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Nokia N810 and 770 Internet Tablets
Activities Tried on 770

James F. Carter <>, 2006-03-24, updated 2008-03-15

The component reviews here have been updated for the versions in Maemo-2.0 Mistral. This version of the operating system should already be on Nokia 770's manufactured after about 2006-07-01, and older ones can be upgraded.

Activities Tried

WLAN (802.11b) Connectivity

Piece of cake. I remembered to configure the house firewall ahead of time; it would have been much less pleasant if I had forgotten. [In Maemo-1.1] at work I typed in the WEP key wrong, and there was a distinct lack of diagnostic messages. It's better in Maemo-2.0; if it fails to get a DHCP address, it displays a question mark over the status bar icon. In 5 months of use, it never loses the connection, except with access points known to be flaky.

The connection manager can do WEP, or WPA (802.11i) including PSK (basic) and EAP variants. I visited my son who has activated WPA on a Linksys WRT54G. Good thing I tried it out on his net first! Although it was completely reliable for my laptop (SuSE 10.1, Intel 2200BG NIC), the ITB dropped the connection quite frequently, which it doesn't do talking to my Linksys WRT54G (WEP, running OpenWRT) at home.

In Maemo-2.0 the provided WLAN connection manager has a search for connection feature which shows the networks in range, and is actually helpful for adding a new network to the connections list. The one for Maemo-1.1 had some pretty dumb human engineering and I'm glad it's been improved.

An annoying quirk: When you have a SSH session into the ITB, the server may stop responding and the session will die. I've only seen it happen when the ITB's screen is blank, but after a relatively short period (a few minutes) of inactivity on the session. Pressing the power button to wake up the screen does not kill the session. Symptoms suggest that the power management code decides the ITB isn't being used, and puts it to sleep. If you ping it for 10 to 15 seconds it will eventually wake up and you can reconnect. Update: this behavior seems to have ben cured simultaneous with installing the hotfix for memory corruption in the network driver.

Web Page Display

Worked like a charm, both intranet and global (courtesy of the house router). Page display is surprisingly similar to the pages as shown by the laptop's browser. Both are Opera, but the one on the ITB is the stripped-down version for cell phones -- version 8, on Maemo-2.0 Mistral.

Sometimes the page ends up wider than the display, for example if there is a table, an image or a frame whose size is in pixels, or if you zoom the page. Under View you will find Optimized View, which uses the actual screen width instead of the width implied by the page layout. If page X has a link to page Y, and you turn on optimized view in page X and then follow the link, optimization will persist in Y, but will revert when you back up from X.

Annoying quirk: I had a lot of processes open -- PDF viewer (a known memory pig), xterm, maemopad, and web browser. I downloaded a (small) file and let it be installed via the association with the installer. I got a message about out of memory (duh) and the installer did not start. So I exited from the PDF viewer and the xterm, and tried again. This time Opera crashed, i.e. closed itself without any messages or warnings, at the point where it should have execed the installer. I restarted Opera and tried again, and again Opera crashed at the same point. To which component does the finger of blame point? Hard to tell. I rebooted linux and at last I was able to download and install the file.

On Mistral, Opera dies too often. Often when I follow a link I open it in a new page, and this is hazardous for Opera; closing the extra page also can kill it. I don't have any event counts, but I have a feeling that it dies 5-10% of the time. I did prove that memory starvation was not the cause: I added a swap file, and Opera still died.

Update: On Mistral, Opera survives a lot longer if you don't open new windows; just follow the links to the other pages and use the back button to get back to the index. In fact, it's survived at least 5 times longer than in my open in new window mode.

Audio Streaming

Source: KUSC: Worked the first time when Media Player was activated from the web browser. However, the Internet Radio application was not able to use a M3U playlist received from that site; probably it's looking for the referent of that playlist. Here's what I did: I saved the M3U as a file and viewed it. (On another machine, because I haven't gotten a shell yet.) In the audio player (which has a shortcut on the Internet Radio, the rightmost button), under Playlist, Add Stream, I manually typed in the URL of the stream, MP3 extension. You should be able to cut and paste this, but I haven't figured that out either. The stream starts playing. Now, under Track, Add To Favorites. That gets it on the list for Internet Radio. Likely when the stream was playing courtesy of the web browser, I could have done the same thing and avoided a lot of work typing in the URL.

