So here's the problem. You have a Nokia 9300 or 9500. Or
a Series 60 smartphone like the Nokia 6630. One of the fundamental jobs
of a PDA/smartphone is keeping your personal information. And I mean
personal - PIN numbers, passwords, license details, software
registrations, web site logins, bank accounts, insurance, etc. But you
can't just keep this sort of information in plain text, otherwise
anyone gaining access to your device (such as a finder, or thief) would
have access to all your secrets.And you desperately want a way to keep
your info safe from prying eyes, both on the Windows desktop and on the
The traditional solution is to use an encrypted database
with a PC conduit. In other words a password-protected secure database
program, synchronised between PC and handheld. Why is it important to
have access to your information on the desktop as well? Partly because
data entry is more convenient there and partly because if you do go and
lose your smartphone, you'll have immediate access to all your vital
information. No having to wait a week for FedEx and then hope your
restore function works to a replacement machine.
But almost none (see note below) of the existing third
party encrypted database solutions have a proper synchronisation
system, each relying on manual import/export, or supporting a basic
sync that doesn't handle all entry details.
So, in despair, I've decided to think laterally. If
there's going to be some manual intervention anyway, why not forget the
proprietary solutions and make your own using built-in or 'off the
Series 80 / Series 60
Symbian Series 80 (Nokia 9300/9500)
What follows is pretty simple. Which makes it fairly
staggering that I've never seen it mentioned by anyone else and that it
took me six weeks of ownership of the Nokia 9500 before I thought of
When I started writing this article (Jan 2005), there
wasn't a proper solution for Communicator owners, but Epocware have now released a
9500-compatible, fully syncing version of Handy Safe. But the method
below is just as valid as it was and will save you a few pennies, if
Thinking laterally, Nokia provide every 9500 owner with
a free copy of Zip Manager (originally written by Epocware) and (here's
the good bit) the ZIP archive format is an independent one that
supports password-based encryption. So, why not keep all your secret
information in Documents (Word) and Sheet files, storing all of them in
a single, password protected ZIP archive? You don't even have to stop
there, as you can add confidential images or any other files that you
don't want people accessing.
There's still a manual step, of course. Once a week (or
however often you see fit), copy the ZIP file over to your PC. Then, in
case of emergency, you can open the file up, give the password and see
your personal files in standard (.DOC, .XLS, etc.) formats, instantly
There's also the benefit that you can collect all the
information in the first place (perhaps exported out of whichever
secure system you've been using) on the PC, creating the initial ZIP
file there, for added convenience.
In detail, then:
- Create Word, Text or Excel files (for example) on
your PC and collect into them all your personal and private info.
- Create a new ZIP archive (I use WinZIP) and add the
above files, choosing the Password option and entering something
personal and memorable.
- Delete the original Word, Excel, etc. files (and
empty your recycle bin, of course)
- Copy the ZIP file onto your Symbian OS smartphone.
- Install Zip Manager from the 9500 CD, if you haven't
- Open up the ZIP file and use 'Open file' on the
content you want to read or edit.
- Make your changes, access the info, etc.
- Exit Documents/Sheet/whatever and choose to 'Update'
the ZIP archive if prompted.
- Close the archive. Job done. Repeat from step 6
whenever you need to get into your secret safe.
Depending on the formats you choose to use, you may or
may not then trust the software to overwrite the ZIP file on the
desktop with one changed on the smartphone. Personally, I tend to think
of the smartphone copy as a 'read-only' version of the master desktop
The system's quite flexible, completely free and has the
advantage of using an industry standard compression and encryption
format that can be accessed on any computer in the world. And I think
Series 60 (Nokia 7610, 6600, 6630,
6680, Sendo X, etc.)
Although in principle the technique above could work OK
for Series 60 devices, in practice the text editing part of the
solution isn't exactly a given. Series 60 ships with Notes, a useable
text editor/viewer for smallish files but which struggles like mad when
the file gets to any reasonable size. Some devices come with Quickoffice and you could use
this, or perhaps the slightly buggy YEdit, in each case
with your master document inside a password-protected ZIP file, with ZipMan handling the unzipping.
But already this might be too cumbersome for you, with two bits of
third party software needed.
Instead, with the release of both HanDBase
and iSilo for Series 60 in summer
2005, we now have two great tools for handling our data, with
appropriate access passwords and encryption.
- HanDBase is the more powerful solution, with proper
entry level encryption and a desktop that opens your master documents
directly. Your data will need to be in fairly regimented, record-based
form in the first place though, in order to get it imported from
whatever you currently use into the HanDBase Desktop.
- iSilo is better for more freeform data, using HTML as
its source format. What this means is that I keep my main 'secrets' in
a simple text-based HTML file on the desktop, encrypted of course (lots
of ways of doing this). I then pass it through the iSiloX converter,
specifying a password in the 'Security' tab and copy the resulting .pdb
file into \Documents\Isilo on my smartphone.
So, no shortage of ideas above. And both the recommended
solutions have the advantage that they're both fairly generic, in that
you can use them to add lots more personal and business reference data
onto your Series 60 smartphone. Both are highly recommended.
All text (C) Steve Litchfield, 2005