keskiviikko 20. tammikuuta 2010

Spotify on N900

While I had my brief fling with the Htc Hero, the Android-based phone, I enjoyed being able to get to my Spotify playlists and search for music online while commuting. When I got my N900, I didn't renew my Spotify Premium, since I had no use for it anymore. Recently, some solutions have been popping up for the N900. All of them rely on (require) the libdespotify -library (also known as Despotify). The solutions I mention here are merely frontends for Despotify, that does the heavy lifting.

There are three ways, as of writing this, to get Spotify working on the N900.
  • Despotify Command line version
  • Qtify
  • Yaspot
I've tested Yaspot, since it appeared to get the best reviews on the forums. Here are my findings.

First run, I was faced with the login screen for the first time:

It's easy and intuitive enough. The only thing that leaves a question mark is the choice of bitrate. What bitrate is it? Do I have enough bandwidth for high? I suppose I could google it, but what would that really tell me, that I wouldn't still have to test out in real life? So, let's leave it checked and see what happens.

My first test run is during my morning commute in Helsinki, Finland. I know the 3G connection is shaky at best at some points. All my previous phones have had trouble staying connected to the internet, especially at one point in a suburb called Tammisto. The N900 is no exception, so what will happen? My HTC Hero played right through this Bermuda Triangle of 3G. It will be interesting to see how Yaspot and Despotify does.

My first test run is flawless. I have NO problems what so ever during the whole 30 min trip. I can easily swap songs, get to my playlists, do searches etc. Everything works. I get a very good feeling about this.

My second test run is not as glamorous. I get constant skipping and I'm wondering how it is that my 3g connection is worse on the way back. Is it that the bus is full of people? Is the weather worse? Does my N900 require a reboot? Do I not have enough bandwidth for high bitrate, even though it worked perfectly for 30 minutes this morning? I reboot, log on again with low bitrate and am again able to enjoy my music with nary a skip.

So, time for the third test. Morning commute the next day. I go with hight bandwidth again, just for the heck of it and it works. However, in the Bermuda triangle (Tammisto), I get skips. I'm not too concerned, since this was more or less expected even during the first run. I decide to see what happens if I don't start fiddling with my N900 and let it sort out the connection issue by itself. Sure enough, 10 seconds beyond the Bermuda triangle, Prodigy comes back to life and works beautifully for the rest of the trip.

Bottom line: Yaspot is VERY usable for me. It doesn't cache music ahead of time like the official Android client, it seems. My Android never skipped in Tammisto, because it had time to cache so much music that I always med it through - unless the song ended in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. Then it too, took a break.

Yaspot is significantly better in terms of user interface when it comes to searching. The official Android client is a huge clusterfuck when you try to search for something. The N900 is all business and may not look as good, but boy does it deliver.

It's not perfect though. Here are the bad parts:
  • Yaspot always skips when the N900 does something else. When the screen dims, when you lock the device, when you enter the dashboard, when the device comes back to life etc. There's half a second of silence. Best to just leave it alone while you're listening to music. Probably a Despotify issue and not Yaspot.
  • Yaspot did crash a couple of times. Especially when I got impatient and clicked stuff when it was already processing.
  • Not that beautiful to look at.
  • No music caching (or very little, it seems)
  • It does appear to suck a LOT of battery. Beware of that. I am seeing a full battery when I start my commute and something like 75% left when I get to work. It's to be expected, I suppose.

Here are some screenshots:

This is the view you get when you have logged in

Search results look like this

This is what happens when you click the rightmost column
in the search results. You are taken to Album view.

If you want a "now playing" view, you need to back three steps from 
album view and press "playing queue" on the first screen or select it 
from  the status bar menu. Notice how there is no indication 
of what track we are actually listening to :)


I've been looking for the ideal map-software for N900 for quite some time. They all have their strong and weak points. I'm not really that into getting navigation: I just want an app for easy map browsing, that more or less duplicates my desktop experience of Google maps. Here are my requirements:
  • Panning of maps
  • Easy zooming
  • Address search that works
  • Easy to read
  • GPS -support
I've started out with Ovi maps and like so many others, I found it to be slightly less than optimal. People have been bashing it right and left on the forums, so I might have been slightly influenced by that.

So I set out on a quest to find something better. Here are the apps I tried:
For my requirements, all of these above are valiant efforts, but for me, none of them could replace the built in Ovi maps. Say what you will, but I think Ovi maps is the best we have right now.

Here are some letdowns from the above programs:

Maemo-mapper doesn't zoom in for me, when I search for an address. Searching is hit and miss: I can't find the street number for my place of work (but I can find the street). It's one of the big streets in Helsinki and then again, my buddy found his street number "Middleofnowhere street 238" that is significantly smaller and peripheral. Maemo-mapper also has a very cumbersome map respository system that is so far from being user friendly it's ridiculous. The downloadable sample repositories didn't work, becuase the Google links were wrong. Plus it crashed on numerous occasions, due to not being stable.

Map buddy does search. Just not addresses, it appears. Instead, you can look for pizza, but it's US centered, so apparently there isn't a single place to go out for pizza in all of Helsinki. Sigh.

Maep is very good looking, but it lacks search.

The HTML-based alternatives are numerous, including Google's own mobile version (at Only, you can't zoom out with it. Any way at all! So much for that. The others are pretty much equally limited, most lacking panning and decent zooming. Here's one of the first efforts:

So after this long journey, I came full circle and went back to Ovi Maps. It does all the things I want, except for giving me the same map look I've grown accustomed to in Google maps.

Today I downloaded all of Finland as a map package (from this address) and installed it. It's the easiest thing in the world. If you know what you are doing, installation-instructions are one row:

Unzip the map pack you downloaded to MyDocs/cities/diskcache.

Here are the reasons why Ovi maps kicks everyone's ass right now:
  • Searchable with "ajax", meaning it gives me a list of hits as I'm writing the address or place I'm looking for
  • Downloadable maps
  • 3d-view that is rotatable
  • GPS tracking
  • Fast zoom alternatives to street, city, country level (etc).
Here's a screenshot as my final try to convince you. I challenge you to make any of the above apps as good looking or readable.