First days with Nokia N810

I got N810 two days ago but lacked time to write about it.

Hardware

At first I was thinking that N810 is heavier then 770 but Ross told me that it is not true — device is smaller so it feel like that. I took kitchen scales and checked. N810 is lighter then 770 with cover indeed.

Good things

Overall look is nice. Good selected colours; nice, very bright display. Screen dimming/lighting based on light level is nice addon. Integrated stand (also present in N800) is useful and it also cover not so often used ports/slots (battery lock, memory card slot, micro USB connector). I also like fullscreen and zoom keys order — same as in 770 so I do not have to learn other layout.

Lock screen/keys key is nice thing. It was present in many Sony devices before (as “Hold” key).

Stereo speakers are nice (770 had only mono speaker) and plays loud enough.

Bad things

Keyboard… Lack of “Tab” key, no padding between keys, D-pad is available only with slider opened, no numbers row. And top row is too close to case 🙁 Overall using of keyboard is not comfortable. I have to compare it with some HTC phones one day…

Top keys present on bottom part of device instead of on top one. With slider open it is hard to reach them.

Mini-SD cards — I wonder which card format will be used in next tablet. 770 had RS-MMC which nearly no one else used, N800 had 2 SD slots which was best option. N810 has one slot for mini-SD card and 2GB internal card. I would prefer second slot instead of that internal card as 4GB cards are quite cheap today.

Not decided good or bad

GPS is something which I will not comment. Have to make comparison with Neo1973 GTA01 first.

Micro USB connector means another cable to take care of but looking at case it probably be hard to use Mini USB one.

I did not tested headset which was in package.

Software

OS2008 looks nice. It is clearly visible that Maemo developers tried to make it finger friendly. Sometimes too much and in other places not enough.

Good things

Hard to tell what is good in OS2008. I used OS2005, OS2006, OS2007 ‘hacker edition’ before on 770 so I have nothing to add here yet.

Bad things

Locale system is like it was in all previous versions… You cannot have 24 hour clock with “English UK” region, you cannot select own date format etc. And I did not yet found a way to hack it to have Polish region (package which works on my 770/OS2006 does not works with OS2008).

Applications menu cannot be switched to look like it was in OS2008 (not finger friendly) so with few more apps installed I have to scroll menu list.

No DivX support in MediaPlayer 🙁 I had to install MPlayer to watch Monty Python Flying Circus.

Internal contacts application failed to import phone book from my cellphone. It told “file too big” on 600KB file ;( Filled bug.

First experiments

First was PowerTOP. As other NCurses based applications it fails because there is no terminfo database installed on device. Also there is no kernel support enabled for collecting timers statistics so I had to flash it with my kernel (which recipe is present in Poky). After all I re-flashed device 🙁

Second was MPlayer (maemo version). There is “nokia770” video driver written for 770/N800 hardware but on N810 it tells that no hardware is present. After some research I found a reason — it parses /proc/cpuinfo for “Nokia 770” and “Nokia N800” strings to check. But it lack “Nokia RX-44” check for N810. After manual change in binary it now works ok on my tablet (not that it was non-working before… it was but with XVideo output). Filled bug.

Waiting for N810 to arrive

I am going to follow XorA way and stop maintaining Zaurus palmtops support. The replacement is the same — Nokia N810 tablet but reasons are other…

As Maemo developer program had strange rules I did not took a part of it. I was not thinking about buying N810 even. But then at work I had some projects which required ARMv6 machine. Due to fact that all my ARM devices use cores not capable of using ARMv6 instructions I worked on getting newer QEmu in Poky working so I had something which allowed me to test resulting binaries.

Few days ago I did a check where to buy N810 and bought one at eXpansys UK. It should arrive later this week so I will be able to test how bad GPS is (I heard raports of 50m consistently wrong, minutes needed to get fix) and does keyboard is really bad (top row especially). But there are few nice things too — OMAP2420 CPU can run ARMv6 code (but do not tell it to Nokia – they still use ARMv5 optimizations), screen is nice and Maemo environment has nice integration of WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity.

OpenEmbedded guys did good job on adding “Chinook” (OS2008 Maemo edition) support into OE so at least few problems will rather vanish: messing with feeds and searching for non-Maemo software.

UPDATE: fixed cpu name.

Jak kupić N810 żyjąc w Polsce?

This post is in Polish language and describe how to buy Nokia N810 while living in Poland. Vendor decided to not sell tablets in our country.

Kupno Nokii N810 w Polsce praktycznie rzecz biorąc jest niemożliwe. Oficjalny kanał sprzedaży odpada więc pozostają inne metody.

Pierwszy rzut oka — Allegro (sprawdzałem też eBay ale na polskim nikt nie sprzedaje N810). Znalazłem jedną aukcję ale jest to egzemplarz wysyłany z USA więc pojawia się ryzyko o nazwie “Urząd Celny” a co za tym idzie 22% VAT do opłacenia… Tak oto 1349 PLN przestaje być atrakcyjną ceną.

