Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Nokia 5310 is not open-source friendly

OK, I have been posting some reviews and talking about my new Nokia 5310 phone. I am been generally positive about it; now I will point out some issues these phones have because they cater to corporate interests. Last night, after some aggravation, I was able to update the firmware in my Nokia phone.

The problem was this: My phone is a Red Telcel-branded Nokia 5310, with the Product Code "0558120". Well, the problem is that the latest firmware for this version of the phone is an old 5.xx firmware, which has problems with being compatible with >4gb memory cards and with random "white screens of death" while playing music.

The current firmware, 8.32 (as an aside, you can see which version of the firmware a Nokia phone is running by typing in "*#0000#" without the quotes), appears to have fixed the "white screen of death" problem and is compatible with up to 16gb microSDHC memory cards.

I had to change the phone's product code to be allowed to update my firmware. I don't suggest doing this, because if you're not careful you can brick your phone. There was an issue with the current version of the USB driver Nokia makes blocking the program I downloaded to change the product code, so I just uninstalled all of my Nokia Software and downloaded an older version of the USB driver without this lockout.

After trying a "EURO-C" (Europe section C, which seems to include Spain) product code which also hasn't updated the firmware, I found on a Spanish-language program the product code for the "AMER-L" (Latin America) version of the unbranded Nokia firmware, which version 8.32 is available for. The code is 0551710 for the red phone, 0551739 for the blue phone, and 0563632 for the pink phone. This firmware supports English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch (huh?), and French.

Once I did this, I was able to update the firmware to 8.32.

However, there was a problem. Since I changed my phone's product code, the games I legally purchased no longer worked, since they include DRM. The solution was easy: I just went on the 'net, did some Google searches, and got unlocked versions of all of the games I bought from various "file sharing" services. I also got a lot of games I have never bought, but my sense of morals makes it unethical for me to play and enjoy a game I haven't bought.

So far, I haven't gotten a white screen of death, and feel a lot more comfortable using the music player since I don't have to worry about it crashing any more. I can also, if I wanted to, get an 8gb or even a 16gb memory card for the phone, but will hold off for now. The problem is that the current batch of 16gb memory cards are what as known as "class 2" cards; they can only transfer 2 megabytes of data a second, which means it can take over an hour to fill up the memory card with files.

Toshiba has announced that they will start making "class 6" (6mb a second minimum transfer speed) 16gb microsdhc memory cards, but these cards are not going to to available until mid-2009 or so. So, I'll either get a "class 4" (4mb/second) 8gb card for $20, or just wait until next year.

Another issue is that the 5310 doesn't support Ogg Vorbis files. This was OK back in the days when corporate interests said "Oh, our CPUs don't have the horsepower to decode Vorbis streams", but since the 5310 does support AAC files, there's no reason for this phone to not support Vorbis, except it isn't a format as well-known by the suits. The advantage of Vorbis is the free auTuV encoder, which does a better job of encoding audio than FAAC, the only freely available AAC encoder (since this software is not as mature as the proprietary AAC encoders), and LAME, the best MP3 encoder (also freely available; not as good because of the limitations of the MP3 format).