Archive for the ‘Software’ Category
I’ve been experimenting with hacking Android phones recently, either to extend their functionality, or to circumvent mobile phone companies’ annoying blocks.
This post is really just to detail what I did, with the aim of providing useful reference for others doing something similar. It took ages searching forums and other blogs to find a correct set of steps to do this, so hopeful I can shorten the time it takes the next person.
My first effort with this was with an old HTC Wildfire I’d bought from a friend for about £60 (cheap enough ont to matter too much if I inadvertently turned it into a paperweight), I was to realise that this was not an entry level task.
Normally hacking an Android phone has two basic steps:
1) Find the vulnerability that allows you to become a superuser.
2) Become a superuser (getting root access)
3) Add all the software you want that the manufacturers didn’t necessarily intend.
In many cases, gaining root access is a well-practised function, that some developers have even packed up into a handy piece of software that does step one and two for you. UnRevoked is a good example for a selection of HTC handsets.
S-On / S-Off
Annoyingly HTC have a security setting to prevent you doing this, which leads to the additional step at the start of removing this (S-OFF). Turning it off should normally be simple, again it’s been done so many times that there’s some software which perform all the steps for you, in this case, Revolutionary will do it.
Except it didn’t work for me because the firmware in my phone was too recent and there was no way to hack it to turn S-OFF. I had boot version 1.01.002, and Revolutionary only works with boot version 1.01.001.
So now I had to downgrade the boot software to the earlier, hackable version. This alone was fiddly and time-consuming, and by far the best instructions for doing so are in the Aritrasen blog.
So after all that, only now, was I in a position to begin the superuser process.
Only I then discovered that there was another stumbling block. The superuser exploit only works on Android 2.1 (Eclair) and my Wildfire has already been upgraded to Android 2.2 (Froyo), and I had to downgrade that as well (keep following the Aritrasen guide, don’t skip that step, it is not optional).
OK, now I could finally start at step 1, above! Happily the rest of the process was simple and done for me by the software packaged listed. At this point I chose to use CyanogenMod rather than standard Android as the phone’s operating system because the Wildfire will only support 2.2 (Froyo), but with CyanogenMod 7, it effectively becomes a 2.3 (Gingerbread) device.
It takes a lot longer to boot now than it did (boot screen picture at top of post) and actually pretty much everything about the phone is slower, especially if you want to use Swype, or Opera, but that’s what happens when you start to push the hardware to its limits.
However, I now have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve made my phone do something it shouldn’t really be able to do, I have a more technically capable Wildfire handset than most other people, and it’s my first play with an Android (ish) phone! Smiles all round
Getting more useful with age
So what are the actual differences?
I now use Opera Mobile as my day-to-day surfing tool. Currently it’s on version 11, from March 2011, which makes it the newest piece of software on my 3 year old phone.
It displays pages on the web properly and has tabbed browsing – I can open multiple windows at once on my phone! The simple keypad shortcuts make it really easy to move around without a touchscreen.
It can even talk to the onboard GPS so I can use location services on websites like Facebook.
It’s great that Opera are still actively developing for Symbian S60. Nokia are working on a new browser, I bet they’re not bothering about older devices.
The GPS is much faster to lock on using the assisted GPS function which uses the phone’s data connection to give the GPS receiver an initial hint about where you are. I can now get an accurate fix within 20 seconds. This used to take 2 minutes or more.
Loading maps is simpler now with Ovi Suite.
I’ve chosen to stay with Nokia Maps 2 rather than get the new Ovi Maps because of the change they’ve made to navigation. Version 3.01 of Ovi Maps is prettier, but doesn’t include free navigation (even for walking!) and it nags to remind you this and even though there are menus to buy this additional feature, they don’t work.
Nokia Maps 2 still doesn’t do live navigation (although as a much older app the purchase function still appears to work) but you can create routes and step through them manually turn-by-turn, which works almost as well. You can do this in Ovi Maps, but it’s more fiddly.
Nokia’s place to download apps. This is not well designed for an N95. It’s slow to move around and takes 3 clicks to do anything where 1 would suffice. It’s far more efficient to look for software on the website and get a link sent to your phone.
