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Things every Sony Ericsson P800/P900/P910 owner should know

(a.k.a. P910 tips, Top Tips for UIQ)
updated October 2004

Tip index:

  1. Buy big
  2. Saving memory
  3. Lost apps?
  4. Get a keyboard!
  5. Camera matters
  6. Music on the move
  7. HTML page viewer
  8. Rolling your own video
  9. Case it!
  10. Watch those tasks
  11. The Secret Menu
  12. Understand how Email works
  13. Playing with screensavers
P910
  1. Buy big
    As with just about every other current PDA or smartphone, get yourself a largish expansion card. Memory Stick Duo is currently limited to 128MB, but you'll need most of this once you start adding music and video clips, not to mention applications, ebooks, etc. The P910 can take the 'Pro' version of the card, of course, so go for at least 512MB or 1GB.
    If you end up with two or three Memory Stick Duo 128MB cards and own a P800, don't forget you can store two at a time inside the rear battery cover.
    Try to keep the internal 12MB flash disk as free as possible, for use for temporary files by both yourself and the operating system.
  2. Saving memory
    Each of the Sony Ericsson UIQ smartphones so far has 16MB of execution memory, of which the operating system needs just over half. 8MB of free RAM is plenty for most built-in UIQ applications, but if you make a lot of use of third party applications and/or games, you'll quickly find yourself short of RAM. Usually, the only penalty for running out is that apps other than the current one get politely asked to close themselves, but this can still be annoying.
    On the P900, you can give yourself an extra 300K of free RAM by going into 'Control panel | Display | Flip open', tapping on the background image and then on 'Delete image'. It's a minor cosmetic thing to alter, but you gain a lot or memory.
  3. Lost apps?
    So you've just installed an application and are wondering why all your application icons have gone missing? This is due to a long-standing bug in the way the Symbian OS and UIQ handle applications. All information about installed applications, their associations and their abilities, is stored in \System\Data\Apparc.db, usually read by the main 'Applications' system task, usually running in the background on every P800, in order for it to display the right icons. However, installing (or deinstalling) something also requires access to 'Apparc.db', and in situations where you've got a lot of programs installed (where the file might take a couple of seconds to be rewritten), it's easy for Applications to get locked out. It's best to use a utility like SMan, which includes a 'Fix applist' function that closes Applications down and restarts it, forcing it to go back and re-read Apparc.db.
    Even better, SMan's a superb task and file manager, truly a toolkit for everyone. And it's freeware. I couldn't imagine life without it and have it permanently assigned to my blue ('Internet') button.
    (Interestingly, rather than fix the bug, early versions of UIQ on the P900 simply forced the user to restart the phone when this lockout occurs. Recent P900 firmware has seen this bug finally quoshed...)
  4. Get a keyboard!
    With the aid of a free third party driver, you can use a full size infrared keyboard (so far, I've tested the Palm Wireless Keyboard with great success) for those occasions when you've got a significant amount of text to enter. For example, working on a Quickword document or answering email. Having a good keyboard to hand (almost) turns the P800 or P900 from a great communicator into a standalone computer.
    Palm infrared keyboard
  5. Camera matters
    Leave the CommuniCam set to Picture size 640 by 480 and Picture quality High. You can always downsample and degrade an image later on, you can't do it the other way round! And remember to keep the lens clean, wiping it gently with a tissue before shooting.
    You'll also find it useful to keep the smartphone's internal disk as free as possible, by loading most applications and documents onto the Memory Stick Duo. This way you'll always have room for a couple of dozen 'spur of the moment' high quality photos...
  6. Music on the move
    OK, so the P800/P900 can be your MP3 player, too. But what about that 128MB card limit? They don't make the Memory Stick Duo any larger! Surely that means a couple of hours of music at most? Not so, I keep around five hours of music on my card and still have 20 or so megabytes free. See Music on the P800 and P900 for how to do this.
    On the P910, with possible card sizes of up to 1GB, using OggPlay can give you up to 40 hours of quality music.