No ale możemy sami poszukać w USA — w końcu dolar jest tani 🙂 Na Amazonie można kupić za 420 USD (~1050 PLN), zaś w amerykańskim sklepie firmowym Nokia można dostać 72 USD zniżki przez co wychodzi bodajże 403 USD (~1000 PLN). Do tego oczywiście dochodzi koszt przesyłki do Polski. Niestety nadal pozostaje kwestia wizyty w Urzędzie Celnym…

Tak więc spójrzmy na rynek bardziej nam bliski czyli sklepy w Unii Europejskiej. Najpierw sklepy niemieckie. Według wyszukiwarki cenowej Google ceny zaczynają się od 400 EUR (~1450 PLN) co jest taką sobie ceną — przesyłka z USA z opłatami w urzędzie celnym wychodzi bardziej opłacalna…

Ciekawą ofertę ma eXpansys — pod warunkiem, że zignorujemy sklep w domenie .pl 🙂 Niespodzianka polega na fakcie słabnięcia wartości funta brytyjskiego względem Euro. I tak w sklepie w Anglii N810 kosztuje 294,95 GBP (~1430 PLN) zamiast 454,95 EUR (~1650 PLN) w sklepie “polskim”.

Czemu jednak określam to jako ciekawą ofertę skoro wygląda na tyle samo co w wielu niemieckich sklepach? Otóż cały trik polega na fakcie, że będąc płatnikiem VAT (czyli w naszych realiach: firma z VAT-EU) można od razu nabyć bez podatku co daje cenę 263 GBP (~1280 PLN) wliczając w to przesyłkę DHL-em.

Pozostaje kwestia gwarancji. Z tego co wiem to sprzęt zakupiony w Europie ma gwarancję ważną także w Polsce. Inaczej wygląda sprawa z tabletami zakupionymi w USA — na tamtejszy rynek produkowana jest nieco inna wersja (inne uregulowania w kwestii działania WiFi/BT) i nie jest ona wspierana na rynku europejskim.

Pytanie tylko czy polski serwis Nokii jest w stanie naprawiać tablety skoro nie ma ich w sprzedaży. Zadzwoniłem do jednego z oficjalnych punktów serwisowych i dowiedziałem się, że urządzenie będzie przyjęte do naprawy i przekazane do głównego punktu serwisowego ze względu na fakt, iż nie jest to produkt oferowany na rynku polskim.

Sharp Zaurus and chargers

From time to time I see people asking what to use instead of original charger to charge Zaurus palmtops. Some suggest using Sony PSP chargers, some recommends sync-and-charge USB cables.

I have simpler solution — USB Hub chargers. Recently I bought another powered USB Hub and it’s charger does not fit in any of my left sockets (due to size of plug) so I charge it with original Sharp Zaurus charger. Other way is of course proper too — Zaurus power plug is compatible with many devices 😉

770 — what to do with it?

It is nearly a year since I got 770 tablet. Currently it is used mostly by my wife as platform for Mahjongg and few other games. Still OS2006 installed as os2007on770 project failed for me — device became even slower (yes — it is possible to make 770 slower then it is) and more often display “no enough memory” requester.

Recently I noticed that “RSS Feed Reader” (pre-installed one) do not want to launch so there is no way to add/edit list of feeds. I did not checked which other applications also stopped working. The worst thing is that it has to stay in such state…

Why? Few reasons:

  1. applications for OS2006 mostly vanished from common places
  2. new versions of programs are not available for such old OS version
  3. I have some packages for Polish localisation which source I do not remember
  4. restoring backup results in totally broken system due to lack of Polish locale in base system

I will leave it just like it is now — few things still work so maybe it will be usable for some time…

Building Poky Linux under commercial GNU/Linux distributions

During last month I did testing how building Poky Linux works under few commercial GNU/Linux distributions. Due to costs I used their free versions (CentOS instead of RHEL and OpenSUSE instead of SLED).

CentOS 5.1

First was CentOS 5.1 as someone asked does Poky works under newest RHEL distribution. With VirtualBox it was easy to start with. But CentOS installation over network is total CRAP. You have to enter HTTP mirror name by hand, then (also by hand) enter path on server… Doing such installations on real hardware definitely require having second machine or long preparation. Of course you can also use CDs as install media. But then better burn all 6 of them or be surprised that #2 is needed for few packages…

But finally I installed it and landed in 2006 software… Out of box CentOS does not have required packages or have them in so old versions that search for unofficial repositories or compile software by hand is required.

Two days later (time of build) I had “poky-image-sato” and “poky-image-sdk” built. But QEmu does not want to work on this distribution so I had to say goodbye to binary locales generation.

OpenSUSE 10.3

Second one was OpenSUSE 10.3 version. This one also has network install CD which require entering name of HTTP mirror and path. But here I got few new surprises… First it ask for IP address of server but accept normal name. Second was that when I made mistake in path it ask them again but gave me old values so I only had to fix instead of typing whole path.

After installation I had to add some packages but this time no extra repositories were needed. OpenSUSE lack gcc 3.x so we added gcc-native 3.4.4 into Poky and QEmu binary locale generation was working.

