Category Archives: featured

Review: Nokia N97 Mini

N97 MiniRecently, the nice folks at WOMWorld sent me an N97 Mini to review.  Thanks guys.  I received the Euro model, the RM-555, which supports UMTS on the 900, 1900 and 2100 Mhz bands, in addition to quad-band GSM and a 802.11g WLAN radio.  Living in the US, I’d have preferred to have looked at a US model that included the UMTS 850 Mhz band, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Right.  So, on to the show..

Physical Attributes

The device’s size is great.  Nice and small.  I had an N97 for a (very) short time not long after it came out, and I was not a fan of the form factor.  It felt almost like carrying around an old 9500.  What a brick that thing was.  Contrasted with this, I’d be totally satisfied with the form factor.  Obviously, thinner wN97 Mini Home Screen Portraitould be better, to a point, but I’m not unhappy with the thickness.  In terms of construction, there’s just enough metal to make it feel solid in your hands, like it’s not going to snap in half while you’re typing on it.

One problem I had with the layout – the position of the headphone jack.  On my train ride home from the office yesterday, I had my headphones plugged in while listening to some tunes.  Typing a couple of emails and texts was awkward.  It would have been better if the headphone jack had moved toward the top, but the camera assembly would then need to be relocated.  Typing on the keyboard wasn’t bad, took a bit of getting used to, but nothing ridiculous.

Software

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  S60 is really showing its age.  Yes, S60 v5 has some advances over v3, even FP2, but it’s still got a lot of the baggage that’s accompanied S60 devices over the years – mostly speed related.  This phone won’t win any UI races.  The device lacks any form of multi-touch capabilities, due to its use of a resistive touchscreen.  Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments about how you can use resistive screens while wearing gloves.  Frankly, I don’t often find myself trying to use my phone while wearing gloves.  I’d rather have a capacitive screen – much more responsive.

N97 Mini Google MapsAs it’s big brother does, the N97 Mini includes Ovi Maps, and is compatible with the new version of Ovi Maps that includes free navigation.  I love the free navigation concept, and expect others to follow suit.  That said, I much prefer using Google Maps.  I find it faster and more responsive than Ovi Maps overall, and think it’s much better at finding things in the area because of its hooks into the Google Search infrastructure.  I’d use something like Ovi Maps in my car for navigation, but I’ve owned a Garmin Nuvi for several years now, and I’m not quite ready to get rid of it.

For email, I’m using Mail for Exchange.  The latest version for S60 v5 does not N97 Mini Home Screen Landscapeinclude HTML mail support, something I miss from my E72.  I’m planning on trying out RoadSync on this phone as well, but since I already know that it doesn’t support network destinations (i.e. access point groups), I’ll be disappointed there as well, though I will get my HTML mail.

In the browser arena, as expected, I found the Nokia browser to be adequate, but not really as good as I’d like to see it.  I tried out Opera Mobile on the device, and was generally more pleased with its functionality, though I found it to be slightly less responsive than the stock Nokia browser.

Network

I ran a some speed tests from a variety of sites, using both AT&T 3G data as well as via the WLAN in my home.  Over the air, I saw download speeds ranging from 500 – 780 kbps.  Over the WLAN, I saw speeds around 1.2 Mbps.  On my Mac on the same WLAN, I see about 18 Mbps down and 4.2 Mbps up (I have 20/5 FiOS at home).  These performance numbers are consistent with my tests with other S60 phones, like the E71, E72 and my wife’s E75.  It’s also close to what my iPhone toting friends in the area see.

Conclusions

In summary, the N97 Mini is definitely a better choice than the bigger N97.  It’s more pocketable, and has the same features, with a better form factor.  If all you’re after is an S60 v5 touch device, you’d probably be better off with the 5800 Nav Edition, but if you can’t live without a qwerty keyboard, the N97 Mini is a winner.  Will I buy one?  Probably not – I’m satisfied with my E72.  Right now, Android 2.1 has ActiveSync that gets email and contacts.  If they add calender support to it, I’ll be on an Android device before too long.  Why?  Newer devices, more innovation, actual integration with Google Voice – something I actually use on a daily basis and more than one vendor really interested in using it.  Hopefully S60 can turn things around before my next phone purchase.  As a co-worker said the other day, the call quality on Nokia devices is better than anything else I’ve ever used.

