Occam's RAZR: surviving modernity

As you may have guessed, my small rant about River Mini was just a part of a bigger story. The story about an overwhelming marketing-driven mass amnesia disguised as technology evolution, that tries to, and in many cases successfully does, wipe out the whole layers of the original Internet culture as well as the ways to access it. I decided to write it after reading some BS articles about flip phones comeback, role of the old Web, obscure sites and so on. Too many thoughts have been circulating in my head about all this, so it’s time to write them off.

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How to disable WiFi in EcoFlow River Mini and similar portable power stations

Once again, it has been ages since my recent post, and once again I’m writing here from a completely new reality I have to live in. My country is at war and I’m stuck somewhere in between my home city which is being heavily bombed and the border I cannot cross simply because of being unlucky to be born here with Y chromosome and being aged 18 to 60 and not having a diplomatic passport. Anyway, I live in a place that at least allows me to experiment with alternative energy sources, so I got a bunch of solar panels and some ways of storing this energy, including this little guy, EcoFlow River Mini.

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Opus Spreadtrum

It’s been like an eternity since I last wrote anything here. I won’t go into the details of why, but maybe blogging just isn’t for me. Probably because my hobby is the area where code speaks for itself. However, sometimes an interesting case emerges where you just can’t simply show the code, you feel the need to explain the whole story behind it. This story is about dumping Unisoc firmware. This story is about the project I had to complete in order to finally readback the flash memory of Philips Xenium E111 whose codes were a mystery for me and whose firmware was nowhere to be found. And this story is something I want to share.

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Got 3 cents on your phone? That might be enough

Here’s an interesting case that most probably, in some compressed form, will go in my upcoming Boxless zine issue (the first one is ready but not published yet), but I never thought I’d talk about such things in 2020. Here it is: I found an abandoned SIM in one of my phones. The SIM is clean (I mean, the number hasn’t been exposed to spammers and scammers) and active well until middle of the next year but it only has around 3 US cents (if converted from our local currency) on the balance. The SIM is from a carrier I never use normally (for different reasons), but it just so happened I actually have plenty of free unopened SIMs from this carrier in my drawer. Obviously, all our GSM carriers now don’t allow making normal calls if the balance is lower than $0.3 or so, and there’s not much I could do, I thought. But the idea to refill the card I never use in the everyday life was not so pleasant for me, so I decided to start experimenting and remembered that there is one type of numbers that can be called for free in our country, even from GSM…

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Cache injection: an old hack or a new page in the KaiOS jailbreaking history?

Life is definitely full of surprises sometimes. I’m going to talk about a method that allows to safely jailbreak (not root though) any KaiOS device - and by jailbreaking, I mean enabling the way to install third-party apps, to use the Developer menu under Settings - Device section, and to enjoy unrestricted WebIDE access to the system processes and allowing to install application packages in an autonomous fashion with utilities like OmniSD.

Any KaiOS device? Sounds too good to be true. Well, this method by itself really works for any phone - no strings attached, but the caveats start appearing when you try to apply it to a particular device. This is what most of the article will be about.

But before we start, let me make one thing perfectly clear: this post, as well as this whole blog, is not about ready-made solutions. It’s about fundamental research and occasional personal rants. So, if you’re looking for a way to jailbreak or root a particular device, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you’re willing to find out more about the inner workings and the tech behind them, then read on.

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Long live Chinese OEMs, part 2

You know, I had to take a break, and from this blog as well. A lot happened in my life for last 6 months, but I had enough time to rethink a lot of stuff. Also, I got involved into many side-activities. For instance, I started learning Esperanto (still far from perfect to just switch my posts to it), wearing a fedora hat (and installing a Fedora Silverblue distro onto my Xiaomi laptop) and — one of my biggest new activities — got into 3D printing. This stuff is amazing, and probably I’ll write a post dedicated to it someday. But today, I’m going to cover another topic which, despite all the change around me, still remains my primary passion…

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Protect those who serve

As we all well know, domain name is one’s primary identity in the modern Internet. It can be associated with your nickname, your real name, your trademark, your organization, your hobbies, your pets etc. And of course, one has to be serious about own domain names. However, I’m not going to discuss what I like and dislike about current worldwide DNS system today. I’m going to tell you about one thing that happened yesterday to the DNS registrar/provider I have been using for quite a long time…

