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Linux Based Nokia N800 Internet Tablet Reviewed 127

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'll-tell-you-where-you-can-put-it dept.
HHL3T writes "CoolTechZone.com has published a review of the Linux-based Nokia N800 Internet Tablet that was announced at CES 2007 back in January. The review concludes, "As it currently stands, the N800 is an absolutely amazing product for web browsing. However, it's targeted at a very exclusive market: pure technology admirers who must have the latest and greatest, regardless of its real world functionality. We wouldn't recommend you place all of your critical information on the N800, due to its limited online connectivity options and lack of a portable form factor, especially if you are a professional. But if you must have the N800, we would recommend only using it as a digital newspaper to stay abreast on the latest news, and get work done online. It's just too much of an independent platform to be able to replace anything else, such as a notebook, a smartphone or a cell phone."
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Linux Based Nokia N800 Internet Tablet Reviewed

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  • Awesome book reader! (Score:5, Informative)

    by pugdk (697845) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @10:30AM (#18782077) Homepage
    I bought my N800 to use mainly as a book reader and I must say its been awesome. Crisp, big, and high resolution screen, perfect for reading. I'm using one of many free software addons called fbreader for reading ebooks.

    Instantly working bluetooth data connections with most carriers (I was amazed how easy it was to setup - select your carrier, turn on bluetooth on your mobile and off you go, instead of windows where you have to know setting XX ZZ and YY before you have a chance of getting connected through your mobile phone).

    Wifi with as good a range as my Thinkpad T60p.

    The ability to surf the web easily on a display that's *readable* everywhere you want to.

    Way better battery performance than my PDA which features a screen half the size...

    Did I mention it runs linux? You can run VNC, ssh etc. on it and install these apps with just a few clicks... VNC actually works quite decent (over WIFI, it blows using bluetooth, mainly due to bandwidth limitation).

    All in all, I definitely don't regret buying one.

    -pug
  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @10:39AM (#18782251)
    I have a 770, and love it. You forgot to mention the mplayer port, ssh server, rdesktop client, etc. in your list :)
  • Abandonware (Score:5, Informative)

    by arrianus (740942) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @10:41AM (#18782277)
    The problem is that Nokia considers GNU/Linux tablets to be unsupported abandonware only 1.5 years after introduction. The tablets are loaded with proprietary and binary-only drivers and software, which means once official support goes away, you're left with a very expensive paperweight. Linux Weekly News reported [lwn.net] on this just this week.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @10:41AM (#18782281)
    I've got one of these, and love it. Yes, it isn't a phone, and isn't trying to be a phone, and isn't for people who wanted a phone.

    It's definitely a lot more than just a web tablet though. GPE PDA software is being ported, it's got gpg and ssh and the gnumeric spreadsheet and GPS software and interfaces to online digital maps and mp3 player SW. It's got a ton of other stuff like that, coupled to a device with a best-in-class screen, built in 802.11, and around ~5 DAYS of battery life under my normal use.

    It's really a nice little multifunction device and slips in my shirt pocket. The closest Sony x86 based ultraportables are about 3X the weight and volume of this thing. This won't replace a real laptop with a keyboard and so forth, but it's still a great thing to augment your laptop and you can carry it with you everywhere.

    Bad sides: the case that comes with it sucks. The included mp3 player only works with tagged files, not with simple directory-sorted files. Couple of others, some of which can be fixed with SW.

    That's my impression of it. I've got one with 8 Gb (2x4), but an upcoming kernel patch will allow use of high capacity SD cards for more storage.

    There is not much on the market I'd trade mine for, and it's not all locked down crap that wants you to pay for each little feature you want to use like many competitors' offerings.
  • Re:Function (Score:2, Informative)

    by ErikInterlude (784049) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @10:48AM (#18782393) Journal
    I'm aware of a project called myStep [quantum-step.com], which is supposed to shoehorn the GNUstep [gnustep.org] application framework set into mobile devices. It's basically an Open Source effort to create a Mac-like interface for mobile devices. I don't know what they're doing with the 800, but I know the Nokia 770 was a target they were shooting for.