The small internal speaker is perhaps suitable for a cell phone, but is a joke when listening to music. I tested the audio (KUSC) with good headphones. Good quality sound.

Ripping and Playing Audio CD

I want to bring some (legally owned) CDs on a long airplane trip. This test has two parts: rip (copy and compress) the CD audio, then get it on the ITB and play it.

Follow this link for a detailed discussion of the results, but to summarize, both Grip and KAudioCreator did a good job of ripping on a machine with an ATAPI interface, and a very bad job with SCSI. I decided to use Ogg Vorbis compression rather than MP3 (no bothersome subpoenas). The players for both formats worked out well, and there is plenty of battery life to keep me aurally entertained across the Atlantic. I don't need to get an iPod.

Wonderful news: in Maemo-1.1 when you plug in or remove the headphones during playback, either oggplay or Osso Media Player, often the operating system would crash. This problem is gone in Maemo-2.0 Mistral. With oggplay, after an hour or two of music, I start to notice little regularly spaced clicks 1-2 seconds apart, as if it took time for oggplay to acquire memory in which to put the next segment of audio, and I suspect there's a memory leak somewhere. It helps to restart oggplay between albums. We really need to get an Ogg Vorbis codec for the DSP.


The developer wiki has a note that someone is working on porting Sylpheed. Sylpheed is the base for the included e-mail reader. Don't hold that against it.

No problem creating a message and sending to UCLA-Mathnet's server, TLS encryption and authentication on port 587. However, retrieving messages by Secure IMAP (port 993) was not so successful; it connected (as reported in the server's mail log), but then timed out after 30 secs having downloaded nothing; I suspect that it tried and failed to do the TLS upgrade. Here are the maneuvers I tried:

Of the reviews I read, nobody mentioned success getting their e-mail client to download messages; I seem to be the first. However, that was only the first hurdle. Now it wants the password every time it connects to the IMAP server; it neither holds a persistent connection (like Pine does) nor remembers the password within the session. I'm not going to store my work password into its registry, which I think is the Windows-oid mode it's designed and tested for.

Definitely I'm going to have to get an e-mail reader that works. I installed Pine, which is what I use on my other machines. After adventures with X.509 certificates described earlier, I was able to go through the whole process of reading mail, filing ham and spam in their proper folders, composing a message, sending it, and verifying that it had been received. All this happened over authenticated and encrypted channels (993 secure IMAP and 587 SMTP submission). For several days I've been reading all of my mail from the ITB, very successfully, with pine.

Replying is another matter. There's no problem composing the message and sending it to the STMP server. However, Pine backmaps the numeric UID to find out who you are, and it won't help you forge the sender name. In other words, all mail is sent from <user> and there's no standard configuration to change that. (I also tried export USER=jimc; doesn't help.) See this link for some of the things I did to improve the situation, including the maneuver that finally gave me possession of my ITB. See this other link for what to do when you hork your root filesystem.

I hoped that the e-mail client would be improved in Maemo-2.0 Mistral, but it seems to be the same.

Reading PDF

PDFs are discussed extensively here. To summarize, text-only PDFs are shown fairly quickly, but the ones I want to see mostly include graphics, which bloat up the files and greatly slow down the viewers. I tried both the provided Osso PDF viewer and Evince, the Gnome multi-format viewer available through the software catalog. The latter had features that were important to me, so that's what I mostly used.

However, I had a much more satisfactory experience by downloading the content as HTML and viewing the result with the web browser.

Reading an E-Book

The e-book experience is discussed in more detail here. I downloaded several e-books from Project Gutenberg and viewed them with Plucker; there's a version in the Maemo-1.1 software catalog. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get past the first chapter of any of the books. Follow the link above for the surprising conclusion... but in summary, I re-downloaded the books as HTML and am reading them with the web browser. And I'm reading a HTML book that I wrote with Plucker!

