Nokia N900 – The Penguin Has Landed

You may have noticed that I’ve dropped off the side of the Internet somewhat. Life can get busy at times, especially for someone who sometimes gets muddled up with time management and priorities. Another compelling reason for this is that I recently bought a Nokia N900. And I’m still getting used to incorporating it into my day to day activities.

Getting It Home

Unfortunately, Nokia does not sell the N900 in Canada. In theory it might eventually. But I wasn’t going until the Canadian duopoly of Rogers and Bell along with the CRTC got around to doing so. So much for Canada being a leader in telecommunications technology. Instead I bought my N900 through Amazon and used Shipito to forward my parcel. Later I found out that buying from Dell may have been a cheaper and faster alternative. It took about three weeks but I eventually got my toy.


I must congratulate the engineers at Nokia for coming up with solid feel to the N900. I would of preferred a metal body like my old N810. But the N900 is definitely not as flimsy and plasticky like my Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone. The touchscreen is quite sensitive and responsive much like the iPhone’s. The sliding keyboard also feels great. Each key nicely rounded, depresses in a solid quiet manner and gets illuminated in low light conditions. The 5 Megapixel Carl Zeiss camera takes great pictures with good resolution and great colour balance. My 5800 in comparison took decent photos but everything was a shade of grainy grey. The auto-focus on the camera leaves much to desire. But it might be a case of my not knowing how to use the software. The N900 takes MicroSD cards, which helped with migration away from my old phone. The internal memory is a massive 32 GB. Sound quality of the speakers is excellent. Great feeling stylus as well.

I loved the large full kickstand on my N810. Apparently the preproduction units of the N900 also had this design. However the production N900s have a small kickstand built into the lower frame of the camera. It took my quite some time to find it. And since the kickstand is off-center the whole device wobbles on its kickstand. Not cool. The real scary thing is the micro-USB connector. The power adapter for the N900 recharges the device using the micro-USB. And the port itself is surface mounted to the circuitry. I’ve read quite a few horror stories involved where the port detached from the device! So I’m paranoid, and extra careful with plugging in the micro-USB cables to the N900.


The UI on the N900 screams wow. The Compiz-like 3D views and effects win everyone who sees the device in action. A phone should not be able to look and act so sexy. The UI is intuitive and very finger friendly. Web browsing is where the N900 excels. The swirl zoom in and zoom out, smooth scrolling and fast rendering makes web browsing fun. The browser fully supports Javascript and Flash, so the experience is comparable to using a full desktop browser like Mozilla Firefox. The N900 also has a great PIM/contact management. Combine it with the Hermes app from Maemo extras, and you have an awesome contact management that integrates your contacts on various messaging, microblogging and social network services. Amazing. There are a few nice apps available through the repos and the Ovi store. Including the fun games of Bounce Evolution and Angry Birds.

It is not all roses in the software realm. The N900 while a mobile computer and all that jazz is still a mobile device. Space and energy constraints plague every mobile device out there. So there is a limit to how much multi-tasking one can do. Fair enough. But sometimes the device grinds to a slow halt with just a few apps on. Why? I get it why it happened when I copied my 6GB music collection off my MicroSD onto main memory. Maybe I need to restart the device once in a while? But why two browser windows, two instant messaging apps and a music player can stall the device… Also the Maemo5 platform used on the N900 is new, so there will not be the number of apps that Symbian S60, Apple’s iPhone and the Android app stores enjoy. Nokia has Ovi working for the N900, except payments are still missing. Hence my hesitation to say the N900 will work well for non-enthusiasts. It looks like Nokia also has similar feelings. Then again Nokia has said that Maemo6 will be the mainstream platform, with multi-touch support, app stores and all that jazz.

Thoughts, Ideas and Dreams

This review is reaching epic proportions now. In short, I love my little N900 mobile computer/Internet tablet/cellphone. It is definitely something I looked forward too. And I’ve owned a number of mobile computing devices already: Palm Tungsten E, Nokia N810 & Nokia 5800 XM. A great thing is that the device and platform has the potential of getting way better with time.

Related Links

New Site for justCheckers

I’m setting up a new site for the justCheckers project.  The only real good reason for my working at all on this project, is simply to build a portfolio.  As a software developer, I want to show to others that I can code.  And that my code is clean, elegant and professional.  I also want to show that I can write my own web applications.  So I am writing the justCheckers website as a PHP, MySQL DB enabled application.  All using proper XHTML, CSS and a touch of AJAX.  The site is a work in progress.  I’m not planning to build an entire flexible CMS, rather I plan on building a custom site.

