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Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to speed up your Nokia N8 in a few simple steps

The biggest problems with first generation Symbian^3 phones is the not the CPU, it's the RAM. Belle is much faster than Anna when you use apps, but when it comes to loading them, it's a little slower than Anna used to be. So how do you fix that? How do you keep your RAM under control? Well, there are a few tricks you could do to get your precious RAM back.


Everyone loves customizing their user interface in the most personal way possible. On Belle people do that with backgrounds and themes. While backgrounds are processed by the OS and get optimized for low memory consumption, not the same thing can be said about themes. Lots of themes are bloated with all kind buttons, icons and background images that eat up our precious RAM and slow down your phone. The fastest theme you can get is the Nokia Evolve theme, which is the default theme. Using a different theme will not only slow down your phone, but will also create a gap between native applications, which adopt the selected theme, and Qt apps(and there are lots of those) that use the Evolve look. For example, your calendar app will use the theme, while Nokia Store will look like Evolve.

Theme effects

The theme effects are nice to see, but not everyone knows they eat a decent amount of RAM to look that nice. What basically happens(and I'm talking from a developer perspective now) is parts of both applications(the one you switch from, and the one you switch to) have to be loaded in RAM in order for that transition to happen. Disabling the theme effects will improve your load time by at least half a second. To disable the theme effects go to Menu->Settings->Themes->General and in the menu choose Theme effects->Off.

Organized menu

The flat menu works pretty well on new generation 1GHz Belle phones, but on the first generation it does lag here and there. That's because the GPU unit on first generation is slower than the one on the 1GHz phones. In order to give your GPU a hand, and give yourself a hand too, you can create folders. The folders will help keep the menu layout under control. For example, you can put the apps you use once every 3 months and put them in a folder called "Rarely used". You can put all your games in a "Games" folder, your social apps in the "Social" folder, you get the idea.


The homescreen is the most important update Belle got, alongside the pulldown notification area. But the homescreen can speed up, or slow down your phone. Having all those great widgets on your phone may turn it into a looker, but can slow it down considerably. So my advice is keep it as simple as possible. After some intensive testing I figured out a setup that keeps the memory under control and all my apps now start as fast as they did on Anna.

With Anna the homescreen had the 6 rows of widgets layout, but Belle introduced different size widgets, and some of them are really useful. So, here is what you need to get your homescreen looking like this:

First of all, you need a decent calendar widget, because the one on Belle doesn't show much, and is pretty much a waste of space. I found a free gorgeous widget in Nokia Store called Calendar events. This widget takes up a full row, just like the default calendar widget, but it offers a shortcut to the calendar app and displays the next 4 events in your calendar. You can download it from here: Calendar events. There is one thing you need to know before adding the widget to your screen: run the app first, and add the widget after that.

The mail widget on Belle got a revamp, but honestly, I liked the Anna one better. The new widget eats up half a screen and it's a no go for me. Fortunately there is something you can do to get a smaller email widget. For that, you need to install the Microsoft business apps on your phone. After you installed it, a new widget will appear, called "Mail, new arrivals". This widget has the size of a shortcut and it shows a badge notification when you have unread mail.

Instead of adding tens of shortcuts on your homescreen, you can add shortcuts to your folders, and solve the shortcuts issue too. In the above screenshot you can see that my folders have special icons, that show the content of the folder. You can do that too with another free app from Nokia store. The app is called Thumbnail Folder and you can get it here: Thumbnail Folder.

So there it is, one homescreen with everything you need on it.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rome trip trough the lens of the Mapstronaut Nokia N8

You may or may not know that back in December 2011, Nokia Connects along with the Nokia Maps Blog team held a contest involving people suggesting locations to the big guy Mapstronaut, and if he'd visit those locations, you'd get a chance to win the big prize. The prize involved a Nokia N8, an activity worth 1000 Euros and a helicopter tour of your city.
I won that contest. So the N8 is now may main phone and camera, the helicopter tour turned into a flight lesson(since there are no helicopters available near my city), and the activity turned into a trip to Rome for me and my wife. All the pictures from this post were shot with the Nokia N8. Since I had no roaming data plan I had to rely on my N8's Nokia Maps throughout the entire trip for offline navigation, and I have to say I have no complaint. Every direction we got was spot on.

Day one

So Monday, March 12th 2012 was the day it all begin. At 8 o'clock in the morning we were off to the airport. We boarded the plane and were gently awaiting for takeoff. It would be our first flight ever. I was a little nervous about the takeoff, as I had no idea what to expect, but I was even more nervous when we were about to land. The plane we took from Craiova to Timisoara was a Saab 2000, a turboprop aircraft. So, we had our first landing in Timisoara, and I finally got over the first flight fear and had the chance to pull out the N8 and shoot some photos.

