Droolworthy 2: The Nokia E90

 

It is that time of the year again! With a flurry of new mobile device announcements expected to come in the next few days from 3GSM congress happening at Barcelona, Spain, all your taste sensors have to work over time! One another device, probably ‘the star of 3GSM 2007’ is the Nokia E90. A new arrival in the venerable communicator series of Nokia, the E90 is a world class business phone with an impressive array of features. This one can truly be called a Nokia Multimedia Computer!

  • Quadband GSM
  • UMTS with HSDPA [European 2100]
  • GPS
  • 800×352 internal screen resolution [Yippeee! Now who needs a Nokia N800!]
  • 320×240 external screen resolution
  • Wi-Fi [b/g]
  • A remarkable keyboard
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP
  • UPnP [Will do wonders with Vista]
  • 3.2 MP camera [one on front for Video calling]
  • Symbian OS

Boy, did Nokia miss a thing? The final price may even be cheaper than an exorbitantly priced, often compared and 6-months-to-go cellular phone!

Hands on from Engadget here.

A very detailed review from My Symbian here.

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Droolworthy: Samsung Ultra Smart F700

Frankly speaking, I am not all that excited about iPhone. Lack of 3G and lack of an SDK for 3rd party developers really put me off. It will be a year before it reaches this country and by that time, there will be the likes of Nokia N95, Sony Ericsson W880i and a couple of Windows Mobile 6 based phones with 3G, GPS etc., waiting to greet the lesser capable iPhone. And mobile phones in India are not operator subsidized, which means the iPhone will be prized anywhere near a whopping $1000.

The Ultra Smart F700

On my current drool list is the recently unofficially unveiled Samsung F700. HSDPA, a big screen anda 5 megapixel camera means we have a winner already. Things unknown are the OS it is running and the base chipset platform (CPU is undoubtedly Samsung’s). Hope it is not running an obscure Samsung OS.

From the looks of it, I get a feeling that the UI is based on Adobe Flash (Similar to the recently unveiled LG Prada). All other unknowns will get cleared when Sammy officially unveils this beauty at 3GSM 2007, starting Monday.

More pictures at Engadget.

Joke of the Year

Its only early 2007. But this quote will remain as one of the Jokes of the Year.

“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform. You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”

Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Inc. on why the iPhone will not support third party applications.

Ubuntu Blogs

Probably the most popular Ubuntu blog in the world, apart from the official one, is Carthik Sharma’s. Carthik invited fellow bloggers to tell him whether they too blog about Ubuntu. The response is amazing. Nice to see that so many people are using FOSS operating systems.

Though I don’t write about Ubuntu that often in this blog anymore, one of my old posts always ranks the top post in this website! All my Ubuntu relates posts can be read here.

And finally, what is common between me and Carthik? We both are Tamilians!

Building a Media Center PC on Budget

As I noted in an earlier post, I dropped my idea of using PS3 as a media center and started a project to build an MCE PC. My budget is little tight. So I carefully chose the mobo and the processor so that I can go for an upgrade late 2007. Here is the list of components that I shortlisted and the reasoning:

Tuner card: Hauppauge WinTV PVR 150 MCE kit. For MCE, you need a tuner card with onboard MPEG 2 encoding. None of the cards available in the local market had hardware encoding. I was searching for Hauppauge tuners everywhere and couldn’t find it even in ebay.in. Later, I came to know that Microsoft India is selling hardware upgrade kits for MCE along with Media Center OS through its retailers. The hardware upgrade kit is nothing but an OEM Hauppauge 150 PVR with an IR blaster and MCE remote! For a list of Microsoft retailers in India, refer here. If you cannot get a Hauppauge tuner card, search for a MCE certified tuner card.

CPU: AMD Athlon64 AM2 3000+. For a moment, I was thinking of choosing Core 2 Duo platform, but then I realized I don’t need that much power for a MCE machine. I went back to my old favorite, the Athlon64. The AM2 3000 + is a pretty decent processor for MCE needs. By selecting a processor for AM2 socket, I made sure that I can upgrade to a cheaper dual/quad core processor by the end of 2007, which will give a new lease of life to this budget PC.

