Monday Feb 04, 2008

Microsoft Maps for Nokia N800

The best map web site for the Nokia N800 palmtop computer is Microsoft Maps. Neither Google, Yahoo, nor Mapquest work. Google has mobile maps, but they are delivered via a Java applet to mobile phones. The Nokia needs regular web pages, but without hard coded assumptions that your screen is large.

Tuesday Jan 22, 2008

Stowaway Sierra Bluetooth keyboard with Nokia N800

The keyboard manual omits some critical information on how to pair the keyboard with your palmtop computer tablet. Alan Williamson's blog fills in the gaps. Once paired you don't have to do it again unless you wipe your tablet clean, as to install a major OS update. Open Bluetooth from the control panel or from the connection tool, click devices, choose the keyboard, edit, and check connect. Then press your stylus into the tiny pinhole button on the top edge of the keyboard.

When you don't use the keyboard for a while and it goes into power saving sleep mode, you don't even have to reconnect. Just type a few keys and it wakes up with connection intact, and after a few seconds echoes the keys you typed onto the screen.


Monday Jan 07, 2008

Nokia N800 tip from a 7 year old

I love my N800 tablet computer, but the included slip case is very poor. It protects the screen from scratches but nothing else. It doesn't even close, so picking it up facing the wrong way is an invitation for the computer to slip right out onto the floor. Fortunately the N800 is built fairly tough, but still a case that encourages computer dribbling is not a good idea. Various camera bags are expensive and the wrong size.

My son pointed out that a Nintendo DS Lite case is just the right size to accommodate an N800. I got one at WalMart for $20. It has light foam padding, a velcro closure, and a carrying strap. It is labeled "Nintendo DS(tm)" which might attract sideways glances at business meetings, but might also cause a pickpocket to pass you by. From my son's point of view the best part was that it also came with 3 extra DS stylii and 2 or 3 game cartridges, which were his reward for the tip.

I see there are also hard shell cases for the DS Lite which may also fit the N800.

Monday Sep 10, 2007

TV remote works from 1,000 miles

New use for Nokia N800: TV remote control. Really remote - like anywhere on the Internet. Browse TV listings, select shows to be recorded on DVR, check recording schedule, check previous recordings and delete ones I don't want any more. Actually, all the Nokia provides for this function is the web browser. We decided to give AT&T U-verse a try, in part because our old cable service kept having bandwidth shortages and outages for video on demand, especiallly on weekends. Also I read that AT&T used Sun servers for video delivery, so I thought they'd be able to deliver the necessary bandwidth. So far that seems to be the case, and with greatly improved latency, so it's hard to tell whether I'm viewing content from the remote servers or from the local DVR hard disk. You can record and/or watch four shows simultaneously.

AT&T salesmen seem to have a problem with over promising some features of U-verse, but I've found some cool features that they are definitely under selling. Being able to control your DVR from a web browser is nice, both because you can do it from anywhere, and because a keyboard and mouse (or pen in the case of the Nokia) provides a more usable interface than a TV remote.

U-verse also lets you browse information about a TV show or movie, with links to the actors and director. E.g. click on the director to see more of his movies which are coming up in the "broadcast" schedule or available in video on demand, then click on the one you want to schedule it for recording. I used to do this looking up the information in but the integration of movie information with the schedule and DVR makes it much more convenient. Too bad they currently only deliver these TV hyperlinks over the TV, not on the web. And they don't have a facility where you can register a "wish list" of movies, favorite directors, and favorite actors, to be alerted when something you might like is coming up. But that's all just a "simple matter of programming" so maybe later...

One caveat for the Nokia: the standard browser won't work with the AT&T Yahoo web site for program listings and TV control. The web site complains that you must use a current version of Internet Explorer or Firefox, locking out the Nokia's Opera based browser. Typical web designer tunnel vision to ignore Opera, which I'd bet would work just fine if I made it mis-identify itself as Explorer. Fortunately the Mozilla web engine for Nokia is allowed into the web site and works fine.

Thursday Sep 06, 2007

Hand held remote desktop

Nokia N800 amazes me twice again. 1) There is a vnc viewer for it. 2) It really works. Remote applications are surprisingly usable on the N800 screen. Pen taps and motions translate flawlessly to mouse motions, and the Bluetooth keyboard works too.  

Friday Aug 24, 2007

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

N800 imageQ: Is the Nokia N800 a PDA, a smart phone, a UMPC, or a media player? A: I don't care. A friend recently got one and I wanted to pass along a few tips, so I'll just write here so others can read them too.

Imagine Nokia building a device that can't connect to the cell phone network. This handheld device connects to WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth. As a web and email tablet it includes an Opera web browser with good support of web features like Javascript, Shockwave, etc., and a mail client supporting POP and IMAP. You can do a lot with it that you couldn't do with a smart phone, PDA, or Blackberry. A recent software update added Skype software so now it's also a Wifi phone. And it has a webcam for web conferencing.

As a media player it plays MP3's and other audio formats through surprisingly good sounding speakers for their size, or headphones. It plays MP4 and RealVideo videos, and youtube. It comes with several Internet radio stations including BBC World Service preprogrammed, and you can add your own channels for one click tuning. A software update I received added FM radio capability. I enjoy browsing music at, untethered from a desk, and downloading my selections to the Nokia for later transfer to iPod.

With the file manager I can browse files on the built-in flash memory and on two SD memory cards (one included). I can also browse photos on my Bluetooth enabled camera cell phone and transfer them to the Nokia, where I can sort out my favorites on its larger screen, and upload them to Kodak Gallery. When I plug the Nokia into my PC with a USB cable its SD memory cards appear on the PC desktop like USB memory sticks. If you'll be using it as a media player, buy a second SD card. 1GB ones are very cheap right now.

For travel it's a lot nicer than lugging a laptop computer around. At business meetings I always need access to web, email, and PDF documents, and to take notes. How many times have I needed to use a spreadsheet in the last 5 years? Once. If the need ever arises again I'll go to the hotel business center. Until then the Nokia is all I need. I use a Stowaway Sierra Bluetooth keyboard. It folds up smaller than a paperback book, unfolds to a full size keyboard with real key travel, and pairs easily with the Nokia. The Nokia runs debian Linux, and I got Xterminal and ssh software for it. So I can remotely log into larger computers and transfer files.

Most of the software for it you just select from the included GUI application manager and the packages are automatically downloaded and installed. Some software, for which Nokia doesn't assume responsibility, you need to go to to look around and download what you want. Sometimes clicking on a package in the web browser brings up the software manager and installs it for me. Sometimes I've needed to save the package to a file and then click on it.

For text input when not using a keyboard, be sure to go into handwriting training to specify how you make your letters, as this improves comprehension dramatically. Though the included stylus is pretty good as styli go, it's much nicer to use a real Cross pen, PDA version, which you can get from office supply stores. It guesses words pretty well, so after you've written a few letters look down at the bottom to see if the word you want is one of its choices. If so you can just tap on it to complete the word.

Something I didn't realize for a long time was that the long white space to the right of the word choices is the space bar. Tap on it after you finish a word and it inserts a space and clears the text input area so you won't run out of room. You can correct letters just by writing over them, and erase letters just by crossing them out. If you're entering lots of symbols, switch to the on-screen keyboard at least temporarily. For short entries you'll seldom be tempted to unfold the Bluetooth keyboard.

Here are a couple of good reviews of the Nokia N800 with more information:



I am a software engineer in San Diego, president of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (, formerly a mathematician and a violist.


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