Chicago S60 User Meetup

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 10:30 AM with 0 comments

photo of Chicago S60 User MeetupA few weeks back there was a meetup for S60 users and enthusiasts at the Nokia Flagship Store in Chicago. It was coordinated by S60Users.com though as they are in New York nobody was there from them. Despite this, there was a small but might gathering of 5 of us, as shown in the accompanying photo courtesy of Jon from JDMOTO Photography.

Our hosts from the Nokia store let us play with an earlier model of the forthcoming Nokia N97. As it was an earlier model of hardware and software, they wouldn’t let us take pictures of it. For myself, it was my first hands-on with the device. I liked its size, feel and layout. Though the keys on the keypad are small, they are easy to feel, especially compared to the new N75. Drawbacks to the keyboard are no separate row for number keys (there’s room for one!) and that they are hard to read. Of course the true test of the device is in its real-world use, and I would love to help the cause and try one out – hint!

Speaking of the N75, they had them on display and I spent some time using one. Where I like the form factor and how the keyboard slides, the screen is not much bigger than the E71, and the fact that they keyboard is flat is a drawback, as you can’t “feel” out the keys as you type. They are larger keys and there is also no separate row for numbers. As I have called this out twice now, it is obvious I enjoy this feature on my E70 as well as when I evaluated the E71.

And it wouldn’t be an event without swag! The friendly staff had some S60 items, including a flat 512MB Flash drive, pen and refrigerator clip. They mentioned they may be hosting other events in the future, so I will be on the lookout for them and will report back here on The Hot Iron. You can see more pictures from the meetup on Jon's blog.


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Earth Day and QR Codes

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 10:09 PM with 5 comments

QR code for Earth Day 2009 Happy Belated Earth Day 2009! You either scrambled to do something “green” or wondered what more you can do, as it seems you are living about as green of a life as possible. I took a few moments to think about my day-to-day actions and how they impact the big picture of the world, and one word came to mind – innovation.

The Usual Suspects

As I have previously stated here on The Hot Iron I try to be as aware as possible as to my environmental impact. I wrote what I do in a draft environmental statement for my consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC though I never got any feedback and it still has not reached Dunkirk’s Web site. I also carry a Reisenthel bag with me everywhere I go. Based on these, I feel I am doing as much as I have control over to do.

Other than these actions, making a greater impact takes more work, and that’s where I feel innovation comes into play. When thinking about it more, another thing came to mind – QR codes.

What are QR Codes and Why Should I Care

QR stands for “quick response” and a QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode in the form of a cube. With 2 dimensions, it can store a larger amount of information than a traditional 1-dimensional barcode (e.g. UPC code on a product). As a result, you can store whole sentences of information, Web site URLs, email addresses and even entire contact information records. For example, the accompanying QR code in this post reads, “Happy Earth Day 2009 from The Hot Iron @ thehotiron.com !”

So how would you know that? QR codes are read by a scanner, and the most common form of scanner is a camera on a mobile device with accompanying software. Most Nokia models come preinstalled with a reader, otherwise you can get one from i-nigma among other vendors. Many devices are supported with a notable exception in Palm OS devices.

When the QR code is scanned, the information stored in the QR code is transferred to the mobile device, and you can then process it. If it displays text, you can read and save it. If it’s a URL, you can then browse to it. If an email address, you can send a message to it. If it’s contact information, you can add it to your contacts. This is basic usage of it. With more advanced software, you can do almost anything.

The following is a popular YouTube video from Japan showing how you can get nutritional information for McDonald’s menu items if you can’t see it you can view it here.

Tying The Message Together

As you may guess, QR codes are popular in Asia and in Europe but are still emerging in the US. I see QR codes as an innovative way to effectively communicate and reduce waste and costs at the same time. QR codes only require energy when they are scanned, and by the scanner themselves. They are also more eco-friendly than an RFID tag that require special manufacturing as well as are more cost effective. Here are a few examples of "green" uses that come to mind.

  • Subway ads feature a QR code, eliminating the need to have tear-off postcard pads attached to them, or the need to write down information and hard-to-remember URLs.
  • For that matter, all advertising should have a QR code with whatever desired call to action the advertiser desires.
  • At networking events or conferences, people can wear name badges sporting QR codes with their contact information. This eliminates the need to print and carry business cards, and reduces the time to process information from those cards.
  • At the Lollapalooza festival this year in Chicago, replace giving out cards on lanyards with people scanning QR codes to get free songs from iTunes, and they could be downloaded right to your device bypassing the iTunes computer software (with a more robust scanner software).