In Maemo-2.0 Mistral Plucker is not (currently) available, but FBReader is. My experience with it is generally the same as with Plucker. It reads a variety of formats including Plucker (pdb) and HTML, although I wasn't able to get it to follow inter-page links in a book with multiple HTML files.

Personal Information Manager

I downloaded and installed the GPE PIM suite (following the link on the Maemo wiki download index). For Maemo this includes a contacts manager (address book, enhanced), a to-do list, and a calendar. The generally distributed version also has a time tracker (not ported for Maemo), a sketchbook (Maemo has this natively), and a voice recorder (not sure what the status is on Maemo).

Just trying out the three apps, I found them fairly intuitive and easy to use. I've never had a PDA before and I'll need to use them more, to make them really work for me. A co-worker went with the DejaPIM suite instead, and likes it.

The ITB lacks an officially blessed PIM suite, and some people may see this as a shortcoming, but in our case we can pick the software that best suits our needs without having to fight the vendor's idea of what software we should use.

Notebook and Text Editing

The provided Notes application is very RTF-oriented, and reviewers say that it crashes on files longer than 10 kB, so I don't want to mess with it. Turns out that it has two file formats, HTML (the default) and ASCII. If you create a file called Sphinx the filename comes out as Sphinx.note.html. The content is a disastrous perversion of HTML, with no DTD, an absolutely specified background color of white (but not foreground, so it would be invisible if the browser defaults were black background and white letters), an absolute (non-generic) font, and &nbsp; where spaces should be, and <BR> for line breaks. In other words, they do everything wrong. See my rant for details of why it's wrong. Let's just forget the notes program, or if you do use it, switch (on every note) to ASCII format. For a replacement see Maemopad. Or vim, a clone of vi.

One annoyance for the Maemo-ized file browser: it can find only files in /home/user/MyDocs and subdirectories. You cannot use Maemopad to edit system files, not that an ordinary user would have write permission anyway.


I made a cheat sheet for translating the Mahjongg characters into spoken Chinese and English. In one of the Maemo developers' blogs I've seen quite a nice cartoon of a party they had. The sketchpad seems quite serviceable. It can do color, though all I've seen or tried so far has been monochrome.

The output format is PNG. You can enlarge from the default canvas: menu, Edit, Canvas Size, specify which side to enlarge; it will give you a fixed 160 pixels more. In the same menu, you can crop to, I assume, the bounding box of the image.

Video Player

A reviewer said that the included demo [in Maemo-1.1], a trailer for Ice Age 2, wouldn't play, file format not supported. When I tried it I got the same message; however, I fiddled with the file browser display options (likely irrelevant) and then tried playing it again, and it did play. No idea why. Another reviewer said that playback was jerky; I watched for that and near the start of the video I noticed mild jerks. I believe that this may represent shared libraries being loaded. In a test of battery life I played the trailer over and over, and it was rendered perfectly. It took 20% to 40% of the CPU, and if you were to do something else simultaneously (not very likely) there might be competition for the CPU.

One forum member, <Bowie>, says that he'a very picky about video, and he didn't like the player from Maemo-1.1, but the video player in 2.0 is much improved, with an honest 30FPS frame rate. He recommends ripping video with a low resolution and high bitrate. Expect 120 Mb/hour (2 Mb/minute).

I doubt that I'll be playing very many videos, and for my purposes the video player is considered to be fully functional.

Thoughtfix reports that he compressed video using the converter described on the Maemo wiki (with download link), getting about 2 Mb/minute. The video will need to be decimated to 352x288 px or 176x144 px; read the article for a discussion of capacity limits. The player will interpolate pixels to fill the screen if I read it right. Another person said he ripped two DVDs and put them on a 512 MB RS-MMC card (I guess about 4 hours of video) and watched them on a train journey. He says the battery had a fair amount of charge left even after all that work. This kind of thing will really appeal to a lot of people.

