Nokia N900 discount

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.

My opinion on next Nokia tablet

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.

Does Vortex86sx based devices are worth something?

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
ATNGW100 av32 AT32AP700x 130MHz SDRAM 35MB/s
ASUS WL-500gP mips bcm3302 266MHz 46MB/s
Freecom FSG-3 arm ipx42x 266MHz 43MB/s
iBook G3 ppc g3 300MHz SDRAM 65MB/s
AT91SAM9263-EK arm at91sam9263 180MHz SDRAM 62-63MB/s
Compulab arm pxa270 312MHz SDRAM 74MB/s
NSLU2 arm ixp420 266MHz SDRAM 74MB/s
Koala nano33 x86 vortex86dx 1GHz DDR2 74MB/s
Nokia N810 arm omap2420 400MHz SDRAM 82MB/s
AT91SAM9G20-EK arm at91sam9G20 400MHz SDRAM 96MB/s
Linkstation pro duo arm ixp4xx 266MHz 147MB/s
BeagleBoard arm omap3530 500MHz mDDR 152MB/s
Alix.1c x86 geodelx 500MHz DDR 209MB/s
kirkwood reference board1 arm kirkwood 1200MHz DDR2 209MB/s
BUG arm i.mx31 533MHz DDR 294MB/s
my desktop x86 core2quad 2400MHz DDR2 3300-3500MB/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.

  1. kirkwood reference board uses same cpu as SheevaPlug device. 

BUG has arrived

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:

  • BUGbase
  • 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.

Nokia N8x0 emulation part II

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.

Maemo OS2008 (Chinook) on emulated N800 - first screen Maemo OS2008 (Chinook) on emulated N800 - desktopMaemo OS2008 (Chinook) on emulated N800

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.

Choosing next cellphone

Nearly two years passed since I started to use my current cellphone: Sony Ericsson k750i. It is great device but I feel more and more limited during using it. For example PIM is very simple (no recurrent events, no attenders) and none of my PDA devices has something more extended.

PIM — Agendus

Few years ago when I had PalmOS powered Sony Clie SJ30 I used Agendus application for PIM. Recently I checked newest version in Garnet VM emulator on my Nokia N810 tablet. It is really great and complex application. There is a support for event attenders, contacts linking, contacts history (tasks, calls, meetings) and lot more. Interesting feature is support for “Trip” events — I tested it with my GUADEC 2008 trip. I was able to add timeline for whole conference, bus trips from Szczecin to Berlin Tegel airport (and back) + plane flights and all of that linked as one trip with all components available in calendar, agenda etc…

Yesterday I installed Windows Mobile emulator and checked Agendus for that platform. It lacks some features from PalmOS version (trips are one of them) but is much better then default WM PIM. I do not plan to check BlackBerry or Symbian versions because they are not on a list of systems which I want to use.

Which system to choose?

So the problem now is which cellphone system to choose… I do not want Symbian because most of devices lack touchscreen (iirc only UIQ ones have it), BlackBerry is totally unknown for me and I also do not want to use totally closed phones like I did in last few years. PalmOS is trying to not die but nothing new was done on this platform in last few years so it is also not for me. Looks like the only choice is going to Windows Mobile cellphones.

Possible devices

Which one to choose? Most of devices use QVGA screens which is a very limiting resolution. After searching on web and discussing with few friends I have a few devices to check — Toshiba G900 (WVGA, new ~480EUR, used ~300EUR, hardware keyboard, no gps) or something from ETEN Glofiish devices with VGA screen (X650, X800, M800, M810). HTC has only Touch Diamond with VGA screen but it is too expensive.

Why not Linux phone?

Because there is nothing interesting now 🙁 Openmoko guys moved from GTK+ to mix of E17 and Qtopia and when I saw result during LinuxTag 2008 it was nothing impressive. To add more confusion there are at least 4 different environments for Openmoko in development (GTK+ based OM2007.2, Qtopia on framebuffer, E17 + Qtopia on X11 and something called “Openmoko underground”). Also formfactor of GTA01/02 is not something I would call “nice” — have a look at any device manufactured by HTC…

And I did not yet saw Linux mobile platform with good PIM… Maemo lack it totally — even GPE contacts/calendar are hard to use due to lack of alarms functionality, Openmoko does not decided yet which PIM they want to support (not that there is something on a horizon)… So sorry guys but I will not buy Linux phone soon.

Feel the power of USB with Nokia tablet

Over year ago I wrote post about USB — connected most of my devices/gadgets into desktop USB ports and checked how system reacts to it. As Kees Jongenburger gave me USB AF/AF adapter during this year LinuxTag I decided to do the same with N810 tablet.

