Nokia E61


24 Jul 2007

This page is a notebook describing my ongoing experiences with the Nokia E61.

I’m afraid I’ll also have to go on a bit about why I’m interested in mobile technology and software.

Official Nokia page

If you have advice, comments, questions about all this, please leave a comment.

In general, newer material will be at the bottom of the page, but the end idea is to have things organized topically rather than chronologically, so when I get around to it, I do revise and reorder the notes with that in mind.

Getting the default settings 3 Jun 2006

You can get the basic settings by text message from Nokia.

Text messaging 3 Jun 2006

My phone is unlocked, meaning that it can be used with any service that uses SIM cards. But it also means that the usual settings aren’t there. The first time I tried to send a text message, it prompted me for a “Message Centre” number and name. Never heard of this before. I called T-mobile without much hope that they would be helpful, but in fact they knew exactly what I needed.

Using the email client 5 Jun 2006

(updated 2006.11.5)

I access my Courier IMAP server over SSL with the E61’s built-in mail client.

New folders on the server aren’t recognized automatically. You have to open the settings for the mail account and select “Folder subscriptions” .

There seems to be no way to move a message into one of the server’s other folders.

It doesn’t like the certifcate for the SSL on my mailserver. I have to answer a prompt each time I connect to it. Supposedly there is a place to manage certificates, but I haven’t found it yet.

The client does not notify you when it gets disconnected from the server, nor does it automatically try to reconnect. This means that you can be waiting for a message, thinking that you will get a new mail notification, when in fact you are not connected to the server at all. This isn’t that bad of a problem, because it takes quite a while for the client to give up. So it doesn’t usually happen while I’m on the subway, but sometimes it does.

That being said, I don’t usually want a new mail notification. You can adjust such settings by editing the profile that you’re using—except for the flashing light, which for whatever reason is not connected to a profile. Instead, you configure it in the messaging settings. It’s too bad that it’s not tied to a profile, and it’s also too bad that the only thing it can be used to indicate is new email.

When you do get a new mail notification, a window pops up, and you can elect to see the mail. You would think that this would take you to a folder with new messages, right? Nope. It just dumps you into your mailbox, and you have to guess where the new stuff is.

It’s really too bad that the folder list only shows the total number of folders and messages in each folder, without saying how many of the messages are new.

I just recently discovered the “2-line” folder view, which is selectable in the messaging settings. This is much better. Now I can see the full subject lines of mailing list messages while browsing that are truncated to the point of uselessness in the 1-line view. It’s also just generally easier on the eyes, and in the SMS inbox, you can see the entirety of a lot of messages, since they are usually short, without even clicking.

The Python situation 6 Jun 2006

(Updated 2006.10.30)

There is now a preview release of the Python programming language for S60 3rd Edition. It includes an interactive console, the ability to run scripts, and a bluetooth console that you can use to work on programs on the phone from the comfort of your computer keyboard. It even comes with a version of the classic Snakes game. There is a list of programs to install at Nokia’s open source wiki.

Note that the Python is only version 2.2.

Most of the instructions you find on the web for installing new scripts and libraries won’t work for this version. There is no “recognizer”, so you can’t just push the file by bluetooth. It will just be treated as a text file. Because of the security model, you can’t use the file mangaer to move scripts into the right system directories. What ended up working for me was to create a directory called python on my memory card and put scripts in there. Then I made a subdirectory of that called lib for new libraries.

It seems like there is no way to escape a script that is stuck in an error without rebooting the phone.

Sharing info with my laptop 6 Jun 2006

(Updated 2006.10.30)

To receive files over bluetooth from the phone using the command line, I use: sdptool add --channel=10 OPUSH followed by obexserver. The file sent will appear in /tmp.

The kdebluetoothd utility works very well for transferring files back and forth. It allows you to drag and drop files via konqueror, and also to push files so that they end up in your bluetooth message inbox.

The state of bluez-utilities in Debian right now is not good (in unstable)—they have changed the passkey mechanism, and the only utility packaged to work with the new method is the GNOME bt-applet. So I use that to pair, and then the KDE program to transfer files. In Debian, this program is in the bluez-passkey-gnome package.

For whatever reason, gnome-bluetooth is not packaged for Debian (though it seems to be for Ubuntu), so I had to build that from source. So far it seems to be quite a bit behind the KDE facilities for transferring files, but there is a “phone manager” utility that looks promising.

With my 2.6.18 kernel, plugging in the USB data cable and choosing “PC Suite Mode” on the phone causes an exception in the kernel that forces me to reboot. Nice, eh?

