Thursday 4 November 2010

Less problems with less

The more command that ships with the N900 is a very stripped-down version which does not even provide text search. Fortunately, you can install the program less from the repositories. Unfortunately though, it has problems interpreting the Return key when you use the N900's X Terminal. (It's no problem via an ssh connection, though.)

The fix, luckily, is rather simple: Just enter

export TERM=vt220

before using less.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Issues with multiple IRC accounts

You may have come across an error message stating that your nickname/account is already in use when you connect to an IRC network (via the IRC plugin for conversations and contacts). In my case, I found out that this error was caused by having defined two ICQ accounts that connected to different ICQ networks (IRCnet and Freenode) but that set the same nickname. When I configured the nickname for one of the neworks to a different one, the problem disappeard.

Monday 6 September 2010

Car holder for N900

For a couple of weeks, I've been using a Brodit car holder for my N900. It was quite an expensive investment: 59€ for the N900 holder which includes a charger (29€ without the charger) plus 21€ for the required car adapter.

But you get what you pay for. First of all, the N900 holder is manufactured very precisely; the N900 glides in and out very smoothly. Charging is done via an integrated Micro-USB plug. Apart from the nice crafting, the guys at Brodit really have invested some thinking into how the holder might be useful, and so it has two other very nice features: First, it can be rotated so that you can choose between portrait and landscape orientation while driving. Second, it allows to unfold the N900 so that you can use the hardware keyboard while the N900 is still in place within the holder. I really like that, since the Nokia Maps application with its crappy non-standard user interface does not allow to use a software keyboard.

Apart from the N900 part, the car part also is worth mentioning: Brodit has a nice system where you combine an adaptor for a specific mobile phone with an adaptor for a specific car. And in my case, I could choose between four or five different car adapters for my car (a Volkswagen Golf) that would allow to attach the N900 at various different places within my car. The only thing that Brodit's system is lacking would be a quick-change system that would allow to quickly exchange the N900 holder by another phone holder (e.g., an N95 holder for my girlfriend's mobile phone when she wants to drive my car). So all in all, Brodit seem to manufacture thousands of different phone adapters (mind you: they even support the N900...) and thousands of different car adapters, so you probably can pretty sure to find a suitable combination for your own car and phone[s].

The manufacturer's website is a; I bought my adapter at the German (delivery was quick and flawless).

Sunday 5 September 2010

Configuring the N900 for GSM roaming

It's common knowledge that you will be charged outrageous amounts of money if you place or receive GSM calls in a foreign network. The same holds if you use GSM (UMTS, 3G, HSPA,...) internet access in a foreign network. For example if you are customer of, say, O2 Germany and you are using, say, O2 UK, you have to pay tons of money for the certainly very complex task of exchanging data between the British and the German branch of O2. (Did you notice the bitter irony? Good. By the way, the other multinational carriers such as Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile etc. play the same game to rip off their customers.)

Unfortunately my beloved N900 is a real download hog, so just one single turn of going online might easily cost you 20€. Here is a list of tasks you might want to do to reduce your roaming costs:

Warning: Most of this only works before you leave your home!

(Especially configuring the conditional call forwarding has to be done in your home GSM network.)
  • Install the following software packets from
    • Starhash enabler (if you intend to buy a foreign prepaid SIM)
    • Call forwarding applet (if you normally use a voicemail box)
    • Personal dataplan monitor (warning: not good for your blood pressure!)
    • WPA key editor (your hotel, restaurant, friend,... might use a format for WPA keys that the N900 for some silly reason does not understand)
    • It is a good idea to install the 3G/2G/dual mode selection applet: It will allow you to switch your mobile to 2G only, which does not just save power, but will also imply smaller download speeds, so you have more reaction time to abort unwanted downloads.
    • You might consider installing some WEP password cracking software if you can estimate the risk of being caught via logfiles, and if you do not have any moral objections (I do have them, so I don't do this and thus can't give you any recommendations). Bear in mind that a WEP encryption, albeit useless, clearly indicates that the owner of the WLAN does not want other people to use his network.
    • Download software that can help you save power (e.g., WLAN switcher); you probably will need this on your trip.
    • You also might want to install photography software such as BlessN900 or Morpho QuickPanorama, unless you will use a real digital camera for picture taking.

