Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Tan and black, oh my

In phones, tech on September 29, 2007 at 11:16 am

Alright, I’ve been using this phone for a couple of days now and I gotta tell you, it is smoking. Seeing as the last couple of days my productivity went from its regular 60% to -40%, I’d say it’s about time to get back to work. Righto. So I purchased a tan prototype from fleabay last Friday, but the guy didn’t ship it till Monday. When he did ship, he used Fedex ground, despite charging me a hefty $25 ($575 total) for shipping (asshat). It didn’t leave Connecticut till Tuesday, which meant I would receive it on Thursday. Naturally I got impatient, so as soon as mobilecityonline put the black version on sale, I was all over that shit with $25 for overnight shipping ($675 total yay). By the time the tan version arrived, I had already spent several hours getting intimately acquainted with the black/silver. No apologies were necessary and the tan went back on ebay that evening. It’s now sold for $710. And life goes on.

Flickr pictures below

Tan looking good

Tan version: Beyond nastey when I received it. Dude obviously doesn’t have enough good sense to clean out his dead skin cells, fingersmudges and other grime before sending out a product. Regained its schmexy look after I cleaned it up. Unfortunately, the poor phone was suffering from a wobbly slide which I never got a chance to fix thanks to a useless T5 screwdriver.

Black: Well, what can I say. It’s everything I wanted and more. I’ll be posting my first impressions later on.


N95 US 3G Now On Sale

In phones, tech on September 26, 2007 at 7:49 pm

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, Nokia fans in the US can now rejoice. The US version of the N95 has now gone on sale. Looks like you can’t purchase it from Nokia’s website, but their flagship stores in NY and Chicago now have them in stock. If you live close to those stores, go get yourself something nice and tasty. The stores only have the silver/tan version in stock, so keep that in mind. If you want the silver/black version, you’ll have to wait for a little while before they get it in stock. This morning, mobilecity also put them on sale, in both their physical NY location and their online store. Many a fan on Howard Forums might have jizzed themselves. They’ve got the silver/black version. Unfortunately, the store closed for a Jewish holiday starting from this afternoon, so if you want one of the new phones, you’ll have to either walk over to the flagship stores or wait till Monday.

OpenMoko gradually getting there

In linux, phones, tech on September 26, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Openmoko is still in alpha mode. Going by the recent images tested on the wiki, most of the features on the Neo now work, but remain flaky.

Phone calls can be made, but require some workarounds with the more recent images.

Calls can be received. Noise cancellation still needs implementation.

GPRS can be started manually (sometimes).

Bluetooth can be started and used manually.

Icons are still missing.

GPS works, but devs are still trying to put together an app.

Media player works, but creating a playlist crashes the app.

I know the openmoko team is doing their damndest to get this software finished ASAP, but I really wonder whether October will see a release, dev targeted or not. A few peeps with the phase 1 release have lambasted the phone’s inability to make phone calls. With October this close and the phone still terrible at simple phone capabilities, I find myself agreeing with them. Although qtopia has been ported to the Neo, it is doubtful that the phone will be released running anything other than openmoko. Tech geeks will have to install the new OS or setup dual boot in the whole spirit of opensource thing.

Qtopia might be more mature than openmoko, but it still requires a bit of work. Come October, I suppose the only issue that will prevent a developer release will be hardware shortage. Despite all the previous enthusiasm, many have come to realize that a consumer ready version will not be released until 2008. By then, I truly hope the phone has been upgraded to EDGE, otherwise, who knows.

I know I can say with all confidence that my future phone plans do not involve the Neo1973. I still want the phone to succeed, because the openmoko team will go on to make other devices, but right now, the neo1973 offers -me- nothing. Emphasis on me here… it might be the most feature packed phone the majority of users have had so far. I shell out the money to buy unlocked higher end symbian phones, which means I don’t have to worry about carrier crippled devices. The symbian OS has a shitload of user developed software, so the neo offers little new in this department. I buy feature packed phones because I know how to milk my devices for all they are worth. Up until now, phones running linux have been lower end or lower mid end level. A linux phone that can compete with the Nokia N95 in terms of features is something I will be happy to snap up. The Neo is unfortunately not the One. When openmoko starts working on a higher end phone, with kickass camera and EDGE (I’m on tmobile, so 3G doesn’t matter for the time being), then I will pay attention. For now, I sit on the sidelines quietly cheering them on.