Streaming radio and playlists 6 Jun 2006

This is a free software application that needs to be installed separately.

Follow the instructions on the site, which tell you how to change your settings to allow unsigned packages to be installed. Then make a directory called Shoutcast at the root level of one of your storage devices. The instructions claim that this will happen at install time, but it did not for me.

Here’s one snag I ran into when instaling. I tried to install from the browser on the phone. After saving the file, I visited them in the file manager and clicked on them. Error. So instead I downloaded the files onto my laptop and shipped them over to the phone via bluetooth.

When you start the application, you will be able to choose from the default list of stations. To add your own stations, drop .pls files into the Shoutcast directory.

When you restart the app, you will see your new station in the list. If you get an error when you try to play it, check and see if the server in the file is identified by name. I discovered that this app does not seem to be able to do DNS lookups. Not a big deal, just get the IP and edit the file.

It’s working great for me! I’m streaming a jazz station out of Colorado over my GPRS connection, with few hiccups. In fact, none until now when I was typing that sentence.

Next problem to solve here is to figure out why the .pls files I created with fapg are read by the app as each song being its own station. Should be easy to see.

How fast can you type? 6 Jun 2006

My current high score at Typespeed (played over SSH) is 318.

What to carry it in 7 Jun 2006

I still have the plastic cover on the screen. I don’t really want to take it off until I can get some kind of sleeve or carrying case.

Rumor has it that the screen is good and tough—the advantage of not having it be touch sensitive. But, still, I plan on keeping this thing around for a while.
I’ll add some pictures of possible cases at the bottom, but all the ones I’ve found so far look ugly to me. The main problem is that they look like they add quite a bit of bulk to the device. The E61 is thin, and that’s nice. I don’t want to nullify that benefit by dressing it fat. Also, they are leather, and I’m vegan so I try to avoid that. Just some kind of soft cloth bag that is the right size would be great.

Things I miss about the old phone 7 Jun 2006

There are some relatively basic things missing from this phone that my older, cheaper T610 had. I’m sure that some of these things can be had through installing additional stuff, but I don’t intend to install any proprietary software. I chose this phone largely because it can run free software.

  • Timers: My old phone had both countdown and countup timers, which were very handy for cooking, doing laundry, etc. The workaround is just to set an alarm for the time when the washer will be done, but that requires me to do math.
  • Daily alarm setting: It was nice to set an alarm once that then went off every day at that time. On the old phone this saved my butt a few times after falling asleep on the couch or passing out in the gutter or what not.
  • Arrow keys: I’m very worried about overreliance on this little joystick, which doesn’t feel all that sturdy. It’s the only way to move around and sometimes it’s the only way to click. Plus I don’t think it’s as comfortable as arrow keys, although maybe it saves some space.

Using the music player 14 Jun 2006

You can seek ahead or backward by moving to the skip ahead button (which goes all the way to the end of the track if you push it) and holding down the click.

One of the best things about the music player is that you can leave it playing in the background while you are doing other things.

Using the web browser 18 Jun 2006

Keyboard shortcuts

Note that with the new firmware, you now have to hold down the function key and press the shortcut key at the same time.

b Bird’s eye view. Handy for scrolling.
r Bookmarks
u Zoom in
g Choose window
j Zoom out
n Location bar

Usage notes

  • To drag something (like reordering the notes in Backpack), move the pointer over it, then press the return key. Drag the item to where you want it and press the stick.
  • There appears to be no direct way to copy the URL of the current page for pasting elsewhere, like into the URL field of a contact, or into a document. This is a real shame. You can see the current URL by selecting the Details option from the options menu, but the cursor is not active inside the window that gets displayed, so you can’t copy from there. The way I get around this is to select Send bookmark then via text message. This opens the message editor with the link inserted in the body, and you can then easily copy it, or save it as a draft for copying later. This isn’t that bad of a hack, but I still think that there should be much better copying functionality in the browser.

Editing textareas

  • To start editing a textarea, move the pointer over it and just start typing.
  • To finish editing a textarea, move the cursor to the end of the entered text (including any whitespace at the end) and press down on the stick. Or, there is a cancel option visible on-screen if that’s what you want.

Trying to figure out

  • How to scroll a page at a time
  • How to move vertically in textareas while editing them (this bug is fixed with the new firmware)
  • What the official way to stop editing a textarea is. Scrolling (horizontally, ugh) to the end of the textarea and then hitting down on the stick works, but obviously that is inconvenient when you are in the middle of the box. Ah, this also works at the beginning of the area, hitting up.
  • What’s up with the pasting? Often when I paste, it will flash the pasted text for a second and then it will all disappear. After doing it a few times, it will eventually “stick”.


