Software update for Nokia N800 tablet leaks, fans go gaga

Major operating-system upgrade for device includes a Mozilla-derived Web browser and boosts the speed of the N800's internal processor to from 320MHz to 400MHz.

Chris Soghoian
Chris Soghoian
Christopher Soghoian delves into the areas of security, privacy, technology policy and cyber-law. He is a student fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society , and is a PhD candidate at Indiana University's School of Informatics. His academic work and contact information can be found by visiting www.dubfire.net/chris/.
3 min read

Updated Again:Nokia has released a legitimate upgrade for the N800 tablets. N800 owners no longer need to follow these instructions to update their OS. Instead, go visit the official Nokia website for info.

Updated: This post was edited for clarity, and to provide an alternative method for generating a N810 serial number (see below).

Details of a major operating-system upgrade for Nokia's Linux-based N800 Internet Tablet device was leaked Wednesday afternoon. Fans of the N800 (and soon-to-be-released N810) have been waiting eagerly for the last few weeks for any word of a final release date.

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet Nokia

While the N800 and new N810 device share the same software, recent reports indicated that the update for the N800 was to be held back for a couple weeks to give the N810 time to shine. Fans had been told to expect the N800 update sometime in December.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the Internet Tablet Talk community forum posted a link to the official software download location for the new N810 device, which itself is yet to hit store shelves.

The two devices made by Nokia run the same software, and so it was only a matter of hours before hackers had found a way to install the software update on their own N800 Internet tablets. Forum posts included some fairly nudge-nudge, wink-wink instructions for evading the serial number check required to download the software.

The new operating system is fantastic (at least from this blogger's few minutes of playing with it). It's faster, includes a Mozilla-derived Web browser, and boosts the speed of the N800's internal processor from 320MHz to 400MHz. After months of waiting, YouTube is finally usable.

While all eyes are on the new N810 Internet Tablet, this operating-system release makes the N800 one of the best buys on the market--and an iPhone competitor. The Internet-enabled wireless device now includes support for video-based chat using the built-in Webcam, Skype, voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, service , as well as a very active developer community.

At less than $250, compared to the N810's $450-plus price tag, the improved N800 gives the average user far more bang for their buck.

Brave N800 owners wishing to upgrade to the latest operating system will need to follow a few steps (this may brick your device, of course. This is only for the fearless, and any tears or financial loss are your own problem):

  1. Go to the N810 software download page.
  2. Enter the serial number for a valid N810 device. To get one of these, pick any number between 001d6e9c0000 to 001d6e9cffff. Pick any random 4 digits (between 0-9 and a-f hex) as the last 4 digits.
  3. Download the file named "RX-44_2008SE_1.2007.42-18_PR_COMBINED_MR0_ARM.bin."
  4. Download the latest firmware-upgrading software, "flasher-3.0".
  5. Now that you have the firmware flasher and the 2008 N800 software update in the same directory, open up a terminal (on a Linux desktop/laptop), and type:
    chmod a+x ./flasher-3.0
    ./flasher-3.0 -u -F RX-44_2008SE_1.2007.42-18_PR_COMBINED_MR0_ARM.bin.
  6. That will unpack the software, and it may take a few seconds. Once that is done, plug the N800 into your computer, using the included USB cable, then reboot the Nokia device while holding the home button. Now execute the following commands:
    sudo ./flasher-3.0 --enable-rd-mode
    sudo ./flasher-3.0 -k zImage -f
    sudo ./flasher-3.0 -n initfs.jffs2 -f
    sudo ./flasher-3.0 -r rootfs.jffs2 -f -R
  7. That should be it. Your device should now boot up with the new 2008 version of the Nokia Maemo operating system.