My Nokia 770

A couple of weeks back, there was quite a bit of buzz in the Irish blogosphere and elsewhere about the Nokia 770; prices for new N770s had dropped from $290ish to a very reasonable $140 / EUR130-ish price-point. I, along with a good few others, bought one.

I bought mine through Expansys, with a free 1GB RS-MMC memory card. They’ve sold out and no longer have any N770s listed; however, still seem to have them in stock, so if you’re interested, you can probably still pick one up. (It seems Nokia is trying to sell off their remaining N770 stock, cheap, with plans to drop support for the software platform. I’m fine with this, but it may put other buyers off.)

I’ve now been using it for a while, and am still happy. ;) Here are my recommended top apps:

Slimserver. Originally designed to operate as the backend software for the Squeezebox thin-client MP3 player, this has a fantastic UI built for the N770, and its MP3 stream output works perfectly on the tablet.

This is by far the neatest way to get at a 6000-song music library without a laptop; there was some talk in the GNOME community of making a decent DAAP client, but so far there’s no working results there that I could find. :(

maemo-mapper. This is a fantastic mapping app for the tablet; it presents map tiles downloaded from OpenStreetMap or Google Maps in an N770-optimized format, with the usual nice draggable UI. Bonus: it’ll work offline, so you can follow a route while online, then take the tablet along to help navigate.

Tip: once you start maemo-mapper, click the “Download…” button in the “Repository Manager” and it’ll download details for the 5 most useful map repositories, including Google and Virtual Earth.

FBReader. A very nice document reader; much nicer than trying to read long HTML pages in the builtin web browser, especially since it allows you to turn the device on its side.

In general, the Opera Mini browser works fine; be sure to enable Javascript and set up a swap file on the RS-MMC card first. It does all the basic HTML and rudimentary AJAX; Google Calendar is a no-go, but GMail and even Google Maps works adequately, modulo minor bugs. Plain Old HTML sites like Wikipedia, IMDB and so on all work great.

As long as you’re realistic about the platform, it won’t disappoint — video requires custom transcoding, for example, and proprietary apps like Flash and RealPlayer lag behind their desktop equivalents, but as far as I can tell that’s the case for every embedded platform. (Since I spent a couple of years developing such a platform, I’m quite comfortable with this.)

A really really nifty thing about the N770 is that it’s now entirely hackable — within 30 minutes of powering on, I was able to get a terminal window open with a root prompt, and was adding ext3 partitions to the RS-MMC card. Apps are installed using “apt-get”. The terminal even has word-completion system optimized for the UNIX command-line – nice ;)

This SomethingAwful thread contains plenty more good tips. I’m happy I bought it — so many of these gadgets can wind up as an overpriced door-stop, but this is easily worth what I paid for it.

Update: this thread at InternetTabletTalk seems pretty chock-full of good advice, too.

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  1. Posted August 17, 2007 at 09:18 | Permalink


    Glad you’re having fun with it as well – did you stick with the original OS , or do the upgrade (to make it think it’s the newer Nokia 800)?

    Thanks for the link to how to get the console installed – been half looking to get this working since mine arrived , but have been struggling with Vista (another story) so haven’t got to it yet.


  2. Posted August 17, 2007 at 10:15 | Permalink

    Paul — I stuck with the N770 OS2006 release; if you look through that Something Awful thread, the consensus is that the “hacker release” will break a lot of stuff right now. I might give it a few months.

  3. Posted August 17, 2007 at 10:23 | Permalink

    Hea Justin,

    Glad to see you like the 770..I got a N800 a few months ago and it is a great device, for_Internet_browsing. Not as a PDA, mobile phone replacement as people seem to think it is.

    And with regards the apps, yup, I use Maemo mapper also. A little hint: get yerself a 2 or a 4GB MMC card, and config Maemo mapper to store the map files on it…there you have most of the mapping you could need.

    Also another little hint (I’m sure you know already): most if not all of the mobile sites (google mobile, newsgator mobile, etc) work really well on the N800/770.

    Another few good apps (at least for the N800 not sure if they will run on tne 770 OS): Skype (but I dont use it…not proper VoIP), Gizmo (works really well, and is proper VoIP), VNC (both server and client) and also get xterm installed (allows you to ssh from/to the device).

    Enjoy it…and lemme know if you find anything interesting..


  4. Posted August 17, 2007 at 10:35 | Permalink

    yeah I’ve been planning to try out Gizmo — if that works nicely, it’ll be great!

