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More mobile than ever

Now I've taken on my new responsibilities as Editor at Large for O'Reilly Network, it's time I got back up to speed again with the world of wireless and mobile. One of my new roles is editor of the O'Reilly Wireless DevCenter. As things stand, the Wireless DevCenter is rather dull and hard to use, so my first task is to spruce it up and get some new content flowing in there.

While I've obviously been keeping reasonably up to date with Bluetooth, I've lagged a little on the other technologies. So I spent some time this morning taking action to change that.

I'm going to visit the Symbian Expo in London in October. It's subtitled the "smartphone show", and I hope there'll be lots of people who know what they're talking about there. I'd love to find one or two Symbian-knowledgeable authors there if I can. I also want to talk to the ARM and Symbian people and ask what they think about a Mono port. Apparently somebody already has an ARM JIT port in the works, but I don't know enough about ARM CPUs to know how useful for Symbian this could be.

I've relinquished my Sony Ericsson Z600 phone and given it to my wife, and started back using the P800 as my main phone. The reason I stopped was because the P800 was a little bulky to use as, er, a phone, and I had hopes of getting the Z600 synchronized against Evolution. However the synchronization never happened, the Z600's camera turned out to be pathetic, and I missed using Opera. The P800 is my friend again.

Temptations

The unfortunate thing about my interest in mobile technology is how much it costs me. Already this morning I've discovered several new objects of desire.

Sony Ericsson P910i. The two-generations-on version of my P800, and very attractive. The small number of reviews I've found are favourable indeed, and suggest that the QWERTY keyboard is actually rather usable. The bundled software packages seem to be greatly improved, too.

Sony Memory Stick Duo Adaptor for CF Slot. I love the little memory stick duos, which fit inside the P800. I can already slip them into my Vaio, making data sharing between Linux and the P800 quite easy (for "data sharing", I mean transferring several albums in Ogg format!) However, I've been unable to use my investment in that media in my digital camera. This adaptor would let me do that, and permit me to transfer images from the camera without getting a laptop involved in the process. These still seem quite pricey to me though.

512MB Memory Stick Duo. Must. Have. More. Memory. Will figure out how to use it later. The Sony version of this seems expensive, but Sandisk are now producing much cheaper Memory Stick Duo compatible cards.

P800 annoyances

One of the fun things about picking up the P800 again was the hope that people might have solved the things I found annoying about it in the meantime. I'd never been able to use the P800 with my TLS-protected IMAP and SMTP email servers. Unfortunately, I still can't and there's no third-party software out there that will fix this.

The Bluetooth stack is temperamental on the P800, although admittedly I've not had the firmware updated for almost a year. It doesn't seem too hard to get the P800 into a state where you need to remove the battery and restart it to unblock Bluetooth.

Synchronization is still a pain. The P800 uses SyncML, which is an XML-based protocol. This does not stop the P800 happily sending non well-formed XML out in a SyncML payload, though. Such nefarious actions tends to prevent most SyncML software from working with it, as XML parsers get very unhappy when their input isn't well-formed.

Developing anything for the P800 with open source tools is a nightmare. There's some encouraging progress on a Python port for it, but I guess that will be a while coming. I hear good things about Nokia's work on supporting Python in their smartphones. Of course, as I said earlier, I really want Mono running on my phone.

Getting US happy

When I head out to the US in a couple of weeks' time I'll be signing up either for a T-Mobile or AT&T contract phone, so I can get a real taste of what the network's like out there. It turns out that to get a contract package there and only visit 4 times a year will still cost less than the daft roaming charges I normally pay, so it's not really that indulgent! If nothing else, the flat-rate GPRS access will help a lot.

Finally, do drop me a line and let me know what you want to see in the Wireless DevCenter.

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