  7. HTML page viewer
    Given the P800's focus on Internet integration, it's surprising that it apparently can't open a 'local' page, i.e. an HTML file (with or without images) on your internal disk or memory card. It can be done though, with a little trickery.
    For example, to open up a set of pages, complete with internal hyperlinks and images, put them somewhere specific (and preferably with a short file path, e.g. 'D:\myweb') and use 'Internet | Open page', writing in 'file:///d:/myweb/index.html' (for example). To save scribbling this in each time, save it as a bookmark or choose it from the recently-used addresses pick list.
    To get the files in the right place, either use a card reader/writer, Epocware's PC File Manager, or (as a last resort) bundle them as a ZIP archive and extract them on the P800 using jZip or similar. (You can't just drag and drop them using the standard PC Suite, of course)
  8. Rolling your own video
    I've tried some of the different video creation systems for the P800/P900 and recommend both QuickTime Pro ($30 to register), with the special, free 3GP plug-in, and Mpegable X4 Live, which comes with its own P800/P900 profile. Set your data rate to around 70kbps for slow-moving subjects and up to 110kbps for fast-moving footage (e.g. light shows/strobes), with your frame rate to 12fps, for ideal results. [Stop press: following Nokia's release of their free (H.263-based) Multimedia converter, I'm going to publish a detailed guide to video creation soon. Watch this space.]
  9. Case it!
    The P800 and P900 sit in the grey area between traditional PDAs and mainstream phones, which is why there hasn't been so much released by way of accessories. I can heartily recommend the Chairman's case with belt clip (www.expansys.com) for the P800 and the Alu-leather case for the P900 (www.proporta.com), which I've been using for some time. Both include storage for extra Memory Stick Duo cards.
    Don't leave your expensive smartphone unprotected!
  10. SMan in actionWatch those tasks
    Having a proper multi-tasking operating system can sometimes be a problem. For example, when programs that you're 'trying out' get left running in the background and then misbehave. I had this happen to me recently and the P800's battery was emptied in a couple of hours. So, if your battery life seems to suck, use a tool such as SMan to examine what you've got running and kill off anything that doesn't have to be there.
    Incidentally, SMan also gives you a super (and free) file manager. The UIQ interface largely shields you from needing to know exactly where files live on the P800 and P900, but I always feel naked without some kind of File manager, for those troubleshooting moments....
  11. The Secret Menu
    Finally, what P800/P900 tips page would be complete without repetition of the key sequence to get into the all-important system engineering menu?
    In case you haven't already memorised it, with the flip closed, it's 'Jog-Up', *, 'Jog-Down', 'Jog-Down', *, 'Jog-Down', *
  12. Understand how Email works
    This seems to be one of the most misunderstood of the P800/P900's built-in applications. When you 'Get and Send', it's NOT exactly the same as on your desktop PC. All emails are left on the POP3 server, for you to pick up on a desktop at a later date, to fill in your message base. Your P800/P900 simply tries to show you the contents of your POP3 mailbox in as efficient a way as possible. If you retrieve a message body, it's only for your temporary use in order to act on its contents or reply. And if you delete a message on your handheld, it also gets deleted on the mail server, the next time you 'Get and Send' - you're NOT deleting just your local copy and there's usually no point deleting items from Messages email views. They're only there because thery're there on the server as well. Try the system and you'll soon see that it works very well, letting you stay on top of your email when miles away from home.
  13. Playing with screensavers
    Yes, yes, it's all great fun playing with animated screen savers and showing off your P800/P900 (e.g. 'Matrix.gif', 300K), but do watch out for your battery life. It takes far more power to process and display an animation than to show a static screen, and it's got to come from somewhere... Only set up a permanent screen saver if you're confident about being able to keep the smartphone well charged up.

See also Pete Sipple's FileSaveAs for more P800 tips and content.

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