I got to borrow a Nokia 770 from work for the weekend. It’s a nifty little piece of hardware which has two distinctive features: it is not a phone, and it runs on Linux. OK, maybe the second point is distinctive only if you’re a geek … which must make me one. Oh well, guess i didn’t know that before.
I named it Colin.
The most immediate wow-factor comes from the screen. It looks fantabulous. The resolution is above anything i’ve seen on a digital device anywhere ever, period. The font rendering is so crisp that a limiting factor to what is legible are my eyes, not the screen’s capabilities.
The N770 comes with a web browser that displays GMail in “native” mode, a RSS reader, an audio player (mp3, not ogg), RealPlayer for video stuff, a picture viewer, a PDF viewer, a notes application, a paint application and a few games (including a beautiful match-the-tiles “Mah jong”). Nokia explicitly markets the 770 as a surfboard, not a PDA, so the device does not come with a calendar, an alarm clock or a to-do list. But it does have a nearly usable (as in “easy-to-use”) WLAN and Bluetooth connection — both of which i’ve tested — and it will show up as a USB mass storage, so it’s still pretty cool.
And it runs Linux. Which means you can install a sizable number of applications on it. Which is nice, but.
The first app i installed was XTerm. Aaah. Command line. What a feeling of relief and togetherness with the machine! Linux and i… oh, sorry where was i? XTerm installed without a hitch using the .deb package and the built in Application installer.
Sadly, there ended euphoria. I installed a few “necessary” tools like DSniff and Wireless Tools, which installed nicely but to the less-than-obvious location /var/lib/install/usr/sbin, but then refused to do anything proper. The reason, i believe, is a mixture a less than adequate measure of clue and the lack of root access to the device (in brief, download flasher to a Linux/OSX box, carefully flash the 770 over USB, open xterm and sudo gainroot then su - et voila, thou art root). And i was too lazy to increase on either of them for just a weekend test. Maybe if i get to borrow it for a longer time…
I also installed an OGG player, which alas does not play ogg streams, only local files.
I then considered installing SSH to the device, but both Dropbear and OpenSSH really benefit from root access so i decided i wouldn’t be bothered (now, though, it is starting to bother me — am i not enough of a geek after all?)
Finally, i tried what i came for: receiving a video stream from my home box to the 770. For that, i used the VLC. Just a few days before, i had managed to get a pretty picture to my work-laptop (Linux) and at least some kind of a moving jumble to my PDA (Windows). But the 770 wouldn’t be so easily amused. The user friendly litle piece of software asked for a web address to stream from. Which in plain lang… no, in geek language means something of a pointer/playlist file accessible over http. My butt. I got disgruntled to the point where i had to blog about it.
Finally, i must vituperate (ha, that’s a new word for me!) the hopelessly inadequate hanwriting recongnition of the 770. It just sucks. It leaves out letters it doesn’t recognise and it leaves me feeling silly and incommunicado. And it feels like it’s my bloody fault. Which it, technically speaking, of course is, but i still don’t like it that way.
But apart from all of that, it still is a nifty little piece of hardware.