Summary

Free versions of commercial distributions require a bit of time to install all required packages but then building Poky Linux under them is working like it should (except QEmu problem under CentOS).

Keyboard in palmtops

Few days ago I shared my thoughts on replacing Zaurus palmtop with other device. According to comments few people do not understand why hardware keyboard is so important for me.

Collie

Nearly 4 years ago I bought my first Linux powered PDA — Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 (codename: “collie”). One of nice features was hardware keyboard:

Collie keyboard

It is thumb operated keyboard but usable after a bit of learning. You have everything needed to operate in console, writing text — even Vi is usable (“Cancel” key works as Esc).

c7x0

Time passed and I got another Zaurus — this time it was clamshell model — c760 (codename: “husky” or “c7x0”). This device has great keyboard. Keys are small but there is separate row with numerical keys so it is improvement from “collie” one.

C7×0 keyboard

Those Japanese keys right to “Fn” one are mapped as “Control” and “Alt” so user can even try to use Emacs 🙂 For Vi lovers there is “Cancel” key which works as Esc.

Tosa

Another months passed and another Zaurus arrived at my place — this time is was SL-6000L (codename: “tosa”). It has keyboard similar to “collie”: but more comfortable due to size of keys:

Tosa keyboard

“Esc” is on “Cancel” like it is in collie.

N810

Recently one Finnish company released new product from their line of tablets: N810. It was their first tablet with integrated keyboard. Thanks to photos provided by Koen I can comment a bit on it too. It it similar to “collie” and “tosa” keyboards when it comes to mapping (no numeric keys, lot of symbols available only with “Fn” key) but it also lack “Tab” key which can make shell using a bit harder.

N810 keyboard

There is “Esc” key — one of side keys works as one (not visible on photo).

Summary

For now the best keyboard is “c7x0” one — all needed keys are available, lot of others can be made available by editing keymap. And when I have to hack something on device good keyboard is one of most important things. I can not count how many times I ended with having 3-4 consoles running on my c760 with miscellaneous applications started due to amount of hacking required by projects.

Akita/Spitz

UPDATE: Matthias ‘CoreDump’ Hentges reminded me about Zaurus SL-Cxx00 keyboards (used in c1000/c3000/c3100/c3200 models):

Spitz keyboard

Yes — they are similar to “c760” one but have changed cursors into 4-pad and each key is separate one — they are no longer parts of membrane. Many people found that one more comfortable then “c7x0” one but I am not one of them — used both and still prefer older one.

Hrw Big Blue theme for WordPress 2.3

Few months ago I switched my website to “Big Blue” theme created by Bob. Then did some changes to it:

  • WordPress tags are used instead of categories
  • Post author is shown
  • Doctype changed to XHTML 1.0 Strict
  • “Home” link removed
  • Archive/search/category views use full contents of posts instead of excerpts
  • removed default sidebar contents (use Presentation->Widgets to set them)
  • single post view does not show tags

Also CSS changes:

  • removed extra font-family settings – only body, pre & code has font family set
  • comment form is scaled to 80%
  • Calendar widget takes 100% width and has properly aligned Prev/Next links
  • blockquote is more visible
  • <q> quotes are italic
  • BSuite plugin highlighting of search entries
  • Author comments are marked

Download and enjoy.

Reading books for children

There is lot of talk about reading books for children. In Poland there is a big campaign on that subject called “Read your child for 20 minutes, daily” (which has some rhymes in Polish language).

I started reading very early and have no problems with reading (even in languages which I do not fully understand which was useful during our trip to Slovakia in 2005). And I plan to read books for my daughter.

But I wonder what kind of child she would be if I would read computer books instead of children books…

How to replace Zaurus PDA?

My Zaurus c760 is nice ARM based palmtop. I use it for testing miscellaneous things during my work days.

It was device where I hacked some Python based applications to fit in 10 megabytes of flash (it was fully working console system with Python and those apps). I test Ångström and Poky on it, tested different combinations of software etc…

But it shows age — batteries (950mAh and 1700mAh ones) started to lose capacity (one of them gives less then 60%) so sooner or later this device will stop booting (as battery is needed to boot even on AC).

But how to replace this device? There are lot of ARM palmtops in a world but most of it lack one or more features which c7x0 has:

  • ARMv5t instruction set
  • Linux support
  • VGA screen
  • working keyboard
  • 128MB flash
  • 64MB RAM

Due to first one all devices powered by Samsung S3Cxxxx processor can be ignored. Most of today WindowsMobile powered devices lack VGA screen (not to mention that they also usually lack Linux support). But at least those ones are available in normal shops in Poland.

I already considered few options but each of them has minuses:

  • other Zaurus (but they are few years old technologically)
  • HTC Universal (hard to get in good state, still boots from WinCE instead of flash)
  • Finnish tablet N810 (impossible to buy in Poland and lack any warranty/service)

In worst situation I will slowly switch to using QEmu ARM emulation instead of real device.