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Yes, this is a great machine. After the very first day (at maximum) one feels that cannot switch back to any other cellular phone.

A quick note about the most common "newbie always asked question (TM)": logos and ringtones: YES: the P900 doesn't actually need advertisements! People who saw it in my hands, just want it! (Maybe I should add a Faces and Exclamations section about people seeing my P900...!) =:-)

If you want a full description, with pro's and con's for everything related to P900, look around on cellular-related sites: I will describe here only what was stunning (or sad) for me.

  1. What am I "networking" now with the P900?
    Send/receive SMS/MMS; send/receive email ("on the field" from P900 memory or using the P900 as a modem); browse ftp/http sites (from P900 browser or using the P900 as a modem). Wind/Italy has a very weak signal (at least in the zone where I use my P900); Vodafone/Italy has a decent signal, but sometimes its network is flooded (and for hours every attempt to connect to the internet using GPRS gives out an "access denied" warning, while the signal drops down to zero for some seconds).
    Once I had actually sent an urgent email with 700+ kbytes of attachment (the attachment was a file beamed via infrared port); from my P900 while I was in the train! The resulting email packet, more than one megabyte (due to the text expansion of the attachment), was sent while I was listening music from the P900 MP3 player (!), while the train ran through different GSM coverage areas sometimes with low or absent phone signal because of a number of tunnels... The email was sent during fourteen kilometers of train track!

  2. The unit.
    Great aestethics. Sadly, it gives out a "croak-croak" noise because of the plastic parts (since two or three days of age!). The "VGA:43mm" print out is not that nice; I will try to erase it using a needle. Audio output is great; MP3 playing with earphones is near to perfect, with excellent bass. Playing midi files is not that nice, but I tried only a few stupid MID files. Starting the music application and then closing the flip, will still show on the screen the time elapsed and total of the song. Sometimes I even tried to "touch" the screen of my notebook PC (as if it was like P900's one!). I can even play music using only the jog-dial without seeing the screen (I learnt the sequences of jog-dial to unlock, go to next/previous song, up/down for volume). I placed on the strap, it's very useful to get the correct habit of avoiding impacts. The gunnysack also is very pretty; I have always it on the left (so that my left thumb can access the jog-dial while I am listening music, leaving my right hand free). About the battery? click here.

  3. Handwriting recognition...
    Yes, it's quite easy. I was able to learn quickly (a few days); numbers are really easy to write down even for 100% unexperienced people (even easier and faster than using a true or virtual keyboard, and definitively easier and nicer than using a paper-and-pen based addressbook!). Just after using the P900, the common keyboard input of phone numbers will actually appear terribly ugly!
    The translator of gestures to text is not exactly the one described in the P900 manual (example: with Italian setup, you cannot write an «a» just writing a «v» upside-down), but actually accepts and translates other complex gestures, even if written quickly. Adding a point or a line will correct «l» to «i» or «t» as one will expect.
    In a number of cases I had to do some practice. Writing down a dot is easier using the south-east-to-north-west slash than simply tapping a point. The first days, to get more speed, I used the tap-tap keyboard, but since accented vowels and other common signs are not that hard to get out, I am now using often the handwriting recognition.
    I recently tried a so called "tablet PC" with handwriting recognition and an electromagnetic resonance (EMR) stylus. While it was nice to get on screen the cursor moving without touching (the stylus has to be at not more than 2cm far off the screen), its handwriting recognition was very ugly. First, it was SLOW (the tablet PC featured a 1GHz Pentium-M Centrino-based with "Windows XP Tablet Edition": this is why it was SLOW); second, it waits for you to complete an entire line before translating it; third, you have to press an Enter button to send the characters to the application... The P900 beats without problems "Windows XP Tablet edition"!!!

