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Russell Beattie is of course a famously garrulous mobile-platform instigator. Now what does

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he mean by this latest (7 minutes ago) observation (OK, it was a tweet):

Dear colleagues at Nokia: You can't delete blog posts. Ever.

Anyone in these forums care to clue us in?

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For the last ten days I've been putting an Amazon Kindle 2 through its paces, wondering how desirable a dedicated e-reader is.

The resolution of the Nokia Internet Tablet screen is 225 pixels-per-inch; on the Kindle 2, it's 167 ppi. In a one-inch square, that means there are nearly twice as many pixels on the full-color NIT screen; too, video plays marvelously there. “White” on the 16-level-gray-scale K2 screen is, well, light gray; animation is not possible; and video doesn't even enter the realm of speculation.

Yet the K2's 6-inch-diagonal screen encompasses wonderfully more text than pocket-sized devices. And that is no small thing. In these electronic times I have re-subscribed to the print edition of the New York Times, added magazine subscriptions and now carry NYPL and Montclair library cards in my wallet; still, 90 percent of my reading is done on-screen. The pencil-thin K2 capitalizes on our need for reading to be mobile beyond any previous device.

As for portability, the K2 doesn't just talk the talk. Native-born to the walkaround web, its purchase enables you to browse all the non-moving-pixel parts of the internet from anywhere within reach of Sprint's 3G wireless network, for no cost whatsoever. And buy books at any hour, with immediate access.

In so many ways inferior to an Internet Tablet, but not without charm. However,

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that's not a Kindle 2 pictured below, but a prototype of the so-called CrunchPad, Michael Arrington's quest for a $200 “Macbook Air-thin touch-screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel.”

'CrunchPad

The more you learn about the CrunchPad, the more it justifies the same label put on the K2, “monotasking hardware.” Continue reading ‘A device for every situation’

I met Reggie in Berlin before the Maemo Summit, and he was working on his presentation, What Users Want (which will be posted soon, btw). I looked over the notes that Krisse Juorunen of Internet Tablet School had sent him and made some suggestions. I thought about how the tablet is being used today and how it might be used — which was exactly what Ari Jaaksi asked a group of Maemo users the next evening.

I ended up putting my thoughts down on paper (unable to use the hotel's power converters with Nokia's AC-4U battery charger!). I hadn't put in for a speaking slot, so making notes was just a way to keep my head in the topic while Reggie was working on his slides. He didn't finish till 4 a.m. on Thursday night, so I kept writing. Here is what I wrote up but didn't say at the Maemo Summit:

What more do we want?
In Ari Jaaksi's talk at OSiM World, he characterized the reception of the 770 Internet Tablet as people asking, “What is this PDA that doesn't have PDA functions? What is this phone that isn't a phone?”

No one had seen a mobile device like this, explicitly designed for internet use: a full computer without a keyboard, without a hard disk, which fit in your pocket and was light enough that it didn't act like an anchor.[1]

A computer you could use standing up. This was cool, but what was truly revolutionary was that you could surf the internet while on the move. Continue reading ‘Talk-talk: What I didn’t say at the Maemo Summit’

 img_0466.jpg

Up until last week, getting Maemo developers, Nokians and what Reggie describes simply as “enthusiasts” all together in one location, a Maemo Summit, seemed to me to be a good idea. I was wrong, I realize now: not a good idea.

A brilliant idea.

We all know the next steps in the development of this “mobile internet device” niche are critical — critical for Nokia, for the market itself, for the users, especially those first adaptors (that would be us, the posters and readers of itT forums), the recently dubbed “Maemo Community.”

At several disparate points in the summit, speakers noted how putting, say, coders and UI designers on the same team made for faster progress, fewer missteps, information being communicated with less noise.

Having the Summit took this idea of integration a level higher: instead of all the misconceptions that occur from separated contributors, whose every written note can be misinterpreted and its tone wildly misconstrued, now three-dimensional humans exist in the spot where virtual constructs and avatars stood.

