Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Open standards are a beautiful thing

We preach open standards so loudly and so often in the IT industry that it's arresting when your life is impacted by the failure of a vendor to join the party.

I am very suspicious of premature standardisation - it is in nobody's interest to agree a dangerous or broken standard (imagine if we'd standardised home power outlets at 20V or something...). However, open standards do perform the enormously valuable role of limiting opportunities for vendor lock-in and maximising opportunities for users to be free to choose implementations.

I made the mistake of purchasing a phone from Siemens a year or so ago. They have subsequently admitted (by selling the business) that they were not very good at this enterprise and the SX1 I so naively purchased was a perfect demonstration of this.

The phone began spontaneously rebooting even more frequently than normal yesterday morning so I figured I had better back it up. The only data I was desperate to save was my contact database. I managed to rescue this before the phone completely expired.

So far, so bad..... I am now in Madrid without a cellphone. Not the end of the world but it feels like I have lost a limb.

However, this is where things become unpleasant. The Siemens "Data Suite" can only synchronise with Microsoft Outlook. I work for IBM. We don't have very many Outlook licenses deployed here, you may not be surprised to learn.

So.... how do I get hold of my contacts? Well.... surely the file format is documented? Sadly, it genuinely does appear to be the case that the Siemens/Nokia/Symbian "cdb" file format is not officially documented. Worse, try as I might, I cannot find anybody on the internet who writes or sells PC software to parse these files and turn them into something useful (e.g. csv).

The closest I have managed to get so far is somebody explaining how to get a Symbian development environment running on my laptop. Wow.... That is one option I suppose.

So, with my optimistic hat on, I am happy that I have a backup of my contacts database. But I can't help being slightly perturbed that I can't read it :-(

I will investigate a little more when I get home at the weekend. Hopefully by then, my new phone will have arrived.


AndyP said...

Richard, it looks like you can use the e32db module for Python for Series 60 to read a .cdb file - see http://discussion.forum.nokia.com/forum/showthread.php?threadid=55674

I think I came across this a while ago when working on some sync software for Linux. Maybe one of the free bluetooth sync type apps for Linux has solved this problem? I'm pretty sure there are apps for Linux that connect to Nokia phones and read / sync .cdb files.

AndyP said...

In fact it is even easier than that:

However - not sure you can run this outside of a Series 60 environment.

Richard Brown said...

Thanks Andy.... but both of these assume a working phone. Mine is dead :-(

I find it staggering that there seems to be no API or pre-written software for parsing these files on regular PCs

There must be *lots* of people in this position.... I must be missing something.