Archive for the ‘Cellular phones’ Category

Going down the rabbit hole or 802.11r

If there’s one thing that will get under my skin and irritate me to no end, it’s a problem that I can’t figure out or fix, yet it seems I should be able to. Case in point is a situation I was in recently at work. Ever since implementing 802.1x authentication on our Wi-Fi this year, staff and students have been able to sign into the Wi-Fi without needing to know a network key or sign into captive portals or any other methods of connecting. WPA Enterprise was made for exactly that sort of situation, even though it does take quite a bit of work to get set up.

One staff member however could not connect to Wi-Fi no matter what we tried. We knew it wasn’t a username and password issue, but his Samsung Galaxy J1 Ace simply refused to connect. After entering credentials, the phone would simply sit on the Wi-Fi screen saying “Secured, Saved.” For the record, the J1 Ace is not that old a phone, but it came with Android 4.4.4 and has never been updated here in South Africa. Security updates also ceased quite a while ago. There is a ROM that I’ve seen out there for Android 5, but since I didn’t own the phone I didn’t want to take any chances with flashing firmware via Odin and mucking about with something that clearly was never supported here locally.

My first thought around the connectivity issue is that the phone had a buggy 802.1x implementation and couldn’t support PEAP or MSCHAPv2 properly. Connecting the phone to another SSID that didn’t use 802.1x worked fine, which indicated that the hardware was working at least. I gave up eventually and told the staff member that the phone was just too old to connect. He accepted this with good grace thankfully, but it was something that gnawed away at me, wondering what the issue was.

A few weeks ago, a student came to me wanting to connect to the Wi-Fi. Lo and behold, she had the exact same phone and we had the same situation as before. However, now I got frustrated and I was determined to find out what the problem was. Most of my internet searches came back with useless info, but somewhere somehow I came across an article that talked about how Fast BSS Transition had issues with certain phones and hardware. Fast BSS Transition is technically known as 802.11r and in a nutshell it helps devices to roam better on a network, especially in a corporate environment where you might be using a VOIP app that is especially sensitive to latency and delays while the device roams between access points. It’s been a standardised add-on to the Wi-Fi standards for a good few years, so a device from 2015 should have been just fine with supporting it!

Borrowing the staff member’s J1 Ace, I disabled the 802.11r and 802.11k options on the network. His phone connected faster than a speeding bullet it seemed! That adrenaline rush was quite pleasant, as I now finally knew what the issue was. I enabled 802.11k and the phone still behaved, which meant that the culprit was 802.11r. The moment that was enabled, the phone dropped off the network.

My solution to this problem was to clone the network in our Ruckus ZoneDirector, hide the SSID so that it’s not immediately visible and disable 802.11r for this specific SSID. Once completed, the teacher was connected and has been incredibly happy that he too could now enjoy the Wi-Fi connection again.

My theory is that some combination of wireless chip, chip drivers, Android version and potentially the KRACK fix on our network caused the J1 Ace to be unable to connect. It could be that while it does support 802.11r, when the KRACK fix has been installed on your network the phone cannot connect since it hasn’t been patched since before KRACK was revealed and now doesn’t know how to understand the wireless frames on the network post KRACK fix. Since the phone is never going to get any more support, the only answer is to run a network without 802.11r support for these kinds of devices.

It makes me angry that this kind of thing happens with older devices, this is also related to Android itself, but that is a topic for another post entirely.


Microsoft and Nokia

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago came the surprising but not totally unexpected news that Microsoft was purchasing Nokia’s handset division. Since the day Stephen Elop announced the partnership with Microsoft to run Windows Phone, many pundits had predicted that something like this would eventually happen. When the news broke, there were many snide comments of Trojan Horse being bandied around amongst other things.

Lots of comments lamented the sale, with people saying that if only Nokia had embraced Android or continued with Meego, they would have been in a much better state. I dispute these claims, and this is why:

  • In the Android world, Samsung is the 800lb gorilla in the room. Samsung ran early with Android, and this came back to reward them as they racked up huge sales of the Galaxy S and S2. It’s also tough to compete when Samsung itself pretty much makes every part needed in a phone. This vertical integration has killed or wounded just about every other competitor in and out the Android world. Even Nokia at their prime didn’t have this level of integration. Witness how every other company is fighting for scraps.
  • Meego was pretty and earned some very enthusiastic reviews. However, as Elop pointed out in his “Burning Platform” memo, it’s not so much about individual phones anymore as it is about platforms. Meego didn’t have a very large platform to start with, and in all honesty, Nokia didn’t have the financial muscle to make into a large platform. By the time Nokia switched, the Windows Phone platform had already started to pick up a nice head of steam, though it was still a bit player compared to Android and iOS. Without the apps that were popular on other platforms, Meego would have died a slow ignoble death. Look at BlackBerry, who chose to stick with their own new platform of BB10. That is what would have happened to Meego.

