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"An expert knows more and more about less and less"

After my old phone almost packed up, I bought a new sony w995 in england. Then I realized there was no greek language support in it. No worries, I just need to install some language files and it should work, right? How hard could this be on a modern phone? Very hard as it turns out! It took a week of searching and cursing to finally do it. This is the story of this quest.

I didn't even want a sony phone. All I wanted was a small handy device, (no touchscreens please!), with wifi and GPS (maps) support, and I was considering the nokia 6710, with an open symbian OS that's easy to work with. Then some dim-wit shop assistant told me that the W995 could be extended too ("just like symbian" — not), so I added it to my list as a second option. My fate was sealed when I found the W995 in an irresistible half price offer somewhere in london and I bought it.

It wasn't long before I started cursing said shop assistant (why did I ever trust a good looking blonde? :). You see this may be 2010 but sony still makes proprietary closed operating system phones with next to no extensibility. They have some windows mobile phones but with fidgety touch screens which I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. Calls to sony customer support soon revealed that except for a limited range of Java ME tools I was stuck with whatever came with the phone: google maps, some games, a (good) camera and video and a media player.

The biggest problem with a java phone is that its filesystem is mostly hidden. You can't see the built-in programs, menus and language settings using either the internal file manager or the sony ericsson PC suite program that connects to the phone from the computer. But I took the challenge: I googled my way through shady forums and obscure tools written by uber-geeks (with matching attitude). There is way too much information in the forums, but it is always half-baked. The geeks despise phone newbies (that's me) and take pleasure laughing at their ignorance and offering partial information, leaving out the "obvious" details.

Teaching a new language to the W995

So how do you add a language to the phone? There is no official way to do it. The UK phone came with english, german, spanish and some other languages, but no greek. Google maps was useless searching the greek maps in english.

The most popular option reported was to debrand the phone, i.e. overwrite all the phone memory replacing it with files meant for another geographic area. If you want greek in the phone get the pack meant for ADRIATIC area. Debranding is also used to bypass (unlock) phone locks so that you can use your phone with any operator and SIM card. The operation is complex and overkill if you just want to add a new language. You need to know many phone details like CIDs and platform versions and you could even fry the phone turning it in an overpriced brick!

A simpler and more elegant solution would be to just add the language files necessary for the fonts and the T9 (predictive) text input. First in the google search results is this explanation, see if you can get your head around it :). It is a typical post found in the phone hacker forums, some guy genuinely trying to help but assuming too much that newbies don't know. In summary the procedure is:

  • connect: To access the low level filesystem you need either far manager (!) with a special plugin or the ubiquitous A2 uploader.
  • read/write files: find the language files from the internet, then add them to the phone, along with some settings files

It sounds simple but every step is fraught with difficulties. Do you know what is a brown or red certificate? Neither did I! Red phones are those you buy from the shop. Brown phones are used for developing and testing and allow more tweaking. Oddly red certificate phones cannot read out system files from the phone memory but allow writes to it. Changing from red to brown is possible but could cause problems with automatic updates. I discovered a tool that works around the write-only issue called cid53 file xtractor, which works even for "red" phones.

Essential software

A2 UPLOADER. This is used for flashing the phone. It can send files from the computer to the phone and extract too (but this outward direction requires a brown certificate). The latest version I found was dated 22-Sep-2009. Your antivirus will bark if you try to download and install this A2 uploader, but by general agreement is 'safe'. I ran it from a normal user account just to be on the safe side. You don't need the ggsetup- that comes bundled with A2; the USB drivers for connecting the W995 to your computer are installed by the sony ericsson PC suite (the software that comes with the phone). Using this tool is explained in the above link but the idea is to: A2 uploader connected

  • turn off the phone (some say to disconnect the battery too)
  • start A2 uploader
  • click on a command like flash or filesystem tool
  • don't turn on the phone
  • connect the W995 to the computer using its USB cable while you keep on pressing the C key (next to bottom right of the joystic)
  • A2 uploader recognizes the phone and then you can send files.

CODECLAW XTRACTOR. Red cert phones can't send files out, but these guys have thought of an ingenious workaround: instead of extracting files directly, send in a bin file (eh?) which extracts the files you need from the hidden part of the filesystem in a visible folder (still inside the phone) called codeclaw. Then you can use the phone's filemanager to extract the file(s) to the computer!

Using shortcut text files you tell it which files to extract from the phone. Or you can just type phone paths (e.g. tpa/preset/custom/customize.xml) into the path field and click on add button. After you insert all the phone paths:
codeclaw extractor

  • use File > Save as command to save the list of paths in a bin file
  • quit the 'extractor'
  • start A2 uploader (see above) and connect to the phone (still switched off)
  • in the misc box enter the path to the bin file saved earlier
  • click on flash button to send the bin to the phone
  • quit A2 and turn on the phone (you can disconnect the USB cable)
  • open the phone's file manager, and you'll find the files you want in a folder called codeclaw
  • extract these files using bluetooth or the phone's PC suite software.

Language files

Each language is defined by two files, XX.lng and XX.t9 where XX is the language identifier (e.g. EL.LNG and EL.T9 for greek). Where do you get them from? The easiest way is to nick them off some friend's phone that already has them. Otherwise it's a bit hard. You must find your exact phone's platform and version numbers and google for the files used to completely flash the phone for some region. You need the FS file (e.g. mine is W995_R1GA031_FS_ADRIATIC_RED53.rar). Then use read3150 tool to extract the package and get the contents.

If you want to add the greek language, you're in luck, because I will give you the direct download link:
Download W995 greek language files

This will save you typing all these >*<<*<* to access the hidden phone menus!

Almost there: step by step

WARNING: Use this guide at your own risk! You may destroy the phone and/or invalidate your warranty

You now know all the ingredients and the original language conversion article will make much more sense! In summary: (abbreviations: CX=codeclaw xtractor, A2=A2 uploader

  1. Use CX to extract these 2 files from the phone:
  2. Edit customize.xml (eg with notepad) to add your new language to the allowed list, e.g for EL:
  3. add one entry xx (e.g. EL), to allowed_language.txt file separated with a comma
  4. create a new blank (0 kb) file using notepad; rename it to customize_upgrade.xml
  5. start A2 and click on filesystem tool; connect the switched off phone as described above
  6. browse the filesystem and locate the target phone folders; use drag drop to add files from the PC to the phone as follows:
    • folder tpa/preset/custom/: your modified customize.xml and blank customize_upgrade.xml
    • folder tpa/preset/system/language/: your modified allowed_language.txt and the 2 language files XX.lng & XX.t9
  7. click on shutdown file manager button and then exit from A2
  8. disconnect the phone, remove the battery, reinsert and start the phone
  9. Use Settings > General > Language > Writing language phone menu to select your new language.

Congratulations! Now you either have a hosed $300 phone or are a proud member of the phone hackers crew <g>. Come to think of it, these guys that charge $50 to unlock your phone are highway robbers! Everybody can do it.

ps whoever is unlucky enough to have a java phone, here's a source of software and games downloads, some free. Download on your computer, pass the JAR file to the phone somehow, then run it to install the programs. I'm still looking for a decent mapping tool with stored maps (offline navigation); google maps requires an internet connection...

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