My N900 experience compared to my FR experience

Brolin Empey brolin at
Wed Sep 15 00:12:24 CEST 2010

Brolin Empey wrote:
> I have been using Maemo 5 on my N900 for a few weeks now. So far, my
> N900 experience is *far* better than my FR experience.

That was true about my N900 experience until the end of August, when I 
accidentally dropped my N900 from my desk at home onto the carpeted 
floor while the USB cable was connected. :(  I had just gotten out of 
bed and was still sleepy (yes, I still have my computer desk in my 
bedroom even though I have an entire 1-bedroom apartment to myself and 
consequently no longer have to have my computer desk in my bedroom, like 
when I still lived with my family.), but I foolishly decided to pick up 
my N900 from my desk because the notification light (which is apparently 
copied from the BlackBerry?) was flashing blue to notify me of a new 
message.  My N900 would have been fine if the USB cable was not 
connected when I dropped it, but I think my N900 landed on the microUSB 
plug because one side of the microUSB socket got pushed in (away from 
the edge of the motherboard).  The USB connection still worked but it 
was intermittent because the physical connection was loose.  I 
disassembled my N900, which is easier than disassembling my FR because 
only 2 screwdrivers (Philips #0 + T6) + fingers are required for the 
N900, and discovered the microUSB socket is only surface-mounted, not 
through-hole mounted, on the motherboard.  The microUSB socket is also 
very close to other parts on the motherboard, which makes replacing the 
microUSB socket difficult.  I bought my N900 from because I 
live in Canada and did not want to import from the USA.  Nokia has not 
released the N900 in Canada so I could not buy from Nokia Canada nor any 
carrier in Canada.  I contacted but they told me to contact 
Nokia because my return period with had ended.  My N900 was 
still covered by Nokia USA’s warranty, so I tried using the warranty 
repair form on the Web site, but I could not use it because 
it would only return a blank page.  I called Nokia Canada’s customer 
service, only to discover Nokia’s customer service for both Canada + USA 
is in the Philippines.  I do not think English is Nokia’s customer 
service people there’s first language because I am never certain if they 
actually understand me or are simply acknowledging me.  I gave up trying 
to express some things to them because we ended up going in circles and 
they seemed to be working from a script.  Anyway, my N900 is covered by 
Nokia USA’s warranty but this warranty is for the USA only:  it is not 
international, not even for Canada.  Nokia USA will provide a UPS return 
mailing label for me to mail my N900 to their repair centre (/not/ 
center!) in Huntsville, Alabama (Sweet Phone Alabama? ;)), but I have to 
mail my N900 from a The UPS Store or Mail Boxes Etc. location which is 
in the USA and offers the Corporate Retail Services used by Nokia.  I 
asked if I could mail my N900 from Canada if I paid for shipping because 
there is a The UPS Store location near my home, but was told Nokia USA 
will not accept devices mailed from outside of the USA because Nokia 
does not want to be responsible for devices lost during international 
shipping.  Nokia Canada’s repair centre in Newmarket, Ontario apparently 
will not accept my N900 for warranty repair because it lacks a Canadian 
warranty.  I called them and left a voice message because they had 
already closed for the day, but I never heard back from them.  I 
considered mailing it to them anyway and paying for the repair myself, 
but I decided not to because their policy is to hard-reset (reset to 
factory defaults) the customer’s device before attempting repairs.  I 
realise this may solve many problems caused by software, but my problem 
is with hardware only.  I think it is insane to require hard-resetting a 
general-purpose mobile Linux (proper Debian-based Linux, not 
non-standard Android.) computer because it is so much hassle to manually 
back up and restore everything.  I later discovered Nokia Ovi Suite for 
Windows can back up (appears to work) and restore (not yet tested, so I 
hope it works!) an N900 running Maemo 5 via USB or Bluetooth, but that 
was after I already spent at least 7 hours at work on a Saturday to 
manually back up my N900’s 3 volumes on fixed flash memory:  I used GNU 
tar to archive each of the 3 volumes on fixed flash memory to tarballs 
on a microSDHC card.  It took so long because it is many steps, I kept 
getting sidetracked by both hardware and software, including by reading 
program documentation.  My dad helped me hotwire my N900 with a variable 
DC power supply at work because my battery had discharged and I did not 
have a charger for the N900’s Nokia BL-5J battery.  I have since ordered 
a BL-5J charger on eBay, though.  Photo of my hotwired N900:


