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Hacking Your Cellphone With Linux

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 6 Oct 2005

Applies to:

  • SUSE Linux Professional
  • Novell Linux Desktop

Cellphones are one of those commodities that no one can live without these days. They can take pictures, send email, browse the internet, play games, play music, and, oddly enough, we can even use them to make phone calls. What if you could connect your SUSE Linux machine into your cellphone? You could back up your wallpapers, pictures, music, appointments, sms messages, and all the contact information stored in your phone. Is this hard? It really isn't. I'd like to show how I did this. It may help you in connecting your phone up to your SUSE box.

A cellphone is a little different than your normal USB printer or mouse, so I had to do a little extra research. First, I decided to gather some information about my phone. So, I headed on over to to get the details of my phone. I have an LG VX-6100.

Next, I wanted to make sure that I could connect to my phone from my SUSE machine. After a few minutes of searching, I found out about a slick application called bitpim. I browsed the bitpim website for a few minutes, and found that my phone was supported by the application. I also found that they had notes about how my phone worked with bitpim. While I was on the bitpim website, I downloaded the latest version for Linux.

I had a phone, a computer, and some software to make them play together. Next, I needed a cable.

My cellphone provider is Verizon, so I headed to a local dealer. I asked if they had any kind of data cable to connect an LG VX-6100 to a desktop computer. The salesperson pointed me to the office data kits. I was delighted to see that they did have an appropriate kit for my phone, and that it had the cable I sought. So, about $28.00 later, I was headed back home with a data cable. Half of that cost was probably to pay for the CDs that were included in the kit. Unfortunately, they were for a substandard platform, so I had a couple of nice, shiny, expensive coasters. As a little sidenote, once upon a time, I installed their software and used it on a Windows machine. In my opinion, the bitpim software offers quite a bit more than what I got from the Verizon CDs.

Alrighty, time to play. First, let's take care of the bitpim software. Installation is just a handful of clicks, as explained in a short article I wrote awhile back. Now, let's get all of the hardware connected.

I stuck the USB end of the data cable into my SUSE machine. I then plugged the other end of the cable into my cellphone. My trusty SUSE system found the phone and presented me with a modem configuration prompt:

I just clicked NO, because I don't want to use it as a modem.

Next, I looked through the K Menu to find bitpim. I couldn't find it, so I added it manually. Then, I used it to run bitpim (note that you can also run it from the commandline just by executing the bitpim command). A small error box came up, in which I just clicked the OK button. I was then presented with a configuration dialog:

In the PHONE TYPE drop-down, I selected my phone, the LG-VX6100. For the COM PORT field, I clicked the BROWSE button, and was presented with another dialog box. In this box, under the AVAILABLE PORTS section at the top, I saw a reference to the manufacturer of my phone, so I selected that entry. I looked down into the lower pane, where it said, "This port is likely to be your phone. The port is available and can be selected."

With that, I clicked OK and was taken back to the initial configuration screen. In the PHONE TYPE drop-down, I had my phone selected. In the COM PORT box, I now had what looked like the location of my phone:

I then just clicked OK. Since it was the first time I had run BitPim, the help came up with a guided tour. This is quite a useful feature for new users:

After reading that fine manual thoroughly, I closed the help and was at the main window of BitPim. To get started, I go to the DATA menu, and click GET PHONE DATA:

A small window appears asking me what information to load from the phone and how to load it. I just check the boxes next to the information I want to pull off the phone. For demonstration purposes, I will retrieve everything. There are two other columns. One is titled ADD, and the other is titled REPLACE ALL. This is to be read as, "When the data is pulled down from the phone I want to add it to the data already on the computer." and "When the data is pulled down from the phone I want to replace the data already on the computer." respectively. I usually just set everything to REPLACE ALL. I'm now ready to click OK:

Bitpim then begins retrieving the data from off the phone, giving you a play-by-play report in the status bar:

When it's finished, bitpim displays a window with all of the contact information "so you can confirm its actions" as it states at the top. Note that I have blurred some of my data so as to protect the guilty:

I just accept the defaults and click OK. When the bitpim interface appears, it goes straight to the TODAY tab. This displays a report of calls, incoming and missed:

Ironically, the PHONEBOOK tab displays all of the contacts that I have saved into my phone, along with all of their data:

If I go to the WALLPAPER tab, it displays all of the pictures I have taken with the phone, along with some images that came already on the phone:

The RINGERS tab shows the midi files I have on my phone that I can use as ringers:

The CALENDAR tab shows all of the events that I have put in my phone (which is currently none, but you get the idea):

The MEMO, TODO, and SMS tabs are all what you think they would be. The MEMO tab shows memos, the TODO tab shows tasks, and the SMS tab shows SMS messages. I will not display these tabs here. However, the CALL HISTORY tab shows the Incoming, Outgoing, and Missed calls that have taken place on my phone:

There is quite a variety of things that can be done with my phone, at least. With most of this stuff, excluding TODOs and CALENDAR items, I can modify it and send it back up to the phone. This means that, since my wife has the same exact phone, I can upload my pictures, contacts, wallpapers, and ringers to her phone. Conversely, I can also send her data to my phone. This makes it very economical for us to exchange information without having to pay add-on fees to send this stuff through the provider's network.

This is one of the many examples of how one can use SUSE Linux to his advantage. My only cost was the phone and the cable. The software was free, and it runs on a really nice platform: SUSE Linux. If you want to connect to your phone and modify ring tones, contacts, and wallpapers, you can certainly do it on SUSE.

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