Interestingly while I was still getting used to this feature, the N-Gage system seems to have been merged with Ovi and has stopped working. The N95 is not a great device for gaming, and the games for it are slow and fairly expensive when compared with iTunes and Apple devices which can do far more.
One of the games which caught my eye seems not to have made it over to Ovi (save this video walkthrough) was Dirk Dagger. I can’t find it in the new store and the URL is now dead. Still, you can play it on the web.
This is a neat app which backs up my contacts, calendar and notes. If something happens to my phone they can be sent back to it, and I can access that data online too, although I haven’t found where the Notes data is. I like not having to worry about my contact book anymore. My phone is absolutely my life and the data on it is extremely precious.
Other Apps I use
This takes the 3G signal in my phone and turns it into a mobile wifi hotspot. This is so useful it’s one of the few times I’ve ever upgraded to the paid version of an app. (Dirty little secret: I have an iPod touch, and with this app, it effectively turns into an iPhone)
I couldn’t live without this now. I have 17 radio programmes (I’m normally can’t watch the screen cos I’m doing something else, like walking) I download regularly. There’s no better feeling than knowing your phone is full of great stuff to listen to.
Just the voice version. Much better over wifi than 3G, although perfectly good for instant messages.
Perfectly optimised for a non-touch screens. You can access most functions via keypad shortcuts. Puts Nokia’s inbuilt app to shame.
I’m getting less use of this than I expected, partly because it’s only for wifi use, I would only use it at home and when I’m at home I use my hard disc recorder. Stuff on there is full broadcast resolution and doesn’t expire after 7 days.
There are plugins for sending photos to both Flickr and Ovi Share. Flickr is very useful but I can’t think of the use for Ovi Share (and likewise Ovi Mail), no one I know has ever heard of it. It doesn’t seem to integrate to anything. Nokia will probably send it the way of N-Gage.
Various IM apps
My friend Abdo swears by Whatsapp and continually demands that I download it, however I have unlimited text messages (and I’m pretty sure he does) so I don’t see the point of an app which duplicates that functionality.
It’s probably more useful if you have contacts in other countries, but I use FishText for that as it sends real SMS text messages to foreign networks very cheaply.
So that’s the current state of my phone. It does more and for me it’s more useful now than when I bought it. Plus the N95 is a very good reliable phone, with decent battery life.
I think this refresh should see my N95 8GB still in use in 2012, and assuming the electronics keep working, this could well be my backup phone for sometime after that.
If you’re still using an N95 I’d love to know why and if you have any tips you can share. Let me know in the comments.
This afternoon, I’ve seen what I assume to be two of my contacts on Yahoo infected by some kind of trojan/worm hijack, and a type I’ve not come across before.
It’s very common on Yahoo IM at least to have random users attempt to add you, if you accept a chat bot will attempt to send you a link to their “webcam” or similar and if you click, you’ll probably get some kind of drive-by download infection.
The attack attempt I saw today is different. The virus hijacks the Yahoo Instant Message client and sends out a chat stream to people you already know on IM. So rather than seeing the obvious chat bot from a random user who’s just added you, it comes from someone you already know. Scary and dangerous.
Here’s a transcript of the chat script … I didn’t realise it wasn’t my friend until the link showed up. I bet many unsuspecting people do click through:
contact: you there?
contact: will you do me a quick favor and take an IQ quiz for a project im doing?
me: haha sure
contact: I need to see how many people out of my friends get over a 115.
me: what’s my prize?
contact: just go to http://nastytrojanvirus.com/?invitecode=dxk4infa79 and take the test.. if you do ill owe you big time.
me: yeah, don’t think I’m clicking that somehow
contact: please let me know what score you get. thanks so much
me: rest assured I won’t
contact: im going to go cook while you do it
me: what does a bot cook?
contact: BRB, let me know your score when im back!
me: bot bot bot
The link it sends appears to go to a slightly different domain each time (the first was to iqtestingkoia, the second to iqtestinghiki3)
It’s also interesting that the bot appears to both initiate chat sessions and respond to them. The first time I saw the attack attempt, the chat was initiated by the bot. But the second time I saw it, half and hour later, I initiated the chat session with a friend I just saw come online.
Anyone else seen this?