Harmattan – OneTechStop https://www.onetechstop.net Your Source For All Tech Sat, 12 Jul 2014 23:21:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.1 77705806 Nokia N9 – struggling in 2014 https://www.onetechstop.net/2014/07/12/nokia-n9-struggling-in-2014/ https://www.onetechstop.net/2014/07/12/nokia-n9-struggling-in-2014/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 17:41:11 +0000 http://www.nokiainnovation.com/?p=13619

    About a week ago, I decided to do a little experiment: to see if I could still use (and enjoy using) a Nokia N9 as my only smartphone for a few days away from home. I charged it up and dived into some settings to make a few updates and changes to various […]

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About a week ago, I decided to do a little experiment: to see if I could still use (and enjoy using) a Nokia N9 as my only smartphone for a few days away from home. I charged it up and dived into some settings to make a few updates and changes to various apps such as Tweetian (for Twitter) as my Twitter handle needed to be updated to @AndyHa9on and there were loads of passwords that I had changed, thanks to the Heartbleed scare a little while ago. Also, my email has migrated from Gmail to Outlook, so that needed to be changed too… and that is when I started to regret my decision to use the N9 exclusively.

 

You see, back in 2011 when the N9 was released, it was, despite what many think, fully supported by Nokia. It had new official and third-party apps arriving on its platform regularly, and with a team still employed in Nokia House to tinker and fiddle with the new OS, it received three official over-the-air updates, the third being in the first half of 2012. And not long after that, things started to appear a little bit broken.

 

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For me a couple of weeks ago, it was the realization that my N9 would not (or rather could not) sync with Microsoft’s Outlook.com email service via Exchange ActiveSync, and so I had to settle for the rather rubbish IMAP option, with the N9 only being able to sync with my email account every 30 minutes at a minimum. And, because the Exchange option was seemingly closed to me, trying to get my Outlook (or even Google) Calendar to sync was a total non-starter. I had to brave the big wide world with no way to access my calendar, other than using the web, which I had not tried to do on this particular device.

Things weren’t really going to plan.

Back in the day, my old Gmail account was in full-swing with my N9; syncing the email and calendar was never an issue, and everything worked brilliantly. It was my main smartphone for all of 2012 and some of 2013, and at the time I couldn’t imagine using any other phone, until the 808 PureView came along, followed by the Lumia 1020 nine months after. Since then my trusty N9 has been enjoying the view of the inside of my sock drawer, with just the occasional vacation out of Sock Central for some tweeting or podcast playing. But, crucially, during the time I have been cheating on it with other devices, the all-important unseen links, APIs and so forth have been either severed or left to wither and die, and now, once regularly-used apps like Tweetian are workable but left to wither without updates (it doesn’t update the Twitter feeds automatically anymore), the Facebook app that came baked in on launch day seems to work when it wants to and only updates parts of your Facebook account in a sort of willy-nilly fashion, and all manner of websites that used to load without issue now won’t even load properly.

So, there I am, in the middle of Pennsylvania, with a little bit of signal on AT&T but only the kind of signal that will allow calls and texts (no 3G or 4G out in the sticks), I was able to call my wife and text to my heart’s content, but getting on the web was almost impossible. The place I was working at, a summer camp, did have spotty WiFi and my N9 could connect to this, but after a few hours it would decide to drop the connection and then not allow an automatic reconnect and I had to manually delete the WiFi name from the list, and then reconnect which meant reentering the WPA2 password every time… it was not a fun experience.

 

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Pluses: the N9 is still an absolutely beautiful device to hold and to use (for those tasks it can still do!) Swiping around the MeeGo interface was always an extremely enjoyable experience for me when my N9 was my main phone, and even now, in its relegated state it is still awesome to use. Swipe left and there are all my open apps and processes. Swipe right and my updates from various plug-ins (Rocket for Twitter still managed to push my Twitter feed updates to the Notifications view, even if it only managed to do this a few times as 2G only allows you to do so much!) The overall look of the OS is still a joy to behold – the software engineering was really top notch in the overall design of the N9, and I am still surprised that this kind of interface never really made it mainstream, despite the tip-of-the-hat to the N9 in the use of ‘Fastlane’ (notifications screen) in some Asha phones, and more recently the Nokia X line.

