Monday, July 27, 2009

N The World - Savannah, GA

We've just returned from our first documented "N The World" trip to Savannah, Georgia. Wehad a great time, and didn't get a whole lot of pics and video, but it was definitely a trip to remember. Being this is our first NET9 sponsored trip, we first would like to explain the "N The World" concept. Then we'll give our initial thoughts on the wonderful trip through Savannah.

N The World is our fresh new series where we utilize various media tools to capture the sights, sounds, and other events in different parts of the world. We'll use text, photos, video, etc. to bring our audience with us on our unique mobile journeys in various places around the world. We are starting off locally to prove the financial feasibility of the concept, and will expand to more far reaching areas of the globe as we receive more funding. Also, we are playing with a lot of developing web technologies, location centric technologies, and many other new tools to enhance the N The World experience.

I know some of our readers will be asking "what's with the name?" Well, we've left it vague enough for anyone to come up with their own idea of what the N stands for (NET9, Nokia, NSeries...). Really, it's just a name we came up with that feels like it fits our new concept perfectly. Anyway, we'll talk more about N The World as we visit additional locations. On to Savannah.

Savannah, Georgia is a very lovely place, with its vast historic architecture and romantic scenery. Some notable places of interest are the beautiful Forsyth Park, The First African Baptist Church, and the unmistakable Talmadge Memorial Bridge. There are also a lot of locations where various movies were filmed, such as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Forest Gump.

We chose to take the trolley tour through Savannah to cover as much ground as possible, and that we did. Our lovely tour guide was very knowledgable and also very witty. There are 8 video clips of the tour and some pictures as well. We truely enjoyed this trip, and we hope you enjoy what we brought back. We can't wait for the next N The World trip. Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zeemote Review

We've just received our new Zeemote bluetooth controller and are excited to bring you our initial thoughts about the cool little device. Ironically, there's a lot to cover for such a simple little device, so let's get started.

A Little History...
About three months ago I read about the Zeemote on a mobile phone blog, and at first glance I had doubts about its usefulness. So, i did a little research and found some video of the Zeemote in action. Then it hit me how important such an accessory was for mobile devices. Gaming aside, this little thing changes the entire mobile experience of the modern smartphone and mobile computer. I decided I needed one for the NET9 lab, but it wasn't sold in my region. Fast forward to about a week ago and I had located one being sold on eBay. Now I've always been a little nervous about buying anything on eBay, and twenty bucks would be the maximum I would spend on something like the Zeemote at the time. So I bought it, got it, and it's worth more than I could have ever expected.

Originally the Zeemote was designed to offer mobiles a more comfortable or natural gaming experience. Some smart people noticed how complex and also limiting the mobile phone was for gaming and decided to make a wireless controller that most gamers would be use to. With the re-introduction of Nokia's N-Gage gaming platform, and the explosive growth of mobile gaming in general, the Zeemote couldn't have been introduced at a better time. Gaming with the Zeemote brings back memories of my old PlayStation days, except now the console and controller both fit in my pockets. This thing was designed with gamers in mind, and does an excellent job as a wireless mobile game controller.

Beyond Game Control
The Zeemote's usefulness reaches far beyond just game control. Navigating menus is a fluid process and in some cases more comfortable than using the mobile device's own navigation controls. Perhaps it's due to its smaller size or lighter weight than a typical phone. Whatever the case may be, it is definitely a more enjoyable experience to use the Zeemote to move around on a mobile device.

The Perfect External Input Device
For a device like the Nokia N97, the Zeemote shines brightly. Paired with the TV-out feature and multimedia capabilities of the N97, it's the perfect mobile setup when you're not mobile. The mobile device becomes so much more than a personal computer at this point. Also, there's a big advantage to reducing the "wear & tear" of the buttons and touchscreen by using the Zeemote. Of course devices like the N97 have advantages such as accelerometers, magnetometers, GPS, cameras, and other sensors built-in that the Zeemote obviously lacks. This brings a bit of a dilemma for developers as to how to support external input devices along with the features of the mobile device. Like any accessory out there, the Zeemote is limited in its uses, but is only limited by the capabilities of the device it connects to.

It will be interesting to see the Zeemote really take off, and I look forward to updated versions of the Zeemote in the future. The Zeemote team have recently expanded support to more mobile devices including the N97, and I suspect there will be a lot more news about Zeemote in the near future. We will continue playing with the Zeemote and bring you more thoughts and ideas on this cool new mobile controller.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mobile Post: N-Gage Now On The N97

That's right, N-Gage is finally available for the N97 through the software updater application on the device. There are a few games missing from the known list, due to incompatibilities I suppose but the ones there work just fine. Another quirk with the games is that the games don't utilize the N97's nice large screen. I'm guessing this is because the games were coded for QVGA screens to begin with.

It will be exciting to see future games make use of the larger screen of the N97 as well as the magnetometer along with all the other cool sensors and features. I hope to soon see a game that uses the compass and camera to augment realit in amazing new ways.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First Post From The N97

We've discovered that Blogger works well enough to post directly from the N97, and this is a very good thing. There are some quirks that bug me about using the editor, and we'll go over a few of them bellow.