The takeaway
In four days in Berlin — two at OSiM World (Open Souce in Mobile) followed by two at the Maemo Summit — I learned about enough interesting developments and projects to occupy a mere 10 or 12 days a week to follow completely, and participate in some.
Continue reading ‘Takeaway from the Maemo Summit’

Three years ago, the Nokia Internet Tablet was revolutionary: it had a screen wide enough to display a web page, it cost way less than you'd expect, it was meant for carrying around in a way that no laptop/notebook ever had been. WiFi was engendering the walkaround web.

Add a webcam, GPS, keyboard; make it faster, more reliable; keep churning away at the migration of free-libre-open-source software. Three years down the road and the tablet team has not stopped pushing the envelope.

But is Nokia's tablet revolutionary anymore?

My son's friend does as much or more with his iPod Touch (16GB model for $269.99) [1], — even though it is more restricted in what it can do.

Both Apple's and Nokia's tablets forgo disk drives, emphasizing the screen. But the the iPod touch and its progenitor, the iPhone, instantly persuade you that a keyboard is unneeded and unnecessary. The media aspects — video and YouTube video, music and accessing music via the web — push other considerations aside: the idea that the lame telco phones suffice for the walkaround web couldn't be more effectively (or contemptuously) dismissed.

Contrary to the optimistic predictions, ubiquitous and free WiFi hasn't materialized yet. For now, the walkaround web depends on a tablet screen and a data-cellphone connection. That's where the iPhone is situated, not the Internet Tablet, and by its sales figures you have to concede that bundling the connection with the screen appeals to more people than separating them.

I'm reminded of the quote from a French revolutionary leader [2], “There go the people. I must follow them. I am their leader.”

Um, the people are heading off in another direction.

Are we going with them? And if so, what is necessary for the Nokia Internet Tablet to remain in the forefront of the tablet revolution?

Dropping the price would keep it there. (For a while, anyway.) Some people have argued the interface ought to abandon the computer GUI heritage and adopt a big-graphic Apple-like approach. You know you'll see phone companies offering some Apple-influenced devices soon.

And there's the phone.

Some while back, I wished for an impossibility — a slot in the NIT for a SIM card, so it could connect via a telco data plan. Why not just make it a phone then, a la the iPhone? I don't know. I guess I want it to be a tablet, not a phone, unless I'm using a voip connection.

Subconciously, I must have accepted the argument that Nokia is approaching the iPhone feature-set from two directions — smart phones that would become more and more computery, and the Internet Tablet, which would be always a complement to (and not a replacement for) a cellphone.

But without ubiquitous online access, the NIT just gives us the semi-revolutionary walk-around-the-office-or-home-only web. So, one way or another, that has to change. Maybe it means we'll see a phone added to the NIT. Or phone/NIT bundles from the carriers. Or WiFi-hotspot/NIT bundles.

Unless it gives me the web everywhere, the NIT falls into the merely convenient and not revolutionary category.

Of course, there is one way we're still participating in revolutionary activity. That's via the FLOSS/Linux connection. The keyboard on the N810 may be a step backward from the perspective of the interface, but it greatly simplifies using a ported Linux-desktop app.

And that's a big deal. Partly because it ensures an inexhaustible supply of software. And underlying the web and our incarnation of it, the walkaround web, is our understanding that it has flourished because of the open nature of that earlier revolution.

Whereas “open” is not a word that appears in frequent proximity of “Apple.” The iPhone is engendering what we might term a Disney revolution, one in which the benefits accrue mostly to one company (which provides more entertaining or novel experiences to us customers than we got before).

When you see Nokia giving its $800-million investment in Symbion to an open-source foundation, you know that it is acting in its own financial interests. Nothing else could explain such sums. The tablet/phone OS field is weighted in favor of Apple and Microsoft and Google, and so Nokia is looking around to see who its friends are.

That would be us.

We're Nokia's friends. Us, the Maemo community, the FLOSS community, the Linux believers.