Motherboard: I selected the Midrange Asus M2N-MX motherboard which has a 5.1 channel audio onboard and a PCI express slot for the graphics. The only caveat in choosing this motherboard is that it has only 2 PCI slots, which I have already filled up with the wireless card and the PVR card. Any further upgrade can only be done through USB ports.

RAM: Transcend 1 GB 533 MHz. This is more than sufficient for now. It will be due for an upgrade when I upgrade the processor.

Hard Drive: Seagate 250 GB 7200 rpm SATA. I won’t be recording a lot of TV shows. I think 50 GB will be sufficient for my recording needs. I will use the rest for my Music collection, home videos that are currently scattered all over the place in multiple DVDs and plenty of digital photos which I shot over the years.

Graphics Card: GeForce 6200 128MB DDR2 TC. This low end graphics card can also share 128 MB RAM from your main memory, which is plenty to boast about for a PVR machine. The DVI output is a must if you are going to use a LCD monitor/TV.

Networking: D-Link DWL-150G PCI card. Though the motherboard has onboard Gigabit Ethernet, I won’t be using it since I have setup a wireless router at home.

DVD Drive: Sony dual channel/dual layer DVD-RAM drive. This drive can write in all possible DVD formats. Must for archiving some old recorded TV shows etc.,

OS: Windows XP Media Center 2005. My initial plan was to install fedora core 6 with MythTV, but I was slightly put off by the long installation and setup procedure for MythTV, especially considering that EPG for India is not available through XMLTV. I wanted to get things up and running pretty quickly, so I selected MCE 2005, which is a surprisingly cool OS with a nice user interface. I may eventually migrate to MythTV, but it is MCE 2005 for now.

Other Software: Putting together the hardware took about an hour, but getting the software running took a few more hours because of search for codecs and other software. Beware: XP MCE does not ship with a MPEG 2 decoder, which is a bit of a surprise and also a blessing in disguise, because you can now use hardware accelerated MPEG 2 decoder shipped by NVIDIA. Costs money though.

MSN India provides the EPG. Though some channels are missing in the guide, the EPG is fairly informative and useful. Some screenshots below. (Note: High-res images)

The Guide

EPG for a regional channel

While I am pretty happy with the MCE install, I also tried the Vista media center and it produced some very disappointing results. The audio and video stuttered when going into full screen mode, which is quite surprising for a system that has pretty decent specs given Vista’s system requirements. Maybe it is because of some of the beta drivers that I used for audio and graphics. We will know in the coming days when the final versions are released.

Update 21 Feb 2007: The latest NVIDIA beta drivers and the beta audio drivers for my motherboard have vastly improved the Vista Media Center performance on my PC. I will update once I have the final drivers.

Poor Linux Performance on PS3

When news about Linux support on PS3 was coming in a few months earlier, honestly, I was excited a little too much and started saving money for my console. A home computer running on a 9 core processor is no doubt a drooling proposition for any tech enthusiast. I even drew up a plan to use my PS3 as:

  • my main computing machine (I can happily relegate the Centrino to my Wife)
  • media center after installing mythtv on it (using a USB tuner)
  • and as a game console too.

Now that news about actual performance of Linux on PS3 has started pouring in, there is very little to cheer about.

  • The architecture is such that Linux cannot take advantage of all the cores in the system
  • The system compares in performance only to a low end G5
  • Initial reviews and comparisons do not show a better gaming experience than the XBox360.

So what next? Without second thoughts, I quickly dropped my plans for a PS3 and decided to build a media center PC over the weekend. And what a fun filled weekend it was! My Windows XP Media Center PC coupled with a Samsung 940BW wide screen has suddenly changed the TV viewing/multimedia experience at home! I have detailed post coming up later today with full details on how I built a Windows MCE PC from scratch.