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My New Toy - The Nokia N95

About 7 weeks ago I bought a Nokia N95 and I love it. I considered the Neo 1973 from openMoko, a completely open phone platform was appealing, but at the end of the day it isn't certified for Australia, it doesn't have WIFI or a camera nor does it do HSDPA/3G, all things on must have list. The iPhone was never in the race.

I picked up phone for just over 800AUD via ebay, they have since dropped a little in price. It is an Australia version with full local warranty support. The only downside is that it a 3 branded version, not a generic, but hey it works.

The phone got a real work out during my trip to Norway and it worked well. The GPS is a little slow to lock, but once it gets a lock it is right to go. The wifi works well. It is handy knowing if wifi is available somewhere before booting your laptop. I took a stack of pictures with the 5M pixel camera, the ones in bad light or inside aren't fantastic, but when taking shots outside it works a treat. The "DVD quality video" is pretty good too. It makes better movies than our old DVD based handycam. I am planning to use the phone at the birth of my second child (due any day now).

As I expected the phone "just works" as a standalone device, but the real test is how well it works with a Linux desktop. I can report that with Ubuntu 7.10 (aka Gutsy Gibbon) the N95 works well for all the stuff you really need. Below is a couple of quick mini howtos for a few things that you might want to with your N95. Some of the instructions are generic enough that they may work with little (or no) change with other handsets.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any data loss or stress caused by you following these instructions. Also you should carefully check your warranty before trying any of this. That said - "I just worked for me".

Pairing

For the bluetooth related stuff below you will need to pair your phone and PC. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using the bluetooth-applet. Here is how to do it:

  • Install the bluez-gnome deb - sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome
  • Once installed you should have a bluetooth icon in your GNOME system tray, if not just run "bluetooth-applet &" from the console
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • On your phone enter a 4 digit PIN when prompted - it can be anything you like
  • The bluetooth icon will then flash, click on it and enter the same PIN
  • Now your phone and PC should be paired
  • To make sure they are paired we will connect via obex-ftp
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • When prompted on your phone allow the connection
  • Nautilus should now launch and you you 2 folders "C:" (internal phone memory) and "E:" (microSD card)

Your PC and N95 are now paired and should be able to communicate via bluetooth without any problems.

Exchanging Files

Copying files to/from the N95 can be a little slow. Lets go from slowest to fastest.

Bluetooth

Copying files using bluetooth is very simple with a gnome desktop and the N95 using OBEX-FTP. Just install OBEX-FTP support for nautilus - "sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Anytime you want to access the files on your phone via obexftp, just fire up nautilus and type "obex:///" and wait for a list of devices to be displayed. Double click on your phone and you are right to go. It can be rather slow copying files from your phone to your PC this way, but if you don't want to find cables or card readers it works. By slow I mean 30mins for a 100Mb video to copy.

There is also the gnome-obex-server package, which allows you to push content from your phone onto your PC, but I found this slow and I had to jump through too many hoops on the phone to send a file.

USB Cable

The N95 comes with a USB cable with a mini USB connector for connecting your N95 to your PC. When you plug the cable in the phone asks you which mode you wish to use. If you select Mass Storage it is treated like a usb mass storage device by and gnome-volume-manager, so it is mounted as soon as you plug it in. You are then able to access your microSD card.

I haven't been able to get the "Media Player" mode to work with the desktop music players I have tried it with - Rhythmbox, Banshee and Amarok. When used in "Mass Storage" mode it is possible to use File > Scan removable media in Rhythmbox.

Card reader

This is the fatstest way to read data from the microSD card. On the N95 press the power button for half a second, scroll down the list of options and select "Remove memory card", then remove your card from your phone. Now just put in into the SD card adaptor that came with the phone and use it like a normal SD card. Transfers speeds are quite good using this method.

Sync

Setting up sync with the N95 and opensync was relatively painless. I am syncing contacts with evolution, I have also tried with calendar events, which seemed to work as well, I haven't tried todos as I don't use them.

Start off by installing the bits we need

$ sudo apt-get install multisync-gui opensync-plugin-evolution opensync-plugin-syncml

This should also install all the dependencies needed to make opensync work.

On the N95 go Menu > Tools > Sync > PC Suite > Edit Sync Profile. First start by editing the settings under Applications. Lifeblog, Text messages and Bookmarks aren't supported by opensync, so disable them but setting "Include in sync" to No. You can also disable Calendar, Notes (really ToDos) if you wish.