  • Download the PC software that allows to permanently store Nokia's maps on the N900. Download the maps for the countries you'll be visiting. If you plan to go to a region near the border (e.g., Strasbourg, Salzburg, Trieste, Русе, Охрид,...), then you should download the maps for the neighbouring country as well.

  • For reasons beyound my understanding, Nokia/Ovi Maps needs to download a significant amount of data in order to obtain an A-GPS fix (several hundreds of kilobytes!?). Apart from the usually superior accuracy, an external GPS thus probably can save a lot of data volume. I have not yet tried it myself, though.

  • Remember to deactivate any conditional call forwarding to your mailbox before you leave your home network, since otherwise you'll pay triple roaming fees: (1) for receiving the call, (2) for forwarding it back to the mailbox in your home country, and (3) lateron for calling your mailbox. If you installed the call forwarding applet as I recommended above, you can deactivate the three conditional forward rules via the system settings. Alternatively, you could have any incoming calls unconditionally forwarded to your mailbox (in which case you might want to change your greeting message accordingly, e.g., to tell people they should send you SMS or e-mail only).

  • Fortunately, the European Commission has put a limit on the costs of calls in voice roaming and SMS within the EU countries. Still, you might want to check with your operator if some foreign networks are cheaper. In the old days, I always made me a little table that told me what roaming network to use during which time of day or for SMS or data. Usually this is not needed any longer.

  • Check the offers for prepaid SIM cards of the various GSM providers in your destination country. In many cases (but not always), it is worth the effort to buy a cheap prepaid SIM card; this of course will mean that you'll have a different phone number for the time that your N900 has the other SIM card inserted.

  • Synchronize your e-mail. Then deactivate automatic e-mail updates when connected via GSM (or at least increase the update interval) via the menu of the e-mail application. Perhaps you might even consider removing unimportant accounts, but then be very careful not to lose any archived e-mails.

  • Go to the program manager, update all software. Then deactivate all software catalogues. (This is done via the menu.) I recommend deactivating them, rather than deleting. In any case, this will avoid that your N900 will waste precious megabytes (!) on regular checks for software updates.

  • If you use some weather applet on your home screen such as Foreca or OMWeather, set the weather location to your travel destination. Doing the search at home and will save you some kilobytes.
    Alternatively, you might want to remove that applet for the time of your journey, but usually you will need up-to-date weather information during your travel.

  • If you intend to use instant messaging, consider creating an additional profile that will log you only into those IM services that you need most, and which preferably sets your status to busy so that you won't get chat messages all the time. This definitely saves you data volume.

  • Furthermore you might want to deactivate position updates in your IM account. The same holds for other automatic updates, e.g., what song you're currently listening to.

  • Consider selectively activating and deactivating Geotagging for the camera. On the other hand, having correct geotags on every picture is a nice thing to have.

  • Deactivate the automatic fallback to GSM/3G when the WLAN becomes unavailable: you will want to control yourself when your N900 goes online (system settings, network connections).

In the future, I might add further points or otherwise improve this post. Last change: 05-Sep-2010

Thursday 15 July 2010

Additional instant messaging profiles

Apart from the preconfigured IM profiles offline, busy and available, you can define six other profiles for the built-in instant messenger, where you can specify for which of the IM and SIP profiles you want to have which status. For example, for my workplace I have one profile where I am online only via my SIP accounts and Google Talk, but not via other IM.

Prior to firmware PR1.2, you could only have three such user-defined profiles; now it's six. For me, even six was not enough.

I suspected that the profiles are stored somewhere in /home/user, so I changed one of my IM profiles by selecting a different online status for one of my SIP accounts in that profile, saved the changes, and looked at which configuration files got changed (command: ls -lat /home/user). Et voilà: The profiles are stored in /home/user/.osso/.rtcom-presence-ui.cfg.

Simply editing that file with a text editor (as a Unix freak, I used vim) and adding another profile did, however, not do the trick. Rather, the IM application would ignore my changes and instead overwrite my modified file soon after.

But I found out that the following procedure worked for me. Since we live in a sometimes absurd world where people are drawn into court just because other people were too lazy to think, here comes the obligatory warning and disclaimer: You do all this at your own risk. I can neither guarantee that it works, nor do I guarantee that it does not break your phone. You have been warned. If it looks too difficult to you, ask a friend—with just a small bit of Linux/Unix commandline knowledge, it's really easy to do.