From Timisoara, we took a different plane for Rome, this time a Fokker 100 turbojet aircraft. Again, it would be our first turbojet flight. This time around I pulled the N8 from my pocket and shot some photos from above the clouds.

So an hour and half later, we landed in Rome, on the Fiumicino airport. And here for (again) the first time, we set foot on foreign soil. Italy would be the first country we ever seen besides our own Romania.

An hour and a bus ride later, we got to the hotel and caught some rest. Because it was already very late (at 4PM there aren't too many open touristic attractions), and we were very tired, we decided to call it a day and get some rest because we would have a busy day ahead.

Day two

The next day we wanted to get a quick start and woke up, at 7:30 AM in the hope to reach Vatican City early. We took the bus to Vatican instead of the metro and it was completely worthed. We saw nearly the entire city from the bus, lots and lots of old buildings and museums and even archaeological sites being unveiled. So we got to Piazza San Pietro, where you can also find the Basilica di San Pietro as well, and we took these pictures.

After hanging around a little, we headed to the museums of Vatican, eagerly waiting to see the Sistine Chapel and Rafael's Rooms. A lot of guides are lurking around, just waiting for tourists. I have to say that even though we entered the Vatican museums without a guide, everything is pretty much self explanatory, and there are descriptions everywhere, and there is even an audio guide which works better than most human guides you find there. So here are some of the pictures we took there.

When we got to the Sistine Chapel, we noticed, unlike the rest of the Vatican, there was a no photographs allowed sign, and the chapel was full of policemen and security people, so you could not take any photos without being spotted. But the N8 did not catch the eye of any security personnel and I managed to take a few snaps at the ceiling, one of which is extremely clear. The whole ceiling is superb and the masterpiece, The Creation of Adam is right in the middle of it.

So we strolled around some more museums, but once you see the Sistine Chapel, everything else pales in comparison.

We left Vatican after about 2 hours, and since the Castle Sant'Angelo is practically across the street(well, not really, it's more like 1Km away) we decided to visit it too. Using Nokia Maps we got there straight away.

When you enter the Sant'Angelo castle you have two alternatives of going up, one is the traditional stairs, and the other is the helicoid access road, the road where the Roman battle chariots used to exit the castle whenever it was attacked. We took the road, and we loved it.

Here are some pictures from the Sant'Angelo castle as well.

Day Three

Day three was Colosseum day. We got here first thing in the morning, and here too, you can have a very useful audio guide. The Colosseum was something else. It transposes you to another world. You can see the cells below the arena, where the slaves, gladiators and wild beasts were kept before the fights. The pictures speak for themselves.

The tickets for Colosseum include also a visit to the Roman Forum and to the Palatino Museum. Here are some photos.

After the Colosseum we were off to Piazza del Popolo. This place is huge, and lots of people gather there just to practice the Italian "dolce far niente". We snapped some photos here as well.

In the evening we went to see Fontana di Trevi after hearing from some locals that it's much nicer to see it in the evening when it's lit up than during the day. This is one of the most crowded places I've ever seen. All kind of people getting their photos taken, and throwing coins over their heads in the water as the legend requires.

Day four
On day four we went to visit the Borghese Galleries. We made phone reservations two days before(they are required), so in the morning we were ready to go. Here unfortunately there is a no photos policy too, but better enforced so I have no inside pictures to share. What I can tell you though is, that the sculpture and painting I've seen in Vatican(excluding Rafael's and Michelangelo's) look like children's play compare to what I saw here. The level of detail in each sculpture, angles covered by the paintings, are just mind blowing. My wife actually thought for most of our tour, that the paintings on the ceilings were actually sculptures. What can I say, the Borghese Galleries are must see in Rome.

Our next stop was the location that we owed this trip to, the location that won me the prize, Villa Giulia. We had no luck trying to get in, as the museum was for some reason closed, but we did get some nice snaps in front of it.

Our next target was the Pantheon. A bus ride and a good walk later, we found it. An impressive structure, with an oculus right in the middle of the dome. The sun lights up the during the day dome in a sort of reverse sundial effect.

Next and last stop in Rome, was Piazza Navona. So we got there hoping to see some artists at work, and we did. Most artists were just showing off their work, but there was one guy that was actually creating. Believe it or not, this guy was creating a painting, using a cardboard canvas and spray paint. We could not believe how the painting turned out, but we stayed there till he finished it and the we bought one ourselves. For 10 Euros, it was a steal.

Departure day

With a heavy heart we had to leave Rome behind, but the airplane waits for no one, so in the morning of the fifth day, we left for the airport. The flight back seemed longer than ever, and on one hand we would have wanted to stay there for at least a while longer, and on the other hand, we could not wait to see our little kid again. We never spent five days apart from him since he was born, and we were missing him terribly.

That was all folks!