    Developers seem to speak well of OpenStep APIs (Mac OS X/GNUstep), so if myStep is refined enough, maybe it could be a good avenue for introducing apps for mobile devices as you were suggesting.
  • by ewanrg (446949) <ewan...grantham@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @10:48AM (#18782395) Homepage
    The first batch of N800's have a known problem where after a few weeks of use, the right side of the device (left side if you're looking at it) stops responding to touch or can't be calibrated accurately. Since there is no way other than the touchscreen to access many of the device's functions, you then have to send it in for repairs.


    Nokia will not reimburse you for the shipping cost, and has a very broken tracking mechanism. As several users at the Internet Table Talk forum [internettablettalk.com] have documented, this means that your $400 device goes back to Nokia, and you don't know when/if you'll get it back.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @11:02AM (#18782591)
  • by EsbenMoseHansen (731150) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @11:10AM (#18782689) Homepage

    It has to be very bright before the screen suffers (which isn't happening yet in Denmark, not sure about full Summer sun). The screen is easily the second best part of that tablet from my point of view.

  • by soleblaze (628864) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @11:10AM (#18782691)
    I was eying the 770 for awhile as a possible pentest platform. I ended up grabbing the n800 the week it came out. It's a pretty nifty product. Only problem with me is the lack of usbhost and the flakey wifi drivers (It puts in ghost data which skrews up some programs, like aircrack) Kismet does have a driver and works fine with it, but I believe it still freezes up when the screen blanks. The programs on it that came from the 770 still need some work to be used properly. You also have some weird endless rebooting problems if a program you install flakes out on startup. Overall it has great potential, but currently mines been regulated to running fbreader as an ebook reader. It's been the best ebook reader I've used so far, so I'm still happy with it. Oh, and for a media device.. it support rhapsody, has an fm radio (of course with horrid reception), plays web radio, and orb support has just come out for it.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but won't everything on your list except for Acrobat (I assume you mean pro) and Fontlab run on Linux? I'm currently using a combination of Wine (For Dreamweaver 8) and vmware+Win2kPro (for Crystal Reports and the Venus 1500 sign software) and have successfully moved my existence over to Linux thusly.
  • Re:Kismet? (Score:2, Informative)

    by MentalMooMan (785571) <slashdot@@@jameshallam...info> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @11:16AM (#18782761) Homepage
    I have the predecessor to this (the Nokia 770), and it's a top-rate wifi scanner. You get all of the power and leetness of kismet without the need to lug a laptop around, which means that it's perfect for war-walking. It even has aircrack-ng ported to it, although I haven't tried it yet.
  • by garbletext (669861) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @11:27AM (#18782919)
    I have an n800. So far, I haven't been able to come up with a task that it can't handle. it runs a modified debian; imagine apt-get on a handheld. Most any GTK program its cpu can handle can be quickly ported by the most inexperienced programmer. If you already use linux, this device is an amazing godsend. However, I understand that this amazing ability to use all the same programs as on the desktop will be lost on someone who uses windows. Literally my only gripe is that its chipset doesn't support USB Host mode, so if you want to use an external keyboard it has to be bluetooth, or another computer attached via vnc.
  • by GeneralAntilles (571325) <.moc.cam. .ta. .sellitnA_lareneG.> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @11:54AM (#18783287)
    Mostly poor programming on Nokia's part. The ARM processor that it uses actually has hardware video decoding built-in, but Nokia hasn't provided a way to access it so far. The latest firmware update did have a big bump in performance 600x360 MPEG-4 @ about 1200Kbps total works perfectly for me.
  • My mini-review (Score:4, Informative)

    by Werrismys (764601) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @12:07PM (#18783469)
    After a month of use: The 770 has better form factor and looks better, but the N800 has: - much better power savings thanks to the new OS - practically never crashes. I have had zero crashes after installing the updated OS. Installing was a breeze, it even located my backup and restored settings from old OS. - has MUCH improved packet management - works flawlessly with a Nokia bluetooth keyboard - has enough CPU power to watch those 350M TV series episodes (it's not 30fps but it's smooth enough using mplayer) - Opera never crashes, loads very fast, and renders very fast - It's "always online" thanks to very sane hassle-free WLAN configuration system and good power saving modes Its' a great platform for Lucasarts games, remote configuration (X Terminal, SSH). And with the LCARS Trek-theme the OS is very very futuristic. Some software ports like X-Chat (for IRC) and X-Terminal are excellent. 770 was a nice prototype (I used it for a year). N800 is a solid product. With 2 x 4G SD cards it can easily carry a weekend's worth of videos of music. Looking forward to the Navicore navigation set (released last week).
  • Re:Kismet? (Score:2, Informative)

