Tales of software craftsmanship

Tales of software craftsmanship

What to do with an old Nokia N810?

Nitdroid Donut showing Planet KDE

Like quite a few KDE community members who attended Akademy 2008, I got a Nokia N810 internet tablet. Sadly, shortly after we got the devices we stopped receiving OS updates and the Maemo Diablo platform was basically abandoned in favor of a bigger better faster and quite different Maemo Fremantle, to be used on the N900 with the hope of eventually having a community supported port for the N810. Unfortunately, the Mer project, which aimed to bring as much Fremantle as possible to the N810, was cancelled back in 2009, leaving N810 owners with a nice piece of hardware and a dead software stack.

Don’t get me wrong: while the browser is still slow as molasses and the battery drains quite quickly when WiFi is on, Maemo Diablo works, but it’s not moving and in 2011 it’s not fun any more. Lately I’ve been using it just as a music player and rarely for quick note taking or Skype over WiFi.

So thanks to the efforts of the Nitdroid project, I installed an Android 1.6 Donut build on my N810, hoping to get something fun to tinker with. Even though Donut is old, it might still have been an improvement over Maemo Diablo. From what I’ve picked up, the Nitdroid project is focusing on the N900, and I can testify that Android on the N810 is unusably slow.

I have managed to open Planet KDE on my third attempt, the first two times stuff just crashed randomly:

As for MeeGo, a fellow Amarok developer says it’s slow even on the N900, so does it even make sense to try running it on the N810?

What are my options if I want a fun, fairly recent and at least a bit usable system on my N810?

I know people even managed to run KDE on it, but is it fast enough to be usable?

What do you use your N810 tablets for in 2011?


  • Reply Jos |

    I still use it for browsing. Other than that you could use it as a music player, GPS device, IP camera. The software is still there; it’s just not being updated.

    • Reply Teo |

      GPS reception is quite flaky on the N810, not really usable for reliable in-car navigation so I got a dedicated device for that.
      I’ve been using it as a music player for quite a while, I was just wondering if there’s something else I could use it for 🙂

  • Reply Stefan |

    I use it as a media player (although Canola somehow lost the ability to load coverart some months ago) and for simple navigation (Maemo Mapper). That’s about all that fits in memory at once.

  • Reply Park Shinjo |

    Opera mobile(beta) on N810 is a lot faster than its stock browser. The only flaw is it doesn’t support Flash. Aside from web browsing, I use it as portable ssh-machine(kudos to hardware keyboard, software keyboard can’t defeat real one), e-book reader and movie player.

    • Reply Teo |

      Thank you, I just tried Opera mobile and I was blown away, it’s very fast and it shows how much MicroB fails.

  • Reply edulix |

    Things it can be used for:
    * Music and video player
    * Internet browser (Park Shinjo points out that opera mobile beta is quite good)
    * Book reader
    * RSS Reader (web browser)
    * Mail
    * Ssh machine

  • Reply jk |

    I noticed my netbook had on average one hour more battery life with command line only OS.
    Is there a distro like that for the N810?

    • Reply Teo |

      Both Debian and Gentoo have an ARM port. Gentoo would probably drain your battery even faster when compiling but Debian might be worth looking at.

      • Reply Jeffery MacEachern |

        In fact, some people did get Gentoo up and running on the N810. I’m not sure how well it works, but there are instructions out there that Google can direct you to.

  • Reply Doug |

    I’m a little surprised to see complaints about battery life. I regularly get 6-7 hours of constant use, and about a week of mostly idle (with wifi on). Beats the heck out of my g1 which needs to hit the charger atleast once a day if not more.

    As for what do do with is, one of my plans when I abandon it for tablet use is to build a self-contained mp3 player/shelf radio using canola2, one of those tiny tripath amps, a bit of wood and some decent small drivers. Something like a slightly nerdy version of the bose wave radio.

  • Reply Chris Hills |

    My N810 also came from Akademy, and now the battery life is down to about 10 minutes on a full charge. I shall have to replace the battery but I am probably going to ditch it altogether for my DSi.

  • Reply Jeffery MacEachern |

    One use that hasn’t been mentioned is as a remote control. While the hardware keyboard isn’t amazing, it works well enough, and the Bluemaemo application works great to turn the N810 into a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse/presentation remote, etc.
    Somewhat on that note, I have an N810 project idea that I’ve been toying with after asking myself the same question as Téo. However, it would depend on a MeeGo build (basic X, no Handset UI) with working WiFi and usable performance. I don’t want to post more about it until I look further into feasibility, but if anyone has experience with MeeGo on the N810(or even just more up-to-date info than the wiki page), please leave me a comment over on my blog (link above) and I’ll be in touch.

