Gadgets, SoftwareEngineering

Mobile devices and dataplans

A few more weeks with the Nokia 770 and the os2008 hacker edition... I mentioned before that I have updated my trusty internet tablet to the latest hacker edition OS. And now I've had it for a while I thought I'd write a bit more about it and about the various things I've started considering in terms of my mobile gadget requirements. I've been ill this week, so that means I've not felt up to doing wood work in the garage, and have largely been sat on the sofa in the evening (obviously I still had to go to work as I was way too busy to be off sick) This extra sofa time has given me even more time using the 770, on several occasions using up a whole charge. Which I still think it pretty good. I normally plug it in over night and use it to play music as I go to sleep. So it starts the day fully charged. In a given day I use it a little at work for making quick notes, but I can't currently get it connected to WiFi at work, so no battery drain from wireless.

At home it connects as soon as it notices the WiFi connection, which I think it auto polls every 10 minutes. So if I haven't already forced a connection, it connects itself once I'm home. And I use it for probably 3 hours connected, checking e-mail, doing some light browsing, etc. Before it starts to complain about being low on battery. Depending on your point of view you could say that's not so great, but I'd say that's most of a day's good service without having to plug in.

Of course this was the same situation with the original 2006os with the exception that it didn't auto connect to known WiFi spots.

So differences... To my mind the browser seem more reliable than it was. Whilst it does sometimes just die, I'm sure I recall it being more frequent under 2006, though this is purely a feeling. The interface is definitely pretty snappy, but it also degrades. I'm sure that some tasks must get left around, or applications don't end properly. Sometimes I feel it being sluggish for no obvious reason, so I reboot. And then it feels snappy again. I don't see this as a huge problem. I reboot my laptop daily, so rebooting this once a week or more is no big deal.

There are some niggles, The audio doesn't work properly. It would almost be better if it didn't work at all. As I had read was the case when I did the update. However it is tantalisingly close. It just sounds like the treble is turned right down or something. It would be nice to have that working.

One nice feature of the Bluetooth keyboard support built in, has a flaw, in so far as it lets me pair no problem. But I have to do it from scratch every time by deleting the keyboard from the devices list and re-pairing. As I haven't been able to get it to reconnect otherwise.

Another keyboard related issue I had was the device suddenly stopped providing me an onscreen keyboard after I had disconnected the Bluetooth keyboard. This made life pretty tricky. However I discovered that you could install the gconf editor to allow you to see all the under the cover settings. 2 settings have an effect, and I found reference to both being a problem if they get set and for some reason not unset. The first is the one that tells the OS there is a Bluetooth keyboard connected. The other tells the OS that the hardware keyboard is open. Obviously the latter only applies to a real N810, but somehow this had gotten set. Having found the settings though it is trivial to uncheck them and resume services as usual.

There are just some applications that won't work. Again I knew this would be the case since the OS is not running on the hardware it expects, and some apps are written for that. But it's a shame that it's a bit hit and miss for whether a new cool looking application is going to work for me or not.

In all I'm still glad I did the update, but my bank balance may not be, as I'm seriously looking to buy an n810 now :-) but the question remains how much I'm prepared to spend on one. E-bay looks like a good option, however there are quite a few people bidding on 810's and I'm not sure how much I want to spend on a second hand one, versus just ordering a brand new one and being done with it.

It would be nice to work in some job that gave me access to new toys...maybe I can ask around at work to see if I can pick one up cheap. My main problem is that I *also* want to start a new phone contract that gives me some sensible mobile data. Largely to be able to use with the internet tablet. But that is a whole minefield in itself of options and prices. Sometimes it seems you might as well just get a new phone and contract, but then most of the phones at the moment don't seem as right for me as my existing E61. And I don't want to spend a fortune on a new phone I really don't need. The iPhone is of course very tempting, however I think I'd have to do some hacking to get it to let anything else share its data connection. Adding to the confusion is the question of coverage. T-mobile appear to do one of the better data plan deals. However their coverage at the office is rubbish, and it would be nice if I do this, to wind up with a phone that actually has good signal in most places. O2 I'm told has fine voice coverage at work but no 3g, so no data... Hmmm So it comes down to a confusing cross section of which provider does the right kind of plan, with even a remotely sensible 'fair use' policy, that also has good signal where I need it, and provides maybe a phone I can get on with. Not helped by the fact that their mostly 18 month contract terms, where they of course reserve the right to decide your usage is not fair use any more. But not release you from your contract in that event, just charge you more. How is this legal?

Recommendations would be helpful, am I alone in wanting a phone plan that gives me the capacity to tether an internet tablet, or possibly a PC. For reasonable browsing, potentially downloading of applications/updates. And not to cost the earth? Ok so this I guess it my real problem, I want all these things, but I really am not prepared to pay more than about £30 a month. And If I am paying that much it had better be exactly the right thing.