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As is tradition each year I post my new years resolutions, mainly to shame myself into at least attempting them. So hear is this years.
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Its not often that I get suckered into buying something based solely on the advocacy of a few people on a mailing list but when a said few people, on different lists, all recommended the XBMC + Acer Aspire Revo combination almost simultaneously, I went to investigate.
Now I’m a big media fiend, just ask my wife. We now don’t have a garage because I went and converted it into a home cinema room (8 foot screen, HD projector, 500+ films archived, DVD+Blueray+HD-DVD sources …). I hack on the Entertainer Media Center project (although its a little stale at the moment, effort really appreciated) and I’m a former user of XBMC on the first generation XBOX’s from Microsoft and now uPNP of the XBOX 360. So when someone says to me they have a £150 tiny and silent PC, running Linux and decoding HD material, I got a little credit card jumpy.
A couple of days later the Revo arrived. I was a little in two minds on whether this was a good purchase or not. I count at least 23 computers in my house so another was probably not a good idea but none-the-less, I justified it as a replacement for the excellent but slow Viglen MPC-L which, coupled with many USB disks, was a great file server. The first thing I did was install Ubuntu Karmic Koala. Out of the box it worked great (no surprise there ;)). Install the Nvidia drivers, tweak the screen resolution for my plasma TV, install XBMC and away we go. One tweak every media concerned individual must do on this device is to disable compiz. For some reason, on full screen playback, compiz causes video tearing. It took me a little while to figure this out and I don’t mind admitting that I was initially disappointed to see video playback on this machine (when compiz was enabled) but my god did things change.
I enabled my old Windows Media Center remote, added all my video sources to XBMC, tweaked the interface a little and now, all I can say is WOW. The Revo+XBMC combo ranks up there with the best of my purchases. The interface is wonderful; the little things like showing you the actual time a video you are watching is going to end, the UI which puts every set-top-box maker to shame and the shear extensibility of the thing is immense. I won’t even mention that this is running Ubuntu, doing my work-related backups, downloading (legal) torrents, running scripts, mail, and a whole host of other services, and drawing a trickle of power.
If your considering replacing a uPNP enabled XBOX (which I did) or PS3, getting rid of your aging server or just wanting a great media experience, I whole-heartedly recommend this combination.
Recently I decided to build a new PC which was to become my main development machine. Before I started looking at the price and performance of all the major parts I had a good idea what I wanted, fast CPU, lots of RAM, fairly large hard drive e.t.c. but what I ended up with wasn’t exactly what I first imagined.
Registration for the second Maemo Summit, to be held on the 9th, 10th and 11th of October at WesterGasFabriek, Amsterdam is now open. It promises to be a great event just like last year, so go register now!
On a related note, the schedule is filling up but there is still time for you to submit a talk proposal. If you have a cool subject to talk about, either in a lightning session or longer talk format then you should edit the wiki as soon as possible.
Its been done to death already but it deserves more praise, Launchpad, the project hosting infrastructure (and so much more) utilising bazaar has been released as open source. Congratulations to the Launchpad Team!
The announcement can be found here and the new #launchpad-dev channel on freenode should be used for any Launchpad code questions.
This really is a massive move by Canonical and lets hope this furthers the adoption of Linux by making development so much easier.
So, it has been announced that Nokia is to adopt Qt as its preferred toolkit for the next-but-one iteration of the Maemo platform, Harmattan. This has stirred up a little developer concern as GTK and C developers contemplate switching to Qt and C++ but is this really warranted? and what are Nokia’s reasons for the switch? Well, it seems that Nokia has no other choice if it wants to continue to compete in a very different world from the one it has dominated for the past several years and here’s why.
Currently Dave Neary, Valério Valério and myself have been going over the submissions, ironing out the details and approving (mostly) the talks but the schedule still has plenty room for more. If you have a suggestion for a cool talk, a lightning session or would like to speak but need help, then make yourself heard now!
Make a suggestion with your subject being pitched to either Users, App Developers, or Platform Developers. It doesn’t have to be a full 25 minute talk, it can also be a 5 minute Lightning session.
So what are you waiting for?
It seems all the cool kids are doing it so here’s mine, results from SpeedTest.net.
(EDIT: planet.maemo.org I apologize for the seemingly personal post but it has other connotations, honest).
It would be a little pompous of me to say, today we should all be living in a fearful community where as part of the employed masses, we should contemplate our job futures. But with the same token it would predominately be true. Every day it seems we are bombarded with news that company x, multi-conglomerate y, is venting a whole host of talent that are shell shocked at being relieved of their livelihood. A whole host of talent seemingly gone to short-term waste and although we are sympathetic, its a little ‘off the radar’.
First lets go on a trip down memory lane.
Nokia released their first Internet Tablet towards the end of 2005. It was announced at the LinuxWorld Summit earlier that year and was a curious device. Not quite a phone and not quite a laptop, the 770 came before the current wave of netbooks had begun descending upon us and was met with some resistance. Many complained about its apparent slowness, but looking beyond this one could see that it had potential.