  • Reply JP Rojas |

    It’s great for throwing video and book files on it. There are very few devices like this that have stereo speakers and play videos without recoding. Opera needs a bit more improvement. Remote desktop for making a few adjustments or managing downloads on a home computer. I really wish there was a more active community, but with the n900 and android devices, this is becoming a relic.

  • Reply stv |

    I just turned on my n810 for the first time in months to find that Gizmo is gone and you can no longer download Skype even! Now I don’t want to mess it up by loading something and losing it as a skype handset.

  • Reply RO |

    Re dying batteries, they are very cheap to replace (as I did a year or so ago) from eBay, going for anywhere from $3 to $20, and often free shipping. Look for BP-4L/BP4L.

    I had been using an Archos 5 Android Internet Tablet (AIT) lately in place of the N810 since it runs Android (albeit 1.6, but still lots of cool apps available that are updated frequently), is much lighter and thinner, has a gorgeous 4.8 screen, and it still fits in my pockets easily. However, it is starting to exhibit battery issues with getting hot while charging in-use, and the back cover seems to be developing a bulge that flexes in and out from that – signs of impending failure from what I read on Archos fora. And that battery is not user-replaceable without “surgery” as opposed to the N810. I will miss it, but the N810 is a good fall-back that I already have set up with a number of useful apps:

    * Music – mp3’s on SD card and some streaming that I figured out how to set up on the included media player (but that is tricky to copy the URL’s). I need to see how well other add-on players work (was using Streamtuner at one point, but it “lost” a lot of streams, so I quit using it).
    * ebooks with FBreader (screen not as big and bright as the Archos, and I have to decrypt my encrypted ebooks with a little “cabbage help”, but quite usable);
    * email via Claws – I like the LED alert instead of a blaring sound as with my phone for alerts sent overnight by monitoring scripts I run on some servers I manage;
    * GPS with Maemo Mapper, – nice since I found it can get traffic info if I use Yahoo Maps as a source, and can tether it easily via BlueTooth with my phone for data (unlike the finicky Archos). When I tired it recently, though, I could not get to the gnuite site to download a route – is that “history”? Are there alternatives? My one big gripe with MM all along has been that its interface is not mobile-friendly in terms of fingertip controls, large text mode for quick glances at speed/direction/etc while driving, and lack of high-contrast color schemes (I always use my Garmin GPS in “night mode”, even during the day, for the high-contrast – “works for me”).
    * A use I have not seen mentioned yet: a weather “station” with omweather.

    Starting to like this puppy again…

  • Reply ama |

    I am disappointed that my N810 has lost software support. It’s a neat lil device without the bulk of a laptop. Any software options for email and internet calling would be helpful.

  • Reply Tire Reviews |

    While the idea of Android would be really cool, your experience with performance on 1.6, and the fact that NITdroid leaves out support for sound and Bluetooth, makes it really a non-starter.

    I have installed Easy Debian and find that it’s a good alternative to OS2008. Give it a try if you’ve got no other purpose for your N810. It may give it some new life.


  • Reply Ricardo Camargo |

    I also have installed Easy Debian ( last version has an excellent and easy installer ) and works quit good. then i reflashed the device and now i’ve got same panorama as a user …sound player..rss, quick notes..skype.
    I recommed you to try last Opera () version for n810 and Tear as a browsers.
    Some users are working to port better Android version ( Froyo 2.2 ) to the device as chinese user (jichuan89 on YouTube http://youtu.be/1NDW4IrBwmIhttp://cjix.info
    ) or brasilian (http://youtu.be/tMSL2MU8uGQ)

  • Reply SaF |

    I still use it. Compared with current smartphones it could seem slow, but for me it’s enough.
    I manly use the N810 for these functions:
    * mp3 player with Canola, I connect the N810 with a double jack cable to my car radio,
    * gps navigator with navit (maps from cloudmade.com) and maep, they can run at the same time,

    it can work for one or two hours with the original battery and all mentioned programs running together. When I travel by car I use to connect it to the cigarette lighter with a nokia adapter, so no battery life problems.

    I like also the opera browser, pidgin and rss reader, but I am not always connected to wifi so I don’t use it very often.


    • Reply RO |

      FWiW, you can get new Nokia batteries on eBay really cheap for the N810 since it appears to be be shared with several phone models. Check it out.

