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Ask Slashdot: Life After N900? 303

Posted by timothy
from the old-ways-are-best-ways dept.
Rydia writes "Since it first released, I have been in love with my Nokia N900, and it has satisfied all my needs for a mobile with a high degree of control and utility. Sadly, the little guy is showing his age, both in battery life (even with the powersaving kernel options enabled), and performing in general has been left far, far in the dust by phones that are now considered quite old. The time has come to find its successor, but after a thorough search of smartphone options, I can't find any handset that offers everything for the power user that the N900 did (much less a hardware keyboard). I'd like to avoid supporting Google/Android, but there don't seem to be many options. Have any other techies found a replacement for their N900?"
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Ask Slashdot: Life After N900?

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  • Re: Android (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:02PM (#46074749)

    This has already been debunked as false, so stop repeating it.

  • Android is OK-able (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:06PM (#46074775) Homepage Journal

    Hats off to you, sir, for holding out longer than I could with my Palm T|X.

    Currently I'm rather happy with CyanogenMOD on my HTC myTouch Slide 4G (and the slide 3G before that). Too bad they haven't updated the myTouch Slide line for a while, since they'd carve out a nice little niche for themselves being one of the only major Android manufacturers that did physical keyboards.

    I'm about to break down and just get a Nexus something, and pair it with an external portable keyboard (there are various cases that help make this more portable).

    Also, I think you'd enjoy running full ARM linux on an Android device, but look at the forums for
    https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]
    and check which ROMs support the loopback module (or make sure you can build one for yourself). Not all of my third-party ROMs bothered to do this, so I only have a full chroot Debian distro behind one or two of my Android devices :/

    But let us know how you turn out! My musings were plopped down here:
    http://trumblings.blogspot.com... [blogspot.com]
    and maybe a few more relevant posts here:
    http://trumblings.blogspot.com... [blogspot.com]

  • by xeno (2667) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:22PM (#46074901)

    Congratulations, you made it far longer than I did. My N900 started to show hardware problems about a year ago, and radio problems/disconnects were the last straw. I loved the versatility and control, but ultimately I needed the damn thing to make calls and browse. I nabbed a Nexus 4 when they got cheap, and have adjusted reasonably well. I had a fair look at the iDevices, but wanted something faster and with a bigger screen. I coveted the Galaxy Note series, and might have been happier that way, but I wanted something closer to the N900 size. Recently got my kid a Moto G -- and currently it seems to be the best deal reminiscent of the size/screen of the N900. But still there is the lack of a hardware keyboard... there's just no substitute for input-intensive apps. Maybe Jolla will solve that.

    If you do head in the direction of Android, these might make it easier:
    - Have a look at Cyanogenmod, and see if you can find a sweet spot with hardware you like and a recent version.
    - Read up on App Ops, the utility that allows one to have granular permissions for applications, and restore a modicum of privacy control.
    - Don't be afraid to disable all the default apps/Google+/hangouts/crap. Android works just fine with the processes disabled.
    - Have a look at bare android/Samsung's overlays/cyanogenmod before you commit to them, there are significant differences.
    - Try getting an older phone and experimenting with it before you jump. I obtained a Galaxy S1/Vibrant, learned all about the boot loaders, firmware, and OS installation, and tried out various roms before settling back on Cyanogenmod. (Then I taught the kids how to do it, and gave the phone to my 10yo -- never too early for mobile hacking.) All of the features aside, the process restored some of the sense of control that I had with the N900. Some of it real, some of it not, but at least I knew were I stood wrt the device I was using most frequently.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:17PM (#46075625) Journal

    Agreed. A rooted Android phone with a decent mod on it is as close as you can get to a Unix box in your pocket. The lack of a physical keyboard is a drag, but with a decent stock keyboard replacement like SwiftKey, it is not the end of the world.

    I recently put Cyanogenmod on my droid razr and actually got geeked out on my phone again. Everything just works like it should. The ROMs that come from the phone companies are bloated and inefficient. Do not make the mistake of judging the Android ecosystem by what you see in the stores.

    There are even some useful utilities for Android. (http://ultimatepeter.com/freakin-cool-hacking-apps-for-android/)

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:49PM (#46075817) Journal

    Oh please, if you aren't happy with Google now you are an astroturfer? Fanboy much?

    Lets see...they made the TOS nastier, so they could monetize the hell out of you, have gotten so bad at bugging the piss out of YouTube users to use G+ that I've had to install a browser just for YouTube so Google couldn't bug the piss out of me, and the amount of tying everything to your user account has gotten so creepy and stalkerish that i made a throw away Gmail for my Android so it would stop trying to dump G+ from my main Gmail onto my phone.

    Yep no reason to be upset or unhappy with Google right now, they are doubleplus good citizen!

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:59PM (#46075893)

    You want great hardware with a LOT of software options and a high degree of hackability?

    Buy an iPhone (or iPad mini) and jailbreak it.

    You aren't feeding your personal information to advertisers or Google. You have great customization of privacy per-app, built in - which you can further customize with jailbreak utilities.