T-Mobile tethering on OpenSuse

In linux, opensuse, phones, tech on September 26, 2007 at 2:19 am

FYI: These settings will work with any phone with modem capabilities.

Woot! I just set up bluetooth tethering on my linux box with my trusty Nokia N80. I am currently typing this on my laptop while connected to T-Mobile’s EDGE. Amazing how easy everything was. Of course it helps that I don’t mind getting my hands dirty (so to speak) with the command line and that I was following a guide on Howard Forums wiki. This guide to be exact. I am using knetwork manager + opensuse’s yast networking tool which simply made setup a breeze.

As an aside, I’ve said this before, but let me reiterate how much joy it is to surf with EDGE. Sure it’s not as fast as my wifi connection, or anywhere near the speed of my wired AT&T connection, but loading times are just a smidgen away from instantaneous. I should mention that speeds are about as bad or worse than dialup if I have one bar or less as I discovered recently. Not really surprising when you think about how bad packet transmission has to be in that situation. Anyhoo, the reason for this tangent is twofold. One, the iphone got a lot of flak for having only EDGE. Makes me think that the people complaining are either instantly instant gratification junkies or they just never surfed on EDGE. Knowing the sorry state of journalism today, I’m honestly leaning towards the latter. The second reason is that a smart phone without EDGE does not deserve that title. Neo I’m looking at you. Follow the white rabbit.

Back to the point of this post, which is putting together a quick and dirty guide for both cable and bluetooth tethering on opensuse. I’m using opensuse 10.3 RC1 but this should apply to any version of opensuse since most of the work is done in Yast. The input boxes should be similar for other gui based network managers.

First off, open up Yast and go to Network Devices.

Yast Control Center

Select the Modem, not the Network Card option.

Yast Modem Manager

Let’s do cable tethering first. As you can see, opensuse detected the make and model of the phone and also identified it as a modem as soon as it was hooked up. If this doesn’t happen for you and the entry doesn’t show up in the list, just click on Add. Otherwise, select Edit. Everything is the same.

Yast Modem Manager 2

My device location is /dev/ttyACM0, which unless you have another pda/phone connected (that doesn’t fall in the palm pilot, treo or visor category) will probably be the same for you. If ya want to verify, open up the command line and type dmesg. One of the last entries should be about a usb connection. The device location should be next to it. Next up, hit that Details button.

Yast Modem Manager 3

If you’re using AT&T, you’ll have to look up their url for yourself and replace the entry with it. OK out of that window to go back to the previous dialog, then Next to enter your service provider.

Yast Modem Manager 4

Make sure Custom Providers is selected then click Add. T-Mobile FTW. Username and password aren’t needed by T-Mobile, but Yast wants you to put something in those boxes, so you can fill in tmobile for both.

Yast Modem Manager 5

Fill in the boxes like so, click Next and leave all the following dialogs as default. That’s it for setup. Told you it was easy. OK and Finish out of the Yast window. To use your spanking new connection, right click the Network Manager icon on your task bar, go to Dial-Up Connections and voila. Connecto. If you’re using KInternet, the new dial-up entry should also show up in the list.


Network Manager is the white icon next to the digital clock. Man am I up late today.

It takes about 5 seconds for the connection to become active, but once it does, you can look at your phone and see the GPRS-connected icon.

If you’re using tzones, the old old T-Mobile Internet offering, you’ll have to set up a manual proxy for your browser before you can browse. On Firefox, this is as easy as going to Edit / Preferences / Advanced / Network. Select Settings to configure how Firefox connects to the internet. From what I understand, T-Mobile Internet users don’t need to do this.


Happy EDGE browsing!

Time for bluetoothing. Setting up the device requires a little more work, but here we go.

A few things you have to be sure about:

1. This goes without saying. Make sure you have bluetooth working on your box. Suse has been excellent for me on hardware detection but I know some peeps out there aren’t so lucky.

2. Your phone has to have the ability to work as a bluetooth modem, otherwise, this exercise would be pointless.

To confirm number 2 as well as find other info you need, the command line comes in handy. If you use KDE, you can find this info with kdebluetooth, but for the sake of reproducability and the fact that I know squat about gnome’s bluetooth manager, let’s stick to the command line for now.

