Monthly Archives: August 2007

By popular demand: Nokia N95 Review (part 1)

Since radiac asked me to, I’ll post a sort of review of my phone, the Nokia N95. Before I got mine, I read a bunch of reviews, that mostly mentioned all of the features of the phone, and the stuff it did – and then, in the last two paragraphs, listed that by-the-way, the reviewer hadn’t had that good battery time on his phone.

Things are going to be a little different in this review – I expect that you’ll have read a bunch of feature lists, so I’ll focus on what the phone doesn’t do:

Battery time
There’s no way around this. Oh my. The phone has a 900 mAh Lithium-polymer single-cell 3.7 volt battery. You could use such a battery to power model airplanes; I have a couple a bit like it for that purpose. It’s probably great for a phone, too. In this phone, on an average day for me, it will run out after about 24 hours. 24 hours. Don’t expect to get more battery time than this if you use it’s email fetching, power up the web browser a bunch of times to check things on Wikipedia, send a few text messages, and call for 10 or so minutes.

If you plan to use the GPS: Get a car-charger. I have used the GPS in the field for geocaching – I have a review of that elsewhere on this blog – and it seems to keep its charge fine when in the field. But invariably, when I get home, I have to charge it up. The car-charger isn’t really that expensive, I paid around £7 for it.

Recharge the phone every night. I’ve once had the phone run out of battery for me during the day, after I’d been using it quite a bit for web browsing, but mostly, It’ll work just fine all through the day on the nightly charge.

Camera quality
This is really the party piece of the phone, according to many reviews. A 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. Wow. Don’t be fooled. This is a mobile phone, not a camera. The camera is great, for a mobile phone, and probably passable compared to that of a compact camera of the same dimensions. But it is absolutely no match for my 6 megapixel (only a bit more) Dynax 7D SLR. The compression, especially, is terrible! It’s great for little snapshots, and it does fit my pocket better than my SLR-and-6-lenses, but I’d never use it for anything I really cared about.

All that said, I like that it has two camera, so you don’t have to be awkward if you ever video phone (I don’t), and I like that there’s a decent flash on the main camera. I don’t like the shutter thing you slide in front of the camera – it comes open in my pocket a bit too often, which unlocks the phone and starts the camera software – even if it’s only half way open.

GPS navigation
Reviews have proclaimed that this phone has turn by turn navigation. Nokia has wisely steered clear of such claims. Let’s set it straight:
This phone does not have built-in turn by turn navigation

Important part: Built in. You buy it. It costs a fee. It’s available as a 3-year subscription, and it isn’t expensive – but it isn’t included. But there’s a trick. Using the built-in maps, you can ask it to plot a route for you – that’s a free service, and it works. Preload the maps onto your phone, and it doesn’t even have to use the net connection for it. You can also – with firmware 11.0.026 at the least – ask it to track you as you travel along the route. Doesn’t cost anything, but it doesn’t tell you to turn either – you have to figure that out on your own.

Supposedly, the navigation you buy is really good, and works great, and the maps are updated free of charge, and all is good. I tried out Tomtom, couldn’t get it to work with the built in GPS. Someone mentioned that there is other stuff coming out that’ll do turn by turn navigation – but none of it is free. So, if you buy this phone, beware that you need to pay an additional fee for the navigation.

Software stability
The firmware I have on my phone is version 11.0.026, I think. Presumably, Nokia has gone through some 11 versions of the firmware, polishing it, weeding out the bugs, making it stable and nice.

They’re not very good at it.

They’ve ended up with a phone that I had to do a hard reset on (*#7780#) after owning it for some 27 hours. The web browser refused to start. It worked fine afterwards, and restoring my settings from the microSD was fine as well. But it isn’t really a sign of stable software.

I have also experienced the web browser crashing, or running out of memory, all to often for an “Internet Phone”. There also seems to be some kind of garbage collection running, picking up things like the GPS program that I had left running because I wanted to check a web-page while still knowing where I was… Not good.

It isn’t terrible, and it works most of the time – not worse than most other phones, I’m told. But it definitely doesn’t look like something that’s gone through 11 rounds of stability improvements.

To be continued…
I can’t really come up with more right now – I wanted to write all the positive stuff as well, but I will have to do that some other time…

Using the Nokia N95 for geocaching

For a long time, I have been fascinated with Geocaching. It’s the practice of finding caches hidden in the wild or in cities, using a GPS receiver and some coordinates. Some of the caches are simple, some of them demand that you solve a riddle, and yet some are huge day-long treks across military training grounds.

The ones I’ve liked the most thus far are the simple ones. Punch in the coordinates, park somewhere in the area, and go and try to find the cache. Usually, there’s a nice view, interesting architecture or a nice outdoorsy atmosphere along the way.

I didn’t have a GPS receiver for a long time, so I hadn’t ever really started on this hobby. Then I went to visit Sune and Helle, and we went with a couple of friends to log my first few caches. Shortly thereafter, I bought myself the Nokia N95, as referenced earlier, owing mainly to three things:

  • GPS receiver
  • Wireless networking
  • Calendar/PDA functionality

Oh, and it’s a phone and camera as well, which aren’t bad things. But GPS receiver was really what I wanted, to get started on the geocaching.

So for the first few caches, I picked some rather easy ones, in areas I knew to some extent, and caches that were referenced by some landmark close by. This meant I could at the very least find the general area, and if all else failed, I would go by sheer luck and try to find them 😉 I didn’t have any problems, though, and today I went and did yet another cache, in Selling, an area I have only driven through once or twice.

The main problem was me. I started out walking down the wrong path, which didn’t really help – but once I got down the right path instead, I had no problems at all with the GPS. It reported an accuracy varying between 50 and 125 meters, most of the time around 50 – and in the end, it brought me to within 5 meter of the cache. I am really satisfied with the result, and I would expect nothing more of a low-price commercial GPS receiver.

