A Final Goodbye to Nokia and a Hello to Android

Just a little over a year ago, I detailed why I opted for Nokia’s Maemo powered N900 instead of an Android device. To be precise, I purchased my Nokia N900 on the 4th of Jan 2011, and wow, what an excitement it was to hold such an incredible device. A full blown, Debian based GNU/Linux OS in my pocket.

However, it was not long to be before the groundbreaking, expertly leaked burning platform memo to Engadget and the subsequent Elopcalypse of Feb 11 2011. For long time Nokia loyalists like yours truly, it was like a dream shattered. We’d always dreamed of having MeeGo as the third force in a fiercely competitive arena dominated by the two tech giants of North America: Google with their Android offering and Apple with iOS.
But the all knowing Nokia board knew better. To salvage Nokia from its not so desperate situation, they had to bring in a former Microsoft employee to head a company that was at the forefront of pushing GNU/Linux to millions of people around the world. And as was expected, the inevitable happened: the bringing to its knees of one of the most powerful and recognized technology companies on Earth. 

Using the N900 is an experience worth savoring. But the device was rapidly ageing(aged?) given it only shipped with 256MB of RAM, Nokia had discontinued support for it, leaving only the very wonderful Maemo community on their own, new applications rarely got published among a myriad of other factors. Thus I felt the need for a new device, and quite naturally I opted for Android this time around.

Of course I know of the Nokia N9 and N950 both running MeeGo, but with the frantic effort Nokia’s CEO is making to sabotage the success of the those devices, I logically shunned them, fearing Espoo will pull another N900 on users of those two phones. 

You’re wondering what device I went for right? Haha. I opted for the Motorola Atrix. After a long and careful searching and considering the price range of the various devices on the retail market here in Accra Ghana, I opted to go for the Atrix which is both a good bang for the money.

Retailing at $400 on Amazon, it packs all the goodies of a modern Android device (yea well not considering the slew of devices being announced at CES 2012). Running Gingerbread on an Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9 with 1GB of RAM, it’s more than adequate for an intensive mobile user like myself. 

As I’ve stated before, the Nokia N900 was my last Nokia device, until perhaps Elop is fired and the Nokia board wakes up and realizes gallows they’re being led into, it’s a goodbye Nokia and all your offerings and hello Android. It was really nice knowing you, Nokia, for more than 10 solid years of my less than 3 decades old. 

The N9 – A parting gift from Nokia before ending up in Microsoft stables?

The much awaited, “market disruption” MeeGo powered device promised us by Steven Elop, after his February 11 elopcalypse is out. And it brings with it more questions for both Nokia and potential buyers than answers.

Another N900?
As an N900 user, I found myself asking the question: what’s the guarantee that Nokia won’t pull another N900 on those that by the N9? After all the N9 runs Harmattan, a successor to Maemo 5. Is Nokia going to keep supporting this MeeGo baked Maemo after it starts shipping its WP7 line of devices?

If it suddenly decides to abandon it like the N900, is it going to keep the closed components of the code to itself such that independent developers cannot continue with support, just like on the N900?

To be fair to Nokia, the N9 packs some pretty impressive albeit not wowing specs in its slick design. But will that, coupled with the application development platform Qt be enough to lure developers to the phone? We wait to see.

Pacifying the bashers?
Is the release of the N9 more a pacification of the bashers of Nokia than anything to do with market share? It will not be far fetched to say it’ll be hard for the N9 to make any significant difference in the overall smartphone market. So then we ask the question, is this more of pacification of Nokia critiques than anything else.

Let’s not forget that after the Feb 11 elopcalypse, Steven Elop had to organize another press conference to clarify the first one thanks to the unprecendeted bashing of the company in the media; both main stream and the blogosphere. So is this phone just to pacify those voices?

Strategy fit?
It’s also very hard to see where in the currnt Nokia strategy (yes they do have one :D) that this release fits into. WP7 is the primary platform, Symbian will still lurk in the corner for a few years, and MeeGo was supposed to be the market disruption wedge.