As I had already transferred contacts from my old SE v600i to the N95 and I wanted to sync with an existing addressbook I had some issues. Namely 2 contacts didn't want to sync - I never found out which ones. So I found the easiest way to setup the sync was to create a new addressbook in evo.

  • Go into contacts ([ctrl]-2)
  • From the menu select File > New > Addressbook
  • Fill in the information - Type: "On This Computer", Name: "Phone" (or something else that makes sense for you
  • Click OK
In your GNOME menu under accessories, select multisync-gui. Now we need to create the sync pair.
  • Click the Add button
  • Give the group a meaningful name, such as "n95-evo" and click apply
  • Click the edit button for your new group
  • Tick the checkboxes for those sources which you don't want to use - you must disabled note as this isn't supported by the N95, this list should match the config on your phone
  • Click the Add Member button
  • Select Evolution 2.x from the list of options and Click Apply
  • Select which addressbook you want to sync with - in our case "Phone" (or which ever one you created above)
  • Click the Add Member button
  • This time select SyncML over OBEX Client
  • This where your XML hacking skills come into it (or you can just use my config
    <config>
    	<bluetooth_address>AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE</bluetooth_address>
    	<bluetooth_channel>10</bluetooth_channel>
    	<interface>0</interface>
    	<identifier>PC Suite</identifier>
    	<version>1</version>
    	<wbxml>1</wbxml>
    	<username></username>
    	<password></password>
    	<type>2</type>
    	<usestringtable>1</usestringtable>
    	<onlyreplace>0</onlyreplace>
    	<recvLimit>0</recvLimit>
    	<maxObjSize>0</maxObjSize>
    	<contact_db>Contacts</contact_db>
    	<calendar_db>Calendar</calendar_db>
    	<note_db>Notes</note_db>
    </config>
    
    		
    Change AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE to the address of your phone Note: I have only been able to get the N95 to sync with opensync using bluetooth.
  • Click Close
  • Click the "Refresh" and the sync should start
  • You have now synced your Nokia N95 with your Linux desktop! YAY!
  • All of your contacts from your phone should now be added to your evo addressbook
  • In evolution, copy any contacts from other addressbooks to the "Phone" addressbook
  • In multisync-gui click the "Refresh" button again and wait for the sync to complete

After I make changes to either either my N95 or evolution contacts I sync them. If you are also syncing your calendar you probably want to sync at least daily

Occasionally you may get conflicts. The GUI allows you to choose which one you want to keep. Having merge support in the GUI would be nice, but I can live with one taking precedence over the other on a per record basis.

Firmware Upgrades and Installing Maps

You need a real box Windows XP to upgrade the firmware or install full maps on the phone. I quickly tried using the usb support in qemu to connect the phone to a virtual version of XP, but I couldn't get it to work. It would be nice if Nokia offered firmware upgrades "over the air" so you could just use WIFI to upgrade the phone's firmware.

You can load map data as you move around, using mobile data, but this is an expensive way of doing it. You only need the map loader software installed on the Windows machine and then you can use the phone in mass storage mode of the microSD card to load the map data. I might try loading map data via qemu one day, but I have all the maps loaded that I currently need.

Software

In terms of what extra software you might want to install on the phone, here is a list of what I am using:

  • PuTTY - SSH on the phone, it is handy when I really need SSH and I don't have my laptop with me. Goota love a phone running SSH2 with public key authentication.
  • VNC. There is a Symbian sponsored port of TightVNC now available for the N95 and other S60 handsets. I am yet to get working properly
  • Fring is a free (as in beer) VoIP and IM app for mobile devices. It works pretty well. I have some issues using it with NodePhone, but I probably just have to tweak something there
  • I am also running the Lotus Sametime client, so I can keep in touch with the ReSight team out on the road. Pidgin is still the best Sametime (or general IM) client I have found, but there is no symbian port (hint hint)

Where is opera mini? I removed it, as I found the WebKit based browser on the N95 nicer in the longer run. It might use more bandwidth, but that is fine when using WIFI for most of your browsing anyway.

Overall

The Nokia N95 is certainly one nice handset. The battery life sucks - mine goes on charge every evening. The phone will never win an award from the FSF for freedom, but it never set out to do that. It sets out to be an all in one device and I think it achieves that goal pretty well. It is certainly usable under Linux, even if it does have some distance to go before it can really be considered truly Linux friendly.

About 7 weeks ago I bought a Nokia N95 and I love it. I considered the Neo 1973 from openMoko, a completely open phone platform was appealing, but at the end of the day it isn't certified for Australia, it doesn't have WIFI or a camera nor does it do HSDPA/3G, all things on must have list. The iPhone was never in the race.

