Archive for ‘Do’


Where do you go to from Symbian?


The time has come to gradually switch.

Setting the stage

I already got fed up with the browser performance on Symbian, but when sites like started acting up even in Opera Mini, I knew the time has come.
Then of course there’s the actual closing of Nokia Store which won’t receive application updates starting from 1st January 2014..

So what should you do? Go with Nokia, on Windows Phone? Go with the vast choice of hardware of Android? Or the vast store of Apple?

The contenders

We’ll, for me Apple doesn’t have an app for everything that I use. So it’s no question I’ll switch over to Mac/iOS.

Windows Phone seems pretty limited, though Nokia did try to add some Symbian-ish and N9-esques features to it. It’s also the only platform with a camera comparable with 808’s and with Xenon flash. But.. I already have a good camera, why buy a second one:D? Remember, ‘gradually’ switch..

The story is complicated with Android though. The platform looks more geek-friendly than the others. But I happen to have had about two years working with it professionally and I came to hate it and got bored with it. I even have a Nexus 7 that lags as hell after one year so I won’t put that boring, lagging (to me!) thing on the device I switch to!

Another thing about Android is that only high end phones matter, otherwise updates are inexistent and the performance is generally miserable. But high-ends come with 5 inch screens and they usually are more than 70mm in width.. The only Droid worth it for me would have been Xperia Z1 mini, but that isn’t out yet. and Z1’s Camera is not that impressive either.

Time is now to look at other, exotic, platforms.
Firefox OS comes with slow hardware. Tizen is still vaporware.

Then there’s Jolla!

Jolla just launched, with beta software, and it looks as a successor, in spirit at least, of Nokia’s N9’s swipe’n’linux combo.


A New hope

Jolla looks like the exact territory I would like to explore next.
Is an open platform with root access out of the box just like Maemo / Meego Harmattan were, which allowed it to have a such tremendous community.
It is button-less, Swipe-enabled, just like the N9 of late Nokia.
It has better specs than N9 and the hope of expansibility at the horizon, through the Other Half.
Even better, it has support for Android applications through the Alien Dalvik VM!

This is when it clicked

So I was browsing a long thread on Maemo Talk forums, where early adopters which got their pre-ordered Jolla played with it, answered questions, complained about bugs – the usual discussions around a fresh product in beta. Most of the bugs were about the Android support and some people said that this was working better on BlackBerry‘s OS 10.

Then it dawned to me.. Could it be.. BB10 my next phone? So I quickly fired up the gsmarena review from the beginning of the year and my operator’s site to check the price on contract.

The compromise


So I got the Z10! what follows is probably a sort of buyer’s remorse description of the choice I made.

First is the price: the Z10 is from the beginning of 2013, while the Jolla phone is just out – which, coupled with the operator subsidizing made the Z10 almost free for my existing monthly subscription price.

Then the specs: while Jolla has a larger screen, it is also wider. Both have some dual-core Snapdragon inside, but Z10 has more RAM (2Gb).

And last but not least, while I was making this decision, Jolla was to be available ‘soon’ to the rest of the world, so I didn’t even know if this would be December, or March 2014..

So how’s the Blackberry OS 10 do you ask?

Short BB10/Z10 review


The device is very swipey and fluid. I can easily hold it in hand (but I may have large hands), it’s just the size of an HTC One S for example, but with sharper corners. The screen is unfortunately backlit, but you can get the Z30 with AMOLED if size is not a problem for you.
It actually has some always-on clock available when charging in ‘night mode’, but the LCD makes it puke-y, compared with 808’s AMOLED sleeping screen..

The native applications are based on a QML 2.0 library named Cascades which itself includes some swipes: from top for settings, from left for app’s categories/sections..
It may be what Symbian Carla or Donna could have been if the bet on Qt would have been executed by Nokia..

