Monday, October 29, 2007

N800 Optimal Setup (OS2007)

I received my new Nokia N800 last week, and I found that a new owner should really spend some time getting things set up before starting to use the device.

Here are my suggested steps for setting up the device.

Essential: Update the firmware. Don't waste any effort personalizing anything or installing software, just update the firmware. Immediately.

For some reason Nokia didn't include best-of-breed software installed by default on the tablet. Here are my suggested replacements:

The included media player is garbage for watching video. Install mplayer instead. Encode your 4:3 (non-widescreen) videos as 320x240 XviD, and your widescreen videos as 400x240 XviD (I recommend cropping a bit off the sides rather than letterboxing). It sounds low resolution, but it looks great on the screen.

The included Opera-based browser is inferior. The MicroB browser, based on Firefox, is a much superior drop-in replacement browser engine. Nokia seems to agree. Rumours are that it will be included as default in OS 2008 (due out in a few weeks, as of this post).

Maemo Mapper is really cool if you want to use your N800 for navigation, and essential if you want to connect it to a Bluetooth GPS device. Make sure you hit the download button to get all of the other maps. The default map provider, OpenStreets, is pretty pathetic. At least for my city, Vancouver.

The N800 comes with a built-in camera, but, out of the box, you can only use it to video chat with other N800 (or 810) users at the moment. Google Talk doesn't have a compatible video client on any of the desktop operating systems, and Skype doesn't yet have a video client for the N800. Pretty shabby, if you ask me. At least Nokia could have released their N800 video plugin as Open Source so someone could port it to another platform.

So, if you want to use the camera for something, then install the Camera app or Knips.

If you want listen to FM radio, you have to install the FM radio applet.

The included instant messaging app is only capable of Google Talk. No, I don't know why! So install Pidgin. This one's a bit more work, but totally worth it.

The included PDF reader is pretty useless. Install evince instead. Then go get some free books (like "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town" or "Ventus") and get reading!

UKMP seems to be a really nice media center, for those who like that kind of thing. Makes your N800 look very iPod-like. This is a a bit of a complicated install. Ok, not really. First install Python 2.5 and then install UKMP.

Just a note. UKTube, included with UKMP, is broken. Probably due to YouTube tinkering with their interface. Actually, many of the YouTube downloaders seem broken these days. And you really don't want to try to watch YouTube videos with the included Flash plugin (and there's no superior community replacement for that, since that's a closed-source project).

This one is still working:

Geek Zone:

If, like me, you want to use your N800 like a little computer, then here are some things you probably want.

Note: I was able to install the following stuff without having to enable R&D mode or anything like that. Perhaps the latest firmware?

VNC (remote desktop control software): This will let you connect to your desktop computer. For total Geek Mode, this will get you a remote desktop that fits exactly to the screen dimensions of your N800. This looks really cool when you go fullscreen on the N800, hide the toolbar, then open OpenOffice on the remote desktop. So, if you have a linux desktop, install VNC server and run this on your desktop linux computer: vncserver -geometry 800x480

A shell / command line / terminal: Get Osso XTerm Enhanced.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before I go on, I have to say that I've seen a lot of places talking about installing SSH on your N800. I haven't seen much stress the terrible security risk involved. However, since the default root password is widely available, you must must must change the root password as soon as you install the ssh package. You're propping open the back door of your device if you don't! And there's a lot of scruffy, smelly guys in that particular back alleyway.

Install SSH. Reboot. Open the XTerm. Copy or enter the following (replace [newpassword] with your new password of course):

ssh root@localhost
(enter the default root password)
passwd root [newpassword]
passwd user [newpassword]

Now you can get root access to your device securely and easily. Just type
ssh root@localhost
from your N800, or better still, WinSCP or some other SCP/SFTP capable program and log in to your N800 remotely (once you know your N800's IP address). This (SCP/SFTP) is my preferred way of accessing the N800.

I will post again soon with instructions on re-arranging the N800 Application Menu using the above remote root access.

Hint: look at /home/user/.osso/menus/

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