Type in hcitool scan. The output will give you the MAC address followed by name of the phone like so:

Scanning ...
00:12:D2:A1:0E:C8 Lillith

Next, enter sdptool browse <your MAC address here>

Find the Dial-Up Networking entry:

Service Name: Dial-Up Networking
Service RecHandle: 0x10014
Service Class ID List:
"Dialup Networking" (0x1103)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 2
Language Base Attr List:
code_ISO639: 0x454e
encoding: 0x6a
base_offset: 0x100
Profile Descriptor List:
"Dialup Networking" (0x1103)
Version: 0x0100

We’re interested in channel info. Open up /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf with your favorite text editor. You want a final entry that looks like this, with data for your phone filled in:

rfcomm0 {
# Automatically bind the device at startup
bind yes;
# Bluetooth address of the device
device 00:12:D2:A1:0E:C8;
# RFCOMM channel for the connection
channel 2;
# Description of the connection
comment "T-Mobile Dialup";

Save and restart your bluetooth by entering service bluetooth restart

Yast setup is the same as for cable tethering, but you need to change the device location.

Yast Modem Bluetooth

Happy bluetooth EDGE surfing!

N95 US 3G Still MIA

In phones, tech on September 23, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Did I mention Nokia is releasing the N95 for the US market? No? That’s right, I’ve been slacking. Yeah well, consider it mentioned. Crazy demand for the high end European version prompted Nokia to import them to the US a while back, but the 3G bands included in the EU version doesn’t play nice with US 3G. Damned American telcos just have to be different from everyone else. Anyway, the US version has all the mojo of its big brother, but it can now work with AT&T’s 3G network. The ram has been doubled from 64 MB to 128 MB, which makes the device so much snappier and less prone to crashing and the battery has been increased from the teeny 950 mAh to 1200 mAh. There goes all the reasons people had for hating on the N95; short battery life and crappy multitasking.

Lillith’s 10 cents: charging your phone everyday and exiting programs hasn’t killed anyone yet.

Though the EU version had been selling like hot cakes, Nokia listened to their fans (yay) and purtied up the N95… both inside and out. I suppose I should also throw in that yet another variant of the sleek phone is in the making. The -drum roll please- black version. Not just any black version. This N95 has 8 GB of built in memory. Compare this to the EU and US versions with a measly 160 MB and rejoice. Great news, right? Welp, not exactly. Buy this phone and you’re stuck with 8 gigs for all eternity (could be a year or less) since it doesn’t have a micro sd slot like the others. Right, if that scares you, get over it. If you absolutely have a craving for that album you bought ten years ago, listened to once and completely forgot about until now, go swap your music files damnit. In the meantime, this version also has the same ram and battery as the US version.

With background info out of the way, time to move on to the point of my post. The US version is nowhere to be seen despite supposed availability by the middle of Sept. September is almost over and still nothing. In the meantime, a couple pre-release versions popped up on ebay here and here. Fans of the US version have to wait and chafe or snag one of the pre-releases like yours truly. I’d take the US version over the 8 gig any day. Why? First, I don’t have to wait till November. Second, I can turn my housing black, white, blue, red, pink, etc anytime. Third, I don’t need the 8 gb. Anyhow, I will be posting impressions once the phone arrives.

Neo1973: Jesus phone no longer?

In phones, tech on September 7, 2007 at 11:55 am

FIC has gotten into the phone business. Ok, they didn’t just get into the phone business, but for those of you out there living in a cave all this time, FIC is working on their own version of the jesus phone. See screenshots here. Welp, it will be jesus phone only to linux geeks if they screw things up.

See, the phone is nearly 100% opensource, running an embedded version of linux named openmoko licensed with the LGPL. Essential software are developed by the teeny openmoko team and a small group of external developers while the community does what it does best – writing whatever the hell they fancy. Sweet, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

So, what could go wrong?

Let’s see. First off, price. Price wasn’t an issue up until a couple days ago. Hell, the neo has been called a cheaper and (possibly) better alternative to the iphone at their $450 price for the consumer version. That was before Big Steve traipsed all over their nice rose garden. Hmm, maybe Apple felt (rightfully) threatened by the neo’s impending release and made this move to ensure the iphone remained more attractive to consumers till iphone 2.0 is released. This would definitely explain the $200 drop in price. Now, the openmoko team has to either drop the price or justify selling a phone with fewer features for more money. Erp.

Let’s take a quick look at the features of the consumer version of the neo vs the iphone’s. More comprehensive link here.

