Grant McWilliams

Tech Gadgets Blog

Gadget Blog

I've been pondering a smart phone since they've been getting better and it's not because I want a phone but I want a MID (Mobile Internet Device) that connects everywhere so I have constant connectivity to IM, email, web etc.. With the n800 you have to be near an open wifi access point which gets irritating to say the least. Using DNS tunnelling you can connect through many access points that are open but require monthly fees but since AT&T opened their access points at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble this is less useful. I was really excited about the n810 wimax edition but Nokia pulled it because of a lack of wimax network. Now I see Sprint advertising 4G with their Palm Pre which is wimax. We still don't have access in the Seattle area although it's coming. So I've narrowed my choice down to an Android phone (not the G1) the Palm Pre or Nokia's new MID/Phone the n900.

To be honest the Maemo OS on the n800 isn't that great but it gets the job done. It can be unstable, the apps are amateurish and it needs to be reloaded every so often so I wasn't that excited about the n900 but it seems that Nokia has actually gotten serious about Maemo. The screenshots look wonderful and it looks like they've decided to actually make an interface for a small device instead of a tiny computer Desktop.


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When I'm in an airport for work I have my work laptop which has a 3G cell modem and I can connect to the internet fine (sort of thanks to poor 3G coverage). This is a great thing and allows me to become "untethered" from wifi hotspots. However if I'm not lugging my laptop around I'll have my nokia n800 on me which only has wifi. I was really excited about the n810 WiMax edition because that would allow me to have internet access in metropolitan areas but unfortunately WiMax rollout was way too slow and Nokia figured their next device the n900 would be released before people could connect with the n810 WiMax edition so they pulled it. Some time later I think this was a wise decision because WiMax still isn't available outside a limited area of the US and there are problems in the way it works with treating it as a mobile service. The Nokia n900 just got submitted to the FCC so I figure by Christmas it will be out with wifi, smaller size and 3G access. However if you have a device like an n800/n810, ipod touch, laptop or any other Mobile Internet Device that relies on wifi then the MiFi may be of use to you.

Introducing the MiFi series of mobile wifi hotspots. They come in several flavors (EVDO, HSPDA US, HSPDA EU) but all work the same way. They connect to the 3G network and act as a wifi router for wireless devices. You can only connect 5 wireless devices to it at a time but considering the intended audience I don't think that's a problem. It's so small too that you can just place it in your shirt pocket and become a mobile hotspot yourself. I was just thinking how fun this would be to walk up to someone with a laptop and let them connect to the access point but then slowly move away to see if they would start to point their laptop in different areas to get a better signal.  The real fun part would be getting them to move closer to you as they figure out which direction the signal is coming from. If you were bored you could lead them around all afternoon.

Enough of my demented mind. Here's the skinny..


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This was shown in Linux Journal 2 years ago but I just ran across it a second time. I think this is a very cool use of a very cool device. The Nokia n800 has a decent cpu, a decent screen and a webcam built in so why not use it works great as a robot head.


[youtube: 400 283]


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I have been a long time user of the Nokia Mobile Internet Devices (MID) and but have always had a few complaints with them. I wish my n800 was smaller, faster, more stable and had better internet range. The OS and applications are getting more stable with time but I can't do anything about the speed factor. The n810 wimax would have taken care of the the size and range issues. That is if Nokia hadn't discontinued it.

According to Nokia the U.S. rollout of Wimax is taking longer than expected. My first thought is to sell it anyway because it's barely more expensive than the n800 but I can also see there point. They sell a device that can access internet anywhere in a city but it only works in 6 cities. Wimax is coming to Seattle in March I believe through Clearwire so I was waiting until then to buy it. If it takes another year to roll out Wimax in all major U.S. cities then Nokia could have another device out by then. Rumor has it that the next Nokia MID will have a 3g cell connection. At that point I hope Nokia finally invests some time into the OS because it's not up to iphone, Palm Pre or Google's Android phone OS. It's not a "Linux isn't good enough" thing because the last two in the list I mentioned are Linux, the first is Unix based. Who would have thought the 50 year old server Operating System would dominate the Smart Phone world?

So I guess I hang out and keep using the n800 until I know more. Or God forbid start looking into a smart phone. I will NOT go down the iphone route because I don't want anyone telling me that I can't install something on a device I bought nor do I think using one application at a time is adequate. I'd like a Palm Pre but after using a 4.13" screen I'm not sure I could browse the web on a 3.1" screen. Maybe in the coming months more Android phones will come out. I'll wait.

