Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nokia E55 v22 firmware update

Is finally available for UK sim-free E55 - more than a month after it was released in Australia and whatever new Eastern Europe country that emerged over the past couple of years. Nice knowing how Nokia Care UK and its outsourced third party support treats its customers in the UK. On the upside at least the update is available via OTA.

Update: Well, the firmware update could not have gone smoother. Took about 3 minutes to download via OTA, apply the firmware update and for the phone to reboot. All my data and applications (including Java) has been preserved so no restore was required. So top marks to the software engineers at Espoo, but still a big boo to Nokia UK for making us wait.

December 2009 UK snow

We took some time in between moving and unpacking to enjoy the snow. Not quite is memorable as the one in February, but still it is pretty nice to have. That is before the snow is compacted into ice making it a hassle to walk on... I had to dig out my walking boots today because of the amount of ice on the pavements.

The last image is via my E55. I have not tested the panorama function extensively before, but it works really well and accurate like my old Sony Ericsson K750i. It is quite slow, but at least you are not required to stitch it yourself later.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Such a shame we wouldn't be able to enjoy it as we have already booked the removals for today...

In other news, my partner recently got a Nokia 5530 XpressMusic Symbian touchscreen smartphone as a replacement to her classic 5310 XpressMusic. Despite having only played with it for less than two hours, I actualy like it and would have considered it if it wasn't for the lack of hardware keyboard. Still, it is a steal for £99 on payasyougo as it beats plenty of more expensive touchscreen none-smartphones and smartphones on features. Expect a review once everything's settled.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Finally. We have sorted the legal bit and we are finally getting our key and moving. It has been a nigthmare dealing with an incompetent conveyancer, but at least (almost) everything's sorted now. The delay has been unbearable - we were supposed to have exchanged and completed by the end of last month! Now we only need to change our filed addresses, sort out the TV license, utility bills, pack the final 20% of junk, hire a removal van, move, unpack, clean, sort out the blinds, get the furniture assembled, get our new phone line and internet connection and whatever other stuff we need to do. Finger's crossed that we would have at least a liveable place to chill out by Christmas Eve. E-mail me for our new address. You can even get us something for our new flat. ;)

Normal blogging will resume once we've settled in. In the meantime follow me for updates.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Video games gift

We've been asked by some close friends about our opinions on video games as Christmas gifts, mainly to the elderly. To be honest, apart from the Brain Training and Professor Layton series on the DS, I can't think of any video games suitable for elderly. I haven't been following the DS scene for some time to be honest, but a cursory glance on DS charts seems to confirm my suspicious that those two series are the only ones worth getting as gifts for the elderly.

As for getting video games to other target audiences, I have a couple of suggestions. SingStar series is always a great gift idea as only the most thick skin person would deny its entertainment value. It is also perfect for post-Christmas and New Year Eve party where booze is readily available. For your average surly teenager I reckon something like Uncharted 2 or Left 4 Dead 2 would be welcomed - provided he/she hasn't already played it. Something newer like Assassin's Creed 2 is probably a safer bet.

For those who likes to play with their (very) young kids, may I suggest EyePet or Rabbids Go Home. They aren't terribly exciting, but will surely entertain those (very) young kids whilst keeping the adults amused (for a while). And finally if you have none-video gaming loft residing (e.g. Bermondsey) friends, then I am sure Wii Sports Resort, the new Zelda, Mario & Sonic or something silly like those overpriced toy guitar games will be appreciated (even if it is silly).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Send Tony Blair to the Hague

Everyday we are hearing more and more of what we have always known, that the (then) US and (current) UK government lied to their people and the world about Iraq. In any case fuck all will come out of this as the report has already been prepared. George Bush, Dick Cheney and their lap dog Tony Blair will never be tried for committing genocide and an illegal war on a sovereign nation based on deceit and made up dossiers. Anybody who thinks otherwise is living in a fucked up dreamland.

The International Court of Justice needs to grow some balls and drag Bush, Cheney, Bliar and their murdering accomplices to the Hague.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yakuza 3 getting March 2010 Western release

After much persuading, SEGA has finally seen sense and recognise that there is a market here other than silly Sonic gamesl; and decided to bring PS3 exclusive Yakuza 3 to Western markets. A date of March 2010 has been pegged making this month a brilliant one for PS3 owners (In case you missed the memo, God of War III, Gran Turismo 5 and Final Fantasy XIII are being released over here in March as well, and that is after White Knight Chronicles and Heavy Rain the month before). The localisation will feature English subtitles whilst retaining the Japanese voice cast - a good thing in anybody's book (except maybe the BBC who loves butchering Asian films with cheesy voice dubs).

Yakuza 3 follows the brilliant and criminally undersold PS2 exclusives Yakuza and Yakuza 2.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tell the chancellor to tax bankers' bonuses

The bankers are at it again. The chancellor is considering introducing a windfall tax on bankers' bonuses. Naturally the bankers aren't liking it, and after stealing billions of pounds from UK tax payers and getting away with it, they are attempting to stop the chancellor by claiming 'human right' abuses. More than 5000 of them are expected to receive £1 million in bonuses - tax free, in a year where millions has seen job loses and the treasury plundered to subsidised the very same bankers who destroyed the economy. Please let Mr. Darling know that you approve of the windfall tax on bankers' bonuses in his pre-budget report this week. If he has any balls he would do just that.

