Nokia N810: unboxing and first impressions

My shiny new Nokia N810 Internet Tablet was delivered yesterday. After fondling it for most of the day, I’m relatively impressed. The N810 is a bit smaller than the N800, which makes it more comfortable to use and easier to tote around in a pocket.

I took plenty of pictures, and below the gadget porn you’ll find my report on the device thus far. It’s impressive, but N800 owners should be aware of a few caveats. To the pictures…

The N810 box.

Inside the N810 box.

Deeper inside the N810 box.

All the goodies that come with the N810, including a car mount.

The N810, with the sliding keyboard out.

The N810, propped up on its stand.

The N810, turned on and displaying the home screen.

This one is for size comparison, showing N810 next to the N800 on top of an Asus Eee PC.

The built-in GPS hardware is a nice addition, but the free mapping software is disappointingly limited, and users who want voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation will have to pay more for the full version of WayFinder’s software, which is expected to be available by December.

The N810’s built-in keyboard also falls short of my expectations. The keys are very mushy, and it’s easy to hit multiple keys at once by accident. I was extremely frustrated with it at first, but after a day of typing I’ve gotten used to it and my accuracy has improved considerably. My current verdict on the keyboard is that it could be better, but it isn’t bad once you’re familiar with it.

I also tested my Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard with the N810, and it worked just fine. For writing articles and other serious work, I greatly prefer my external Bluetooth keyboard rather than the N810’s built-in thumb keyboard.

The N810 ships with Nokia’s OS2008 (which can also be installed on N800 devices), and it’s pretty darn good. The interface has been refined considerably and it improves performance and battery life. It comes bundled with most of the same applications as OS2007, but with a few additions. The terminal application, which provides access to a command-line with BusyBox, is now installed by default. An installer for Skype is also included in the menu by default, but attempting to activate it causes a dialog window to appear informing users that the Skype installer isn’t available for the N810 yet. Nokia’s support web site says that Skype will be available very soon. I hope that it supports video chat like the Skype 2.0 beta for Linux.

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Review: Rock Xtreme 770 T7800-8800

Gaming notebooks have always had a slightly awkward reputation, with plenty of people ready to cast a critical eye over the very concept. Why, people would ask, would you want to use a notebook for gaming when you could make a more powerful PC at a fraction of the price? It’s a reasonable argument in many respects, but the fact that so many manufacturers continue to produce expensive gaming laptops shows there must be a demand for them. Clearly, you either get them or you don’t.
Of late this argument would’ve garnered more credence due to the paucity of a genuine mobile gaming solution, with the 8700M GT a lacklustre and imperfect beast. Thankfully, mobile graphics technology has moved on because today we’re looking at a Rock machine powered by the latest mobile graphics solution, nVidia’s recently released GeForce 8800M.

As noted earlier in the week there are two cards in the 8800M range, the GTS and GTX – with the latter being the faster of the two. Excitingly, both are based on the 65nm G92 chip, which is the same process behind the superb GeForce 8800 GT that received an Editor’s Choice Award at the beginning of the month. Given that it was such a revelation, this new range of mobile cards has a lot to live up to. Our sample has come with the faster 8800M GTX, but before we come to discuss this we must take a closer look at the Rock machine that houses it.
The eagle eyed among you will probably recognise it as the same chassis as the X770-T7700 we reviewed in September, which received a creditable eight out of ten. This new-ish system uses the same Intel GM965 chipset, while all the essential features such as the 17in, 1,920 x 1,200 display remain intact. Also present is an HD DVD drive, which come as standard on all notebooks in this range.

In addition to all the usual features, this new model comes equipped with a 2.4GHz T7800 Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which sports an 800MHz front-side bus and 4MB L2 Cache. This is supported by 2GB 667MHz DRR2 RAM, with the option of upgrading to up to 4GB of RAM as well as memory with an 800MHz frequency.
This model also comes with a 200GB SATA hard disk, which may sound a bit stingy until you realise that it’s a faster 7,200rpm variety rather than the 5,400rpm disks found in most standard desktop notebooks. You can also select a 250GB drive but this is a 5,400rpm drive and with focus squarely on gaming performance, the faster drive is the way to go.

