New 3UK MiFi unit

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Here’s the new 3UK MiFi (v2) that was launched last night.  The device features a number of minor updates on the previous unit, and really does address many of the issues and concerns that have been raised against the original unit.  In particular:

  • The device now turns on, powers on all radios, and auto-connects to 3UK, instead of needing 3 button presses.
  • The device now features an OLED screen, with information on data usage (from that session), WiFi status (including number of connected clients), SMS messages.  When the screen turns off, the green power light on the power button still lit for immediate visibility of the fact the device is turned on.
  • The management is now all performed from a web browser interface (the old Windows management tool which only worked when connected via a cable is no more); this means Mac, Linux, iPad / iPhone support is all there and working out the box.  This also now allows access to the microSD card reader from all devices.
  • 3UK / Huawei have improved the battery life of the device, but due to the screen needing more power than 4 lights it has roughly the same usage time, although battery charging has been reduced by around 20%.
  • Also, you can use it whilst charging (as opposed to the old unit), and 3UK have moved from miniUSB to microUSB in line with most (but not all) mobile phone manufacturers.
  • In terms of the new device, it will go on sale on 2 July for the same price as the current unit.  As stocks of the old unit run out, the In Car MiFi and iPod Touch bundles will update to the new unit too.

For existing users of the current device, there are no upgrade plans, although you can simply buy the device on PAYG and move your current SIM across to the new unit. One thing though; 3UK are considering releasing a firmware update for the current device which would enable the 1 button startup (ie basically it turns on the auto-connect feature).  Experiments with this though have indicated this may reduce battery life a little.

Overall, this device has resolved the concerns of the old unit, is styled more in keeping with tech nowadays, and is well worth considering.

Finally, thanks to @3MobileBuzz for arranging the event, and even providing cupcakes…


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Joggler update

Friday, April 9th, 2010

O2 Joggler

We covered the reduced price on the O2 Joggler last week (here), and it looks like this has been very popular; to the extent that most O2 Stores have now run out of stock, and O2 have advised all Stores there is a Nationwide shortage.  So, right now, if you want to order one, you’ll need to order direct on the O2 website, where O2 have also indicated that delivery is now up to 7 days, instead of the original Next Day Delivery.

In fact, this might be the only way of getting one at the reduced price of £49.99; we understand that stock will not return to the O2 Warehouse until late next week, and the earliest an O2 Store can order new stock will be the 17th April; which is after the reduced price offer finishes (15th April).  Although it’s possible an online order will also need to wait for this stock to arrive, at the moment you can still order it at the reduced price.

Now, once you get your O2 Joggler, what to do with it?  Well, first of all, get all the software updates, as this will add all the latest functionality.  Try these things which might be worthy of doing:

  • If you don’t already have a uPNP Server, then you might want to install MediaTomb (Linux and Mac OS X only) to provide access to your music  / pictures / videos over your local network without having to make another copy of your media collection for the Joggler.
  • If you want to install additional applications, the first thing you’ll need to do is to get telnet working, and there’s now a new way of doing this, that was released yesterday; head here for more information.
  • Or, for those more security conscious, get ssh working from here.
  • Setup the ability to access Live BBC Channels (see here; you’ll need to have telnet access, and you’ll need to use telnet to get the streams working).

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MWC Update on Nokia

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

MeeGo

Well, we can’t be right all the time!  Yesterday we predicted Nokia would announce a range of handsets, and it appears that Nokia have no such plans (we are hearing rumours that Nokia will be organising it’s own event in March / April time where it will release a number of phones, including the ones we hinted at), but instead Nokia did announce that it’s Linux OS, Maemo, will be merging it’s Open Source efforts with Intel’s Moblin platform to produce a new OS environment called MeeGo, which will offer support for both netbooks as well as Internet Tablet phones.

For more information on the new venture, and what it means for both platforms, head to the MeeGo website.


