Welcome to another edition of the PPCGeek Spotlight where we get enlightening perspectives and great insight from well known and successful community members and leaders. In this edition we highlight a very well known, respected and talented member of PPCGeeks.com, cmonex.
Cmonex has been a member of our site for a very long time and is very popular here at PPCGeeks. Does “CDMA Raphael Elite Team” ring a bell? It should! Known for being paired as a team with Olipro, who was into Hard-SPL’s before cmonex, together they were among the first people ever to put many hours into giving you the capability to use different ROMs on some of your Windows Mobile devices. Take a look at the editorial we have done with cmonex. We are sure you will enjoy this interview very much!
Here’s a Q&A with cmonex:
1 ) How did you hear about PPCGeeks?
“I first heard about the PPCGeeks site about 3-3.5 years ago. I recall I visited the ppcgeeks IRC channel a few times and I think that’s when I first found out about the site. I got a bit more involved with PPCGeeks when I was asked to help with the CDMA Touch Pro and Diamond Hard-SPLs, etc.”
2 ) What made you even consider starting a HSPL project?
“It was a long road to where I started to participate in the Hard-SPL developments. I’ll try and talk about this in a nutshell (a big nutshell perhaps).
A few years back, I acquired a lot of experience with other PDA’s, older devices running windows CE, I loved hacking them, trying to understand the device bootloaders to be able to make and flash roms for these devices, and this was pretty challenging, because there was no official rom update for them at all and thus no documentation on how to make and flash the roms.”
“So I already had coding and hacking experience with similar projects, then about 3.5 years ago some people started Athena project which consisted of making a Hard-SPL and custom ROMs for the HTC Athena. I offered and gave help to the project with some things and then they invited me to be a member of the team, so that was when I made my first contribution to Hard-SPL development by helping to improve the Hard-SPL flashing method for Athena. This was also when I got to know Olipro first online then in real life too.”
“After this there were more hacking & ROM projects by the same team and I was always asked to help a bit with Hard-SPL, so basically that’s how I got into it. The GSM Diamond Hard-SPL was the first one where I had to create some totally new hacks/code to get the Hard-SPL working, so this was the first challenging Hard-SPL project that I worked on. Let me also mention that I usually work with Olipro, we both can make the whole job alone but we prefer to share the workload, hence the OliNex ‘brand’.”
3 ) Was it hard for you to learn the steps to coding?
“I started coding about a year before I got involved with Hard-SPL so about 4-5 years ago. I would say it wasn’t easy initially as I wanted to start by understanding all the low level aspects of how computers work. It was a lot of fun though! Then I started learning higher level languages too and that was fun too for the most part. It does definitely take time to get practice in coding, it is not just a few simple steps, but if you enjoy the learning process then that is not a problem. You do have to have some kind of passion for this to enjoy it.”
4 ) Who helped you along the way or contributed to your knowledge? Did you do most of the ‘teaching’ yourself?
“If you are asking about learning programming, then I would say most of the work needs to be done by yourself, but there are neat books out there that can help at the beginning. I also know some great coders who contributed knowledge by giving me examples of how programming really works, helping me see the big picture.”
5 ) How much coding do you have to know to write a custom bootloader?
“You need to be able to write low level code functions which requires understanding of the specific hardware. Knowledge of assembly and/or C is definitely needed for that. It helps if you like to tinker with the hardware itself but it is not truly necessary, it is enough to understand it at a more abstract level.”
6 ) Have you bricked any devices test flashing anything?
“With Hard-SPL projects, if you mean my own test devices, no, I’m a pretty careful person by nature and I also want to make sure that I don’t lose the test device, it can take a long time to acquire another device. I did still manage to get some test devices temporarily “bricked” but by that I just mean they were unable to boot the OS, I was always able to fix that so it wasn’t really a problem.”
“As for other people testing the hacks, there was one case where I made a typo in some code and that rendered the device unable to fully boot even the bootloader. Luckily the person was able to get the device exchanged. I felt pretty bad about that case though.”
7 ) How hard was it to write the Touch Pro 2 SIM unlocker and figure out the algorithm from the IMEI for the unlock code?
“That was a lot harder to make than for some older HTC devices as HTC keeps constantly updating the security and the complexity of the code in the radio firmware. They definitely follow hackers looking what kind of exploits we use and then they try to fix that in the next device model. We were even stuck for a few weeks before finding a breakthrough to exploit the algorithms in the radio. Overall, radio hacking is usually even harder than bootloader hacking.”
8 ) Are you interested in Android and writing custom recoveries and rooting devices?
“Definitely interested, though I have a hard time going between WP7 and android right now, trying to decide which one I like more.”
9 ) Are you interested in jailbreaking/unlocking/flashing the CDMA iPhone at all?
“I don’t really care much about apple, so not really. I’m just not the typical target for their products. Still if I had more time and someone asked me to help, I might consider it.”
10 ) What other coding projects have you been involved with?
“If you mean HTC related projects, initially I was involved with the Athena ROM cooking, I helped the team with several fixes, made a kernel update with custom code and some windows mobile programs too and wrote a program to restore some corrupted flash parts in the Athena. After Athena, I made a few things for other devices too; I’ve been involved in various small hack projects, finding ways to unbrick devices, of course a lot of Hard-SPLs, a few little hacks such as the certificate checking patch in the WM kernel, or the one that frees more RAM for certain devices.”
“I’m pretty proud of saying that I was perhaps the first person to figure out the goldcard algorithm for the newer HTC devices. I’ve also been playing with radio hacks together with Olipro – not all of it successful, when hardware limitations prevented a solution.”
“I also helped a lot of other people with various things, some ROM/XIP/IMGFS cooking related stuff, etc. I’m sure I left out a lot of things here, because I just can’t remember everything right now. so, I always have a lot of project ideas in mind, ideas by myself or others when they need help, and time allowing I try to achieve most of these projects.”
That’s all folks! I hope you have enjoyed reading another version of the PPCGeeks spotlight. I know I certainly have! It has shown me a great appreciation for our developers here at PPCGeeks. I know that when I use a custom Rom now – I, for one, will always thank everyone I know who was involved in the process, from start to finish. It seems to be an incredible process to get a rom ready to distribute. Thank you cmonex for giving us this interview, and to the fellow geeks around here on PPCGeeks, remember your chef when you flash, a thanks is never enough but it is a start!