[maemo-users] my two big fustrations with the N800 - please help me find a workaround!

From: andrei raevsky raevsky.andrei at gmail.com
Date: Thu Jul 19 03:26:13 EEST 2007
Dear friends,

Let me begin my saying that I *love* by N800 and I wonder how I have ever
lived without it in the past.  I use it all day long, to check my emails,
get the news, listen to music, calculate my weekly spending, read ebooks,
etc.  I looked long and hard for something like a internet-capable,
ebook-reading handheld device and after careful consideration I choose the
N800 and it is way better than my expectations.

I love of OS, the interface, and I have found many truly excellent third
party software.  So please do not take offense at what follows, but I am
also really frustrated with the N800.  I want to tell you what bugs me so
much and ask you whether you found a way around the two issues which make me
grind my teeth and get gastric reflux.

1) OS updates and backups

I am totally appalled that an operating system based on Debian was
re-designed so much that the only way to update the OS is to download a
file, use a flasher, then loose all the data and configuration on the unit
and, even worse, use all the downloaded applications.  Not only that, but it
turns out that the backup application does not always work between the
backups and that when it works it does not really backup the configuration
at all.  Holy cow!  How does one take something as beautiful as "apt-get
update && apt-get dist-upgrade" and reduce it to such a total disaster?! To
cap it all, there are entire threads on the Internet Tablet
Forums<http://www.internettablettalk.com/forums/>which discuss all the
crashes, bugs, and other problems with new version of
the OS!  That is, in my mind, the single worst design flaw in the N800.

I have 15 third party applications (taken from 12 'application catalogs), I
have Xterm with such things as mc and wget installed, I have ssh installed
and configured to give me root access when needed, I have 12 RSS feeds I use
daily, I have a well-filled contacts list, a long internet radio list, etc.
IF I flash my unit it is going to take me hours to get all this back.  I
will need to backup and restore /etc/apt/source.list manually only to try to
remember where I got which app (but I still will not be able to apt-get).
It is going to take me hours...

2) Repositories:

Nokia followed a rather strange repo policy.  There are the basic Nokia
catalog and the Nokia 3rd party catalog.  And after that, you are on your
own.  For example, one of the most amazing application on the N800 is the
FBReader which has its own repo.  There is also a Maemo repo, and a
maemo-hackers repo.  And a bora-extras.  And claws-mail repo.  And many
more.  That's just crazy!  Why did Nokia not follow Ubuntu's policy of
having a Main, Restricted, Universe and
in one place.  Multiple repos are just an stability/security risk for
the unit, IMO.  It would take Nokia just a couple of employees to maintain
such a one-place repository and it would immensely improve the capability of
the unit.  Debian can boast that it now has 19000+ applications.  Of course,
having a different architecture the N800 could not do that, but would it not
be a good selling point to say, for example, the iPhone offers you 10
applications (or whatever, I made this number up), the N800 offers 127 (or
whatever number).

These two issues are, of course, linked and my best guess is that the folks
who designed the N800 either were not truly used to the GNU/Linux way of
doing things, or were overruled/micromanaged by a bunch of "suits".  I just
cannot imagine anyone who has 'walked' the Debian way settling for this kind
of nightmarish "updating" scenario...

So here is my question to you:

Has anyone figured a safe and easy way around all this mess?  Has anyone
written an application which would *really* backup all the data,
applications, source list and settings from an N800 to a single file which
could then be used to restore?  Then the unit could be flashed, the OS
updated, this one script downloaded and a real one-step (if not one click)
backup would follow.

Is there another workaround hack which would make it possible to update the
OS safely, rapidly and painlessly?

How are you all handling this?

Last but not least, is there any hope at all to see an apt-get update &&
apt-get dist-upgrade -capable N800 in the future?

Many thanks for any pointers,

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