Using a Nokia N95 - features I'd love to see.

Stroller stroller at
Sun Aug 10 14:30:19 CEST 2008

Hi there,

I visited one of my customers yesterday - he has just got an  
"upgrade" to a Nokia N95 and wanted it set up to transfer his photos  
to his laptop.

Many aspects of using the phone reminded me why I hate mobile phones.  
Once a mail account has been added there is no way to change its  
name  - I initially spelled "aol email" in small letters, so in order  
to make its title neat on the phone's homescreen ("AOL Email") I had  
to delete the account completely and recreate it. I bought the  
Freerunner so that I can fix stuff like this by editing a text file.  
The N95 fails to create a mail account half the time you enter the  
details, falling silently back to the mailboxes screen without an  
entry for the new account you just tried to setup.

Orange, my customer's mobile phone provider, have installed a utility  
to upload your photos to your "blog" account on their website, and  
every time you take a photo it comes up with an annoying menu asking  
if you want to do so. As free software zealots you may be interested  
to read that whilst Googling on how to disable this menu I came  
across a number of forum posts and news articles complaining how the  
UK providers Orange & O2 have removed the N95's VoIP application from  
their software builds, for obvious reasons. I never quite managed to  
work out how to remove the Orange Blog Gallery software completely,  
as it's not shown in the phone's application manager. You are able to  
remove the annoying pop-up menu, however, by choosing the "upload"  
option, agreeing to the long and small-printed terms-of-use and then  
cancelling out of the operation. Only after that is there an option  
present, so you're not able to remove this menu if you refuse to  
accept the terms of use for their software. I find this sort of non- 
obvious behaviour - for me it is logical to ask "do you wish to  
disable the feature?" when I decline an agreement - the ideal way to  
piss me off.

Another reminder of why I hate mobile phones was the connection  
options. I told the phone always to get mail by 3G (and always to  
ignore the user's home wireless network and any others) because the  
choice was to set one specific network or to ask every time which  
network to use. The connection options included "Orange Internet" and  
a confusing array of about half a dozen other "Orange ..." options.  
Previous mobile phones of mine have had a similar number of options  
included by O2 - "O2 Web And Walk", "O2 Mobile Web", "O2 GPRS", and  
so on. This completely baffles me, as I would expect only one option  
for internet over mobile phone networks (and another for wifi). Why  
so many? I could surely work out what is going on if I spent enough  
time at it, but I am reluctant to delete all the apparently-spurious  
options without knowing what they're for, and my technically- 
challenged customer should not reasonably be expected to select the  
right one time after time.

Anyway, on to the stuff that is REALLY COOL about this phone. I  
apologise if this is old hat to everyone else, but for me (even after  
I discovered the N95 model is at least 9 months old) it was an eye- 
opener into what modern mobile phones do these days.

Firstly under wifi is an option to wake up the WLAN module every X  
minutes and scan for networks. As far as I understand the N95's  
configuration, this isn't presently as useful as it ought to be. But  
on an Openmoko device we could surely configure wifi to automatically  
be used for services whenever available. The waking of the wifi  
module (and then, presumably, putting it back to sleep) allows full  
wifi versatility, however, without the battery consumption of having  
it on all the time.

Secondly, mail settings also have an option to connect every XX  
minutes, with the option to only do so on "home" phone networks (to  
avoid roaming charges). I have been wishing for this since getting my  
Sony Ericsson P990i, which requires a manual check of my IMAP  
accounts. Obviously one only uses a manual email check when one is  
waiting on a particularly important or urgent message, and one tends  
only to do this on a mobile phone when one wants to check quickly.  
For me, at least, this isn't a daily occurrence, so my P990i has to  
spend ages synchronising the last 3 weeks' worth of messages across  
GPRS before its able to tell me whether the important message has  
arrived (or not) yet. But on the N95 you're alerted immediately  
(checks can be scheduled every 5 minutes) if a new email has come in  
- it doesn't need "push technology" for this to be as seamless as SMS  
alerts, as long as you have an unlimited data plan.

I guess my big question is whether this is what the dbus stuff (that  
Openmoko are developing) is all about? A mail program needs to be  
able to check to see if any usable wifi networks are available and to  
wake GPRS (and tell it to dial) if not. Obviously if one has to call  
`modprobe` and `iwscan` then the process is a bit non-portable - this  
is the one software feature that I really want Openmoko to provide

I'm sorry if I'm "not with it", but I've never had a mobile phone  
that will properly alert me the moment a new email comes in and  
(especially since vgetty on my home Linux box will answer the phone &  
email an MP3 of an answerphone message to me) it is quite a killer  
feature for me.


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