  4. The icon bars.
    My upper icon bar is now setup as: messages, music player, control panel, voice recorder, jotter, applications: communicorder and internet are not needed there, since one can use the special keys on the right. The lower icon bar is easy to understand and has a number of nice features (my most used are silent mode and flight mode).
    In flip-closed mode, my icon bar is now setup as call list, contacts, music player, messages, voice recorder. Yes, voice notes and jotter notes are very nice features; also, I like having audio at a first tap when using the P900 in my pocket without seeing its screen.

  5. Right-handed.
    The phone seems for right-handed people. I have it on my left hand, and do all operations with right hand (stylus, flip, touch, etc). My left hand fingers move now easily on jog-dial and special keys.

  6. Japan...!
    Well, one of the first things I did when the Linux file transfer was enabled (see above), I placed into the memorystickduo card a number of Japanese music MP3's...! :-) (well, currently I prefer classical music)

  7. Live and loud.
    Some Nokia-equipped friends beamed via infrared to my P900 an AMR recording of their best fart (oops). They were surprised by the loud output of the P900, louder than their Nokia 6600's: aieeee!!! :-) (well, I still prefer classical music)

  8. To flip or not to flip?
    While I was always willing to remove the flip, I found that the flip is a nice blue-lighted gadget, easy to open to get an instant torch even in the darkest lightless place: the TFT display gives out sufficient light to go upstairs, to find and use the key of the door, etc, and doesn't require you to look at the touchscreen. Yes, I'll keep the flip there. (well, one could use the jog-dial to unlock and light the screen, but I still am not ready to take off a gadget) :-)

Sometimes I get "where can I buy it online?" email messages. Well, let's read again my notes about buying a P800, where I explain why Internet shopping is not that a great thing...!

Some notes from my friends...

Some notes about "updating" the P900 firmware

Ken wrote me:

A few years ago I got my fingers "burnt" buying a Windows CE 2.0 system and when Windows CE went to 2.11 then 3.0, I found my unit was not upgradeable to either (nor would it "talk"' to CE 1.0!) so I was left with an expensive paperweight after a few months...!

Yes, I think that Sony Ericsson update service is intended for some debugging updates, but not major updates. Historically, the P800 (which appeared here in Italy eleven months before the P900), featuring UIQ 2.0 on Symbian 7.0, is not upgradable to UIQ 2.1; it seems that Sony Ericsson doesn't want you to upgrade an "old" machine, as Microsoft for its Windows CE machines and any other manufacturer (probably because the UIQ 2.1 upgrade would require 16Mb memory, while the P800 has only 12Mb). Also, they are not willing to release any hardware specifics for getting - say - Linux installed on an "old" machine (this would make them useable after they are out of the market - that is, less "new" units sold). I am already sure that this P900 machine will get "old" in 18-24 months (or less); its successor is expected on the market on Sep/Oct'2004.

This is the main reason for working only to get the most from the current firmware release, and do not dream expecting magic things from totally uncertain "future updates". Knowing P900 limits, and getting third-party software for what actually is missing or unusable, is certainly the best strategy to "save the investment" (here in Italy, from November 2003 to February 2004, pricing was always between 650 and 850 euro, that is, 850 to 1100 US$ equivalent). I wouldn't ever buy a machine saying "in a couple of years I will replace its operating system and software": this is almost always no more than a child's dream.

Also, this is why I was quite severe about considering P900 bugs (and very happy while considering the on-the-field actual features).

What about SMS messages and calls while using GPRS data transfer?

When you are using a GPRS data connection, other people cannot call you because you are already using its "voice" channel with "data" packets...! So, it's part of the GPRS data transfer standard. People calling you will see your phone "busy" or "ringing" or "unreachable", I do not know what logic is behind this. But the P900, when the GPRS data traffic is very low, will check for pending SMS messages or incoming calls.

Also, if you are connected and transferring GPRS data, you can still start a voice call (this will stop temporarily the GPRS data flow) or send an SMS message. I did it a number of times: while downloading, wrote and sent SMS messages without pain on the PC which was using the connection (except a little slowdown in data transfer for a few seconds).

