Friday, March 28, 2008

Security is all the rage these days...

...and people just love to talk about it, although they don't have a single clue.

I recommend you read this article (and the comments) over at All About Symbian. The article is written by a guy who has no knowledge about computer security, but has made it his life's mission to claim that Symbian OS is secure, as in completely unbreakable. Not that he actually has any knowledge to back it up. He just assumes that as there's a security system and there hasn't been any dangerous malware in the wild yet, it's secure (whatever that would mean, in an absolute sense, in a system that just oozes with connectivity and consists of millions of lines of code). Because Symbian told him so, and they should know, I guess.

Now, the case is complicated a bit by the fact that it has recently been proven that S60 phones can be hacked. It's not a case of dangerous malware. It's another aspect of Symbian that has been hacked. But apparently, if you have to be an "uber-geek" (have a look in the mirror sometime!) to hack your own phone, it's not a real breach of security. And well, it seems that if a vulnerability in a security system is discovered by an amateur, it's not a real problem.

This guy's been doing this for a long time, because he's a fan, just like the Michael Jackson fans who know that Michael Jackson would never do anything improper with a child, because he writes such wonderful songs (oh, and he's a married man). Now and then I've been thinking of putting on my black hat and come up with something nasty, just to shut him up. But you know, he's just some uber-geek in Britain, so why would I care?

The sad truth is probably that the only reason why no real hacker has bothered to hack Symbian yet, is that it's such an incredibly unsexy platform to work with. That's its most important security feature. The iPhone's webkit based browser was easily hacked, so no one should be surprised if that could be used as an entrance to S60 phones as well. And while the browser doesn't have a full set of capabilities, everyone in the know should know where to start looking for local exploits to escalate their privileges. I'm not telling anyone to do this, but it would be a bit fun if someone did it, just to see what mr. Litchfield would have to say about it. I guess in his view, it wouldn't be a real problem if it didn't empty his bank account, and if it did, I guess it would be the bank's fault, rather than Symbian's.

And the stuff that some people write in the comments... Isn't it damn easy to have strong opinions about things that you're clueless about?

Rant mode turned off for now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mobile phone market shares in the USA

I was under the impression that Nokia sold almost no phones in the USA, when someone told me that they actually sell a lot of phones there. I tried to find some numbers, but couldn't, until I suddenly stumbled on this article today, with the following listing (Q3 2007):

Motorola: 31%
LG: 17%
Samsung: 16%
Nokia: 11%
Sanyo: 4%

So Nokia do actually sell quite a lot of phones in the USA, although 11% is a bit pathetic, compared with their worldwide market share of around 40%. Finding Motorola on top isn't a surprise, people prefer to buy local products, so Americans buy Motorola, Swedes buy Sony-Ericsson and I suppose most Finns buy Nokia. (Now, I'm sure that quite a large a portion of these phones are branded as Sprint or AT&T, which means consumers have no idea where they're "made".)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A peek inside the N-Gage first access SIS file

I published an article over at NewLC, describing my observations from unpacking the first access N-Gage SIS file. If you're a Symbian nerd, chances are you'll find it interesting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick OpenMoko update

When you're too lazy to write yourself, you can always link to other people's blogs. Marcin Juszkiewicz provides a quick rundown of the main OpenMoko happenings during the last year. Sometimes, when you're in the middle of things, you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to see that you're actually making good progress. It seems to me like a lot's happening with OpenMoko. The blog post reads like a postcard from a better world, where people help each other, instead of competing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First impressions of the new N-Gage platform

I finally got around to trying out the new N-Gage platform today. The First Access package is only available to N81 users, but the "protection" was very weak, so I could try it out although I don't have an N81. My primary interest wasn't in the actual games, but in the user experience of using the platform, use N-Gage Arena and install games, like a typical user would do it, ie. on the phone itself. (It might come as a surprise to some (engineers like me), but the process of downloading a file, using the web browser on a PC, and transferring the file to the phone, is way too complicated for most users.)

After installing the SIS package (which takes 20-30 button presses or so, because of the irritating S60 installer and the fact that there are several embedded SIS files in it), I fired up the N-Gage app. At first I assumed it was a j2me midlet, because of the slow startup and the sluggish UI, but after some further investigations I'm not so sure. Anyway, it takes a good 10 seconds or so to start, which really doesn't give you a good first impression. They've tried throwing in some animations in the UI, to make it look cool, but it looks quite cheap. The graphical design looks almost decent, but doesn't look as if it had been designed by professionals, but more like something that might have been impressive if used in a C-64 demo.

Anyway, I registered an account at N-Gage Arena, which was surprisingly painless. They've done a good job here, and it should pay off, because this is not a good place to scare off potential customers. Browsing the available games is also quite a pleasant experience. There's not all that much information about the available games, but who needs that when there are free trial versions of all the games? This also seems like a very good idea to me, and should be a much more clever business decision, than doing it the way the operators do it, and just try to squeeze money from their customers with cheap movie licenses. Nokia might not be the coolest and sexiest company in the business (just look at their phones, hehe), but there's a good reason why they're so successful, and I'm afraid the best word to describe it might be "innovation" (sorry about that, I'll promise never to use that word on this blog again). Or just good engineering? Possibly.

The whole N-Gage platform is very well thought out, and I believe that by finally making games available to customers in a simple way, that isn't bound to piss them off, this could be a new start for the whole mobile games business. It will of course depend quite a bit on the actual games as well, but what I've seen so far looks good, and it seems that they've managed to put together a nice mix of casual games and games that should appeal more to typical gamers. The last group of people might not be impressed by the idea of using their phones, instead of their PSP:s or DS:es, to play games, and the input capabilities of the phones are quite horrible, but I'm guessing it's just a question of time. Nokia are good at long-term planning. They didn't give up on the idea of the phone as a gaming device just because the original N-Gage wasn't as successful as they had hoped. It wasn't a bad idea, it just wasn't very well implemented.

(I'm of course also planning to have a closer look at the games that are available, at the N-Gage Arena web site and at purchasing games. Hold your breath!)