Archive for October, 2010

Maybe it is time to review this beast.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I used to use a calendar.  Now I use an N900.

As part of the excitement of getting the N900, way back in February 2010, I discovered that Ovi.com had a very cool online calendar feature; or maybe I discovered that in May, after I resumed using my beloved E71, rebounding from the initial heartbreak of the N900.  In any case, on returning to the N900–the un-recovered abuse victim inevitably returns to the abuser–I discovered that Ovi.com does not sync with the N900.  !  Well, nevermind, thought I, we will make do.  Except then there is this other issue with the so-called complex recurring entries in the calendar.  Don’t look here for detail on how to remedy that issue.  Come here only to abandon hope. 

In a nutshell, let’s say someone wants to enter all their regular work shifts as recurring entries, but then wants to change one–only one–of those future entries, for a day off let’s say.  Not on the N900.  Can’t be done.  Recurring entries can only exist on the N900 if they are all identical.  Welcome to my nightmare.  And if you want something as exotic as editing each day as it passes to keep a record of events (like, to record the actual hours that you worked?) give up.  There are alternatives; for example you could enter everything individually.  One.  By.  One.  But the best workaround I found was just going back to my E71. 

The failure of the calendar on the N900 is so dismal–it wouldn’t even pass muster as a programming project for school–that it overshadows some of the device’s other failures.  No MMS (except via the hack of fMMS, which does work, I guess, but only after tons of tweaking and arcane configuration, and even then never works in an integrated way with the phone).  Or spluttering MfE (Mail for Exchange) performance.  I got it to work.  A couple times.  And only for calendar synchronization.  And when MfE did work, it wasn’t of much use.  I’m not sure if this is because a synchronized crippled calendar, is still a crippled calendar, or because MfE sync with Google is unreliable; apparently Google chooses to work poorly with Open Source products.  (Unless they are Open Source in name only, like Android.)  😉

The camera is good.  The camera software is not.  This may change with the now-extant PR1.3 upgrade, but that appears unlikely from early reports from those who have succeeded in upgrading–I can’t upgrade right now, but we’ll get to that.  The hardware for the camera, and for the whole phone for that matter, is really very good.  The software chooses to focus using the entire frame, which is good for some types of pictures, but not for all, and makes it almost unusable for macros (for which the phone has a specific setting).  For macros the software should reduce the focus area to the center of the frame only–in fact it should do this for all images, since that would work as well for landscapes as for close-ups, and the N900 team does seem to have a deep aversion for making such things selectable. 

Also, the camera software tries too hard with dark images; it over-amplifies dark pixels, creating low-light images that are very noisy.  This works if you want to record your trip (the drug-induced kind) but only if you see a purple haze when the lights go down.  It doesn’t do rainbows or kaleidoscopes.  Only purple haze. 

One other small complaint with the camera software.  When a picture is taken, the phone allows you to share it right from the camera app.  Unless you close the lens cover.  And when I want to share a picture, I stop treating the phone like a camera (taking care not to smudge–or heaven forbid! scratch–the lens) and I start treating the phone like a keyboard, since I am going to type some things about the photo I want to share.  Holding the phone like a keyboard, but not touching the camera lens, are mutually unlikely, if not exclusive.  So when I start to type, I close the lens cover.  But then the camera app closes, taking with it that intended-to-be-convenient feature of sharing right from the camera app!  Jeesh. 

I keep the E71 close.  One of these days I am going to fling the N900 with great vigor against a hard surface.  I won’t enjoy seeing it in pieces (though that will be interesting).  And I won’t be happy to lose its lovely screen, along with its sometimes-fabulous camera.  But then I can start keeping an accurate calendar again.  One thing the N900 has taught me though; I don’t really need an accurate calendar.  It has also taught me that I don’t really need it or the E71. 

I almost forgot.  I did mention the PR1.3 upgrade.  Which I can’t get. 