If you edit a textarea near the bottom of the screen, the cursor can end up below the bottom of the screen, without the scrolling catching up. So you can’t see what you’re typing. The only thing to do is hit return a few times to insert a few blank lines, then scroll up a bit.

Using the WiFi 18 Jun 2006

So far, I’m satisfied with the WiFi performance. The browser is quite snappy, as is SSH.

One feature I hadn’t thought about beforehand that I’ve definitely been enjoying is the ability to use the browser and other WiFi applications while making or receiving phone calls. Of course you can’t use the GPRS or EGPRS while on the phone, but you can use the WiFi. This is great while on hold or to look up or send by email information needed by the person to whom you are talking.

I’ve successfully connected on my home network, at Starbucks, and at some random other cafes.

The reception does seem on the weak side, but I have not tested this directly. I have noticed that it will maintain a connection that it has already establishesd even in situations where that access point does not show up as available.

The device doubles as a handy network detector. You can configure it to display at a glance on the Standby screen what networks are currently available. This is very handy for deciding whether you want to get your laptop out in a particular spot. I’m sure that constant scanning does have a negative impact on battery life, but I don’t know how much.

The voice recorder 23 Jun 2006

The voice recorder does a very good job of recording. I used it in an area packed full of loud drunk people. Even though it was held at around waist level, it was able to record the nearby voices clearly while dimming the background noise.

However, it cuts off at one minute maximum, and there is nothing you can do about it. This is annoying. There are some software solutions to this floating around, but I haven’t tested them yet.

The voice recorder isn’t that important to me. But apparently it’s really important to other people—there is a dedicated button on the left side of the phone to start recording. It’s right next to the volume up and down buttons. I find this placement very unfortunate.

It’s too easy to turn it on by accident. Maybe this is why the clips are limited to a minute. There is no space between it and the volume buttons, so it is easy to hit it while trying to change the volume. The heavy part of the phone is at the top, so I usually pick it up by the top. And the recorder button is right where I want to grab it. Finally, the thing has actually come on by itself a few times, as if it were motion sensitive. Maybe my device is defective.

Of course it’s not that big of a deal if it does come on, especially since I have a 2 GB card. But still, it shouldn’t do that, and personally I have no use for such an easily accessible record button.

Voice over IP (SIP) 27 Jun 2006

VOIP is not a gimmick on this phone. Every menu where you can make a voice call, you also have the option to make a data call. There are numerous preferences to set to determine how you send and receive these calls, and when your calls should be made with data and when they should be made with voice. Contacts have separate fields for internet phone numbers and for SIP addresses. It’s pretty damn cool, and a big part of the reason I got this phone.

I was unable to get the phone to register with my provider, Junction Networks. However, I had no problem at all registering it with my home Asterisk server, and have been able to make and receive calls. I followed the first set of instructions listed in the links section below. It sounds great!

Registration does have some stability problems. Sometimes it just refuses to register until I reboot the phone. But it’s not such a big deal, and will often stay registered for several hours at a time. Because it does occasionally also lose the connection while idle, I don’t know if I would rely on it as your only handset.

There are a couple of problems that I’m trying to solve. First, there is some kind of delay after the other party picks up when I’m making a VOIP call. It seems to be about 3 or 4 seconds, which is long enough to be annoying. After that, the call kicks in as normal. Second, I have not been able to get DTMF tones to work. This is a big problem for doing things like accessing my work voicemail or navigating customer service menus. This could be something with my Asterisk setup, but I am able to issue those tones from my softphone, so that seems unlikely. The phone does include a special menu for sending DTMF, but it hasn’t worked so far. If I was cool like Cap’n Crunch, I could whistle them, but I’m not.

The phone can be ready to receive both VOIP and cellular calls—you don’t have to choose between them, which is great. When I’m at home, the phone functions as an additional handset on my VOIP line, so I can make and receive calls without using my cell minutes, and with better quality. As soon as I configure my server correctly, I will also be able to make these calls whenever I am on a WiFi network anywhere.

I have not yet been able to make calls to SIP addresses, but I suspect this is an Asterisk problem and not an E61 problem. Unfortunately, trying such a call locks up the phone and I have to reboot.

One other disappointment is that the IP-Passthrough access point is not available for VOIP. I have no idea why, but it’s very unfortunate. If it were available, you would be able to make VOIP calls with your phone connected via USB to your laptop/desktop connected to a wired network.

