Skyfire for Symbian – Retirement

I’ve previously written about Skyfire for Symbian as a very good quality web browser for the Symbian platform, displaying some website content which other web browsers couldn’t, such as live webcam updates. However the proxy-based web browser remained at version 1.0 for some time and on the Skyfire blog, it was announced that the company was withdrawing support for platforms that used the proxy-based service, namely Symbian and Windows Mobile from the 31st of December 2010. This withdrawl applies to countries that have had access to the service since the service was reduced earlier in the year, namely which includes at least the UK and the USA.

This is a real shame as the Skyfire browser, though a little slower than say Opera Mobile or Symbian Web, did give that almost desktop like browsing experience. The company seems to be concentrating more on the Apple and Android markets and have released recent updates for the browser for those platforms.

Personally, it will not make a much of an impact as I tend to use Opera Mobile 10.1 as my main browser on my Nokia E71. The only time I would refer to Skyfire was if there was a site I couldn’t view properly and so loaded up Skyfire.

Therefore, in preparation for the closure of the service in a couple of days time I shall be uninstalling the application later today which will free up a little memory in my over-worked E71.

Bye, bye, Skyfire its been fun knowing you.

Posted by Wordmobi

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Nokia E71 Firmware Update

As much as I like my Nokia E71, when I bought it, it had a few minor annoyances. Because it had firmware revision 200.21.118, there were a couple of irritaing bugs. The screensaver time would not update, unless you pressed a key. The camera quality, wasn’t brilliant – some first shots came out with a purple ‘hue’ that would be corrected only by taking a second shot.

So a recent check of my phones firmware updates revealed version 400.21.013 was available to install. After backing up the contents of the phone memory and 8Gb memory card, I connected the phone and started the download via the phone software update service. Never having any bother before with firmware updates, especially on my N95, I was confident this would pass without incident.

However after 15 minutes the update software (1 minute away from completion and displaying various warnings about not disconnecting the USB cable) reported that it had lost connection with the phone and I had to disconnect/reconnect it and reattempt the update.

Doing as instructed, it appeared to go through ok until the last minute again and displayed a message that the update had failed. Fearing that my phone had been ‘bricked’, even though the phone had been correctly connected to the the update service, I started the phone up and thankfully booted ok. A check with *#0000# displayed the new firmware version of 400.21.013, so the update appeared to complete successfully. everything seemed to be ok on the phone, except when I tried ‘web’, the built-in browser. For some it wouldn’t connect and displayed various error messages to the effect that it couldn’t connect. So I installed ‘Gravity’, my Twitter client. This also displayed an error message and wouldn’t connect to the internet.

The only thing that gave me a clue how to get around the problem was to take the battery, MicroSD card and SIM card out. I usually install all my applications to the MicroSD card and thought there could be some sort of preferences file screwing up the internet connection.

I never found out the root cause, however despite several hard resets, installs of backups and re-install of the firmware (which did result in the same error as the first time), the only solution I found was to hard reset the phone, wait for a while and then try Web. It seems as though, after a firmware update the phone needed time to re-register itself back on the network before I could use extended services such as internet access.

Once I’d re-established a reliable internet connection I set about blanking my MicroSD card and restoring only data that would interfere with phone application settings, then the applications themselves.

Suffice to say, my phone is fully working again, the time on the screensaver is fixed and the camera is much, much improved!

if you go ahead with a firmware upgrade, tread carefully and prepare for one or two heart-stopping moments!

Disclaimer: if anyone screws up their phone after reading any part of this blog and blames me, tough luck. I accept no responsibility for your damaged phone in any shape or form.

Bye-Bye N900, it was nice not ever knowing you

One of my first posts when I started this blog in August 2009 was tech-drooling over the Nokia N900. This was Nokias updated internet tablet based on the Maemo operating system.

There has been much written about the device elsewhere and I won’t try and compile it here. A lot of people like it, it looks to be Nokias future operating system in the shape of Maemo 5 and beyond, Maemo 6 in their high-end phones.

The tech-geek in me is always looking to the next device, above what I already have which is a Nokia E71. The N900 seemed to fit the bill, so I read up on the device and looked forward to getting my paws on one.

