mobile blogging, part 1

“What’s the best mobile device for blogging on the way?”

I just twittered/tweeted (?) this as a question and decided to turn it into a blog post, so please feel free to comment.

Yes, mobile blogging, blogging content to an online blog as most posts/ideas come up when I am on the way to work/home/downtown. Blog content does not pop up in my head when I am at home, sitting in my dark little roof chamber, but instead when I am travelling or walking through the city and then suddendly there are these “Oh my, I neeeeeed to blog this” moments. Does that sound familiar to you?

What’s mobile?
I am already using a 15,4″ laptop as my primary computer, where I am compiling most posts using Blogdesk (for Win), pulling images from my mobile phone and getting online through a local Wi-Fi connection. Whenever I am travelling with my laptop (which doesn’t happen that often), I use a GPRS or even UMTS data connection to surf the internet via my mobile phone which is connected to my computer via Bluetooth. This is how I went online in Kenya, and this is also how I go online whenever there’s no local Wi-Fi available.

However, I often have this urge to blog directly from a more mobile device, a gadget I am always carrying around with me. What’s this? The mobile phone, of course!

So, where’s the difficulty?
Mobile devices often only offer pure text posts without any hyperlinks as editing alone is quite a pain. Entering text is usually done using a small T9 keypad, and some phones also offer dedicated QWERTY keyboards.

So I am using a Nokia N95 which enables me to take decent images (the picture quality isn’t as good as on a normal digital camera because of the CMOS sensor and its reduced size, but it’s more than sufficient for blog posts), it enables me to take decent videos @ 640×480 VGA with 30 fps but with the limitation of a mono microphone and no optical zoom and connects to the internet via HSCSD, CSD, GPRS, EGPRS, HSDPA and WiFi. The N95 even comes with an advanced video editor so that I can edit a video right on the phone! While this obviously takes some time and isn’t that easy, at least it’s possible.

The difficulty is to upload multimedia content onto the internet! This is exactly where most phones still lack a simple solution. Nokia eventually realized this and introduced the Ovi platform earlier this year, but it’s still in closed Alpha mode, so I guess we’ll have to work on a better solution. And not everyone is using Nokia phones. What about Apple iPhone users? And what about those that are documenting their life on blogs through SonyEricsson phones?

Mobile phone manufacturers apparently want their users to upload content to their own walled gardens. This blog here doesn’t run on,,, and other sites. Do they seriously want me to upload MY content to any obscure community platform? Hey, facebook is already enough in terms of walled gardens – I want to control my own content on my own website. I have a domain, webspace and am running a blog which is powered by WordPress. I want the content from my phone to directly load into the given space here.

And this is why I’ve split this post in two different parts: the a) software and b) hardware issues.

The hardware side is rather simple: considering that most phones offer sms services, blog entries may – in their shortest form at a length of 160 characters – be directly sent to a blog via sms. I can do that. I can upload an sms to my blog. Simple. And then there’s also e-mail: my blog comes with a (secret & currently inactive) e-mail address so that I could also send an e-mail to my blog which would then be posted online.

The short message, multimedia message and e-mail services are the common denominator on most phones, meaning: even Mama Wambui on the vegetable market in a rural town in Central Kenya may post blog content from her simple Motorola C139 phone via sms. But how does she read it?

See? Blogging simple and short text to an online platform isn’t that difficult. The difficulty lies in editing it and enriching it with hyperlinks, multimedia content and responding to comments.

When I started thinking about this subject, I initially thought that mobile blogging depends on the right device. Well, maybe it helps to have a computer so that surfing the net isn’t limited to a mobile device which just doesn’t offer the same comfort you’d have on a “normal” computer. But I quickly realized that instead of always blaming my not-so-perfect multimedia phone for the lack of this and that function or usability, I should instead look out for the right software, plugins, services that enable me to post from a mobile device in a way that offers more comfort than a short text which is limited to 160 characters. Mobile blogging is a software issue!

Meaning: the only difference I see between good and bad mobile phones in terms of their blogging capabilities is that some recent smartphones come with browsers that also work with Javascript and other advanced technologies which are sometimes needed online. I don’t need YouTube on my phone, but would like to comment on a K2 theme in WordPress where the comment function is based on this AJAX thing.
For pure reading of online content – and that’s what most of the current phones are capable of – I was already happy while using my old Nokia 6230i. In fact, I succesfully blogged an update on December 30th last year from a lobby in a hotel in Mombasa, using the OperaMini browser on the 6230i. It just worked.

