Tag Archives: Nokia N95

Android: What are Google going to do with PIM?

From the early days of palm-top devices, through early smartphones like the Nokia Communicator, and up to all the iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys of today, what the serious users have been looking for has always been PIM: Personal Information Management. They are looking to have their email, calendar, contacts and notes available at all times, on a small portable device. Indeed, as am I. I have been using my Nokia N95 for a couple of years now, and there really is something to be said for having my calendar with me at all times, just by the virtue of carrying my phone.

So what have Google done with Android? They’ve put Google Mail, Google Calendar and a Contacts synchronization to Google Mail in their fine mobile operating system, which goes some of the way. They have also, I am told, put in a regular IMAP client, for those people who don’t use Google Mail, for instance for corporate email. But, it seems, the fun ends there.

There’s no direct support for SyncML, and nothing, it seems, for Exchange. Sure, you can go through Google Calendar for your calendar syncs, and I presume you can forward your mail to Gmail – if your corporate policy permits that. But when it comes to direct sync for third party providers, no luck.

It’s starting to look a bit like what some of us have criticized Apple’s software for doing: If you don’t use it like Steve Jobs does, you’re out of luck. In this case though, even more so: If you don’t buy into Google’s services, no luck with Android’s default apps.

So someone could just develop a sync adapter for the built-in calendar. The source is available under the Apache license, so why not? Here’s why: Google have stated that the API for the built-in Calendar is not public and not going to be for 1.6 or 2.0, which leaves a worrying question: Are Google only going support their own services from the base OS?

It’s certainly not completely unthinkable, as Android has been hailed as an open platform, so anyone can just code a Calendar app, right. Right? Well, maybe. But selling smartphones with no proper PIM solution for anything else than a single provider doesn’t seem like a viable business to me, and I really do hope Google make up their mind to do things differently, and support direct over-the-air synchronization with SyncML, CalDav or even Exchange systems.

Getting back on the IPv6 wagon

Over the last 7 years or so, I’ve played with IPv6 from time to time. I’ve had tunnels set up several times, and they’ve fallen over again due to kernel upgrades, or just because I didn’t really use them. Now I’ve set up another one, but this time, I have found some actual uses for it – sort of, anyway:

1) My web server runs IPv6, and DNS works for it. This blog now works with IPv6 access. I’ve already had a couple of hits on that connection, but not very many. From earlier experiences, I know that this means some people will have a hard time getting to it, due to having a non-working IPv6 setup, and browsers prefering IPv6. Well, if that’s you: Get with the programme, and get your IPv6 fixed.

2) I made my phone – a Nokia N95 – work with IPv6. Actually, I’m bragging where I shouldn’t be: I figured out how to get my wireless network to accept the phone, and as soon as that worked, the phone picked up an IPv6 address, and I could access the test site I’ve been using, http://ipv6.beijing2008.cn/.

I was a bit surprised at how easy it was, but it seems that the consumer end of electronics is really getting ready for IPv6, even though various routers and ADSL-modems aren’t. Next step must be to convince the boss to let an IPv6 VLAN close to the servers so people can start using it for something.

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.