[Jaffa Software]

Saturday 15 December 2007

N810 thoughts

Although the discount codes aren't working yet, I've managed to play with an N810 (which may well end up becoming my wife's). Here are some random thoughts:

  • It's thin. Much thinner than I was expecting. Although you definitely notice the heavier weight compared with an N800. It's not too heavy, though.
  • The brushed metal and styling generally is very nice. I love the look of this thing, and not having the d-pad on the front makes it that much neater.
  • I keep hitting "Escape" when trying to hit the "Home" key on the side when switching between browser windows. Escape in the browser causes it to go back. Doh!
  • The keyboard is nice, not as nice as an Eee's (of course), but much better than the thumb keyboard. Fortunately, I don't have fingers that are that fat, so the well-commented lack of space above the top row isn't too irksome.
  • The GPS didn't take too long to acquire it's initial lock (I left it out in the garden for 5 minutes this morning). Acquiring a new lock takes a few seconds when it's just tucked (upright) in one of the compartments below the dashboard on my car. Very happy with that, what with all the worries about lock time acquisition.
  • The car mount comes with no instructions whatsoever. I've worked out that you can pop the back off the N810-specific bit to bolt that on to the stand; but the stand itself has to be screwed into a dashboard. That ain't happening on my car. No sir. It looks like it should be possible to get a sucker-style or clip-style stand; but whether these are separately sold - and where - is unknown.
  • I often get my nail between the keyboard and the screen, rather than the keyboard and the flip stand. Again, a little irritating.
  • Media playback is better than ever. Although there's a nasty bug whereby it forgets it knows how to play a file: #2565.
  • Talking of bugs, there're a few irritating ones:

    • #2564: No consistency on scrolling/scrollbars in bundled OS2008 applications
    • #2567: Maps should restart showing your previous location, not the country at a zoomed out level
    • #2568: Menu icons for newly installed software are not shown at correct size

Overall, very impressed. Get one if you haven't got an N800 already.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

tablet-encode v2.15 - now with GUI

tablet-encode v2.15 is now available to download, making it even easier to convert your videos to a format suitable for the Nokia Internet Tablets.

The primary enhancement in this release is the addition of a simple GUI mode, in addition to the full-power of the command line from previous versions:

width="174" height="124" alt="[Selecting an input video]"
title="Selecting an input video" />

The GUI is entirely optional: if you have the gtk2-perl bindings installed it will be opened if you don't specify any command line options. You can also get a progress bar up, if you pass --gui in along with your command line options. This is particularly suitable when putting tablet-encode in to your "Send To" menu.

There are a number of other small enhancements, thanks to all those who gave input or contributed patches. Full details are in the change log.

Friday 23 November 2007

N810 not available until December?

[Delays likely]According to gbuergisser, Nokia Europe have told him: "the N810 will not be available for a few weeks (December for sure) in Europe."

This fits with the NokiaUSA.com date of 2007-12-19. As zerojay's said, we're getting stuff cheap so shouldn't complain (too much), but it is frustrating. Users are getting N810s from retailers in the US, but no-one on the device programme have been able to get one yet. This is frustrating to end-users as they've got no software, and it's frustrating to the lucky 500 watching people get them before them and then moaning there's no software.

Fortunately Quim Gil's recognised this, but we're still pretty much in the dark on actual dates and why it's been delayed in some markets from the original mid-November date.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Nokia launch Internet Tablet Video Converter

Nokia have launched the Internet Tablet Video Converter which is, by far and away (IMHO), the single best video converter for Windows for owners of the Nokia Internet Tablets.


The interface is powered by Mozilla, and is a smart, black GUI looking vaguely reminiscent of the Hildon desktop:

Main ITVC interface

From here, videos can be dragged and dropped on to the window; or added explicitly by clicking on the "Add" button. There are also buttons in the top-right (corresponding to the status bar on a Maemo device) for an about box and to bring up the settings.

Interestingly, the far-left hand side contains the button "Video", suggesting that future versions may handle DVDs or other media sources. There's no sign of that in the app, yet, though.

Converting a video

Videos are converted into MP4 files (rather than all the other media converters which target DivX/Xvid). This is only of technical interest, as the user experience remains the same.

Multiple videos can be converted simultaneously, with the total progress and time remaining, and each video's progress and ETA shown in the interface:

ITVC converting a video

Once converted videos can be copied one at a time, or many together to a connected tablet through the interface; as well as deleted etc. Converted videos are kept over a number of instances, but a maximum number of videos can be specified which, once reached, will result in the oldest converted videos being deleted.


The settings button brings up a simple UI, from where the quality of the converted videos can be set on a slider; and more advanced settings like where the converted videos should be stored:

ITVC settings window

As with my own tablet-encode it uses a preset-based system with options ranging from "low" to "best".

In summary...

For Windows users (who don't want a scriptable program such as tablet-encode), this is definitely the best media converter available.

Monday 19 November 2007

mediaserv + tablet-encode = mediautils

My command-line video conversion script, 770-encode is very widely used; however its name is obviously something of an anachronism. So with the imminent availability of the N810, it was time to rename it. Welcome, tablet-encode. This new name also comes with a major new version, including a number of long-standing patches from people being applied, such as multiple-file support.