Tell the Chancellor to tax bankers' bonuses - email him now.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

RBS bankers can fuck off

So the fat cats arseholes that runs RBS are threatening to resign if they can't throw away £2 billion worth of taxpayers money onto their overpaid staff? This is a simple none-issue. If the government has any balls they will sack the bunch of ungrateful bankers with no severance pay (just cite incompetence and theft as reasons for dismissal). Throw out their pension pot as well I say. The taxpayers can have it back instead.

Fucking wankers.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Opera Mini 5 & Mobile 10 beta 2 released for Symbian S60 & Windows Mobile platform

Opera has released the second public beta of Opera Mini 5 for J2ME and Mobile 10 for Symbian S60 (both S60v3 and S60v5) and Windows Mobile platform.

The biggest feature addition with beta 2 is the inclusion of Opera Link - a unique feature that allows users to synchronise their bookmarks and settings (including speed dial) with various other Opera products including their desktop web browser. Users can manage their bookmarks online at the Opera Link website. Also included is a new download manager, which works surprisingly well and allows users to pause and resume multiple downloads. It also seems to perform better and faster with low RAM devices like the N97 Mini.

If you have a compatible mobile you can download the latest versions of Opera Mini 5 beta 2 and Mobile 10 beta 2 from http://m.opera.com/next

Opera Mini 5 beta 2 on a Nokia N97 Mini:

Opera Mobile 10 beta 2 on a Nokia N97 Mini:

Opera Mobile 10 beta 2 on a Nokia E55:

Opera Mini 5 beta 2 on a Nokia E55:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Qt 4.6 released

Nokia has today released the next version of Qt, a C++ cross platform graphical application development toolkit. Qt 4.6 technical preview adds native support for Symbian (including Symbian S60v3 and S60v5) and Maemo 6, as well as Windows 7 and that other platform that nobody except bloggers uses.

Future Symbian releases won't look anything like the video demo above but it will give you an idea of how a Qt (pronounced as 'cute') developed application is expected to perform when it replace S60/Avkon from Symbian^4 onwards. Exciting times ahead for both Symbian and Maemo fans.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nokia N97 Mini review

Nokia's N-series smartphone flagship N97 has seen plenty of flak this year, deservedly so. Not only was it badly executed and came with outdated internal hardware when it arrived, it was also blighted with bugs - both in its firmware and hardware. The choice of plastic material used didn't help either and the keyboard was one of the poorest in its class. If you wanted a QWERTY based Symbian phone, you would be better off getting a E71, E75 or even the now dated E90.

With the N97 Mini, Nokia aimed to to rectify whatever was wrong with the original N97. They have succeeded - to a certain degree. Comparison pictures may not show it well, but the N97 Mini is significantly smaller than the N97 and feels better to hold and use. The stainless steel material used increases the premium feel of the phone and the weight (138g) gives it a reassuringly solid feel. The display, whilst smaller, is perfect for a device of this size. The sliding screen mechanism is the same but the tilt isn't as extravagant as the N97, which, in my opinion, offers a better view of the screen when opened.

Unfortunately like the N97, Nokia has only managed to cram in three rows of keys. The wrongly positioned d-pad has been removed giving users more room from the left side. Whilst still behind the E75 and E90, the N97 Mini's keyboard is better than the N97 and offers a bit more tactile feedback than the old N97. Even my old HTC Wizard had a better sliding keyboard and that was from a few years ago. At any rate it isn't beyond Nokia's design and engineering capability to fit in a better keyboard as they have done so with the E75 and E90. Quite why they did not is beyond me.

At 3.2 inches, the display is sufficient in size. I was perfectly happy with my old 2.8" touchscreen phones in the past, so 3.2 iches is actually pretty generous. The touchscreen is resistive, which may annoy some people. I have always been a stylus person, preferring to accuracy of a thin poking device or fingernails than a fat thumb, so this isn't a problem to me. A stylus is also useful when using the built-in paint application. I used it extensively when visiting a property last week and jotting down notes on a floor plan. You just can't do that with a capacitive screen, at least not with current devices on the market or until slim capacitive stylus become common (like the rumoured HTC version). The screen itself is lovely to look at and offers good colour saturation and is visible outdoors. Like ancient Nokia phones, there is a ambient sensor located on the top which will adjust the screen brightness accordingly. A proximity sensor also resides nearby.

The battery is a 1200mAh BL-4D variant, which is smaller than the massive 1500mAh battery found on the fatter sibling, and various Nokia none-touchscreen superphones like the E55 and E72. It is good for about a day of moderate use - certainly no where near the powerhouse of my E55 (which can go 3 days of heavy use despite the quicker processor - it does have a much smaller screen to power though). Use the GPS navigator, WiFi and the music player heavily and you will be lucky to last a full working day. An investment of something like Proporta's mobile charging kit is advisable if you are planning to be away from a wall socket for longer than a day.

