Phone Hacking (7 years later)

Nearly 7 years ago, I first started hacking software on phones. This blog was started in part to track my interest in topics around mobile hacking, a desire that I’ve never given up on.

Amusingly enough, when I joined Nokia as an employee, I was able to actually find references to some of these early works as being important in the space of the Symbian Python developments. It was kinda cool to see my name in some PowerPoint presentation that had been put together 6 years before by someone I’d never met or even heard of.

But you’ll notice that since then, I’ve had a serious dropping off; there’s been a dearth of development in that space for a lot of years. The reason for this is simple: on the platform that I used the most for many years, development was a pain. Shipping applications to users was not possible, and as time went on, the number of people who even used the same OS or platform as I did was shrinking drastically, due to Nokia’s tiny marketshare in the US.

Up until two weeks ago, I had never owned a non-Nokia phone. Sure, when we were acquired by Nokia, I got an opportunity to use other phones — both to test out our software on them, and to compare how they succeeded and failed — but I never owned anything but a Nokia phone, from summer of 2003 when I got my first 3650, to April of 2010 when MetaCarta was acquired and I still had my N95 (with a 6600 in the middle).

That’s not true anymore, though.

I recently attended a Microsoft Windows Phone developer event, and I’m — almost 7 years later — hacking phones again. While there still isn’t anything quite as easy as Symbian Python — it’s really hard to beat something in a programming language I speak all the time, presenting a beautiful API to the widget sets that the platform makes available with almost no need for platform specific knowledge — the Windows Phone platform combines a strong toolkit, extremely broad set of documentation and examples, and another key thing that I never had in the Symbian world: the ability to get the applications that I write to users.

Nine days ago, just three days after getting Visual Studio installed in my Windows 7 VM, I was able to not only build, but deploy to my phone and upload to the Windows Phone Marketplace — where just a few days later, my app was available for all to download (well, at least everybody on Mango).

Windows Phone development is *fun*. The tools are helpful, intuitive, and a breeze to get started with. The documentation and support community is huge — building on top of one of the things Microsoft does best. And thanks to the developer event, I now own my first ever non-Nokia phone: an LG Quantum, won in a raffle among people who were able to build and demo an app in just a day at the Microsoft developer event.

While nothing can compete with Symbian Python for pure quick-hack ability — at least, nothing I’ve seen yet — the Windows Phone platform provides a great development ecosystem, with a strong community backing, and the ability to quickly and easily get together apps that do things. Once you do — not only to put them on your phone, but you can also get them in a store so everyone else can install them… and that’s just damn cool.

Many thanks to Joe Healy, and the whole MS Events team who were able to put together the Mango Boston event a couple weeks ago. It was pretty awesome to not only be able to learn about Windows Phone — but to be able to *do* Windows Phone development, and really get my hands dirty, and ship an app less than a week after I even got the dev tools installed on my system.

One Response to “Phone Hacking (7 years later)”

  1. Joe Healy Says:

    Great meeting you at the event. Even better is seeing you writing some apps. I’m lucky in my job in that I get joy when I see students succeed. Thanks for helping to make the boston event awesome.