I've also put it, along with mediaserv in a new garage.maemo.org project: mediautils.

Finally, mediaserv has gotten a v0.05 release which fixes a number of small bugs (thanks to all those who reported them) and makes it aware of both tablet-encode and 770-encode as potential encoders it can use.

More information, and links to the Garage downloads can be found at: http://mediautils.garage.maemo.org/

Sunday 28 October 2007

mediaserv: v0.04 and demo

mediaserv has now reached v0.04. Thanks to everyone for providing feedback. Here's a demo of my N800 playing back a DVD rip in 720x576 1000kbps video, 192kbps audio DivX off a 1GHz Via C3 processor box transcoding to 770-encode's "average" preset:

Download: mediaserv-0.04.tar.gz (29KB)

Its main features now include:

  • On-demand transcoding of videos.
  • Easy-to-use web UI, and integration with Video Center.
  • Playback in standard Media Player or mplayer, depending on the configuration of your Web Browser and/or Video Center.
  • Automatic thumbnail generation.
  • Meta-data from MythTV and Freevo for subtitles and descriptions.
  • Tested on Linux, Mac OS X and other Unix-like OSes.

It's fully documented, but obviously since it's only v0.04 there are almost certainly still bugs and enhancements which can be made. So comments are, as ever, welcome.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

mediaserv updated: now actually useful

Thanks to everyone who gave me lots of good, positive, constructive feedback on the first version of mediaserv. I've just uploaded mediaserv-v0.02.tar.gz (24KB) where:

  • The 770-encode preset can be specified.
  • The location of 770-encode can be specified.
  • Video Center config files are created, should make adding directories to Video Center that much easier.
  • Usage counting works: so transcoding stops when nothing is reading from the result.
  • A bug whereby the reading could fall off the end of the result has been fixed: if you had videos stopping too soon, this is almost certainly it.
  • Quick links to the RSS feed and Video Center configs added at the top of the page.
  • Hidden files and directories are not shown, instead a breadcrumb trail is created in the banner.

Monday 22 October 2007

On-demand transcoding server - initial release

I'm very pleased to be able to announce the initial version of "mediaserv", an on-demand transcoding server for videos, targetting the Nokia Internet Tablets.

What's that mean? Well, you don't have to worry about transcoding your video collection in advance: you can just select the video from a web page and get it streamed to your 770, N800 or N810. It's a bit like Orb, apparently, but doesn't require you to sign-up to a third-party website and works on non-Windows platforms.

Even better, it provides RSS feeds which can be used by Nokia's beta Video Center allowing you easy access to files as they are added to your collection.

No fancy web page for it yet, but the tarball for Linux/Unix and Mac OS X (probably) machines is here: mediaserv-0.01.tar.gz (20KB).

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Palm Foleo cancelled

A couple of emails in my inbox this morning from Ed Colligan, Palm CEO, saying the Foleo's been cancelled:


I think the reasons are threefold:

  1. A distinct lack of excitement from the existing Palm userbase (apart from some real zealots) - in fact, real hostility from both their base and columnists.
  2. A mismanagement of the launch and bringing in software developers: obviously some people were getting devices and SDKs, but no-one in the open source community was (AFAICT). All the software announced to date has been rewrites/ports of existing Palm software. Hardly a paradigm shift.
  3. The announcement of the Asus Eee PC and the Via Nanobook platforms killed any chance the Foleo had of success. They're cheaper, more flexible and more open.

(2) is an interesting one: it shows that despite all of the mistakes Nokia made with Maemo, they could've got it so much more wrong.

Sunday 8 July 2007

Reboot loop with latest firmware

Upgraded to the v4.2007 OS yesterday, and had one problem straight off: running plankton meant an entirely broken UI (and invisible keys on the VKB) - had to reinstall Plankton and hildon-theme-cacher, which would've been a bigger issue if I didn't have the Bluetooth keyboard.

Also tried using the built-in backup/restore (for settings only) for the first time. It saved my network connections (good), but not paired Bluetooth devices (bad).

However, worst of all, this morning it's gone into a reboot loop; it gets 3/5 of the way through the boot and then restarts. It sounds similar to that reported before when the RSS reader applet was crashing the desktop at startup. I've not changed any of the feeds, so it'll be interesting to see if anyone else is experiencing this.

Update: it turns out it was my own playing with my configurable font size control panel applet that was causing the problem: ~/.osso/current-gtk-theme may look like a gtkrc file, but it gets parsed to strip out the current theme name to pass to matchbox when starting it. How disgustingly hacky.

Saturday 2 June 2007

The Palm Foleo - Internet Tablet with keyboard?

Palm've announced the Foleo which looks like a very interesting device, despite all the negative press. In particular, it looks like an evolution of the Psion netBook combined with the Linux goodness of the Nokia Internet Tablets.