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Drupal 6.0 beta 3 released

With another month of active beta testing, our code is growing more stable by the day. Since Drupal 6 beta 2 was released, we have committed over 180 fixes to the Drupal 6.x code, so we are proud to announce the release of the third beta version of Drupal 6.x for your testing. This beta version includes usability improvements and lots of bug fixes for issues which the testers encountered. The first beta announcement provided a comprehensive list of high level improvements made since Drupal 5.x, so in this announcement we’ll concentrate on how you can help ensure that Drupal 6 is released as soon as possible and is as rock solid as the previous Drupal releases that you’ve grown to love!

Major changes made since the release of Drupal 6 beta 2 include several code and interface documentation fixes and improvements, HTML validity fixes, performance improvements and easier to use templating. The core system now also runs without table locks and temporary tables, making Drupal usable in more shared hosting environments, and also improving performance at the same time. Localization support in the installer is now complete, as well as error reporting and requirements management through the installation process. One of the major usability improvements in this beta release is the addition of drag and drop ordering support to the blocks, menus and filter formats administration interface.

So when does 6.0 get released?

We plan to advance to the last beta in around a week, and then the first Drupal 6 Release Candidate next, unless major bugs appear in the beta versions. Drupal 6.0 will be released after (a) there are no more critical bugs and (b) we’ve had at least one release without adding any more to the list. When will that be? Well, it depends entirely on how many people chip in and help out! The more people help, the faster we can find and fix bugs, and the faster 6.0 gets released. The faster 6.0 gets released, the faster we can start adding new features to Drupal 7.0. So help out where you can, and let’s make this the best and most solid release of Drupal yet! 🙂

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Embedded Linux goes Open Source

DeviceVM, the maker of Splashtop software which features embedded Linux “Fast Boot” products like featured in the Asus P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP @n has just released the source code to its software under GPL.

The software is loaded onto a hard-wired USB device in the PC which then gives the option of booting into the main OS or the Splashtop client – which currently offers basic Skype and Firefox functions. We highlighted in the review that allowing program installation so we could customise it with other software such as a media player or email, perhaps, would make it much more useful.

It looks like Splashtop hopes the coding community will jump at the chance to expand this for the company, providing there’s enough product popularity to get it off the ground.

Unfortunately for DeviceVM, Phoenix (the company that makes virtually every consumer and OEM PC BIOS on the market) has just launched its embedded Hyperspace application that goes down a similar route of “Fast Booting OS”. It looks like DeviceVM suddenly came across a rather large hurdle for mass adoption.

In order to inquire about what’s coming up for Splashtop, we managed to grab Sergei Krupenin from DeviceVM for a little while to nail down what the future will hold for it.

He told bit-tech that “there are a couple new motherboards with Splashtop targeted for release at the end of the year, but we cannot announce the specifics until the OEM gives us the green light. At the same time, all the major manufacturers are talking to DeviceVM about doing laptop and desktop products for next year.

“Another thing is that we feel our open platform (with a soon to be released SDK) also allows consumers to do more with Splashtop than with other solutions.

“For the P5E3 motherboard, Splashtop was designed to reside within the limited non-volatile on-board memory. While it is a restricted environment that may vary in size for other models, additional programs can be accommodated and we are working on enabling that through an SDK. Since speed and security are two of our core value propositions, the main challenge we are addressing is how to create an extensible environment without slowing down Splashtop or opening vulnerabilities.

“The consumer feedback after the launch tells us that people want to add applications such as IM or music playback to Splashtop – just as you pointed out. So this is a major direction. We are planning to start by offering selected applications for download through our web site, initially within a Beta program, and later open this up.”

Thankfully, DeviceVM recognises that security is as important as an open system, but it’s certainly a very difficult balance to achieve. Contrastingly, Phoenix is going to heavily lock down Hyperspace to foreign intervention and only allow updates from secure servers.

When asked about the competition from Phoenix, Mr. Krupenin said that “the competition is good, as it helps educate consumers about the availability of “Fast Boot” offerings, and also encourages manufacturers to bring products to market. We are interested to see what Phoenix has in store. In the meantime the P5E3 is already out and the pipeline of Splashtop-enabled products is growing.”

