Puck has pinched the laptop I normally use for conferences so yesterday I had to lug my mammoth laptop around all day just so I could deliver my presentation from it. In the event the projector didn't work for me so I had to borrow Holger's instead. So I am now laboriously typing this all out on my Nokia 770...
Yesterday the conference started and I mainly followed the Debian stream, which is where my own short talk was. Keith Packard gave a fun overview of where X development is going and also showed some of the fancy stuff in action, including seamlessly expanding the desktop when he plugged in the projector. I'm certainly looking forward to that, and I hope I can get to meet Dave Airlie while I'm here and find out whether the open ATI drivers will be keeping up with that as well.
This morning Chris Blizzard gave a keynote talk about the one laptop per child project, and he's up now talking about Fedora, which I know far too little about, so it is quite interesting.
We had some fun yesterday afternoon when my son ran up and told me “Daddy there is a grownup over there using a kids computer!” prompting a flash crowd around the guys from Oregon State University who had an actual OLPC laptop and it was great to see it in action. That sunlight readable screen is awesome, and I really want to see one on my callphone, and my internet tablet, and (of course) my laptop. It would also be nice to see that mesh networking more readily available.
This morning I first heard about the Sidux distribution too, which I will definitely be looking into further.
No links on this post at the moment because it's kind of hard to do that stuff right without having a real keyboard and mouse attached. Feel free to add some in some comments, and I'll come back and add some more links later too.
From our work today the Nokia 770 is definitely looking like it will do what we need. There are still lots of challenges, and it will be a real miracle if everyone manages to get their act together to get our client's application up and operating on these by early November.
Meanwhile I'm even more impressed with it today than I was yesterday, I think. Right now it just told me (for the first time) that the battery is low. This is after Heather had another go at it so the thing has been used continuously for the last seven hours, including Heather about two hours listening to downloaded audio while browsing.
Right now I'm SSH'd into it while it's playing a stream (with mplayer) and I have now found a bunch of repositories that have the 'armel' packages (including the one with DropBear for armel along with a bunch of other useful stuff. The Maemo.org site seems to be really useful, although some pages in the Wiki perhaps need reviewing - it seems that quite a number of the enhancement possibilities have been followed through on.
Finally, a couple of minutes ago, the device informed me it has a low battery, and shortly over that it dropped the wifi connection and my stream connection (and SSH connection) died as a result. I guess that 7.5 hours is a pretty good deal, especially for such intensive use.
That intensive use included things like re-flashing the device when I tried to upgrade to the Sardine distribution (without an SSH connection into it) and some package was killing the X server during upgrade, and eventually killing it on boot.
So if it's gone to sleep, I guess I should to!
My previous efforts to purchase a Nokia N770 finally came to fruition this morning when two of them were waiting on my desk when I arrived at work. I was very happy, although if these do the job we'll have to go through that all over again to buy the next 20 or so...
For the curious, these were ordered through the Nokia UK website, delivered to the relative of a workmate passing through England for a conference who then collected them and posted them to us. We might have to find a simpler way for the next lot...
Can it really do what I want it to do? Is it usable? Although I've played with these before (in Helsinki before they were released, and in Mexico earlier this year) I have not had one in my hands long enough to really get to grips with the user interface.
Now I have one that I can play on without restriction, I can see that it is all really well-designed for the form factor. Nokia do seem to do this sort of thing very well, and the software all integrates very nicely, and be very stable. So far I've only managed to crash one application (the browser) when trying to resize the screen while viewing the UI from Hell. Hardly unexpected - that particular bit of Flash (Crash ?Trash?) seems to break most browsers in this household.
To try and gauge the battery life I handed it over to Heather for the evening. She found it fascinating and didn't put it down for about five hours - with the battery icon still indicating a full charge. The battery icon did suprise me, in that you can't click on it, or mouse over it to get more information. In fact the oddest thing I have found so far is that there was no 'Power' item in the control panel and the only control over power seems to be under "Display" where you can set screen dim / blank timeouts. No separate adjustment for when you have it plugged in, or for how long before the WLAN chip times out, but perhaps the battery life is such that I won't find myself doing it regularly and my desire to fiddle with such settings is foolish.
Hacking In ...
Well, I didn't manage to stave off my desire to fiddle for very long at all... maybe an hour after I got the device I had downloaded a backup image, in case I have to reflash it back to a known state! First up was the need to install an XTerm, which proved relatively straightforward after adding an APT source pointing at http://maemo-hackers.org/apt/ (although you do this through an Application Manager of course :-).
Once I had the XTerm installed I can get into the Linux installation, but to get root I need to do something more complicated. The Wiki suggestion was that I install an SSH server and ssh in as root so I downloaded the Dropbear from my laptop and saved it directly onto reduced size MMC in the N770, mounted as USB storage on my laptop - very easy. The installation of a downloaded version of Dropbear failed though, and unfortunately the "Application Manager" didn't display the error messages. So I proceeded to use the "flasher" tool to "enable R&D mode" which eventually succeeded after many unsuccessful attempts. I seemed to need to:
- power the N770 off
- hold down the "Home" button
- press the power button
- insert the USB cable as soon as the screen lit up
It seemed that it wasn't possible to power on the device while the USB cable was inserted.
Reading the documentation further, it seems that it should be trivial to create a Debian package which could be installed to replace (or edit) the "gainroot" script so that it doesn't check for R&D mode, and I think I will do that if we are going to be getting a bunch more of these.
Anyway, now I had root access I could see that the Dropbear packages wouldn't install because they were the wrong architecture. It seems that I must have a slightly newer model than the documentation (and many of the packages, I guess) apply to, and that the architecture is 'armel' rather than 'arm'.
I suppose this means that next up I will need to download scratchbox and set up a build environment so I can build that SSH server, and probably so we can build all sorts of other things to go on there.
I'm looking forward to it, although it has somewhat distracted me from my CalDAV investigations, which were really starting to get somewhere useful.