The most annoying thing about my N800 is the lack of a proper keyboard, making it rather unsuitable for typing meeting minutes etc. A Bluetooth keyboard works, but is sub-optimal. Also, the screen's a fantastic resolution and pitch, however a larger screen is useful when writing documents and wanting to read them.

It remains to be seen, of course, how open Palm is with this; it could be remarkably closed, but if open enough could almost be the consumer-level OLPC that people have been wanting.

Friday 23 March 2007

OS 2007 v3 released!

As found by kulve on #maemo, there is a new version of OS 2007 available for the N800 on maemo.org.

The changelog mentions the expected video improvements, amongst improved Flash performance, stability improvements and Bluetooth changes.

I've not yet been able to test whether the video/YouTube performance is actually that much better, but it'll be the first thing to try once the download & reflash cycle is complete.

Tuesday 20 February 2007

Running Debian proper alongside Maemo

Detlef Schmicker has posted to maemo-developers the first results of his hack to use VNCViewer to connect to a locally running Debian instance on the tablet to solve the keyboard/input issues.

He's had Firefox, Gimp and Xterm all running on his N800 in the IceWM window manager, with VNCviewer providing the keyboard. No network connection was necessary.

It's a very cool hack, it'll be interesting to see if it can be packaged for end-user use.

Wednesday 14 February 2007

The Internet is everywhere.... or will be. One day. Maybe.

In a comment to Roger at Internet Tablet Talk, Dr. Ari Jaaksi says he'd like to see developed:

[...] an app or service (it doesn’t have to be inside the device, it could be on the network) that demands online, constant access."

This kind of sentiment has been expressed before about the Maemo-based Internet Tablets:

  • "You don't need a PIM, as you use an online calendar."
  • "You don't need a good email client, use Gmail or similar."
  • "You don't need $X, use $Y online."

Now it's self-evident that we're not in a world of ubiquitous Internet yet. Norwich city centre's free wifi rollout could be considered a start, as could the talk of a non-free nationwide WiMax network.

So, I look forward to the day of ubiquitous Internet access...

  • ...which is cheap (or even free) at home and not exhorbitantly expensive when on holiday abroad.
  • ...on the train - in a railway cutting or tunnel (both very common on the UK's West Coast Main Line) with no line of site to a base station or satellite.
  • ...on a plane - despite existing carriers cancelling the service due to cost.
  • ...in the Channel Tunnel - when popping over to a foreign country, incurring roaming charges etc., even when I'm still closer to Great Britain than when in Northern Ireland.
  • ...on a boat in the middle of the English Channel.
  • ...in the middle of the Dubai desert (roll on mid-March!)

Personally, I doubt the Internet will ever be ubiquitous in these locations without paying a fortune (after all, if an FM radio signal can't be ubiquitous, why would people pay to make a cheap Internet connection available); and why should I have to pay a fortune to check my calendar?

Yes, these are Internet tablets, but I should be able to carry my bits of the Internet around with me.

Wednesday 7 February 2007

N800 FM radio

As rumoured on maemo-developers and ITT, the N800 does have an FM radio... and there's a Nokia application to use it. (Found by Jens Becker: here)

It's in the certified tableteer repository, but it can be installed straight from the deb: fmradio_1.2.0_armel.deb.

Once installed, you have to start fmradio direct from an XTerm, or enable the new "FM Radio" home applet. Headphones are required to act as an aerial, but you can choose to output to the built-in-speakers or the headphones with toolbar buttons.

Tuesday 6 February 2007

Unpacked OS 2007 sources

As koen did for OS 2006, I've unpacked the Nokia-provided tarball of OS 2007 sources and uploaded them:


Tuesday 30 January 2007

MUD ports of existing packages

keesj asked an interesting question: how do you approach people who've already ported packages to Maemo and say you want to convert them to MUD-Builder? Most packages aren't in the extras repository, so auto-upload to that from MUD is the most immediate and obvious benefit.

My reply included a couple of sample messages; one for the upstream author, which is a bit boring, and one for the current Maemo maintainer:

I've seen your $PACKAGE port to Maemo and though I'd try to add it to the MUD auto-builder. This would allow the Maemo-specific packaging to be done automatically, the upstream source to be tracked and it automatically added to the Maemo Extras repository when it is updated.

I was wondering if you'd mind me doing this packaging, or whether you'd like to take a look? Producing a MUD package is straight forward and means you can concentrate on porting stuff, rather than producing packages.

If you don't mind me adding the package, did you patch the package at all for Maemo? If so, would you mind sharing the patch?

Any suggestions or comments would be very much appreciated. Either here or on the mud-builder mailing list.

P.S. Ferenc re-invited me to the extras upload facility, and my GPG key is now accepted. First MUD-built packages should be uploaded tomorrow!

Monday 29 January 2007

Resizing GPE Calendar on OS 2007

OS 2007 - as introduced on the N800 - lets you resize home screen applets. The default size of the GPE Calendar, IMHO, is too large and although it can be recompiled to shrink the size, it can also be resized dynamically on OS 2007.

As root:

Nokia-N800-51:~# cat >>/usr/share/applications/hildon-home/gpe-calendar-home.desktop <<EOM

Restart your device and edit your layout to suit.