Forbidden features

It turns out the new cellphone that I got for Ottawa (Nokia 6275i) is technically capable of using any mp3 as a ringtone. Irksomely, Bell Canada has intentionally disabled that and other features, so as to force users to pay $3.50 or $4.00 a pop for using them. It’s possible to revert the phone to factory settings, but doing so requires buying a USB cable, downloading the software Nokia uses to program phones, and then updating your firmware in a way that will occasionally leave the phone as a worthless lump of plastic. Because it is a CDMA phone, rather than a GSM one, you cannot just download an unlock code and enter it manually. Another example of pointless crippling is how the phone will only store about 60 text messages, even when it has 15 megs of free space on it.

It’s just another example of how rarely digital rights management and related technologies actually benefit consumers. It also affirms the motto of Make Magazine: “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”

[Update: 25 November 2007] Yesterday night, I finally unlocked my phone using Diego. Now, it can use any MP3 as a ringtone and can run any Java application.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

8 thoughts on “Forbidden features”

  1. My phone (Sony Ericsson W810) does the same thing, but apparently Sony has a DRM encoder that you can use to make your own ringtones from any mp3. I don’t imagine that this was intentional on their part, because they don’t publicize its existence. I haven’t got around to downloading it yet, because the fucking link software isn’t backwards compatible with USB 1.0.

    I am becoming increasingly intolerant of Canada’s wireless telecom industry. It has basically no competition, no substantial regulation, and no incentive whatsoever to improve the infrastructure. We are dead last among industrialized nations in wireless penetration and our triumvirate of providers has no plans for a 3G network. Why invest in infrastructure when you’ve already got everyone by the balls?

  2. Aargh. I have the Sony Ericsson 750i and the message space thing still peeves me. The UK Orange network (my provider) send out the phones with their user guide instead of the manufacturer’s, removing much of the user instructions and replacing them with service terms and conditions sections.

    We have a lot of competition in the UK market (more than 7 providers) so that won’t fix your problems.

  3. I am also mystified and frustrated by the space-for-text messages thing. I can’t for the life of me see why it declares itself full with 80 text messages, while it has megabytes of free space for photos which I never take. The ring tone thing at least makes sense from the network’s perspective.

  4. Using Diego is no big deal, and you probably don’t need to flash your firmware.

    There are lots of options that you can change just by running the software and connecting the phone. You should be able to get the USB cable for about $10 on eBay.

  5. DRM Group Set To Phase Out “Analog Hole”

    eldavojohn writes “In yet another bid to make your life a little more annoying, our DRM overlords at the AACS Licensing Authority have released a new AACS Adopter Agreement. The riveting, 188-page PDF will inform you that — in the name of Digital Rights Management — there will be new limitations set on devices that decrypt Blu-Ray discs. HDMI already has the awesome encryption of HDCP between the device and the display unit. But Blu-Ray still has the Achilles heel of analog players that allow someone to merely re-encode the analog signal back to an unencrypted digital format. So if you have an analog HDTV, hang on to those analog decoders and hope they never break; by 2013 you won’t be able to buy a new one. Ars points out the inherent stupidity in this charade: ‘Particularly puzzling is the fact that plugging the so-called “analog hole” won’t stop direct digital ripping, enabled by software such as AnyDVD HD. And even the MPAA itself recommends using a camcorder pointed at a TV as a way to make fair use copies, creating another analog hole.’ And so the cat and mouse game continues. On that subject, DVD Jon’s legit company just brought out a billboard ad for his product doubleTwist next to Apple’s San Fransisco store. It reads, ‘The Cure for iPhone Envy. Your iTunes library on any device. In seconds.’ So while he’s busy taunting Apple, I’m certain there are others who might have some free time to look at Blu-Ray and the ‘uncrackable’ AACS.”

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