In this edition...

  1. Front Page
    • fMMS, enabling multimedia messages on Maemo 5, on its way to Extras
    • sprint process: future discussion
  2. Applications
    • Manual focus during video capture using lfocus
    • Portrait SMS writing comes to Maemo 5 thanks to community efforts
    • Using icedtea (Java port) and microemulator to run Opera Mini on Maemo 5
    • PortaBase: portable database application for Maemo
  3. Development
    • Open build system for MeeGo and Maemo
    • Experimental Qt 4.7 packages available for Maemo
  4. Devices
    • N900 may be able to achieve USB host mode after all
    • N8x0 community updates site is now live to pick up where Nokia left Diablo
    • Why PR1.2 has been delayed
  5. Announcements
    • Maelophone: stylophone pocket organ emulation

Front Page

fMMS, enabling multimedia messages on Maemo 5, on its way to Extras

Nokia has been long criticised for the lack of MMS functionality in Maemo 5. MMS, a cousin of SMS, allows the sending of pictures, sounds and text via the mobile network. The iPhone was similarly criticised when it was first released. However, due to Maemo's open platform, the implementation wasn't dependent on Nokia releasing an update. Instead, Nick Leppänen Larsson stepped up and - after some initial promising experiments - his MMS application, fMMS, now allows you to send and receive multimedia messages on your N900.

The development process has been long, and Nick has been supported by Nokia; the result of which is a very polished application (which, in PR1.2, will be able to auto-detect the "APN" settings necessary for communication with the MMS-portion of the mobile network) Nick describes how the application works: fMMS installs a daemon (program running in the background) which will start whenever an SMS Push message (this SMS is of a special kind which is not handled by default in Fremantle) related to MMS is received by your phone. It will read the SMS message and try to fetch the MMS from your operator. v1.0.0 had a few bugs, caught by the Extras testing process, and so v1.0.3 is in Extras-testing. If you want to help push polished applications to end-users via Extras, please help this app, and others. sprint process: future discussion currently organises its paid contributors; and some volunteers; through an agile "sprint" process. This process has tasks picked up and run with for a month. However, this agile process used by those working for the Maemo community has been straining at the edges recently. Dave Neary, the docmaster, has kicked off a discussion, on the maemo-community mailing list and about the dissatisfication felt by many people operating in that process recently: The monthly check-list meetings have not been satisfying for me. Nor has not having a meeting at all. Over the past 3 months, it's felt like large sections of the Maemo community have moved into wait-and-see mode with MeeGo, and no-one wants to be working on things now which end up being obsoleted by MeeGo/Harmattan work in a few months. If you'd like to shape the future of the collaboration between the amateur and professional aspects of the community; and how the MeeGo transition may affect that collaboration, please get involved.


Manual focus during video capture using lfocus

A small hack, by Talk user m2cm2c, allows the use of the volume controls on an N900 to control the focus when capturing video from the 5MP camera. Maemo Central describes the problem: The N900 records video in the 800 x 480 resolution and is one of the few Nokia devices to be able to focus before starting to capture video. But if the position of the subject changes, the N900 is not able to keep up as the focus remains fixed once the video capture has started. This however is about to change. The article guides the user through the install process, but it is currently fairly manual due to the package not yet being in an official repository.

Portrait SMS writing comes to Maemo 5 thanks to community efforts

The Phone application is one of the few out-of-the-box apps that support portrait-mode; Conversations is not. A number of times your editor has felt the need to send a quick SMS one handed, for example, walking down a train station platform to update someone as to which train he's on. Fortunately, the community has again stepped in to fill the need. VertSMS, by Timo P, resembles a traditional phone keypad allowing you to compose SMSes whilst holding the phone vertically. Maemo Central summarises: There is no predictive input so far and it lacks notifications as well. Another annoying thing is that the phone's default virtual keyboard comes up when you hit the `Write your message here' area. But everything said and done, its a great start. The package is still under Extras-devel, which means Timo isn't quite ready for widespread testing yet. However, if you're feeling brave and make sure you don't update any other packages from that repository, he's looking for feedback.

Using icedtea (Java port) and microemulator to run Opera Mini on Maemo 5

torshind, a Talk user, has tested Opera Mini on the N900 with the icedtea microemulator. I've installed icedtea6 from Extras-testing, microemulator and Opera Mini. icedtea is currently available from Extras-testing, but users should note that the usual warnings and disclaimers against the use of this repository still apply.