I picked up phone for just over 800AUD via ebay, they have since dropped a little in price. It is an Australia version with full local warranty support. The only downside is that it a 3 branded version, not a generic, but hey it works.

The phone got a real work out during my trip to Norway and it worked well. The GPS is a little slow to lock, but once it gets a lock it is right to go. The wifi works well. It is handy knowing if wifi is available somewhere before booting your laptop. I took a stack of pictures with the 5M pixel camera, the ones in bad light or inside aren't fantastic, but when taking shots outside it works a treat. The "DVD quality video" is pretty good too. It makes better movies than our old DVD based handycam. I am planning to use the phone at the birth of my second child (due any day now).

As I expected the phone "just works" as a standalone device, but the real test is how well it works with a Linux desktop. I can report that with Ubuntu 7.10 (aka Gutsy Gibbon) the N95 works well for all the stuff you really need. Below is a couple of quick mini howtos for a few things that you might want to with your N95. Some of the instructions are generic enough that they may work with little (or no) change with other handsets.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any data loss or stress caused by you following these instructions. Also you should carefully check your warranty before trying any of this. That said - "I just worked for me".

Pairing

For the bluetooth related stuff below you will need to pair your phone and PC. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using the bluetooth-applet. Here is how to do it:

  • Install the bluez-gnome deb - sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome
  • Once installed you should have a bluetooth icon in your GNOME system tray, if not just run "bluetooth-applet &" from the console
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • On your phone enter a 4 digit PIN when prompted - it can be anything you like
  • The bluetooth icon will then flash, click on it and enter the same PIN
  • Now your phone and PC should be paired
  • To make sure they are paired we will connect via obex-ftp
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • When prompted on your phone allow the connection
  • Nautilus should now launch and you you 2 folders "C:" (internal phone memory) and "E:" (microSD card)

Your PC and N95 are now paired and should be able to communicate via bluetooth without any problems.

Exchanging Files

Copying files to/from the N95 can be a little slow. Lets go from slowest to fastest.

Bluetooth

Copying files using bluetooth is very simple with a gnome desktop and the N95 using OBEX-FTP. Just install OBEX-FTP support for nautilus - "sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Anytime you want to access the files on your phone via obexftp, just fire up nautilus and type "obex:///" and wait for a list of devices to be displayed. Double click on your phone and you are right to go. It can be rather slow copying files from your phone to your PC this way, but if you don't want to find cables or card readers it works. By slow I mean 30mins for a 100Mb video to copy.

There is also the gnome-obex-server package, which allows you to push content from your phone onto your PC, but I found this slow and I had to jump through too many hoops on the phone to send a file.

USB Cable

The N95 comes with a USB cable with a mini USB connector for connecting your N95 to your PC. When you plug the cable in the phone asks you which mode you wish to use. If you select Mass Storage it is treated like a usb mass storage device by and gnome-volume-manager, so it is mounted as soon as you plug it in. You are then able to access your microSD card.

I haven't been able to get the "Media Player" mode to work with the desktop music players I have tried it with - Rhythmbox, Banshee and Amarok. When used in "Mass Storage" mode it is possible to use File > Scan removable media in Rhythmbox.

Card reader

This is the fatstest way to read data from the microSD card. On the N95 press the power button for half a second, scroll down the list of options and select "Remove memory card", then remove your card from your phone. Now just put in into the SD card adaptor that came with the phone and use it like a normal SD card. Transfers speeds are quite good using this method.

Sync

Update: I am no longer using OpenSync. I am using Funambol's S60 SyncML app, which works a treat for syncing with my Zimbra server.

Setting up sync with the N95 and opensync was relatively painless. I am syncing contacts with evolution, I have also tried with calendar events, which seemed to work as well, I haven't tried todos as I don't use them.

Start off by installing the bits we need

$ sudo apt-get install multisync-gui opensync-plugin-evolution opensync-plugin-syncml

This should also install all the dependencies needed to make opensync work.

On the N95 go Menu > Tools > Sync > PC Suite > Edit Sync Profile. First start by editing the settings under Applications. Lifeblog, Text messages and Bookmarks aren't supported by opensync, so disable them but setting "Include in sync" to No. You can also disable Calendar, Notes (really ToDos) if you wish.

As I had already transferred contacts from my old SE v600i to the N95 and I wanted to sync with an existing addressbook I had some issues. Namely 2 contacts didn't want to sync - I never found out which ones. So I found the easiest way to setup the sync was to create a new addressbook in evo.