Where Earth Day continues to be popular, for many it is a day to make symbolic gestures. New, fresh and innovative ideas are needed to reinvigorate it, and QR codes fit the bill. What say you?


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Nokia OpenLab 6 Months Later

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 05:58 AM with 14 comments

It was 6 months ago today that I, along with about 35 others, arrived in Helsinki, Finland for the very first Nokia OpenLab. This 3-day event was a gathering of people from around the world - from musicians to nuclear scientists to photographers to, well, me – who had a passion and interest in how mobile technology can have a positive impact on the future.

If you are a regular reader of The Hot Iron, you will know I have written about OpenLab many times before. It truly was a unique event and I am proud to have attended it. The following video is the official video produced by Nokia of the event, which us attendees first viewed at OpenLab’s conclusion. If you can’t see it in this post you can view the Nokia OpenLab video here.

So what’s happened since? For myself, the biggest change is I have shed my frustration with the Palm brand and am now a loyal Nokia owner, touting the E70 while I determine which model I am going to buy next. The biggest impact for me has been conversations with other attendees. Some are just in passing, following their blogs and tweets. Others I have engaged in more direct conversations, some who I spent a lot of time with when I was there and others who I didn’t, but have made up for it since I left. Even though there were only about 50 people (including Nokia people) it was hard to spend time with everyone. I also had the good fortune to see Steve Lawson and his lovely wife Lobelia when they performed in a house concert in Chicago last December.

In the hectic pace of how our days go, it’s nice to reflect on great experiences. Now back to strategizing and building that future.


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Vindigo Shut Down But Still Out There

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 05, 2009 at 05:52 PM with 5 comments

Vindigo logo “Now I am wondering what is next to fall.” I asked this question the other day when I wrote of the demise of Yahoo! Briefcase. The next thing I know, I get an email in my inbox from Vindigo. The message, in plain text, stated the following:

“Please be advised that Vindigo is no longer in business and your account information on file will not be billed again. We appreciate your past business and apologize that we are no longer able to provide it to you. This email is a service announcement in regard to your Vindigo account and was sent from Vindigo, Inc., 500 Seventh Ave, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10018.”

That’s it – no link, or anything.

For those unfamiliar with it, Vindigo was a service where you could sync content with either a Palm or Windows Mobile device. With that definition and the proliferation of real-time wireless services, you could guess their business model would not last too long. Plus the service was free, so they were not getting any money from me. As I have migrated from my Palm 680 to my Nokia E70, I wasn’t using the service anyway.

Even though there were no links in the email, I attempted to go their Web site at vindigo.com. Even though there was a “404: File Not Found” error message, I noticed the favicon showed up in the browser. This indicated to me the Web site still may be there in some form. So I Googled “vindigo” and it gave links to other pages on the site – including the profile login page – which were still in place and functioning. Removing the home page is one way to take down a Web site, but remember there are other pages people can easily get to.

I am not trying to build a deadpool here on The Hot Iron, only mentioning 2 sites that are shutting down. As things commonly happen in 3’s, dare I wonder who’s next?


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Mobile Device As Seeing Eye

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 2 comments

Whenever we talk about usability, computers and their software mostly come to mind. But how about a restaurant menu? Where some may be unorganized or in a different language, to someone who is visually impaired, it may not even appear at all. Rather than having to have someone read it to you, new software for mobile devices can do it for you.

An article appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe featuring such reading software, as well as one of the owners of it, my good friend (and The Hot Iron frequent commenter) Peter Alan Smith. Over the years I have gotten to know Peter as well as his challenges with using technology which most people take its use for granted. I have had the opportunity to help Peter with installing JAWS, a popular screen reading software, onto his Windows notebook, as well as watching him surfing the Web.

Such a device and software break down many barriers. The software was developed by technology futurist Ray Kurzweil and runs on a Nokia N82 mobile device, and can be carried in his pocket as he would carry any phone. Within a minute of taking a picture of text, a computer screen or even currency, he can have the information read to him. Where I have never seen this in action personally, Peter described it in detail that gave me enough to envision it.

