On Friday evening I got email from Quim Gil (Nokia) with information that I was selected for Nokia N900 device discount. Yes, even I got it. Not decided yet will I apply for it or not (need to check cash state).
Why “even I”? Some of Maemo people know my opinions about it. And it does not stopped me from buying N810 for full price. I also have 770 (got it for free from Nokia guy with words like “sorry, we are out of N800”). I sort of ignored all previous developer programs (I sent email when the 770 one was done).
During ELC-E conference I played a little bit with N900. It feels a bit too heavy for me but I was nicely surprised by keyboard — it is even usable when I though that it will be worse. Whole system feels more advanced then Diablo (finally more proper Contacts application). But there are still some annoying bugs: Contacts app does not always scroll to just added field or lack of portrait mode. And that launcher without any categories…
Basically I will treat N900 not like “Internet tablet” but as a Smartphone. I tried to use 770 and n810 and the software most of time did not allowed me to make it fit for me.
I know that I have some bugs to check on it. From what I saw there is a Polish translation of Maemo5 so some bugs will be harder to check. So first days would be probably full of bugzilla work.
Will I use it as a each-day-phone instead of my Nokia E66 (Symbian)? No idea yet but I would like to because it is more open platform then S60 so with some time spent I can adapt it more to my needs.
So far my list of things which I expect is not so long:
- SyncML synchronization over the Internet for PIM data (I use ScheduleWorld a lot)
- IMAP4 offline capable mailer which will make a use of screen resolution (no less then 10 emails in list view)
- Calendar with Agenda view (all events from a week at once in a list)
- Widgets for calendar, birthdays, todos (so it will give functionality of S60 Today screen)
- one place to disable/enable roaming for data (no more having this option in Ovi Maps, mailer, IM app etc)
- navigation with routing
- time defined switching of profiles with running applications on change of profile, enabling/disabling bluetooth (like BestProfiles on S60 do)
And few other things which I forgot.
I am sure that it will take few Maemo5 updates to satisfy this list and that I will have to life with it or try to write my own apps for that. Time will show. I know that for start N900 will be degradation not advancing.
There is a new set of rumours on websites about next Nokia tablet. Name it N900 (speculation name) or Rover (which is internal name) or famous N00 which probably is on prototypes (Nokia uses N00 on proto phones and tablets).
As Jamie Bennett wrote on his blog it will be hard to sell this tablet. He compares it to netbooks but I see other device to buy instead — Touchbook which has similar internals but higher resolution (1024×600 instead of 800×480) on bigger screen (8.9″ instead of 3.5″). OK, it will not have GSM like N900 but I do not care about it — my current phone is good enough.
And then goes other problem — Maemo. I used Maemo 2005/6/7/8 on Nokia 770 and N810 and ok, it is fine and working system but… It is niche system — small amount of applications available and no other environments then Hildon one (chroot with KDE which runs in window under Hildon does not count).
And question is how open will it be for other operating systems/distributions — I hope that Nokia will not follow 770/n8x0 way.
At FOSDEM 2009 I grabbed one Vortex86SX based device — Koala Nano PC which is available at Koan software. Device came with Ångström distribution and was running 2.6.26 kernel. I wanted to get something more fresh on it and after some fighting I booted 2.6.29-rc5 kernel today.
Device use Vortex86SX SoC which is based on 486SX core. Yes — this is x86 machine without FPU. Overall speed of that is… nearly not existing.
First benchmark which came to my mind was “hdparm -T /dev/sda”. Results were dramatic: 9-13 MB/s for cached reads (with 133MHz memory and 300MHz cpu). I decided to compare against other devices:
|Device||Arch||CPU||CPU speed||memory type||cached reads|
|Koala Nano PC||x86||vortex86sx||300MHz||DDR2||9-13MB/s|
|old PC||x86||pentium2||266MHz||EDO DRAM||33MB/s|
|Linkstation pro duo||arm||ixp4xx||266MHz||147MB/s|
|kirkwood reference board1||arm||kirkwood||1200MHz||DDR2||209MB/s|
|Cliff’s desktop||x86||Core-i7 920 Quad||2.67GHz||DDR3||6400-7200MB/s|
But remember that this test is not so good for benchmarking — I am preparing better set of tests to really compare speed of devices. So far it contains
openssl speed and MP3 encoding/decoding.