Unfortunately the Asus P5E3 Deluxe WiFi AP @n is a seriously expensive motherboard, so we asked Asus what else is in the pipe that’s a bit more consumer wallet friendly. We were told that there was nothing specifically being made just yet because there are many economic factors that go into a motherboard design.

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Study: Internet could run out of capacity in two years

Consumer and corporate use of the Internet could overload the current capacity and lead to brown-outs in two years unless backbone providers invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure, according to a study released Monday.

A flood of new video and other Web content could overwhelm the Internet by 2010 unless backbone providers invest up to US$137 billion in new capacity, more than double what service providers plan to invest, according to the study, by Nemertes Research Group, an independent analysis firm. In North America alone, backbone investments of $42 billion to $55 billion will be needed in the next three to five years to keep up with demand, Nemertes said.

The study is the first to “apply Moore’s Law (or something very like it) to the pace of application innovation on the ‘Net,” the study says. “Our findings indicate that although core fiber and switching/routing resources will scale nicely to support virtually any conceivable user demand, Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, will likely cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years.”

The study confirms long-time concerns of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an advocacy group focused on upgrading U.S. broadband networks, said Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the group. The group, with members including AT&T, Level 3 Communications, Corning, Americans for Tax Reform and the American Council of the Blind, has been warning people of the coming “exaflood” of video and other Web content that could clog its pipes.

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USB 3.0 — 10 Times Faster — In the Works for 2009

USB, that little rectangular plug that can be found on just about every computer peripheral cable you come across, is one of the biggest success stories in the history of computing. Ditching the slow serial and parallel cables of yore and replacing them with a fast, universal standard that could draw power and allowed connecting of dozens of peripherals without rebooting… well, it was genius. When USB 2.0 arrived, with much faster performance, it got even better. It’s not hyperbole to say that USB, despite its humble status as a mere connector, is one of the most important computer technologies to ever be invented.

Well, USB fans, things are going to get even more interesting and soon. USB 2.0 may be fast enough right now, but with more high-definition video products arriving and bigger and bigger files being transferred, that won’t be the case forever. Enter USB 3.0, which moves the bandwidth needle from 480Mbps to roughly 4.8Gbps, 10 times faster than the current version.

The new standard, which was recently demonstrated using a new optical cable (but the same connector), will be backward compatible with older USB formats and promises better power efficiency, too, in order to decrease the load on portable devices. Possibly in the works: Better ability to charge devices over USB, some of which still require an A/C adapter or two USB connections to draw enough juice.

Specs are planned to be delivered early next year with commercial availability for 2009. Just do us a favor and clearly label USB 3.0 products with an appropriate logo this time! (USB 2.0 got caught up in a mini scandal when vendors started labeling USB 1.1 products as “USB 2.0 capable,” with vendors later claiming they only meant the products worked with USB 2.0 connections. Fail!)

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Firefox 3 Beta 1 now available for download

Please note: We do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone release. It is intended for testing purposes only.

Firefox 3 Beta 1 is now available for download. This is the ninth developer milestone focused on testing the core functionality provided by many new features and changes to the platform scheduled for Firefox 3. Ongoing planning for Firefox 3 can be followed at the Firefox 3 Planning Center, as well as in and on in #granparadiso.

New features and changes in this milestone that require feedback include:

  • Improved security features such as: better presentation of website identity and security, malware protection, stricter SSL error pages, anti-virus integration in the download manager, and version checking for insecure plugins.
  • Improved ease of use through: better password management, easier add-on installation, new download manager with resumable downloading, full page zoom, animated tab strip, and better integration with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.
  • Richer personalization through: one-click bookmarking, smart search bookmark folders, direct typing in location bar searches your history and bookmarks for URLs and page titles, ability to register web applications as protocol handlers, and better customization of download actions for file types.
  • Improved platform features such as: new graphics and font rendering architecture, major changes to the HTML rendering engine to provide better CSS, float-, and table layout support, native web page form controls, colour profile management, and offline application support.
  • Performance improvements such as: better data reliability for user profiles, architectural improvements to speed up page rendering, over 300 memory leak fixes, and a new XPCOM cycle collector to reduce entire classes of leaks.

more details…