Top ten misconceptions about P900

  1. P900 operating system can be replaced with Linux Debian ARM;
  2. P900 is undestructable;
  3. P900 plays any real-audio/video stream, web-TV, and similar things;
  4. P900 is cheap;
  5. P900 camera shots great photos even without light;
  6. for any P900 commercial software, there exists a free and bug-less "key generator" which will save you lots of honest payments;
  7. in Bluetooth mode P900 connects to everything and sends them any file;
  8. everything about P900 is (or will be) fully documented;
  9. P900 will soon support MS Duo PRO up to two gigabytes;
  10. P900 does not have any firmware bug.

Oops: some notes about "replacing P900 operating system with Linux"...

Porting Linux to the P800/P900/P910 is technically possible, but first you should convince SonyEricsson guys to release hardware specifics on which we will work.

We only know that in the P900 there is an ARM9 class processor on a standard Integrator-AP card, featuring at least an UART (serial-like ports) controller (named PL010), a real time clock (RTC PL030), an LCD-controller (PL110), and a memorystickduo interface (PL180).

While some useful information is contained in the .../kernel/iap/a32intap.h header file of the UIQ 2.1 SDK, and some other things can be found around the net on the ARM site, it seems that it's not sufficient to build even a kernel loader (well, someone better than me maybe... :-)

Also, some complex things (phone interface, audio stuff, etc) are not even remotely documented and will be quite hard to "reverse engineer" (also, this seems a bit unlawful... :-)

I do not think that SE will ever release specifics (they didn't do it for their "discontinued" products, and they won't do for mainstream products).

About using a 256Mb memorystickduo on the P900

Gee, since I lost count of messages like this: "I bought a 256Mb memory stick duo and it does not run on my P900", I am in need to state that:

  1. as of the P900 manual, it supports classic "Memory Stick Duo" of up to 128Mb size; as far as I know the Duo sticks range from 8Mb to 128Mb and, explicitly by design, they cannot contain more than 128Mb;

  2. the "Memory Stick Duo" is different from the standard "Memory Stick" (in the P900 packaging you got an adapter for reading the "Duo" with a common "Memory Stick" PC adapter!), and is definitively different from standard "Memory Stick Duo PRO". While the PRO has the same size and aspect of "Memory Stick Duo", it has different electronics, thus probably needing a different hardware. Hardware that the P900 simply seems to not to have...! (I say "seems" because I still think that Duo Pro sticks could be supported with a simple software driver, but Sony Ericsson seems not willing to let P900 users using Duo Pro sticks);

  3. some recent products (digital cameras, etc) have a "Memory Stick Duo PRO" slot which was made (by design) compatible with common "Memory Stick Duo" (they often call it only "memory stick duo slot", but in their manuals they state that it is compatible with the "PRO"); the "PRO" range from 256Mb to 1Gb (and possibly even more), thus letting the user to buy a cheap memory ("memorystickduo") or a large memory ("memorystickduo PRO");

  4. it seems to me that lots of people (everywhere in the world) bought a 256Mb "Duo PRO" before reading the P900 manual, and then soon complained (in mailing-lists, to the Sony Ericsson customer service, etc) "it doesn't run on my P900: why?". They didn't want to buy a 128Mb "Duo", and soon went for a 256Mb "Duo PRO". This seems a bit unfair from Sony, but you have to add the stupidity of people who first buy something and then check compatibility;

Big Fat Warning:

there are a number of "Sony Memorystick Duo MagicGate 128Mb" around which are not compatible with the P900: you will get a weird error "Disk Corrupt" after inserting it and every time you try to format; I tried one of these, claiming to be a Sony product, marked MSH-M128: it worked OK (formatting, writing, reading) while in a Multimedia Card adapter on any computer, but the P900 was never able to do anything more than printing "Disk Corrupt" error message (yes, it was impossibile to re-format it on the P900: it always immediately reacted with "Disk Corrupt" message).
I am still unable to say if it's a MagicGate issue or if that Duo was actually a Duo PRO card despite of the "MSH-M128" indication (I guess that memory sticks are easy to clone and sell as if they were original Sony sticks). The "Duo PRO" are only good for P910/P990 (because P800 and P900 do not support them).