The N800 came next at the beginning of 2007 to a better reception. A faster processor, more memory and greater expandability meant that the adoption rate was much higher for this device. An improved N810 came later that year which added a keyboard and GPS but by this time other devices had joined or were about to join the party.
Elephants in the Corner
June 29th 2007 saw the release of the Apple iPhone. With its tablet like dimensions and pretty UI, Apples juggernaut redefined the mobile web experience. In contrast, Nokia’s tablet seemed somewhat pedestrian. Whist the Maemo based device gained a small community of devoted followers, the iPhone market exploded.
Now lets get this straight, the iPhone isn’t a direct comparison to the Nokia tablet; they do different things but where they overlap is in the core activities of the devices and this means they are competitors. Sales figures and blogs alike prove that the iPhone was hurting Nokia’s tablet sales.
Towards the end of 2007 saw another behemoth enter this space, namely Google with their Android platform. Arguably more of a competitor than Apple, Android is designed to run on a plethora of hardware from phones to netbooks. It has since seen a wide adoption rate with many manufacturers promising or postulating on bring out devices of their own.
A little later came the netbook revolution. Cheap and small sub-notebooks with small screens and even smaller storage designed to browse the web among other things. Two things happened in respect to Nokia’s Internet Tablets when this happened, one, Nokia now had a serious problem price-wise. These netbooks are cheap, typically well under £200 ($320) which put doubt to Nokia’s £300 launch price for the N810 (it has now dropped below £200 but only because of its impending successor). The second thing that should set the warning bells off at Nokia’s headquarters is the value for money aspect. Consider this. Joe user, which I’m sure Nokia would love to sell their hardware to, walks into an electronics shop with £300 in his pocket. Does he buy the ‘mini-laptop’ with 10″ screen, 40GB SSD, 90% size keyboard and all the bells and whistles you could ask for or a nice little ‘Internet Tablet’ that runs a quirky Linux OS, a small amount of storage and a 4.1″ screen? You could argue that they serve different markets but again, the use of such devices overlaps so much its hard to dismiss these as a serious threat to the Internet Tablet.
This alone should have Nokia worried without even mentioning the likes of the iPod Touch (maybe a better comparison?), Moblin’s recent efforts in conjunction with Intel, Canonical’s (the guys funding Ubuntu) efforts with their netbook remix designed for mobile hardware, and maybe even a smudging of the Palm Pre that just screams to be put on hardware outside of the phone space. Nokia’s next tablet enters a very different environment from the one it pioneered in 2005.
Reading Between the ‘Leaked” Lines
There is a lot of talk following the ‘leaked’ information detailing the next Nokia tablet. Most of this information you would already know if you followed last years Maemo Summit coverage but here for completeness is the list in full:
3.5″ 800×480 (WVGA) touchscreen
OMAP3430 500/600 Mhz processor (Fun Trivia: Same CPU as the Palm Pre)
Bands: GSM Quad-Band 850, 900, 1800, 1900. WCDMA 900, 1700/2100, 2100
5 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera with dual-LED flash, autofocus, and sliding cover
Though the renders we’ve seen show two lens-like circles near the screen, we’ve got no word on what’s behind them. However, we feel safe in assuming that its a proximity sensor and a front-facing camera.
1GB total virtual runtime memory (256MB physical RAM, 768MB virtual memory)
32GB internal storage, expandable up to 48GB via external memory
Keyboard variants: English, Scandinavian, French, German, South European, Italian, Russia
In the box: Connectivity cable, headset, charger, battery (1320 mAh), Video-out cable, microUSB adaptor, cleaning cloth
There are a few surprises there though, one of which is the mention of a change in screen size. Some have argued quite vehemently that a smaller screen will turn them away from the device but it has to be noted that the iPhone uses a similar sized screen and others in Nokia’s smart phone line-up do aswell.
Another thing that was a little surprise was the inclusion of a 5 megapixel camera, previously a 8 megapixel had been promised but obviously something changed since then.
All in all the new specs indicate that the device will be very similar in size to an Android G1 albeit with a slightly bigger screen (3.5 inches as apposed to the G1′s 3.2 inch) and very similar to Nokia’s own N97. So are we just seeing the Linux/Maemo version of the N97?
How can it Succeed?
Well, this is a tough question. Obviously Nokia are pretty excited about this device which indicates they have something up their sleeve yet to show us. But with the impending new device from Apple widely touted to arrive July, new Android based devices on the horizon along with version 2.0 of the software, and new netbooks being released daily it seems, how can the Maemo 5 based tablet make its mark in an already impressive market?
Well the hardware specifications don’t hint at anything special so it seems we are relying on Nokia to release some exceeding good software to go along with it. Software that makes this device compelling to buy, makes the consumer want this over what the competition has to offer, and keeps evolving to meet the ever demanding needs we as consumers are placing on the mobile industry. Most importantly, will the new Maemo device succeed or become the last in a line of good, but not quite good enough mobile devices?
I guess only time will tell.