I have always said that technology advancements to help those who are given a moniker as “disabled” will have far-reaching uses beyond those people. As I write this post, I am wearing reading glasses that, after 30+ years of looking at computer screens, I now need to have. And at close reach is a wrist strap in the event the mild tingling in my hands that could be early signs of carpel tunnel occurs. Maybe I should pick up a copy of Dragon software to speak future posts, or just podcast them?

Cheers to Peter on this great article for an even greater person!


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Did The Hot Iron Get a Nokia OpenLab Bump?

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, October 27, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 2 comments

Did traffic increase to The Hot Iron following my participation in the Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki last month? In general I would hope so, as after meeting many interesting people I started following them online, and I would hope someone would be interested in what I have to say! But the numbers do not lie, and here’s a summary of activity on this little blog.

In this analysis, I used 2 sources. I use Who’s Lookin?, a service by Fiodan Corp., for tracking and reporting daily activity. Every morning I receive an email report of top pages accessed, top referring sites, as well as what networks have visited. This is an excellent indicator of traffic volume and where it is coming from. Watching this report on a daily basis, I saw increased international traffic, and traffic coming from Nokia itself, mostly after OpenLab. These reports gave me a good “gut” feel that I did receive some sort of bump in traffic. For the sake of full disclosure, Dunkirk Systems, LLC a value-added reseller of Who’s Lookin? and am more than glad to talk to you about how this service can help your business!

Google Analytics is the other source of data for this analysis. I did a comparison of 2 date ranges – the month of August, 2008 vs. September 2008. As I did my original post on OpenLab on September 1, this would give a good indication of what traffic was like beforehand and after the fact. Below is the chart of Analytics comparing visitors over those periods.

image of Google Analytics for thehotiron.com - Overall Visitors

As you can see, there is a definite increase in visits to The Hot Iron, but it did not lead to people spending more time once they arrived. The next analysis I did was on new vs. returning visitors, and here is the Analytics comparison during the same periods.

image of Google Analytics for thehotiron.com - New vs. Returning Visitors

As you can see, there are many new people, and for those who are new, welcome!

Two other areas I looked at showed no increases – searches and Feedburner subscriptions. OpenLab did not figure into the top search terms that drove traffic to The Hot Iron. Also, there was not a significant change in Feedburner subscriptions. Feedburner does not allow you to analyze traffic beyond 30 days, plus I have always found strange fluctuations in subscriptions on a daily basis that I haven’t considered that a serious traffic stat. I look forward to its further integration into Google, and perhaps into Analytics as well.

In summation, I did receive some bump during the period after OpenLab. If you are one of those who started reading after OpenLab – or not – please feel free to comment as to what brought you here.


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Nokia E71 Is A Business Colleague

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 3 comments

Prior to attending Nokia OpenLab, I was sent a Nokia E71 device for evaluation. Unfortunately I did not get time to do more than charge it before my trip, though I did get a walkthrough from the friendly staff at the Nokia Flagship Store in Chicago. Upon my arrival in Helsinki, I inserted the Finnish SIM card I got from Nokia and started using the E71 as my primary phone, as well as camera, notebook, etc. When I got back to the states I went back to my Treo 680, but then decided I really needed to put the E71 to task and put my own SIM in it, and used it as my primary phone for the next several weeks. Here’s my recap of this extremely positive experience.

Symbian For The Palm Guy

This was my first hands-on experience working with the Symbian operating system (OS) and S60, the platform that runs on it that powers the device. I had heard great things about it, namely its level of customization. This was a completely new thing for me, as a user of the Palm OS since the mid 90’s. Sadly, other than going color, Palm OS hasn’t evolved much over the years. There has been more activity on the ownership side of Palm OS, and the technical name for it today is now Garnet OS.

photo of clock on Nokia E71One of the first changes I made to the configuration was to show options and applications in list form rather than icons and to change the skin, both to make it easier for me to read. The general flow of S60 was logical, though there were some options that were not exactly where I thought they would be. I did like the home screen, with a clock and customizable list of icons for the options I would use most. A cool feature, in addition to the glowing Navi Scroll Key, is when you press the key when it is glowing, the time is displayed, which is handy as I (as well as others I am sure) use their device as a watch.

Using S60 is to learn S60 and to appreciate it. I most appreciated it being multi-threaded, so I could go between the browser, the phone and back without having to renavigate to where I was. I was also able to do everything using keys, as the E71 does not have a touchscreen. Though I (and others who are iPhone users) were tapping away at it at first, I quickly got over it when I was able to get to where I wanted to be. By walking through all menu options, I was able to truly learn all I could do.