But can the N9 really be described as a market disruption device? If the N9 should be a surprising success, will it cause Nokia to once again rethink its overall strategy such that Linux and open source once again get to be the center of the company’s business? How much resources is Elop willing to devote to the marketing of a Linux device seeing he owns a stake in Microsoft?

There are a lot of unanswered questions in the wake of the release of the N9. It wll be difficult to see how Nokia intends to market devices powered by two very separate and highly competitive platforms with starkly different ideologies and ecosystems.

When all is said and done thus, the conclusion that can be objectively reached is that the N9 is more a parting gift from Nokia to the Linux and open source world before its full immersion into the WP7 tide more than anything else.

But will the market agree?

MeeGo N900 Developer Edition now Community Edition

An announcement on the MeeGo-qa mailing list just out is reporting a change in the name of the MeeGo edition for the N900. It used to be the Developer Edition- not for the faint of heart. Now we’re being told it’s going to be called the N900 Community Edition.

It’s not clear the reason behind the change. I hope it’s in line with the hopes of N900 users to see a properly working MeeGo port for the N900. Below is the full text of the message.

Hi,
Because the N900 DE changed it’s name to N900 Community Edition = N900CE, following changes are done in Bugzilla:
Keyword N900 –> N900CE

–       If you see any bugs with N900CE keyword and doesn’t occure with CE image, please feel free to remove the keyword, I will do that also.
(HW) Platform -> N900 for every bug having the old N900 Keyword
MeeGo_N900DE_Release_Blocker -> MeeGo_N900CE_Release_Blocker

Remember to update your search strings, the older ones doesn’t work anymore if you have used DE there.

When filing a new bug for the N900CE, use prefix [CE] in the summary. If it’s not only CE bug, the prefix needs to be removed.
Add platform N900.

Br,
Iekku

Tweed Suit – A heavy weight twitter app for the Nokia N900

Tweed Suit is a desktop style Twitter client and RSS reader for the Nokia N900 internet tablet. Users of the popular Twitter client Tweetdeck will immediately feel at home with this app.

It features all the usual Twitter features;

  • A home feed
  • Mentions
  • Direct messages
  • Lists
  • Searches among others. 

You can also use it an RSS reader and directly share items through Twitter. Tweed Suit uses column layout that works well for desktop, tablet or handheld devices and is currently available in Extras Testing on the N900.

Nokia Kills MeeGo and Symbian- Finally

Nokia has finally nailed the coffin for Symbian and MeeGo by announcing it will cut R&D staff dedicated to those two platforms, with some being transferred to Accenture, obviously to get them out of sight till Symbian dies a slow death. Well we all saw it coming didn’t we? The moment the so called burning platform memo was expertly “leaked” to Engadget, some of us were convinced Nokia had finally lost it.

Cutting the jobs of those in charge of these platforms underscores Nokia’s move to dump those two OS in favor of MS WP7. As to what Nokia means when they say “we plan to ship 150m more Symbian devices…” I don’t know. Cutting the jobs of the people in charge of the OS and claiming you will ship devices powered by that OS will only result in leaving users with no support from Nokia, a fate that has befallen N900 users. It’s not clear from the post also if Nokia will go ahead to release the so called MeeGo device they promised this year or if ever.

Take a sip of water and you’re behind in the pack. Blink your eye and watch the pack move in a different direction.

No Nokia, you did not take a sip, you kept committing one corporate blunder after the other. Finally, joining hands with Microsoft was the only route the management of the company could think of. Like one commmenter said in the linked post above,

This is so sad. Nokia’s problem wasn’t caused by the engineers who are losing their jobs. If anything, Nokia was known in the industry for having some of the best engineers. Nokia’s problem was caused by poor upper management. In this Microsoft deal upper management found a way to keep their jobs. The brain transfer from Nokia to their competitors is only going to make Nokia’s situation worse, but at least upper management will have jobs for the next couple of years. Bravo (…clap…clap…clap…).

Nokia’s case can be summed up in a local Ghanaian parlance that goes thus “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” which roughly translates as it’s not always those who do the work that enjoy the fruits of it.