Last weekend, whilst out shopping, I noticed a sign advertising the N900 in stock at a Carphone Warehouse shop. Now I would never, ever purchase anything from Carphone Warehouse, I have had one bad experience with them which was enough and I got out of the contract I had with them as fast as I could, after the 12 months had expired. However, they have lots of shiny stuff on display to play with which I’m happy to oblige by leaving paw prints on.

So I sidled over and picked up the N900, first impressions are good, good slider action, lovely keyboard, though keys are slightly too small for my large fingers. It is quite a thick phone, but what was slightly disappointing was the screen size. I expected more, especially as you can have a large amount of information on the screen. I put the phone back before I got too hassled by the salesman that was lurking nearby.

Something else that has changed my opinion about the device is a review on the Phones Show Chat audio podcast, produced by Steve Litchfield and Tim Salmon. The podcast, episode 20, which can be found here said that the device was great for techies who want a cutting edge device that you dont mind getting stuck into the linux and programming side of things, but not something for the man on the street.

Having been involved with computers at quite a technical role for more than twenty years, I’ve never considered myself as a technophobe. However on hearing this in the podcast, I started to lose interest in the device. If I want to delve into the guts of something, I’ll build/obtain something for that purpose. However, a smartphone is something that I have reliability high on the priorities list. I dont want have to be delving into a file system or reflash the device every couple of days, in order to make a simple phone call.

As good as the N900 is, unfortunately I don’t think its a mainstream device yet. I’ll stick to the Symbian S60 series for the moment, or until the next wonder device comes along… ;o)

Posted by Wordmobi

Experiments with CHDK for the Canon S2IS

Over the past few days I’ve been mucking around with CHDK (Canon Hackers Development Kit) for my digital camera and a couple of scripts I downloaded from the CHDK website. One in particular, the ‘ultra-intervalometer’ is proving to be particularly fun.

I’ve been trying to catch the weather when its clear for some low light photography, unfortunately its been too cloudy early evening and I’m still to get a decent opportunity to get some low-light shots that I can try with Registax, the astronomy image-stacking program.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to put together a 100-frame time-lapse animation of the sun setting. The images were saved as JPEGs and compiled as an AVI with the free ‘PhotoStage’ application from NCH. The camera was set to take a frame every 30 seconds, for a total of 100 frames. Because the camera was set up on a mini-tripod in an upstairs room, there is some reflection from the window which I’ll have to overcome in future ‘inside’ shots, possibly by angling the camera direction more.

The results can be seen by going to the following link…

Sunset time-lapse video

You’ll need Quicktime installed in order to play the video (MPG format).

Next? There is heavy snow predicted where I live in the next 24 hours so I think this will be a good opportunity for another animation.

Remote Locking Your Nokia E71

I came across this useful article on E71fanatics.com (link is here ) the other day, ‘how to remote lock your E71’. Useful in the respect that if you lose your E71 (or any other Symbian 60 phone), you can send a text message from another phone with a recognised code. On reception of that code, the phone locks itself and becomes useless. Only if the code is re-entered successfully, will the phone become unlocked.

I followed the instructions and sent the pre-defined lock code to the E71, from my other ‘backup’ phone, a Nokia 6680. As expected, the phone immediately locked and would not work without me entering the correct code. Satisfied my phone was now secure, I simply left it at that.

However, I have got into the habit of leaving my phone on overnight, spolit my the E71’s fantastic battery life. I was only when I came to switch the phone off to check the availability of a new firmware upgrade by looking at the operator model code insdie the phone, that I found a problem.

Because I usually install new aplications to the 8Gb MicroSD card, the theme that I had installed didn’t load. An application to display a wallpaper full screen hadn’t loaded and when I tried to access the MicroSD card through the file manager, I got a ‘Memory Card Corrupted’ message.

After a couple more reboots with no luck (and trying to access the via card via a card reader), I found that the phone would access the card if it was simply left for a short while, 5-10 minutes.

I did find that I could access the card via the USB cable, so I started backing up all the data from card, in case there was a big problem with it.

Completing the backup, I disconnected the cable and went to the S60 menu. When I tried to get card information, I was prompted for a password. This gave me an idea that the remote lock had an effect on the card and after a go with different passwords, I hit on the correct one and unlocked the card.

After I accessed a couple of programs and rebooted the phone, all is working ok now. The remote lock feature is still in use on the phone, but because I don’t keep any vital data on the MicroSD card and to save getting any more errors, the password is switched off on it.