The browser is also webkit based, but much more snappy than the Belle one (and even getting more points than mobile Safari or Chrome!). Very few sites need user agent switching (actually only some hosted album needed that) but there’s a webview-based browser in the store with that option. The browser also features reading mode for text-full pages and private browsing, for when you need it.
Here’s the current score on compliance:

The email is.. well.. BlackBerry’s core business, works like a charm, with calendar and task synchronization.
The thing with BBOS 10 is that this is actually the first OS that is 100% usable without BES (Enterprise Services) or a Blackberry data plan (the OS 7 and the ones before were pretty much crippled without it). However, there are some drawbacks, if I understand correctly. An BB 7 or earlier device could have real push notifications sent through GSM towers (not through your data plan) for new mail or messages. A BBOS 10 device needs a BES10 server component and most enterprises don’t and won’t install that.
So basically this is a Blackberry device without the Blackberry powers I heard about, but more.. how can I put it.. I-phoney? (you know, when being all the time connected means ‘push notifications’ that somebody twisted the term.. and won the market:p)

Gradually switching

So here’s my plan to keep my beloved Nokia 808 Pureview for at least another one year:
Since there is not one phone that would fulfill my needs, I will use two phones.

The setup

I keep my Nokia 808 for telephony. And camera. And recordings. And offline maps.
(For emailing a photo, I snap the devices together.. you should see people’s face when I do that!)

I use the Z10 for email, facebook, twitter and general browsing.
(I may install some Android apps if the service is not meant for accessing through the browser (e.g. Flipboard was in the BB World store so why not))

What this means is that my 808 is back to 4-5-more days of battery life:D
But I do have to charge the Z10 nightly.

808 over Z10


Camera. With Xenon flash and large sensor.
Rich recording for concerts and gigs.
Buttons for telephony. Answer and reject.
Haptic feedback through all interface (Z10 doesn’t even have this for keyboard..)
Side unlock slider with flashlight.
Camera button.
ClearBlack AMOLED with Gorilla glass.
FM Radio with FM transmitter
Alarm rings even when powered off.

Mass-storage mode can boot your computer in Linux.
Maps. Offline.
Sleeping screen. All time.
Opera Mini (that I couldn’t run on Z10 from Android.. It’s the browser that counted 7 GB saved (1.6 from a total of 8.6) in one year of continuous Mini usage)
Homescreen widgets
Screen saver
Smart dialing

In common

NFC, Z10 can receive photos from 808, but also send (Android Beam doesn’t do the latter)
MicroSD card
MicroHDMI port
Removable battery cover.
One has Miracast, the other Mirrorlink
Z10 headset works on 808 with answer button/dictaphone after plugging it through an OMTP/CTIA converter.
Notification light

True multi-tasking microkernel (QNX and Symbian)
Qt/QML development environment – I even saw CutePress and FastTube in the BB World. (Z10 still supports AS3 apps from Playbook days)
Landscape mode all-over (except for home screen)
Search available on all screens, searches through everything.
DLNA media sharing
Pull-down menu (more toggles coming in next BB 10.2 update)

Z10 over 808

No buttons. Swipe-up for multi-tasking.
Twice the screen resolution in both directions (1280 x 768)
LTE and faster 3.5G speeds
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Camera: Closer macro shots, built-in HDR and Scalado’s “time warp” (now Nokia’s).
Hot-swappable MicroSD card
Gyroscope sensor.
Infrastructure Wifi Hotspot and 5Ghz Wifi (a/n).

Modern browser backed up by faster hardware (dual core, 2Gb RAM)
Full Flash Player 11.x in the browser.
A handful of more up-to-date apps (yes, BB World is not full with apps either)
Email with CalDAV/CardDAV support and (ahem) push notifications when always connected
Decent Facebook client out of the box (made by Blackberry, mind you)
Android 4.x support for when BB World fails.
Better keyboard (the screen is just as tall, but wider, at 4.2″ and 16:10 aspect ratio) with multiple input languages at once.


So this was my choice after taking a look at the devices available on the market, watching some prices and making some compromises in the way (and of course, applying some personal preconceptions and other criteria such as size).

It is not perfect, I would have loved to just upgrade to a Symbian 909 with Carla and waiting for an upgrade to Donna, but heck, I’m not that lucky.

How about you? Where do you go to from Symbian?


The 808 is back with a new capacitor

Thanks to this AAS post, I went well informed at Nokia Care (Romania), but they promptly confirmed they had the issue in the database so I should just leave the phone for the 15 days.

After missing my Xenon flash exactly through the holidays, using an iPhone as a dumbphone throughout, trying Skype’s ‘Own number’ on a tablet, the 808 is back and looks like it’s fixed!

The test in my case was reading news while commuting by subway, and there was always a hang, now for about 5 days nothing was wrong!