  • Reply sidney |

    hi, from Brazil here…
    i still use mine for web browsing, music listening and still working to see video on it…the other use is email “alert” – the flashing light is usefull…i still want more functionalities,but i’m limited by the softwares of maemo…

  • Reply raviji7 |

    pick up a hava hd platinum on amazon for $65 and connect cable box and/or sattelite receiver and a security camera so you can watch your favorite shows while away and keep an eye on the house or kids. I’m using it with a night vision security camera as a baby monitor in the house. Or you can get an ip camera and use the n8x0 as a monitor.

  • Reply neill |

    Midori is also a much faster browser than the old MicroB.
    I use mine for Podcasts (mostly via gpodder), music, email, browsing, and skype.

  • Reply jeonlab |

    I’m glad there are still n810 users.

    I had an Android tablet for a few months before I bought the n810 on ebay recently about two weeks ago. The Android tablet is also attractive but I felt there were something (lots of) missing and it was hard for me to adapt myself with the touch screen keyboard. Most importantly, I wanted to ‘control’ the device by tweaking things, but Android wouldn’t allow me to do that easily.

    I have used several models of Palm PDA for more than 10 years before and still my cell phone is Treo 700p with Palm OS. I couldn’t find any better or equivalent PDA or smartphones to replace it yet. It has decent PIM applications and fast.

    I found the n810 is very attractive and powerful little linux machine. I’m using it mostly for reading ebooks with FBreader, reading RSS feeds with the stock RSS reader, watching some TV shows and movies with mplayer, GPS navigation (I’m still looking for a way to route) with maemo mapper with Openstreet maps, and playing with xTerm to learn more of linux. Everyday, I’m finding more fun stuff with this guy.

    Regarding the battery life, even though it is a used device, I can still get a few hours with wifi on. I also ordered two replacement batteries for less than $5.00 on ebay.


  • Reply Michael Ketchel |

    Hey if anyone has one of these devices laying around unused, I would love to talk to you about getting/purchasing it from you. I have an N800 but would like to get an N810 due to the keyboard. Can’t find a decently cheap one on ebay, and can’t get a droid yet. I promise it will get put to much good use!

    • Reply Summit Jaffe |

      Hey Michael! If you are still interested, I have a nokia n810 I purchased maybe 2 years ago, and want to phase it out and buy something newer. I can probably sell it to you for 175ish, let me know 95apex95@gmail.com :]

    • Reply Don Towne |

      Hi Michael;
      I am just about to put my N810 on Craigslist. Original box, 16Gig memory card, not a mark on it. All I ever used it for was showing off pictures at parties. Maybe used it ten times. Gonna sell it for $100, interested?

      • Reply Ama |

        I also have an N810 for $100 to be listed on Amazon.com. comes with extra battery and earpiece. Let me know. Ama

  • Reply SW41 |

    Mine is is mostly doing email, GPS/Maemo Mapper, and web browsing when I dont feel like turning on the big computer. Adding to the list to keep in the know.
    I keep seeing them on Craigslist every now and them so you should be able to find one for a decent price.

  • Reply JottaElle |

    I´ve been using my N810 for web browsing (Opera Mobile), email, GTalk, SIP, Skype, music, video and sometimes to read PDFs and e-books.
    But, I am very disappointed with Nokia for the lack of Maemo Diablo support.

  • Reply A.M.A. |

    does anyone know how if the software on maemo.org can still be installed on the N810

    • Reply Josh Owens |

      Hey! I don’t know if your question has since been answered, but you can still install stuff to the N810 from Maemo’s OS2008 downloads section – you do that directly from the tablet, just like a computer. As for updating the firmware… the Software Update Wizard is difficult to find, as Nokia doesn’t support it anymore (shame). I suggest Media Finder for that task.

      • Reply ama |

        I get application errors. It goes to application manager automatically then a dialogue box states unable to download application not found. any more suggestions or is all lost for updating anything on the N810

  • Reply Leo |

    * I’m using it as a ultra low power web server for low traffic load. It’s running Lighttpd with python.

    * It plays 3GP video very well and now youtube is streaming 3gp instead of flash, it makes a very nice mobile youtube player.

    * It’s a great retro gaming device. Emulation includes, SNES, NES, MasterSystem, DOS Box, VGBA etc…

  • Reply FixerDave |


    I use my N810 as my alarm clock in the morning (Flipclock), the Speedo for my Van because I’m to cheap to fix it (Speedometer), journal taking (quicknote) with some perl script to generate a custom todo list, email (stock – linked to gmail – nice notifier light), gpe calendar (linked to gmail) with a desktop notifier, weather (Maemo weather) , web browsing (Opera), linking to my bluetooth OBDII reader for car diagnostics (Carman), music and videos (mediabox), basic GPS when I need it (Mamo mapper – file version, cached maps for everywhere I want to be on 2 continents), and all the ssh and remote desktop I need. I would be completely lost without it. I even have a spare now as a kind soul gave me his old one because I was so paniced about having mine fail and leaving me helpless. Nothing comes close to replacing the N810.