    by soleblaze (628864) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @12:11PM (#18783529)
    Last time I tried kismet (about a month and a half ago) It crashed on the n800 when the screen blanked. Other than that, it works pretty well. It actually gets better reception than some laptops I've used. Not sure if they fixed that problem or not. On the 770 it works perfectly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @12:32PM (#18783843)
    hrm, other than the statusbar, you can actually reach almost all of the device from the keys.

    first, you need an application open, if you don't have one:
    01. tap menu.
    02. tap the down arrow four times (applet settings may or may not be disabled, but the specs for the platform say that keyboard behavior shouldn't wrap at the end) - this takes to you tools
    03. tap right
    04. tap down three times - this takes you to help
    05. tap the hardware select key - this opens help

    ok, now you need to run another application
    11. press the home key - this brings up an overflow switcher menu of sorts it's not particularly important, just an unfortunate requirement for the next step
    12. press the left key - this focuses the overflow widget (that you enabled in step 05)
    13. press up seven times (as mentioned earlier, things don't wrap, if you had no apps open earlier, then 2 taps would take you to others, but to be safe, we're going to the top) - this takes you to the top of the task navigator (again, it's guaranteed)

    14. if you want to open the first task navigator item (typically "web", but it could be "chat" or some third party thing - this is configurable in control panel under "navigation"), go to step 21.

    15. press the down arrow - this will select the second task navigator item (typically "chat" ...)
    16. if you want to open this item, go to step 21.

    17. press the down arrow - this will select the others item
    18. if you want to open this item, go to step 21.

    19. if you reached this point, you could have saved yourself a lot of time by just tapping right earlier on your way up.

    to open something...
    21. press the right key - this will open a menu if the item is big, or if there are multiple windows associated with it - or if it's just a single app window, it'll bring that app window to the front.
    22. if the item you've selected is a menu, you can walk it using the arrows
    23. right would open the nested menu
    24. left would close the deepest open menu
    25. up would take you up the current menu (when possible)
    26. down would take you down the current menu (when possible)
    27. hardware select will activate the current menu item.

    The average user has: Bluetooth, presence, Display, Sound, Connectivity, and Power. Of them, Bluetooth, Display and Sound are accessible via the Control panel. Connectivity is accessible via both Control panel and Connection manager (don't ask why, I have no idea). Power is not to my knowledge accessible (sorry). Presence is accessible via "Chat">Set Presence (yes, that's strange, but it is).

    If you know of some other portion of the system which is not usefully accessible, please complain somewhere. (Note: complaining that screen calibration isn't accessible is uninteresting. Warning: do not try to configure bluetooth keyboard with a broken touch screen, no keyboard and aggressive use of hardware navigation keys, you will get stuck...)

    As for sketching without a working touch screen, yeah, that could be a problem. I know that paintbrush/mspaint have dealt with this from the beginning of time, I'm sure some enterprising individual will introduce a way to do mouse emulation using the hardware keys.
  • by gomiam (587421) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @01:34PM (#18784985)
    Even if currently unsupported, there seems to be a USB Host-able chip in the N800. You can read about it here [silverfir.net]. I can't find the original page right now, but Google is your friend.
  • Link (Score:3, Informative)

    by jdray (645332) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @01:58PM (#18785381) Homepage Journal
    Karma whoring: http://www.nokiausa.com/N800/1,9008,,00.html [nokiausa.com]
  • by geneven (992456) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:15PM (#18787393)
    I set Maemo Mapper maps to Auto-Download. When you are connected to Wifi, the maps you are trying to navigate to are automatically downloaded. I tried this for where I lived in Barcelona and Moscow, for example, and for places mentioned in The Forsyte Saga. When you are NOT in range of Wifi, there is no automatic downloading of maps from anywhere, so if you are going on a trip, a good idea is to trace the route in Maemo Mapper when you have Wifi; then the areas you want to use it on are available when you are out of Wifi range. You can download a vast amount of mapping information; the only real limitation is how much memory you have, and you can buy lots for not much money.

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