29 Jan 2008 Burgundavia   » (Journeyer)

So then I got the N810...

Seems Nokia was kind enough to give one of the developers discount codes. After a bit of a wait as the Canadian store had a few issues to sort out, I have this shiny little device in my hand. Well, I did get on Thursday and writing this blog post a few days later. And what do I have to think? Well, here, in no particular order, are some bits:

The Good

  • Size & Weight - It is thinner and heavier than I expected, but about the same size as I had imagined.
  • Screen - It rocks. Truly, it is bright and huge, at least for something this big. I have an old Palm Tungsten E and the screen on the N810 runs at about twice the resolution and is only a little bit bigger
  • The basic screen layout - Very well thought out, with nice low contrast icons
  • The GPS I was pleasantly surprised to see that the resolution of the GPS compares favourably with my Garmin CS. Having it built-in is very cool.
  • Word completion - learns as you go, thus my completion now includes words like "maemo" and "openstreetmap". I don't think I need to say more
  • Amazing battery life - This thing will go a whole day, even with near constant usage in class, walking around, etc.
  • Working power management - I guess I am just used to Linux devices with crappy power management. All this just shows what happens when the OEM gets involved from the ground up.
  • "Gentle" notification system - If the screen has gone black, there is a little LED in the upper corner that pulses if somebody has messaged you or something simliar. Only if it is fairly major like power issues or networking disconnecting does it beep at you. Nice for in class or quiet meetings.
  • Hardware QWERTY keyboard - Like any small keyboard, it takes a bit of getting used to, but overall the feel is nice. The keyboard is backlit as well, nice for those dark areas.
  • Integration of Telepathy and evolution-data-server - This is what we badly need on the desktop. Contacts are contacts, regardless of what app you use them in. However, see below for the ugly side to this.

The Bad

  • No native editing software for OpenStreetMap - This is pretty much the perfect device for editing OSM. Built-in GPS with touch screen running Linux.
  • No tab key - In this era of endless web forms, where is our tab key? If it is there, I haven't found it yet.
  • No hardware scroll buttons on the main body - I keep looking for something like the Blackberry's scroll wheel or even just up and down buttons. Yes, there is a joypad-ish type thing on the keyboard, but you need to pull down the keyboard for that.
  • No camera app by default - I see camera but no way to use it by default.
  • No tomboy-like app - Given one of the major uses of this type of device is basic note taking, lists, etc., you would think a tomboy-like autosaving desktop wiki would be a first. Not so and no Tomboy .deb either.
  • Telepathy is not completely mature yet - I had a few issues with bouncing on and off on my home wireless and by default it only supports SIP and

The Ugly What seperates the bad from the ugly? The ugly are really really stupid things. Small mistakes are not ugly, failures to think, stupid legal issues, hardware that doesn't work, these things are ugly.

  • No Pimlico I badly want Pimlico to be shipped by default. The default Contacts app uses evolution-data-server, so most of the working bits are there, but there are some issues. Ross from OpenedHand has more
  • Terrible package management - Yes, it has Ipkg and repos. So compared to similar WinCE/Symbian devices it is miles ahead, but that is really enough. There are a whole host of issues, including lack of definitions for categories, millions of repos and more. Makes me feel like I am running Red Hat circa RH8.
  • Hardware volume keys don't work - Right. I don't think I will say more
  • Default OS is closed source - The default OS, OS2008, is actually Maemo + closed source bits, including drivers. Given they have already dropped support for the N770, how long before I get pissed off at Nokia for dropping support for the N810?
  • No OGG support - More CYA from Nokia legal (likely the same issue with eds and pimlico). It also looks like it doesn't use gstreamer, which means the fix has to be hacked in.
  • Crappy default media centre, Canola is closed source - The built-in media centre is not the greatest and the closest thing to replace it, Canola, is closed source. Umm, what?
  • No sync from GNOME to N810 - Given this is running a huge amount of the same bits as my Ubuntu desktop, where is my sync? Why can't I sync my contacts to and from the device?
  • Default notepad app crashes on save - not everytime, about 1 in 3. BUt the worst part is that when it crashes, it truncates the files. So each crash leaves you with less and less.


Would I buy one of these things at full price? If I had the money, absolutely. The hardware and software are slick, excepting the issues above. The legal issues surrounding Pimlico and Ogg are not the Maemo teams fault. Nor are some of the hardware decisions, I imagine.

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