But device has also few nice things. Everything is integrated so 12x12cm box is enough to keep everything inside. It has ATA controller, FastEthernet, graphics based on XGI core (with accelerated framebuffer able to do 1680×1050 resolution) and working USB. There is a place to put 2.5″ HDD inside (normally it boots from CompactFlash card), second Ethernet or WiFi are available options…
But what is use for such slow device? There are lot of ARM based ones which offer similar (or better) functionality and are faster… But wait — there is one use: event displays as this machine has nicely working framebuffer (I got even 1680×1050 resolution).
UPDATE: added results from iBook G3 300MHz and some other machines.
On Thursday I got package from DHL courier (one note for future: if you need to send me something by courier service avoid Fedex). Inside was nice box with BugLabs logo.
After unpacking I got BUG, or to be more precise:
- BUGview module
- BUGmotion module
- VonHippel module
- BUGlocate module
- external antenna for BUGlocate GPS
- power supply
- SD->microSD adapter
- 2GB microSD card
This is how modules look:
VonHippel is interesting module as it gives access to I²C, serial, I²S, DAC, ADC, GPIO, SPI, power signals. It is named after MIT professor Eric von Hippel (because he thought of it!) author of “Democratizing Innovation”. This module allows to connect just about anything electronic to the BUG. Interview with professor can be seen on BUG Blogger website.
Size is comparable with Nokia N810 tablet. Would be nice to get 800×480 screen for BUG (i.mx31 has OpenGL acceleration).
This is usual configuration when I work with device (just screen and VonHippel):
There is 64MB of flash in device but by default it boots from microSD card (2GB one was in package). This allows for easy rootfs tweaking/updating. Kernel flashing takes lot of time but we plan to work on other methods of booting kernel.
With all modules plugged in it starts to be thick… You can notice 4 function keys on left side, joystick and button on right and monochrome screen between. By default it shows clock and icons of plugged modules but with joystick some system menu can be used.
Whole device is powered by BUG Linux which is based on Poky ‘pinky’ release with some updates. Access to all modules is only from Java at that moment. But that not mean that it is closed device — everything in BUG and its modules is open and free. There is a WiFi module (not released yet) which uses chipset from “libertas” family (same family as the one in OLPC).
I am curious what will future bring for this tool.
My previous post about Nokia N800 tablet emulation became one of popular ones. On LinuxTag I shown Maemo booting in QEmu and it was met with nice response from community. But the problem remained — how to boot it when config.mtd which I used was not distributable…
Yesterday I solved that part. After studying how Maemo boots and why does QEmu restarts with wrong config.mtd I grabbed that partition from my N810 and tried again. This time OS2008/Chinook booted fine :)
What is needed? Tablet needs to have “no-lifeguard-reset” flag set. IT can be done by using flasher as this is one of R&D flags. I had it set on my N810 because I did experiments with booting from internal SD card in past.
Thanks to Faheem Pervez (more widely known as “qwerty12”) who sent me config.mtd dumps (without R&D and with “no-lifeguard-reset”) from his N800 I was able to confirm that this is all what is needed.
Next step will be updating qemu to more recent revision to get N810 emulation (which is present in HEAD) and getting Diablo booted.
UPDATE: Diablo booted on emulated N800 and N810:
Nokia N810 emulation is more useful as there is a keyboard attached so no need for use of onscreen input methods. There are some things to remember anyway:
- Alt(Gr) behave like Fn (with sticky status)
- no CapsLock (but Shift works like on N810 so no big loss)
- no numeric row — to get “5” press “Alt+t” like on N810
- some of other keys are also in weird places
- Right Shift does not work (N810 has 2 Left Shifts)
NOTE: This is QEmu HEAD — no extra patches were needed to boot Chinook on emulated N800. To boot Diablo “hw/nseries.c” file needs to be edited to change partition info (initfs is twice as big compared to Chinook).
Tickets bought, insurance bought, maps of Istanbul loaded into Maemo Mapper on N810 so I am nearly ready for GUADEC 2008. This year it will take place in Istanbul, Turkey but it is still European conference :)
Trip starts on Monday morning — bus from Szczecin to Berlin Texel, then flight (Turkish Airlines) to Istanbul. Short trip to hotel Senator and I will be ready to wait for rest of OH gang to arrive. I do not plan to get lost like I did year ago :)
List of talks to attend is generated and stored in GPE Calendar (when Maemo will get good PIM…) and this year I plan to attend most of this list. Too bad that Quim Gil talk is on Monday — I will not attend his talk. I hope that some familiar people from Maemo community will attend so we will be able to talk a bit.
But conference is not everything — I plan to take a walk though city to show something as I do not know when I will be there next time.
Ah — and I have to remember about N810 headset — GSM calls to/from Turkey are expensive so VoIP calls will be my only way to contact rather.