Open Source And Industry Standard: My Hardware Transitions Also Move Forward
Recent efforts to wean myself from proprietary tech platforms aren’t solely focused on software. For several years, I’ve had two Internet-accessible video cameras installed at my residence, to keep an eye on the cats and monitor the weather from afar. They’re D-Link DCS-5300 units, and they’ve exhibited several shortcomings. The 802.11b-based ‘W’ variant refuses to sustain a connection to any 2.4 Ghz-broadcasting router, even in their most legacy-friendly ‘mixed modes, thereby necessitating a LAN tether via a powerline networking spur instead.
The DCS-5300W also has an annoyingly noisy system fan. And more germane to this particular conversation, both it and its 802.11g-based DCS-5300G peer are ActiveX-based, meaning that perusing their captured images requires either Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser (which isn’t a rock-solid proposition) or a Windows-only viewer application. So the other day, spurred on by a most excellent one-day sale, I snagged Trendnet’s TV-IP400W:
I’m really pleased, at least so far. Its home page serves up a snapped still image that’s compatible with pretty much any web browser (save, strangely, either Internet Explorer Mobile or Opera Mini running on my WM6-based T-Mobile Dash, neither of which will correctly render any of the HTML; Skyfire conversely works fine) and that I can realtime-refresh at will. Its operation is completely silent. Its connectivity to my 802.11g access point is solid.
The TV-IP400W’s built-in dynamic DNS client actually works (unlike the one in the DCS-5300W) and thereby keeps my TZO account up-to-date. Its Java video streaming capabilities mesh with any Java-supportive web browser; my Macs are no longer locked out (ActiveX video streaming is also offered for Microsoft aficionados). And like the DCS-5300 devices, it offers capabilities that I haven’t yet exploited, such as both motion-instigated and regularly scheduled transfer of captured snapshots via email and FTP. About the only feature it doesn’t have in comparison to its DCS-5300 predecessors is a built-in microphone…but I never exploited that particular capability, anyway.
Speaking of that Windows Mobile 6-upgraded T-Mobile Dash, it’s the potential victim of another in-progress upgrade experiment. Granted, it’s been a reliable and robust smartphone, but after many years’ worth of Windows Mobile-only experiences, I was tempted to try out another platform. I’ve used Ericsson (and subsequent Sony Ericsson) phones in the distant past, along with continuing to use an ancient Samsung handset for my work mobile account, but I’ve never taken Nokia hardware for a spin before. And the Dash is feeling increasingly archaic with the passage of time:
- A battery-draining (i.e. no hardware-accelerated support for capture, alteration and compression) 1.3 Mpixel camera
- No integrated GPS
- An obsolete built-in browser (though Opera Mini and Skyfire are reasonable alternatives; Bolt unfortunately is incompatible with the Dash’s Java engine)
- No microSDHC support, even in the Windows Mobile 6 generation
- Bluetooth PAN-only capabilities for tethering; admittedly my difficulty here is Apple’s problem, not HTC and Microsoft’s, but Bluetooth DUN capabilities in the phone would have circumvented it, and
- Let’s be honest here: stagnant Windows Mobile third-party software development
Shouldn’t EDN’s Consumer Electronics editor be using the latest-and-greatest gear? I think so!
This is a move I’ve been contemplating (and resisting) for a while. I keep hoping (but ultimately gave up waiting) for a compelling handset with support for T-Mobile’s unique 1700 MHz UMTS band to appear. The Android-based G1 could have been my candidate, but its tethering capabilities are too kludgy and limited for my needs. UMTS drains batteries substantially faster than EDGE, anyway. After dropping 1700 MHz cognizance from my required-feature list, I was periodically tempted by ~$300 (plus sales tax) sale prices on Nokia’s unlocked N95:
The phone’s a geek’s dream, complete with a 5 Mpixel camera and a built-in UPnP server! But its battery life is underwhelming, so say the many reviews I perused, it doesn’t offer a complete QWERTY keypad, and its size and weight would both over-stuff my pocket and leave me feeling as if I was holding a brick up to my head. Anyway, it’s already headed towards obsolescence, with the QWERTY-inclusive N97 en route.
Instead, once again tempted by a one-day $290 (no sales tax, free shipping) sale (perhaps because a successor was just released?), I’ve gone with Nokia’s E71, a phone that reviewers have universally raved about:
It’s roughly the same size, weight and thickness as my form factor-beloved Dash. And although its Symbian O/S isn’t (yet) open sourced, Nokia’s embrace of the open source community is legendary, leading to an abundance of diverse and capable S60 applications. Its camera is ‘only’ 3.1 Mpixels in resolution, but I think that’ll do. And like its N95 peer (along with its Dash potential predecessor), it supports Microsoft’s PlaysForSure DRM scheme, so I can use it as a portable repository and playback platform for my subscription music. To wit, since it does support microSDHC, I’ve also snagged a 16 GByte card from Kingston.
A full QWERTY keypad will speed up my email and web browsing sessions (as well as limit the keypress-induced wear and tear on any particular button). Bluetooth DUN and PAN support gives the E71 diverse tethering capabilities. And speaking of tethering (specifically syncing), although Google claims that Mobile Sync’s SyncML support is currently limited to contacts, the E71 has built-in Exchange Server support, which should enable me to sync my calendar, too. User feedback is inconsistent on this latter point; I’ll let you know if it works when the phone arrives. Alternatively, of course, I can always sync the E71 to my MacBook Air over Bluetooth (with automatic proximity initiation, to boot!) or USB via iSync.
I figure if I don’t end up liking the E71, I can sell it on Ebay for at least what I paid for it. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to tell about my experiences and impressions thereof. Stay tuned for that (proactive feedback from existing E71 owners is greatly appreciated in advance)…and hey, have a happy weekend!