Of course I could hardly wait to get my sim card back into my Lumia 1020, and immediately everything became much more usable – email, Twitter, Facebook, the Web, even taking photos and editing them on-the-go on the phone, it all felt light-years ahead of the now slower N9, gorgeous as it may be.

 

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I can’t help but feel sad; the Nokia N9 was the first of the Nokia portfolio to sport the new ‘Fabula’ design language that we saw in most of the Lumia device line up until the Lumia 920, but is still reminiscent in the design of the Lumia 2520 tablet too.  It was such a great phone back its day, and I felt so proud (and a little smug!) carrying this MeeGo monster around with me, knowing I was part of a niche group of users in a world of iPhones and Galaxies. But in 2014 things have simply moved on. My N9 will always hold a place in my heart, but it won’t regularly hold a place in my hand.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, N9! https://www.onetechstop.net/2013/09/29/happy-2nd-birthday-n9/ https://www.onetechstop.net/2013/09/29/happy-2nd-birthday-n9/#comments Sun, 29 Sep 2013 15:33:02 +0000 http://www.nokiainnovation.com/?p=10788

    I’m two days late with this post. Two days ago, September 27th marked the two year anniversary of when Nokia began shipping the mysterious but equally compelling MeeGo-powered N9, a device that everyone knew was being born into a cold, cruel world; its parents had, months prior to its release, already abandoned it […]

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I’m two days late with this post. Two days ago, September 27th marked the two year anniversary of when Nokia began shipping the mysterious but equally compelling MeeGo-powered N9, a device that everyone knew was being born into a cold, cruel world; its parents had, months prior to its release, already abandoned it for another, unrelated non-Nokia operating system.

 

Nokia’s press release

 

“Since we announced the Nokia N9 in June this year, the feedback that it has gotten from discerning and avid smartphone users across the world has been nothing short of fantastic,” said Ilari Nurmi, Vice President of Marketing, Nokia. “With the innovations in industrial design, user interface, and the Qt developer experience, the Nokia N9 sets the bar for how natural technology can feel, and represents the first in a number of products from Nokia that will be brought to life in similar fashion.” – Nokia, 9/27/2011

 

Since that time, the N9 received three official OS updates, each bringing a variety of functionality improvements and new features, even if they were seen as almost insignificant (a musical note icon for the ‘Beep’ profile? Ooh!)

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Despite having been told to stand outside the door in the cold Finnish wind while Windows Phone got to sit by the fire and sip cocoa, MeeGo Harmattan was both popular among the geekarati and was also seen as a flash of brilliance by the tech media. But unfortunately, everyone knew that while the N9 was a sublime piece of kit, the lack of support and development of the OS meant that sooner or later it would become more obsolete in a world of fast-paced smartphones bulging with big name apps.

 

For me, none of that seemed to matter for the entire time I used the N9 as my main, daily phone. Indeed, it wasn’t until I picked up an 808 PureView over a year later that I didn’t use any other phone, even if I did have a collection of Symbian devices calling out at me from my sock drawer. The lack of apps for MeeGo problem was mostly solved by the community, and so I had 4squick for Foursquare, Tweetian for Twitter, SoundWave for Shazam, Wazapp for Whatsapp… the list goes on and on. And it still goes on, with developers still updating and maintaining their beloved N9-friendly apps.

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Some apps like Foursquare and Twitter and Facebook were native for the N9, but as Alvin Wong points out in his extraordinary, beautifully written N9 editorial recently, these native apps simply broke from neglect. Ever-changing APIs and behind-the-scenes tweaks and changes suddenly only went to the ‘Big 3’ and MeeGo (and Symbian) began to get left behind. But thanks to the amazing MeeGo community, many of these functions still remain, well, functional, and I tip my cap to all of them.