  1. Switch your IM availability to offline. Wait half a minute to make sure that you're really offline now.
  2. Edit the configuration file with the IM profiles (/home/user/.osso/.rtcom-presence-ui.cfg):
    1. Create a backup copy of the file in a place you remember. Just in case.
    2. Open the file with a text editor. I used vi, but if you installed PyGtkEditor, you can edit the file by invoking it from the command line: pygtkeditor /home/user/.osso/.rtcom-presence-ui.cfg (note that it won't let you open the file via the menu!).
    3. The syntax should be obvious: The definition of a profile starts with a line like [Profile blah], followed by many lines that describe the definition of that profile, and the definition ends where the next profile definition starts. Don't let yourself get fooled by some superfluous empty lines. Just copy one of the entries three times; for simplicity, I used the last entry for that.
    4. Give each of your three copied profiles a new, unique name. Obviously, the profile name is the text that follows "Profile " inside the brackets. Since you can change their names later anyway, you might as well pick something like "foo", "bar" and "quux". In any case, I would avoid any fancy characters such as ä, ö, ü, ß, é, ç, ś, ţ, ł, å, ъ etc., just in case.
    5. (Probably you now also could re-arrange your existing profiles now by moving them around in the text file, and you also might delete some superfluous empty lines, but I haven't tried that out either of these. So don't do it unless you're prepared to take this additional risk.)
    6. Save your modified file.
  3. Reboot your phone.
    (I'm pretty sure that it might as well be enough to kill and restart some process, but I didn't know which process to kill, and my phone needed a reboot anyway due to some apparent memory leak.)
  4. When you now open the IM application, you'll see that you have three profiles. Now you can change them via the menu just like the others, give them different names and icons, etc.

I imagine that you will be able to add many more profiles this way; however I recommend adding only three. Otherwise, you will have to scroll down to reach the text field where you can specify your status message and select if others should be able to see your GPS position.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Configuring Eduroam on the N900

Getting Eduroam to run on your N900 may involve a lot of fiddling, but at least, it's possible with the new PR1.2 firmware. I had to do the following in order to be able to use my LRZ/MyTUM account for Eduroam; but bear in mind that configuration may vary for other academic institutions! (For example, my institutions gives me login and password, whereas other institutions hand out login and an individual certificate.)
  1. Install the newest firmware (PR1.2 at the time of this writing).
  2. From the N900's Web browser, download the root certificate of the DFN and install it in the N900's certificate manager. Make sure that you allow the certificate to be used for WLAN authentication (you may also tick the other options if you wish).
  3. You now may try to get Eduroam to run. If you're lucky and your institution doesn't require support for PAP with TTLS, you're done. Chances are, however, that it doesn't. Curse and do a lot of googling. Come across the forum page
  4. From the N900's Web browser, download the little software program wlan_tool which was written by a Nokia employee. (For background information why you need it, see the corresponding forum entries.) Throw your inhibitions concerning downloading software from some forum overboard and pray that this software was really developed by an honest Nokia employee and really doesn't open any backdoors or the like. Save the application file (a .deb file) to a folder where you will find it again.
  5. Open the file browser, navigate to that download folder, and open the wlan_tool_blabla.deb software package file. The program manager will open and install the file (after you clicked on "yes, I know that I'm a silly person because I'm about to install unofficial software because Nokia messed things up.")
  6. You now have a new program installed called WLAN Tool. Run this software by clicking on it in the application list/menu. Due to its name beginning with the letter W, it probably will appear near the very end of the application list.
  7. The software opens a new window. In General settings, tick the option Allow TTLS/PAP. Leave the other things as-is; they don't have anything to do with authentication.
  8. Close the WLAN tool application.
  9. Reboot the N900.
  10. Open the Settings program, open the Internet connections, create a new connection with the following parameters (N.B. these are spread out over several screens):
    • Connection name: eduroam (or whatever you prefer)
    • SSID: eduroam
    • Mode: Infrastructure
    • Security method: WPA with EAP
    • EAP type: TTLS
    • Choose certificate: none
    • EAP method: EAP PAP (if you haven't rebooted after you installed the WLAN tool, you won't be offered to select EAP PAP here)
    • User name and password as provided by your institution, e.g., and *******
    • Before you click the done button, click extended first! A new pop-up will open. Here, navigate to the EAP tab, tick Use manual user name: yes, and enter the "anonymous" user name which is the default for your academic institution (in my case: Click Save.
    • Save everything and enjoy. Note that it sometimes may take rather long (many seconds) to log into the Eduroam network.