The Physical E71

Of course I did a lot of comparisons between the E71 and my Treo 680. Palm once owned this market, and it was stripped from them by the likes of BlackBerry and now Nokia with this model. The phones had similar width and height, but the E71 is about half the thickness. This may be due to it not having a touchscreen, or just better design. Despite the size difference, it is only slightly lighter than the Treo, but it feels like a solid device, and a lot of that may be due to the amount of metal in the case. The keyboard took a little adjustment – the keys touch each other where on the Treo they do not. Also, the number 0 was to the right of the 9 rather than below the 8 and the * and # keys were to the side of 3 and 6 respectfully. On many occasions I hit the wrong keys when checking voicemail. Once I got over this, I forgot about it with the @ key being a primary key among other changes from the standard QWERTY keyboard.

There are 2 cameras on the E71, one on the front and one on the back. The one on the front is presumably so you can take pictures of video of yourself while you watch yourself. The camera itself was hit or miss with me, and I was prompted to test this from others’ experience. Pictures in brighter light came out better than those in dimmer light. Note my degree is in computers and not photography, and it could have also been what I was shooting and how. I was not a fan of the “spotlight” flash on the camera (there is only one flash, on the back) as when taking pictures of my baby daughter or other infants in dim light, it was impossible to get a shot without them wincing. But it is a 3.2 megapixel camera, and there were decent pictures I got from it, and it beat the socks off of the 640 x 480 pictures I get from the Treo.

Other thoughts on the E71 include the very long-life of the battery, the decent amount of memory (namely as I did not add a memory card to it) and the magnet that it is to fingerprints. I would put a piece of screen-guard film over the screen to reduce some of this. It only crashed on me once, interestingly when I was locking the keyboard. Crashing once in a month is not bad as compared to the several times a week it happens to my Treo 680.

Down To Business

The E71 is part of Nokia’s business line, and the phone does not disappoint. As I simply used the device without a plan, I hit on many of the features that were selling points to me on it. I was able to easily setup 2 POP email accounts, and could check mail with no problem. It took a little poking around to get email lists to show on 2 lines, and how I could choose to download entire messages or not. At one point I filled the on-board memory of the device and in my attempt to try to check mail, I somehow blew away my mailboxes. Not sure what I did, I recreated them and was back in business.

Browsing the Web was enjoyable as I was able to view full Web pages. I like how the browser will load a page, show part of it and as you scroll show you where you were on the larger page. Bookmarks showed favicons, a nice feature, and I was able to use pretty much any Web site I tried on it. And the multi-threaded S60 is worth mentioning again, as I was able to go between calls and the Web without losing my place.

You can create, edit and view Office documents on the E71. All I did was view a couple of Word documents that were emailed to me and I didn’t even realize I could do it – this is something I do on the Treo 680 all the time, and just assumed I could perform it on the E71 as well, and was not let down. I like the idea you can work with PowerPoint, as it would be a great tool to use for reviewing a presentation.

Applications I had fun with were Qik and the barcode reader. I had heard of Qik but never used it myself. Shooting and streaming video over S60 devices is, borrowing from my Boston roots, wicked cool. As I have not been able to find a barcode reader for Palm OS, the one installed on the E71 allowed me to experiment with QR codes, the 2-dimensional barcodes that are now starting to appear more in the US, and will soon be appearing on my own business card. I should note I did not use the GPS features much on the device. I did use Sports Tracker application one day on a walk to a business meeting, but I did not fully exploit these features.

I never installed the Nokia PC Suite and as a result never loaded my contacts onto the phone. This will be something to pursue once I get my own device as I am a Palm Desktop user and am not an Outlook user. The migration of contacts will probably take some work, a task I would like to avoid more than a trip to the dentist! I will probably check out Howard Forums and All About Symbian for input and advice as to the shortest path to completion of this task.

However I almost installed the PC Suite as I wanted to pull the pictures I took on the phone onto my PC. I was talking with tnkgrl at Nokia OpenLab and commenting I was about to do this, when she told me all I needed to do was plug in the USB cable, and the device would ask me how to “act” and I just had to choose it to act like a mass storage device, and it was like copying files from one drive to another. Sweet!

I Like It

In summary, I really like the Nokia E71. It is a durable, quality device that works with me to get the job done. It has a lot of the features the Treo 680 is lacking, and where there is a match of services, they are much better on the E71. It also sold me on Symbian and S60.