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Home Virtualization Project 2.0

Virtualization FunnelYou may remember the Home Virtualization Project from last year.  In that project, I converted my existing server, based on a Shuttle XPC (SP35P2 Pro, to be more precise) from a Linux server running VMware Server 2.0 to a VMware ESXi 3.5 server.  It worked well, but left a few things to be desired, such as..

  1. No RAID
  2. Onboard NIC required significant fiddling to get working under ESXi 3.5u4
  3. No onboard video, so I needed a video card, plus a network card to get going (the real root cause of #1 above).
  4. A bit loud.  The system wasn’t terribly loud, but for something that’s on full-time in the background in my office, it could be distracting at times.

So here we are, it’s a brand-new year, so the big project was an upgrade, inspired by some requirements I found with a project at work.  In the end, the old server was converted into a workstation and now has a happy home.  So what’s the current system?  Another Shuttle XPC.  This time, it’s the SG45H7.  This is a slightly smaller chassis than the already small SP35P2 Pro.  The SP line has space for 2 hard drives up top, above the optical drive that the SG line lacks, resulting in a shorter case.  The SG45H7 is targeted as an HTPC, and includes onboard video with both SVGA and HDMI outputs.  Further, it includes 2 expansion slots, one PCIe x16 and one PCI. Continue reading Home Virtualization Project 2.0

Facebook Chat via Jabber/XMPP

Facebook Chat on JabberAt long last, after promises to open up Facebook chat to Jabber clients, it’s up and going.  Finally!  No more crappy plugins for Pidgin and Adium that stop working randomly.  No more leaving a browser window up and connected to Facebook either.  It’s working quite well, so far at least.  Interested?  Head over there and they’ll walk you through the process.

What brought this about?  Facebook has started opening up and federating their IM system with other networks.  First up is AIM.  That’s right, AIM users can now chat with Facebook Chat users.  Since Facebook wisely chose the open XMPP (eXtensible Messaging & Presence Protocol) for this, which allows easy federation (i.e. interoperability) with other IM services, including the greater Jabber/XMPP community, which includes Google Talk, both in its standard and “Apps for Your Domain” flavors.

Here’s the gist, tell your Jabber client (they give precise instructions for Pidgin, Adium and iChat) to connect as your-user-name@chat.facebook.com and you’re all set.  For other Jabber clients, check out the link above for any particulars on the connection parameters.

One thing that they did not do, and it’s a bit irksome – no SSL/TLS support.  Come on kids, we’re in the 21st century here, let’s get with the program a bit.  After all, the standard login.facebook.com page uses SSL, so why not this too?

So overall, it’s great news, but they’ve still got a bit of work to do.

Review: Nokia E72

Nokia E72My trusty E71 finally took a dive for the last time onto a nasty floor.  I was using a Nokia N85 for a bit as a stopgap.  Great phone, fantastic camera, but typing email with T9 drove me nuts.  The N85 is now hosting my home phone’s SIM.  But this review isn’t about the N85, so back to the topic at hand..

Between the N85 and the E72, I tried out the Blackberry 9700, which was lovely, as much as a Blackberry can be, but lacked some of the features I liked, such as a working SIP stack, and especially the ability to tell when my data is moving through the corporate network/BES, vs. WLAN, vs. carrier data that’s not via the BES – I found that utterly impossible on the BB 9700.  Otherwise, a nice phone.  But again, back to the topic at hand.

First, I’ll start with the physical attributes of the E72.  The E72 is a tiny bit wider than the E71, but is the tiniest bit lighter than the E71.  The E72 trades in a good bit of the metal housing for plastic, but gets new & improved features like a 3.5mm headphone jack, instead of the 2.5mm mess that’s on the E71.  Radios are mostly equivalent to the E71.  Mine is the US variant, the E72-2, so it’s a quad-band GSM/EDGE device, with works on UMTS 850/1900/2100 Mhz bands.  The 2100 Mhz band is a nice addition to the device, for users who travel abroad, as is the support for HSPA 7.2 Mbps.  The WLAN in the E72 is essentially the same as the E71 – 802.11b/g. The camera is a nice bump in the E72 as well – a 5MP cam, a step above the E71’s 3.2 MP cam, with a single LED flash.

My favorite part about the phone?  The messaging experience.  At work, one of our options is Exchange ActiveSync, so I’ve been a Mail for Exchange user for quite a while now, even with its deficiencies, like the lack of ability to sync folders other than the Inbox, HTML support, and lack of ability to create a meeting request from the phone.  The device works with Nokia’s Messaging service, which I’m not using at this time.  For my personal mail (hosted by Google Apps), I use the Google Gmail app, which works just as well on the E72 as it did on the E71.

