My Over the Air N900 Update, PR 1.2, kernel power, but not MeeGo

Earlier this week, the latest major update to the Nokia N900 came out, PR 1.2. This has been a long awaited release, particularly by developers. So, as soon as I had a moment, I decided to tackle upgrading my N900.

There are two different approaches to upgrading the N900. One is to ‘reflash’ the N900. Essentially, this wipes out just about everything on the machine and installs everything from scratch. Typically, you back up your machine, reflash it, restore your data, and reinstall whatever applications you want to reinstall.

The other approach is an ‘over the air’ update. This uses the packaging system to update whatever is on your machine, and leaves everything else intact. Since I’ve installed many packages, as well as various tweeks to try and dual boat, enable IPV6 and other things, I decided to go with the over the air approach.

The Update

The problem with the ‘over the air’ approach is that it takes a lot of disk space and time. I’ve moved various files out of the root file system when I did my last major update, so I felt I could make sufficient space. First I uninstalled a couple large packages that either took a lot of space and/or might conflict with the update. In particular, I removed Google Chromium and Kernel Power. Then I cleaned out my package cache and started the over the air update.

Specifically, I did a

apt-get remove chromium kernel-power kernel-power-flasher
apt-get clean
apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade

It took a little over half an hour to download all the packages that needed to be updated, and then took a few hours to update every package. I ran into various problems along the way and it took a few times to download all the packages, and at times I had to run

apt-get –f install

to fix problems with dependencies that occurred along the way. If you have a cleaner installation, you shouldn’t run into the dependency issues I ran into.

When everything was installed, I rebooted. Because of tweeks I’ve done, the startup screen has a bunch of diagnostics that I’m used to seeing. However, this time, there was also a blue bar that slowly crept across the bottom of the screen. I assumed it was reflecting some sort of progress of part of the upgrade.

Missing SMS messages

Everything pretty much worked the way it was supposed to, with one exception. I could not retrieve the history of my phone calls or text messages. On one of the email lists, I found that a person at Nokia had the same problem. It appears as if that blue bar that I watched, was the conversion of the Eventlogger database to a new format. In my case, the conversion failed and the databases were listed as corrupted.

The database is /home/user/.rtcom-messaging/el.db I had checked it, and it looked fine. It also looked the same as /home/user/.rtcom-messaging/el-v1.db. The v1 version of the database was supposed to be a different schema, and without the updated schema, the messages in the eventlog just weren’t being updated. I moved the el-v1.db and el-v1.db-journal files to a different directory and rebooted.

That little blue bar came back as I rebooted. When the machine was backup, a new version of el-v1.db had been created. This time, it appeared to be created properly, because all of my phone calls and SMS messages were back in the log, and I haven’t had problems since.

Reinstalling Chromium and Kernel Power

I reinstalled Chromium and it works just like it had before. Generally speaking, I prefer the default browser on the N900, followed by Firefox. Chromium and Iceweasel work okay for me, but haven’t convinced me to switch to them as my primary browser. I haven’t gotten around to try Opera yet, that is still on the to do list.

kernel power installed nicely and I rebooted for it to take effect. I toyed with the overclocking and it appears to work. However, overclocking apparently voids the warrantee, so I can’t recommend it. On the other hand, I find that most computers and cellphones that I’ve used die not because of chips burning out, but because of cases, screens and keyboards wearing out. So make your own choice about whether or not to use the overclocking.

What I was more interested in is the IPv6 connectivity. I run IPv6 on my network, and I’ve been longing to try IPv6 on the N900. Doing a ifconfig command, I saw that my device had a proper IPv6 address. Then, I tried ping6 This is my standard test for IPv6 connectivity. It appears as if there is something wrong with IPv6 in the power kernel. The first eight packets get responded to, and then all other packets get dropped. With this, I haven’t been able to successfully test other aspects of IPv6 including the browsers, ssh, and other programs. This goes on to the ‘to explore later’ list.

Kernel Power includes a lot of other interesting features, including USB/IP, and fun networking features. These also go on the ‘to explore later’ list.


Since doing the update, things run pretty much the same as they did before the update. The biggest change from my perspective is that the menu is now one long scrollable menu that you can move items around on, instead of having a ‘more’ icon to click on. There has been a lot of talk about portrait mode, but that was available, at least partly, in the previous version and I don’t use it much. I’ve also heard there is an onscreen keyboard, but I haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure I would use it that much.

I like to use the media player, and they’ve added icons next to the name of uPnP servers. I’ve used Rygel as an N900 uPnP server, Microsoft Media Player as a uPnP server and MediaTomb as a uPnP server on Linux. They all seem to work okay. I’ve had problems with MediaTomb dropping its N900 connection in the past. I still have that problem, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. Also, using the scribbler for the Media Application Framework, I’ve updated my status with songs that I’ve played off of MediaTomb, so it is working pretty well. PyPianobar, which is my other favorite media app for the N900 works quite nicely as well.

My test apps continue to run nicely, including one written in QT but not recompilted. In fact, the QLCDNumber looks better than it used to in PR 1.1.1

The chroot Debian with LXDE seems to work just as well as it did before upgrading, which means it is good enough for playing and testing with, but not much more. Unfortunately, since upgrading to PR 1.2 and installing power kernel, I have not been able to successfully boot into Mer. I have Mer installed on a petition of my SDHC card, and I could boot to it before, but not now. I also have a version of Fedora and MeeGo on my SDHC card. I’ve never been able to boot to them, but I can chroot to them.

One of the next things I want to explore is the latest version of MeeGo, but I want to spend a little time making sure that my installation of PR 1.2 is stable and catching up on the rest of my life.

Are there any other N900 users out there that want to share stories or tips about their experiences with PR 1.2?

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