Nokia N900

After playing with a Nokia N97 for the last 6 months or so I decided to buy the Nokia N900.

The N97 is a great machine and far better than the I Phone or other similar phones on the market but I wanted more power and more to play with and I wanted a machine that I can update my self, play with the firmware when possible and not be stuck or controlled by the manufacture.

The N900 runs on the Linux Maemo system and as the latest firmware PR1.2 has been receiving good press I thought why not lets have a go.

Out of the box and starting it up it’s far more sexier than the N97 and although it’s a Nokia and firstly looks the same but at the same time not quite. It’s a brick in comparison to the IPhone but it feels solid and real.

I firstly updated the firmware with the OTA option as the Nokia Ovi Suite doesn’t recognize the N900 nor does Nokia Software Updater (starts well…. hic)

The firmware wasn’t hard to find as the phone informs you that is a update to be done (this is automatic for all the softs or firmware, rather clever), the first download over wi-fi took about 10 mins and failed….. but it started again and this time worked

Ok so latest firmware installed what now :

Syncml : My main use for the phone is of course contacts and my agenda, I hadn’t really looked into the N900 that deeply and thought that as it’s a new phone it would use Syncml like most phones these days, doh …. it doesn’t and I need to sync my contacts and agenda with the site that I use, http://www.memotoo.com

Googling around I found that a program called Syncevolution seemed to be what I needed but upon reading around I found myself confronted with Linux style installs, complicated unless you already use Linux, which I do not. the other option is the program in the update catalog, which of course it wasn’t

I have played with Linux before so certain things that I read were understandable and I realised that I had to add some catalogs to the Application manager : mamemo.org and maemo extra-devel, thanks to http://openattitude.com/2010/03/05/heaven-and-hell-with-syncml/ where I found this out. I was then able to find the syncevolution in the catalog, the install is easy,

Update :  the config file of syncevolution can be found in /home/user/.config/syncevolution/default/peers/memotoo using WinSCP this can me modified easily from your PC, this is usefull if you need to verify that you have added correctly your user name and password etc.

Update : I’ve found that since installing PR1.3 I couldn’t get Syncevolution to run the first time, I was getting an (error 22000), I played around with the config file, see above and changed the line # preventSlowSync = 1 to preventSlowSync = 0 , taking the # of makes the line active, This then worked just fine and after I replaced the line back to it’s original state # preventSlowSync = 1

You can see all the details of the sync by  using termimal $ syncevolution memotoo, rather than the icon on your phone, this will give you all details of the sync, attention the first sync can easily take 30 to 60 mins so be patient.

Now I need to find a decent twitter program as Gravity does not exist for the N900, for the moment I’m using #Witter, it’s far the best that I have found for the moment, years behind Gravity but hopefully the programmer will gate his skates on and catch up, Update : #Witter is slowly getting better, can tweet with Identi.ca as well, but it’s still miles behind #Gravity.

Update A new Twitter program “Khweeteur” arrived on the N900 in the month of August, it has had a couple of modifications and is already showing some promise, am testing and will update when need be. Update :  October 2010. Am testing Twimgo, rather nice and completely different layout than the other twitter programs and for the moment the best arround , The N900 is finally getting a decent  twitter program.

Wordpress client I’m adding this update from the phone, so not to bad. (Update 2010 latest version0.8.2  is much better, you can use it now all the time, in fact most of my blogging is now done from this app.

I miss also Handy Safe pro. So I trying qtWallet , it’s good, very similar to Handy Safe I think that it might do the job nicely but does not sync with a desk version😦 Update, This program has had several updates over the last couple of weeks. It’s almost perfect, If you need a HandySafe equivalent then this is just perfect, now just needs to be able to run on the PC for syncing purposes.

Openssh (version server) on the N900, this I love http://www.nokian900applications.com/openssh-on-nokia-n900/ as it give access from your PC (WinSCP) to all the files hidden or not on the N900, I love prying around computer systems so this I love but it can be really useful adding / deleting or renaming files, rather than have to use the X terminal. It’s easy to install and setup.

Evernote  : this is really useful as I use it on my PC at work and home and it syncs perfectly.

DropN900 : Dropbox : This has just come available for the N900, brilliant as I use it all the time and now can grab file or place file directly in it, without have to transfer by e-mail or FTP.

Pidgin : A good chat program that I use already on my PCs.

OpenVPN and Rdesktop, now I can access my windows 2003 servor at work, can be useful sometimes.

FreOffice : I refuse to re buy Docs2Go again or rather for a third time, so I’m now using Freoffice, this program let’s me read and write  Word and Excel files.

Plastic Black Theme : very nice, giving you some nice themes and wallpapers, the possibility to get rid of the shadows around the icons and to change pixel snap to grid size, 8 is just perfect, only fault that after an update, need’s to be reset again as it default back to original settings after an update.

