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Dear Nokia

Mobile phones

Dear Nokia,

the times I give advice to companies are quite seldom, so please shut up & listen. The next time you announce an 'important phone software update' on my N97 mobile, make sure that :

  1. I don't have to do the upgrade with my computer, especially if it's a minor update. FOTA will do fine, thank you.
  2. when starting the Nokia software updater on my computer, I don't want to be forced to upgrade this POS 'software' called "Nokia Software Updater"
  3. when upgrading this Nokia Software Updater software, I don't want to have to wait 20 minutes for it to finish - this is a dualcore with 2GB, not one of your Symbian turtles, for cryings sake !
  4. after the upgrade of the upgrade software, I don't want to reboot my computer
  5. after reboot, and starting the upgrade software, I don't want to receive a warning that OVI suite is already running.
  6. No, for crying out loud, I don't want to upgrade OVI suite !!! Can we finally update my mobile firmware, pretty please ???
  7. when finally be able to start the Nokia Software Updater, I do want you to find my USB-connected phone, it's the only USB-connected thingy, goddammit !
  8. I don't want to reconnect my mobile 5 times before your POS software finally recognizes it
  9. I don't want to see your 'important phone software update' to be the most minor upgrade I've ever seen
  10. And most of all, when pressing the 'Upgrade' button, I don't want to receive a final message 'Phone software already on latest level' after this whole irritating procedure !!!

Nokia, please fire your Symbian QA management. It's incompentent !

Now where's my aspirin ?

Creating self-signed certificates

Mobile phones

Symbian still uses certificates to sign applications. In the case you want to roll out your own Symbian application, you need some way to sign your app. Turns out the certificates can easily be created on your own by use of the OpenSSL toolkit :

$ openssl genrsa 1024 >my.key
$ openssl req -new -x509 -nodes -sha1 -days 3650 -key my.key >my.cer

After entering the second command, you are prompted for various bits of information about yourself that is embedded into the certificate. This process only needs to be performed once, and the generated certificate can then be kept for future use with CreateSIS or SignSIS.

what I would like in S60v5

Mobile phones
It's three weeks now that I have the Nokia N97, and I must say I'm quite pleased with it. The list of installed applications grows every week, and the hardware is, as said before, a real bliss. The S60v5 update introduces widgets, miniviews that display information on the home screen. Examples of miniviews are a weather widget, Facebook, stocks and RSS feeds. I like the idea of presenting variable & customizable information on the home screen, something that was really missing in S60v3. However, I really would like to see the following implemented :
  • more widgets. The list is quite short IMO
  • a separate widgets section in the OVI store
  • currently, the miniviews on the home screen are rather limited in screen estate space, a variable size would be great
  • more customizable home screens, of course
  • vertical scrolling RSS widgets. Currently, only the first two RSS entries are shown
  • a TV widget that shows the current and next program in a miniview
I hope the N97 will be able to upgrade to Symbian^2, which should be available mid 2010. Whether S60v5 apps will be supported, is of course a question. In the mean time, one can install the M1 Android shell, which provides your N97 with the Android home screen. It's nothing more than a placeholder for some application launchers, and once an application is launched, you're in the S60v5 interface again. Somehow cool, especially on a white N97, which gets transformed to a HTC Magic.

Nokia N97

Mobile phones

I've been playing with the Nokia N97 for a week now. Choosing the color of the device has never been so difficult : I like my mobile phones black, but the black N97 version has a dark brown back, and the front is more anthracite. So I opted in the last moment for a white device. It arrived a week later than expected, and judging by the size of the box, I feared that the webshop only sent me the car holder. Choosing a device only by internet preview pics & unboxing videos is deceptive - the box itself was 3 times smaller than expected. If you have small hands, you're apparently an ideal candidate for mobile device manufacturers to send device previews to. And indeed, after unboxing the device, it was about 1 cm less wide and high as expected. Same experience with my previous Nokia, the N80. Seems that most people really like small mobile phones, something I can't understand why.

The box content is rather dissapointing :
- a stylus ? Come on Nokia, the era of the stylus has ended 3 years ago. Get over it. It would have been great if you provided us with a USB memory stick disguised as a stylus, with a Nokia logo on it, but this stylus thing is waste of plastic.
- No car charger ? This is Nokia's flagship device, and no car charger provided ?
- No pouch ? No TV out cable ?