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Android Tablet coming to the UK

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

ICD Vega

What a nice change; a device launched in the US, but at the launch, it was announced that the device will be coming to the UK!  T-Mobile UK are working with ICD to release the ICD Vega Kitchen computer / Android Tablet in the UK later this year.  Well, compared to the O2 Joggler, this might well have just those few extra facilities to actually be a bigger success story…

The spec of the Vega includes:

  • Processor — Nvidia Tegra 250 (1GHz)
  • Memory – 512MB DDR DRAM
  • Flash — 512MB NAND flash; 32GB internal SD card; external Micro SD slot
  • Display — 15.6-inch 1366 x 768 resistive touchscreen; HDMI output
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g WiFi
    • Bluetooth 2.1
    • Optional 2G or 3G cellular
  • USB — 1 x USB 2.0 High-Speed OTG
  • Camera — 1.3-megapixel
  • Audio — 3.5mm audio jack; external speakers; dual microphones
  • Other features:
    • Accelerometer
    • Ambient light sensor
    • Charging dock
    • Magnetic docking
  • Power — 11AH 3.9V lithium-ion battery (4 hours life); 110-240V input; 12VDC output (35 W, for dock)
  • Dimensions — 14.7 x 10.0 x 0.6 inches (373 x 254 x 16mm)
  • Weight — 2.9 lbs (1.3kg)
  • Operating system — Android 2.0

The dock may also feature an additional speaker, and possibly an HDMI port too, but with that 3G support, you’ll be able to make calls, and this is no sudden decision by T-Mobile, who have, apparently been working with ICD for 18 months.

Taken advantage of the Android platform, Linuxdevices have said “The Android software on the device offers one-touch access to a household calendar, enabling families to organize schedules in one place, say the companies. The web-accessible device can automatically send SMS text reminders of calendar items to cellphones. Additional features are said to include web browsing, on-demand TV, access to social networks, video chat, and games.”

ICD also announced a 15.6″ unit (ICD Ultra) and made reference to also working on an 11″ tablet too.  The ICD Ultra adds to the Vega specs with a GPS too.

One small point to watch out for; these, and many other “Android” devices are likely to be using the Open Source Android OS, and will not be “Google Experience” devices, so don’t expect this device to automatically take a Google account and support all the Google features that you may have on your “Google Experience” Android phone…

The only other unknown at this point is the price, but we would expect something similar to O2 and the Joggler where there are options for subsidised pricing…

Some content courtesy of Linux Devices, and thanks to Stuart for the Heads Up!


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Boxee Beta

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Boxee splash

This is a screenshot from the latest Boxee Beta.  Boxee is an XBMC spin off which should work on Windows, Mac, Linux and Apple TV, and there have been a number of worthwhile articles about it if you are interested.

Firstly, Lifehacker have produced a Beta Walkthrough, which covers looks of detail over the software, including looking at some of the application addons that include Social Networking sites.

Now, if you are looking for a complete guide to installing Boxee, then head to Liam Green-Hughes site, where he has covered the install on the Acer Aspire Revo in sufficient detail to allow anyone to be able to get it installed and working.

Of course, if you are not keen on installing the software yourself, or don’t have an Acer Aspire Revo, then one option is to wait for their own hardware (in conjunction with D-Link) to be released…

Boxee hardware

This will be produced with a nice stylish RF remote (with a QWERTY keyboard on the back for performing searches and entering information).  It’s due to go on sale in the US for only $200, although it’s not clear what it will cost (or whether it will even be available) in the UK.  Just in case you’re worried that it’s a large ugly box, the height of that box is about 6 inches!


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The power of the Nokia N900

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Nokia N900

Two little stories have caught my attention this week regarding the Nokia N900, Nokia’s new Maemo based Internet Tablet Phone.  Firstly, from Liam Green-Hughes (who has written up his First Looks review of the Nokia N900 here), and in that article he mentions a little third party utility called FM RDS Notify.  As the Nokia N900 ships, you have support for an FM transmitter, which when you connect to an RDS-compatible stereo (such as in the car), you will see “Nokia” displayed when music is playing.  However, FM RDS Notify takes that capability a stage further, and puts more useful information into the RDS data information of the FM signal, allowing details of the current music track playing to appear on the stereo instead.

However, it doesn’t stop there; it can also display the details of the current caller (should be be on the phone), or even display SMS messages.  Although the application is currently only in the Extras-devel repository, and not the more mainstream Extras respository, I’m sure it will move over in time, as the application develops.  It already has some impressive functionality for what is v0.3, and the first version was only released back in late December!

The other interesting app for the Nokia N900 is Barriosquare, which is a FourSquare client for the Nokia N900.  Now, FourSquare is only starting to become popular in the UK, but has been running for some while in the US.  FourSquare combines the Social Networking aspects of sites like Twitter and merges in the location, and there is even an element of competition on who can “login” to an individual location the most and claim the “Mayor” badge for that location.  Using the public API to the website, a single developer has managed to create the application.