All in all, using the Nokia N95 for geocaching: I approve.

Street naming

As I’ve commented on this (in Danish) and this (in Danish) both on IRC and on another blog (in Danish), I think it would do me good to describe it here as well.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, the technical mayor, Klaus Bondam, has proposed re-naming a street, Pumpehusvej, after Danish composer Thomas Koppel (1944 – 2006). This is a in some accordance with a Danish tradition of honoring artists by naming streets after them – H.C. Andersens Street, Karen Blixen Street and even Wagner Street.

A member of the Copenhagen city council, Lars Dueholm, flatly refused this, on behalf of his party, the reason being that Thomas Koppel had openly criticized the Danish government, openly voiced support to the terrorists in Iraq, and even compared the Danish press to Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine.

Now, really, what’s with this? This man, Thomas Koppel, was an immensely talented artist, whether or not you agreed with his view. He wasn’t even, as far as I have been able to find out, violent – unlike Richard Wagner, who we have streets named after, who ordered the production of weapons and hand grenades for revolutionaries in Dresden. It would seem the ban on naming streets after controversials only applies if their criticism has been directed at the current government.

Give it a rest, I say. If you can’t take some criticism, get out of politics! And don’t start determining what artists get honored based on their views or their beliefs, but base it on a fair look at the work of their life. We may all yet be a lot wiser in the future, and maybe it turns out these critical individuals were right all along.

Thanks to Alex for pointing out the weapons and hand grenades Wagner ordered.

Intelligent systems

I started back at work yesterday, and I’ve gotten up to speed today and gotten a few things done. In particular, I have added some more intelligence to one of the web systems I work on, in order to avoid duplication of users. It’s the form for creating users I’ve been working on, and it now looks at the data you enter, compare it to the data already in the LDAP directory, and tries to guess if the user is already there.

I showed it to a colleague, having explained the nature of the script, and we agreed it looked okay. Then I showed it to my boss, who immediately mistook the functionality for a search engine – clearly unwanted behaviour! I will have to find a way to make it more obvious that it’s just trying to help you.

Now I think I’ll sit down for half an hour and practice on my piano.

William Gibson – Virtual Light

I just finished reading William Gibsons 1993 novel Virtual Light. Apparently, it’s the first in a series of three novels, based around a grim vision of a future post-earthquake California in a broken-up world. Apparent character-ages, and some years mentioned in the book, puts it around 2007. This makes it a lot of fun to look at how William Gibson envisioned a possible future.

The narrative follows the viewpoints of three separate characters, somewhat merging them as the book progresses, but still with the different characters’ slightly differing view of the events. In narrative style, I find it quite similar to that of Mona Lisa Overdrive, although it is a lot closer to home in terms of technology than his earlier novels. The use of fax instead of email is retained, though, as is the use of Virtual Reality for computers.

I picked up the book at an impulse in my local book shop, while I was actually shopping for Neal Stephensons The System of the World. I enjoyed it, and I will surely get the next two volumes as well soon.


To aid in my learning to play the piano, I have considered getting a metronome. Metronomes seem to be subject of some discussion in the world of music teachers, so I’ve collected some of the thoughts here.

When to use a metronome
A metronome attempts to teach the student a consistent rhythm and to aid in determining the correct speed at which to play a piece of music. Some schools of teaching insist that the metronome only be used for teaching how fast a given speed “feels”, and that it should never be used while playing or doing rhythm exercises. This puts the main burden on the shoulders of the student, and should give the student a better internal rhythm. It doesn’t, however, prevent the student from losing rhythm in the difficult parts of a piece, and the student has no external way of keeping track of how well he is holding his pace.

Using the metronome while playing pieces, on the other hand, is recommended by some teachers. It is said to be easier to start at a lower pace, and slowly speed up the metronome until the desired playing speed is achieved. It removes the task of keeping the correct rhythm from the student, giving him time to focus on the notes in the music. However, it may also render the student unable to play consistent speeds without a metronome ticking.

I lean toward the second method, of course with the provision that the metronome should only be used for a period of time, after which pieces should be well enough learned for the student (me) to hold the rhythm without external reference.

Types of metronomes
I found a great article concerning metronomes that I will paraphrase a bit from in the following.

Electronic metronomes
These are little electronic devices that go “beep” whenever there’s a tick. I made stuff like this in the 5th grade or so, though modern ones have all sorts of different stuff like built-in tuning. I’m sure it’s great for guitarists and such – I don’t need it. If my digital piano goes out of tune, I’m sure I won’t be able to fix it that easily.

Electric metronomes
These are apparently bigger metronomes that plug into wall sockets, and take up a whole lot of space. I haven’t seen these, but I expect they do exist… I doubt they’d be much use for me, I would rather go for …

Mechanic metronomes
This is the real deal. Wind-up, moving arm with weight, movable weight. These give of a good, unmistakable ticking sound, and since they use wind-up mechanisms, you can use them wherever you are. I know there’s a German company, Wittner, that makes some quite well-known ones – this seems to be the biggest manufacturer of metronomes. And they also make some funny ones, leading me to …

The one I want
So I found it. The metronome I want. It’s mechanic, and it’s funny – it’s shaped like a cat.

Wittner Taktell Cat
Please, buy me one.

Quick raspberry ice cream


  • 1 blender
  • Frozen raspberries
  • Icing sugar
  • Cream
  • Optionally: Chocolate

Blend food-type ingredients in blender. Serve right away. The frozen berries cools the mixture to be like soft ice cream.

Suggested mix is 200g raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2½ dl cream, and some chocolate.