Hacker loads Win 3.1 on N95

February 24, 2009 // 10:09 a.m.

Tags: #dosbox #frazpc #hacker #marcin-prv #n95 #nokia #nokia-n95 #s60 #s60-3rd-edition #symbian #windows #windows-31

In what may well go down as the most awesome – and pointless – hack in smartphone history, a Polish programmer has succeeded in installing a copy of Windows 3.1 on his Nokia N95.

As reported over on BetaNews yesterday, a hacker by the name of Marcin-PRV posted an article on Polish-language bulletin board FrazPC earlier this week which demonstrates a copy of 16-bit operating system Windows 3.1 running alongside the Symbian S60 OS supplied with the 'phone.

The hack required a certain amount of cheating, it must be said: Windows 3.1 was only ever produced for the x86 instruction set, whereas the Nokia N95 runs on a pair of ARM processors – a completely different architecture, and a stumbling block that would ordinarily prevent the software from being installed.

By using a copy of the open-source MS-DOS emulator DOSBox – which is capable not only of emulating an MS-DOS compatible operating system, but also an x86 compatible CPU on otherwise incompatible hardware – compiled for the ARM chip, Marcin was able to get the operating system to install and run successfully, although sadly without access to any of the handset's more advanced hardware such as the in-built transceiver or camera.

Although the hack peaked at the installation of the rather ageing Windows 3.1, Marcin had one last trick up his sleeve: by using an alternative shell – specifically Calmira II – he was able to bring some of the functionality introduced in the 32-bit Windows 95 to the 16-bit Windows 3.1. This introduces a user interface which is a bit more usable on the small screen, but still rather difficult to see – an artifact of the fact that Windows is running at 640x480 on a physical 320x240 screen, which results in text that is a trifle hard to read.

Do you think that Marcin should find better things to do, or can't you wait to learn Polish so you too can have an exclusive Windows 3.1 smartphone? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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