Overall, the E72 is a worthy successor to the E71.  Right now, Amazon’s got it for $369.  If you’re going to buy, please consider using my link to it.

Home Virtualization Project

Virtualization FunnelAs some of you may know, though may or may not actually care, I was previously running my home server on Ubuntu Jaunty x86_64, and ran VMware Server 2.0 on it.  I had VMs for my SSL VPN and some occasionally used VMs for other things.

I was tired of performance that VMware Server offered, along with its baggage.  For instance, the Web UI suffered from frequent crashes, and it was also fairly slow.  Having had great success in the lab at the office with VMware ESXi, I decided that was the way to go.  ESXi 4.0 is still fairly new, and I’ve had some trouble with my SSL VM on it, so I decided to sit that one out for a bit, leaving me with 3.5u4.

Next hurdle – my hardware.  I use a Shuttle XPC for my server.  It’s small, and doesn’t inhale too much power, so I found it to be a good choice as a Linux server, what it’s spent most of its time as.  Unfortunately, as it uses a Marvell Ethernet chipset (the sky2 driver), and that’s not on the VMware HCL, there wasn’t a driver for it.  But then, KernelCrash to the rescue.  The author gives very nice build instructions to get a mod_sky2.0 driver that works on ESXi 3.5u4.  It’s been good enough that I haven’t noticed any problems with performance or functionality.

I did have to give up my Linux software raid, so at the moment, I’m sort of running without a net.  My plan is to add an external RAID box, either connected via eSATA or 1GbE NAS.  Obviously eSATA will perform better, but I’m not yet convinced I’ll see much of a practical performance difference.  I’ll add a new Intel e1000 NIC to the system dedicated to storage if I do that.  Anyone have thoughts on VMware iSCSI vs NFS performance?

Now I’ve got VMs for my SSL VPN, my File/Pri DNS/DHCP/kitchen sink server, a secondary DNS, and a FreeNAS, as well as some assorted client systems to test various things.  All in all, it’s worked very well.

If you want to go straight to ESXi 4.0, KernelCrash has you covered there as well.

Bookmarklet Overdrive

Bookmarklets
Bookmarklets

Bookmarklets rock.  They’re great timesavers, and a worthy addition to your browser’s bookmark bar.

So, what’s a bookmarklet?  In short, a bookmark, typically constructed with JavaScript that does a specific task.  For example, emailing some data via your favorite webmail provider, or checking Bugmenot for a login to a site you don’t really want to register for, or generating a shorter URL for a site.  Here are the ones I keep around.  Hopefully you’ll use some of them.  To grab them, mouse over the link and drag to your browser’s bookmark bar.  I recommend you make a folder on your bookmark bar and toss your bookmarklets in that folder (that’s what I do).

Here’s the breakdown of my favorite bookmarklets…

Google Services

Google This: Select some text on a page, click the bookmarlet, blammo – you’ve got a Google search for the selected text.

Google Images: Select some text on a page, click the bookmarlet and you’ve got a Google Image search for the selected text.

GAppMail This: Send the selected text via Google Apps for Your Domain Mail. You’ll need to edit this one to change out yourdomain.com for what your domain name actually is.

Gmail This: Send the selected text via Gmail.

Google Cache: Pull up the Google Cache version of the currently loaded page.

Google Map This: Select an address, get a Google map of it.

Geocode: Get the Latitude & Longitude for the center of a Google map.

Google Translate: Translate the currently loaded page into English

Web Development

Show Divs: Show the <div> areas on the currently loaded page.

ReCSS: Reload CSS for the currently loaded page.

W3C HTML Validator: Run the currently loaded page through the W3C’s HTML Validator.

W3C CSS Validator: Run the currently loaded page’s CSS through the W3C’s CSS Validator.

References

Acronym Lookup: Lookup an acronym in the Internet Acronym Database

Urban Dictionary Lookup: Lookup a selected word in the Urban Dictionary.

Social Networking

Del.icio.us Linkbacks: Show del.icio.us links to the current page.

Compulsory Login Bypass

BugMeNot: Lookup usernames & passwords for various sites.

URL Shorteners

DiggBar: Uses the new DiggBar for URL shortening.

Cli.gs: Uses the Cli.gs shortening service.