If you are looking for a new mobile device, I highly recommend you explore the E71. If you do, please feel free to comment as to your opinion of the device.


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Nokia E71 Navi Scroll Key In Action

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, October 17, 2008 at 12:54 PM with 0 comments

It’s hard to believe it has been over a month since the Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki. As well, it has been a month since I have had a Nokia E71 device in my possession. Over this time I used it quite a bit in Helsinki, and only for the last couple of weeks here. But alas, it is time to send it back, and I am now working on my review of this amazing, hard-working device – look for it soon.

When I sat down to put some notes together on the E71, I looked at the phone and noticed the navigation button of the phone – or the Navi Scroll Key – glowing. This is a really neat add-on to the phone, going above and beyond as most of the design features of it have. When you press and hold the glowing key, you see the current time – another cool feature, as I don’t carry a watch and like many my mobile device is also my timepiece.

Needless to say, I was inspired and the following video came to mind, which I quickly shot with my Sony DSC-T200 digital camera and my Gorillapod tripod. Note I am not a filmmaker, but as a comedy improviser, I did it all in one take.

Enjoy! If you don’t see the embedded video, you can view it here.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Original Unlocked Phone Argument

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 09, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

photo of a SIM cardAs a reader of The Hot Iron, you may have read a post or 2 about unlocked phones here. However, my opinion on unlocked phones predates this journal, and was first framed on my honeymoon of all places.

For the sake of a simple definition, an unlocked phone is one that will work on any mobile provider’s network. This is facilitated by inserting a SIM card (see accompanying picture) for the provider into the phone. Where unlocked phones are prevalent in Asia Pacific and Europe, they are fewer and far between in the US. T-Mobile, my mobile provider for example, uses SIMs which can be used in unlocked phones. I own an unlocked Palm Treo 680 and my SIM works in it. When WOM World lent me a Nokia E71 for evaluation prior to Nokia OpenLab, I simply moved my SIM to it and I was on the network.

Back to the story. When my lovely new bride and I went to Australia on our honeymoon, we stayed with our friends AJ and FJ for a few days who were great guides to their homeland. When we got to their home, I took my Motorola StarTac phone (which I miss dearly, but I digress) and joked it would be a paperweight while I was there. AJ told me to get an Australian SIM and the StarTac would work. I explained to him it was a locked phone from Verizon Wireless and there was no SIM slot. He did not believe me and challenged me on it. I pressed my case, then, um, gently tossed my phone (as I recall it) to him and asked him to find it.

A couple of days later, AJ told me he was surprised there was no SIM. He showed me his Nokia phone, which at the time was not available in the US. It had a color display and a Web browser and over dim sum I was able to surf to GoPats.com. It would be 4 years later I would get smart and finally get my first unlocked phone. I have sworn going forward I will only purchase unlocked phones.


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My Nokia OpenLab Experience

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, October 01, 2008 at 09:15 AM with 15 comments

photo of my Nokia OpenLab nametagThough it was a few weeks ago I was in Helsinki, Finland for the Nokia OpenLab, it is still fresh in my mind. It was a social media event where about 35 people from all corners of the globe were flown into the Finnish capital, which just so happens to be the home of the mobile phone giant Nokia. I had mentioned previously how I heard about OpenLab and was invited and once I got through airport customs it all came together. It was a fast few days, action packed with a lot of unique experiences, all of which I will be chronicling below. Follow along and look at my photos here on my ovi channel.

OpenLab took place in the Rake-Sali ballroom of the Klaus K Hotel in downtown Helsinki, where the old style of the room was in the background to modern staging and lighting. The room was divided into 4 areas – a lounge with sofas, a bar with tall tables, a standard round table and a section with Fatboy beanbag chairs. People naturally gravitated to 1 of the 4 areas, and from there people counted off and redistributed for each workshop. In the center of the room was a raised platform, where speakers and facilitators stood, and hidden behind the bar area was a temporary video production studio, which I didn’t realize until it was all over and saw the final video presented.

Over a day and a half, myself and the others participated in various workshop sessions and listened to a few speakers who were Nokia staff or consulted for them. The workshops were on the topic of social media, location-based services (or LBS, my new acronym for the event, thanks to Glenn Letham), media, work and the environment. The name OpenLab did not come to our attention until about a week before we arrived. The official Nokia Open Lab site has a lot of the logistics and links to the media captured during the event. There is also a link to the Second Life room, which will come as a thrill to my friend the virtual worlds guru.