I think that mobile blogging is a nice feature on a phone, but until it becomes as easy to post content as it already enables me to read online content from a mobile device, the only real killer application I can currently think of in the mobile sector is mobile banking/payment. Who knows – maybe in just a few years time devices will be advanced enough so that it all melts into one single application and service. This is why Google came up with the GPhone – coz it’s a software issue, not so much a hardware thing.

In part 2 I will try to compile a list of modern mobile phones that offer some comfort, and in part 3 I will try to highlight how to actually upload multimedia content from my phone to my blog (which I still have to figure out, hence this blog post :-).

Stay tuned!

my N95 rant

A phone is a phone is a phone is a phone. Well, is it?

When it comes to Nokia’s N95 smartphone, this simple conclusion isn’t that clear. Nokia introduced their flagship model in December 2006 and started shipping it sometime around March/April this year.
I got mine some three months ago through a 24-month plan with Germany’s T-Mobile with average monthly costs of EUR 15,46, so even if I’d sell the phone now via eBay or other channels, I’d make (at least) around EUR 130,- profit (SIM card stays unused in the drawer during those 24 month). I am using it with a prepaid card on a 3G (UMTS) enabled network where I am paying EUR 0,24 per MegaByte.
Unfortunately, my current network provider does not offer 3.5G (HSDPA) connections although the phone is capable of handling those. My other (third) network provider (Vodafone Germany) does offer 3.5G but charges around EUR 20,- per MegaByte just like T-Mobile, which is completely insane and totally over-priced. The prepaid card runs on the E-Plus Network which is known for low tariffs but also for a (relatively) shitty network infrastructure so I had the choice between low tariffs & 3G or higher tariffs & 3.5G. Since I’ve been very comfy with surfing the inet via 2.5G (GPRS) with Suffercom in Kenya, the theoretical network speed isn’t that important anyways. Besides – with running the phone in GSM mode instead of UMTS, battery runtime is optimized.

my Nokia N95 on top of my laptop

Three months are a good time to draw a line and have a closer look at what’s good and bad on this phone. Although I’ve already blogged some few impressions earlier here, here, here, here, here, here and here, I often thought about compiling another list of things I do not like about this phone. And while there are a few things that could be changed with a firmware update in future, other issues are hardware related and unfortunately meant to stay forever. Unless of course some Chinese “copyist” comes up with an alternative case for the N95 which could be used instead (a case modder, that is).

The N95 is a so-called smartphone, and while it is released under Nokia’s N-Series where the “N” stands for eNtertainment, the phone comes with everything you can currently put in a mobile phone: a fast variety of possible network connections (GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, InfraRed); a decent 5MPx cam (CMOS sensor though); mp3/mp4/avi media player for music, videos and pictures; basic picture and video editing; SMS; MMS; e-mail; an internal browser; 240×320 px screen resolution; flash memory; mini-USB connector; video camera with good frame rate; GPS (!!); office tools for viewing MS-Office files (doc, xls, ppt); Adobe’s PDFormat viewer of up to 2mb size and all of this running on Nokia’s S60 platform which is an operating system that has its roots in the PSION PDAs from the mid 1990s if anyone still remembers them.

I have used a Nokia 6230i before which was and still is a perfect phone – except for the limited camera (1,3 mpx, no flash) and the horrible multimedia player which had problems handling bigger playlists. Since I am often using my phone as an mp3 player and taking lots of pictures, it suddenly became clear that I should eventually invest some money on a better phone.

AND THAT is actually where the trouble begins! The 6230i is a phone-phone. A phone in the first place, something for calling people and writing SMS. The N95 is a multimedia machine though, and Nokia also calls it “..what computers have become”. What they meant to say and left out was that this also includes all the downsides of a mobile computer resp. a multitasking operating system. That’s just like comparing a simple calculator to a scientific one. Or a VW Beetle to a Mercedes S320. More equipment and luxury means more problems.