Beware: I have an original "Sony Memorystick Duo MagicGate 128Mb" marked as MSH-M128 fully working on my P900 (actually the paper/plastic packaging around says "MSH-M128N" with bar-code number 4-901780-892341). I examined my working Duo and the above stick "claiming to be an MSH-M128" product, and there were no visible differences except some plastics roughness on the original Sony product. By all means, don't panic: if you happen to buy one of these "Duo, not-PRO, but P800/P900-incompatible" product, then sell it to some P910/P990/PSP/etc owner and go for a Sony-branded one in your nearest shop (before they disappear during years 2006-2007).

Quite often I get rumors about a firmware support for "Duo PRO" sticks... but rumors actually mean "rumors" (not news or announcements!). I will believe in it only when we will see an official response from Sony Ericsson. In the meantime we have only one safe and sure response: the P900 manual, which states "maximum 128Mb memory stick duo" (and the tragedy of those who bought a "Duo PRO" without reading the manual).

P900: 13.4Mb core memory (internal memory) free, after the very first day of usage. The actual problem - i.e., "today's question" - is this: the P900 uses the "memory stick duo" from Sony, which is a Sony proprietary product and is a limited (only up to 128Mb) product.

To be exact and honest, you must admit that the P900 (which comes out of the box with about 11Mb core memory free - internal memory, the "disk C:" - and 30.7Mb external memory free) has sufficient RAM for everyday usage (organiser, notes, photos, and even a little voice-recording and video-recording usage).

BUT... being sold also as an MP3-player and video-player, the memory is never sufficient. Some tests showed that one can reduce a 97 minutes DVD movie to a low-resolution MP4 video playable on the P900, MP4 file sized between 80Mb to 110Mb (this means that you need a 128Mb Duo). A 128Mb memorystickduo can contain almost TWO entire compact discs reduced to MP3 in "normal quality" mode, while an hypotetical 512Mb external memory storage would theoretically contain EIGHT to TEN entire discs of the same quality (or up to FIVE DVD movie, or some interesting combination of MP3 and MP4 files).

Sadly, this is not the case of the P900: while its hardware is theoretically able for these things and even more, you need to switch to different solutions.

Either buy a 128Mb and use its storage, or - following Sony Ericsson hint - buy a bunch of memorystickduo's and fill them with music (about one CD per memorystick); then, while you are in the train, insert your desired CD (er... your desired memorystick!) in the P900 slot and enjoy it.

I am not that happy with the latter solution, because the memorystickduo's are too small and handy. What about "oops! I lost my memorystickduo!", imagining the train cleaning people getting rid of your precious memory they found under the train seat?

Also, instead of packaging the P900 with a 32Mb memorystickduo, the Sony Ericsson engineers should have better added 32Mb extra core memory or more (this is actually what happened in the P910 series), leaving a free slot. If you buy a 64Mb or 128Mb Duo (except for some extremely cheap offers, I don't think you will buy another tiny 32Mb or smaller Duo), the remaining 32Mb most probably will remain at home, as it happens now for me!

Well, the most elegant and functional solution was not using the Sony proprietary memorystickduo. If you don't like SD/MMC memory cards, there are Compactflash devices for 4Gb and more (!!!). But since they are not Sony proprietary solutions, I imagine that the Sony commercial guys just said "NO!"... ;-)

Other things, tips and tricks, technical quirks, etc...

Duh... I found myself buying an old "PCMCIA 4-in-1" adapter (memorystick, smartmedia, securedigital, MMC) for my Apple Powerbook.

And -yeah!- I found that it's a Good Thing to use when I want to transfer lots of data on the Memory Stick Duo (using the nice MSDUO/memorystick adapter found in the P900 standard accessories).