The revolutionary mob, as it were.

I believe the Nokia tablet is going to thrive in direct proportion to our community's success in promoting/extending/liberating Maemo. Because Nokia may not ever release a $100 NIT with a SIM-card slot, but some enterprising Asian manufacturer likely will. And running Maemo on all those Microsoft-spec'd UMPC's is going to bring even more people into the fold who are interested in tablet-sized apps working better. Every improvement developed on the outside will benefit the Internet Tablets that Nokia makes, and a larger pool of tablet users (especially Maemo tablet users) means a larger potential audience for Nokia to sell to.

And maybe the N810's built-in GPS and cam calling will finally get the attention it deserves.

So I'm looking forward to the meeting in Berlin next month. Will it be a revolutionary congress that dissolves into infighting and factions? Or one that presses forward to spread the revolution?


[1] 16GB refurbished at buy.com, shipping included.

[2] This was said by Alexandre Ledru-Rollin during the 1848 revolution, and not the 1789 revolution.

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'Walking Why web pads, internet tablets and ultra-mobiles aren't the same thing Screen Media FreePad, from a Norwegian outfit. The FreePad had a 10.4-inch screen, 800 x 600 resolution, built-in WiFi and “cordless telephone services”; and it ran an embedded Linux. No disk drive; if you wanted, you could attach a USB keyboard. The rest of FreePad's hardware was feeble by today's standards but practical for 2000. Even back then the group I was working with expected to buy the FreePad for just $800 (in quantity).[1] Eight years ago, and only $800. WiFi was in its nascent stages then, but if you were describing an organization-wide device (as we were) and not a personal weblet,[2] that probably wasn't what kept the FreePad from succeeding. What did? Or maybe easier to answer now, from the perspective of time: What is a walkaround-web tablet? What does it look like, what can it do, what is required of it? Continue reading ‘A manifesto for the walkaround-web tablet’

I just read a post that I think others would be interested to see. In a thread about the MyPaint application, forum member MobileDivide wrote that “[MyPaint] and Numptyphysics have redefined my tablet use over the last few days.”

I can believe it.

MyPaint is a “small [Hildonized] pressure-sensitive painting application written in python and gtk” by Martin Renold and ported to Maemo by Anders Gudmundson.

Here are a couple example drawings done on an N810 in MyPaint by ArnimS:

Drawing by ArnimS

Drawing by ArnimS

Not the usual kind of thing we've seen so far.

Numpty Physics is Tim Edmond's gravity-physics game using the same Box2D engine that Crayon Physics does.

MyPaint and Numpty Physics have one thing in common — they let us use the Internet Tablet as a tablet. Sketching can never be done gracefully with a mouse. Even graphics tablets — hand on the tablet, eye on the screen — have a disconnect. So sketching your idea right on the screen — or painting it — is, well, transformative.

Unlike other graphics programs the

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IT has seen so far, MyPaint focuses on brush controls, rather than image-editing, enabling the full range of styles a pressure-sensitive tablet can capture.

When we talk about the Internet Tablet as being revolutionary or transformative, it's because everything in its conception — display, open platform, size and weight, price — serves to free us from the constraints our desk/laptops have imposed on us.

So, thanks are due to Martin and Anders and Tim and Erin Catto* for these specific versions of these great applications. And to the Nokia seers who conceived the Internet Tablet.

_______________
* Box2D progenitor.

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I have some computer smarts, but sometimes I'm baffled by the Nokia Internet Tablet.

There are some things I just don't understand about the tablets (or their OS or the pre-installed apps):

  • Why I can't construct a playlist in the Media player?

    You'd think this would be a no-brainer. I just want to grab 5 or 6 of the 80 songs on my N810 and play them together, even though they're by different artists on different albums.

  • Why isn't connecting to my PC via Bluetooth really easy?

    Sometimes I'm at my office, where WiFi is verboten. I want the tablet to use my PC's direct connection to the internet — I've done it plenty of times laptop-to-laptop in meetings where only one person was plugged into the wired network. Why isn't this a snap with the NIT?