I could actually stop my review here and go back to my 6230i, as I need a reliable, a working phone with enough battery power. Nokia’s competitors like SonyEricsson and/or Samsung do produce interesting alternatives, and – hey – if the N95 wasn’t available, I’d have gone for the SE K800i by now. Only: SonyEricsson for some unknown reason completely messed up the keypads of their phones! This is so sad and I am sure they lost many customers due to that strange policy. (SE, give us more phones like K800i! The successor model K810i has a horrible keypad and most others after that as well).
So I am stuck with my N95 and have to learn appreciating it the way others do. Or maybe I am just too disappointed by it as I had apparently expected it being as efficient as the 6230i.

Usability is a BIG issue for me – and this recent usability test proves that the N95 isn’t as convenient as the iPhone. The iPhone on the other hand is a design concept for me with lots of smart solutions, but it lacks even basic services such as MMS or a decent cam, and since it comes with an internal battery AND is part of Apple’s “walled gardens” concept (proprietary systems), it is a no-go for me.

the N95 after 1,5 months – a broken display which had to be exchanged

Now, Nokia is a global player with a wide range of phones available for different budgets and needs. While their low-cost, entry market phones like 1xxx and 2xxx series really convince in countries like Kenya, their middle-class / mass market phones like the above mentioned 6230i also provide a lot of usability for a set price. The top range though, where my N95 is supposed to be one of the flagship models (note: the E90 communicator model has recently been taken from the market for further improvements as it developed some hard- and software issues), clearly isn’t as performing as it could or should be.
In other words: IF you are paying something like EUR 500,- to 700,- on a state-of-the-art phone, you may want to expect certain qualities – and at least a reliable phone that provides you with some basic services.
Well…. I don’t know about other N95 users who may be overwhelmed by their phones, but my N95 is under-performing.

The recent 2nd editions of the N95 for the US market (N95-US with a better camera and support for the US 3G system) as well as the brand-new 8GB version of the N95, which is due to come out in October this year (next week!), actually proves that Nokia realized how they messed up with the initial N95 version I am stuck with.

Coming back to the phone’s usability, let me summarize the following issues:

The keypad on the front cover (”S60 keypad”) is way too narrow and I understand it was already moved down and away from the screen to shorten the distance to the actual number keypad (Nokia calls this the “ITU keypad”). While writing text (e.g. SMS), I sometimes type in a wrong letter which needs to be corrected. Hitting the delete (”C”) button on the front panel sometimes – unfortunately – results in hitting the
a) red phone button by mistake => the phone goes back to the standby screen, or b) multimedia key by mistake => the phone comes up with a so-called multimedia menu, which by itself takes about 2-3 seconds to load.
To change this, Nokia or any 3rd party parts contributor (aka case modder from China) should redesign the keypad on the front cover (a). As for the multimedia menu: it could be deactivated or reassignable to another key once all keys are fully programmable. This could be done through a firmware update.

n95 shida

Front Cover
Other slider phones from Nokia such as the 6110 navigator or E65 come with a gently inclined front cover. While writing text on the N95 number keypad, my thumb often hits the edge of the front panel. This could be avoided or limited by removing this artificial border and reshaping the front cover so that the thumb may freely move between the (lower) number keypad and the keypad on the front cover.
The front video camera on the upper right corner looks like as if it has been put there at the last moment. Obviously, there should be a better way of moulding it into the front cover (as seen on the 8GB version!!). What’s that space between the display and the keypad good for anyways?

The phone also is a “slided” typed model, meaning that the front cover moves in two different directions. While this is somehow neat, I actually realize every day how much I hate slider phones and want my brick phone back.
Now imagine with Nokia’s infamous slider built quality, the slider OF COURSE developed problems over the time – although mine is still one of the better phones. There’s a workaround to stop the play level between the front cover and the main body as shown on different Youtube videos (~ untighten 3 screws on both sides and put some adhesive tape on top of the sliding rails to limit the play).
My Nokia 7110 back in 1999 (!) also head a nasty slider problem. It’s not a bug, it’s a Nokia!

I “secured” the display on my N95 with some BRANDO display protector (foil) as it a) looks as if the screen actually is a bit sensitive to scratches and b) there’s a gap between the display and the frame = no seamless transition between the display and the frame as seen with other phones (= which shows that such an approach to a better design is possible and that it was just left out because someone over at Nokia didn’t pay attention).
As with other mobile devices, a display always consumes lots of energy. Maybe Nokia could implement a stricter energy saving mode for the display, although of course the display brightness as well as the duration until it goes back into a half standby mode may already be adjusted by the user. I am saying it’s a “half standby” mode, as the display on a SE K800i seems to be even more efficient (battery wise). Again, plenty of room for improvements within the firmware.

