Nearly Ready, New Toys

This is a post from my old “All Aluminum Tour” blog about Peyote—my race car and Nero, my Airstream-based car hauler and some crazy stuff I did in 2006-2007

It’s pretty funny to read this post from the perspective of 2019 and today’s smartphones, but that 2007 Nokia N95 was one hell of a powerful package.

May 6 2007
I’ve been working like a dog on the trailer, doing last minute things for the trip, which starts next Thursday. The skid plates are done, I’ve reworked a lot of the storage, Diane has had an endless list for me that seems to be finally complete. I’ve been through a battery of doctor visits, for my race physical, a problem I’ve been having with my hip (I’m falling apart like a cheap suit) and a dermatologist to check out my zillion moles. I got all the paperwork done for race entries. And I’m putting together my first few music playlists.

One of the items on my list was a better way to connect to the internet on the road. I did some research and decided a new cellphone was in order. I plan to use WiFi where I find it, but most of the time I’ll be using a GSM phone as a modem. I wound up buying a Nokia N95 on eBay and having Cingular provision it.

I don’t usually get too excited about technology–I’ve been playing with this stuff far too long–but holy smokes what a cool piece of work this thing is. It will be months before I figure out how to do everything it does, but so far I’m blown away. I never wanted a crappy camera in my cell phone, but now that I have a great one (5 megapixel, ziess lens, excellent focus framing and zoom features), it’s pretty useful. I’m not ready to set the Nikon D80 aside, but the picture quality from this tiny device is remarkable.

The MP3 player is better than an iPOD because it has built-in speakers that are absolutely astonishing–both for volume and clarity. I can’t understand how they did it. It also plays videos (though it’s only 2GB of storage) and the screen is superior to my video iPOD.

Bluetooth and wifi are remarkable–I connect to my WLAN in the house and don’t have to use Cingular’s data service. You can also Skype right from the phone. But it also acts as a GSM modem for my laptop (though not in Macintosh mode–I have to boot Windows–yuck). I have been able to get iSync to work with the phone to keep the calendar and phonebook up to date–there’s a plugin for iSync available on the Nokia site.

The GPS that’s included is a little slow to locate satellites, but it works very well. The maps are very up to date, as is the location database. It shows some restaurants in Portland that are less than a month old.

The phone supports video calls (though Cingular doesn’t yet). I tried one using my wireless network and was able to send video to my computer from the phone. It will be interesting to see if cell phones are the way that we finally get standardized video phone calling. Dick Tracy had it fifty years ago.

One interesting if trivial ability is that you can associate an MP3 song with a particular phone book entry. So when Diane calls me the ring is Bruce Springsteen singing “Sad Eyes”. Beats the heck out of some goofy synth ringtone.

This phone is not available in the US yet. Mine comes from Hong Kong and the maps for the GPS defaulted to Asia. But everything is in English and it works wonderfully. Usually when the US carriers get these kinds of phones they have a lot of the features turned off to keep from cannibalizing their expensive services. For example, the phone supports WiFi and VOIP, so any person who is usually within a wireless network doesn’t need phone service to use their phone. It also doesn’t need the expensive data services the carriers supply. Since my phone didn’t come from these bandits it has all the features enabled. Of course, I’m going to need a carrier anyway because half the reason to buy it is internet access on the road. But it’s an interesting development.

I’m absolutely amazed that so much technology and such great design can be levered into a tiny, lightweight package. It’s only a little thicker than the Razr I hated every day I owned it, and it weighs less.

So far, so good.

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