Nachtrag für MWN-Nutzer (Juli 2010)

(This is only relevant to people in Munich/München who work or study at TUM and perhaps LMU, FH/HS, etc., so I post it in German.)

Nachdem ich all diesen Mist für EAP PAP gemacht habe, habe ich erfahren, dass das MWN durchaus andere Authentifizierungsmethoden neben EAP PAP anbietet – allerdings fuktionieren die nicht mit einer selbstgewählten, sondern ausschließlich mit dieser kryptischen, vom LRZ vorgegebenen Adresse. Falls man die nicht kennt (Achtung, das war bei mir nicht dasselbe wie diese ellenlange Mytum-ID, die ich bei meiner Einstellung auf einem Zettel genannt bekommen habe), kann man sich einfach bei Mytum einloggen und sich in bei den Konto- oder Maileinstellungen diese LRZ-Kennung anzeigen lassen. Ich hatte es stattdessen mit meiner Mytum-Kennung versucht, und genau das geht idiotischerweise dann nur mit EAP PAP.

Saturday 8 May 2010

N900 as GPRS/UMTS/3G bluetooth dial-up for a Ubuntu Linux PC

If you want the N900 to act as a mere modem for connecting to the Internet via a GPRS/UMTS/HSPA/3G/3.5G/... network from your laptop running Ubuntu Linux v9.10, here's a very brief description how to do that. It's aimed at people who don't want to open a shell and enter something like "sudo pon gprs", but who rather prefer to use their mouse (that's actually a rather ununixy/unlinuxy way, I know):


  1. Prepare your N900: Install the software package bluetooth-dun from extras-testing.
  2. Prepare your Ubuntu laptop:
    1. Install the bluetooth manager blueman (the Gnome default bluetooth applet will not do!)
    2. Go to the Network Manager and create a new mobile broadband connection. (In case you already have created one for a UMTS/3G stick and want to use the same provider with your N900, you don't need to do this.)
  3. If you have not done so, initiate a bluetooth pairing between your N900 and your laptop so that you don't have to enter PINs, confirm connection requests, etc.

Using it

  1. Activate Bluetooth on your N900 if you haven't done yet.
  2. On your laptop, click on the blue Bluetooth "B" icon which blueman puts into the system tray (usually in the upper left system menu bar at the top of your desktop). A list with paired bluetooth devices appears; your N900 should be listed there, too. If not, you need to pair it with your laptop first (as I told you step 3 above).
  3. Do a right-hand click on the entry representing N900. A pop-up menu appears.
  4. In that popup menu, select "serial connection" and there "dial-up networking". Now you will see three bars indicating signal strenghts and signal quality for the bluetooth connection. More importantly however, your bluetooth phone has now been made visible to the network manager.
  5. Still on your laptop, do a left-click on the icon of the Network Manager (system tray). Your broadband connection should appear in the "available" section of the menu, with the label that you gave your broadband connection when you created it (step 2.2 in the preparations) Click it to connect.
  6. After a couple of seconds, you now can use the net! Don't be confused by the fact that the N900 will not reveal to you that it just went online via GPRS/UMTS in its system tray (there will be no data connection item appearing near the battery level indicator; only the Bluetooth icon will shine blue instead of white once you activated the serial connection in Blueman).
  7. To close the connection, you click again on the Network Manager icon in the system tray and disconnect via the menu.
Bear in mind that the Bluetooth connection is a bottleneck: Bluetooth v2.1+EDR only yields a speed of 2–3 Mbit/s, whereas the N900's HSPA chip can attain a throughput of up to 10 Mbit/s for download (HSDPA) and 2 Mbit/s for upload (HSUPA). If you need a higher speed, you thus might want to try JoikuSpot which connects your N900 to your laptop via WLAN instead of Bluetooth (bear in mind, however, that it offers only a highly insecure connection, since the WLAN only uses the terribly outdated WEP encryption, which can be cracked within seconds).