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But why did the N9 muster so much love and praise, even if it wasn’t the SGS2 of it’s year? Well to be honest, I could write a thousand words right now on the N9’s beautiful physical design, the thoughtful aesthetics within the operating system that just make sense, the way that the Swipe UI is the only UI paradigm that screams “this is how it should be done!” (and yet only BlackBerry has really taken the idea on properly in an expensive smartphone) BUT – all I will do is point you in the direction of Alvin’s post over at UnleashThePhones.com:

 

Alvin’s N9 article

 

The N9 is now two years old, and while it is not up there with the big guys, it is still an absolute pleasure to use. Sure it’s not the fastest or zippiest as you open apps, but there are unique things about it that draw you back into the interface like nothing else can.

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The N9's camera is still pretty good, with interesting built-in filters, if you like that sort of thing.
The N9’s camera is still pretty good, with interesting built-in filters, if you like that sort of thing.
Macro is always good on the N9
Macro is always good on the N9

 

Swipe, tap, done. That’s why I love it still, just so simple. No clunky homescreen button a la 2007. No cludgey multitasking screen that requires more swiping and scrolling.

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Two years later and we’re still thinking: what if? Maybe, just maybe, by the end of this year, Jolla will show us that very possibility. Shame Nokia didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t though.

 

Happy birthday, N9!  :^)

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2 months with the N950 https://www.onetechstop.net/2013/04/21/2-months-with-the-n950/ https://www.onetechstop.net/2013/04/21/2-months-with-the-n950/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 00:24:49 +0000 http://nokiainnovation.com/?p=8300

  Having come from a Nokia N900, I know what it is like to fully appreciate a full landscape qwerty keyboard, while being immersed in the wonderful and unique Maemo 5. Moving onto the next iteration of Maemo with the Nokia N9, I was suddenly troubled with an odd sense of pleasure from the souped-up […]

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Having come from a Nokia N900, I know what it is like to fully appreciate a full landscape qwerty keyboard, while being immersed in the wonderful and unique Maemo 5. Moving onto the next iteration of Maemo with the Nokia N9, I was suddenly troubled with an odd sense of pleasure from the souped-up OS in MeeGo-Harmattan, while having to deal with the not-so-intuitive N9 onscreen keyboard.

 

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The N9’s keyboard isn’t terrible; compared with any iteration of Symbian, including the 808 PureView’s Feature Pack 2 keyboard, the N9’s is pretty decent, with excellent haptic feedback and smoothness while typing at speed. The trouble though is that it feels 80% finished. It is now left in its current state, which, while not bad at all, leaves the user feeling a little frustrated when they accidentally type ‘yoi’ instead of ‘you’ and the rather bizarre word-suggestion pop up gives you ‘yogurt’? I mean, really? There isn’t any excuse for that in my view. But then again, if Elop barged into the MeeGo development rooms and swept everyone out with his multi-coloured Lumia broom before they had a chance to tighten things up, well, you can’t say it’s the fault of a shoddy OS.

 

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The OS is actually what brings me back to my N9 every time I switch my main simcard into something else, be it the 808 PureView for some hardcore photo sessions, or even into my ancient N95 8GB or E75 for some moments of S60 nostalgia. The sim goes back into the N9 when I need some sanity and I need to be able to switch between apps quickly, effortlessly and without much thought, and certainly with zero frustration. So it does make you wonder then, if the OS is so compelling, what if you could have that without the need for the part-baked onscreen keyboard? How about the awesomeness of MeeGo-Harmattan with the awesomeness of a wonderful Nokia E7-like landscape qwerty? Enter the, the totally unavailable but amazing, Nokia N950.