The above lays out the tactical of the event, and now about the emotional. I have been fortunate in the past to have been part of amazing exchanges and dialogues with people from around the world, and this too counts as one of them. Where everybody was their own unique person, they were also extremely civil (to me at least!) and very engaging. As the workshop brainstorming sessions were pretty much self-policed by us participants (something to correct for future events), everyone was very accommodating and wanting to hear what each other said. Where I hope I added something to the mix, I feel like I took away quite a lot from it – even if it was something I already knew, hearing it from someone else with their own unique nuance was extremely worthwhile.

Why Me?

Nobody who attended OpenLab received a notice saying, “you were selected because of X” and where at first that was an issue with me but eventually it wasn’t, as I was getting a free trip to Finland. However thinking about it more, it probably had to do with some of the writing I have done on The Hot Iron about mobile phones, namely how in the US we have inferior service and phones as compared to the rest of the world, locked vs. unlocked phones, and about my own Palm Treo 680. As I met other attendees, some had also asked themselves that question, but in the end everyone was passionate about mobile technology and social media at some level.

Meeting and Greeting and Partying

Upon arrival at the hotel from the airport there was the opportunity to meet people as they arrived, including the folks from 1000 Heads who run the WOM World blog. We had name tags, which helped me in remembering everyone’s names. Upon checking in we received a box from Nokia, complete with a toothbrush, case, luggage strap, notebook and pen… needless to say, I was a little disappointed in the schwag.

That afternoon we had the opportunity to visit Nokia House, the corporate headquarters. It is a beautiful building of steel, glass and wood. We stayed mostly in the first floor common areas, and our main destination was the Nokia Lounge, which is a showcase for visitors and dignitaries. On display were everything from old phones to current models to concepts, such as a phone charger that doesn’t drain power if left plugged in and phone parts made from corn.

The first night’s party was at Blak. I only offer the URL link as it is a private club and there is nothing on the Web site. It is so private that there is not even a sign – only a guarded unmarked elevator that took you to the top floor club. We had the place to ourselves that evening, complete with very good food, an expatriate New Yorker comedian and live DJ. I found out about the rooftop deck the next day as I was dog-tired from the flight. I did visit the co-ed bathroom, complete with cheesy 80’s soft core porn playing on the plasma screen.

The second night’s party was in the club in the Klaus K – Ahjo. There was a lighter fare and drink coupons as compared to the previous night’s soiree. These 2 events should have been swapped, as it would have been nicer to have been more awake at Blak. We got a sneak peak of the new Nokia viral marketing campaign, Legends Telegraph, and heard from Nokia’s head of strategy, Heikki Norta. I had a chance to speak one-on-one with him afterwards as well. One thing he said was that Nokia today was already 5 years down the road. It will be interesting to see what else is coming out, which was planned for years back.

The Nokia E71 Phone

photo of Nokia E71Prior to the trip, I received a Nokia E71 phone. As I was out of town when it arrived and only had a day to unpack and repack for Helsinki, I only had time to charge it before I left. As I knew I would not have time to put into it before I left, I went to the Nokia Store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago the week before. I told the staff person I was helping a friend evaluate the phone, as I didn’t want to say anything about my trip as I didn’t want to come off as someone bragging. The staff person was very helpful in pointing out many of the features of the Symbian operating system and how to navigate it. That was helpful for me when I finally got my hands on the phone, which happened on the flight over.

Thanks to my prep course at the Nokia Store, I was able to navigate the phone fairly easy. That being said, I did not even scratch the surface of all the phone could do. Once we arrived we got a Finnish SIM card so we could make calls and connect to the Internet. I entered a few numbers into the phone, configured my email accounts, and it was my primary device while I was there. I took several pictures with the phone and they came out ok – many people said the phone isn’t its strongest attribute. But compared to my Treo, they were awesome (yea, the Treo’s camera is poor).

Though the phone was sent ahead of time, it was not integral to OpenLab as I thought it may have been. Those who had other Nokia models of their own were using them for everything from live video streaming with Qik, Twitter, etc. As my archaic Vaio notebook could not pick up the WiFi signal in the ballroom, I use the phone for checking email and surfing the Web. I did not tweet while there, and in general did not even take a lot of notes – as everyone else was capturing photos and videos, I am going to go back over that content.

