Editing from a Linux PC the phone book (contacts list) in an Android phone

A mobile phone stores contacts in the phone itself and/or on the SIM. Over the years, the phone book on my SIM became cluttered with duplicate entries, inconsistently-named contacts, and so on. I decided recently to tidy up the phone book, and looked for a way to do it from Linux.

Now, the last time I tidied up my phone book was back in 2003 when my SIM was in a Sony Ericsson T68i. These days I’m using the same SIM in an Android smartphone: the HTC Desire. Back then I used a shareware application called Mobile Navigator on a laptop running Windows XP. So, naturally, I thought it would be possible to do something similar from a PC running Linux.

An indirect method of editing a phone book in an Android phone is recommended in many Web forums. The advice is to synchronise the phone’s phone book with GMail on your PC, edit the contacts in GMail on the PC and then the contacts will be updated in the phone when the phone next synchronises with GMail. That is all very well, but I don’t want to import my phone contacts into GMail and thus have them stored in ‘The Cloud’, plus I don’t see why I should be forced to do that just to make it easier for me to tidy a phone book in my phone. So I set about searching for an application to do the job.

My search turned up three applications that appeared to enable a user to edit the phone book (phone and SIM):

1. Gammu (CLI) and Wammu (GUI front-end), FOSS with versions for both Linux and Windows.

2. MOBILedit!, a closed-source commercial product for Windows.

3. MyPhoneExplorer (Version 1.8.1), closed-source ‘donationware’ for Windows, recommended in various forums and that has been used with WINE in Linux. Not only does MyPhoneExplorer allow you to edit the phone book, it also provides a host of other features such as: viewing the phone’s call logs, messages, hardware status, files and applications; sending messages via the PC; etc. It’s a nifty application.

Web browsing told me that Gammu/Wammu does not yet work with the HTC Desire (see the bug report Don’t get any connection to HTC Desire via bluetooth in Wammu/Gammu). This is a pity, as Wammu and Gammu look well-designed, and Wammu has a professional feel to it.

The price for MOBILedit! is not extortionate but I wanted to find a cost-free solution if possible, and, more importantly, I could find no evidence on the Web of MOBILedit! having been used with WINE in Linux to edit the phone books in the HTC Desire.

The MyPhoneExplorer forums include a thread on using it with WINE, so MyPhoneExplorer looked like my only option (although it is a pity it is not FOSS). I installed MyPhoneExplorer with its own WINEPREFIX but, despite following the instructions in the MyPhoneExplorer forums, I was unable to get MyPhoneExplorer to connect to the HTC Desire via a USB cable in Linux. This may be because, despite what I have read on the android developers Web site (see Using Hardware Devices and OEM USB Drivers), as is the case with Windows it is necessary in Linux to install ADB USB drivers (the ADB drivers can be installed in Linux by installing the Android SDK). However, I was able to connect MyPhoneExplorer to my HTC Desire via WiFi at home (but not in a hotel, as connection depends on the router and internal network IP address space), and via Bluetooth (anywhere).

How to install MyPhoneExplorer in WINE

1. Use the Android Market to install MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone.

2. Surf over to the MyPhoneExplorer Home Page and download MyPhoneExplorer_Setup_1.8.1.exe to ~/Desktop/

3. Open a Konsole/Terminal window and perform all the following steps in the same window.

4. Install MyPhoneExplorer on your PC under WINE:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-myphoneexplorer
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg
$ wget "http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/a/d/5ad868a0-8ecd-4bb0-a882-fe53eb7ef348/VB6.0-KB290887-X86.exe"
$ wine VB6.0-KB290887-X86.exe
$ cd ./.wine-myphoneexplorer/drive_c/
$ cp $HOME/Desktop/MyPhoneExplorer_Setup_1.8.1.exe .
$ mv ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/oleaut32.dll ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/oleaut32-alt.dll
$ mv ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/olepro32.dll ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/olepro32-alt.dll
$ echo -e REGEDIT4\\n\\n[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\Software\\Wine\\DllOverrides]\\n\"asycfilt\"=\"native\"\\n\"comcat\"=\"native\"\\n\"msvbvm60\"=\"native\"\\n\"oleaut32\"=\"native\"\\n\"oleaut32\"=\"native\"\\n\"olepro32\"=\"native\"\\n\"stdole2.tlb\"=\"native\"\\n[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\Software\\MyPhoneExplorer]\\n\"Language\"=\"English.lng\" > temp.reg
$ wine regedit temp.reg
$ wget http://www.kegel.com/wine/winetricks
$ chmod +x winetricks
$ ./winetricks # Install Visual Basic 6 SP6 (I had to do this as well as wine VB6.0-KB290887-X86.exe)
$ ./winetricks # Install msxml3
$ wine MyPhoneExplorer_Setup_1.8.1.exe # Install MyPhoneExplorer

(Make sure you select the WINEPREFIX first when using winetricks)

5. Edit your Desktop Environment’s menu to use the following command for launching MyPhoneExplorer:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcaraldo/.wine-myphoneexplorer" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-myphoneexplorer/dosdevices/c:/users/Public/Start\ Menu/Programs/MyPhoneExplorer/MyPhoneExplorer.lnk

(Of course replace “fitzcarraldo” with your user name.)