    Furthermore NO device is as hackable in the correct sense of the word as the iPhone is, because most apps are written in ObjectiveC if you want to modify some small aspect of an existing app you can do so.

    If you really need a hardware keyboard, key a good Bluetooth keyboard (just as you would with any Android device as pretty much all of them are touchscreen only now).

    You also get a lot of great VNC and terminal options on iOS that you can simply buy.

  • by Boltronics (180064) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:11PM (#46077123) Homepage

    Chroot's still aren't as good. My N900 could run some games I made using PyGAME (all I had to do was something like sudo apt-get install python-pygame) and it was good to go - ran the game just as well as my laptop did, with acceleration. Beautiful.

    Unfortunately my N900 screen broke for a second time last year, and I threaded one of the screws trying to replace it, so I too found myself looking for a replacement phone. Even with overclocking the N900 was painfully slow on complex websites, so I wanted something modern but with a hardware keyboard. I couldn't find anything except possibly the Neo900 [neo900.org] (which didn't have an ETA at the time - and I wouldn't have been able to wait for anyway), so I decided that I would get the biggest screen I could find - the logic being that if I have to use a virtual keyboard I want it to provide an experience as close to a hardware keyboard as possible.

    Hence, I now run a Sony Xperia Z Ultra [wikipedia.org] with the Hacker's Keyboard. Obviously not as good as a hardware keyboard, but the screen size means the virtual keyboard can fit all keys I had on the N900 (and then some) and still have plenty of room to see the text-box I'm typing into.

    The Xperial Z Ultra also has expandable storage so a chroot is feasible, and I admit I've used this phone much more than my N900 due to it being more practical for games, e-mail, taking pictures, etc. Sony also provide instructions on unlocking the bootloader [sonymobile.com]. However, lacking a true GNU userland environment for the primary OS, along with lacking the ease of gaining root and lacking a replaceable battery) are things I really miss. I also hate how much of the bloatware cannot be removed, although it can be disabled. It is waterproof though, so it's got that going for it.

    I nuked or disabled almost everything related to Sony and Google Play and installed F-Droid instead, and then proceeded to install Firefox Mobile, K-9 and APG, Xabber, TTRSS-Reader, VLC, Open Explorer, Barcode Scanner, Terminal Emulator, Cool Reader, Document Viewer, Aard, OsmAnd~, ScummVM, AnkiDroid, World Clock, VX ConnectBot, a few ownCloud-related sync apps... and of course Frozen Bubble, and now Android can do most of the things I would have used my N900 for.

  • by KWTm (808824) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:31PM (#46077239) Journal

    I think it's important to establish what makes the N900 great. Can't speak for the OP, but this is what I'm hoping for in a phone once my N900 finally gives up the ghost. "Hoping," notice I said, but I'm not holding my breath.

    1. Scriptability. First and foremost. *I* want to be the one in control of the phone [maemo.org], not some app developer vetted by The Place That Decides What You Can Do With Our --I Mean Your-- Phone (or "AppStore" for short). I want to write a bash script, or a python script, and tell me when my beloved has sent me a SMS containing the word "URGENT".

    2. Freedom. Yes, I mean openness as in open source. Yes, I do know not everything in the N900 was open-sourced, but a heck of a lot of it was. That let a lot of people hack it, for the benefit of the community. And it didn't void the warranty. There's something to be said for a phone that does not need you to join the Apple club with a credit card, or sign up with Big Brother Google before using the phone -- you really are independent.

    3. Portability of software. It's awesome that I can run Gnumeric on this thing, but even more important that I run Vim.

    4. Three things you can change: the cell phone provider, the battery, and the memory storage card. Mainly a criticism compared to the early iPhones; not sure if they still apply. I understand that there are unlocked iPhones now (which still cost more than the N900 did) but you can't change the battery. Android phones will take microSD now, I think?

    In fact, to lower my chances of being forced to make do without a good alternative, I bought a second N900, and regularly synchronize the spare so I can have it up and running in case it's needed quickly. I wasn't seeing anything on the horizon, and figured I'd probably have to hang on to my pair of N900's for at least another 3 years. This Slashdot discussion is very useful.

    There are, of course, lots to hate about the N900. Most of it deals with the slow swapping caused by the relatively small RAM, versus the large RAM that would be needed by a truly multitasking computer/smartphone. (Compare this with the iPhone that was out at the time, which did not multitask. Do iPhones multitask yet?) The user interface is also unintuitive and poorly thought out. Wish it had been given a chance, but once Elop came on board, there was zero chance of that.

    As I've said before, the N900 is a piece of crap --but it's the BEST piece of crap in the world!

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:23AM (#46079173) Homepage

    The rest was true on the October release when I tried it last. and they have not released anything different cince then then. Last time I tried to compile a daily release it refused to compile, at that point I walked away from it as something that is worthless.

    Phone calls are #1 priority, and an incoming phone call MUST have absolute priority over all other parts of the OS. These developers dont know that, the craptastic OpenMoko phone from a few years ago had the same problems. I honestly would give an app 2 rings to die and release control, on ring #3 all apps not sleeping should be violently killed by the OS, and reported to the mothership that it is misbehaving causing a UI problem to the phone.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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