Nokia N810 Preliminary Review: Operating System

Discussion in 'Other Device Manufacturers' started by Ed Hardy, Dec 17, 2007.

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  1. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    When I first posted this, I was still in the process of writing the N810 review. Since then, I've published it, but I suspect people will continue to find this thread. That's why I'm updating it with the final version of this section of the review. If you would like to read the whole review, it is here.


    Enter the Penguin

    This Internet Tablet runs Nokia's Linux Maemo operating system, which is one of its strengths... and weaknesses.

    In the strengths department, it is quite stable. My N810 has completely crashed on me, but only once. That's pretty good considering how much time I've spent using it, and how many third-party applications I've loaded on it.

    It also offers robust multi-tasking, so I can run multiple applications at the same time, and it can be doing things in the background. I can, for example, have a web page downloading in one browser window while I'm reading another, and all the while listening to music.

    The operating system even loads quickly when you re-start the device.

    Much of this good performance is courtesy of the N810's 400 MHz processor, which is enough to handle most of what I've thrown at it. Not everything, though.

    So far, the only times this device has choked has been when I'm asking it to display Flash videos intended for desktops. For example, the N810 can display the TV episodes that are available on CBS.com, but just barely. I have to turn the playback to low quality, which means the audio is fine, but the video is just a slideshow.

    The primary disadvantage of the N810 running Linux is the lack of third-party software. There's some, but if you're a Palm OS or Windows Mobile user accustomed to thousands of titles you're in for an adjustment period.

    Don't make the mistake of thinking that all the applications written for the desktop versions of Linux will run on an Internet Tablet; these have to be modified for this specific version of the operating system, and in most cases scaled down to run on a smaller screen and slower processor. Someone has to be interested enough, and skilled enough, to port a desktop app to the N810, and it's not a trivial task.

    Even many of the applications that have been modified for the N800 have to be updated to run on the N810.

    But, like I said earlier, this handheld's outstanding web browser and on-line services go a long way toward making up for any lack of third-party software.

    And there's something come in from left field that adds tremendously to the potential collection of third-party software: Access, Co. Ltd. has released an application that emulated a Palm OS handheld on the N810. This gives you a virtual Palm that you can install applications onto, and even synchronize them with your PC.

    However, I have not yet experimented with this much, and it's such a large topic that I'm going to cover it in a separate article.
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    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  2. PinCushionQueen

    PinCushionQueen Oxidants Happen

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    I would add another nice feature is the ability to add 128MB of "swap". While accessing swap can slow things down it increases the ability to multi-task without getting errors asking you to choose which app to close.

    I agree on the stability part of it all though... Oh Man!! I've been putting my N810 through the paces - installing, uninstalling, multi-tasking, etc... I have not had one crash.
     
  3. holvoetn

    holvoetn Still a moderator ...

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    Re: availability of SW: for desktop/laptop machines there are really loads and loads of SW for the various Linux flavors.
    Is the problem this SW will simply not run on N810 or does it require recompiling ?
    If so, how ? Can it be done on the device or does it need to be done on desktop ? Maybe something to look further into ?

    Could be me because I am not natively English speaking but shouldn't that be 'And there's something coming in from left field ...' ?
     
  4. PinCushionQueen

    PinCushionQueen Oxidants Happen

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    The problem is the processor... all desktop software is written for an X86 processor and the ITs have an ARM. It's kinda like trying to run a older Mac OS on a PC the OS itself was written for proprietary Mac hardware.
     
  5. holvoetn

    holvoetn Still a moderator ...

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    So in theory you can recompile everything ? Did you already try that ?
    Or is that still something for the über-geeks ? ;)
     
  6. Antoine Wright

    Antoine Wright Neighborhood Mobilist Super Moderator

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    Programs need more than a simple recomplie. There are many usability issues that need to be addressed when going from a desktop's 4:3 ratio to that of the N8*0 devices - more like 4:2.5 kinda ratio.

    That choking should be attributed to Flash, not the device. Flash has become incredibly resource hungry since version 6. And while the functionality is nice, and you can do some really neat things; its like you said Ed, flash movies made for the higher power threshold of laptops/desktops means that on such a device like the N810, it will just slow down a lot. There is only so much that can be done, and unfortunately for Nokia, its in Adobe's plate to make Flash easier to develop for multiple devices, and encourage that developers think for more than just the bigger-litte screens.
     
  7. PinCushionQueen

    PinCushionQueen Oxidants Happen

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    One can recompile a lot of things... My husband is an uber-geek and promising to set me up with the SDK as soon as I'm ready to quit tweaking with what's already there. Since the source is available for most desktop applications it hopefully won't be too hard. The trick is the dependencies among the various "Flavors" of linux but there are two main ones Gnome and KDE. The N810 Maemo is based on Gnome so many Gnome apps should compile. Also, I know of some users that are already booting off their internal card to KDE and that allows them to port KDE apps (eg: KOffice).
     
  8. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    Another good point. I need to add a mention that all the software written for desktop versions of Linux can't automatically be run on an N810.

    EDIT: Done.
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    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  9. Milhouse

    Milhouse Mobile Enthusiast

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    To be fair, what's really going on here is that applications developed for OS 2007 (the OS originally used on the N800) need to be recompiled for OS 2008 (the OS used on the N810 and now also available for the N800). The reason for the need to recompile is because of API changes introduced in OS 2008, mainly the change from a hacked/forked version of GTK+ to the mainline and supported version of GTK+ which should make future ports to Nokia Internet Tablets much easier.

    Also, a new and bugfixed version of OS 2008 for N180 became available today - announcement here but be aware the download server is taking a hammering... :(

    It's really nice to have a built in xterm on OS 2008 (previously a third party install) and installing openssh (just enable the "extras" repository which is disabled by default) is a sinch, allowing remote access and full access to the device from a remote machine! :) Another really great thing about the Internet Tablet OS is that all applications can be installed directly on the device without needing a PC, something that can't be said of Windows Mobile or Palm OS.

    Finally, OS 2008 should allow the OS to be updated over the air without having to reflash a new image and lose all your settings and applications (though this feature is somewhat untested and clearly not available yet hence the appearance of the new firmware image today!)
     
  10. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    Thanks M. I'm trying to write this review for as non-technical audience, so I'm trying to avoid terms like "recompiled". Saying that these apps need to be modified isn't quite as specific, but it will probably be a little clearer to the typical reader.

    p.s. Thanks for the tip on the new ROM version. Time for a backup and then I'll install it.
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    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
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