Busy making things: github, links, photos, @mc.

Maemo blows me away again

Posted: October 17th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Linux, Mobile, Open Source | Comments Off

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet

My wife and I just bought a house and I’ve realized that there isn’t any room in the budget for major gadget purposes, so I’ve been trying not to get too excited about things coming down the road. It’s not suprising that I’ve been following the recently announced Nokia N810 Internet Tablet in a much more detached manner than usual.

That is until I saw Ari Jaaksi holding a prototype in his hand. Holy crap that thing is significantly smaller than the N800 and packs quite a punch. The slide-out keyboard is killer, GPS is a no-brainer these days and is included, the browser is Mozilla-based, the UI got a refresh… I could go on for days.

The other thing I really like about the new tablet is that the Maemo platform is moving to be even more open than it was before (which was about as open as the lawyers at Nokia would allow). The quite good but closed source Opera web browser has been replaced by one that is Mozilla-based. This is yet another major component that is now open instead of closed. The major closed-source components (if I’m remembering correctly) are now limited to the DSP, various binary drivers that Nokia licenses directly, and the handwriting recognition software. That’s definitely a smaller list than it was before, and I applaud Nokia’s efforts in opening up as much as possible. It’s also worth noting that the Ubuntu Mobile project is basing a lot of its work on the work that Nokia has done with Maemo (most notable Matchbox and the Hildon UI).

So yeah, I’m now paying much closer attention to this new device that I was doing my best to ignore. Job well done.


You had me until I saw the stylus

Posted: October 16th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile | 2 Comments »

I got pretty excited when Rafe posted a video about S60 touch on allaboutsymbian. I’ve been using S60 since the 3650 days and continue to love it, despite its quirks and shortcomings. There have been rumours of touch capabilities for S60 for years now, long before the announcement and shipping of the iPhone. I’m also pretty sure that Nokia have been working on S60 touch capabilities for some time now (pre-iPhone) too.

Everything was going great: the video showed a nice N-Series-style phone with a big touchable screen doing things that you’d expect an N-Series phone with a big touchable screen to do. And then about two minutes in they lost me. That’s when they showed the S60 touch interface being used with a stylus.

Come on Symbian. It’s not the 90′s anymore. My Palm III rocked because of its stylus and glorious grey screen, but that was almost a decade ago. Now that the iPhone has launched, there’s a certain expectation level for new mobile UIs.

Touch is one of those expectations. Having to use a stylus is not.

It’s also interesting to see this latest battle in the one-handed vs. two-handed war play itself out. It has always struck me that there is a split between these two factions within Nokia (and by extension within Symbian) but the public rarely sees it. I tend to lean toward the one-handed side myself but do see the merits that some two-handed devices have to offer from time to tim. I have both a 9290 and an N800 but the bulk of my mobile purchases have been one-handed devices.

I also think that S60′s one-handedness is one of the reasons that S60-based devices have been so successful. Nokia sold approximately 1.5 million N95′s in Q2 2007. Compare those numbers with a flagship device like a high end two-handed UIQ phone and I’ll bet that the two-handed numbers are significantly lower. Once you start including the entire one-handed range of Symbian devices, you have a force to be reckoned with.

I’m hoping that showing the stylus was meant to demonstrate that Symbian can support a stylus, not that most or many devices will. I’m encouraged a bit since S60 has recently taken on QWERTY capabilities and it makes sense to tout its versatility from single-handed to touch to stylus to QWERTY.

We’re still at the press release stage not the technical documentation stage, so there’s a lot of room for change. Lots of things mentioned in the press release strike me as good things: tactile feedback, backwards compatibility, in-browser flash support and a continuation of S60′s various sensor mechanisms.

But Symbian, here’s a bit of advice for you: downplay that stylus! Nobody wants to see it and it totally kills the mood when you use it on an otherwise sleek and sexy device.


Goodbye Business 2.0

Posted: October 2nd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Web Services | 1 Comment »

Goodbye, friend.

I got my last issue of Business 2.0 in the mail today.

As predicted they’ve offered to send me one month of Fortune for every two months of my remaining subscription. I’ve been offered “equivalent” subscriptions for cancelled publications in the past, but never at a 1:2 ratio.

I might grab a copy of Fortune from the newstand to see if it’s worth it, but I feel like I get enough standard business news from Marketplace and various sources in my feed aggregator. Unless Fortune knocks my socks off I’ll be asking for a refund. It doesn’t help that I’m already unhappy with Fortune/CNN Money for killing my beloved publication.

Goodbye b2. You will be missed.


Newton 2.0?

Posted: October 1st, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Mobile | Comments Off

Every time I refresh my feed reader and see a new slick third-party app for the iPhone, I wonder to myself if a few years down the road we’re going to be talking about pre-1.1.1 iPhones like we talk about Newton’s today. Third party apps and unlocked iPhones are essentially a dead end street unless someone figures out how to work around it.

Of course 1.1.1 might have also started a cold war battle between Apple and hackers that sounds almost exactly like the moves that Sony pulled on the PSP. The latest move is very different than the Laissez-faire attitude Apple has taken toward hacking the Apple TV and the early iPhone. I never thought I’d see the day that Apple cribbed something from Sony’s playbook.

Perhaps it’s the difference between an indie/niche product and something mainstream like the iPhone. Perhaps it’s the added pressure of the carriers wanting super-locked down devices on their networks. (I doubt that though. Just grab a Symbian device and do with it as you please.) Perhaps it’s Apple realizing that it’s big enough that it can do as it pleases.

Then again, maybe they’re biding their time while they polish the official non-web-2.0 SDK. We can all dream, can’t we?

Pull up a chair and bring it close to the fire. Let me tell you about the golden age of the iPhone…