PortaBase: portable database application for Maemo

PortaBase, an "application for managing one-table database files", of Zaurus heritage has been ported to Maemo 4 & 5 by Jeremy Bowman. The feature set is fairly robust for its initial Maemo release because PortaBase started its life as an application for the Sharp Zaurus PDAs, and also got ported to Linux and Windows PCs years ago. Development stalled when the Zaurus community fractured into multiple ROMs, with minor differences between them and all using increasingly outdated libraries; maintaining it all just took too much work. But now that Qt 4 is available on Maemo, I've done a major housecleaning of the code and released PortaBase 2.0 beta 1 for Diablo, Fremantle, Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, and Windows. The beta is available from Extras-devel, so interested contributors and testers should check it out (after first familiarizing themselves with the usual warnings and disclaimers for the repository).


Open build system for MeeGo and Maemo

OBS (Open Build System) is a cross-compiling, Scratchbox-replacement cum autobuilder which was used by Mer, is being used by MeeGo core and is now shaping up for both the MeeGo and Maemo communities. David Greaves, who after a lot of impressive work on Mer is now working at Nokia on build systems, is now pushing for a multi-target build system for developers: I'm really excited as I see this as a way for the Maemo and Moblin development communities to transition smoothly into a MeeGo future; we should eventually be able to offer an easy way to build applications for Fremantle, Harmattan, MeeGo and future device OSes too. With Qt promising cross-platform applications, OBS should be able to provide cross-platform building. A developer should be able to write a Qt app on his desktop, and then upload it to OBS and have it built - and available through a repository - on Fremantle (Maemo 5), Harmattan (MeeGo x.y) and MeeGo-proper.

Experimental Qt 4.7 packages available for Maemo

The Maemo Qt team has prepared Qt 4.7 versions for Maemo. These packages replace the experimental Qt 4.6 packages as a) Qt 4.6 has been released and b) it'll be included in PR1.2 out-of-the-box. Following a request from the Community Council, the packages have been renamed "qt4-experimental" to indicate to developers that they may be better off using the standard "qt4-" packages for end-user facing apps. Harald Fernengel's announcement lays out the roadmap: Once PR 1.2 comes with official support for the stable Qt 4.6.2 version, experimental Qt 4.7 snapshots will be pushed to the Maemo extras-devel repository. If everything goes well, the release after PR 1.2 will ship with Qt 4.7.x (where "x" is whatever patch release is available at that time).


N900 may be able to achieve USB host mode after all

Ian Stirling and Joerg Reisenweber have been collaborating on a wiki page which suggests that USB "host mode" may be achievable on the N900 after all. The N8x0 allowed, through the USB On-The-Go (OTG) specification, the use of USB peripherals such as keyboards, mice, USB sticks and external hard drives. However, the N900 was released after the mobile phone manufacturers started standardising on charging through Micro-USB ports. This, according to Nokia, meant that switching to host mode was "impossible". Further research has shown, though, that the necessary pin which isn't wired up is used to indicate - rather than control - the mode: It seems that host-mode can be made to work - [there is] a report on a n900 detecting some USB peripherals. (though not having drivers for them - which is just simple compilation). A USB OTG controller would normally switch between host and device mode (initially) using the ID pin, to detect if it's at the A or B-side of a OTG cable. [...] So, if the kernel can be altered to ignore this pin - which should be trivial if there is host mode support for the chip in the kernel - then host mode works.

N8x0 community updates site is now live to pick up where Nokia left Diablo

After what's seemed like years of discussion, the community - thanks to a push by Lucas Maneos - has finally got in place the infrastructure to provide Seamless Software Updates (SSUs) to Maemo 4 (Diablo); which powers the N8x0 devices. The repository, which requires a small package to be installed to configure the Application Manager, contains updates to a number of packages; including the kernel, desktop, X Terminal, Application Manager, PDF reader and more.

Why PR1.2 has been delayed

Eero Tamminen, one of Nokia's principal Maemo engineers, has outlined some of the reasons why the forthcoming update to Maemo 5, PR1.2, has been delayed: As one example, when we optified some of the rootfs content to make more space on it (for SSUs), we had to deal with the slowdowns coming from those packages being now on eMMC (which is slower than rootfs especially when the device is swapping). This required quite a lot of iteration on what to optify, SSU issues, policy & memory locking finetuning, otherwise optimizing slow things etc. With the lengthy gap between the release of the SDK and the firmware itself, the fact that some regressions had been encountered was obvious. However, it's interesting to see some of the detail about those regressions and the impact they've had.


Maelophone: stylophone pocket organ emulation

mike choy has written Maelophone, an emulation of the classic 1970s Stylophone electronic pocket organ. Written in Python and Qt. Which is currently available from Extras-testing (standard warnings and disclaimers apply).