AGTL : This is a program for geocatching that works quite well, you need to have an account with http://www.geocaching.com so that you can download their data to the N900, it works quite well. http://www.danielfett.de/internet-und-opensource,software,agtl-on-maemo-n900

Battery life could be better on this phone, but the N97 wasn’t much better, I get about 24h (max) with it, but it’s not really a problem as when I get to work I charge it anyway. using the program  aotodisconnect helps a little, shutting things down when not needed

N900 for geeks and power users : it’s fun and the by far the best phone around and I’m very pleased with it.

Update : October 26th, Nokia have brought out the latest firmware update PR1.3, I firstly applied it using Nokia Software updater, this went well, after the update all the programs need to be installed but most of the data stays in place ( on the eMMC which is not flashed) and therefore when the program are re installed the data is there as it was before

I had only a couple of programs that did not seem to work correctly. DropN900 : this is boken for most people and it seems that we need to wait for an update. Twimgo : when starting this rebooted the phone. SyncEvolution : would no longer synchronise , I contacted the programmer and Memotoo the site that I use for my Contacts and Agenda, and both were unable to help, but talking to them I noticed that some data / config files were not in the same place as on my second N900 that I had not updated and was still working Ok, so knowing that something was not quite right I decided to reflash and at the same time flash the eMMC content this taking me back to a factory state phone.

After downloading Flasher 3.5 I tried flashing the N900 (I have done this before) using the details from http://thenokiaguide.com/2010/01/11/how-to-hard-reset-the-n900-resets-all-data/ but this time no luck, I tried on 3 different computers, 2 XP’s and a Windows 7, this time no luck nothing happened, I spend a long time on this and finally gave up, so I booted my laptop into Ubuntu, added the Flasher program, added the Pr1.3 and Vanilla bin files and flashed in less than 5 mins. (Long live Linux, even if I have to use windoze)

With new factory state N900, time to install all the programs and all the data. I never use recup backups, I always re install everything (old habits die hard). Firstly I installed SyncEvolution and this time it worked first time, proving that the first update with old data screwed things up.

October 27th : All programs reinstalled, the phone is faster, smoother, it seems that battery life is better, now waiting for Nokia to publish the change log. BUT so far so good. Time to flash the second phone

For those that need to flash using Linux or at least using Ubuntu here is how to do it as Linux is a little more complicated that the Windows way.

Note : Re flashing the phone and the eMMC  :  This will wipe EVERYTHING and if any thing goes wrong you can brick your phone.

Download and install the flasher package from http://tablets-dev.nokia.com/maemo-dev-env-downloads.php : Download the two latest  “bin” files http://tablets-dev.nokia.com/nokia_N900.php

Start Terminal and input the below line, including the path so that flasher can see the two files  ( ‘the name of your folder’ is where you copied the two bin files )

sudo flasher-3.5 -F /home/the name of your folder/RX-51_2009SE_20.2010.36-2_PR_COMBINED_MR0_ARM.bin -f (the .bin file name might be different name in time) this install the latest firmware and scrubs most of the programs but not the data.

Terminal will then ask you for your sudo password

Then you will get a message from terminal ‘suitable USB device not found, waiting’ ( … now to connect the phone)

With the N900 switched of, the battery at least half full, press the U key  and plug in the USB cable to the N900, the other end should already be plugged in to your computer

If all goes well, you will now start seeing loads of lines of text as the flashing starts. Finally you will see a message …. CMT flashed successfully (DO NOT UNPLUG OR REBOOT THE N900 YET)

Now input into terminal : sudo flasher-3.5 -F /home/the name of your folder/RX-51_2009SE_10.2010.13-2.VANILLA_PR_EMMC_MR0_ARM.bin -f -R ( notice the -R in caps) the .bin file name might be different name in time, this is the command that will empty all the data.

Wait until you get the ….. image flashed successfully message, The phone should shut down, wait a little then start the phone as usual.

Please read the http://thenokiaguide.com/2010/01/11/how-to-hard-reset-the-n900-resets-all-data/ as there are more details than here except he explains for a windows update. or this as its for Linux flashing http://brunogirin.blogspot.com/2010/08/flashing-n900.html

If all went well you will have a  squeaky clean phone like when you first bought and used it, its now time to reinstall everything.

Update 02/10 : Twimgo and DropN900 updates available, DropN900 now re working with the PR1.3 update, I have also installed GPXView, this is quite nice for geocaching, but my phone has rebooted twice in two days and both times GPXView was active, coincidence ?, I don’t like my gadgets rebooting for no reason, will be keeping looking to see if I can find out why.

2 Comments

Filed under Gadgets & toys

2 responses to “Nokia N900

  1. Carlos

    Yup, I think it’s a great phone. Took me a minute to grow into it. BUT, when I realized that it was an effective Linux, I set up tons of little cron jobs to do the things I need it to do, especially with syncevolution. I sync it every 15 minutes with a simple cron I put together. Keeps my contacts in sync blindly and my calendar. This is truly an awesome marvel of a device, I just want some extra stuff. I use this is my computer of choice for the things that I do.

  2. Hello, fellow Memotoo user, and thanks for the link!
    😎

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