N900 tweaking

I’ve been tweaking my N900 quite a bit (just because I can).

Power management. Sadly there are some issues with some wifi routers related to power management. If you find yourself with connections timing out, the solution is going to settings, internet connections. Then edit the problematic connection and go to the last page which features an advanced button. Then under ‘other’ set power management to intermediate or off.

With that sorted out, you’ll want to be offline most of the day. So don’t turn on sip/im/facebook unless you need it and switch it off right after you’re done. Push email is nice but with 15/30 minute polling your battery will last longer.

To gain insight, of course install battery-eye. This plots a graph of your batteries power reserves. Finally, you may want to install a few applets to dim the screen, turn on/off wifi, and switch between 2G and 3G. You can find these in the extras repository that is enabled by default in the application manager.

Apt-get. The application manager is nice but a bit sluggish and it insists on refreshing catalogs after just about each tap. Use it to install openssh and make sure to pick a good password (or set up key authentication). Then ssh into your n900 and use apt-get update and apt-get install just like you would on any decent Debian box. This is why you got this device.

Finding stuff to install. Instead of listing all the crap I installed, I’ll provide something more useful: ways of finding crap to install.

  • Ovi store. Small selection of goodies. Check it out but don’t count on finding too much there. Included for completeness
  • Misc sites with the latest cool stuff:
  • Advanced (i.e. don’t come crying when you mess up and have to reflash): enable the extras, extras-testing, extras-devel repositories from here. Many useful things are provided here. Some of them have the potential to seriously mess up your device. Extras-devel is where all the good stuff comes from but it’s very much like Debian unstable.

Browser extensions. The N900 browser supports extensions. Install the adblock and maemo geolocation extensions through the application manager.

Use the browser. Instead of applications, you can use the browser and rely on web applications instead:

  • Cotchin. A web based foursquare client. Relies on the geolocation API for positioning.
  • Google Reader for touch screen phones.
  • Google maps mobile. Includes latitude, routing and other cool features. Relies on the geolocation API for positioning.
  • Maemaps. Pretty cool N900 optimized unofficial frontend for Google Maps.
  • Hahlo. A nice twitter client in the browser.

Dumping bloglines for google reader

I’ve used the popular Sage extension for all my RSS reading needs until a few months ago when I discovered bloglines.com. Essentially the advantage of an RSS aggregating website vs an offline RSS aggregator is twofold:

  • You don’t have to worry about polling the various sites
  • You can use multiple computers to visit the website and not see the same stuff twice. In my case I use my laptop (work), my pc (home) and sometimes my phone (Nokia E70) or somebody else’s computer.

Bloglines.com was nice while I used it but I had some issues from the beginning:

  • A lot of time appears to pass before bloglines updates its feeds.
  • Sometimes stuff is presented as unread while in fact I already read it
  • Sometimes that was months ago
  • Sometimes it is everything in the bloody feed
  • All of the above seems to be happening a lot lately. I’m not getting updates from sites that have multiple updates when I visit them manually (including the sites that I visit multiple times per day normally). The same stuff from the same sites keeps reappearing as new when I know for a fact that those sites are not experiencing technical difficulties. Also it seems to affect a lot of sites.

So basically it broke both reasons why I was using it in the first place! Bye bye bloglines and hello Google Reader. I exported my feeds as opml from bloglines and imported them in Google Reader. When I tried it a  few months ago it basically sucked (hence I moved to bloglines) but they’ve made loads of improvements since then and it is now pretty damn good.

  • It’s got nice AJAX features so it doesn’t waste my time letting me wait while it fetches the same page.
  • Navigation is excellent, fast and intuitive. I had some minor issues with pages not refreshing though.
  • I disabled the mark read when scrolling feature. This feature basically marks stuff as read when you scroll downwards using the scrollbar or your wheel mouse. Since I scroll before actually reading stuff (to get an overview of what is on the page) that means stuff gets marked read that I have only glanced at of 0.5 seconds. Not good, should be off by default.
  • With this annoying feature disabled, the behavior is quite nice. You can click an item or scroll to the next with the spacebar. Doing so marks it read.
  • There’s a mark all read at the top of the page. So what I do now is review the new stuff (in chronological order); middle click stuff I want to read (on the original site) and then mark all read.
  • So far I’ve not been able to catch Google Reader to be more than a minute or so behind on my favourite site. Pinochet died yesterday and I knew almost right away because the relevant feed updated immediately. I saw the post on a blog within 20 minutes after it hit the news. With bloglines, I would probably have been ignorant of the whole thing until I bothered to visit the site myself. Probably google is hooked up to pingomatic and has enough capacity to download updates more less right after the ping arrives.

So far, I like Google reader a lot better than bloglines, even when it was working properly.