Friday, November 03, 2006

And Herrrre's GMail for Mobile!!

Google has, at long last, launched a Java application, which is basically a client for GMail. Unfortunately, there's no name. Let's call it the Client.

The Client can be downloaded by going to The server automatically detects your phone model & the resulting page has a link to the version right for your phone. You just click on this link and the installation begins soon. It is light (112 kB) & installs pretty quickly. Then you just go to the menu and start the Client.

True to Google's reputation in User Interfaces, the Client has a beautifully slick UI, with pleasant colours and smoothed-out widgets. Further, it mimics the GMail UI closely. You can see all the conversations as conversations, which can be expanded (wow!). Mail search is just a click away. Hotkeys all along. You can even tweak your GMail settings from here, which is a big boon (remember, the mobile site for GMail won't let you do it). They say you can also see attachments such as pictures, documents & PDFs, but I haven't tried that out.

The best feature of the Client is the speed. The Client is fast. Period. Complete and real relief from having to go through a good number of web pages just to see a few mails. People used to going to the GMail website from the phone (like me) will clearly notice the difference.

A small problem though - it doesn't let you save the username & password settings. So, you have to type it everytime. This is pretty painful on a cellphone. But I guess that's just it.

So, I would recommend everyone to just go ahead & enjoy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Two Useful Tools for Series 60

Here are two very useful tools when it comes to Symbian Series 60 smartphones, both by the same author Petteri Muilu:

  1. AutoLock is an automatic keypad locking application, a feature conspicuously lacking from Series 60 phones. Works nicely with Nokia 6630. You can set the delay for which it should wait from a small front-end. Delay can be set in minutes:seconds. Although, I have wondered many times who would want that sort of granularity. A very handy tool, nevertheless.
    • One drawback, though. Because keypad lock is a feature intended to be used in very simple phones, which are not multi-tasking, the keypad gets locked on any screen in any application. Sometimes annoying if you expect the screen not to change for about 15 seconds (like when browsing the web over GPRS).
  2. S60Zip is a Zip archive manager. It can open/uncompress archives, compress files into PKZip compatible archives. It can also manage archives from messages & send archives via Bluetooth/e-mail. A very cool tool if you're using your smartphone at even half its power. Has a very familiar Archive manager UI, which adds to the usability. Oh, and yes, it's available in five languages (English, Finnish, French, Russian & Italian).
Personally, I feel tools like this score much more over elaborate software products which do little more than give you a kick of using something hi-tech. These two, along with previous tools listed on this blog such as MGTalk and Raccoon are standing testimony.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Google Talk for Java Phones

A few days back, I came across MGTalk, which is a Jabber client supporting some of the features in Google Talk. After trying it out, I found it a very convenient tool when being away from a connected computer. Of course, you need GPRS - or some other data connectivity - on your phone.

It's a great product, even in early stages of the cycle (current version 0.2.2). It supports SSL connections, autoconnect & re-connect functionality, friend-list (roster) management, status management. Even smileys; that was quite a nice add-on. It's written for Java MIDP 2.0.

The installation is a breeze. You just get the application jar & JAD files on your phone and open them using your application installer. In case of Symbian Series 60 phones such as Nokia 6600, 6630, all of this amounts to simply selecting & clicking the jar file. All you do after the installation is just add your Google Talk username & password when adding an account & connect. You're on Google Talk!!

The project page at SourceForge gives some nice screenshots. The smileys are beautiful, the application stores chat history while it runs, & what's more, you get GMail notifications. All alerts are accompanied by a classic telephone ring, which won't let you miss anything.

A couple of downsides: it's not very stable when sharing the GPRS connection with others, such as the web browser. And when I tried to install it on multiple locations (memory cards), that didn't work very well. It survived on only one of the locations. Oh, and there's one more - it's not a signed application, causing some annoying pop-ups on Symbian phones.

All in all, a cool product which comes in very handy many times. Just can't wait to see how it turns up in the 1.0 release.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A website in my pocket

Thanks, The Yearling for covering my antics with mobsites first.

A few months back, Nokia Research Center achieved something that was a near-dream-come-true experience for enthusiasts like me. They actually managed to port the apache web server to Symbian Series 60!! Not only did they not stop here, but they packaged it with a "connector" of their own making which makes it possible to host a website (a mobsite) on a cellphone like the Nokia 6630. This is what they call Raccoon.