And that’s the power of the Nokia N900; individual developers can create a free app for the device and release it via the repositories and then everyone can access that new utility, that new feature which enhances the whole device just a little more.  The same sort of idea is available for most platforms through their App Store, but Maemo developers have embraced the idea of the Linux repositories offering free applications, and many of the enhancement applications are going to remain free, even when Nokia release a paid App Store for Maemo.

Although in my mind it will never be an iPhone killer, the Nokia N900 is certainly a phone that any serious techie should at least consider seriously; even with all the work that’s gone into Maemo 5, it’s still a little bit specialised to recommend the Nokia N900 to someone not used to smartphones and tinkering with their phone, but for the target market, apps like these will continue to make the Nokia N900 shine.

Some content around Barriosquare courtesy of thenokiablog.


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Maemo Last.fm client gets an update

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Vagalume on Nokia N900

The Maemo Last.fm client, Vagalume (which also works on a variety of Linux OSes), has been updated to v.0.8.1.  This new version (which has been released for the existing OSes as well as the new Maemo 5 OS), offers a range of new features…

  • Implemented the Last.fm Web Services API v2.0
  • Support for Libre.fm and other Last.fm-compatible services
  • Support for Maemo 5 (Nokia N900)
  • New icon that replaces the classic Vagalume logo
  • New CD case image to place the album cover artwork
  • New feature to stop playback after a given time (“sleep timer”)
  • New menu option to play any user’s tag radio
  • New “Add bookmark” and “Bookmark this radio” menu entries
  • New configuration setting to download free tracks automatically
  • Add {station} keyword to the IM status template
  • Use system-wide Gnome audio settings
  • Mixer support to change the volume in non-Maemo targets
  • Added Polish translation
  • Autocompletion support for combo box entries
  • Make url and email clickable on the about dialog
  • vagalumectl: new commands to show and hide the player window
  • Fix some timeout problems in HTTP requests

What’s nice to see is support for Libre.fm, which is a similar setup to Last.fm, but designed around Free music, and hence as no subscription to pay.  It uses a very similar API to access the music as Last.fm, so it will be interesting to see whether we start to see other clients, such as the Symbian mobbler client also supporting this site.

Since the initial v0.8 release, a minor update has already been released which fixes a minor install issue with the Nokia N900, and also falls back to the old Last.fm API should the new one not work.

For me, it’s nice to see this client not abandoning the elder Nokia Maemo devices, and I hope many other Maemo applications offer continued support for these devices (eg Nokia N800, Nokia N810), which still function perfectly well, even if they can’t run the latest OS.

If you aren’t seeing Vagalume in the Application Manager on the Nokia N900, then follow Gerry’s advice here to activate the “Maemo Extras” application repository to get access to more applications.


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WikiReader supports software updates!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

WikiReader

When we covered the WikiReader here, the offline wikipedia device last week, we weren’t sure whether or not it would support software updates.  Well, we had a brief chat with the manufacturers (OpenMoko, the same guys who were behind the FreeRunner linux based mobile phone) and they have confirmed that there are two ways of performing software updates.

  • Firstly, and the easiest way; each wikipedia data update will ship on SD card with the latest software / firmware for the device (the SD card delivery option is a chargeable option). For those who download the free 4GB image instead, this will also contain the software update when released (they plan to release wikipedia updates twice a year on SD card and quarterly for download).
  • Secondly, if you are really keen, you can actually access their source code and compile it yourself! For those not quite that keen, we believe you can also access a pre-compiled copy of the software providing you access to any new functions / bugfixes from the same website, although for many, it will be easier to stick to the SD card image updates.

This is good news, and we are always supportive of companies who not just produce units, but continue to support them into the future; okay the device may only get 1 or 2 minor software updates, but if the company ever completely gave up on the device, we reckon it wouldn’t be long before an enterprising developer (or community) would step in and help out.  As it is, the device has ongoing support, and apparently takes about 6 days in shipping time between the US and Europe (although watch out for the UK Postal Strikes getting in the way).

We also chatted about the update service, and although they will be producing quarterly updates available to download, the SD card option will be $29  shipping for two updates per year, so, assuming the same $19.20 shipping charge applies, that will be $29 + 2 * $19.20, so still less than $70 all in.