Luckily, lots of this is made good by the N97 device itself: Very sleek & sexy with a chrome bezel. Nokia hardware rules. The slide-out mechanism is great, and makes a nice sound when clapping open & close. There is unfortunately little or no tactile feedback from the keyboard, but apart from that it works fast. Battery life is very good, I get 2 days with moderate to heavy use; battery needs about 2 to 2.5 hours for a complete fill.

The performance of the N97 is rather surprisingly good, given its 434 MHz processor. The touchscreen is quite responsive for a resistive screen, though a capacitive one would have been far better. First thing to do is to fill the gorgeous 32GB space with new S60v5 applications. The OVI store is a good starting point, the list with applications grows every week.

I like the stability of Symbian; combined with the wealth of applications, this makes it a bliss using the device. Combined with the sexy look & feel, you'll get lots of attention when you pull out the N97. A question I get a lot, is if the functionalities are comparable with the iPhone. Well, hands up of those iPhone users whose devices can do the following :
- SSH to your Linux workstation/VNC control your windows desktop, read your email, while listening to your favorite MP3 files.
- follow your voice-guided satnav, while listening to your MP3 files, FM transmitted to your car radio.
Get it ?

Are there any drawbacks on the device ? Apart from the hefty price tag, hardly; initially there were numerous problems reported, but the new firmware took care of most of them. However, I'm still bugged with the following :
- The GPS has lots of trouble getting a fix on satellites; only while enabling A-GPS, I get a fix within the minute. Drawback if you don't have an unlimited data plan.
- The Accuweather widget doesn't refresh itself correctly (sometimes needs manual kicking)
I hope that next firmware upgrades will take care of this.

Apart from that, the N97 is by far the most pleasant toy I ever used. Definitively an allways-on device.

Choosing for the Nokia N97

Mobile phones

2009 is indeed without a doubt the year of the smartphone. From that viewpoint, I'm really an early adopter since I have a smartphone since 2007. In retrospect, my current Nokia N80 has been the most fun mobile device ever. It has consolidated my MP3 player, my GPS, my internet communications device, my PDA and of course my mobile. But technology moves forward. Initially, smartphones were designed with the business user in mind. But then came the iPhone; and changed all that. Big touchscreens for everyone (thank you Apple). My initial idea was to acquire a second-hand N96 device, and wait a year for Android to mature. But an idiot changed my plans, and I decided to wait for the next Nokia device, the N97.

The N97 is important : Nokia produces mobile phones for everyone, and controls 40% of the market. The N97 is their top line model, and therefore a direct competitor for the iPhone. Nokia has released the 5800 Expressmusic as their first touchscreen mobile, and it has been a smashing success. The N97 is Nokia's aim at a new N95 success story and their new flagship device. Nokia decided to continue with Symbian as the operating system for their smartphone line, with some additions for touchscreen support. They probably did this to provide a solid base and a broad range of applications for the N97. However, the result is S60v5, and has some strange and sometimes confusing behavior, like single/double tap in lists. I applaud the stability of the operating system, but I'm quite sure that the N97 will be my last Symbian powered mobile.

If you take a look at the competition, the Nokia N97 has some serious opponents. The iPhone off course, with its glorious eye candy, and many available applications. Whether you like it or not, the iPhone has become the mass standard for smartphones. Unfortunately, as with many Apple products, the hardware is pretty impressive, but the resulting functionalities are pretty limited. My new mobile must support a GPS (and I'm talking about voice guided satnav, Apple, not about a map software which pulls data from the internet), and that pretty much ruled out the iPhone.

Android is the new kid on the block, and a very interesting one. Crafted in the dungeons of Google, this open and attractive operating system is the new standard for HTC mobiles. Unfortunately, Android software still is limited (but growing with a fast pace), and it fell out the list of candidates for the same reason as Apple, because of the absence of GPS software.
The Palm Pre came late to my attention : it looks like Palm really took the good things from the iPhone and even went a step beyond that. This resulted in a gorgeous looking interface, which got quickly copied by HTC in their Sense UI interface for the Android.

In a next blog post, I'll explain my experiences of one week of playtime with the N97.

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