 

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I believe the “N950” was first mentioned by Maemo-supporter but now ex-Nokia CTO Rich Green during one of the mop-up sessions following Elop’s now infamous announcement on February 11th 2011. There, Green described the N950 as coming along well with some “very elegant hardware”. Of course, N900 fans like myself began drooling over what would be coming later that year, imagining an E7-like design running Maemo 6 – it was almost too much! Then Green left the company for “personal reasons” (which we all guessed was really because he loved MeeGo-Harmattan too much and couldn’t stand to promote Microsoft’s Windows Phone, a non-Nokia OS) and suddenly things started to fall apart a bit over on Talk.Maemo.org. The forum was almost boiling over with months’ worth of speculative posts from those who thought they knew something, those that were merely hoping and wishing, and others who were bashing those that thought they knew something! It was a bit of a mess over there for a while, mainly because some more informed than others knew that the next iteration of Maemo, the “5th device of 5” may not actually have a, *cough* physical qwerty keyboard. WHAT??! No!! How on earth could we be expected to go from the N900 to the N950 and NOT have a physical qwerty?? For some, myself included, the thought was almost nauseating. To think that Nokia had really sold out to the iPhone craze of onscreen keyboard only, to imagine entering code in Terminal without those precious chiclet-style keys… things got very heated on TMO. But it was as entertaining as it was worrying!

 

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Then, not long before the official unveiling of the N9 in Singapore that June, it transpired that there would actually be two devices, one with a hardware keyboard (rejoice!) and one without. So we would be able to choose! Oh what a relief. I was worried there for a second. Huh? Excuse me? What did I just read? That the hardware qwerty one would not be released? That it would be given to developers only? What in God’s name is going here?!!

 

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And… the rest is history. Now the N950 remains part of mobile phone legend, in the hands of the gifted, or (as in my case) in the hands of the lucky moocher! Those who genuinely own the N950 most likely do so because of their contribution to the Maemo community and are/were/still are contributing tweaks, apps, mods for the N9 and N950 (and even N900) community. Others, like me, are only lucky to hold one and experience it because of the generosity of owners such as Arie and Jimmy who were nice enough to lend me their’s for a while. It remains a rare beast, although they do occasionally pop up on eBay for $2000 sometimes. Not exactly something you can stick in your basket along with the Star Wars trilogy.

 

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So what of the N950? This is my second time with one, the first was last summer after Arie kindly sent me his to play with for a week. Actually it was mainly so I could physically see and confirm that the thing did, in fact, exist! This one belongs to Nokia Innovation, so thanks again to Lenny and Jimmy for arranging this one for me to play with.

I’ve had this N950 for around two months now, and it has been such a great device to have at home locked on WiFi, but also with a sim out and about. Mainly because I get the familiarity and ease of using MeeGo-Harmattan, but with the option of sliding out the amazing qwerty keyboard for those emails, texts and tweets. But are there any other differences?

 

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My N9 is well over a year old by now, and it has been through a few reflashes, and has had plenty of tweaks and apps installed. I’ve overclocked it to 1150MHz, but it does still feel a little slow at times, especially when opening apps. The N950 on the other hand is silky smooth and a great deal quicker than my N9. Now to be fair, the N950 has about 6 apps loaded on including Tweetian for Twitter, Meeshot for screenshots to name but a couple, so one might expect it to be fast just because it’s not full of bloat. Perhaps. But there are a few things that remain a niggle to the perfectionist like myself, and one of them is video playback.

I remember thinking, back in January 2011 after updating my N9 to PR1.1, wow, this phone is so amazing, and I love how it plays back videos, so smooth, so stutter-free. Then along came PR1.2 and ruined video playback, which remained unfixed with PR1.3. There will be no PR1.4 by the way. So what we’re left with is a greatly improved OS with hundreds of bugs fixed and new features in the camera UI and other areas of the OS, but the video playback remains stuttery and annoying. This is no different in my experience with the N950.

 

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Another thing that urks me about the N950, and the one thing that kind of puts me off using it as a main device, is the fact that there is no (surprising really) proper baked-in support for landscape mode. In fact, when you flip the keyboard out, nothing on the screen changes! So, of course, you install Homescreen Settings from the Nokia Store and voila! The screen now rotates to landscape… but only sometimes. That’s because some built-in apps and screens don’t/won’t rotate to landscape, so it can be hit or miss. Settings, for example doesn’t rotate, and Facebook does but only when it feels like it. This can be rather off-putting, and one can’t help but wish for the kind of E7-style entire OS support for either portrait or landscape mode for everything, at any time. But then you remember you’re holding a phone that was never released to the public and that has “Not for resale” printed on the back of it, and you have to consider that you’re just damn lucky to be looking at one in the first place!