Unlike Nokia USA, Nokia Canada’s repair centre probably does not have 
spare N900s for exchange in case they cannot repair my N900.  Anyway, my 
home in Ladner, British Columbia is only about 11 km by car from Point 
Roberts, Washington and about 30 km by car from Blaine, Washington.  I 
can mail parcels via UPS from both Point Roberts and Blaine, but none of 
the locations in those places offer the required Corporate Retail 
Services.  The nearest suitable Mail Boxes Etc. location is in Seattle 
proper and the nearest suitable The UPS Store location is in Bellingham. 
  I do not want to drive all the way to Seattle to mail my N900, so I 
have 5 options:

1. Drive about 72 km to Bellingham.  I do not have a Nexus Pass so I 
will have to wait (much) longer at the border.
2. Mail my N900 to my friend in Bellevue and have him mail it to Nokia 
USA for me.
3. Repair my N900 myself.
4. Get my N900 repaired locally.
5. Live with my N900 as is.  This is not an option because I need the 
USB port working for power supply/charging.

I tried option 3 with our electronics equipment at work, but I did not 
know what I was doing and I did not realise I was trying to use a 
soldering iron with a shot (non-working) tip.

I tried option 4:

4.1: Had our solder technician at work replace the microUSB socket.  She 
had to reuse the original socket because we did not have spare microUSB 
sockets because so far we have used only mini and full-size USB 
connectors on our own products.  After this, the USB port did not work 
at all, but it might have been my fault from trying option 3.

4.2: Visited 3 local businesses (2 in Richmond, 1 in Vancouver).  The 
first lacked the required equipment, the second was not comfortable with 
attempting the repair because of the risk of unrepairable damage, and 
the third replaced the microUSB socket with a new socket, but the USB 
port still did not work at all. :(

By this point, my first RMA from Nokia USA had expired because I had to 
mail my N900 within 10 days of receiving the UPS return mailing label. 
Fortunately, Nokia USA issued a second RMA but warned this will be the 
last.  So I chose option 1 and spent 5 hours (left home at 10:00, 
returned at 15:00) on Saturday to drive to The UPS Store in Bellingham 
and back.  Crossing the southbound border probably took the most time of 
my trip because I had to wait in the vehicle queue, then in the customs 
queue, including while they searched my car.  The people at the US 
border crossing probably thought I was suspicious because:

1. I have not crossed the border alone before.
2. They do not recognise my car’s licence number.
3. I involuntarily got too (visibly) nervous about crossing the border 
(on “Patriot Day”, which I wonder was so named to remind people of the 
US Patriot Act? :/), even though I was neither carrying anything illegal 
(except maybe for DMCA-infringing software on my laptop) nor planning on 
doing anything illegal.
4. Maybe because I am relatively young (23) and have long hair, which is 
less common for males than females.  (I am male, if you did not already 
figure it out.  Female Openmoko users seem to be very rare. :()

I think they (the people at the US border crossing) are jerks because 
they are unfriendly and seem to think they can command me as if I was 
working for them instead of vice versa.  Anyway, that is another story.

I accomplished my goal, though.  Nokia USA’s repair centre has received 
my N900, so hopefully they repair or exchange it, even though they can 
probably notice the repair attempts from before they received it.

I have dropped my FR with the USB cable connected, but I do not think my 
FR landed on the miniUSB plug.  Maybe the FR was designed to survive 
drops better?  I wonder if this is why Apple still uses their own dock 
connector instead of a standard USB socket on their devices?

Anyway, I probably forgot to mention something important, but I have 
already spent probably close to 2 hours writing this message.

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