Nokia 770

Since the release of Cyclone 1.0 last week, we’ve heard from a number of people interested in using Cyclone to program embedded systems. It’s actually pretty easy to set up, so I thought I’d make a couple of posts to document my experiences in cross-compiling programs for the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. Here’s the first.

For those not familiar with the Nokia 770, it’s a computer with a four-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and wifi. It’s very handy to keep around in case you need to browse the web for a moment, to look up a fact or news story, or just to pass the time.

The Nokia 770

A surprising number of people think the 770 is a flop; the Washington Post says “It Does Very Little, and Not Very Well,” and CNET puts it on the list of the “Worst tech of 2006 (so far).” My judgment is the opposite: I’ve had a 770 since December and I still use it every day, quite a contrast with the pile of old Palms and Pocket PCs gathering dust in my closet.

The 770 has two killer features. First, the screen is beautiful: 800x480 resolution in 4 diagonal inches, or about 225 dpi. That’s about 4 times sharper than a standard laptop screen, and a width of 800 pixels means that most web sites can be viewed without horizontal scrolling. Once you experience browsing on the 770, you won’t bother with a smartphone or low-res Palm or Pocket PC again.

Second, Nokia is using an open source development model. The 770 runs Linux (a 2.6 kernel), the GUI is based on GTK, the compiler is gcc, the development environment is scratchbox, and all of the tools and documentation can be downloaded freely, without registration. I’ve gotten Cyclone compiling for the Nintendo DS and the iPod, but developing for those platforms isn’t much fun, because you have to work so hard to get basics like networking going. Consequently, Nokia has attracted many more developers and software ports than these other platforms, even though they were released months or years ahead of the 770.

In my next post, I’ll give the details on setting up Cyclone to compile for the 770.

14 May 2006 by trevor #