Using a Nokia N9 in 2019, the starting guide

This article is a guide for you if you bought this masterpiece of industrial design… some things have changed since 2012!

Giovanni Minelli
Oct 12, 2018 · 12 min read
Article rev 1.5

The nostalgia phone: a new Nokia N9, in 2019

We are at one step from 2020 and you know that the actual “lineage” of Meego Harmattan is represented by Sailfish OS: an updated OS created by Jolla, that you can flash into some Sony Xperia devices.

In the end you buy on ebay the phone: if you’re lucky, it’s a new old stock with plastics, or an old refurbished by the producer.

I did the same few years ago — I re-bought a Nokia N9 —and this article is the beginning of the path.


The #unboxing

The item I bought had a blue packaging made of cheap cardboard, as if it were part of an initial test run, or one of the last.
My previous N9 Cyan had a packaging printed on glossy paper, with a paint effects on the word “Nokia N9” on the side: that was the standard print run, I guess.

Inside, over the phone, there are booklets, guarantees and User Guide — in this case it is the right N9 user guide — and not a Lumia 800 as with my previous N9. Well done!

Nokia N9 — the User Guide

THE DEVICE

Here is the most important element, the device:
a specimen of Nokia N9 White, with original plastic still applied!
This means: no any scratches, no signs of wear! A new old stock.

The first thing to do in the case of models remained unused for a long time, is to check whether the battery is still working: better to put the phone on charge for a few hours, and only after power on.

Fortunately the battery was ok, and the phone started. After a couple of so short cycles, the battery seems to have awakened, getting near to the standard N9 battery life, of about 2 days, moderate usage.


THE TROUBLE IS THE SOFTWARE

The more difficult aspects of the Nokia N9 focus — as often happens in old smartphones Nokia — is regarding the software. In fact, even though it’s only been six years since its launch, the abandonment of MeeGo and the OVI Store closing, with also the acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft has accelerated obsolescence of different apps and features.

Below I summarise the journey made rearranging this Nokia N9, starting with the most important basic steps and ending with the finesse and tweak.


The guide start here

FIRMWARE: CHOOSE THE CORRECT REGION.

Nokia N9, in his short life it received three software updates: Harmattan 1.1 1.2, and Harmattan PR 1.3 as final update, the latest one with ‘over 1000 improvements’, which luckily focused on fixing a lot of bugs.
The Nokia Harmattan team fixed basically everything, before the shutdown.

The smartphone was launched in different countries in the world with firmware modified slightly by adding or removing app pre-loaded maps.

These are the principal locations:

  • 001 — Europe (1), Latin / South America, South Africa
  • 003 — China
  • 005 — Asia / Pacific (incl. Australia / New Zealand, excl. China)
  • 006 — Middle East
  • 2xx, 3xx, 4xx — “Country Variant” and carrier-branded images

(Source Maemo.org)

Presumably your smartphone will fall into one of the first four options.
The phone in question had a 1.2 Harmattan Firmware PR 1.3 with location 003. The version for the Chinese market, one of the most problematic.

Flashing

The Chinese version N9 does not have the Facebook app and Twitter because of Chinese censorship. The UI has to first start the ideograms, but you can set English. There are also some odd app dedicated to that market.

The starting point of the “remise en forme” of a N9, it’s the flash of the firmware.

The procedure is so geek and easy. Essentially you have to download a firmware with a total number MAJOR than the actual, because it is not possible downgrade. So be careful, checking twice the version.

As new firmware I chosen the version 1.2 Harmattan PR1.3 480 “Switzerland”, which worked properly.

Prerequisites

Your computer must have the Nokia Flasher related commands installed: it will not be a Fastboot Devices connection as it’s not an Android device.
At the moment, you can find Flasher on this Coderus mirror.

Once installed, your Mac, Linux or PC will be able to execute the commands below.

Start of flashing operations

Turn off the Nokia N9, disconnecting it from cables. Then, connect it via the micro-usb cable to your PC. You don’t need strange combinations of keys.
Begin to familiarise yourself with the controls and check if the phone is detected by writing:

flasher -i

Press enter as confirmation after each line of code (!).
After a few moments the phone is detected and different info will appear on the sample.

Now start by running:

flasher -f -F main.bin

Press enter and you have only to wait for the progress bar.
At the end detach and press Power button. Done!

BUT…

There is a but. The Chinese version was apparently the last produced, and the component cellular modem (CMT) firmware is more recent than others.

Consequently, the cellular network and the modem will not work!

You have to download the original Firmware for China (003 variant) and restore only the CMT components, doing:

flasher -f -F old_main.bin --flash-only = cmt

Post flashing

At this point we have a Nokia N9 with the right “European software”, and with the stock Facebook and Twitter apps installed. At now unusable and obsolete, but so reassuring to see on the springboard.

The path to have a 99% working N9 in 2018 is still long:

Getting the Terminal app

Typical terminal window with green characters

The Terminal app is essential for many of the next steps and give you a very geeky touch to your Nokia N9.

In the past you had only to go on:
Settings> Security> Developer Mode and install Debugging

But we are in 2019 and the old Nokia servers are gone.
So you have to open browser and visit this page
https://openrepos.net/content/ancelad/n9-repomirror

Install n9repomirror_0.7.2 downloading the .deb file, tapping on it and confirming when asked.

Now the server setting is changed toward the right mirror server. Go again under:
Settings> Security> Developer Mode. Switch on Developer mode and install Debugging. (Other packages as a plus)

There is a new app: Terminal app, to be used below.