Required software

In theory nothing is needed as N8x0 tablets are equipped in USB On-The-Go port and proper support is enabled in kernel. To make things easier users can install USBControl (available in normal Maemo repositories).

But there is one problem — default kernel is compiled with OTG whitelist enabled. As a result some classes of devices are rejected — for example all my USB Hubs. After disabling of CONFIG_USB_OTG_WHITELIST (and recompilation of kernel) they got supported.

Attached hardware

I decided to not connect everything USB I have but most of it. Resulting list (names in brackets are added by hand):

Bus 001 Device 001: ID 0000:0000 (Nokia N810 internal USB Host)
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 058f:9254 Alcor Micro Corp. Hub
Bus 001 Device 005: ID 058f:6362 Alcor Micro Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 007: ID 0c76:0007 JMTek, LLC. 
Bus 001 Device 008: ID 0409:005a NEC Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 020: ID 1457:5122 (OpenMoko GTA01 phone)
Bus 001 Device 021: ID 046d:0b02 Logitech, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 023: ID 046d:c70e Logitech, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 024: ID 046d:c70a Logitech, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 026: ID 0409:005a NEC Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 027: ID 0403:6001 Future Technology Devices International, Ltd 8-bit FIFO
Bus 001 Device 028: ID 0fce:d016 Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB 
Bus 001 Device 029: ID 05e3:0606 Genesys Logic, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 030: ID 0a81:0205 Chesen Electronics Corp. PS/2 Keyboard+Mouse Adapter
Bus 001 Device 031: ID 1130:0202 Tenx Technology, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 033: ID 0a46:9601 Davicom Semiconductor, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 034: ID 13fe:1d00 (2GB pendrive from GUADEC 2007) 

In other words:

  • 3 hubs (2 of them were powered, one had 7 ports)
  • Ethernet card (dm9601 based)
  • serial port
  • PS/2 -> USB adapter for keyboard and mouse
  • 2 pendrives
  • Bluetooth adapter (those 3 Logitech entries)
  • panic button
  • Openmoko GTA01 pda/phone
  • my cellphone
  • multi slot card reader

Obligatory screen shot

Screenshot must be — especially when it shows that GUI was not ready for this amount of devices. But thats expected — in normal situations no one connects more then one device (especially when USB hubs are not supported).


USB Host ports are handy in devices like N810 tablet. Would be nice if there would be possibility to update firmware from thumb drive like it is one few other devices.

Car navigation with N810

During last two weeks I did two 250km trips. First Poznań -> Szczecin, then return. Road into both directions is good and it is impossible to get lost but I took my N810 with me.

Before trip I started Maemo Mapper to generate route and fetch all needed maps (from Google Maps street view). This part was fast. I checked generated route does it have sense and stored on card as there is no offline route generation — you can do it only online by querying author’s website which send query to Google Maps, converts and returns XML.

Ok, time to go — I packed car with all our luggage and during that left N810 in car to get “gps fix” as internal GPS needs time for this operation. During trip we looked from time to time just to check are we on track. Few times tablet just rebooted which resulted in no GPS fix until next longer stop 🙁 But it does not need to reboot to lose position — look at our return trip track (clean road, no tunnels etc):

I know that there are people who use Nokia tablets for car navigation. But how does it compare to TomTom Navigator which I had occasion to use one day…

Let’s see.

Function TomTom Maemo Mapper Wayfinder
price 99 EUR for PDA edition1 free (GPL) 9 EUR (1 month)
69 EUR (year)
70 EUR (3 years)
1 week free trial2
offline routing + require licence
detour planning +
finger friendly keyboard +
address lists with prediction + no such lists +

So it looks like I will not buy HH-12 car holder to use N810 for car navigation but rather TomTom device or some Windows CE/Mobile navigator with TomTom software to have something usable.

  1. often comes pre-installed on Windows Mobile devices 

  2. after trial period each run shows requester with “enter license key or purchase” and settings window (on right side of screen) is not available 

Polish layout for N810 hardware keyboard

Thanks to work done by Jiri Benc in his “ukeyboard” alternative control panel for language and regional settings I am able to present Polish layout for N810 hardware keyboard.

Polish chars are on Chr+ (where is one of “acelnosxz”).

Also few other combinations are added:

Fn+Space = |
Chr+Space = Tab
Chr+j = [
Chr+k = ]

Original functions of “Chr” key were dropped — there is no small on screen keyboard after single press of “Chr” and no option to enter other national chars (like “öïüõôōő” etc).

Click here to simple install.