Oh and btw: just after 1,5 months usage, the display suddenly flipped the screen from left to right and then completely went out black. The flex band inside was ok, but the display had to be exchanged.

Speech quality of course always depends on the network, and while coverage in my area isn’t always the best, callers sometimes tell me they’re having problems understanding me while using the phone. A workaround is to use a headset, but in all honesty: you wouldn’t want to use it that way while talking for half an hour.
And the headset itself is an issue as well. Oh my. It just isn’t always responding to a keypress.

The internal stereo speakers on both sides are actually quite good. While playing stereo soud on them, the “stereo effect” comes out pretty nicely. Well done, Nokia!
As for the loudspeaker on top: well, it’s a tiny, squared speaker. No great resonance from that little thing.

Media Player
The internal media player ist nice although it’s usability could be a bit better. Sound is good enough for me, but using it with the headsets has given me some headaches lately. You see, whenever I removed the headsets on my Nokia 6230i, the player would just stop playing (which is good as you wouldnt want to have it playback through the speakers if, by accident, the plug comes out of the socket (which is 3,5mm – a blessing, as you can actually use ANY other headset and aren’t forced to use any proprietary system from Nokia)). On a SE K800i, the phone ask you whether you would want to have it continue playing through the speakers. Well…on the N95, the phone just redirects the sound to the speakers without asking me! And this although the S60 platform offers many other situations where it will ask the user twice if e.g. it shall *really* go online or *really* download that e-mail I just clicked on. Hell, yeah! Just do it, you ***** phone! *NARF*
The media player is also directly related to the:

Multimedia Menu
The multimedia menu. Oh my. WHAT kind of IDIOT designed this stupid menu???! It is SOOOOO USELESS! I NEVER NEED IT…and consequently put this as a *wish* on S60’s feature wishlist.
There are two ways to access this menu: either by pressing (or often accidently hitting) the multimedia key to the right of the joypad, or by switching the display from portrait into landscape view.

landscape view on the N95

Let’s say you are in standby mode and portrait view and want to switch into landscape view (as shown above) to access the (blue iluminated) multimedia keys on the left to e.g. stop the media player. BEFORE the phone actually reacts to the keypress, it first of all loads this ****** multimedia menu which takes 2-3 seconds alone.

I had this argument in a mobile phone shop with another dude who was SO convinced of the S60 platform and really loved his N95. I then asked him: “ok, how do you stop the media player if the phone is locked?” – “Simple”, he replied, “just slide it the other way open and press the media keys”. – “And what about that multimedia menu that pops up in between?” – “Oh…..”. Yeah. Stupid.

Nokia, in case you are reading this: pls disable the multimedia menu, or at least (if it belongs to your marketing strategy) give us a function to reassign the keys on the front cover and the side. Thank You!

Sending SMS, MMS, E-Mails & Co from the phone is dead simple. Only: once you hit the wrong key (again due to the narrow keypad), it will return to standby mode and move your written piece into the DRAFTS folder. On the 6230i, which btw runs on an older version of the S40 platform, an SMS is left in the editor, so once you return to the editor, you’ll find your draft there ready for editing.

The gallery is just nice and also doesn’t take too long to load. It creates thumbnail versions of your images which are loaded for preview. If you stumble across a video in your gallery, it automatically loads the REAL PLAYER to playback videos. There’s another add-on for the phone that provides a DivX player, so playback of those files is also possible.

VoIP & Wi-Fi
I am using FRING on the phone which is a neat little all-in-one messenger tool for chatting and using VoIP with configured services such as Skype, ICQ, Google Talk, MSN Messgenger, Twitter (!) and SIP. I have my SIPGATE number configured with the phone as well as Gizmo (which I haven’t used for a while). VoIP works but you’ll sure need a strong WLAN / Wi-Fi connection for this to work fine. Also used it through my UMTS connection (fortunately, the port is open for that service) and it just works. WLAN/WiFi connectivity is a bit tricky. The phone is said to having some problems with certain routers. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes the connection brakes off all the time. Annoying.
So, in theory: services work. When it comes to actually using everything the time you need it, something like network coverage may be a problem, so my take on this is that Wi-Fi was just added for the US-american market (due to the availability of hotspots there) or for home usage where many ppl nowadays are having their own Wi-Fi routers hooked up to a cable or DSL modem.