At this point your Nokia N9 is ready to begin fine tuning.


THE NOKIA ACCOUNT POPUP

Microsoft bought Nokia in April 2014 and closed several business departments: the Nokia account servers does not exist anymore.

At booting, the phone will prompt you to create a Nokia account, or log in to take advantage of features dedicated to members. To get rid of this troublesome screen, you must run this code from the Terminal app:

chmod -x / usr / share / sheep startup
chmod -x / usr / bin / sheep startup
chmod -rwx / usr / lib / AccountSetup / bin / oviplugin

At the next restart, the popup will not come back to bother you.


ALTERNATIVE STORES

At this point you will want to download some useless app. :-) Both the Ovi Store and the Music Store are closed.

For the first, solution is to install Warehouse for Meego , an alternative store that preserves many old app, along with other new apps developed by independent programmers in subsequent years.

Alternatively there is the site Openrepos, which allows the installation via web browser. This last seem to be more updated.


MAPS AND NOKIA DRIVE — PART 1

Both Maps app and Nokia Drive app asks for an account and then close suddenly. To be able at least to open the app, you need to remove these account requests.

ssoDone = true
isSsoEnabled = false

At this point both Nokia will open, but there’s an issue: unfortunately the old site of Nokia Maps has been closed and renamed in Here maps.
The good GPS is working, but Online maps are not available.


Browsers
The browser stock in PR 1.3 Harmattan is a good html5 browser with its strengths and weaknesses, but it show its age with some SSL certificates.

Moreover, it is interpreted as ‘desktop’ by some responsive sites: in practice happen to see the complex version of the websites.
As (also) webdesigner I consider a sort of privilege to see normal version of websites from a device.

Also, the Browser app has a very good font rendering: you will see the that Opentype font you wanted in your site, Helvetica, or Din.

The installation of alternative and more updated browsers like Opera Mobile and Firefox is the only choice in order to reach all sites.

Email

Here are the instructions on how to set up two of the most widespread email accounts: gmail and iCloud emails.

Gmail mail account

As you may have noticed, in the Nokia n9 the google account no longer works correctly, generating errors.

Incoming Mail Server
as username: the email address
as server address: imap.gmail.com
secure connection: SSL on Port 993

Outgoing mail server
as username: the email address
as server address: smtp.gmail.com
secure connection: TLS
port 587, authentication: Simple password

These settings are tested as working on Nokia N9, and fortunately they use SSL. The imap works most of the time, sometimes the emails do not synchronize perfectly with the PC but it’s a small thing.

Apple mail account

The iCloud emails like username@me.com are more recent than Nokia N9, but following instruction provided by Apple, they can work.

Incoming Mail Server
username: the part of the address before the suffix @me.com
server address: imap.mail.me.com
secure connection: SSL on Port 993
Important: Password, generate a specific password for an app.

Outgoing mail server
username: the email address
server address: smtp.mail.me.com
secure connection: TLS (SSL does not work).
port 587, authentication: Plain password
Important: Password, generate a specific password for an app.

And here we are, even these settings are tested. Now you have the working iCloud email account!


At this point we felt like the urgency to connect with our your social accounts: twitter, facebook and instagram!

And this leaving behind some extra setup and tweak, but this is the modern life in 2018: is all about socials!

Twitter
The official Twitter app does not work anymore because of the change of API and Oath1 authentication, but there are two alternatives: the excellent Tweetian and app Rocket , which promises to integrate with the news feed.
The app, however, is buggy and in our test was not connected with the legendary unified screen news.

We therefore recommend good Tweetian (photo): app that lets you read your newsfeed, send DM, check notifications and mentions.

A third choice is represented by Qneptunea a Twitter app that was disapeared from any mirror, but was recovered in a Russian repo.


FACEBOOK

The Zuckemberg’s social network is a bit a sore point: the integrated app no ​​longer works for changes in the API, and also the discrete Fmobi app, once installed reported an error and close.

You can also check messages, compensating for the lack of messenger, but there will be no notifications.


INSTAGRAM

Unfortunately, the unofficial Instagram app that had been developed for some time seems not to work: it’s Instago, downloadable from opernrepos.
The download works, but at start up the app does not allow login.

Update: Instagram changed recently its API, so every unofficial client has stopped working. This is a Zuckemberg decision.


Fixing the auto-connection issue

You have noticed that your N9 ask the permission for every connection, each time, also if you go in Setting / Internet Connection / Edit networks and enable automatic connection.

This is because the N9 connectivity test is pointing to an offline server: connectivity-test.ext.nokia.com

The fix is edit the HOSTS file in the Nokia N9, changing the address to the Maemo.org servers: replace the line with connectivity-test.ext.nokia.com with this one:

The file is in: (root) /etc/hosts. You can also use the terminal, or locate the file with a documents app, download and edit on PC, and then re-upload and copy/paste in the original location, overriding.


Conclusion

The Nokia N9 is a vintage phone with an excellent Industrial Design and an excellent user experience, even today.

However, within a few years, a series of account issues and lack of support problems have accumulated, due to Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia and the successive closure of the stores.

With this article-tutorial I hope I helped you a bit to enjoying the Nokia N9, finally working on the main tasks!


ALT OSes

A new publication about alternative Oses: Sailfish OS, Linux and others!

Giovanni Minelli

Written by

Art & cross-media Designer. Here focusing on writing and content curation. Getty/EyeEm landscape photographer • www.minodesign.it

ALT OSes

ALT OSes

A new publication about alternative Oses: Sailfish OS, Linux and others!

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