The second Maemo Summit is over.
Nokia surprised everyone on the first day by handing out 300 pre-release N900s to the participants. I'm so happy now that after a long period of wavering I finally decided to come to the summit! The device is much better than I expected/feared (and I haven't even put a SIM card in yet). We're supposed to provide feedback and will have to send the devices back to Nokia in 6 months. (Nokia insisted on loan contracts signed in blood, kidding, but there are contracts.)
The tiny pixels are beautiful. It's what, 266 pixels per inch? Even older 225 dpi devices spoiled me: both the first generation iPhone and the first generation Kindle displays seemed very coarse and pixellated.
The user interface is very smooth. Having a composition manager improves apparent responsiveness: even if the app is swapped out and not ready to redraw, switching between windows appears to be instant since the picture is cached. And there's no flicker while the apps are redrawing. (Flickering during redraw is one of the main reasons I did not buy a S60 phone and stayed with good old S40.) Speaking of swapping, it's barely noticeable. You can run more apps than fit in RAM without having to suffer. The flash memory is noticeably faster than in a N810. And there's more of it (32 gigs: 28 gig partition for user data, the rest for the system: swap, applications, config files, etc.)
The design and usability of the user interface have improved a lot since the N810. The UI is pretty. Many of the apps are now convenient to use. Pervasive kinetic scrolling is sweet (except when you have really long lists or web pages, then it takes forever to reach the end).
Finally there are PIM-y things people missed in older Maemo releases: calendaring, contacts that can record all kinds of information (such as phone numbers).
All right, enough gushing. There were some irritating things too. For example, Bluetooth support is buggy/incomplete in the pre-release firmware, so it's hard to transfer files. Calendar/contacts sync with S40 phones does not work either. GPS is utterly useless when you're offline (no maps, or at least I haven't found a way to pre-download and cache them; also very long fix times without network assistance). Since I have no desire to pay extortionist roaming charges of my provider (2.5 EUR per megabyte), and haven't had a chance to go look for a prepaid SIM card, I usually have either WiFi or GPS coverage, but not both.
As you can guess, playing the device diverted a part of my attention from the presentations somewhat. I tried to compensate for that by reporting on the talks on IRC (using xchat on the device). I think the strategy backfired; IRC is rather disruptive and the channel is quite busy lately.