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Feedback on the 3UK MiFi

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

3UK Mobile Wi-Fi Device (MiFi)

I was fortunate to be invited to an online feedback session with David Kerrigan, who heads up the Internet services at 3UK the other night to discuss the recently launched MiFi device.  One common concern by the early reviewers was the 4 lights, and whether it was clear enough about what the status of the device was.  David said he took these comments onboard, and would look to see what could be done; a little LCD display was discussed, but whether 3UK are able to implement it we don’t know yet.

I raised a question about the lack of GPRS fallback on all 3UK Mobile Broadband devices, and David re-iterated 3UK‘s position that with their plans for their “monster” network over the next year, they feel the problems of lack of coverage will go away such that thoughts of GPRS fallback should no longer occur.

Questions were raised over the current management interface, especially for Mac and Linux users, and David confirmed that “early next year” there should be a web interface available for these devices.  When pushed, David took onboard my comments about making new facilities such as this available to existing users, as well as users of the “next generation” MiFi device, and David stated he would feedback to the developers that this was wanted as a firmware upgrade for existing devices, as well as new devices, and I hope the developers listen and provide functionality like this to the early adopters.

A couple of important points from me; firstly, this confirms 3UK‘s statement earlier in the year that they want to listen more, and take onboard feedback.  I’m impressed that they are willing and open to discussions on their devices, and for that, I fully support 3UK.  With their new improved network rolling out I guess that just leaves their Customer Service as an issue, although I’m not sure any mobile network could be said to have a “good Customer Service” experience.

Finally, a few snippets of other news; the Android phone announcement should be any day now, and promises to be an interesting device.  Also, 3UK confirmed that they will not be carrying the iPhone any time soon (that’s not to say they won’t ever carry it, just don’t hold your breath!); they said they feel their upcoming range of phones will offer a similar “or better” mobile internet experience, although they did finish with “We’re not saying never.. just not yet”!!

I’d like to thank David from 3UK, Sarah B from 3UK (PR), and the team at 3mobilebuzz for organising the feedback session.  If you have any opinions on 3UK, the MiFi device, or any other area of 3UK‘s service, then leave a comment, and I’ll pass it back to 3UK at the next feedback session.


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Linutop create new model

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Linutop 3

This is the Linutop 3, a small form factor PC running Linux.  Linutop promote these PCs for various usages; kiosks, digital signage, standalone usage, but we think these PCs also work well in a couple of other scenarios too; as fanless PCs, they can serve well in bedrooms, or in the lounge to act as a quiet PC for various internet tasks.

The Linutop 3 has a Via C7 1GHz processor (compared to the Geode 500MHz in the Linutop 2), and features 1GB DDR2 RAM (up from 512KB) and 2GB of Flash (up from 1GB).

In fact, we’ve had a Linutop 2 in for review for some while, and really accpreciate the additional effort Linutop has taken with the OS; as well as providing a customised Ubuntu install (based on Ubunto v8.04), it also features additional controls, such as locking the whole OS so nothing is preserved between boots (very useful for kiosk environments).  On top of that, Linutop update their OS image every few months, incorporating the latest software updates into the core Flash image, allowing valuable space that the software updates take up to be reclaimed.  You can also backup to a USB key, or boot and restore the device from a key (providing a nice easy upgrade path when they release the new OS images, although you do lose all data).

Within that OS image, Linutop include Firefox (with Flash support), OpenOffice, VLC Media Player, and even Pidgin Instant Messaging.

The Linutop 3 is larger than the Linutop 2 (9.3 x 9.3 x 2.2 inches, compared to 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.4), is a little heavier, and now draws 20 Watts instead of a more average 8 Watts from the Linutop 2.  This low power consumption makes these devices very good for leaving permanently on all the time, without the normal overhead of a full PC.  However, these devices will never compete on speed of tasks, so be prepared for a slightly slower experience.

In other areas, the Linutop 3 offers DVI support and a higher resolution that than the Linutop 2 (now 1920 x 1080), more USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet (up from Fast Ethernet), and an internal PCIe expansion option.

Our biggest issue with the Linutop 2 is the difficulty in getting BBC iPlayer working on the device, which would make it a lot more useful…

The Linutop 3 sells for €340, and the Linutop 2 is still available at €280 (both require an additional €28 for delivery) direct from the manufacturer here.  By the way, if you think the Linutop 2 is the same as other manufacturer’s devices in the same form factor (eg the Viglen unit), think again; the Linutop 2 is a higher spec device, both in terms of memory, flash and processor.


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