Germany’s famous Fritz!Box WiFi router by AVM actually works much better for VoIP – I had my fixed line phone directly connected to the router and so I wonder why I should use VoIP at home through my mobile if instead I could use it much better through a fixed phone.

The battery. Well well well. The 950mAh battery inside the phone is nothing but a joke. It lasts for a day with limited usage. That’s why the two new versions of the N95 will come with a slightly improved battery, but honestly: WHY only now? Why couldn’t they come up with a better battery life and power management in the first place?
And why Li-On instead of the Li-Polymer battery as seen with older Nokias?
The battery is why I’ve been looking out for external power supplies (like that solar charger below) that will help me recharge the phone while travelling, far away from any power socket. The charger that comes shipped with the phone is very small and light (good!), but only because you’ll always have to carry it around with you. Clearly, the N95 isn’t a phone I’d take out on a Safari in the bush!

I bought a 2nd battery (4,- EUR fake from China) and another desktop charger so that the phone at least stands up straight in a cradle while recharging.

Battery life clearly affects many other parts of the phone: pure mp3 playback WITH THE TRANSMITTER SET INTO OFFLINE MODE! (to enhance playback time) gives me about 2-3 hrs which is just ridiculaaaas! The phone also comes with a Video-Out cable so that you can hook it up to your TV/multimedia system and use it as a game console. LOL! This drains the batteries quite quickly.

The limited energy provided by the small battery is actually reason enough to return this phone to the shop and go for any other – better – phone. What’s it all worth with all these gadgets if the battery only last for half a day?!

the camera module on the back

The internal digital camera has a 5mpx resolution achieved through a CMOS chip, which is what you’ll know from other phones and better webcams. PROPER LIGHTING is the KEY to decent pictures with such a technology, so during daylight, pictures turn out fine. The cam is good, and for most of my needs it actually is sufficient enough. Only, and yeah, even though it is good enough, the autofocus on SonyEricsson’s K800i cam is FASTER. Focusing with the N95 takes a while. Well….no hurry in Africa.
And then of course the shutter sound may not be disabled. I am used to taking secret shots with my 6230i with no sounds and lights emitted from the phone, but the N95 always flashes up a small LED to autofocus (ok, this can not be changed) and sometimes even comes with the flash LED which is SO extremely bright that you can quickly be hated by all your friends if you’re into taking a snap shot of them during night time + using the flash. This LED flash is not as a convenient as the Xenon flash on the K800i.

To activate the camera, you can either select it from the menu, and / or slide open the protectice cover on the back of the phone. There’s a small contact inside that automatically starts up the camera once the cover is opened.

The default browser that comes shipped with the S60 platform is somewhat okay, but it lacks the comfort of OperaMini. Especially the “BACK” function only reloads the previous page instead of loading it from the phone’s cache. Why? Stupid.
And then of course there’s no way of setting a default browser on the firmware. The EU actually sues Microsoft for shipping WindowsXP with a fixed browser? Well, Nokia does the same with us.

Nokia PCSuite
Nokia’s PCSuite, the software to sync the phone with a Windows system is just crap. And besides: I am still looking for a decent (!) way to edit the phone book. The directory on M$ Outlook sucks, all free XML sync services (as mentioned the other day) just provide the editing for names & numbers (but no snail mail addresses) and Nokia’s own PC Suite doesn’t provide any editing function. Why not?

Speaking of syncing the phone with another computer: the N95 has a nice USB mini-B connector, so basically most other USB cables you’ll know from your digital camera will work with the phone as well. There’s no stupid & proprietary Nokia PopPort connector any more so this is a GREAT improvement. We’ll also see a change in this in near future as the mobile phone industry is said to have teamed up for a single connector standard which would be a blessing for most users. One cable type for all gadgets! Only: charging – as seen with the famous Motorola V3 series – isn’t yet possible through the USB port. A brilliant example for Nokia’s marketing on accessories…

Random Access Memory on the N95 is limited to 20 MBs once the machine is fully loaded. The 8GB version comes with 80 MBs so multitasking failures due to a limited RAM capacity are less likely to happen with the improved version.
I wonder if one could use the other memory instead to extend the RAM (like a swap file) but I guess that just isn’t possible.