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I was watching Tekzilla today on Miro (Oooh Veronica Belmont, if she won the elections she'd be Baberiham Lincoln - shwing) and they mentioned the Invisible Shield from Zagg for the ipod. As a brutally active user of the Nokia n800 I need a new screen protector because it's getting hard to see through my old one because of all the scratches. I went to the Zagg site and they do indeed have a screen protector for the n800 and it's priced at $12.95 so I have one on the way. You can check out the Invisible Shield Video to see how tough it is. According to the video you can attach your ipod (with Invisible Shield) to the leading edge of a helicopter blade and it won't get damaged. Perhaps that's not what they said but it's supposed to be tough. As soon as I get mine I'm going to beat up on it and we'll see how tough it is. Also I use a silicon case for the n800 which adds bulk but makes it easier to hold on to. If I could find a way to make it less slippery I'd get rid of that too.

Zagg has way more invisible shields that I would have ever thought. Here's the URL for the Nokia n800 version.

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Here's an interesting idea. I don't know how much power is sent through headjack plugs but this device from Inflight Power Recharger Cables will allow you to recharge USB devices by plugging into the audio jack. It has one cable that plugs into the audio jack and on the other side it's a standard USB outlet so with the appropriate adapter you can charge about anything. I imagine it doesn't charge very fast but if you're on an airplane asleep you might as well be charging your phone, ipod, Nokia web tablet or whatever. Price is $35 for the basic one with no adapters and then add about another $10 for each adapter. Or you could just go online and buy the adapters for abotu $5 ea. It also has 2 AAA batteries in it so I'm guessing it can double as additional battery power for your gadget if it's not plugged in.

I contacted them about the methods of charging the batteries and here's what they said.

"You can only power via audio input or battery input, the unit can use
any form of AAA battery. The max output is 250mA at 5v."

The only real problem I see is you can't charge your device while watching a movie on the plane, and any other time you'd have to look around for a radio or laptop in order to charge it up. It seems like the standard Wall outlet to USB backup may be more versatile everywhere except the plane. I guess if you normally charge things with you laptops USB port you could charge this and a USB device at the same time. Makes me wonder if someone makes a USB to audio jack adpater so I could charge this from a USB wall converter. Maybe I'm getting a bit carried away but I bet one could hack a USB to audio jack adapter pretty easy.

I might buy one anyway and review it just beause I'm curious.


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As some of you know I moved this year to a new house. I now have plenty of room in the garage for the servers which means my heating bill will go up now that they won't be contributing. Frown

Anyway I'd been using Powerline networking for some time and it's worked wonderfully because you never need drivers for the network. How it works is you plug your network cable into a powerline bridge and then plug the bridge into the electrical wall socket. Do this for each location and you have an instant network! It's completely painless. Only problem is your electrical wiring needs to be perfect and mine to the garage in the new place isn't. My print speeds were so horrible that I was copying data to my laptop and carrying it down there to print. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that isn't the solution. I've always shied away from wireless outside of occasional use on the road because of the security implementations but it appears I have no choice short of rewiring my house.

The new 802.11n stuff is tempting but without more testing I'm not going to bite. I already have a Linux powered Linksys WRT-54g which has served me well. My plan was not to add wireless cards to all the machines in the garage but rather set up a wireless bridge and plug a Gig switch into it so the servers could talk to each other at 1000Gbits and the rest of the world at 54Mbits. My biggest requirementis the router has to support the Linux DD-WRT software. After some looking I settled on the Buffalo WHR-G125  available for $29 at Circuit City with rebate...
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 Ok, so I was going to stay off this topic completely but there are things brewing that I just have to talk about. I played with an iPhone a few weeks ago and outside of the next to worthless text input the phone is really really neat. I think this phone may actually be considered a disruptive product in that it's going to send everyone else back to the drawing boards and a lot of really expensive designs will get scrapped. So you're probably thinking that I ran out and bought one. Well, no actually. I don't really like cell phones but I'd love to have a connected PDA but it looks like the iPhone and the iPod touch may just function very well in this role.

There are however a couple of reasons I haven't purchased one and now those reasons may be vanishing.......
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