Android Location Tracking is Opt-In

The iOS operating system tracks your location without your knowledge and stores the data it collects in an unencrypted form on your phone. For Android users who maybe wondering the same thing, no, your location is will not be tracked without your express permission and approval.

I vividly remember the first time I booted into Android, going into the settings and under the geo-location tab, you are expressly asked whether you’d like opt-in to anonymous location data collection and whether you’d also like to use your location for search results and other Google services.

So yes on Android your location can be tracked but you’ll first have to approve of it. Then even with that the collected data is anonymized in such a way that it cannot be traced back to you as per this Google statement

All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.

[Release] MIR Translator – Translate text captured by the Nokia N900 mobile camera

MIR Translator is an application for translating text in photos taken by the N900 camera. It experiments with novel interactive techniques to perform text recognition. Currently the app supports translation to and from over 30 different languages. Video Demo:
Requires internet connection to work.
Package is available in extras-devel. Be sure to restart after installation if FCam drivers were not previously installed. Maemo packages URL: http://maemo.org/packages/view/mir-translator/
The app relies on the text recognition happening off the device and in the cloud. This allows the application to support the maximum number of languages possible while keeping the install size as small as possible (~1.5 MB). It also improves response times, given a fast connection and server side.
Features:
  • A viewfinder is used to capture images with the camera. The user selects text to translate.
  • If the recognition is erroneous, the user is able to correct the recognition via manual segmentation, manual thresholding, and manual candidate selection.
  • Supports more than 30 input and output languages.
Limitations:
  • Somewhat limited performance. This is because the recognition service resides in the cloud as a web service. I am hosting the service myself, so server capacity / speed is as a result limited.
  • Recognition accuracy is currently quite dependent on the quality of the input image. That is, images should be well and evenly lit and have good contrast. It’s best if the text is sharp, with typographic-like fonts and non-complex backgrounds.
This project fell out of a project I was doing in school (its actually my first maemo app!). I’ve recently adapted it to be deployed publicly, so its in an early development phase. Naturally there will probably be some bugs, and there is much room for optimization. I don’t expect the application to be powerful enough for the general case of translating arbitrary text– but simpler cases should be do-able. Deploying it publicly is fun and I’m hoping it speeds feedback + development.
I’m keeping the web service up and running on my own student funds — its not cheap! Any and all small donations are greatly appreciated (Donate Link: Donate). Hope you enjoy the app! 
From TMO .

[Release] Open Media Player for Nokia N900

Muhammad Abu Garbiyeh, the lead developer of the Nokia CSSU has announced the alpha release of Open Media Player, a multimedia player he’s been working on for sometime now. Below is the full announcement as made on TMO.

Been showing this on the forums a lot, figured it’s about time I make a release.
Please note that this is an alpha release, the mediaplayer turned out to be a
bigger project than I expected

What’s not working (yet):

  • Categories view in Videos.
  • Resuming from paused position in videos.
  • libplayback, a notification will go through and will mute the player.
  • Deleting items from a playlist messes up numbering, fix planned.
  • Share and delete buttons in videos.

What needs to be done:

  • “Cheats” that will make the mediaplayer seem faster to the user (the stock player adds a song, starts playback, then adds all the other songs when you click a song, the implementation here is to add all songs then start playback, this is slow for the “All songs” view.
  • Detecting the current item in the Entertainment view (my QML skills are meh).
  • Implement mime_open (gnomevfs is always returning NULL for some reasno…) so other apps like qmltube can open media in the player.
  • Deleting albums/artists (deleting songs and playlists should work)

What’s new (not actually a lot):

  • Sharing songs via Bluetooth and E-Mail (thanks to CepiPerez for the dialog from filebox).
  • Portrait mode (obviously )
  • QML entrainment view, being in QML, this takes more memory and a bit more CPU time for transitions (even though they’re HW accelerated).
  • Closing the mediaplayer will not stop playback, this is configurable in settings (main view -> title bar menu -> Settings).