The internal GPS runs on Nokia Maps, a free mapping software provided by Nokia with maps for different countries. You’ll only pay for the navigation. The phone also works with other free and commercial mapping software like MGMAPS (awesome!) or Route66. Also, Nokia’s “SportsTracker” software is just awesome for tracking exercises.
However – the internal GPS antenna is located beneath the lower keypad – on the bottom of the phone. In order to use the GPS and improve reception of satellite signals, you’ll always have to slide open the phone to reveal the lower keypad. The Nokia 6110 navigator though comes with Route66 software pre-installed and the GPS antenna on top of the phone, so the 6110 is a dedicated, much faster GPS device than the N95.

Again, the N95 is an all-in-one gadget, a prood-of-concept-styled phone which main purpose, I suppose, was to show to the interested masses what may actually implemented into a phone.

My list of direct criticism based on bad experiences with the phone could go on and on, but I will just leave it for now. Further plans are to wait for the next firmware update and see if any of the bugging isssues have been improved. If not, I will sell the phone and get another one with similar camera and video qualities (oh, did I mention the near DVD video recording quality? that’s just awesome for such a phone. but then again: battery runtime…*sigh*). Wi-Fi isn’t really that important although it was one of the reason for me to actually get it. Back then I didn’t know that Wi-Fi coverage would be that bad, and to actively keep it connected to a nearby Wi-Fi router for VoIP usage, the battery is just too weak.

I really really hope that Nokia will have a closer look at the current N95 model and see if there’s any improvement possible through the firmware. A stronger battery would also be nice, or at least an official case mod which would enable consumers to pimp the current N95 into a better one.

The N95 truly is “what computers have become”, and while it really only lacks the keyboard we’ve seen on the E61(i) or even the SideKick (ooooh, a hidden keyboard underneath the display in a sidekick style would be so great!) to make it become a real computer, it does not provide the most basic functions I need a phone for: being a reliable gadget in my pocket.

(is this my longest post ever?)

the installation & admin status dilemma

Just a short notice to those poor souls who are confronted with the scenario in which they are forced to run an executable file (*.exe) on their machine which requires an installation and don’t have administrator privileges in a Win NT/2K/XP/Vista environment – so an installation often isn’t possible.

I am currently working on a proposal that has to be changed and had to install a software which is the _only_ way to actually fill out the application form. Since I do not have any administrator privileges on the machine in our office, I pulled out the notebook with an open (~ as in “sudo root”) operating system and installed the required software on an external USB memory/flash stick, running the previously mentioned PortableApps suite.

This way, the installation is done directly on the external flash drive and may be used on any computer – which is of particular interest as the required printers often aren’t set up on all machines.

Oder gerne auch auf Deutsch: für das elektronische Antrags- und Angebots-System (easy) diverser Bundesministerien (BMBF, BMELV, BMFSFJ, BAMF, BMU, BMWi, etc.) setzt man das easy-Programm am Besten in Verbindung mit der PortableApps Suite auf einem externen Speicherstick ein, da nicht alle Bürorechner den Benutzern die zur Installation nötigen Administratorenrechte einräumen, und der Ausdruck von den “ungeschützten” Rechnern in der Praxis meist nicht möglich ist (z.B. eigenes Notebook in Verbindung mit dem Laserdrucker im Büro).

hope this helps!

Raila “Virus”

Fortunately, I haven’t yet come across the “Raila Virus” on my systems, but my colleague in Embu told me earlier this week that it took him two days to organize someone who cleaned all machines – one by one.

Some months ago, I switched from an older Kaspersky 5.0.x release to FreeAv/Avira AntiVir by the (German) company AVIRA. A free English version (PersonalEdition Classic) for private use is available online (~16 MB). Standalone virus definitions are also available from this (more or less hidden) source, so anyone who wants to update some computers only has to download the definition files once.

Mimi sijui if this is of any help, but according to this list from July 26th 07, there’s a “Raila” definition included with the latest release. I actually installed freeAv on some GoK computers last year and managed to clean them of a nasty worm that kept on coming up. All of this within just 30 minutes! McAfee & a Norton suite often come shipped with new computers, but frankly said: they suck. Norton even more than McAfee. So in case you want to save some mbeca on the computer guy (sorry folks, I know this is killing business :-), pls feel free to try out Avira AntiVir if you haven’t yet done so.

