Improvements to Ovi Maps on the Nokia N8 and Some Recommended Symbian ^3 Apps

Since my last post about Gaming/Apps on the Nokia N8, several cool apps have been released and software updates pushed out to existing apps. This post will talk about the new & improved Ovi Maps available now, some apps I recommend (and like) for the N8, and a bone to pick with topApps on the Nokia N8.

  1. Ovi Maps
  2. Skype for Symbian
  3. WordPress for Symbian
  4. SoundHound for Symbian
  5. Loop App
  6. Fixing topApps and the Ovi Store

Ovi Maps – Improved

In my earlier posts, I recognized that the N8 isn’t perfect, but thankfully, Nokia is starting to take the first steps towards making the Nokia N8 a solid phone that I will be able to recommend without hesitation. I’ve touted the fact that Ovi Maps comes with free turn-by-turn navigation. However, for people totally new to the Symbian environment, using Ovi Maps can be quite frustrating especially if you need to “set it and forget it”. Well, with the latest update to the Ovi Maps (Nok Nok TV has a list of major changes) application (current version is v.3.06 10wk46b01), Nokia has improved the usability of Ovi Maps and here are some changes I’ve noticed:

  1. Ovi Maps Dashboard: The icons appears to have been given a fresh coat of paint Here’s what the current dashboard looks like:
    Ovi Maps v. 3.06 10wk46b01
  2. Driving/Walking to Places: From the Ovi Maps dashboard, you have 2 ways to start navigating:
    • Hit the “Search” button: From the “Search” screen, the portrait keyboard is brought up immediately and saves you another keystroke. For me, one of the better changes is that the font size on the Search/Categories screen has been increased. This was huge for me because most times I use Ovi Maps are when I are *already* in the car. My patience level for painstakingly entering my destination into Ovi Maps application is drastically lower so anything (in this case, it’s the larger font size) that reduces the user error is great in my book. Here’s what that screen looks like:
      Ovi Maps Search AddressesOvi Maps Search Categories
    • Hit the “Drive” button: This has been changed to make navigation much easier. To reiterate, I just want to get up and go. Ovi Maps *finally* makes that easier than it has ever been on Ovi Maps. Here’s what the screen looks like now:
      Drive To on Ovi Maps

  3. Map Interaction: Zooming in on maps with Ovi Maps is also easier and much improved. The previous version was choppy and I was also slightly leery of interacting with the maps. However, I’ve been very impressed with this latest iteration of “Pinch to zoom” on Ovi Maps. Here’s a short video showing how seamless zooming is on Ovi Maps:

Skype – Available for Symbian ^3

Short and sweet:Great app to have available for Symbian ^3 along with the other slew of VOIP apps like Fring, Nimbuzz available on the Ovi Store.
With regards to new & notable apps available for the Nokia N8, here’s one that should excite any heavy VOIP users: Skype is now available for Symbian^3! If you visit, your device will be detected and if supported, offer you a download link to the .sisx file. See the image below:
Skype on Nokia N8

WordPress for Nokia – Changed

Short and sweet: I am not really into mobile blogging as I’m almost always with my notebook everywhere I am. However, in a pinch, this is an excellent utility and deserves an install anyway. It works for the site as well as self-hosted WordPress installations. I hope to see a generic blogging client in the Ovi Store soon as (if you haven’t noticed) Habari powers this blog.

When I heard of this, I attempted to download and install approximately 6 times … and failed. I gave up for awhile and decided to install the app once more. This time, it worked but I encountered some easily surmountable issues. Not letting those stop me, I simply restarted the app and I was back in business! To create a post in the WordPress for Symbian app is pretty easy and I’m glad Nokia’s taking the initiative to assist developers in creating useful apps like these.