What I find very odd is all the people who would simply be happy with an iOS/Android duopoly in the phone world. That would simply lead to ultimate stagnation. The worldwide market is big enough to support 3 players, and Microsoft is a company who needs to be in mobile to help draw and retain customers to their entire ecosystem. BlackBerry is a faded star in the phone world, and their future increasingly looks like it will be either one of being sold, or broken up for various sub components.

There will be some interesting times ahead, no doubt. Microsoft needs to tread very carefully so as to not disrupt the steady growth of Windows Phone, thanks largely to Nokia’s Lumia phones. That being said, having the handset division as part of the mother ship now, Microsoft may be able to innovate quicker and churn out products even quicker. The handset division now has an effectively unlimited budget to work with, so expect greater marketing and hopefully even more wonderful phones.

Lastly, the Nokia mother ship itself frees itself of a division that was causing it to sink. While the company will now be a lot smaller than before, it frees itself to compete better with its NSN division and the HERE maps platform. Nokia becomes more nimble to move and continues to live on, having reinvented itself yet again.

Cell phone operating systems galore

Over the years, operating systems powering cellular phones have come and gone. I’ve been using a cell phone since 2003, so I’ve had a chance to see the market evolve and sometimes change more rapidly than I can keep track of.

To list just a few of the systems I know or have heard of: Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Windows Phone, Nokia’s Maemo, Meego (in conjunction with Intel) and various forms of Symbian, Samsung’s bada, Qualcomm’s Brew, Blackberry OS and numerous other simple systems for entry level phones.

At the moment the following are dead or have had their death announced: Maemo, Meego, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Blackberry OS (Blackberry 10 is not based on the existing OS.)

I’ve used some of these systems, so I will offer my brief opinion on them: Symbian was fantastic on a non touch screen phone. The interface was far better suited to keys than a touch screen, and no amount of polishing has been able to make it feel easy to use of a touch screen only device. Nokia made the right move to kill it off in my view. The code base was simply too mangled to easily move forward with new hardware and features.

Windows Mobile tried to combine too many features into devices that didn’t have the power to run those features. The interface was ugly, non touch friendly, but thanks to a stylus, you at least had pin point accuracy for certain things.

Blackberry OS felt far too cluttered for me on the few occasions I’ve had a chance to play with it. Like Symbian, I felt that there is too many sub menus, hidden menus and locations for settings that make it a chore to use. Here in South Africa, those that use them swear by them, but globally RIM is currently circling the drain.

I use iOS on my iPad and I think it’s a very mature and powerful platform. It has enough built in to make it useful, leaving everything else up to the App Store to let you customise your device with apps in your own way. That being said, I find the user interface a bit dated, with the static icons reminding me of Symbian. Still, it’s familiar, solid and easy to use.

I’ve not spent too much time playing with Android, though what I have again reminded me of Symbian in some respects. I can’t really comment further here.

I own a Windows Phone, which I love, but sometimes wish had more features. Things like being able to set up your MMS server settings, Bluetooth file transfer and so on. That being said, I love the Metro interface and how it presents info to you with a quick glance. I also find the larger tiles to be far easier to touch and navigate, but that’s my personal view.

Overall, the next year or so will prove to be a very interesting time for the mobile OS arena. iOS and Android will continue to slug it out at the top, while Windows Phone continues to grow quietly in the background. RIM, makers of Blackberry may not be around in a year’s time. Other minor operating systems will continue to fade away, ultimately reducing choice, but also confusion in the marketplace. Other than that, look for more explosive episodes of the Patent Wars, as almost everybody in the mobile industry sues someone else. Interesting times ahead indeed.

Quick test of WordPress on Windows Phone 7

Just testing the WordPress app on Windows Phone 7. So far so good 🙂

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

Categories: Cellular phones, Personal

My thoughts on the Nokia-Microsoft partnership

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment


Yesterday, the cellular phone industry was given a pretty good shaking by the news that Nokia will be using Windows Phone 7 in the future as their main OS. Such an idea must have seemed absolute insane to many people, given the fact that Nokia has been running on the Symbian OS since kingdom come, with Meego on the horizon eventually offering a much more modern system. I should point out that the rumours had been swirling for some time, so to me it wasn’t such a shock. Symbian will still be around, but the reality is that the platform has been put out to pasture by this news.