Oh, and btw: once downloaded, pls save the setup executable on a write-protected medium (protected flash stick, CD-ROM, etc.) so it doesn’t become infected itself.

Hmm. I guess this is just another proof of how much we actually need to have free and open source, reliable, stable, compatible and secure operating systems installed on all computers that are running within government institutions. Dito in Germany (some cities actually already switched). Aahh, politics… (and there you go wondering why it was called Raila in the first place! What’s next – ThikaRoad Traffic Jam Virus? :-)

my 15 minutes review of the N95

Obviously, there’s no real substitute to a laptop computer.

There are those phones that come with a working QWERTY keyboard, and others that do not but offer the connectivity to a bluetooth keyboard instead (such as the SU-8W). Such a phone with a way too small keyboardpad is my Nokia N95. “It’s what computers have become”, as Nokia advertises it.


Only: you can get a full size laptop computer for the same amount you’d have to cough up for a Nokia N95. In other words: for an amount of around EUR 600,-, this phone has to be really good. But it isn’t.

It primarily is a phone, and as such it does it’s job quite well. The interesting, multi-tasking operating system Symbian S60, 3rd (feature pack1) does a remarkable job, and it is while working with this phone that you realize how this little gadget actually works. Much like an iPhone, I suppose, that also offers an interesting GUI which takes time to load – and sometimes hangs itself up due to a system-hiccup. A reboot as the interim solution, or the flashing of the internal firmware does the job. Frankly said, with banana software that ripes with the customer and short product cycles, I never expected anything else but exactly this behaviour. Another drawback besides of the ever draining battery (this has improved over the time now and I’ve managed to keep it running on one battery charge with normal usage for something like 48 hours – which would include lots of SMS and listening to music) is the narrow keypad, which makes entering text a pain in the…fingers (the multimedia buttons, actually, not so much the 0-9, *# keypad). The delete (“C”) button on the lower right of the front buttons is just next to the so-called “multimedia button”, meaning that I sometimes accidentally hit the multimedia button, and I have to switch back to the draft folder within the SMS menue where the started sms was – fortunately – saved automatically. Also, the other multimedia buttons on top when you slide down the front part are just useless. I hardly ever use them!

Now, those are the bad sides of the phone. And there have been numerous reviews on this phone during the past 2-3 months, a huge fan base around the world that diligently describes every new trouvaille, so nothing, really nothing is unmentioned. As for the Nokia N95 vs. the Apple iPhone – I am 100% d’accord with Steve Litchfield: the iPhone is 5 years ahead, but it lacks a LOT of features even average, mass-market phones such as the Nokia 6230i or the SonyEricsson W810i already have.

Which gets us to the hightligts. I initially decided for this phone coz I started using the mp3 player that came shipped with my previous Nokia 6230i. The phone had been “pimped” with a 2GB multimedia memory card (MMC) and thus had some “issues”: a) indexing took ages whenever the player was started afresh (after rebooting, as the index list wasn’t saved for whatever reasons) and b) it sometimes just rebooted out of the blue. So the idea was born that I would need to invest into a new phone. I wanted to get a phone with a working mp3 player, a decent internet browsing facility (~ screen size) and, most importantly, a good camera. The Nokia N95 has all this!

And this btw is also why I didn’t go for a Nokia E61i or the brand-new E90 communicator, both from Nokia (the E61i is very tempting indeed, only that it doesn’t have such a nice cam). The N95 DOES have a great cam (for a phone, that is!), it has EVERY possible communication interface there is: USB, IR, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPRS, EDGE, WCDMA (UMTS 3), HSDPA (3.5G), a reliable mp3 player that remembers where I stopped the last time, even after rebooting the phone in between (nice) and the ability to record videos in near DVD quality (with a mono microphone though, which is kinda sad compared to the stereo mic on the N93).

So the point is: the N95 is a multimedia phone, and as such it does a great job.

And then of course there’s the e-mailing thing. I know there are other phones that do this job much better, even those with a push client etc (Blackberry & Co.), but for my private & “always-on-the-road”-needs, the internal e-mail client just works.

screenshot0005.jpg screenshot0006.jpg

Heck, it even allows me to attach photos, video, audio files or other content!
Well…I guess some of these HTC PDAs running on Windows Mobile 5.x /6.x aren’t bad either (i hear you, Aegeus :-) and I should give them a try next time.