Useful links

Other SIP clients

Using the phone as a modem 27 Jun 2006

I am successfully using the phone as a modem via bluetooth from my laptop. I run Debian GNU/Linux on an IBM X40 Thinkpad. I’ll add my configuration files to this page shortly. This was another important feature I considered before purchasing the phone. Blackberries are notoriously difficult or impossible to use as modems, and other phones will let you do it but not over bluetooth.

Using the organizer 29 Jul 2006

I’m getting along well with the Nokia calendar so far.

Unfortunately, the browser doesn’t work with the new Backpack Calendar. The browser crashes whenever I try to add an event. That’s too bad, because it works with all of the other fancy Backpack javascript.

It also doesn’t work with However, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for a calendar with the Web Feeds application, and import items from the feed to the Nokia calendar.

Keyboard shortcuts

Note that with the new firmware, you have to hold down the blue function key and press the shortcut key at the same time.

* Cycle between calendar views
# Goto today’s date


If you have network auto-update time on, and you change time zones, all of your appointment times will be adjusted according to the time zone adjustment. I really don’t like this, but at least it is predictable. However, if you then turn auto-update off, it seems like the appointment times are not changed back. I don’t know exactly what the deal is yet, but be careful!

Also, it looks like the calendar can’t handle it when you want to have an event that starts in the evening on one day, and goes into the morning of the next day.

Headphones 27 Jun 2006

(updated 2006.10.25)

Do not get the Nokia “fashion headset”. These are quite simply the worst headphones of any kind I have ever used. They sound terrible and they will not stay in your ears. If I turn my head even a tiny bit, they fall out. Also, it looks like the microphone is way too low on the cord (it hangs at around my sternum) and it seems to not be adjustable! I’m not 100% sure about that, but it doesn’t matter. The first two problems are enough to make me want to return them. The cord is also strange and uncomfortable.

The proprietary connector limits your options unfortunately. Bluetooth A2DP (stereo audio) appears to not be available out of the box, which is a criminal omission. I still have hope that maybe it will be enabled via software in the future as it has been for the Windows Mobile phones.

So, I don’t have a great answer here. I ended up giving up on the idea of having headphones with a microphone. Instead I bought an adapter on EBay that allows me to use regular headphones, and then bought a $12 pair of Sennheiser earbuds. It’s working out ok.

Using instant messaging 31 Jul 2006

The native client is a Wireless Village client. Yamigo should work for this, but there have been several reports of problems trying to use the E61 with it.

The firmware upgrade does nothing to fix this. Unfortunately, it looks like Cingular went with a different IM client for their version of the phone. Maybe T-Mobile will provide a server when they start offering the phone?

In the meantime, there are some 3rd party clients that you might try.

  • Agile Messenger: This is the best one I’ve tried. It works reasonably well, especially with the recent release, which fixed many of the problems in the prerelease. Unfortunately, they decided to start enforcing their trial period. I find the price outrageous, so I’m no longer using it.
  • Mabber: Mabber is an interesting project. It’s both a web-based IM client and a mobile client. It’s based on jabber, and they have gateways set up to interact with the other major services. The mobile client works, and the interface is relatively attractive, but there are serious stability and memory issues. I wasn’t able to keep it open for very long before other applications started complaining and eventually shut down. I like the attitude of the project and will be keeping an eye on it. It does respect your profile settings. It also works over your data connection. Of course you have to give it your name and password info for the other services.

Other sites 15 Oct 2006

(Updated 2006 November 4)

I’ve started collecting some other blogs and sites about the Nokia E61.

Sites about Symbian

General Nokia sites

Firmware update 16 Oct 2006

(updated 2006.10.25)

After a few failed attempts, I managed to update the firmware on my phone. I’m not a Windows user normally, and you have to have Windows to install the firmware. I hauled an old Windows laptop out and tried that, but the firmware installer actually enforces a 256MB minimum RAM requirement, which I find unbelievable. That laptop has only 192MB, so the installer refused to proceed. I had to enlist the help of some friends.

The new firmware seems mostly good so far. Here’s what I’ve noticed.


  • They fixed the textarea navigation bug in the browser! I can’t express how happy this makes me. You can now move up and down in such boxes, and not just side to side. This will make blogging and commenting so much more practical.
  • Paste bug: Since I couldn’t move up and down in the text box, my usual strategy was to type the text in a note or document and paste it in. There was a weird bug where I would have to paste several times before it would “stick.” This seems to be fixed, which also makes me very happy. Oops, maybe I spoke too soon. I just tried to paste some text at the end of a textarea, and it wiped out everything I had typed, and replaced it with the paste. Then when I tried to get rid of the paste by highlighting it and cutting it, the old bug was back. Seems like we traded one bug for another.
  • Better font: they have made the font in the Messages program bold, so you can actually read it against the default background.
  • Performance: Everything seems just a little snappier. I haven’t used it long enough to notice whether it’s more stable or not, but nothing has crashed yet.