I encourage every 808 owner out there to take his phone to Nokia Care, because shortly you will feel the need to install a custom firmware, since the updates will be slowed down.. :D

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My first Symbian application: the missing Chronometer/Timer

After not being that impressed with Qt on S60 3rd edition (the non-touch Nokia GUI) and the QtCreator on Linux, things went only uphill.

A new version of QtCreator enabled me to develop for Qt 4.7.1 / QtMobility 1.1  which includes the Feedback API and.. voila! there goes my missing timer app: ChronoTimer is created

But since Qt 4.7.1 and QtMobility aren’t shipped for my n85 and no smart installer can be built by the Remote Compiler, I have to put them here too for you to download them. So, without further introduction:

Qt 4.7.1 installer (12MB)

Qt Mobility 1.1 (2MB)

ChronoTimer (12KB – Yup… static linking would have been nice…)

And now screenshots from the S^1 Simulator (it seems to be working on all Qt Simulator’s platforms):




testing wordpress0.8.0

If you see this, it works!


Where does my battery juice go?

Symbian has this super-powers of telling you where your thousand “mAh” go.

Have you just installed a program that you want to run permanently?
Maybe it would be better to check the power impact with Nokia Energy Profiler.

For a quicker guide: start the Energy Profiler, press ‘2’ to begin measurements, lock the phone (like you would when pocketing it) and wait a while longer after the screen is shut down/idle. Unlock the phone, press ‘2’ to stop, then ‘8’ one or two times until you see the medium Watts consumptions. (* and # zoom in or out)

Let’s say a value of 0.02 – 0.03 Watts is best.

Now repeat the steps with your new program left in background (such as facebook, twitter, im client etc). Also don’t forget to check your task manager for what else could be running.


Customize your Symbian S60v3 home screen

The state of the Symbian S60v3 homescreens

Most Symbian devices already pack one or two homescreens, either made by the handset manufacturer or by the carrier you bought the phone from.

My Nokia n85 comes with a choice between three home screens, but other models may have other options too.

The first one is the “Basic” home screen, looking a bit like the S40 one:

Nokia S60 Basic Homescreen

Nokia n85 S60 Basic Homescreen

And the two more modern, with icons and different notifications (but not very configurable).

S60 Horizontal Icons Homescreen

S60 Vertical Icons Homescreen

Then there’s the ones that may be carrier specific, such as in this Vodafone UK home screen, unfortunately not available for download:

These built-in homescreens allow you to do the basic operations such as calling, looking up a contact, checking your mail or scanning for WLANs (in the case of the Icon sets homescreens) but are a far cry by today’s standards, with Big Clocs, weather info, twitter or facebook updates, SMS preview-ing and what not.

Third-party homescreens

This is my attempt at an exhaustive listing of third party solutions available for Symbian S60v3, ending with more details on the one I picked to use for my day to day smart usage of the phone:

Handy Shell

Epocware’s Handy Shell is a powerful commercial home-screen replacement for S60v3. If bought together with Handy Weather, it also displays a nice forecast in the lower part of the screen:

Handy Shell with Handy Weather

  • Home screen:
  • Big digital clock
  • Row with customizable shortcuts
  • Exhaustive indicators
  • Calendar events
  • Weather information
  • Smart dialing
  • 12 Applications screen
  • 12 Favourite contacts screen
  • Photo viewer
  • Screen switching effects (cube, slide, etc)

It’s a pretty functional home-screen, with lots of features and very useful information. What I didn’t liked about it was the fact that you had to manually confiugre those two applications and contacts screens (event the photo, wasn’t the system-provided one).

The other drawback was the price. If it was the best homescreen, I would have payed the $19 for it (I would have had a second thought avout the $24 for Handy Weather, though).

Hiplogic Live

Hiplogic Live is a good-looking but huge download (eats 6MB out of your internal memory) which includes many apps along with the home screen itself, and an App Store to choose some more.

Hiplogic Live home screen

  • One big widget at a time (clock, weather, twitter etc.)
  • Screen notifications
  • Integrated google search
  • 3 Applications Screens (with many preinstalled ones)

HipLogic’s homescreen is one of the nicest looking ones. It is, however, less integrated into the operating system than Handy Shell, as it presents a list of applications that has no real resemblence of what you find on your phone, plus – it has a very awkward way of dialing (as opposed to smart dialing, it requires you to press 2 keys before searching the contact..).

