Little T in the Cog mobile

Nokia to return to smartphones this year?


This is actually a few weeks old but I only just noticed it - please let it be true! I knew Nokia were talking about re-entering the smartphone market with a new Android handset but I thought it might be a midrange device. This looks more like it will be a premium phone which is much more exciting. Looking forward to seeing the awesome design aesthetic of Nokia combined with Android - I'm hoping something like my old Nokia N9, still the best looking phone I've ever owned.

Nokia N9

It's really a bit too early to be replacing my Xperia Z5 Compact seeing as I've owned it for less than a year but who knows - if this thing really is premium and they don't mangle the Android install too much I really could be tempted to trade up early and sell the Z5 :-)

Fix for Google Apps "Unknown error" on webOS


So it turns out the problems I was having with my Google Apps account under webOS were caused by Google setting all sync operations to use HTTPS rather than HTTP (which makes sense - I didn't actually realise all my data was being sent unencrypted between me and Google previously!). They must have rolled it out to the Apps users first as it has been broken for a while, but starting on April 1st everyone using Google has been affected.

This is actually good news for me - before there were only a few of us using Google Apps on webOS, and we were struggling to get it working (I had actually gone back to my Android mobile as without Google integration I can't use my phone (no contacts, calendar, Google chat etc)), but suddenly everyone using a Gmail account couldn't sync and so the webOS user base sprung into action and thanks to the efforts of two forum members over at webOS Nation we now have a patch to get it all working again. Grab it here.

The state of webOS


After receiving my new Pre 3 just under one week ago I've been plunged back into the world of webOS for the first time in a year and a half. I'm once again enjoying the best multitasking the mobile world has to offer, the messenger app is still among the best I've used, GuttenPodder is one of the best podcast apps around and I'm reminded of how far ahead of everyone else Synergy was. And of course the hardware keyboard, now wider and easier to type on than ever. It's not all roses however - webOS 2.2.4 still has some annoying small bugs and the app situation is more dire than it was a year and a half ago with many of them simply broken as services have changed their APIs but the devs have moved on to greener pastures so the webOS apps never get the needed updates. Because of this you find yourself relying on the browser quite a lot and this poses it's own problems as it is based on a ~3 year old rendering engine which means that not all websites work, sometimes displaying strange layout errors, other times just displaying a blank page.

The biggest annoyance for me personally is that Google Apps accounts no longer work - when trying to set one up you get the very helpful "Unknown error" message. This used to work so I'm assuming that Google has changed something at their end. Because of this I have none of my contacts/calendars/Google Chat. I got around the contacts problem by importing all my contacts into a "normal" gmail account and I can still get my email over IMAP, but the lack of calendar and chat is a big hindrance, and I often glance at my Xperia sitting on the shelf and know it would all be a bit easier if I put my SIM back in there. I've searched around for an answer to the Google Apps problem and posted questions and logs in the forums but my guess is no one will patch webOS as it appears that I'm the only one left using a webOS device and a Google Apps account.

Which brings me to what I believe is the biggest problem currently with using webOS - the small size of the community. Even a year and a half ago the forums over at webOS Nation a hive of activity and there was a thriving patch community tweaking the OS to do all sorts of things that Palm or HP never got around to. These days the forums are relatively quiet and the patches have slowed from a torrent to a trickle, and if there is a patch for your problem your best bet is to hunt it out in the forums as it seems that new patches just aren't finding their way into Preware (in fact there have been no new apps or patches in Preware for a while now). My guess is if the Google Apps breakage had happened two years ago it would have been diagnosed and fixed pretty quickly, but these days a lot of the devs have simply moved on, or only dabble in webOS, and I can't say I blame them, the last webOS devices came out over two years ago and there will probably never be another one (other than LG putting webOS into TVs).