Why I Like Free Software and Freedom

Adding freedom to software is a great business tactic.  It gives back control to the customer, who now becomes not just another faceless entity to pilfer.  Now the customer becomes a client, a person with real goals, ambitions and needs.  And libre software/open source is a guarantee to serve those needs.  But it need not end with software…

The concept of freedom built-in can take things to new heights.  As with Flat World Knowledge.  They make open/free textbooks for colleges.  It is about creating better products, cheaper, available to more people and using less resources.  The brilliance of commoditization, and giving a free hand to your customer.  And ultimately empowering people and improving the lot of the human race.

It is this idea of freedom and empowerment, that keeps me totting the freedom flag and contributing to the libre software.

A Quest for Easy Multiblog Setup

One of the downside of sporting the ‘Y’ chromosone, is the tendency to setup new kit without reading instructions.  In my case a similar thing happened with my sites.  I bought a domain and hosting.  Then I installed Drupal hearing all the wonderful things I heard about Drupal. What I didn’t do was research to find out installing Drupal on GoDaddy could be problematic.  And that Drupal is complicated to setup exactly how you want to.  Also it turns out that Drupal is a pain to maintain.  At least  for me it seems that way.

Maybe the problem is because I am writer.  As a writer I tend to view in the lens of literature.  World history becomes a story, the Internet looks awfully like a multimedia capable library and all my websites morph into glorified blogs.  I just can’t wrap my head around on WHY I actually need a CMS.  I fought around with Drupal to get to look not half arsed.  And then I installed WordPress for my blog and everything… just… worked!   Out of the box.  No questions asked.  No fiddling around with .htaccess files.  No monkeying around for modules just to do something useful.

Now I plan on transitioning my stealth project sites to WordPress.  However I don’t want to handle multiple installations.  A separate installation for my own personal blog is fine.  But not for a separate installation for each project.  Especially since all of my self-hosted projects will actually stem from one central project/system.  I looked at WordPress MU but it looks too complicated to setup and maintain.  I’m trying to avoid hacks if possible.  But the WP Hive module/plugin looks promising.  I’ll keep you updated on how things progress.

Notes: Excuse if some of my thoughts seem cryptic.  Those in the know will understand why I can’t speak plainly about my upcoming projects.  Those who don’t know will find out later, once I’m ready to announce my ideas to the rest of the world.  And dear GoDaddy admins, fear not.  I am not going to start a massive blog network on this hosted space.  I just need a single tidy installation to run a few very related websites with different domains.  So please don’t swing Thor’s ban hammer at my account. 🙂

The Story of the GNU

Last Thursday I received a package from the Free Software Foundation (FSF).  Along with a nifty t-shirt, I ordered my stuffed gnu.  Now the penguin on my desk has a new friend. The reason for the penguin is obvious, I am big fan of the GNU/Linux operating system. The penguin is the de facto logo and mascot of Linux.  But what is up with the gnu?

Well before Linux got off the ground or even existed, Richard Stallman (RMS) started the GNU project.  GNU stands for GNU is Not UNIX. Yes, GNU is a recursive acronym, one of the many cute jokes circulating in the hacker community.  The goal of the GNU project was to build a working and totally free (as in freedom) operating system.  RMS settled upon porting UNIX, not because UNIX was the be-all-end-all of operating systems.  Rather older versions of UNIX came with source code, and so that the new OS could be based off studying the way the old System V UNIXes  worked.  The project progressed well with the development of an entire toolkit: source editor (EMACS), compiler (gcc), linker (ld), and all the other necessary tools to build an OS.  Then came the difficult part of writing a kernel.  Unfortunately the original kernel (GNU Hurd) never got off the ground.  In fact to this day, the Hurd kernel is more or less in delayed development.  Fortunately at the time a kid in Finland-Linus Torvalds-started hacking on a kernel based off the Andrew Tannebaum’s MINIX source code.  Torvalds decided that the GPL would be an excellent license for his kernel.  And thus the dream of a fully viable free operating system started.

We have come a long way since those humble beginnings.  GNU/Linux looks like it will be the dominant OS of this century.  Also the ideals of free software are now fully realizable.  We still have a long way to go to running free software conveniently and comfortably, but we are getting there.  We should thank RMS and all the GNU contributers for building such a great free software toolkit.  Also thank Linus and the other kernel hackers for creating such a robust and flexible kernel.  Finally give a big thank you to all the contributers of the free software and open source movements for making this dream of free computing a reality.