  • Why is Linux made so hard?

    OK, it's clear that Nokia doesn't want to support unsophisticated users with all the things that can trip them up in Linux.

    But why doesn't File Manager have a simple switch (Show hidden) that lets me see the whole contents of my drive? Even with the trick of adding a symbolic link to root (or any directory), I still can't see hidden directories (eg, whose name begins with a dot).

    Which leads me to my next question:

  • Why can't I easily add fonts to my tablet and use them in the browser?

    Right. I had to make a /home/user/.fonts/ directory and mail myself a font and then jump through command-line hoops to put a simple font on my tablet. And go through contortions to tell the browser to use it. (Except I haven't succeeded in that yet. Emoticon with amazed look of disbelief here.)

    Might as well ask the real puzzler here:

  • Why can't OS2008 et al just let you be root when you need to?

    If us unsophisticates need so much protection against our careless actions, shouldn't we be wearing goalie gloves when we handle scissors? Why isn't there just a switch that says, “It's OK. I'll take the consequences. Just please let me make a directory or use apt-get without having to acquire developer-class knowledge.”

    Heck. That's the deep side. But what about the glam cam that arrived with the N800?

  • Why isn't there a face-to-face cam call capability yet?

    It's only the most amazing possible use of this walkaround-web device — unlimited cam calling via WiFi without having to sit in front of an anchored webcam.

    It's visual IM — just leave the call connected and talk when you want to talk. It's IM taken to the next dimension.

    Btw, don't tell me this is here. My wife has the N810 and I have an N800 loaner from Nokia, and we can't manage it. It needs to be click-simple and using Skype.

  • Why does upgrading the OS obliterate every manually installed app I've put on my tablet?

    I know, if I go from Windows XP to Vista (and I haven't), I'd have to re-install my apps. But every upgrade and patch in WinXP is managed without that requirement. Shouldn't it be possible in this marvelous Linux world?

  • Why can't the application memory be extended to one of the memory cards?

    Is swap the extent of this? You know, I'm willing to risk the possibility that my flash card will get the same spot written to 100,000 times and fail.

Yeah, there are more things I don't understand about my tablet's design. Just getting the answers to Why not a model with a keyboard? and How can you call it an internet tablet without handling Flash and YouTube? have really lowered my orneriness. I won't pick and pick and pick.

On the other hand, it's your turn. What behavior or aspect of the Internet Tablet makes no sense at all to you?

Added later:
_______________
* Tablet-to-tablet cam calls via Gizmo apparently arrived during my recent period of submersion. I'm happy, even if it isn't Skype. (I mean: even if the five friends I know with VOIP all use Skype instead of Gizmo.) Me-to-wife cam-IM is plenty great

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There have been recent heated discussions on the availability, quality, and installation problems of Internet Tablet apps. Maemo.org Downloads lists hundreds of available apps but let's face it, a big chunk of Internet Tablet users don't even know what 'Maemo' is — what more a maemo.org downloads page. Application Manager provides a partial list of installable apps with not much information on what the apps are and what they do. Often times, app-specific libraries and add-ons are mixed together with the main apps themselves, adding to the confusion. Oh, and then there are the apps that won't install due to missing libraries,

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etc., etc.

What improvements can be made?

Participate in the poll and join the discussion.

n

n
How would you change Maemo.org Downloads and Application Manager?
View Results
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Saying goodbye to the old flame (a gone-to-seed Thinkpad):

I'm sorry, so sorry. I know I have spent many hours with you, spent hundreds of dollars treating you to all the best money could buy. I have made sure you had everything you have needed in the years we have been together. I even loved you enough to load Linux instead of Windows.

I'm sorry, so sorry I do not spend as much time with you as I once did but I must be honest. I have found a new love. My new love is thinner, prettier and more

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fun….

I'm sorry, so sorry. I'm not trying to rub it in but this Nokia N810 does nearly everything I once needed you to do.

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