Does all this mean I'm unhappy with my purchase? Not really, though if I'm honest the gloss has faded over the last week. Most of that is due to my Google Apps account not working, if that one thing could be fixed I'd be much happier. I can still do pretty much everything else - my mobile banking, listen to Spotify and podcasts, use Skype and Whatsapp, use email on the go, navigate using maps and of course make phone calls. We'll see how long I can persevere before I put my SIM back in the Xperia and join the modern ranks again, but for now I'm enjoying the tinkering and the nostalgia!

Another Pre


Somebody take my credit card away from me - I've just gone and grabbed myself a Pre 3.

Yup, I've just gone and bought something that was released two years ago, and even then wasn't the latest and greatest (it came out at the same time as the iPhone 4 which is still supported by Apple). I haven't used a webOS phone in over a year and a half (having use the N9 for most of that time and only just last month grabbing a Sony Xperia P) but found my old Pre+ sitting in a drawer the other day and got a hankering for webOS. I tried powering it on, it boots but the screen won't accept any touch inputs so I couldn't log in :-(

A quick check on eBay showed that the Pre 3 is still available new in the box from a few places and after thinking it over I took the plunge - I know it's silly buying a phone that's now over two years old and didn't even have much support when it came out but I just can't let webOS go, it was so far ahead of its time and is still the most intuitive phone OS I've ever used. The N9 came close but never really ticked the boxes for me the same way webOS did and I find Android doesn't live up to the promise (but the hardware and app selection is great!).

It could be I only use it for a month or two and get frustrated by the Pre 3 and it ends up in a drawer, my Veer was certainly buggy so who knows if the Pre will be too. But at least then I can say I've got the best webOS phone that was ever produced and can pull it out every now and then if I get nostalgic!

HP Pre 3

Can't wait for it to turn up now - I'll finally be able to use touch-to-share with my TouchPad!

New Mobile


Well I couldn't last on the Nokia N9 (though I did nearly make it two years! For a tech magpie like me that's not bad...), I've now got my hands on an Android device - a Sony Xperia P! I know that it isn't the latest and greatest (it arguably wasn't even when it was new, instead it was pitched as a mid range device) but it is certainly snappy enough with it's dual core CPU and Android 4.1.2. It's been a few years since I played with Android and I've gotta say, 4.x is a massive step forward in terms of looks! Sony haven't gone too crazy on the skinning too which is nice, allowing lots of Holo goodness to shine through - I especially like the new Gmail app which is far better than what I was used to on the N9.

The hardware is pretty good looking in my opinion - with it's aluminium unibody build and flat slab of glass down the front it looks much better than some of the more plasticky phones to have come out and I like the minimal flat look to the front with the curved back. It's actually really light (surprising since it's mostly all metal and glass and isn't the thinest of phones) and I sometimes forget it is in my pocket (it's much lighter than the N9). One reason for it's light weight could be the small battery size - it's only 1305mAh and definitely needs charging every night during normal usage and even a top up during the day for when you use it a lot, but other than that I don't have any complaints.

Xperia P

The other thing which I'm still getting used to is the sheer range of apps available - for the last few years I've been on webOS and then MeeGo, neither of which are exactly a hive of activity in the app department. Now for pretty much anything I can think of someone has made an app, especially local ones (like my bank, NZ news sources etc) which is a far cry from what I've put up with since 2009 when I first got my Palm Pre. So far I've been careful to pick apps that follow the Holo guidelines so the whole system has a more cohesive feel, and I also shy away from the free ad supported ones too which look pretty bad with ads plastered across them (I'm happy to support devs who make quality apps by buying them). Some of my favourites are JuiceSSH, Pocket Casts, YouTube and Currents, though with so many apps I'm constantly discovering new ones.

All in all I'm happy so far with my Android experience - it's not as clunky as I've been led to believe!

That was quick!


