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Nokia N810 and 770 Internet Tablets
What Jimc Uses the ITB For

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

What is jimc specifically using the Nokia N810 for?

I'm an old fossil with hypertension, and I used to record my blood pressure by writing on paper. Then I would transcribe the data into a file and make a graph to show my doctor. This is sooo low tech, and I decided to join the PDA generation by getting a Nokia 770. I have been collecting this data for two years, now on the N810, and both my doctor and I are very satisfied with this mode of collecting data, which would apply in any laboratory science or industrial setting.

Due to personal bias I required that the PDA should run Linux, either natively or aftermarket (e.g. Familiar). That limited my choices quite a bit.

What else could I use a PDA-type device for? So far I have taken it on two trips to Europe and Asia, with a third coming soon, and these PDA uses have been successful:

For daily use I read journals rather than taking my paper copy, and I read e-mail (using Pine) -- composing replies is slower than with a real keyboard, but other operations are just as convenient as on my desktop or laptop machine. I can take my device into the machine room and use SSH to connect to a balky machine, if it's not too sick, more conveniently than using the KVM. Beside SSH I can use OpenVPN for authenticated and encrypted access from other campus locations, from home, or from anywhere in the world.

I also want wireless network monitoring software, but I haven't found such (Kismet has not worked out) -- it looks like I'll have to write it myself. And of course I record my blood pressure each day directly to a file on the device.

I've also downloaded and installed the GPE PIM software; I need to learn how to make it useful for me. An advantage of Linux is that even though the N-Series is not marketed as a PDA and lacks the software out of the box, the software can be added aftermarket, and the system is not so tightly integrated or secretive that such additions are impossible.

A co-worker, having seen my device, decided to get one too. He has a Sony Clié and makes extensive use of the PDA, but he also wants to be able to read e-mail, and he is attracted to the better display of the Nokia 770. He is now on a flight to Hong Kong -- he's thankful he won't have to carry his laptop -- and he plans to connect to work using SSH to do a brief but important step in setting up our instructional lab for the coming quarter. Different people use their devices in different ways, and it's a big advantage if the one device can be adapted flexibly to each user, rather than either being limited to what the vendor thought to put in it, or being bloated with a thousand features most of which are never used but still eat resources and have to be paid for.

Returned from Hong Kong, this co-worker reports that the Nokia 770 worked well for him and did everything he wanted. It's like a laptop weighing 210 grams and he could use it anywhere -- often it wouldn't have been feasible to drag around a laptop, and there wouldn't have been a good space to use it either.

Another co-worker also thinks the Nokia 770 is very sexy, but is going to wait for the next model. He uses his beloved Palm, with Graffiti (not the newer English handwriting system), and he can do text input with good accuracy a lot faster than I can use either the keyboard or the handwriting. He would really like to be able to use the glyphs he has practiced and is skilled with. Another important factor for him is being able to synchronize his calendar with the department's, and we'll have to see which PIM suite, if any, is agile enough to do that. When messing around with my device he managed to get it so confused that it rebooted, which of course did not make a good impression, and this I think is a major reason why he's going to let it mature a bit.

I've bought a spare battery, because there won't be enough juice in one battery to last flying to Europe. And I bought a 1 gigabyte memory card for the 770. The N810 has an internal 2 Gb card, and can take up to 8 Gb in the removable card slot. Here's what I'm going to do that requires memory -- this is specifically for the upcoming trip to China, but I use similar data for daily use.

OK, I'm back from the trip (to Holland in 2006 with the 770). We had a great time, and the ITB performed without problems. How did each activity go?


Finished both, and another issue of Science Magazine.

Instant message or VOIP

Our time was 14:00+0200; the person we wanted to notify would be at 05:00-0700 and would not have appreciated being waked up. Before we left he told us, Just send e-mail. But instant messaging would have worked if the timezones had been more favorable.


We were on a group tour and we had to wait for a shopping afternoon to locate an internet café, but once we had that time, for the price of a cup of tea we were able to send mail. Next time we'll see if we can do roaming data access through a cellphone: likely quite expensive per kbyte, but one or two e-mail messages will likely cost only a dollar or two and can be done when it's convenient for us including at the airport while waiting for our luggage.

Music Files

No blame to the ITB, but my earphones seemed to amplify engine noise and neighbors' chatter, so I gave up trying to listen on the airplane. I did, however, listen to the music files in our room after arrival. Update: on the trip to Japan in 2007 I took different headphones (Motorola HT820 using the wire) and the music was more listenable.

Generic Editor (Maemopad)

This was very useful; I recorded our purchases that would need to be declared to U.S. Customs (but see below.) On a subsequent trip I made a record of photographs taken. This really helped me to get them organized in a web presentation, once I returned. Without writing down what the photos are about, it's hard to remember the details two weeks later.

Spreadsheet (Gnumeric)

On a subsequent trip I recorded purchases in a spreadsheet, with a field for whether they were dutiable (souvenirs) or not (food). This greatly eased preparing the customs report when we returned. This data is properly handled in a database, but I have not yet found any suitable GUI program analogous to Microsoft Access.

PIM suite

I didn't really make effective use of the PIM software. Would a more experienced PDA user have gotten more out of it? Maybe, or maybe a vacation is just not a PDA type of activity.

Here's a specific recommendation: find out how your calendar software handles events booked in one timezone but executed in another one. With GPE, when you create a calendar entry you specify the date and time in local civil time, but it is converted to UNIX seconds, so when you travel to Tokyo or even change to daylight saving time the timezone prevailing when the event was created will be followed faithfully, e.g. breakfast at midnight Tokyo time.

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