Read speed (from MSDUO to the computer) is actually 470-480 kbytes/sec; writing to the MSDUO (for example, writing MP3 files) is about 230-290 kbytes/sec (I just timed my 32Mb standard memory stick duo which came with the P900). Note that once cached by the computer operating system, access times to directories and files will be faster (at least if you use a Macintosh system or any Linux system).

Quick note about filling the memory card with MP3 files (or other large files); values rounded down to day-to-day expected values:

Note: the PC-card that I have is a common "16 bit, 3.3V" card, boosting no more than 1.2 Mb/sec (20-25% more than a common USB 1.1 connection) without DMA support, and thus is almost useless if you want to transfer images from secure-digital cards of your camera (you should go for an USB 2.0 card reader instead).

How to use "Bluetooth file sharing" functions of my computer? It seems I can't "browse" my phone files...

Well, your only "browseable" area is the "Bluetooth Shared" one. When you select some file (photo, MP3, etc) and use the function "Send as..." to "...Bluetooth Shared", then you will make it available to Bluetooth browsing.

Don't forget that the "Bluetooth shared" space is actually a directory of the P900 internal disk; I leave it always empty. When you "browse the phone" you are actually browsing that directory (but you cannot create directories or delete files using commands from your computer).

Sadly, from the P900 you can "send as bluetooth shared" (that is: make a copy of a file in that area of the internal disk) and no more than that. You will find your "bluetooth shared" files in the Beamed area of the Messages application, selecting "Shared" on top right menu (instead of "Inbox"). When you select "browse the phone" on your Mac, you will be able to browse that directory and get files.

Quoting "Designing for UIQ in technical papers" (from UIQ 2.1 SDK documentation files).

Anyways, I must say that a number of design issues of UIQ got what the designers intended. The real-life activities (like jotting notes, finding a person and dialing its number, preparing an email) are in my humble opinion actually quicker and easier than ANY Windows (or Windows-style) environment.

A few considerations about «install-mania»...

I got lots of messages asking for Some Good Softwares to install on the P900. I try now to explain why I don't answer to these emails.

  1. This is known here as "install-mania". A jerk buys something featuring "internal storage", and immediately starts searching around "some stuff to install on it" (don't care if it's a cellphone or a washing-machine: he MUST install something on it). And, always, without even checking existing internal software!!! Sigh! I complained about a missing HTML-email feature, but I wouldn't like to invest 10-20-30$ only to get an email client clone of P900's one which doesn't show those « » in my friends email messages: I just told them "use the straight text format".

  2. Everyone can verify that lots of "third-party software" replicate some system functions, and perform something a little better. Or, even, are better documented on a function that the P900 already has. It's not that nice to pay 10-20-30$ to get another agenda, another editor, another music player. Do you really need it? Is it really worth its cost? To me, in my humble opinion, it does not make much sense having (say) an editor which can create M$Office files. If I have to jot down some text, I will use the internal jotter: M$Office is already able to import it (and, anyways, I don't care: I use only Linux since ten years!). If I want to draft a 18-pages super-formatted document, then maybe I won't start jotting it on my P900...!

  3. I didn't buy a P900 to play games. In my real life I don't have too much time to play games. Maybe I played Chess and Solitaire only to not to think «unused» some of the internal software...! Having some spare time, I will update this site, write down some new software, answer some emails. No time to play games, even for the nice V-Rally. The V-Rally was mainly useful to show it to friends (and yes, they are still crying).

  4. While in the train or bus, I prefer listening music, reading emails, and not playing games. I use my free memorystickduo space to save photos/videos while "on the field" (core memory is for SMS/mail/etc messages), and to store MP3 music files. The main reason to buy a 128Mb memory stick duo is getting two entire CDs at full quality into the P900 (or 50-60 songs at lower quality). Remember that the P900 is not a "stand-alone" machine...!


Il P900 e il mio piatto preferito: pasta e ceci

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