Well that was quick - the Kindle Paperwhite was ordered on Saturday and turned up Monday afternoon! That's quicker than some packages arrive when sent locally let alone from the US. I haven't opened it yet as it belongs to my wife so I'll leave that awesome feeling of opening a new tech toy to her :-)

I love shiny new things!

webOS now mobile


Well all good things must come to an end - my last webOS cell phone is now dead. I've given away my HP Veer as I hadn't powered it on in over 7 months but still kept my old Pre Plus around for when I got nostalgic and wanted to use webOS again (I still think it is the best mobile OS so far, even though it is slowly dropping further behind the others). The other day I fired up the Pre Plus, the first time in about 3 months, and though the phone powers up the screen no longer responds to touch. I've tried a bunch of things - doctored it, left the battery out, tried using just USB power (this seems to have worked for a few people) but nothing has worked.

So now my only webOS device is my TouchPad, still going strong after two years of use (it actually still gets used almost daily, mostly for reading Kindle books, though as my wife has just bought a Kindle Paperwhite those days might be numbered...). Because of this I've decided to change the webOS section of this blog to be simply "mobile" as there is less and less to write about webOS as time goes on.

I was still hoping for some new webOS hardware to come out when LG bought webOS off HP, but it doesn't look like they're at all interested in trying to resurrect webOS on phones, and at this stage I can't say I completely blame them as it would take a long time and a lot of cash to catch up with the big players and even if they did get it up and running on modern hardware and tweaked things like the browser to be compliant they would still be stuck with a lack of apps (just look at the tough time Microsoft is having trying to make inroads into that cut-throat market).

I'll keep using my TouchPad as long as I can while I watch webOS and all the promise that it had slowly fade away. Oh well, it's only code, right?

The WindsorNot


Nearly half a year after we found out about the WindsorNot, a smooth, keyboardless webOS smartphone that came to light in some marketing materials Derek over at webOS Nation got his hands on a prototype of the device and has written up a good article on the history and demise of this fascinating (to me anyway!) smartphone. There are loads of pictured throughout the article, and it's interesting to note that without the keyboard slider underneath like the Pre3 the phone is super thin and compact, roughly the size of an iPhone.

If this thing had launched I would have seriously considered buying it - I still regret that I didn't snap up a Pre3 in time when they went on fire sale (the cheapest I can find them now on eBay with shipping to NZ is ~US$270 which is a bit much even for me!) and the WindsorNot is basically a thinner,lighter, keyboardless Pre 3 running my favourite mobile operating system. What might have been...

History of Palm before the Pre


Thom Holwerda over at has just written an amazingly detailed and well researched history of Palm and the original PalmOS, finishing up with some comments on the Pre/webOS. A really fantastic article, even if I don't agree with his webOS roundup ;-), go read it now!

Running Novacomd on Debian


I've recently had to reinstall Preware on my little Veer after I factory reset it the other day (long story short - after running the Nokia N9 for about 6 months I got nostalgic for a taste of webOS). It's been a while since I've had to connect a webOS device to a computer to install software as my TouchPad, which I still use almost daily, has been ticking along fine for a while now.

The last time I needed to do this I downloaded and ran webOS Quick Install from my MacBook. These days I no longer have the use of that device, and I'm loath the install Java on my Mac Mini so I thought I'd do it from my work computer, a Debian 6 workstation. Although webOS Quick Install is a Java app that does the actual installation of things like Preware it relies on the Novacom drivers which talk over USB to the phone. Unfortunately HP only provide packages for Ubuntu, but it turns out that these work fine on Debian, if a little clunky.

The first thing to do is to download the Novacom package from here (scroll down to step 5 "Install the HP webOS SDK for Linux" and select either "Download Novacom - 32-bit" or Download Novacom - 64-bit" depending on your system architecture). Install the downloaded package, and the ia32-libs package if you're using the 64-bit build and ignore the error about missing "start" and "stop" (these are Ubuntu launchd commands). Once installed as root run /opt/Palm/novacom/novacomd to start the daemon (you'll need to do this each time you want to connect as it won't get started at boot).

That's it! To see if all is working you can plug your phone/TouchPad into your PC using the USB cable and run "novacom -l" from a terminal - if you see something like "56247 d09b89d7f7be20919f0622401e900299871724f2 usb broadway-linux" then it can see the device and your good to go.