    Yeah, I’ve got an android device to test. Yes, I have app-envy… but no OS envy. I can live without flash 10 and angry birds.

    The only thing that really annoys me is that the rest of the world seems to have abandoned Notecase (still works on the N810). This page came up in a search for a replacement. No, I don’t want to replace the N810.

  • Reply v0yager1 |

    I’m in medical school so I don’t have time to tinker with the tablet, unfortunately; however, I recently started to use FullRecall again…it’s a very useful memory aid. I also started streaming music on it again. I will start downloading podcasts on it as well, I enjoyed doing that.

    Truthfully, I still love the N810. It is such an underground device here in the states. It is a refreshing alternative from the mainstream devices. I do own an iPad2, had a 4S but switched to a blackberry bold 9900, and am typing this message on a MacBook Pro. I feel a bit consumed by the ubiquity of apple products- they are very useful and nice; however, sometimes, they take away from the joy of actually using your brain to accomplish a goal (I mean this in a non-insulting way). This very emotion precipitated my switch from the 4S to the less sought after BB 9900. I am happy with the decision because it is less bubbly and very efficient as a phone/ communication device- and that is it.

    In Summary- I will keep the N810 and continue to live in the past with it.

    Rock on guys.

  • Reply fezstir |

    i’m using it to read and post comments on this page. also finding where i am after i get lost. & toothed to the old school phone for mobile data connection. I got it 6 months used on ebay for u.s.$165, used it for over two years: because i’d break a laptop or get it stolen, and i can keep this with me in my pocket, and I can afford to lose/break a $165 device, ultimately. I guess I’ll replace it with another small comptuer, but probably add a nokia e63 type device and keep the indispensible e5 as a backup. the 810 has eaten countless pages of unsaved drafts like it’s haunted.

    • Reply Luis |

      This sounds as a good news for the (Nokia’s) mliboe community.If you plan to integrate Qt (and/or KDE components) into Maemo that should mean also more cool ports to the Maemo framework.But can also be seen as a tentative, from Nokia, to protect itself. Nokia can’t buy Gnome and can’t buy GTK (they can olny help there). Owning Trolltech, means owning Qt. That means Nokia can do pretty much everything she wants and adapt it to its own devices.The community is not driven by Nokia and Nokia can’t force them where she wants it. Owning Qt, means she can drive (at least she can choose the path to follow alone).I hope Nokia will switch from giving to the community (helping Gnome and GTK’s fellows) to feeding it (thru the Qt library and KDE).

  • Reply Solomon Vembe |

    I don’t really know what to use it for because my community is local and does nor have internet.Solomon Vembe.I just read your article on how you install android on your nokia N810 can you please show the steps?I’ll leave you with my Email address:slimvembe@ymail.com.thank you.

  • Reply kofi kwakye |

    my name iz kofi and in ghana,i got n810 way back 2007 but i dont know, i can only google and facebook,and the media playeralso works, apart from these none of the applications on it works…can any one help me out because i like the product [kofi.agyekum@americantower.com]

  • Reply kofi kwakye |

    and one more thing,is there any updates that has to be done on the N810 coz since i got it i have neva done any updates on it..thanx

  • Reply Nori |

    My n810 hasn’t seen much use…..I can’t seem to be able to access the camera…it’s not showing up in settings or extras….where do I get these apps like fixer ave has?

  • Reply Paul |

    2 great things about my Nokia :

    When unable to upload files using my iPad or iPhone, I save the link to Dropbox or send it to my self and open it in my Nokia and upload!

    When playing my music on my music laptop on the other side of the room, I control the volume levels and basically the entire laptop using VNC viewer on my Nokia.

    So I won’t be putting my in the closet for a long time ;D

  • Reply Mick |

    Great to find this thread. I still rate the N810 very highly. The hardware engineering is just superb.

    I use it mostly as an MP3 player with a big IXOS cable plugged into a Denon micro-hifi as a real steam punk version of a player dock. Sounds great!

    My other favourite app is Leia, to act as a UPnP remote controller for music on my Home Theatre PC:

    Still can’t beat the sheer portability of the little thing, although my eyes wish the screen was a bit bigger!