All Caps In "Compose" Mode
I'm not sure if this is a bug related to the N97 web browser or a fault in Blogger, but typing in compose mode keeps text in all capital lettering at all times. There is a simple solution to this, but I wish it were fixed all together. HTML mode works just fine for entering normal text. Things get a bit messy when you want some differently formatted text or text links.

No Copy & Paste?
This is one thing about blogging from the N97 currently. There's no way to paste text copied from the notes or active notes applications. I have to say, that's pretty limited for a device that's supposed to be a"mobile computer" and has a QWERTY keypad. Hopefully there'll be a fix for this in upcoming firmware updates.

Can't Move Images Around
Uploading an image for a blog post is simple enough, but once it's on the page there's no moving it around. Images, It seems suffers the same fate as text. There's no way to cut and paste an image elsewhere in a post. Another failure point for the browser.

With all the drawbacks of using the N97 to post to a blog, it is still better than it used to be. We now have the autosave feature that works and is a huge time saver. There are more formating options, and much better device to create longer bodies of text. What would be great is if Blogger made a better mobile version, or the web browser on the N97 and other Nokia phones were updated with the inclusion of the features missing above. Until then, our mobile posts will be pretty basic.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nokia N97 Review

So we've finally received our Nokia N97 and have had a chance to put it to the test for about a week, and we even recently updated the firmware to version 1.1 (which, by the way is a definite improvement in the UI transitions of the device). Like others that have had time with the N97, we have found things we love and hate about the hardware and software. But hey, everything under the sun casts a glimmer and shadow. Anyways, on to the review...

Much like the first time using the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, the keyboard and navigation pad arrangement on the N97 took some getting used to. There is quite a bit of a learning curve for those that have not had experience with a QWERTY thumb-pad before, but luckily the inclusion of a touchscreen makes the transition more bearable to new users. The slider mechanism is definitely solid. Strangely, it reminds me of watching Karate moves performed when opening and closing. I don't know how else to explain it. I just snaps in and out of place with great precision. I like the fact that there are so few hardware buttons on the device, aside form the keyboard, and unlike some have noted, the single menu button on the face of the N97 is perfect. USB charging is a welcome transition from the micro power adapter of my previous Nseries devices like the N95. The screen lock slider is a bit "outdated" though. Nokia should have put some effort into developing a touch gesture method for locking and unlocking the phone. Speakers are nice and loud, about the same as my N95. The camera door is nice, but a bit cumbersome to open as it has a very smooth surface. And of course two LEDs are better than one on any device with a 5MP+ camera. The styling and accents of the device overall are very sleek and futuristic. Nokia has done a marvelous job at putting so much functionality into a device that looks and feels so natural. Speaking of functionality, the battery life and 32GB of storage is enough to make netbook users super green with envy. The large screen is set nicely in the middle of the device, making it symmetrical in portrait and landscape modes. The touchscreen works as well as expected, and the device provides nice vibratory feedback when tapping menu items. The sensors give the device a sort of "intelligence" that is quite remarkable. I especially like the built in compass sensor (magnetometer). I believe it will be greatly used in future location-based and directional-based applications like Google Maps and will provide the necessary information for augmented reality to be built upon. Well that about covers the hardware of the N97 in this initial review. On to the software...

Like any other computational device in the world, software is key to making it worth having. It is the heart and soul of any computer, and it gives each device a purpose. The N97 is no different, and S60 5th edition makes it all happen. The Symbian OS provides a very complete computing environment on many Nokia phones, but S60 5th edition brings an easy to learn, easy to use touch user interface that is both familiar and fresh to the seasoned Nokia device user and novice alike. However, the N97 has a far more reaching computing potential than the OS, UI, and familiar device applications. This is a truly connected device, and its the integration with the web is where it will need to shine most to seriously compete with the likes of Android devices, Apple's iPhones, Palm's devices, the plethora of Windows Mobile devices, and etc. The home screen widgets are an obvious good idea, but even this is limited in some way or another. Why not allow for multiple home screens, and why only two shortcut panels and contacts panels? It's a move in the right direction, but Nokia needs to move faster in that direction. The few widgets I've used so far have been very good, and I'm sure can get even better with more development time. The Facebook, AP News, AccuWeather, and Slideshow apps are great examples of how future applications should work. There's just so much potential for software growth and evolution on a device like the N97. The touchscreen, accelerometer, magnetometer, primary and secondary camera, microphone, speakers, vibratory feedback, light sensor, GPS, wifi, bluetooth, HSDPA, and more provide more than enough of a hardware foundation for developers to make some amazing things happen. It will be the software that pushes the limitations of the device in order to show its full potential.

Needless to say, the N97 is one heck of a device, and we are very excited at the prospects of its future. Expect to see a lot of great new things from NET9 and our new Nokia N97 soon.