  5. Joseph Annino
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 14:58 | Permalink

    I had a 770, then got a N800 and gave the 770 to a friend. Both are great devices. I use it to do a lot of web browsing in cafes, keeping up on news and techy stuff. I also got the ThinkOutside folding bluetooth keyboard for it which works great. With that and openssh installed, I can log into a server and get work done from almost anywhere without having to break my back carrying a bulky laptop around all the time.

    I saw this post on Planet Perl. I’ve never found a good perl install for the 770 or N800, and it would be nice to have. There are VMWare images out there of Ubuntu with the developer tools preinstalled, which I have played with and did manage to port over a rather rough version of apache with PHP. Nokia had made a good device for us who like to tinker, and there is a lot you can do if you just have the time.

  6. Posted August 20, 2007 at 10:55 | Permalink

    hi Joseph — actually, perl on the N770 looks pretty promising, as far as I can tell; I noticed perl 5.8.4 (iirc) in the package lists.

    I haven’t installed it myself — my wrists would never be able to handle writing code with a touchscreen keyboard :( I need a proper kbd for that!

  7. Posted August 20, 2007 at 21:31 | Permalink

    Yep, I’ve checked — and perl looks pretty solid:

    ~ $ perl -V
    Summary of my perl5 (revision 5.0 version 8 subversion 3) configuration:
        osname=linux, osvers=2.6.12-1-686-smp, archname=arm-linux-gnueabi-thread-multi
        uname='linux 2.6.12-1-686-smp #1 smp tue sep 27 13:10:31 jst 2005 arm gnulinux '
        config_args='-Dusethreads -Duselargefiles -Dccflags=-DDEBIAN -march=armv3 -Dcccdlflags=-fPIC -Darchname=arm-linux-gnueabi -Dprefix=/usr -Dprivlib=/usr/share/perl/5.8 -Darchlib=/usr/lib/perl/5.8 -Dvendorprefix=/usr -Dvendorlib=/usr/share/perl5 -Dvendorarch=/usr/lib/perl5 -Dsiteprefix=/usr/local -Dsitelib=/usr/local/share/perl/5.8.3 -Dsitearch=/usr/local/lib/perl/5.8.3 -Dman1dir=/usr/share/man/man1 -Dman3dir=/usr/share/man/man3 -Dsiteman1dir=/usr/local/man/man1 -Dsiteman3dir=/usr/local/man/man3 -Dman1ext=1 -Dman3ext=3perl -Dpager=/usr/bin/sensible-pager -Uafs -Ud_csh -Uusesfio -Uusenm -Duseshrplib -Dd_dosuid -des'
        hint=recommended, useposix=true, d_sigaction=define
        usethreads=define use5005threads=undef useithreads=define usemultiplicity=define
        useperlio=define d_sfio=undef uselargefiles=define usesocks=undef
        use64bitint=undef use64bitall=undef uselongdouble=undef
        usemymalloc=n, bincompat5005=undef
        cc='cc', ccflags ='-D_REENTRANT -D_GNU_SOURCE -DTHREADS_HAVE_PIDS -DDEBIAN -march=armv3 -fno-strict-aliasing -D_LARGEFILE_SOURCE -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64',
        cppflags='-D_REENTRANT -D_GNU_SOURCE -DTHREADS_HAVE_PIDS -DDEBIAN -march=armv3 -fno-strict-aliasing'
        ccversion='', gccversion='3.4.4 (release) (CodeSourcery ARM 2005q3-2)', gccosandvers=''
        intsize=4, longsize=4, ptrsize=4, doublesize=8, byteorder=1234
        d_longlong=define, longlongsize=8, d_longdbl=define, longdblsize=8
        ivtype='long', ivsize=4, nvtype='double', nvsize=8, Off_t='off_t', lseeksize=8
        alignbytes=8, prototype=define
      Linker and Libraries:
        ld='cc', ldflags =''
        libpth=/lib /usr/lib
        libs=-lgdbm -lgdbm_compat -ldb -ldl -lm -lpthread -lc -lcrypt
        perllibs=-ldl -lm -lpthread -lc -lcrypt
        libc=/lib/, so=so, useshrplib=true,
      Dynamic Linking:
        dlsrc=dl_dlopen.xs, dlext=so, d_dlsymun=undef, ccdlflags='-rdynamic'
        cccdlflags='-fPIC', lddlflags='-shared'
    Characteristics of this binary (from libperl):
      Built under linux
      Compiled at May 26 2006 18:42:35

    -DMULTIPLICITY may be overkill for this platform ;)