for the Nokia E90. On my E70 I use the built in email app. The E90’s email app is very similar, though it is more pleasant to use on the interior widescreen than the outer screen. Web browsing still requires usage of the built in Nokia browser, as Opera doesn’t support the E90 as of the time of this review. Shozu supposedly supports the E90, but I tried installing it three times without success. The crash error message on the E90 that I had with many apps — “KERN EXEC 3” — is at least different than the usual “Out of Memory” error on my E70. I couldn’t upgrade to a newer firmware on the E90 because I didn’t have access to any Windows machines during my two week trial, so perhaps some of the bugs have been ironed out. The music player on the E90 is much better software-wise than the aging one on the E70. Annoyingly enough the E90 uses a 2.5mm connector instead of the standard 3.5mm mini jack connector on most commercial headphones. Yes, I use my cell as my mp3 player, when 2 and 4 GB cellphone memory cards are so cheap why shouldn’t I?

What I did enjoy was trying out Nokia Maps 2.0 with the E90’s built in GPS. It took a little while to lock to satellite, as GPS does in many gadgets, but once synced worked wonderfully. I used the search feature while walking to a new destination, subway stops were well marked, and switching between street/satellite/mixed/3d views was seamless. Saving screenshots of maps to the photo gallery was a snap. Map data is cached every time you search, so you use less and less of your data connection as time goes on. The only part of the whole experience that I found a bit lacking was the difficulty in saving a location. Location tagging/saving/sharing is in the works for the next version of Nokia Maps. In conclusion I have to say that I wish all the apps on the E90 were as compelling as Nokia Maps. The E90 is just not the best phone for me. It is too large and unwieldy compared to my past phones. I will continue on my quest for a replacement for my E70, which I will have had for two years in October. Next up I hope to test the E70’s replacement, the non-flip over candy-bar style Nokia E71.

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e70 on the go

Posted in gadgets on July 7th, 2008 by fabienne

e70

since i upgraded the firmware on my nokia e70 last week, i’ve been testing free phone apps. my favorite right now is talkonaut. talkonaut is a sip and chat client which i’m using as a jabber client. it’s clean and yet feature rich (various beep and vibrate profiles for when new chats arrive). it works splendidly over my 3g/umts data connection, and hands over seamlessly to gsm when the 3g drops out. the ui doesn’t really understand the e70’s portrait mode as far as menu button placement, and a joystick press is sometimes required to navigate between chat tabs, but it really is quite clean compared to anything else i’ve tried.

shozu is a bit of a mixed bag. it works well for cameraphone photo uploads, even with my photo site smugmug. at first i had a sort of kludge with emailing photos to smugmug, but it turns out that if you go to the shozu webpage (not on the phone) you can add a lot more available apps and services than just the default phone installation choices. tagging doesn’t stick with the shozu-smugmug system, but titles and uploads are fairly seamless in the nokia ui. the twitter part of shozu sucks, but it’s better than the dedicated twitter phone app twibble. i also tried out the symbian s60 jaiku app, but it’s not all that different or more feature rich than a basic twitter client.

since i still don’t have a way of sharing my 3g connection with my netbsd4 subcompact lappy from my e70, i want to try joikuspot lite. this app allows one to share a mobile connection over wifi. the newest version even includes wep if you want to be stingy (not that wep isn’t easily cracked, but whatever). where is the ubiquitous net? it’s not low-cost 3g data, but it’s the closest we have.

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upgrading nokia e70

Posted in gadgets on July 3rd, 2008 by fabienne

not only is the nokia firmware upgrade for my e70 annoyingly windows-only, it didn’t exactly work on the first try. on nokia’s page it says “Windows 2000 (SP4 or later), Windows XP (SP1 or SP2), or Windows Vista”. well guess what, it didn’t really work:

fail

then i tried downloading and running on xp, also a fail. the only thing that worked was using the nokia updater that someone already had installed on an xp machine and having it manually search for the e70’s firmware. luckily it managed to flash an english version on the phone (because i have a chinese branded qwerty e70).

since reflashing, i had some (non-nokia-related) issues with my 2gb minisd and ended up reformatting and losing all my contacts. other than that, things are looking great, the refresh rate on the flip screen is MUCH faster. hopefully i’ll get some happy web2.0 software installed now and email pushed to my phone again.

update: email works MUCH better now, but i think the phone didn’t really get updated to the newest firmware (3.0633.09.04) — right now it has 2.0618.07.10 for firmware. a friend mentioned that they had a properly working nokia pc suite to help me get it to upgrade. i’ll update as the situation gets fixed.

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newness: nokia e70

Posted in gadgets on November 29th, 2006 by fabienne

open side by side

this is a nokia e70 above and a nokia 6230 below. those of you who may have seen my previous work hacking popport cables for nokias may have noticed that i tend to overlook semi-badly built stuff because i rebuild it. however, i decided that a full flip over keyboard is sexy, and the addition of unlocked 3g and triband and wifi and voip compatibility puts this phone over the top. apparently i’m not alone in this sentiment, because even though this phone isn’t the newest of devices, a ton of people around me thought the same thing at the same time. hopefully i will have some time to enumerate the bugs/hardware deficiencies and share some fixes as well as do some mini-reviews and how-tos for software for the phone. i bought it through dynamism, but i think i got the last one they had.

the first order of business on functionality, i found that the sim card holder was a bit loose. my phone kept losing contact with the sim card (error message: no sim found). it turns out there was a bit too much space between it and the battery, so i folded up a little torn off piece of paper and placed it between the battery and the sim holder. now i don’t lose sim connectivity.

the second semi-annoyance was that when i set up the navigation joystick right push to go directly to my email inbox, i couldn’t get back to the main menu. workaround: none for the moment, just activate incremental email checking and when “you have a new email” pops up on the desktop, then you can easily navigate to your inbox. maybe a firmware upgrade is in order for this one.

i will enumerate how i got my email working with a private email server in the next post. for the time being, this phone is so feature-full that i will need some time to put it through its paces. i do love the feel of the keys on the keyboard and the screen is of excellent quality so you can view larger chunks of webpages zoomed out and still read text. pictured below are the nokia e70 and 6230 in the dark.
open in the dark comparison

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