On the back resides the same 5 Megapixel camera sensor with a Carl Zeiss lens. The lens protector protector is missing this time, though I am sure many N97 owners would be glad to see it go. The dual LED flash is thankfully separated from the lens through a raised divider, which prevents the flash to bleed onto the sensor. You can read my review of the N97 Mini's camera here. It is a good camera for a phone and is more than decent enough for everyday snaps. The usual rules applies here: no cameraphone is capable of replacing a dedicated digital camera, even a cheap sub £100 compact performs better than this. On the plus side, the N97 has some form of manual controls that are usually missing from dedicated cheap compacts.

The N97 Mini is quite a bit more stable than the N97 thanks to a reasonable out of the box firmware. It does freeze occasionally at some points especially when running heavy applications, which I will attribute to the lack of RAM and processing prowess. The processor here is actually slower than the one found inside my tiny E55! Again, it isn't beyond Nokia's engineering capability to put in a quicker processor so I do not understand why they didn't choose so. It is likely that the N97 Mini's product development cycle prevented them from switching to a quicker processor, but the N97 Mini's processor is already outdated - about two years ago! If my Dell Axim X50v from 2005 can have a 620Mhz ARM processor, I see no reason why the N97 and N97 Mini couldn't have the same. It makes no sense to purposely cripple a high-end flagship with a processor that is ideally better off suited powering low and mid-range devices.

Mobbler is also compatible with the N97 Mini, a joy to all last.fm scrobblers

Julia Bradbury on my mobile? Count me in!

Because of the processor, the N97 Mini's multimedia capability isn't what it could be. Audio quality is brilliant as expected from a N-series phone and the 3.5mm headphone slot helps. It does suffer from a slight treble roll off. On the other than the bass isn't overpowering which is always a good or bad thing (depending on your point of view). The equaliser should help. In any case audio quality is similar to the E55, which is a pretty damn good audio player in its own right. With 8GB of built-in storage, and potentially another 32GB in the form of microSDHC expansion (once those flash memory cartels decides that their price fixing activities of 16GB cards is no longer sustainable and release the much overdue 32GB version), the N97 Mini is worthy of replacing your dedicated DAP.

As for videos, it supports MPEG4 videos out of the box and has SD TV-out support (which I did not test). There are no support for DivX and XviD files out of the box. Unfortunately it isn't compatible with high bitrate files as well, no doubt due to processing constraint. Third party applications like BBC iPlayer is supported, which is a great thing.

Browsing on the N97 Mini isn't a huge issue thanks to the higher resolution screen. With fonts set to the smallest one can comfortably browse sites without having to zoom in and out constantly with minimal scrolling. Rendering of sites are accurate as you can see from the screensnaps below. The browser also has support for Java and Flash. This means you can view flash videos such as those hosted at YouTube, directly within the browser, though quite why you would want to is another matter entirely.

The GPS receiver is far more accurate and quicker to gain a position than the N97, whether as a standalone receiver of with A-GPS enabled. I had no issues with getting a cold fix under ideal conditions (a couple of seconds with A-GPS enabled). Ovi Maps 3 is pre-installed and maps can be downloaded freely via the Ovi Suite desktop client or Nokia Maps Uploader. As the N97 Mini has a digital compass which allows the map to be rotated based on where the screen is facing, even if stationary. There are various third party applications that are being updated to take advantage of the digital compass - one of them being ViewRanger, an outdoor topographical map viewer/application.

Ovi Maps works in landscape and has polygonal renderings of famous landmarks

The N97 Mini is a good walker companion, though you would better invest in a spare battery!

In-call quality is brilliant. I have to admit I did not test the N97 extensively when it came to in-call phone call quality, but the N97 Mini offers crystal clear voice calls and brilliant reception (despite the metal body). As a phone, you will not be disappointed by the performance of the N97 Mini. Anyone familiar with a smartphone will have no issues with the PIM capability of the phone as well. It can be synced with various desktop PIM applications like Outlook via PC Suite. PIMs can also be synced to the 'cloud', though I do not recommend doing so exclusively when you have a perfectly good working computer to store your data in.

Many love the widget based homescreen, but I detest it. I prefer the 5800XM standby screen.

Ovi Store carries about 99% less applications than what is actually available on the Symbian platform. It is slowly getting there though.

The paint application is rudimentary at best, but works well for jotting quick notes

Plenty of third party applications including Gravity, a Twitter client; Fring - the first to bring Skype video calling to a mobile platform and the multi tasking compatible Spotify client (not shown).

The N97 Mini is a much better phone than the N97. From a design point of view, it is what the N97 should have been in the first place, and if I had to choose between the two, I would have chosen the N97 Mini even despite the smaller built-in storage. Fortunately I am not in the position to choose as the N97 Mini have also inherited the internal hardware weakness of its bigger older sibling and for that alone I cannot recommend the N97 Mini. It is actually a rather nice piece of kit hampered only by Nokia's reluctance to provide it the power it so craves.

The N97 Mini retails for £399 and is available now.

Thanks to WOMWorld/Nokia for providing the review unit.