One of the things I do really like about the N900 is my ability to interact with it through Linux-based programs, like ssh and sftp.  One thing which unlocked Nokia devices have always been good about is not corralling you into a limited feature set; they have always allowed wide latitude in accessing their devices’ many capabilities, most of those capabilities under-promoted.  Or not promoted at all, like the streaming radio app on the E71.  I don’t think Nokia ever promoted it.  And it was separate from the media player, a detail which made it possible to listen to the local police radio stream, while simultaneously listening to The Doors.  But I digress. 

I often ssh into the N900, which is more preferable than using the onerous Application Manager on the phone.  And, it seems, different at times.  The AppManager will often not tell me of upgrades which are available via “apt-get upgrade”.  And using apt-get tells me more on the command line.  I sometimes need to know the things apt-get tells me because Nokia has chosen with the N900 to keep the most useful apps in the extras-devel repository.  I know all the very cautious reasons for this, and all the horror stories of all the bricks (that from some dire reports seem to be raining down on us) as a result of people recklessly enabling extras-devel.  My point is that Nokia could themselves have developed some of these essential programs instead of leaving them for independent developers to produce, sometimes poorly, and always slowly.  As a result, most of the people pursuing the promise that the N900 holds, will inevitably enable the extras-devel (and the -testing) repositories. 

This has had a side effect, at least in my experience.  AppManager knew nothing of yesterday’s PR1.3 release, and still knows nothing of it today.  Apt-get however told a very different story, and led me along a very different path, the painful details of which I will omit here.  I discovered that apt-get will fail to do a dist-upgrade on my phone with the extras-devel repository enabled.  It will not fail if extras-devel is disabled.  But there is no upgrade available right now on my phone via apt-get dist-upgrade!  What is interesting, however, is that yesterday, when everyone else was “upgrading flawlessly”, my phone did a HUGE regular upgrade (a plain “apt-get upgrade” not “dist-upgrade”), and by huge I mean close to if not over a thousand packages upgraded.  As far as I can tell, my phone now has all of the meager improvements that PR1.3 offers, yet my “About Product” applet in Settings manager still says, “version 10.2010.19-1.002,” which is the PR1.2 version. 

But this is all speculation.  For all I know, if I ever get it, the PR1.3 upgrade may make of my N900 the perfect companion for which I have always pined.  Ha!  I just can’t get the upgrade because I made the phone do (by enabling extras-devel and -testing) what they promised it would do when I bought it.  😐

So that is my story with the N900.  I love it and I hate it.  I am not sure I even want to be bothered with tracking down why it won’t “oficially” upgrade.  That is just another example of the tedious arabesque odysseys this phone forces me to take all the time.  I do so miss the completeness of the non-touch Symbian operating system.  The N900 was the best thing that ever happened to my E71. 

But I do like the camera.  Kinda.  I’m going to go take some drugs now. 

gently

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I let a moth go. I noticed it last night, fluttering around the light over the oven, dancing and flitting above the little billows of steam as I boiled spaghetti.

When I was a little kid, with baby-soft skin and invincible curiosity, I concluded that the large brown moth was the gentlest creature on earth, perfectly benign, soft, and–as far as a little boy could tell–kind. She never bit or stung, and she never seemed afraid of me. But I learned that she was terribly vulnerable, sometimes tragically so; the moth’s tiny soul is often incompatible with human bone and muscle. Sometimes even a child’s gentle touch can be too much. But her delicate steps across my little hand always felt like love.

I have a friend whose ex-wife was near death two days ago. She may already be dead as I write this. My friend has loved his ex-wife dearly since they were married thirty-five years ago, and all through the twenty years they raised their only son together his love for her grew, but her love for him did not. Or maybe her love for him did grow, and maybe she felt more vulnerable than she could bear. My friend’s ex-wife hasn’t let him near her in years.

And now she is vulnerable again. They told her after she was admitted to the hospital last week that she would not be going home. She still will not let my friend see her.

I saw the moth when I went to bed last night. It startled me, but it was asleep–if that is what moths do. It was dormant, and clinging to the tile in the corner of the kitchen. The decorations on its wings looked like two tiny brown eyes, watching me. I thought, I may never see it again. It may die, and dry up, and next time I clean–three months from now–it may be swept away, unnoticed.