Main WordPress for Symbian
Create Post in WordPress for Symbian


Short and sweet: I wouldn’t call this a “must-have” app, but interestingly enough, I purchased it for my previous Android phone and now, purchased again for my Nokia N8. πŸ™‚

Thankfully, the User Interface isn’t different from how it was on Android. The premise is simple: you’re somewhere and hear a tune you can’t place. Fire up SoundHound and it should spit out the song’s name and details on who sang it, etc. It’s pretty cool and you need an internet connection for it to work.
SoundHound on the Nokia N8

Loop – Music making app

Short and sweet: The Loop app is a free and *Really* fun application for making music. Absolutely get this if you want to spend hours creating serious or silly music hooks and amuse yourself by how ‘gangsta’ you sound. Someone made this little sample. Please be gentle. πŸ˜›

I was initially skeptical about how usable this app would be, but I was really blown away by how much detail the Nokia team put into this app. It comes with 9 pre-installed tracks (that are actually quite good): Detroit, DnB, Dubstep, French Electro, Fun, HipHop, Old School Hip Hop, Poodlism and Reggaeton. You can visit to get user-contributed tracks too. You’ll have to download the Loop app to sample these tracks. πŸ™‚ With the Loop app, you can add a ‘base’ (colored yellow) which would be any of the 9 tracks or one you create yourself!. Then, you have about 3 more layers of music/sounds/beats to add before you get greeted with the “tracks are filled up” message. From there, it’s easy to “merge” and add more music layers! Just go give it a shot, will ya? It’s free. While you’re at it, check out this pretty creative video/ad shot on the Nokia N8 and music provided by the Loop App! πŸ™‚
Nokia N8 Loop AppNokia N8 Loop Track Editing

Fixing the Ovi Store/topApps

  1. One of the things I have to commend Nokia for doing is starting topApps which is another application that came preinstalled on the N8. It’s sort of like the Ovi Store, but for recommendations by Ovi Store staff. From the official description,

    topApps is a free application for use on Nokia touch-enabled devices (running S60 5th Edition), that features a homescreen widget for devices like the Nokia N97, and loads of details about content in Ovi Store that is referenced in ways that encourage exploration and discovery.

    This is great, but I sorta wish I didn’t have yet another obstacle between finding great apps to use. If the Featured, Reviewed or Staff Picks apps features are incorporated into the Ovi Store app, I would be one happy camper because that removes another hurdle towards easy app acquisition. Right now, items showcased on topApps are limited to a certain number and aren’t directly downloadable. The featured/reviewed apps are simply linked to their Ovi Store pages and then (if you’re like me), you still have to read reviews before OK-ing a download or purchase! However, I suspect that this merger would probably require a complete redesign of the current Ovi Store layout as you’ll see in the images below:
    TopApps on Ovi Store
    Nokia Ovi Store

  2. Another annoyance with the topApps application is the fact that everytime the application is started, it dutifully always requests access to user data and network connectivity, but only for that session. I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the app so I don’t think I’m doing it wrong. This means everytime, I have to press “yes” twice (once to allow access to user data and the second time to allow the app to connect to the internet). Here’s the video proof that I’m not crazy :):
  3. Also, it appears that topApps is not a native N8 app because it constantly asks me for permissions to access the internet. Again, this is one of those areas where Nokia could have removed 2 more obstacles to viewing and eventually buying/downloading apps!
  4. I vented about not being able to buy apps with my credit card while my ATT SIM card’s in the phone. In an online conversation with someone knowledgeable, I learned that ATT mandated that user accounts should be billed for app purchases on the Ovi store. I am skeptical that there isn’t any hidden fee to this, but I guess I’ll find out when my cellphone bill arrives. I would have some good grounds to argue on especially as (a) I don’t have a data plan (b) ATT effectively makes apps purchases a needlessly arduous/painful experience.

My blog’s existential crisis … sort of. :)

I have the lamest (yet valid) reason for not blogging in over a weekΒ  now: I didn’t know what to say. For the first time in awhile, I felt thoroughly jaded about writing yet another how-to or kvetching about the latest software/hardware fault. There are a ton of sites that I’ll defer to when it comes down to the technical nitty gritty of things, but I hope that my scribblings may have made sense of someone out there. It’s been over 2 weeks since I moved back to Vista and I must confess that I have forgotten what Ubuntu feels like. That sounds like a betrayal even to me, but some context is in order.

