nokia 770 + OS 2007 Hacker Edition
updated to OS2008HE
We thought the old 770 would have been in the trash by now and indeed it has spent most of the last year in a drawer. The prime reason was that there is some sort of bug in the wifi driver that means it frequently won't find networks. Recently, we decided to check out OS2008HE even though many people had said it was too much for the 770. Our aim was to run Skype on it. We got Skype working on OS2007HE but what's the point if it hardly ever wanted to find a network?
OS2008HE is considerably better than OS2007HE in lots of ways and looks nicer as well. The wifi bug is still there but not as bad. Really Nokia, what is your game? This is pretty basic to the utility of these things and Nokia has shown they really don't care. Legion are the people on the web saying they'd never buy a Nokia product again because of their experiences with the 770 and Nokia's cynical use of Open Source enthusiasts. We'll see how long they stick with the new, hyped N900.
To be fair, they do say that the HE series is for hackers only, but!! ... we explored the HE series just because the original, standard firmware wasn't being worked on or improved. There was one update and that was it.
OS2008HE has fixed a few bugs - the power off button works properly again after just switching the thing straight off on OS2007HE. The battery meter also seems to have been fixed. Before, one reboot on a newly charged battery and the meter thought the battery was done, and if the meter thinks that, that's the way it is! Web browsers used to be a bit of a disaster *pause to give Nokia another kick in the shins* but the version in OS2008HE is actually getting towards being OK. Part of the problem for developers was which version to work on. Usually the newest wins, aided by Nokia giving out free new machines to move everyone along. Not much use if you're holding on to an old one.
Of the apps, FBreader is slower loading but somehow nicer on OS2008HE. Vim has disappeared which is a pity but there is vi as usual. And actually we found an old vim binary stored away and that works fine. The thing you can't do on the 770 is run the big media apps - it won't handle them. The 770 was never good at this and OS2008HE actually makes things worse as the speaker driver is faulty... but the earphone driver is supposedly OK which should allow Skype use... but it doesn't - there's a problem with Skype itself in that it doesn't like the sound CODEC in OS2008HE and that seems to be the end of the story - no patches, no discussion of what it doesn't like. Nothing.
If your main use for the 770 is using it as a pocket media center then OS2008HE is not for you. For us, we wanted Skype (not hearting Gizmo one bit after they confiscated some of our money - never, ever, giving them another cent), occasional email getting, book reading, and making notes or writing on the run. It's still useful for notes on the run and for a lightweight way of taking a few books during lightweight travel. The wifi bug, though, means that any use for email and the like is likely to be very frustrating. You might wonder why we don't go back to OS2006 for the wifi but that OS had all sorts of problems of its own... and only Gizmo.
The hardware itself hasn't got any worse - the pits on the screen are about the same and everything else remains the same. We did have to replace our second Nokia power/charging unit ... way to go China!
The next thing to try for the 770 looks like Mer but everyone is saying to wait for 0.17 which is expected soon.
This could well be the last report we do on the Nokia 770 Internet tablet as new and interesting things for it might come to be in short supply. OS 2008 Hacker Edition, for instance, isn't looking like it will be very practical, and no wonder, as the 810 is a significantly more grunty machine.
OS 2007, for the 800, has similar problems but in our tests actually works quite well. What does it add? Skype, for one, although you need to do a little hacking to make it work. Running it as it comes results in the message "corrupt binary". Skype, of course, is way more popular than Gizmo and so is more likely to be useful. In fact we've found that VOIP on the road just hasn't worked because of very poor connection quality in every place we've been with it (France and Germany).
Bluetooth connections work much better in OS 2007. Sending photos from a phone is now a breeze where it was impossible before. Setting up a Bluetooth keyboard is similarly easy. This worked under 2006 but always took three tries before it connected. Weird.
The downside of 2007 HE is the occasional crash (but 2006 did this too, especially before the existence of the WLAN bug was known) plus the fact that the packaging system is now fairly hit-and-miss. The problem is that some apps have been compiled in such a way as to not like the combination of 770 plus an 800 OS. For instance, mplayer wouldn't work whether downloaded for OS 2006 or 2007. A little experiment of using the binary as downloaded into OS 2006 plus the libraries from a download into 2007, worked fine. Other command line apps like pine, links, midnight commander and ftp were confused by 2007 and wouldn't install but just using 2006 binaries saved from before reflashing, worked just fine.
Web browsing is still problematical. microb, a mozilla based thing, ships on the 800 along with a Flash 9 player that will deal with Youtube or Myspace. The Flash 9 player doesn't ship with OS 2007 HE but there is a hack that brings this capabilty to it along with OS 2006 but Youtube is too much for the combination of the player and the 770. The hack is very badly documented and you can easily end up with no sound at all except the desktop bleeps. We haven't got to the bottom of this so can't fill in the blanks yet.
One of our browser tests is to see how the browsers deal with various online banks as well as gmail. Links proved to be the best for the banks! That's a bit pathetic we think. Microb handles gmail but boy does it feel bloated and unresponsive as well as being prone to crash regularly. Opera is best of the the two graphical browsers for plain ordinary sites. Setting Virtual Memory to the maximum value of 64 Meg is essential.
We find it quite encredible that Nokia hasn't done more to ensure browser quality. These devices are, after all, known as Internet Tablets.
In summary, OS 2007 HE feels like an improvement but, as they say at Maemo.org, it's for people who know what they're doing rather than an ordinary end user.
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