Thanks to the iPhone and Android ecosystems, Nokia has been on a decline for years now. Build quality in phones started slipping. Symbian, which worked brilliantly in phones with keypads, suddenly couldn’t cope with being a touch driven interface. The fairly small and useful Nokia PC Suite got replaced by the bloated Ovi Suite software, making certain functions frustrating to achieve. Nokia realised that Symbian wasn’t working, so decided to merge their fledgling Maemo Linux OS with Moblin, forming the Meego project. Meego certainly looks interesting, but it wasn’t developing at the pace Nokia needed. Every passing week, more and more Android phones were being sold.

In the same boat, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS went down the toilet. While it offered a ton of features and functionality, the OS itself was littered with history and legacy. While a resistive touch screen and stylus can have pin point accuracy, it’s not a fun method of navigating a phone in this day and age. Microsoft was eventually forced to wake from its stupor by the rise of Android and iPhone, to the point where they developed the stunning ,if still a little rough, Windows Phone 7 OS.

I’ve been fascinated by the reactions on the internet to the news of the partnership. There appears to be a small group that is pretty happy at the news and are happy that Nokia will survive. A much larger percentage however is doing the typical internet reaction at some piece of news: frothing at the mouth, calling for boycotts, writing inflaming comments, predicting the doom of Nokia and Microsoft, demanding that Nokia adopt Android instead etc etc.…

Frankly, I think that if WP7 lets Nokia get back to working on their hardware, it will be a huge blessing. I was a major fan of Nokia in the past, but their build quality has slipped over the years. I’ve owned 3 Nokia phones, with the N80 being the worst of the lot. My dad has the N97, my mom the 5800 XpressMusic. The N97 seemed like a great phone to get him at the time, but it has had serious amounts of issues over the past 2 years. Phone freezing, GPS useless, other software issues all mostly ruined a potentially great phone. The 5800 is behaving better, but the build quality feels really cheap and plasticky sometimes.

In turn, Nokia adopting WP7 will allow Microsoft to compete in markets they currently only have a vague/no presence in, or to offer much more services due to Nokia already having billing services in place, approval from content regulators and so forth. If developers buy into the vision, they will be able to bring their apps from the Ovi Store into the Windows Phone Marketplace, an exciting Market that is growing at a stunning rate. Granted, applications will need to be ported or rewritten, but in turn developers will need to spend less time in the future expending effort to cover 4-5 platforms.

In the end, some Nokia diehards are never going to accept WP7 and will move onto other platforms. Some of the technorati are going to bash whatever comes out, without even trying the software and hardware. In my view, it may hurt now in the short term, but in the long run, Nokia and Microsoft stand to possibly reshape the mobile landscape. Google has already started the trash talk, perhaps a sign that it is worried. Time will tell how this entire partnership works out, but for my end, I’m excited at the news. WP7 just got the recognition it deserves, and things can only get more interesting from here on out.

Marketplace for Windows Mobile

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Windows Mobile is no doubt a powerful platform, and it has been around for many years. As such, it has a huge software ecosystem of applications that have been developed over the years, but like everything else pre Apple iPhone App Store, there was no simple easy place to get these applications.

Enter Marketplace for Windows Mobile. Introduced with Windows Mobile 6.5 in October, the number of apps it offers has steadily grown, as has support for Windows Mobile 6 and 6.1. A web front end is also available for users to manage various aspects of the service through their pc’s.

I’ve found the service to work pretty well, it does what it needs to. However, there appear to be some quirks still, which hopefully will be resolved in the future. Not being able to install your apps to a memory card for example is a bit silly. Updates to applications also seem to be a bit hit and miss at the moment. A case in point is the Bing application from Microsoft themselves. An update was available from the menu in the application, but there’s no sight of it in the Marketplace yet.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that content seems to differ depending on which country you are in. If you are in the US, there are a ton of applications and games available, but for me in South Africa, there are only free and demo applications available. I think it is because Microsoft still need to set up methods whereby people can buy applications and games easily in each country.

Overall, I look forward to seeing how the service evolves over time. I hope that more and more content publishers come on board. There are tons of wonderful applications out there on the internet, but it is highly disorganised. If these people can contribute towards the Marketplace, it will quickly grow and become even more useful.

I’ve looked at the Ovi Store on my father’s Nokia N97, and while it has a lot more content, I’m not particularly impressed with its layout. It seems quite cluttered in comparison to the Marketplace.

I highly recommend that if you are a Windows Mobile user, to keep an eye on the Marketplace. It can only continue to grow from here.