Monday, April 20, 2009

Nokiagate: my response to some comments

Last week the Nokiagate issue exploded and got attention worldwide. After having read comments and discussions from different sites I must clarify some basic things.

Lots of people have wondered if the communications is encrypted or not. I have already answered this question very clearly, but I will do it again. Connection is encrypted.

Second difficult topic to understand seems to be how email works. To start the wonderful journey into mobile mail, read an old post of mine. Then think for a second what Nokia’s marketing department has tried to communicate for some time: smartphone is an old-fashioned name for a device that has a new name: multimedia computer. That’s the name for a small battery operated pocket sized computer with one special feature, ability to send data and voice over cellular network. Nice little multimedia computer doesn’t require special protocols to access web content (remember WML and WAP?), nor does it require special protocols to access your mailbox. During this year’s Mobile World Congress Nokia’s EVP Anssi Vanjoki admitted that he hates the word “smartphone” and would rather use word “computer”.

Many comments posed a question how mobile phone then could access email without sending credentials to Nokia; after all this case is about the mythical mobile mail, right? If you have a desktop computer made by Dell, do you have to send your credentials to Dell in order to read your email? What about your Fujitsu laptop, did you send your credentials to Fujitsu before email started to work? Of course you didn’t, but you think that in a case of mobile device that has to be done? Well, that's not true.

Also many people told me that this is just how push mail works in general and Blackberry in particular. They have actively forgotten that I was't talking about any “pushmail” solution but wanting to use standard protocols to access my mail, without any mobile buzzwords. Blackberry solution (and many others) include messaging proxy server that sits between your terminal and the email server, that’s fine. When user wants to access his mailbox, messaging proxy does its magic and connects to the email server with the user’s permission. In my case user connects directly to his own mailbox (after the credentials have successfully been sent to an undisclosed server) and no proxy is involved.

So, is it a big deal to send password to a 3rd party server, after all Barack Obama is a well-known Blackberry user and if that’s not a problem for him, is this really a problem for me? Honestly I don’t know about Obama’s email setup and neither do you, but I’m very sure that if somebody in his team someday discovers that his terminal is silently sending stuff abroad that wouldn’t be considered as yet another "these things just happen but our intention was good" case.



Anonymous said...

Hi Harri,

I'm a little late to the discussion as I just started using the new Nokia Email application recently to try out it's "push" feature specifically, knowing full well in advance that my credentials and passwords would have to go through their proxy for it to work properly. I can accept that.

What I can't accept, though, is that their program keeps "phoning home" whenever I'm near a wifi access point :( It doesn't matter that I explicitly told the application to only start when I MANUALLY turn it on. It'll open a wifi connection by itself, even when I don't want it to, and connect to their proxy server in Malta. For what? I don't know.

Here's another thing, whenever I log on to my hotmail account, which is what I'm using to test their service, it keeps asking me now to enter a captcha to make sure that I'm not a spammer/bot >_<

I was under the impression that Nokia had permission from Microsoft, and all the other well-established online email services they have in their database, to poll their email servers for thier push service prior to their beta launch. Now, I have doubts.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you and anybody else who might be wondering why their battery keeps getting drained a lot faster than normal now. By the way, I have an N95 (the original version), which already has lousy battery/power management features in the first place.

Harri Salminen said...


That's interesting information that should be carefully verified.

The "calling home" feature can be a strange problem in the application coexistence, like the PC Suite problem with my N96: if I have a remote drive configured to my device, connecting device to PC with PC Suite will force the remote drive to get mounted. After that phone starts to refresh the remote disk and does that until the cable is unplugged. The only way to use PC Suite is to first delete the remote drive configuration and then connect the cable.


Anonymous said...

Hi. It's me again. Just to follow up...

After playing around with the application some more, I've discovered that the only way to stop the program from continuosly polling their servers is to set it to "Go Offline" in the main options menu.

Originally, I didn't think that step would be necessary prior to exiting the program because when I exit an app, I expect it to... well... exit, including all the background processes it started.

I don't use PC Suite myself, but perhaps there's a similar setting to take a drive "offline" and not mount it?!?! That's kinda funny and strange behaviour from PC Suite, by the way LOL

Anyway, for those who still have problems with the non-stop polling, the other relevant settings you might need to change would be:

General->Application startup = "Manual"

When to sync->Sync while roaming = "Off"

Hope this'll help others.