  • Reply Hans |

    I just picked a used Nokia N800 for $20.00. I use it mainly as an eReader, Podcasts, Internet Music and downloading free music from the internet. I’m looking to install the Garnet VM Palm Emulator but the ACCESS company doesn’t support it any more. If anyone has the Garnet VM installed on their device, would you mind installing it on a sd card that I would send you, and you in turn would send it back to me. Thanks, please advise, Hans hansalive2007@yahoo.com

  • Reply Hans |

    Hi, I have a Nokia N810 and I’m trying to get Garnet VM installed on it but ACCESS, who produced the Garnet VM no longer supports it. Anyone have it installed that could send it to me; I would send you an SD card and some cash for postage etc. Thanks

  • Reply Dave Henniker |

    I’d like to use mine again for GPS tracking of hillwalking. And I would if I could only export or convert the tracks that Maemo Mapper & Maemo Recorder create. The best I could do before was to save the N810 screens, zoomed in and panned across the map repeatedly then stitched together in Photoshop to make a large image. Its GPS was more accurate than 3 cameras’ efforts. Ideally I’d like to export the data in a format that Google Earth uses like KML.

  • Reply GoodQuestion |

    Your question is a good and valid question.

    I have the same problem here.
    I only use it for playing music these days.

    The CPU is just too slow and the touchscreen is no capacitve touchscreen. The GPU is none functional.
    This limits the device to a music player and a ssh shell and to control other devices.

    You can boost it’s usage by using a bluetooth keyboard.
    With a bluetooth keyboard the shell get’s handy.

    The problem is more, what should you do with a mobile device that can make use of a ssh shell?
    If i need a shell i normaly run my desktop computer.

    The good thing about the N810 is, it is still a mobile computer and you can control other electronic devices with it. Like a robot for example.

    For browsing it is much too slow. It’s doesn’t make fun on this device.
    And videos come in HD quality these days, this is too much for this device too.

    I really wish i could replace the CPU with a faster one.

    So all in all, it’s an expensive music play, that’s it.
    But it helped me by deciding to never buy such closed ARM based devices anymore.
    While you have a real linux on this device, it feels still like a dead end plattform because there is no progress, no new software and no better software than the one, that was shipped with the device.

    The N810 is the reason, why i don’t buy an Android or iOS based device today.
    Instead i stick with a real x86-64 PC.

    A PC is still the most versatile plattform and every cent worth.
    And instead of a android tablet i rather buy a PC notebook.

  • Reply Paul C |

    I have 1 -n770, 3 -n800’s, 3 -n810’s, 1 -n900, and soon the neo900.
    Specifically on my n8x0’s I have Diablo Turbo and CSSU installed (lotta fixes increased performance…etc) well worth doing it from stock diablo.
    Installing and booting off sd card to minimize wear and tear on the device…backup…copy save.. 😀
    On another I have Easy Debian, Easy Mer …mess about with Kde, Basilisk (mac), Garnet (palm), NITdroid, Wm …universal remote…pen. testing….and countless other way-cool stuffs.
    Managed to do some hackery-wizardry and got 2 128gb sd cards working on one of my n800’s ..so after all was said and done…it worked out to being roughly 240gb of storage…more than one of my laptops….and the ability to have so much room for installing additional progs and applications that I was able to install EVERYTHING possible.
    Not too shabby.
    I use my n900 as my main daily…but in the workshop my n8x0’s rule. too much fun.
    Looking forward to the new neo900 …even more fun awaits
    Long Live Maemo

  • Reply Paul C |

    On their site it is mentioned it is installable on a n8x0 …
    as far as someone documenting it’s functionality …it is another matter.
    Funtoo is pretty much like Gentoo …and Gentoo is known function on the n8x0 device line.
    The big “but” though is …it’s Gentoo after all..and Funtoo is no different in this regard.. it will be grisly work getting it finally running on an n8x0.
    Better off 1st time running Easy Deb. on n8x0 if you are unused to chrooting on the n8x0.
    There are multiple other options as far as alt. os’s go….but I’ll keep this post short and tight.

  • Reply sayed |

    i use it for internet radio i play dozens of trance radio stations and hiphop ones . I also have 2,16gb sdcards thats 32gb of 3gp movies and mp3s. The sound is super for music and i connect it to a portable boombox for even louder music than ever before. Soon i will get a bluetooth keyboard on my Nokia N800 so i can work on the linux terminal apps. Its a very good device to experiment on learning how to use linux and im always learning something new on the N800. I like it so much i bought a second one on ebay for $25 bucks! Cheap computer on the go that i like better than my 4G phone. It is a device that has a alot of potential if explored. Try it out you will like it. Never went for the 810 as it looks cheap compared to the n800 metal finish. Plus i dont need GPS i have a cellphone for that.

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