How to connect via Bluetooth

1. Look up the phone’s Bluetooth MAC address in the phone itself, write it down and keep it to hand. (I use the MAC address 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 in the examples below.)

2. Enable Blutooth on your PC and phone, make them both discoverable, and pair them.

3. Launch MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone and wait a few seconds for it to load and run.

4. Now check which channel is used by MyPhoneExplorer Client (In the example below it is Channel 17):

$ sudo sdptool browse
Inquiring ...
Browsing 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 ...
Service RecHandle: 0x10000
Service Class ID List:
"PnP Information" (0x1200)

Service Name: Headset Gateway
Service RecHandle: 0x10001
Service Class ID List:
"Headset Audio Gateway" (0x1112)
"Generic Audio" (0x1203)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 1
Profile Descriptor List:
"Headset" (0x1108)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: Handsfree Gateway
Service RecHandle: 0x10002
Service Class ID List:
"Handsfree Audio Gateway" (0x111f)
"Generic Audio" (0x1203)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 2
Profile Descriptor List:
"Handsfree" (0x111e)
Version: 0x0105

Service Name: Object Push
Service RecHandle: 0x10003
Service Class ID List:
"OBEX Object Push" (0x1105)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 3
"OBEX" (0x0008)
Profile Descriptor List:
"OBEX Object Push" (0x1105)
Version: 0x0100

Service RecHandle: 0x10004
Service Class ID List:
"AV Remote Target" (0x110c)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
PSM: 23
"AVCTP" (0x0017)
uint16: 0x100
Profile Descriptor List:
"AV Remote" (0x110e)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: BRCM Advanced Audio
Service RecHandle: 0x10005
Service Class ID List:
"Audio Source" (0x110a)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
PSM: 25
"AVDTP" (0x0019)
uint16: 0x102
Profile Descriptor List:
"Advanced Audio" (0x110d)
Version: 0x0102

Service Name: Phonebook Access PSE
Service RecHandle: 0x10006
Service Class ID List:
"Phonebook Access - PSE" (0x112f)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 4
"OBEX" (0x0008)
Profile Descriptor List:
"Phonebook Access" (0x1130)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: OBEX File Transfer
Service RecHandle: 0x10007
Service Class ID List:
"OBEX File Transfer" (0x1106)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 5
"OBEX" (0x0008)
Profile Descriptor List:
"OBEX File Transfer" (0x1106)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: MyPhoneExplorer
Service RecHandle: 0x10008
Service Class ID List:
UUID 128: 00001101-0000-1000-7000-00304b7f34de
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 17

5. Bind a virtual serial device to the phone (You can look up the phone’s Bluetooth MAC address in the phone itself to double check):

$ sudo rfcomm bind 1 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 17

N.B. If you have been tinkering already with binding, and the virtual device /dev/rfcomm1 is therefore already bound, you will get an error message saying “Can’t create device: Address already in use”. You can release the virtual device by using the command:

$ sudo rfcomm release /dev/rfcomm1

6. Create a symbolic link for the virtual serial link:

$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-myphoneexplorer
$ sudo ln -is /dev/rfcomm1 ${WINEPREFIX}/dosdevices/com2
$ sudo chmod 777 ${WINEPREFIX}/dosdevices/com2 # you may not need to do this, as the permissions may already be 777.

7. Launch MyPhoneExplorer (e.g. in KDE this would be: Kickoff > Applications > Wine> Programs > MyPhoneExplorer > MyPhoneExplorer), then press F2 (or select File > Settings).

8. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘SonyEricsson phone with modeminterface’. Tick ‘Stable connection (some features are deactivated)’.

9. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘Phone with Google Android-OS’.

10. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Connect via…’ to be ‘Bluetooth’ and enter “COM2″ (upper case, and without the quotes) and click on ‘OK’.

11. Press F1 (or select File > Connect) and your PC should be able to connect to the phone and synchronise with your phone’s phone book (Extras > Start Multi-sync), thus enabling you to edit the contents and re-synchronise to update the phone book in the phone.