  • Shortcuts: I’m shocked that they did this. You now have to hold down the blue function key when pressing a shortcut key (like to choose a folder or to change the zoom in the browser). This is awful, because it means that using shortcuts now takes two hands.

Locking the keypad 22 Oct 2006

For a while I was locking the keypad by hitting the power button and selecting Lock Keypad. That’s ok, except for the few times I accidentally turned the phone off when trying to do it quickly.

It turns out that you can lock the keypad the same way that you unlock it, by hitting the top left soft button (the one that is bound to Notes by defaut on the standby screen), then the blue function key (lower left of the keypad). Just repeat this sequence (following the on-screen instructions) to unlock it.

Docking stations 22 Oct 2006

I probably won’t get one of these, as I don’t have much use for the features, but just in case, I’ll save the links.

Viewing PDFs 4 Nov 2006

There is an Adobe PDF viewer available via the E61’s catalog application. However, I can tell you that I have yet to successfully view a PDF with it. It usually complains that the file is too large, and refuses to open it. If it doesn’t do that, then it displays something that has only a vague relation to text—squiggles, basically. And yes, I did try changing the zoom levels. There is another program called QuickOffice in the catalog that may be able to view PDFs—haven’t tried it yet.

Printing 5 Nov 2006

I finally got around to playing with printing. It was easy to set up the basics. I’m currently able to print notes and other plain text from the E61 over my home wifi network. The printer is a Panasonic P7305, connected via parallel port to a GNU/Linux Server. I’m using lprng on the server to handle the printing.

On the phone, I created a new printer with the server address as the IP of the machine hosting the printer. I set “bearer” to be LPR, username to be a user on the machine, and queue to be lp0, which is the name of the queue in my /etc/printcap file. And it works! I’m shocked to be honest.

I thought that maybe printing to a file would be a way to save a web page for later viewing or offline reading, but strangely, the phone won’t display the documents that it prints to files. Weird.

UMTS / 3G 28 Nov 2006

  • Updated 28 November 2006 *

Although this phone is advertised as having UMTS, it is designed to work on European networks. The frequency is wrong for the US networks. Perhaps this isn’t true for all carriers, but with the help of a friend’s Cingular SIM and time on the phone with one of their techs, we have verified that the phone will not work on their 3G network. This is a major disappointment. T-Mobile is rolling out their high-speed network, and some areas are supposed to have access by mid-2007. It seems likely that their network will work with the phone. In the meantime, EDGE may be the best you can do in the US.

Stopwatch 24 Apr 2007

I could really use a countdown timer for the phone, but in the meantime, I use this Stopwatch J2ME program.

Is there a countdown timer out there?

Using SSH 7 Jul 2007

Updated 2007 08 12

For SSH, I use Putty. It has some strange bugs, which become apparent when I attach to Emacs running in Screen. After some time, control character sequences will stop working. I have to switch away from the Putty window, like to the Standby screen, and then back to the Putty window. After that, they will start working again, for a while. Strange. Also, changing the font size while connected often crashes Putty.

I tried MidpSSH to see if it was better, but it isn’t usable. I can’t type anything once connected, unless I select the Input option from the menu and send my input line-style, which I’m not willing to do.

Both of these programs are free software.

In Putty, you can send ESC by hitting the lower left soft key. I didn’t figure this out for a long time, and it makes using Emacs from the phone much more pleasant. The alternative way to do it is via the Putty “Send Char” menu, which requires several more keystrokes.

Sometimes while attempting to connect, I get a hostname lookup error. Generally it works if I just try again.

Topics to write about

Write about general stability
Write about navigating menus with number keys
Does the WiFi detector have audio alerts?
Write about how it is as a phone
Write about access point groups
Relevant tags
Using feeds (RSS)
multiple data connections at once
about editing documents
about the spreadsheet
presentation program
real player
flash player
Battery life
Music player shortcuts
Active standby
Jul 7 Using SSH
Nov 5 Printing
Nov 4 PDFs?

Software to try out

Check out SymTorrent, a BitTorrent client
Check out Symella, a BitTorrent client
Papyrus, a calendar program
QuickOffice, for viewing office documents