 

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Those gripes aside, it is an remarkable piece of hardware. To be able to not only navigate through the swipiness of Harmattan, but to also type a long email out on a proper keyboard (avoiding ridiculous word suggestions because that seems to turn off when the keyboard is out) is the best of both worlds. It made me power up my E7 again after a long stint in the sock drawer, just to be able to tweet and email using real keys. It made me yearn for and ultimately buy an E6 for the same reason, even though it’s in a different form factor. It made typing on my N9 ever-so-slightly more annoying, because I know that there is an option out there which allows MeeGo and a real qwerty. Except that there’s not really. Which is a shame.

 

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The Nokia N950 will remain the phone that never was. As 2013 marches on, and Nokia continue to improve their portfolio of Windows Phone devices, I’m sure the N9 and the N950 will continue to disappear out of the mindsets of the average phone geek. We have BlackBerry back in force (sort of), a Jolla phone to look forward to, and the specs of current Android phones seem to be catching up to those of the supercomputers at Nasa. But for the loyal fans of the Linux-based OS, those who knew (and know) what it’s like to multitask on an N900, I think the N9 and the N950 will stride on through the year doing just fine.

Because if you’ve got one, you just know.

Here are some simple comparison shots taken with the Nokia N9 and the N950. There’s not much difference as far as I can see, but maybe you can. Both phones were set to Auto and 7MP.

Cheers!  :^)

 

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How to flash your N950 with pre beta FW to the latest FW (tutorial) https://www.onetechstop.net/2011/09/27/1710/ https://www.onetechstop.net/2011/09/27/1710/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2011 09:17:06 +0000 http://nokiainnovation.com/?p=1710 I received a N950 dev kit last week and when I turned it on for the first time nothing happened. I decided to flash the device to the latest beta FW but wasn’t successful using either the Mac or Windows OneClickFlasher installer.  The error message that appeared on the command prompt read ‘Failed to erase […]

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I received a N950 dev kit last week and when I turned it on for the first time nothing happened. I decided to flash the device to the latest beta FW but wasn’t successful using either the Mac or Windows OneClickFlasher installer.  The error message that appeared on the command prompt read ‘Failed to erase MMC using ‘secure’ method’.  The device would also stay in a reboot loop while connected to a PC.

Amanda Lam pointed me to the Wiki on how to use winrar to extract the files in the exe and run the flasher manually.  I was able to revive the phone but unable to upgrade the latest firmware.  I thought I might need to install beta 1 prior to beta 2 to get the latest FW.

Below are the steps that I took to get beta 2 successfully installed on a N950 with 15-7/pre beta 1 software.

  1. Download the Win_OCF_22-6_EMMC_RM680-OEM1-916.exe beta 1
  2. Download the Win_OCF_34-2_EMMC_RM680-OEM1-916.exe beta 2
  3. Run the process as described in the Wiki for each of the beta files.
  4. After restarting the phone when finishing running the beta 2 flasher, you will notice a Facebook, Twitter app on the main screen.  This is an indication that you have successfully upgraded to beta 2.

Ronan MacLaverty from Nokia has a solution where you can skip the beta 1 installation step and just install the beta 2 flasher by simply adding –c (cold flash) in the run command.

  1. Download the Win_OCF_34-2_EMMC_RM680-OEM1-916.exe beta 2 or latest beta from OneClickFlasher page on developer.nokia.com.
  2. Extract the exe file using WinRar, run the msi file and open the command prompt.
  3. Type the following: …/Win_OCF_34-2_EMMC_RM680-OEM1-916>flasher.exe –c –F RX-71.bin –F emmc.bin –f.
  4. Device will boot up into 34-2 (beta 2).

Let us know if you have any questions by contacting me on twitter or by leaving a comment.

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