There is a lot to try on the phone, and I am now putting it through a thorough test. I will also scour forums like Howard Forums and All About Symbian as I am sure there are features or applications not in the documentation. And I will be taking up several offers from attendees if I have any questions. I will write up a full evaluation once I am done.

Prelude to a Trip

As I had mentioned earlier, the details were thin as to what the event was and who was going. I had asked the folks from WOM World if there were any restrictions on what I could say about this. There weren’t, and they sent me links to 2 other blog posts on this.. This was a good thing, and of course I commented on each of their posts. Shortly afterwards one of those bloggers, Roland, created a wiki for the event. This was the first time I worked with a wiki other than Wikipedia, and I will talk about that some other time. Slowly people who were attending introduced themselves on the wiki, and the trip and the event started to make some more sense.

To HEL and Back

HEL is the international airport code for the Helsinki airport we flew in and out of. All in all the round trip was a great experience, namely as I was on a Finnair flight over the pond. My personal preference is to fly an international airline when flying internationally, as overall experience is much, much more positive. I would also prefer to fly an international airline within the US, but that usually doesn’t work.

Just 2 small issues with the flights. On the way over, Sex and the City was one of the movies. As I drifted in and out of sleep, images from that film were projected on 5 screens of the MD-11’s coach cabin, which sent shrills down my spine each time I awoke. On the flight back, I sat in the last row of the plane along with Micki which was not an issue in itself, but the lavatory directly behind us with the “odor issue” was. That, and people usually did not close the door all the way. To my new friends on Finnair… please fix it!

There was another Chicagoan heading to OpenLab as well, and Steve and I connected via the wiki, and chose our favorite sports teams’ apparel to identify ourselves at O’Hare. We knew there were others on the Finnair flight but we didn’t know who they were, but now worries as we all met once we arrived, and we stuck together buying our way thru Duty Free to the gate on our flight home.

The City of Helsinki

I’ll be honest, Helsinki was not in my top 10 cities to visit. Even among the Scandinavian cities it was on the bottom of the list – I have been to Iceland and Denmark already, and as my wife is Norwegian and Swedish those countries take the top 2 spots. That being said, I was thrilled to have been there. It is a very clean and modern city, with a mix of older and new structures. Most of Helsinki was build within the last 100 years (according to Wikipedia) and has a lot of varying influences in the architecture. It was east to walk around, had a tram system and bike lanes off the sidewalks, which I was pleased to see.

An interesting note on the city and country – everyone speaks both Finnish and Swedish, and many signs – especially street signs – are in both. The Finnish language is not as much like the other Scandinavian languages as it is like Russian or other Baltic languages. Most Finns I met spoke at least 4 languages – Finnish, Swedish, English and some other language. And I am now struggling with the English words to describe how inferior I feel about that!

With a tight schedule and jet lag dogging me, I didn’t see as much of the city as I would have wanted to. After arriving, a group of us including Steve, Roland, Brian, Zach, Rahul and myself went to the Kiasma Museum the modern art museum, and afterwards on the suggestion of a woman in the coat room went to the Seahorse restaurant for some very good authentic Finnish food. What is Finnish food? I had a salmon chowder and pike perch, and there were many other meat and fish dishes.

The first night of OpenLab had a group of us heading out into the city for some late night burgers, which interestingly had a cooked egg on them. After refueling we toured through the main square and towards the casino, which has a nice lobby… sorry I forgot my passport Steve. On the last day of the event, Steve and I headed out for some brick and mortar commerce, and ran into Jenifer, and we all went on a cool walking tour of the city, checking out the harbor area.

The Klaus K Hotel

The entire OpenLab was held at the Klaus K Hotel, which was a beautiful boutique hotel in a style similar to a W Hotel. The hotel had been around for years under the name Klaus Kurki and a friend used to stay there when she was working in Finland a few years ago. Looking at pictures of the hotel online before it was renovated a few years back is a true journey of night and day. We all stayed in the hotel as well. My room was small but stylish, but not really conducive to work – there was a “c” shaped table next to the bed, but no task chair. Not an issue, as I really didn’t get much work done (shhhh, don’t tell my clients!).

Right to Reflect More

I started writing this just after I arrived back in Chicago, and in my usual control-freak manner, I kept working on it thinking I was going to get it perfect. But it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey, and I will write more as I reflect more on the event. And I will definitely be writing more about the phone!


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