The New “Mojave” Experiment

I have a few friends working at Microsoft.  And a usual conversation goes in the direction of which is better Microsoft or Linux.  Then the flames roll in from across the horizon, and everyone ends up agreeing in disagreeing.  I’m planning to bring this fight to the next level. With any luck this will end up on the Linux Hater’s Blog. So in valiant attempt at freetard glory and to fire the next salvo in this eternal epic battle, I present the following:

The link to the original ZDNet Austrialia article is [here].  From this video we learn that: KDE 4 kicks ass (thanks KDE and Qt devs), Aussie geeks also have a sense of humour, people like flashy, swirly things, Windows 7 soooo ripped off KDE 4, and that we can learn absolutely nothing from silly experiments.

justCheckers on Hold – Again – Kinda

justCheckers logo

justCheckers logo

I’m putting my involvement with the justCheckers project on hold for a while.  Progress ground to a halt when I started to dig into the code.  In its current state most of the application’s core functionality needs reworking.  Meaning to go forward someone would need to reimplement slides and jumps that allows for multiple jumps and so-called “flying kings”.  And the GUI needs refactoring to run in a multithreaded manner and with a main game event loop.  I already devised the algorithms for the core game engine.  But I need to translate that into real code.  I plan on implement those eventually.  But the amount of effort to reward doesn’t add up at the moment for me.  So justCheckers will not be on my high priority list for the next little while.

Just to be clear, I am not abandoning the project.  I still want to work on it.  But there are higher priorities on my list.  If anyone wants to step up to the plate and massage the code, I’ll gladly help.  And when once I get my other higher priority tasks done, I will return to hacking on justCheckers.

RMS Does Toronto

Richard Stallman, President and Founder of the FSF

Richard Stallman, President and Founder of the FSF

Yesterday I got to finally meet Richard Stallman (RMS) in person.  And yes, he is a way cooler dude than many in the “open source” gang say he is.  The FSF announced a while back in a press release, that RMS would be speaking at UofT on the topic of copyrights in a networked world.

RMS lectured on the history, current politico-business problems with copyrights and some measures to fix them.  I personally found his points interesting, and I’m interested in trying out some of his ideas.  The brief period of exclusive commercialization and modification authorship rights versus long term exclusive publication rights for non-technical documentation is also pretty good.  Also he briefly touched upon the need for a micro-donation payment method.  Overall, a very interesting and engaging talk to a large student audience.

At the end of his presentation, he auctioned off a stuffed GNU and “Happy Hacking” t-shirt.  Eventually the proposed prices became too steep for even myself, so I this morning I went on down over to the GNU/FSF’s online store and bought both for myself.  Getting back to the evening, I also got RMS to autograph my copy of “Free Software, Free Society“.  I highly recommend reading that book.  Also RMS asked me personally to stop using the terms: open source and closed source.  Not only are those terms misleading but they totally ignore the important issue of user and developer freedoms.  So henceforth I’ll try to use the terms “libre software” or “free software” instead of “open source”.  And “proprietary” for “closed source”.  Also I got meet to Dave, one of the organizers of the event and DrProject developer.  And Aaron one of attendees.

A big thanks to RMS, the FSF and the students who organized this event.

Retro-gaming: Torus Trooper

In the mood for a bit of retro-gaming?  Try out this amazing abstract shooter.

Torus Trooper is a fantastic game, where you fly a fighter through a twisted torus filled with enemies.  The art brings you back to the era of wireframe graphics.  The trancy, techno music provides an excellent, motivating yet relaxing ambience.  The gameplay starts off easily and progresses with successively more challenging levels.  If you love a frantic, furious shooter to pass the time, you’ll love Torus Trooper.

Ubuntu Linux gamers can install it from the Universe repos with:
sudo aptitude install torus-trooper

Windows gamers can download it from:

Building a Community

Ok.  Aaron Seigo of the KDE project is a genius.  He really is.  Not only does he lead the absolutely revolutionary Plasma project in KDE, but he also knows what he is talking about.

Anyway he wrote a kickass article about how to build a community in open source.  And I’m too lazy to write one myself, since my experience is not as long or as exciting….  Or I might write it up later for reasons of posterity.

Without out further ado: advice from Aaron on building a community in an open source project.