11 February, 2007

Nokia N800 Internet tablet

Yet another gadget to play with, if only for a couple of days.
It's a very nice tablet, in a PDA form factor but with a VGA resolution touch sensitive screen.

As time is very limited, here are a couple of jottings as they occur to me.

- The built-in wifi antenna is much more sensitive than any other I have come accross. I can pick up a lot more signals than with my laptop. I can also pick up my home wifi much further away than I can with my laptop. It's also much more stable than with XP.
Definitely a plus point.

- The navigation decidedly takes a bit of getting used to. I'm still trying to get used to it.

- It has a built-in multimedia player. But some web content plays on it, some doesn't. Probably needs some plug in or other, but no message comes up to tell you so. In the meantime, I couldn't even watch some of the TV content streamed over the net, like CNN or Direct8, although a few web sites with streaming video did work. No BBC Radio 4 either.

- I will try it out with Skype, Sip-telephone, ORB and others before I have to give it back. It does come with a multimedia streaming system of its own - but there was no manual or CD in the box. So it's not just a case of plug and play. There is also a proprietary internet video chat system (I particularly liked the webcam on a stalk that looks more like an old mobile antenna). No doubt it's very good, but it will be a hard job getting my contacts to install yet another chat system.

- Some e-mail messages get blocked when using the installed mailreader. I have to use the webmail to get them. And then it won't read attached files in Word format. You can display them in HTML, but it makes the task of modifying or working on the document something difficult if not impossible.

- It can cater very well for multiple connection profiles and passwords. But for some reason it won't connect to an open FON network. Must go and try it with an Orange or SFR access point.

26 January, 2007

Orange Liveradio

Orange have very nicely lent me a Liveradio to play with for a couple of weeks. I think the idea is great. But at a tad under 200 euros, the price is a bit on the steep side. I suppose it will eventully come down, it usually does. I know at least one other manufacturer (Sagem) has one in the pipeline and there are probably more.

It looks like an ordinary radio that you would have in your kitchen or on the bedside table. The difference is that instead of picking up FM (we don't have DAB in France) it links in to your wifi network and then picks up a huge number (I haven't counted them yet) of radios streamed over the Internet. It also has a USB connector (awkwardly placed on the back) so you can plug in a pen drive or MP3 widget and play your own files. I've opened a guest account on the Orange web site so that I can configure it, but am still working on the finer points. Will update this blog when I get round to testing them.

Now for some minus points.

First of all, you can only configure a single Wi-Fi account. So, when you move to a different access point, you have to rekey your encryption key. That's quite a big drawback as far as I'm concerned, because the walls in this flat are prety impervious to wifi and I've had to install a separate access point in the bedroom. Consequently, when I carry the liveradio from the bedroom to the sitting room, I have to reset the wi-fi key. Also, it can't work with FON access points. These use unencrypted wi-fi but need authorisation to surf the web. I presume the same would go for Orange and other access points. So there's not much point in taking this radio with you on holiday, as most hotels use this kind of technology.

Secondly, the list of radio stations has been selected by Orange. I haven't figured out how to add other stations, or even whether it is possible - the manual says nothing about this. Will report back. I suspect that in some cases (such as the BBC stations) it may not be possible at all to reconfigure. Nor does it apppear to be possible to configure it to take podcasts other than those selected by Orange. Certainly a very big minus. Nor streaming the audio content of my PC hard disc to listen in the bedroom, or wherever.

Finally: there is no on-off switch. It is true that on-off switches have all but disappeared these days, but at least there is a standby mode worthy of the name. In the case of the Liveradio, it continues consuming power at a hefty rate. According to the manual, the battery can last around 24 hours in this mode before it needs a recharge. So if you take it with you on a trip, the chances are it'll be prety well run down by the time you arrive anywhere. It is definitely designed as a radio for the bedside table (it does include an effective alarm feature), to be left plugged in for most of the time, occasionally taking it with you to the kitchen or the loo. In fact I wouldn't be too sure about using it in the kitchen or while having a bath, as the speakers seem rather exposed.

There are lots of other features to play with over the next few days - podcasts, live books etc, so I will have plenty to keep me busy in the next few days instead of getting on with my guide on smartphones.