Monday, November 27, 2006

an experience with freedom mini bluetooth keyboard

I am writing this review using the new keyboard for my nokia 6600 that I recently bought here in Australia. It cost me 100AU$ (i.e around 3400 INR! less than half the prize of the nokia wireless keyboard). A small form factor QWERTY keypad that is easy to use to key in text and not operate the phone in general. It is the freedom mini keypad from freedom input. You can also write fair amount of code on the key pad but you may find some missing symbols! Simple symbols like the greater than symbol seem to be missing altogether! Thus you might have to employ alternative logic to program on this phone using the keypad. So far, I myself have only written basic Python scripts on the phone... remains to be still seen how well this scales up though. Also there appears to completely missing features of cut copy and paste! When the keyboard driver is active I am simply unable to use these features even from the phone itself! To me this appears to be a major drawback of this product. Given that this product is meant for text entry copy and paste is an important operation; until of course someone makes a nice port of vi on symbian. But even then it would have problems with key repetition... but generally not bbad so as to make it totally irritating. The device is a complete fun and makes messaging, sending emails and chatting from the phone over gtalk client a real breez... rather than using the predictive text on the phone itself. The keypad can also be used for mobile journalism, blogging especially when you are traveling. It is an extremely compact device that is light enough to slip into your pocket. However while writing large essays a few thing can get irritating, like to put a full stop you need to press two keys! While its easier if you use a lot of semi-colons! Finally it looks to me that it wont be really difficult to develop a device that can connect a standard PS2 keyboard to a bluetooth hub that can be used as a wireless keyboard for the mobile... the only difference being loss of portability. But in return you get a low cost device that can use your existing computer keyboard for the mobile.
Having a QWERTY keypad seems to be a good idea, though out there seems to be some innovative ideas like the frog keypad that claims that you can achieve a blazing 40 words per minute using an average 10hr training! The key layout for these keypads is totally unconventional and contrary to the claims you might find them not so easy to adjust to in the beginning. Another aspect of a keypad design is ergonomics, and in this department freedom mini keyboard does fairly well. Nokia wireless keyboard driver is the next I tried to use instead of a bit buggy freedom mini keyboard drivers. It does resolve some issues like putting of the mobile screen when keypad is not in use. But in the process introduces many new problems like inability to access many special characters. 123456789#()1!@#%",.?:-+*/ Well it appears that if I put the phone pad in numeric mode then everything seems to work quite well. And so here is it (we) can use the nokia wireless keyboard driver effectively for the freedom mini keyboard!... and that too seems without any issues. I also found that we can get other special characters by simply changing the layout of the keypad. Now the most difficult or rather more irritating part is the removal of the freedom mini keyboard drivers from my phone. It simply refuses to go! Finally after a couple of trials I was able to remove the defunct driver without any live trace. The nokia driver that I have been using since, still does not seem to solve the problem of reconnecting the keyboard... the is an option of reconnection but it simply refuses to work... and I end up paring the device again every time! Now I am typing on this keypad in complete darkness. The back lit feature of this keyboard is really nice and is just bright enough to get the work done and not attract others attention toward you. Unlike the freedom drivers which used to keep the screen on even when there was no keyboard activity, the nokia driver appropriately shuts down the screen in case an inactivity on the keypad is detected. The back lit feature also automatically goes into a power safe mode once no key press activity is detected. In any way today successfully managed to crash my phone while using the keypad. Though it appears that the nokia drivers are still able to connect to the keyboard after a restart. Another good thing is that these drivers load up automatically once the phone starts... But IndSMS still crashes have written to the support but never know if that will ever be read! And there are also issues with python ui when using the keypad. There are a few nice things that I found though a bit late like you can use the Ctrl+C to copy selected text and the use Ctrl+P to paste it conveniently. The feature of strapping the phone on the keypad is not that attractive though... It might be useful is u have a PDA type phone whose main keypad is hidden away Well that is all I would like to say about this mini keyboard... it is basically able to suffice my mobile computing needs to a large extent.
Update: I was finally able to get the predictive text working after a bit of twiddling around with the ROM image. Essentially I had to copy the z:\system\fep and z:\system\data\fep.ini to c: in the respective places. It turns out that the freedom keyboard driver simply screws up these files and the nokia drivers do not touch the at all. So my advice is instead to use the nokia keyboard drivers which effectively works well with most of the HID wireless bluetooth keyboard. After doing this modification I was also effectively able to use the IndSMS application from the keyboard without any problems. And after restoring the predictive text feature i have on further issues with using this keypad...Except of the issue of pairing.

This was entirely written on my 6600 and later posted with the windows PC using the same keypad now connected to my windows machine!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

back to olpc again!

Via PC1 initiative website has more reference to views about pros and cons of OLPC. Check is here.

Btw, Via PC1 initiative is also working towards the same kind of goal using a different approach though. And they have a research center in Mumbai too!