Script to make subsequent connections via Bluetooth easier

Note that the channel used by MyPhoneExplorer Client will change the next time you want to connect, so there is no point editing /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf (the Linux configuration file in which you would normally specify the channel). Therefore, to make life a little easier, I wrote a simple Bash script to automate as much as possible the process of reconnecting via Bluetooth in future. If you want to do the same, use your favourite text editor and save the following script with the file name myphoneexplorer.sh:

#!/bin/bash
echo -n "Please switch on Bluetooth via System Tray icon, make Bluetooth discoverable then press ENTER: "
read RESPONSE
echo -n "Please enable Bluetooth on the phone, make it discoverable then press ENTER: "
read RESPONSE
export WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-myphoneexplorer"
export WINEARCH="win32"
echo "Checking current rfcomm status..."
sudo rfcomm -a
echo "Trying to release rfcomm1 in case it is in use (no message means rfcomm1 is released and is now OK to use,"
echo "and the message Cannot release device: No such device also means rfcomm1 is OK to use)..."
sudo rfcomm release /dev/rfcomm1
echo -n "Now please launch MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone, wait a few seconds then press ENTER: "
read RESPONSE
echo "Find channel of MyPhoneExplorer Client:"
sudo sdptool browse
echo -n "Enter the channel number: "
read RESPONSE
sudo rfcomm bind 1 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 $RESPONSE
echo "Checking current rfcomm status..."
sudo rfcomm -a
echo "If all is OK then please launch MyPhoneExplorer from Kickoff > Applications > Wine > Programs > MyPhoneExplorer"
echo "and press F1 to connect to the phone."

(Of course replace “fitzcarraldo” with your user name, and replace “11:22:33:AA:BB:C1″ with the Bluetooth MAC address of your phone.)

Then make the script executable:

$ chmod +x myphoneexplorer.sh

The next time you want to use MyPhoneExplorer, open a Konsole/Terminal, execute the script:

$ sh myphoneexplorer.sh

and follow the instructions it displays in the Konsole/Terminal window.

How to connect via WiFi

Connecting MyPhoneExplorer to the phone via WiFi is easier than via Bluetooth. Note that WiFi connection will not work with a public WiFi network, just a home WiFi network.

1. Enable WiFi on your PC and phone.

2. Launch MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone and wait a few seconds for it to load and run.

3. Launch MyPhoneExplorer (e.g. in KDE this would be: Kickoff > Applications > Wine> Programs > MyPhoneExplorer > MyPhoneExplorer), then press F2 (or select File > Settings).

4. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘SonyEricsson phone with modeminterface’. Tick ‘Stable connection (some features are deactivated)’.

5. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘Phone with Google Android-OS’.

6. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Connect via…’ to be ‘WiFi’ and click on ‘OK’.

7. Press F1 (or select File > Connect) and your PC should be able to connect to the phone and synchronise with your phone’s phone book (Extras > Start Multi-sync), thus enabling you to edit the contents and re-synchronise to update the phone book in the phone.

Useful references

The MyPhoneExplorer forums are oriented to Windows as it is a Windows application, but there is a thread for Linux users: HowTo: Use MyPhoneExplorer under GNU/Linux (English Version)

The thread for Windows users of MyPhoneExplorer may also be of some use: Howto and FAQ: Use Android Phones with MyPhoneExplorer

Limitations in WINE

The only limitation I have found using MyPhoneExplorer 1.8.1 in WINE is that it crashes if I try to cut and paste when editing a phone book entry. Additionally, some people have reported that the buttons on the button bar do not work when you are connected to the phone; they usually do work for me (apparently it depends on whether you have installed msxml3) but sometimes don’t. In any case, if they don’t then you can use the pull-down menus from the menu bar instead.

Other than that, MyPhoneExplorer works well in WINE and enables me to edit the phone book in my Android phone without involving Big Brother! It’s a nice application.

Firewall rules if using WiFi

If you’re using MyPhoneExplorer to connect with the phone via WiFi instead of Bluetooth, and your PC has a firewall enabled, according to a post on 7 June 2011 in the MyPhoneExplorer forums you have to configure the firewall with the following rules:

TCP port 80 (outgoing) – Check for update
TCP port 5210 (outgoing) – Communication with client
UDP port 5211 (outgoing) – Communication with client
UDP port 5212 (inbound) – Broadcast from the client

Below I list the rules I implemented in Uncomplicated Firewall:

# ufw status
Status: active

To              Action          From
--              ------          ----
Anywhere        ALLOW           5212/udp

80/tcp          ALLOW OUT       Anywhere
5210/tcp        ALLOW OUT       Anywhere
5211/udp        ALLOW OUT       Anywhere

Alternatively you could just disable the firewall on your PC while you’re using MyPhoneExplorer with your phone, which I do anyway when I’m at home as my home network is protected by the firewall in my router.

EDIT (October 25, 2012): Now there is another way of editing an Android phone’s contacts list from Linux: AirDroid. And you don’t need to mess around with WINE to use it. For details see my post AirDroid, a handy Android app for managing your phone from Linux.

Why can’t I access a specific Web site?

