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Over the Air Full OS Updates, or Why I love Maemo (Soon to be Meego)

The ability to update one’s mobile phone / device is an excellent service that a handset manufacturer or operating system can offer a customer as it not only extends the life of the mobile but it also expands and builds on the array of services and software available on the mobile.
One of the big enticements for me to consistently choose Nokia mobile phones over other manufacturers has been the high quality cameras, the great hardware, and the software/OS updates that are available for your mobile even a year or two after purchase.
Only one not so small, not so wee problem…
Up until the last year, all of the updates have only been available for Nokia customers with access to a PC / Microsoft Windows based computers, as one would have to use a Windows machine to update the Nokia in question.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if you are a Nokia Nseries owner in the US, you are possibly not a PC owner. If you prefer to buy hard to find, high end, well designed hardware, then you have been mostly buying Apple for years and used to paying extra premium for great devices. If you are a Nokia Nseries owner in the US, you may be a creative surrounded by other creatives with Macs, not PCs. And on top of all of that, the PC owners around you might be the sort who don’t own or ever run anti-virus and so you wouldn’t want to hook your precious, expensive Noka up to their virii-addled PCs even for an update that will take 45 minutes to set up.
On top of hunting down a PC to update one’s Nokia, there is the added irritation that every time one wants to update on a borrowed or ancient PC, the Nokia Updater software on the PC wants to be updated itself. And given that the lame computer in question is a Windows machine it means a lengthy download, a restart of the machine, plug your Nokia back in via USB cable and START ALL OVER AGAIN. SO ANNOYING.
Can I type it again? SO ANNOYING.
30-45 minutes to just get one f*ing update. UGH.


A year ago, I got sick of complaining to everyone who would listen about having to borrow a crappy PC to update my Nokia, only to have folks ask why I didn’t have an iPhone as it is easy, and started to hope that Nokia would do has Android does and have Over the Air (OTA) updates for not only the apps on the mobile but also for the major firmware/OS updates.
OTA updates on my little Android HTC Magic are so easy. The mobile phone let’s you know that there is an update available on the top bar of the home screen and then you update. It churns way, downloads the update from the Google mothership, and then updates the mobile. So easy, so clean, no PCs involved, blood pressure doesn’t rise, all is happy.
Nokia promised with the release of the Nokia N97 last year that there would be OTA updates for the N97, of which there are for the little, inconsequential bits, but for the big firmware/OS updates one has to …. drum roll please…. find a danged Windows machine. Gah!
Last summer, I dragged my ancient old old 2003 Dell Inspiron out of the Closet of Doom and partitioned the Ubuntu linux drive so that I could add a Windows XP partition on to the machine for the pure, sole use of being able to update my various Nokia phones. Can we say big waste of disk drive & electricity?
This week, I went to back up my sister’s N97 before she sent it off to Customer Care and the Dell’s touchpad gave up the ghost. The mouse gave up the ghost years ago. Luckily, I was able to complete the backup before it stopped working and then I groaned, “Oh sh*t, will I have to buy a $400 laptop at Best Buy just so I can do Nokia updates? UGH!”
Then I started looking at Android phones seriously. Wondering when HTC will up its game and put a real camera, lens & sensor on one of the Android phones, as that would be cheaper than securing a damned Windows machine. Gah!
Last night and today on Twitter, various folks announced that there was a major firmware update for the Nokia N900 and I thought, “Well, I should see if I can boot up the Dell and if I can get the touchpad to work so that I can update the N900?”
But as I looked at the N900’s homescreen there was a little yellow square up on the top bar with a ! in it, I was curious, I pressed it and the N900 announced to me that there was software updates available. I pressed on and it asked me if I wanted to update the Maemo 5 firmware? Yes, I said (or I pressed).
It churned away for a few minutes, less than 3 mins to download the update, then it churned for 5-7 minutes to update, it restarted itself and the Nokia N900 was fully updated with the brand new PR1.2 firmware in less than 10 minutes!!!!!!!
So Easy! No troubles! No PC! No Windows! PRAISE LINUS and ALL HIS DISCIPLES!!!! Praise the Maemo/Meego folk for making a great, simple Over the Air PC-free update!!!!
Maemo, I love you.
Symbian, until you have full OTA updates, you and I can’t really talk unless you are going to buy me a new evil windows microsquash pc to update yourself. Symbian ^3, Please have full OTA updates.
Maemo, I love you.
Meego, I look forward to meeting you.
** Follow-up post : Over the Air Updates, Too Much Kit, & Mobile UX **