[AUUG-Talk]: Second Review of Nokia 770

David Newall david.newall at auug.org.au
Sat Apr 22 23:52:02 EST 2006

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Nokia 770

Second Review

David Newall

22 April, 2006

I've been using a Nokia 770 for more than a month, and I want to share 
my experiences.  The simple message is that it's paradigm shifting.  I'm 
typing this review on my kitchen table.  No, really, I'm actually typing 
*onto* my table, with a laser keyboard projector.  It's really rather 
neat.  It projects a keyboard onto the table, tracks where I place my 
fingers, and presents the information using bluetooth.  Nokia 770, Nokia 
N70, Nokia HS-26W, iTech VKBBluetooth features extensively in my setup.  
It connects the keyboard, screen, mobile phone and headset.  The phone 
gives me Internet and voice, simultaneously.  It also lets me place 
calls from the bluetooth headset, as well as receive them.  I press a 
button on the headset, say a name and surprisingly good 
speech-recognition works out which name from the phone's directory I 
said.  It didn't need me to record the names before it could recognise 
them, either, which is what is so surprising.  Voice recognition has 
come a long way in the past decade.

Just as talking with someone is as easy as saying their name into the 
headset, so using the interrnet is as easy and quick as just grabbing 
the screen.  Startup time is about as long it takes to "dial" the packet 
session, and you can suck data pretty fast over a 3G network.  Even 2.5G 
networks give a healthy 200 and something kb per second, which they call 
low-end ADSL speed in Australia.

Last night, at dinner, my guests were discussing a painting they 
particularly enjoyed, which hangs in a gallery somewhere or other.  In 
seconds, thanks to Google, I had the picture in my hand.  By the end of 
the evening, we'd all laughed at a photo of us, which I took on the 
camera built-in to the phone and transferred to the 770 using bluetooth; 
I'd emailed a mathematical proof that one of us had drawn;  and I'd 
demonstrated that I could manage my servers with it by logging into one 
using SSH and displaying a list of running processes.  We could have 
been sitting at a cafe in India!  Welcome to earth, /circa/ early-21^st 

The Nokia 770 is not all peaches and cream.  The product is the first of 
its type and it has a few rough edges.  Nokia's choice of Opera browser 
is odd, the email client is really disappointing, the Flash player is 
only version 6, the WiFi interface shuts down at inconvenient times, 
bluetooth can be iffy on occasions, the browser often doesn't even try 
to connect to the remote server leaving the "busy wheel" spinning, and 
it doesn't come with a Java virtual machine.  The last point is 
interesting because it's a significant cost of Nokia's choice of Linux.  
Had they powered the 770 with Symbion, which they helped develop, it 
would have had Java on day one.  Still, I'm pretty sure there's an 
open-source Java machine that I could load, and one can't imagine Sun 
holding off from an official ARM release much longer.

Probably the most telling fact is that after a month the unit is 
substantially as the factory delivered it.  I've added xterm, SSH and a 
bluetooth HID module, but made no other change.  None of the rough edges 
bothers me enough to fix, and believe me, I could fix all of them if I 
were properly motivated.

There are two brand-related things one notices.  First, with the 
exception of the keyboard, which is made by i-tech, everything else 
comes from Nokia.  That's not really important.  The headset is just a 
bluetooth headset; the phone could be any bluetooth-enabled phone; even 
the 770 itself could have been made by anyone; but it does look very 
handsome seeing the same logo everywhere.  As a small reward for 
brand-loyalty, karma if you will, the one adapter recharges all 
components.  Which brings me to the second brand-related thing one 
notices: not a Microsoft in sight.  To be sure it would still be a 
fabulous product if it was powered by WinCE, and in fact would then have 
wonderful, usable handwriting recognition, leave alone an impressive 
raft of applications, most of which I would never want to use.  As it 
happens I did recently see a WinCE-powered unit of similar specs, in 
particular a 4+" 800x480 pixel screen.  The point is this: I choose to 
live with the unit's quirks whereas if it ran Windows I would be forced 
to live with them.


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