I switched back from using GMail to (the German freemail provider) which offers IMAP. This constellation is more reliable than GMail and even GoogleMail’s GMail dedicated java applet something hangs. For quicky checking my e-mail on the road, this is the quickest solution. Me I like… :-)

Oh, and btw: I didn’t pay anything for the phone so far, as I got it subsidized with two contracts – which are supposed to generate revenue for the network provider and pay up the subsidization. There’s a montly base fee, but apart from that, nothing else unless you use the two SIM cards. Well, I won’t.

p.s.: how could I forget to mention the awesome GPS inside the phone? You know what they are saying about men and how they never ask for any directions once they’re lost?… so this little add-on is just sweet! :-)

Freiburg & Acermania

My good old friend A.-M. invited me to Freiburg over the weekend, as we had to celebrate her 30th birthday. Yeah! We know each other since 17 years now, and have become really good friends some years ago. She actually is the one who “allowed” me to refurbish her bathroom – a story I blogged two years ago, and which was of particular interest to me, since I had never done that before and, having an interest for such technical issues, getting more experience by simply doing it was a great idea!

Fellow blogger Afromusing already asked for some pics, as she highlighted that Freiburg is “the model town in energy sustainability”. As I just went there for two days for a party, I didn’t take this opportunity for any sightseeing. However, Freiburg is known to be the sunniest city in Germany, and with modern districts like Vauban, lots of cyclists and other green stuff, one soon understands the sustainability approach the citizens have come up with in the past.


On to something completely different: A.-M.’s “dead” Acer TravelMate 290 notebook. One day it just stopped working and refused to restart. Pressing the power button resulted in a 2 seconds activity of the fan, a few LEDs blinking – and a blank screen. Nothing else.

As A.-M. needed a working notebook, she eventually decided to settle for a new machine and stored this one in the closet. Mzeecedric actually passed by her place the other day and helped her securing all data from the old HDD (thx, bro!). She even took the old computer to a “PC guy” at her company, who quickly advised her to buy a new computer (through his channels, of course) as he couldn’t fix this one.

Now, dear Afromusing, this is why I didn’t take any pictures of the city. Upon arrival, I imediately pulled out my Leatherman and took the old laptop apart. Is this a typical nerd geek habit? :-)

Dismantling it of course didn’t bring about any change, as I had anticipated that some cleaning with Isopropanol and fixing any loose & dry contacts would awake this machine again. Nothing happened though – after reassembling the laptop, it still refused to awake from the dead.

This morning then, I had a chance to quickly google for some keywords and one user forum suggested to try the “15 seconds trick”, which is done by removing the battery and the external power supply and pressing the power button for 15 seconds, thereby discharging all condensers on the mainboard. As I had instinctively tried that before, the machine still didn’t show any life signals. Again, a dark screen and 2-5 seconds of blinking LEDs.

Most users would give up at this stage, I guess, and since the warranty on this 3years old laptop had already expired, a sale on Ebay seemed to be the most plausible further procedure. Unless of course I would try another “trick” I had read on another user forum: there is a very tiny “jumper” (J1) on the mainboard, just underneath the RAM compartment, which actually isn’t a real jumper as we know it from desktop computers, but instead just some blank soldering points that need to be bypassed for a few seconds. This – and that’s the initial reason why the machine refused to start – resets the BIOS. After doing that, the laptop started again and loaded the operating system as if it had never been half dead.


So in case you’re the owner of an ACER TravelMate of the 290 series, or having similar problems with another notebook, make sure to actually google for some solutions, as this Acer TM 290, for instance, is said to be having these kind of problems: a hanging BIOS that fails to reset itself whenever the battery is run down to a very low level. Anyone with a decent srewdriver can do this, and it sometimes helpes to avoid expensive expenditures…

datasheets 2.0?

Is there any software solution available that generates datasheets (e.g. in PDF format) out of a database content within a given style template?

Or should this be realized by web technologies such as a CMS + database + CSS templates with the already given “save this page as PDF”-button?

I am asking because currently, ppl here? are compiling? technical datasheets in a three column MS Word document (with some sample pictures), exporting it into PDF with a proprietary PDF tool by Adobe (which of course isnt installed on all computers but instead only on one machine? due to licence costs…) and then have to beg the corporate webmaster to include the file into the weekly uploading batch.

Any hints are much appreciated. Thx!