What’s planned:

  • Playlist creator and editor (stock implementation sucks).

All existing MAFW-based apps will work fine with this, the stock widget will open this mediaplayer, media-im-status-updater will fetch metadata correctly, etc…
To “replace” the stock player (if you don’t want to do that, use the script below).
Place the binary in /usr/local/bin/

Code:
<font face="verdana">nano /usr/share/dbus-1/services/com.nokia.mediaplayer.service</font>

Change /usr/bin/mediaplayer to /usr/local/bin/mediaplayer, note that this will cause mime_open to stop working until implemented.

BT headsets (with buttons) should work fine (tested with a BH-503).

To use alongside the stock player (tapping the stock widget will open the stock player):
Place the binary in /usr/local/bin/

QML files are to be installed in /opt/mediaplayer/qml/
I usually update the mediaplayer whenever I add something, so here’s a handy script to update it (or install it)

Code:
<font face="verdana">root apt-get install wget #if you don't have it installed. wget http://mohammadag.xceleo.org/public/maemo/install_mediaplayer.sh chmod +x install_mediaplayer.sh ./install_mediaplayer.sh</font>

Then whenever I release an update, use ./install_mediaplayer.sh to fetch it and overwrite the old version.
Want an icon in the menu? Run the script with –desktop-file (./install_mediaplayer –desktop-file).

Once all bugs are fixed, this will probably make its way into the CSSU, but right now, it’s a bit early.

Not sure if screenshots are necessary, it looks exactly like the stock player but with portrait mode.

Bug reports expected (lots of them) and are welcome.
Thanks to nicolai for the C++ MafwSource and MafwRenderer adapters.
Thanks to Venemo for the UI for the FMTX dialog (which is actually a rewrite, the stock one flips the player to landscape).
If you have jacekowski’s fmtxd, feel free to kill the checks done (headphones etc…) in the UI, it’s in settings.

Source is of course on gitorious: http://gitorious.org/qt-mediaplayer/mediaplayer

Nokia – The Journey to the Gallows Continues

Like a person condemned to the gallows, Nokia solemnly sojourns to its decline. Today, Bloomberg reports the company has had its debt rating reduced for the first time by Standard and Poors from A to A-. Since 1998, S&P had always ranked the company A.

This new rating is a result of “market share losses and “weaker” operating margins at the Finnish company,” said S&P. Is anybody surprised? Nokia’s share prices have dropped significantly since Steven Ellop announced the company’s partnership (or sellout?) with Microsoft to use the latter’s WP7 for all its smartphone strategies.

A huge Samsung Galaxy tab billboard mounted at
Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah Circle

Anybody who has been a real, loyal Nokia customer for a long time knows the company committed a big strategic blunder by “jumping from the burning platform” to Windows phone 7. As to how Elop and the Nokia board are convinced a late to the game, untested platform from Redmond will redeem them, I don’t know. But one thing remains constant: Nokia is being beaten on all fronts.

Come second half of this year, Apple will be introducing the iPhone 5, and we all know for how long this is going to be news headline. Android continues on the ascendancy, the so called “we make our monies from low end phones” is being neutralized by Samsung, especially in Africa. Announcing a big corporate strategy shift like this without having a phone on hand is a big meh at the very least.

As anybody who has used any of the company’s groundbreaking phones that were released long before the advent of both Android and iPhone knows, Nokia’s only hope is to return to doing what it does best: be the trail blazer it was. Be the company that introduced phones like 6600, E90, N93 and recently, the almighty N900. Seriously, how could a company with these phones to its credit ever find itself wanting and believe its salvation lies in an outside developed platform?

Again, my personal message to the Nokia board (Elop is too Microsoft for my liking) is simple. Go back to the days when your phones were more like James Bond gadgets than real phones. If you can’t make a head or tail of MeeGo, you still have Maemo, that outstanding OS based on Debian, use it. But for your own sake, do not put all your smartphone strategy in the Windows Phone 7 basket. Your new partner looks to me like the inverse of King Midas.