  • Go into contacts ([ctrl]-2)
  • From the menu select File > New > Addressbook
  • Fill in the information - Type: "On This Computer", Name: "Phone" (or something else that makes sense for you
  • Click OK

In your GNOME menu under accessories, select multisync-gui. Now we need to create the sync pair.

  • Click the Add button
  • Give the group a meaningful name, such as "n95-evo" and click apply
  • Click the edit button for your new group
  • Tick the checkboxes for those sources which you don't want to use - you must disabled note as this isn't supported by the N95, this list should match the config on your phone
  • Click the Add Member button
  • Select Evolution 2.x from the list of options and Click Apply
  • Select which addressbook you want to sync with - in our case "Phone" (or which ever one you created above)
  • Click the Add Member button
  • This time select SyncML over OBEX Client
  • This where your XML hacking skills come into it (or you can just use my config
    <config>
    	<bluetooth_address>AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE</bluetooth_address>
    	<bluetooth_channel>10</bluetooth_channel>
    	<interface>0</interface>
    	<identifier>PC Suite</identifier>
    	<version>1</version>
    	<wbxml>1</wbxml>
    	<username></username>
    	<password></password>
    	<type>2</type>
    	<usestringtable>1</usestringtable>
    	<onlyreplace>0</onlyreplace>
    	<recvLimit>0</recvLimit>
    	<maxObjSize>0</maxObjSize>
    	<contact_db>Contacts</contact_db>
    	<calendar_db>Calendar</calendar_db>
    	<note_db>Notes</note_db>
    </config>
    
    		
    Change AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE to the address of your phone Note: I have only been able to get the N95 to sync with opensync using bluetooth.
  • Click Close
  • Click the "Refresh" and the sync should start
  • You have now synced your Nokia N95 with your Linux desktop! YAY!
  • All of your contacts from your phone should now be added to your evo addressbook
  • In evolution, copy any contacts from other addressbooks to the "Phone" addressbook
  • In multisync-gui click the "Refresh" button again and wait for the sync to complete

After I make changes to either either my N95 or evolution contacts I sync them. If you are also syncing your calendar you probably want to sync at least daily

Occasionally you may get conflicts. The GUI allows you to choose which one you want to keep. Having merge support in the GUI would be nice, but I can live with one taking precedence over the other on a per record basis.

Firmware Upgrades and Installing Maps

You need a real box Windows XP to upgrade the firmware or install full maps on the phone. I quickly tried using the usb support in qemu to connect the phone to a virtual version of XP, but I couldn't get it to work. It would be nice if Nokia offered firmware upgrades "over the air" so you could just use WIFI to upgrade the phone's firmware.

You can load map data as you move around, using mobile data, but this is an expensive way of doing it. You only need the map loader software installed on the Windows machine and then you can use the phone in mass storage mode of the microSD card to load the map data. I might try loading map data via qemu one day, but I have all the maps loaded that I currently need.

Software

In terms of what extra software you might want to install on the phone, here is a list of what I am using:

  • PuTTY - SSH on the phone, it is handy when I really need SSH and I don't have my laptop with me. Goota love a phone running SSH2 with public key authentication.
  • VNC. There is a Symbian sponsored port of TightVNC now available for the N95 and other S60 handsets. I am yet to get working properly
  • Fring is a free (as in beer) VoIP and IM app for mobile devices. It works pretty well. I have some issues using it with NodePhone, but I probably just have to tweak something there
  • I am also running the Lotus Sametime client, so I can keep in touch with the ReSight team out on the road. Pidgin is still the best Sametime (or general IM) client I have found, but there is no symbian port (hint hint)

Where is opera mini? I removed it, as I found the WebKit based browser on the N95 nicer in the longer run. It might use more bandwidth, but that is fine when using WIFI for most of your browsing anyway.

Overall

The Nokia N95 is certainly one nice handset. The battery life sucks - mine goes on charge every evening. The phone will never win an award from the FSF for freedom, but it never set out to do that. It sets out to be an all in one device and I think it achieves that goal pretty well. It is certainly usable under Linux, even if it does have some distance to go before it can really be considered truly Linux friendly.

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Novell has released a couple of new ads for Linux which are a spoof of Apple's Mac PC ads. They are quite well done. If you prefer the ogg or mpeg versions. If you prefer the ogg or mpeg versions. Note: This is not an endorsement of Novell's products or its deal with Microsoft, just their sense of humor.