Is there one specific Web site that you can never access? That always causes your Web browser to stall when you click on a link to that site or enter the site’s URL in the browser’s address bar? Perhaps it’s an Internet banking site? You don’t have trouble with other sites, just this one particular site or perhaps just a couple of sites?

The chances are that this problem is caused by what is called a ‘black hole’ router somewhere between you and that site. For the technical explanation of a black hole router, see e.g. the article Black Hole (networking).

I experienced this precise problem a couple of days ago with the popular Web site IMDb. The old Gateway Solo 9300 laptop I was using has no built-in networking hardware so I use a couple of CardBus cards for wireless and wired network access. The Linksys WPC54G (EU) v7.1 wireless notebook adapter works fine but, irrespective of the Web browser, I could not access the IMDb Web site; the browser always stalled when trying to load the site. I discovered I also had the same problem with my bank’s Web site.

I could ping other sites by IP address and by domain name, but pinging the IMDb site never received a reply (and it still doesn’t, even after the fix explained below which allows browsing of the site).

I also experienced this problem several years ago under Windows XP when trying to access the Amazon UK Web site, using an MTU that I had incorrectly set to a value smaller than possible. The problem this time was due to a correctly-set MTU. In both cases, the two MTUs are smaller than a router somewhere en route to those sites wanted to handle.

BACKGROUND

Bear with me while I explain how the problem arose, as it’s relevant (and useful) information.

I had just installed Sabayon Linux on the laptop and got the wireless network connection up, and the first thing I then did was to launch Firefox. With an MTU of 1500 for wlan0, Firefox would only load Google (and that, only intermittently). All other sites would stall. So I used the following command iteratively in order to find the MTU for this hardware, which is 1464 (the maximum packet size in bytes that does not fragment + 28 bytes):

# ping -M do -s packet_size_in_bytes http://www.cisco.com

e.g.

# ping -M do -s 1472 http://www.cisco.com

I just varied the packet size in the ping command until “Frag needed and DF set” was not displayed.

I can reduce the MTU to 1464 as follows:

# ifconfig wlan0 mtu 1464

I could make this permanent by adding an entry (mtu_wlan0=”1464″) to the file /etc/conf.d/net, but I chose instead to make it permanent by adding the above ifconfig command to the file /etc/conf.d/local. This (correct) MTU works fine for all sites I have visited so far except for two, which just stall the browser: IMDb and my bank’s Web site.

I also have a Belkin F5D5010 CardBus Network Card (wired Ethernet) for the laptop. It works fine with an MTU of 1500, and there is no problem accessing the IMDb Web site in Firefox. So, apparently, the MTU is the problem when using the wireless network connection. Now let’s look at the solution…

THE SOLUTION

Well, in the case of Windows it is possible to edit the Registry to solve the problem of network ‘black holes’. But what do you do in the case of Linux? It turns out that the kernel /proc file system provides an easy way to enable and disable TCP MTU Probing by changing a value in the ‘file’ /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_mtu_probing. A value of 0 = disabled; 1 = enabled when a black hole router is detected; 2 = always enabled.

This is what my laptop had in that ‘file':

# cat /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_mtu_probing
0

So all I needed to do was:

# echo 2 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_mtu_probing

and, bingo, a browser can access IMDb and my bank’s Web site without a problem. To make it permanent, I just added the above command to the file /etc/conf.d/local so that it is executed every time I boot the laptop. Here is what my file /etc/conf.d/local looks like now:

# Here is where you can put anything you need to start
# that there is not an init script for.

local_start() {
# This is a good place to load any misc programs
# on startup (use &>/dev/null to hide output)

# START OF MY ADDITIONS
# The Linksys CardBus card does not work with a MTU greater than 1464:
ifconfig wlan0 mtu 1464
# Enable TCP MTU Probing in order to deal with black hole routers:
echo 2 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_mtu_probing
# END OF MY ADDITIONS

# We should always return 0
return 0
}

local_stop() {
# This is a good place to unload any misc.
# programs you started above.

# We should always return 0
return 0
}

UPDATE (May 13, 2011): OpenRC 0.8.0 and later in Gentoo and Sabayon Linux no longer use the file /etc/conf.d/local but instead require the commands to be in files in the directory /etc/local.d/. So I created a file /etc/local.d/01network.start containing the following lines:

# The Linksys CardBus card does not work with MTU greater than 1464:
ifconfig wlan0 mtu 1464
# Enable TCP MTU probing to deal with black hole routers:
echo 2 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_mtu_probing

and made it executable:

# chmod +x /etc/local.d/01network.start

UPDATE (April 11, 2012): If “echo 2″ does not solve the problem, try “echo 1″ instead. The possible values are:

0 Do not perform PLPMTUD (Packetization Layer Path MTU Discovery)
1 Perform PLPMTUD only after detecting a ‘blackhole’.
2 Always perform PLPMTUD.

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