The moral of this story? Simples – by all means us the remote lock feature, but be careful of enabling it on your memory card, you may get unexpected results.

Bletchley Park and the Collosus of Computing

Something a bit different for this post, a short review of a recent trip to Bletchley Park with an old college mate. We both work in the IT industry and had talked about a visit to the park to see the worlds first electronic, programmable computer, which has been recently been rebuilt.
Bletchley Park is also home to Britains centre of codebreaking during world war 2 and until the 1970’s was a complete secret.

The new national computing museum had also just opened up and it was a chance to relive some of our home micro memories.
An opportunity came up and we both travelled to Milton Keynes, where the park is located.

I won’t go into huge amounts of detail, but just mention some particular aspects that will hopefully give you an idea of why it would be worth you visiting Bletchley Park and why it is worth supporting.

Thanks to the maps provided on the Bletchley Park website www.bletchleypark.org.uk we managed to successfully navigate the Milton Keynes road system!

Once we’d parked up and collected our tickets (if you choose order and collect on the website, you get a small discount), we were told about a guided tour around the site, which started from the manor house shortly. Despite the impression I got from the map, the site is smaller than I thought. All the buildings are within short walking distance and disabled access is pretty good. There are ramps at all the entrances (very shallow) and alternative lifts/entrances to the main block where the tickets are collected from. The only part I’m not sure has a disabled access is the first floor part of ‘B block’ where some of the exhibits are located.

The tour guide was knowledgeable and it was obvious he had a large amount of information to impart and almost spoke non-stop for the full length of the tour, ninety minutes long.

The Collosus Mk2 rebuild was the highlight of the visit, now fully operational. It seems incredible that all modern computers were effectively derived from this and is a testament to the original builders genius and the volunteers who have painstakinly built this working replica.

Collosusmk2.jpg

You can visit the homepage for the Collosus Mk2 at:- www.codesandciphers.org.uk . The upkeep of the display relies on donations, so if you visit please give generously.

Alan Turing played an incredibly significant part during WW2, not only contributing to codebreaking but also the theoretical and practical applications of computing. He has been honoured by the installation of a statue by artist Stephen Kettle and is worth seeing (image below).

turingstatue.jpg

The national museum of computing is a recent addition to the Bletchley Park site and contains some of the equipment that could have been seen in any computer room from the 1960’s. There are displays of some of the earliest pocket calculators through popular home micros of the 1980’s and mainframe systems. The museum is a registered charity and though it is located on the same site at Bletchley Park, it relies on donations from the public to keep running.

It was good to see some of the old ’80’s home micros and took me back to the ‘computer wars’ fought in the playgrounds of my youth, whose system was better… Etc hmmm some
things never change…!

The National Museum of Computing can be found at:- http://www.tnmoc.org .

Something that I learnt whilst a Bletchley Park was that the ‘Enigma’ machine wasn’t just one machine, but several different machines from different manufacturers. There are several examples of these different types with large displays of information and historical displays of items from the war.

Enigma.jpg

bpdisplays.jpg

Walking around the park you really do get a sense of the atmosphere and the amazing work that was undertaken during war by everyone involved. Thankfully the park has recently received a grant for improvements, however it still needs everones support and a ticket bought is valid for free (excluding parking) entrance for year, which is great value. There is so much more to the park that we wern’t able to see simply because of available time, a return visit is most definitely in the diary soon!

Posted by Wordmobi

Nokia N900 Mega-Preview

My-Symbian has posted a huge four page ‘preview’ of a prototype Nokia N900. Though there are only four pages, they are extremely lengthy and the author goes into a huge amount of detail of all aspects of the hardware, Maemo operating system and applications.

Some parts of the unit are still to be finalised and the preview is still very much ‘work in progress’ with multiple edits. However this shows that the author has been able to update information as soon as it has been received.

Well worth a read, its seriously making me think of retiring the Palm TX I’ve used for the past 2 and a half years, the only thing that is holding me back is the cost (approx £400-500). Now if it was the same cost as the end-of-line N810 which as been advertised as low as £129.99, I’d jump all over it…

The link can be found at:-
My-Symbian.com Nokia N900 preview

N900inhand.jpg

Posted by Wordmobi