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Free Software that helps you take control of your mobile phone

In an exciting networked world we are living in, just about everything can be connected to anything. By all means that includes your mobile phone, at least if it is not more than a couple of years old. You can connect your mobile phone to your computer via bluetooth, or more commonly via USB, in which case it will also re-charge itself. Depending on your phone once it detects it has been connected to an USB port, it will offer to enter one of the two modes; a file transfer mode and a phone mode.

A file transfer mode will mount your phone to your desktop as if it was a disk (like an USB stick) and then you can move files back and forth between your hard disk and your phone (like putting a cool music file to use as your ring tone). However, what we will be focusing on here is the phone mode, which is quite interesting, because it allows you to, by using appropriate software, synchronize your phone and control it using your computer.

Imagine coming home from work and instead of plugging your phone to a wall where it will just dully wait to be recharged, plug it to your computer via USB and make a few phone calls, send a few SMS messages or tidy up your phone book all by using your computer keyboard and mouse, rather than that tiny phone keypad!

GNU/Linux and other Freedomware platforms have at least three user friendly software programs which allow you to do this, with varying capabilities and relatively good user friendliness. So let's see what they can do!

GNOME Phone Manager

GNOME Phone Manager menu

With a simplistic name comes a simplistic functionality, in a good old GNOME fashion we all come to love. ;) This may, however, be just the thing you need, no extra fuss - hook up my phone and let me send that SMS while it recharges! Once started GNOME Phone Manager will automatically detect and connect to your phone and sit in your tray with only four menu items available with a right click; "send message", "preferences", "about" and "quit".

If it doesn't detect your phone automatically the preferences dialog will allow you to specify a different port that it can try. Aside from that you can also set it up to pop up a window for new messages (arriving through your mobile phone) and play a sound when that happens too.

Sending message is as straight forward as opening a "send message" dialog from menu, typing the number of a recipient and the text of your message and clicking send. The down side here is that you would probably still have to look up the number of the recipient in your mobile phone, unless you remember it by yourself.

GNOME Phone Manager menu

Wammu

Wammu is a GUI front end to Gammu, a "project which encompasses applications, scripts and drivers for managing various functions on cellular phones and similiar devices", previously known as MyGnokii2. It is a much more powerful way to take control of your mobile phone through your desktop.

When started for the first time it will launch a "phone wizard" capable of auto-detecting your phone. In my case it detected the exact brand and model of the phone. Then the "phone" menu allows you to connect to it and synchronize time. The fun part is the "retrieve" menu which allows you to, one by one, retrieve contacts from both your SIM card and phone memory, your calls log (including outgoing, missed and received calls), all messages and even todos and calendar.

It will put all of this content into the right places of your phone tree displayed in the program so you can easily surf through and manage it. One thing I have to say though is that some messages may appear jumbled and many phone numbers might not contain the name of the person whose number it is. Your mileage may vary though, as this may very well depend on your phone.

If your phone supports the function, you'll be able to delete your calls, messages and everything else. Everything you delete or add using wammu will get deleted in your phone as well, in real time, without need for re-synchronization. This really helps with doing clean ups of your phone messages, calls etc.

Wammu

Once you've cleaned stuff up you can go and send some messages, perhaps add some new contacts to your phone's address book or new events to your calendar. All of this from the "create" menu. And as if that isn't enough, the backup menu allows you to create a backup of all your phone content, in case you accidentally lose something.

Wammu Compose SMS dialog

This is certainly a very powerful tool for managing your mobile phone content, albeit coming with a price of being slightly complex in some places, such as perhaps an SMS composition dialog. On the other hand, the menus are laid out in a quite logical way. Considering what you can do with it, in terms of user friendliness it's not a bad job at all!

KMobileTools

Here is a solid one for all KDE fans and wider. At first run it failed to connect to my phone but this is easily fixed by going to main settings via a settings menu and entering the correct device node used by the phone. If you don't know which one this is, wammu above may be useful, as it displays this information in connection settings of the program. However, once KMobileTools hooks up with your phone it's an enjoyment to use.

First thing you notice are the signal and battery level indicators, showing you exactly how good your signal is and how much battery juice is left, in percentage values and graphically. Of course, your battery juice will be increasing as your phone may be charging itself through the USB port. It also sits in your tray which provides a user friendly menu with all the programs functions.

KMobileTools

The main dialog also contains a bunch of accessible buttons and an area where you can enter a phone number to dial. You can also get a number by clicking on the phonebook button and surfing through a very nicely laid out list of contacts which, unlike Wammu, correctly and tidily displays the name of each contact. You can even get contacts from your KDE Address Book.

KMobileTools Phonebook

And while we are talking about calls, there are an "answer" and a "hangup" button which would apparently allow you to answer the pending call and hang it up when finished, something Wammu and GNOME Phone Manager don't appear to offer. Imagine using this in combination with a handset plugged into your phone. You wouldn't even have to pick it up, just click "answer", have your conversation and then click to hang up. :)

"Browse SMS" button launches an SMS list dialog which allows you to fetch and list all SMS messages from your phone. With it you can delete messages or create and send new ones. You can also save messages individually or all of them at once as backup to your hard disk.

KMobileTools SMS List

All in all KMobileTools is a very clean and user friendly tool for managing your phone with your computer as well as sufficiently powerful to meet the needs and desires of most users. I would say it strikes the right balance between the minimalism of GNOME Phone Manager and the power of Wammu. It does however appear a bit unstable on my system relative to the other two programs tested.

With programs like these, your phone will feel right at home on your GNU/Linux, BSD and other Freedomware operating systems. I hope you enjoy trying them out!

If you liked it, please digg or vote at fsdaily.com! If you need help with any of these programs, you're welcome to ask in our application programs forum and our community will be quick to accommodate you. :)

Comments

Wonderful post. I have been

 

Wonderful post. I have been trying to get my bluetooth working, but I think my bluetooth dongle isn't fully supported in GNU/Linux.

But, I did want to add some other things as well. If you run a SymbianOS based phone (like my Nokia E70), there is available a Putty client (to SSH into your computer) and even a VNC viewer for a graphical remote administration of a computer, or an open source VNC viewer, too.

I'm glad you like it. I

I'm glad you like it. I kind of expected more comments so I didn't reply at once, but that was some useful info you provided as well. To be honest I am not an expert on these things. I don't actually know what OS is my own phone running (it's probably not Free Software though), but I don't need to know that to write an end-user oriented review about doing things I do know how to do. Eye

Thanks!

Danijel

 

There is a Linux compatibility survey about Linux and mobile phones at TuxMobil, which lists many hundred cell phones as well as appropriate Linux tools.

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