Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nokia E61i

I own a Nokia E61i since last December and all in all I must say that it has been quite an agreeable experience. It is solidly build, has a small but usable keyboard, real multitasking, a large screen and a really nice browser which even support JavaScript. Recently I found out that it supports the SIP standard for Voice Over IP which integrates very nicely with many "open" commercial offerings. Using a software called JoikuSpot even turns your cell phone into a WiFi HotSpot, giving you almost config-free access to the Internet wherever you are (okay, only for http in the free version).

Maybe the weakest component (and incidentally one of the most important) is the messenger, and I like to elaborate a bit on the small weaknesses and nuisances of that piece of software. Nokia, if you're reading this, I politely ask you to consider fixing these things in the next update! Just do it. Pleeease!

Robustness

Generally, the phone is quite robust software-wise. It almost never locks up, and even if it does, you can usually still kill the program easily (How? Push the "Swirl" button for a few seconds, scroll down to the program and press the backspace key). However if there is one program which hands more often than others, it's the messenger.

Now, you would expect that having unstable connections is really part of the life of a cell phone. After all, it's a mobile device which means that it's position is constantly changing and reception may be quite unstable. Still, whenever the phone tries to connect but really can't, it decides that it's safer to turn off the automatic retrieval. I wonder if just waiting for few minutes wouldn't be a more reasonable alternative.

So if you can connect but something happens during the connect, the mail software also really likes to die in a number of less obvious ways. Sometimes it claims that it is still connected to the mailbox, but actually it isn't. If you start to read emails, they vanish. If you manually close the connection is closed, it sometimes helps but often it doesn't.

All in all, I know that IMAP is a complex protocol, but pleeease couldn't you try to make the error handling a bit more reasonable?

Certificates

The other big nuisance is that automatic retrieval only works when you have the certificate of the server. Now if you're working for a big company (which might be using Exchange anyway), which has paid enough money to get decently trusted certificates, everything's okay, but when you're working at a university, or try to sync emails from your own server, you're out of luck.

The situation might not be entirely bad if there would be some way to install missing certificates easily. For example in the dialog for untrusted certificates. I wonder why they chose not to allow that... .

So how do you get the certificate on the phone? First of all, you have to obtain the certificate. If you're lucky, there is some web page where you can download the certificate. Now you only have to pray that the web server is setting the correct mime type and everything's good.

If not, you have to get the certificate. After some trial-and-error I found that the Internet Explorer (but not Firefox or Thunderbird) allow to safe a certificate to disc. So again if you're lucky, the same certificate is used for secure web connections and you can safe that certificate.

Well, so how do you get the certificate on the phone? Putting the certificate somewhere on the phone using the file explorer won't work, because the phone doesn't recognize certificates in it's own file browser. So either you've to mail it to you (saying one more time that yes, I want to connect to that server), again hoping that the mime types will be set correctly, or you have to put it somewhere on the web from where you can then download it.

To cut a long story short: Nokia, please let us install certificates whenever we encounter an untrusted one.

Hyperlinks

Finally, one last nuisance is that (at least on the E61i, other versions of Symbian might have only one browser for Internet and WAP) if you click on a link in a message, the WAP browser is opened, not the Internet browser. Which really doesn't make any sense.

Nokia, will you help me out?

Update: If you're running Linux, you might try the following "one-liner" to get the certificate from a server
echo "quit" | openssl s_client -connect server-address:server-port |\
ruby -e 'flag=false; readlines.each {|x| flag ||= (x =~
/BEGIN CERT/); if flag then puts x end; flag &&= !(x =~ /END CERT/) }' |\
openssl x509 -outform DER >cert.der
Replacing "server-address:server-port" with your server information, of course.

Update: Even if you install the server certificate on the phone, it may still be that the signing certificate is unknown. Using the Internet Explorer, you can save all those other certificates as well, and you have to install them all to make the phone accept the server certificate. I haven't yet figured out how to do this with openssl, though... .

1 comment:

Marcus said...

Thanks for pointing me to the certificate solution. That was always a pain.