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On attitude, part 3

Sometimes I ask myself: “What da heck is wrong with all these people?” When you try your best as a community leader, when you try to be the most tolerant and friendly to everyone, when you try spreading the knowledge corporations don’t want anyone to have, when you entrust most passionate and talented people with the right to speak on behalf of the whole society you founded, when you put the common above the private… then sometimes you get backstabbed from the ones you trusted the most. This makes you wonder whether the chosen org structure was correct in the first place. And not so long ago, I realized the full need to rethink my own approach to this when something unexpected happened when I finally managed to return to the game…

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Either Qual, or Comm

We already started living in quite a dystopian world. Think of it: almost everyone has a device with main CPU or at least baseband chipset produced by one of the following vendors: MediaTek, Qualcomm, Spreadtrum aka Unisoc (Tsinghua Unigroup which also now owns RDA Semiconductors), Huawei (which owns HiSilicon brand), Intel and - in especially lucky/retro cases - Infineon or Texas Instruments. Everything else is either so small-scale and/or obsolete that it doesn’t deserve attention. I deliberately left out Apple since their basebands are either based upon Qualcomm or - more recently - upon Intel, so they, as usual, have no own development in this area and can be excluded from the list.

So, in total, we now have 7 influential baseband vendors, 2 of which are already almost forgotten. Among the remaining 5, MediaTek and Unisoc rule in the low-budget area, Intel and Huawei control limited amount of brands, and almost every other flagship and mid-budget device, as well as most currently sold low-budget KaiOS devices, are operated under Qualcomm. Not to mention every CDMA1x-capable phone in the world, excluding some recent Huaweis. Effectively making the ones who understands and exploits Qualcomm radiomodules the masters of the current world order.

Can we come a bit closer to this mastery? I genuinely don’t know but we certainly can try…

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8110 pwned once again but this is just the sTARt

This day is a landmark I’ve been looking forward to since buying both my Nokias 8110 4G from our local online store. No, I still don’t have the Firehose loader/programmer binary with a correct signature but I’ve discovered something no less wonderful instead. And I got lucky that I managed to do that before my 6-week business trip to another edge of the Earth, which just happens to be scheduled for the coming weekend, because 8110 is not so usable there.

But let’s get straight to the core of things…

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On attitude, part 2

Before I continue with anything in this blog, let me make something perfectly clear…

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Plumbers don't wear ties, or A phantom menace in common things

You know, I decided to take a break from the #hacktheone effort. Despite its apparent simplicity, it’s actually very time-consuming and nerve-draining. I’ll definitely return to it someday. But as of now, I focused on a much more fundamental thing affecting every mobile user…

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Just wow

You can’t get bored with Nokias. That’s what I know for sure now. Because after all seemingly successful steps, the strategy suddenly has to be completely redefined once again…

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Okay, Nokia, boot me up!

So, after all the preparations in the previous part, we can actually look at the partitions. Well, not quite outright…

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Another approach

As you already know, the previous part was a complete failure. And there are not that many attack vectors left, actually. And we still have an unlocked bootloader. However, it seems like the project goals have to be redefined. By the way…

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How deep the rabbit hole is

As Linus Torvalds rightly said in LKML,

Theory and practice sometimes clash. And when that happens, theory loses.
Every single time.

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Starting point for Nokia 1

As promised, I’m starting the “Hack The One” cycle. And the first chapter consists of the analysis of what people already have found out about its internals.

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On being realistic

You can’t surround yourself with illusions all the time. Someday, you have to face reality. And do you know what the current reality is? You can find Nokia 216 in every store, you can find Nokia 1 in most stores, but you can find Nokia 8110 4G absolutely nowhere.

As I already said, I’m not a whiner type but since I started this blog I want to write the information that can be not only shared and spread out, but also practically used. And we can’t deny the fact that while Chinese MTK-based OEMs are different for every country, MTK-based Nokias are pretty much the same across the world. This is the advantage I’m going to leverage to the full extent.

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On attitude

Last day, “amazing” news had struck me once again. A new app emerged in official KaiStore.

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Requiem for a platform

I got Nokia 216 recently. Just for experiments. Very nice phone, very durable and fast. And since it’s based on MT6260 (and not the later cut-off MT6260A and MT6261), it even supports J2ME.

Well, J2ME (don’t tell me it’s called JavaME, it will always remain J2ME for me) is quite slow there but it’s fully supported. The real problem is… Development tools aren’t.

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