But she greeted me this morning, fluttering in the light as I retrieved the whistling teapot. I reached; she landed on my hand. But she would not be held. I caught her between my hand and a giant plastic cup, and as she bounced around trying to find the space between my fingers, I dashed to the bathroom window. I raised the blinds with one hand, and tried to raise the sash without losing her. But I dropped the cup and she landed on the window sill. I raised the sash and the two storm windows as quickly as I could while she fluttered–either joyful, or terrified–in the warm sunlight. She stayed with me for a moment, flitting and fluttering as we felt the warmer-than-usual September air come in through the window. I think she was happy. She flew around the edge of the window opening and, gently, she was gone.

Well, anyway

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The rope is a nice diversion.  Anything is, really.  Usually it is the computer, and its multifarious machinations, that provide me with diversion.  Check e-mail.  What’s up on twitter? Check the bank balance.  And PayPal, too.  Search for a Chrome browser extension to enable auto-filling of password fields; I just switched from Firefox to Chrome and am still annoyed by some of their differences.  How about a bookmark extension? And I am almost out of disk space, so I need to find a way to re-compress a bunch of .avi files.  As cheap as hard drives are, I can’t afford to buy ice cream, much less a two-terabyte hard drive.  And flickr, it has about 22 million diversions per minute, I have to check there. 

And when all that is not enough (which has been the case for about two weeks) then only the rope suffices. 

Its image, its texture, its scent, its feel…  I roll in it, caress it, breathe it into myself, rub and embrace it, taste it.  Figuratively, of course.  I never actually touch the rope when I am so focussed on what it represents.  To do so would be to repudiate it when I eventually have to put it away.  Unless, of course, I use it.  And I don’t want to do either.  It is my catnip; certainly not an addiction, but definitely an irresistible diversion from time to time. 

I remember a lot the activities of a more youthful body; an inevitable symptom of age.  I don’t dwell on them.  Well, I do dwell on them occasionally, but for the most part I just observe.  Sometimes I fear that something absolute has been lost, that I am only now realizing that at some moment long ago the root of joy was irrevocably severed from my life.  But really I know; many other things have been cut off, but not that.  I have always substituted something in the place of joy of course–sex, athleticism, camping, skiing, mountain-biking, shopping–because joy is too imperative, it brings with it all the rest of reality.  And reality can only be controlled by exclusion.  And control, for some reason, is the be-all and end-all of my existence.  Who the fuck taught me that?

In the end, we are buoyed on a sea of joy.  It rolls and rises in dimensions beyond our senses.  The properties of that sea are not like those of any sea we have ever known.  Nothing sinks.  Nothing drowns.  Even if drowning in a familiar sea, we are yet uplifted by that greater sea, supported and caressed in ways which all comparisons–even this one–fail to apprehend.  And we cannot be divided from it.  It is the fluid of our origins, from which we can never be expelled, as so it seemed at birth.  It is the juice of life, and its gushing abundance lifts and maintains your life even as you read this word. 

In such a sea, can there be anything but “yes”, a universal, absolute, exultant affirmation? Isn’t any artificial self not made mute before this truth, not also false? Whatever we think we are, whatever we think is right or wrong, and no matter what else there may be within our limited consciousnesses, the source and the solution, the final link connecting all the loops and diversions back to the beginning is this thing that cannot be named, is not known to us, and can only be roughly perceived by us as joy.  And contained within such a “yes”, can there exist a “no”? Can any part of the universal whole exclude itself, and thereby make the whole now incomplete?

Such a “no” is like a boulder stuck in a swiftly moving mountain stream, it cannot impede its flow, but only creates a slight diversion and a brief turbulence which is quickly forgiven by the sparkling flow.  And if this metaphor were perfect, the stream would eventually cease to be water, and the boulder would eventually cease to be stone, and they would both become the wholeness that includes all streams and boulders, includes all seas and all sand, and includes all “no’s”. 

I hope this didn’t make any sense at all.  And now I am hungry.  Bye.