GPS: Neo has, iphone has not

Touchscreen: Neo has very high res 2.8 inch, iphone has multitouch on moderate res 3.5 inch. Why can multitouch be considered better? Only because people who have seen the iphone zoom features might expect it on touchscreen phones from now on. If neo incorporates 3D desktop like the HTC touch does, this will blow iphone’s multitouch features out of the water.

Camera: Neo has not, iphone has 2 MP. Anything below 3 MP is quite useless in my opinion, but then, I’m spoiled by Nokia’s sweet phone camera offerings.

Data: Neo has 2.5 GPRS, iphone has EDGE. This is an amazingly bad decision on openmoko’s part. GPRS is mind numbingly slow. While EDGE doesn’t have the high data speeds of 3G, 236.8 kbits/s is fast enough that you can at least surf the web without tearing your hair out. I thank the almighty nokia every day I use my data package for including 3G and EDGE on their S60 phones. Until T-Mobile rolls out 3G completely in the midwest, surfing with EDGE is quite a pleasant experience thankyouverymuch.

Battery: Neo has 1700 Ah, iphone… no one knows for sure because it’s built into the damn phone. The iphone has decent battery life though, so users won’t care unless the battery dies. Charging on the neo will be an issue. Currently, it can only charge via usb. This. Is. A. Terrible. Idea. It’s nice to be able to charge with usb and I think this option should be included in GTA02, but it’s rediculous to make this the only option, since not everyone has a computer. Meh. At least throw in a freaking usb – socket connector guys.

Both have wifi, accelerometers, quadband, etc etc. Other shared features including storage don’t really matter; you can always find good arguments for one implementation vs the other.

Let’s face it. The neo is lagging behind the iphone. Unless the openmoko team steps up, the neo will be nothing more than a geek phone. Apple will destroy their competition in one fell swoop. Throw in 3G and eye candy. I can understand the lack of a camera, though it would be extremely nice to have a tiny (usb) attachable 3-5 MP camera. I truly want the neo to succeed (I r linux geek, hear me roar!) but it’s all too easy to see the downfall of what might have been a great phone before it was even released.

Holy iPhone Batman!

In phones, tech on September 6, 2007 at 1:17 am

Holy fucking moley! Steve Jobs is at it again. My jaw just hit the floor. The biggest complaint about the iphone has been its price. Paying top dollar for what essentially amounts to 2 year old technology is well… kinda silly. Who says Apple doesn’t listen to their customers? $200 price cut for both iPhone versions with 4 gig iPhones going out the door. We all knew little brother was never very popular, so it was bound to happen. But price cut… yeowch. My sympathies to all current iphone owners. So is the price for early adoption.

This is quite an interesting move that Apple made. Reuters released its study the other day about iphones making up 1.8% of smartphones sold in the US for July. This is a sign that the iphone is doing well, no? So why cut prices? Is this move primed at increasing sales or is there an ulterior motive? Did ATT agree to fork over more money to subsidize the phone? Is the phone doing worse than Big Steve expected? Is it all of the above? Approximately 220,000 iphones sold in July according to Reuters. That’s about 50k less than was sold in the first 30 hours of release. Hmmmmm.

Nokia’s N95 sold 1.5 million in the second quarter. This is worldwide sales, so definitely a case of comparing apples to plums. Despite the US being Nokia’s Achilles heel, I”ll bet a decent amount of that number came into the country through grey markets. Just look how popular the phone is on ebay – after 6 months of release, it is still nigh impossible to get it below $600 US. I suppose it would be too convenient if we had hard numbers for grey market imports.

Undoubtedly, the iphone is doing good, everything considered. Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that Apple has been avoiding tagging their jesus phone as a smart phone. So, it’s a half smart phone. I can dig. But that’s besides the point. Did you see the hoopla over the iphone unlock? Can you say worldwide fucktastic publicity? Everybody and their dog knows what an iphone is. However, this doesn’t mean they care to get one. Did the people interested in the jesus phone all get one between June and July? I’d be very interested in seeing how many iphones were sold this past August since it might explain the price cut.

No, I’m not hating on Apple, but you have to admit, price cuts don’t just happen on successful products after three months. Makes you wonder, eh? Don’t give me that shite about Steve Jobs doing things differently. Price cuts do not happen on successful products after three months. Anyway, time will tell.