Before throwing up my hands in despair and wiping off Windows fromΒ  my laptop, my laptop had a lot of experimental (beta quality) software on it and had witnessed scores of uninstallations that clog disk performance. My computer was rapidly becoming as sluggish as my 3 year old XP desktop PC and I didn’t know how to fix it. I was not infected with any virii or rootkits that I knew of, but I had a lot of programs installed and I experimented a lot with my laptop. The final straw was when some of my personal files became corrupted after running a couple of diagnose-and-repair programs and I threw up my hands in defeat. I’d experimented a lot with virtual machines and was becoming rapidly enamored of the Ubuntu/Linux distribution. I backed up my personal and professional files in two places and said “hasta luego” to Vista. Imagine my giddiness when my computer booted up & was ready to roll in less than 1 minute! However, Ubuntu’s “downfall” at my hands came because of a single issue.

Fast forward to mid-March when I restored my laptop to its factory conditions with my recovery DVDs. I installed my essential programs which are:

  1. Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 (everything except the Business Contact Manager or Office Accounting 2008) :- I love Office 2007. Eye candy and extremely functional.
  2. Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 :- I paid for this and it is worth its weight in gold! Of course, this was an educational version so it was less than $60.
  3. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.1
  4. Acronis True Image 2009 :- Worth the money I’ve paid for it. I would purchase it again in a heartbeat!
  5. Acronis Disk Director 10 :- A master at slicing and dicing drives i.e. partitioning, etc
  6. Microsoft Expression Studio Suite :- Got this for free at Microsoft DreamSpark; The included Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 is one of the best converters for .AVI files i.e. AVI to WMV in high quality. I love it!
  7. Ultraedit Text Editor :- Fast and killer at handling huge text files. It’s mostly a Notepad replacement for me, but I wanted the best of the best and Ultraedit was the unanimous victor.
  8. Norton Internet Security 2009
  9. Secunia PSI :- For keeping tabs of programs that need updating or that have reached the end of life period.
  10. PC Wizard
  11. Fraps :- For high quality capture of games I’m playing or simply for recording the entire desktop by monitoring the desktop windows manager. Well worth the dough I dropped for it and it comes with free upgrades for life!
  12. Gizmo5 :- I love this program although the call quality could do with some work. I use this to communicate with my folks in Nigeria by buying Call Out minutes. I get the most bang for my buck that way.
  13. Imgburn :- this program lets the user be awesome as Kathy Sierra would say. It’s so easy to use that a cavewoman like me can use it without tearing out her hair!)
  14. Wireshark :- I fire this baby up whenever I’m out of my home network to monitor HTTP traffic leaving & entering my computer. I always use my SSH tunnel whenever I’m on public wifi or on an insecure/hostile network so I try to inspect my HTTP packets for any cleartext passwords, etc. Yes, I’m a tinfoil hat wearer. πŸ™‚
  15. Nmap :- I haven’t fully gotten the hang of this, but I know that I intend on tapping into its power.
  16. Camtasia Studio 6 :- THE name in creating awesome screencasts and I won a license of this fantastic program via a contest on Gottabemobile.
  17. Snagit 9 :- THE name in taking awesome screenshots of whatever you’re doing. πŸ™‚ I’ve paid for this baby twice because it’s that good.
  18. Netalyzer :- Every computer needs one of these. ‘Nuff said.
  19. 7-zip :- For unobtrusive unzipping & zipping needs, 7-Zip is the program to beat.
  20. FeedDemon :- I would be very lonely in the world without FeedDemon. πŸ™‚ I kid, but this program is a desktop RSS reader that backups up my subscriptions and has handled my feeds with minimal hiccups.
  21. Filezilla (and/or Winscp) :- The masters at FTP/SFTP/SSH connections.
  22. Putty :- For making SSH tunneling on my laptop possible. I heart you, Putty.
  23. Xobni :- the Outlook plugin
  24. Firefox :- bestest browser EVAR!!
  25. Cyberlink Youcam 2 (for whatever reason, this program won’t receive updates and I’m in the market for an alternative webcam program like Logitech’s Quickcam software for the Logitech Pro 9000)
  26. Speedcrunch :- This calculator is faster than the built-in calculator in Vista and has even more functionality. I love that it saves all calculations for me so it gives me a reason not to buy the latest shiny thing that catches my eye. πŸ™‚
  27. WinDirStat :- This nifty program tells me which folders are hogging up all my hard drive space. It’s thanks to this program that Nero 9 is not on my laptop anymore. I discovered several GBs in some folders created by Nero 9. I had no idea what those folders were for and I was too scared to delete them.
  28. TheSage dictionary :- Free dictionary that can search online (Wikipedia, Google, etc) from the application’s interface. I debated long & hard about replacing Wordweb Free with this program, but now, I have no regrets. The Sage is just as fast (if not faster) than Wordweb Free.