The possibilities they suggest are numerous:
  • You could simply browse a friend's mobsite & click a link to ask him - no, let's be politically correct - ask "her" to take a photo of her surroundings. Supposing that she is open to the idea of you prying into her whereabouts, you could actually get a picture of her at the city market, say. Not cool for privacy freaks, but then your friend can deny the request anyway.
  • You could simply browse the friend's mobsite & click on another link to get her location. Now this is a bit more dangerous, this doesn't ask for confirmation from your sensitive friend. Turn it the other way round, a great tool for parents to track their teenagers.
  • You could send the friend a message directly in her SMS inbox via the mobsite, which looks & feels just like an SMS. Gives her the SMS alert, too.
  • You could send the friend a message on her phone screen directly.
  • You could browse your friend's phone for phone numbers, messages among other things from the comfort of your web browser window.
With the advent of better phones & faster connectivity (and based on what we already have here), here are some future applications that come to mind:
  • Streaming: You could let people stream songs & videos on your phone from your mobsite. Digital Rights will play a part here, but there's no harm in assuming that you are a good, law-abiding citizen of the world, is there?
  • Locating: You could host a mobsite which gives a continuous update on the traffic situation/parking lots in the area you're in. Somebody who wishes to reach you, just opens your website & plans her route accordingly.
  • Tracking: If you own a courier business, your express delivery personnel could be equipped with small mobsites of their own, which could work as package tracking websites for the customers. Although I'm not sure if anyone would be that eager to track a package.
    • The customers could also get photos of where the delivery guy is right now. A picture is better than a thousand words.
  • Advertising: You could have a mobsite that has a blog, or a personal page, that will have advertisements from businesses near you, wherever you are. The more popular your mobsite, the more you get paid for the advertisement space. This may not be content based; any business in your vicinity could put an ad on your mobsite. Ads will change as you move around.
Of course, we're some way from bringing some of these applications into reality. The clear challenges are network bandwidths & processing power. But Raccoon is most certainly a great start of an entirely new aspect of the web.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Security Certificates on a Nokia 6630

Maybe on other Series 60 phones, too. This post may seem a bit long, but believe me, it takes all of about 5 minutes to do it.

Symbian Series 60 phones have a strange way of reacting to certificates offered by websites which are not one of those pre-installed in the phone. The phone pops a message saying "This site has sent an untrusted certificate. Continue anyway?". The user has to manually click Options & select Continue. They can view the details at the most, but that's it. This happens every single time a secure exchange is being made. Believe me, very, very annoying.

So, I was trying for a really long time to install new certificates to my Nokia 6630. It turned out to be extremely simple, but not intuitive at all. This post and some experimentation was what led me to it. The user's manual says nothing about this & the default certificate management application doesn't have an option to install a new certificate.

Here's how to do it:

You'll need: one Nokia 6630 phone, the DKU-2 (USB) cable or bluetooth connectivity & one Windows PC.

  1. Get hold of the certificate you want to install.
    • For example, this is the certificate used by GMail for its POP access.
    • Various commonly used Root CA (Certification Authority - such as Verisign, GeoTrust) certificates are available for download on the CA websites.
    • All common browsers provide functionality to install a new certificate being sent by a website you're accessing. Browsers like Internet Explorer (IE) let you export these installed certificates, too. So, if you're looking at a self-signed certificate, just install it in IE & export it.
  2. Make sure that the certificate is in the DER encoded binary X.509 format (.cer file). If you're not sure, in Windows you could import it through IE and export in this format.
    • If the certificate is in the Base-64 encoded X.509, the phone just treats it as a normal note & you can't do anything with it. The format is important.
  3. Transfer the certificate to a folder on the phone using the USB cable or Bluetooth software.
  4. Open this folder from Organizer -> File Manager. Click to open the certificate file.
  5. The phone tells you that this is an untrusted certificate & then shows you the certificate. Click on Save.
  6. It asks you for what purposes do you want to use the certificate for. These are called Trust Settings. Select Internet and click OK.
    • You may want to use it for something else, such as signed software installation. In that case, select the appropriate trust setting.
  7. Confirm once that the trust settings are set properly through Tools -> Settings -> Security -> Certificate Management.
Allright!! You're set to go. Whenever you visit a website which uses the certificate you just installed, you get no more annoying popups. Just a clean, click-free website.

Update 06/01/2009

Just to answer a question posed by Ivan in comments, if you only have a base-64 encoded X.509 certificate, here's how you convert it (using Windows, I'm afraid):

  1. Go to Windows Control Panel and open Internet Options (you can also open this from Internet Explorer's Tools -> Options menu).
  2. Go to the Content tab and click on Certificates.
  3. The Certificates window has a button named Import... Click on this and import your base-64 encoded certificate.
  4. The certificate will now be visible in one of the tabs - most probably the one you had open when you imported it.
  5. Now select your certificate and click on Export...
  6. Once inside this Wizard, just go through it selecting DER encoded binary format, when asked.
  7. Locate the exported certificate file and you're done.