N900 PR 1.2 – Like Christmas Day

I’ve been playing around with the most recent upgrade to the Nokia N900 and it really is like Christmas. There are so many little tweaks to the core OS that it really is like having a new phone again. Geek Christmas.

After reading about Jason’s experience, Skype video calling  was the first thing I tried. Skype chat has been running on the phone since I got it but it’s nice to know that I can run video chat as well when the fancy strikes me. I called around to a  few people in Finland and the video and voice quality was surprisingly good over 3G. Google Video chat is supported as well but the quality on Skype was much better.

Droid theme

Instead of reading all the coverage, I thought I’d just poke around for a few days and see what I found. Here are the highlights:

  • The browser now officially supports portrait mode. No need to hack it and you’ve got basic navigation on the bottom to so you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between landscape and portrait.
  • In Settings > Text Input there is an option to add a virtual keyboard. I later read that it was there before.
  • No need to use the Sym key to enter numbers! A longpress will use the alternate number or symbol.

You’ll definitely want to add the extra repositories to the Application Manager (here’s how) to sample all the cool projects folks are working on. Do this at your own risk of course but anyone with an N900 knows that right? Some new apps to recommend that I need to add to my Software for your N900 page:

  • grr – quick and easy Google Reader app.
  • gTranslate – app that uses the Google Translate service
  • gPodder – podcatcher client
  • WordPress – blogging client

One note, BarrioSquare, the FourSquare client for the N900, fails on this release. You can get it working again, just fire up vi and edit a single line in barrioConfig.py and modify a single line. Fixed in the latest update of BarrioSquare!

One of the coolest apps I found was eSpeak, an opensource text to speech reader. It has controls for amplitude, pitch, speed, and other controls that you can tweak to get it sounding ok but what I thought was really cool is that not only does it come with a bunch of languages including Esperanto (!), it also can read your text is one of seven English accents.

Here’s a clip of the West Indian accent reading a popular email newsletter. See if you can guess which one.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The N900 is a tinker’s delight. There is so much you can do with this little box. You can root it, run xterm, install the latest Chrome browser. Check out the Instant Community prototype built by some students in Tampere along with Nokia Research, peer-to-peer disposable social networks.

Oh, and I should say the basic phone software improved, the sound quality seems better to me and I also get the feeling that performance has been optimized to improve battery life.

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