After installing these 28 programs and installing their updates, I slowly “rolled” out more program installations while carefully monitoring the Performance Information and Tools monitor for any problem programs. One software tool is conspicuously absent and that is Nero 9 which I used to swear by. The reason I have kept Nero 9 off y computer lies in the fact that it is overkill for my purposes (as I’ve learnt the hard way). I don’t want this post to become a screed, but Nero 9 has actually gotten in the way of doing stuff instead of making stuff drop-dead easy. So, I went with Imgburn for its simple 1-click options.

As of today, I’ve added a lot more programs to my computer, but I’ve been discriminating in what I put on my laptop. These programs see less usage than the 21 above, but they are on my laptop because I want them there. They are:

  1. Windows Live Writer
  2. Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009 (with GPS)
  3. DVDFab
  4. ConceptDraw Professional 7 :- A worthy alternative to Microsoft Visio Professional 2007. For making neat drawings that would take forever in Word. πŸ˜›
  5. ConceptDraw MindMap 5
  6. Microsoft Math 3.0 :- Don’t ask. It’s not worth the 20 bucks I paid for it because it’s slower than molasses. I recommend SpeedCrunch if a vanilla calculator will suit your needs.
  7. GPG4Win :- Every now and then, I get this bee in my bonnet that I need to encrypt my email conversations. I’m not in cohorts with evil people so my paranoia is largely unjustified. However, if I did encrypt all my email, no one would be able to get in touch with me because my contacts are not tinfoil hat wearers like me!
  8. Quicktime 7 Pro and QuickTime MPEG-2 Playback Component :- I went Pro over 2 years ago and it’s definitely worth it. I purchased the MPEG add-on because at the time, I needed that capability. Worth it? Meh.
  9. Spacejock software :- You can’t beat free & high quality software. yBook is an e-Reader that simply works OOB (out of box). It is my alternative to the ~ $300 Amazon Kindle. Eat your hearts out, suckers! πŸ˜›
  10. Woopra :- A web analytics program
  11. Skype :- I have about 2 contacts on Skype (my husband and a friend of ours). πŸ™‚ However, I need Skype on the laptop because I can make video calls to my husband and when my husband is jamming with his friend (my 2nd contact), they call me via Skype and I can listen to their music.
  12. CCleaner :- This program is not on my must-have list because I already do a lot of the tasks it performs manually. I’ve been burned by mediocre “clean up” software (*cough* TuneUp *cough*) so I’m leery of such applications. However, CCleaner has a very good reputation so I’m comfortable with running this program once a quarter. πŸ™‚
  13. Bulk Rename Utility :- a free program by Jim Willsher for bulk renaming. It does what it does simply and fast. Tons of options to satisfy any needs (extension changes, sequential numbering, etc). A specialized tool, but not essential. It also has a dedicated 64 bit version.
  14. ColorPic :- Another specialized tool for when I’m optimizing my Adsense ads and I need to pick matching colors. πŸ™‚

Right now, my computer is humming right along with me when I click to open things, etc. I haven’t had the Performance Information and Tools monitor tell me that any issues have been documented by the computer. I haven’t had the computer bluescreen (BSOD) on me yet *knock on wood* although my experience with Windows tells me that even BSODs happen to the best of us.

I will be updating this post with links to the programs later so enjoy!