The other problem is having a 6MB application in your phone’s internal memory – it’s the size of Ovi Maps, but with much less functionality.

Plus, the good looks are not equaled by the keyboard functionality: many keys that you expected to work (such as the Delete one, the left-right on the homescreen) do nothing at all).


This is also good looking, like other products from MMMOOO (MyPhone), but it’s actually just an FlashLite application, not a real homescreen (it closes on red button, doesn’t dial, just sits there and fools you into thinking it’s Android).

M1's home screen

M1's Menu

Needless to say that this M1 homescreen provides close to no keyboard support, and the application list there is just a guess on what you may have installed.

Voyager Mobile’s vHome

vHome seems the most feature-wise homescreen  with the smallest footprint out there.

In 700KB, you get:

Voyager Mobile's vHome

  • Exhaustinve indicators + access to their corresponding applications
  • Big digital clock + access to the Clock application
  • One or two rows of configurable shortcuts + access to their configuration by pressing Delete(‘C’)
  • RSS reader
  • Google search widget
  • Weather widget + Access to 3 days forecast
  • Twitter posting widget (not shown here)
  • Configurable right and left shortcuts, with some built-in options used here: a menu (Start) and the list of favourite contacts)
  • Smart dialing (used for applications too)
  • Integrated powerful task manager
  • Task switching on Red button press (now you’re sure that Red won’t randomly close some applications)

The vHome desktop is also offering the standard Nokia indicators, in which case it drops the Big digital clock, and the quick access to the indicators menu is not possible anymore

Menu shown when clicing the Indicators bar (includes Connection Manager when connected)

Native Nokia indicators (the Big digital clock is removed for obvious reasons

You can also see from the screenshot above that the Digital clock has several appearances, accessible by using the right and left keys when the clock is selected (including an HTC SenseUI-like one)

Feed selection and Weather forecast

Just check whatever you like

A cutie

Smart dialing: Whenever you press a key on the numerical keyboard, vHome opens a Contacts + Applications search, which treats each numerical key as any alphabetical combination.

Smart dialing: results from Contacts

Same screen, this time only 2 applications match

Of course if it’s a phone number you’re dialing, it will be dialed disregarding the fact that no contact name matches. But there is also the option for searching through the phone numbers too.

vHome's configurable "Start" menu (you can add a Turn Flashlight On option there)

A glimse from the settings menu (the list ends with a More Settings option;)

vHome is quite keyboard powered: pressing ‘C’/Delete on any of the RSS reader, Twitter, Weather or Google search widget offers to disable that feature, and pressing ‘C’ on one of the applications shortcuts brings the list of applications to select another one in lieu. Compare that with the S60 Icon-screen where you have to go 7 levels deep in the menu to find the list of the six shortcuts.

Customize left/right shortcuts

Pressing 'C' on the second shortcut Icon

Task Manager

Task Manager

Press 'C' to Kill

That’s it for today.


Screenshots for posterity

A screenshot tool for the phone is not exactly something anyone would need, but I will still walk you through this installation – as it’s going to be useful for my blogging needs.

Finding a screen capturing application is as easy as going to the Ovi Store and searching for ‘screen’. (In case you don’t know what Ovi Store is, follow/type ‘‘ on you phone’s browser and you’ll have the old ‘Download!’ application replaced by this:

After that, and after searching for ‘screen’, you will find that the only free application for screenshoting is .. Best ScreenSnap.

I find it amusing, that this is the only free application (the authors of Best * stuff)

You can now proceed installing it: of course, your button will tell “Download” instead of “Launch”, but that’s only because I haven’t found a way to make a screenshot before installing a screenshot application..

The only wart I have with this application (which does the job absolutely perfectly) is that it\s not clear what’s happening when you choose a trigger button: the option look like a regular Symbian multiline input.. but it actually expects you to press the keyboard accelerator you desire:So, NO, I haven’t actually typed ‘CameraShutter2’ in there, I just entered the field and pressed my camera shutter (dunno why it says it’s the second one on my n85).

Oh, and don’t expect any screenshot of the editing field: it’s another chicken and egg problem, you can’t use the screenshot keyboard shortcut while defining another screenshot keyboard shortcut)

There you go, the ‘best’ screen capturing software (found for free) is now installed on your phone.

Oh, and that Ovi Store I keep forgeting about: you have that too doncha? Maybe I’ll rant a bit about it in another post.