X.509 Digital Certificate

The browser successfully downloaded and installed the root certificates for my intranet and for UCLA-Mathnet; just follow the dialog boxes, which are easier than with MSIE. (In Control Panel - Certificates, under Settings, remember to disable Remember Certificate Passwords, which is on by default, hiss, boo.) During installation if you look at the certificate's details you will find it is invalid for all purposes. Ignore that; on the next page you will get the opportunity to turn on or suppress trust for each activity: WLAN, e-mail or web TLS connections.

When you import a certificate as a file, it should be in /home/user/MyDocs or a subdirectory or on the memory card (these are the directories searched by the generic file selection widget), it should have an extension of cer, not usr or crt, which is the only extension the selection widget will show, and it should be in PEM format, probably not DER. It goes into the authorities or user sections according to the purpose marked in the certificate. I haven't determined whether you can import or use a user (host) certificate signed with a root certificate that is missing.

The root certificates installed by the control panel's certificate manager are kept in /usr/share/certs/certman.cst Pine looks in /usr/lib/ssl (not in the default image) for its root certificates (per This is not where ossoemail or the web browser look.

VNC Viewer

Works. If the remote screen is bigger than the ITB's, as it usually will be, you need to use the scroll bars to see different areas. Our son (who works for Microsoft) convinced my wife that we needed a Media Center PC, and there are human engineering issues with the TV screen and the keyboard such that it's much preferable to interact with it by VNC, e.g. to configure it or to do Windows Update. Only one problem: the Media Center application framework has a throbbing, ever-changing background that may make old ladies think it's alive, but it drives VNC crazy. I was hoping to do routine media control from the ITB, but I think that won't be practical.

GizmoProject VOIP (Phone)

In the default bookmarks there's a link to ( is different and unrelated.) This is a clone of Skype but they were more cooperative about producing a GTK and Maemo-ized version of their software. Here are a few of their features:

Sitting under a tree outside the Kerckhoff coffee house at UCLA, I downloaded the software and tried it out. Here are some first impressions updated with later experiences.

I've dug around GizmoProject's support forums. I can't say I'm an expert on any of this stuff, but it looks to me like SIP, like H.323, requires a variety of incoming TCP and UDP connections which are going to be blocked by any sane firewall, and specifically by the firewalls on all the networks that I regularly operate on. GizmoProject has a fallback mode, STUN, for getting through NAT and uncooperative firewalls, which appears to work.

I've been using Gizmo regularly for about a month, and version 1.x was fine. I hope the problem with will be resolved soon.

Handwriting Recognition

Several reviewers said they disliked the handwriting input method; I'm going to make my own judgment. Sphinx of black quartz judge my vow. Seven wildly panting fruit flies gazed anxiously at the juicy bouncing kumquat. OK, I got the texts to go in (using maemopad).

The key to making this work is to use glyphs that the input method is looking for. In Control Panel, Text Input, hit the Teach button, but use the program in read-only mode to see the target glyphs. I would like to change to use glyphs that I prefer, but that effort is on hold. Someone else would very much like to use old Palm Grafitti, which he's skilled at, but that won't fly either because the factory glyphs aren't going to disappear. The whole issue is discussed in a separate page.

It's reasonable to switch between input methods, e.g. mostly use handwriting but switch to keyboard for passwords and for editing with vi. I'm finding that I'm more accurate and just as fast using the on-screen keyboard.

For either input method, the word predictions are helpful: if from the first few letters it guesses which word you're typing, just hit that word to finish.

Activities To Be Tried

Additional Software Installed

Here are the packages that I installed so far. All but one were listed on the Maemo software download catalog. In Maemo-1.1 the software went into /var/lib/install and you needed to hack /etc/profile to put /var/lib/install/bin etc. on the path, but in Maemo-2.0 it's installed in normal directories such as /bin or /usr/bin.

Many packages depend on libraries, and these are (all?) available from , distro = mistral, section = free non-free (recommended to allow both). Add this line to the application catalog sources in the Application Manager.

Basic Utilities

Networking Utilities

Text Editors

Text and Media Viewers/Players

User Applications, Local

User Applications, Networked

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