Hell Oh Entropy!

Life, Code and everything in between

Corporate Email with ActiveSync on KitKat (Nexus 5)

Posted: Dec 03, 2013, 18:06

Update: I have now updated the post with a solution that actually works. There is a disclaimer though: future system updates will not update your Email and Exchange packages; you’ll have to always do it manually.

I once had a Samsung Galaxy S (GT-i9000). It was a beautiful phone that I used, rooted and installed Cyanogenmod on (right up to JellyBean) and thoroughly enjoyed. And then I decided that I wanted to fix the GPS contact on the phone using a documented soldering solution. So that’s how I got to order a Nexus 5 :D

Jokes aside, I was thrilled to get my hands on a Nexus 5 last week. My Galaxy S had served me well for many years mainly due to great quality hardware back then and I chose the Nexus 5 for the same reason - a quad core processor and 2GB RAM will surely last me a while. There was one problem though and as I found out, it was a fairly widespread problem - corporate emails that use ActiveSync would not work. The problem was documented and also fixed, but there was no fix available for the Nexus 5 yet, unless you had Cyanogenmod.

I had decided to not root my phone for at least six months and even after rooting, not install Cyanogenmod for another six months, so my chances of getting a fix were dependent on Google releasing an update. This looked like a good chance to get my hands on some android patching and building, so I decided to give it a go. To summarize, I did the following:

My phone is alive and syncing emails, so here’s a more detailed description of what I did. I am not going to write about rooting the phone or setting up the android development environment. That stuff is well documented - just make sure you get the binary images from reliable sources, like the original website.

Locate the fix

Comment #174 in the bug report pointed to the Cyanogenmod patch review system which had the patch that fixed the problem. The Google engineers unfortunately were not helpful enough to make any such note. I verified in the downloaded AOSP source that these changes were in place. I just stuck to master and did not bother going for any specific branches to do a backport because (1) it’s java code, so it ought to be largely device independent, i.e. it shouldn’t break anything on my phone if it’s wrong and (2) I’d expect that it should be possible for the apps to be independently built and installed, which they were. Since the code on master and building with java 1.7 did not work, I installed the 1.6 jdk and checked out the android-4.2.2_r1 branch in AOSP. In fact, the code on 4.2.2_r1 branch will not even build with java 1.7. On the code end, the CyanogenMod change was slightly different, but the problem was in fact fixed on the 4.2.2_r1 branch with this revision:

commit d92a75c707461188e8743149476e8f49ef191b42
Author: Tony Mantler <email removed>
Date:   Fri Nov 15 12:45:53 2013 -0800

    Make sure the client certificate is always installed
    Change-Id: Iafe200d14b72678324758fe08b03c8ea7bb9dc5c

So there was no need to actually patch anything.

Build the packages

Building the individual packages is very simple:

$ make showcommands Email Exchange2

Defining EXPERIMENTAL_USE_JAVA7_OPENJDK allowed me to use OpenJDK to build java programs instead of the proprietary Oracle Java. showcommands is an additional target that gives a verbose mode. Email and Exchange2 are the package names. One could get those package names by looking for the LOCAL_PACKAGE_NAME variable in the Android.mk in the package directory ($(srcdir)/packages/apps/).

Remove the old packages

Before removing, always backup. It’s easy to do this from adb, using the commands:

$ adb pull /system/app/EmailGoogle.apk backup/
$ adb pull /system/app/Exchange2Google.apl backup/

Once this is done, get into adb shell and get root:

$ adb shell
phone:/$ su

You’ll get a prompt on your phone confirming root access, which you need to allow. Now remount the /system filesystem in read-write mode using the following command:

phone:/# mount -o remount,rw /system

Once the remount succeeds, remove the package files using the commands below. Also remove the odex files since they’ll be regenerated for the new packages:

phone:/# rm /system/app/EmailGoogle.apk
phone:/# rm /system/app/EmailGoogle.odex
phone:/# rm /system/app/Exchange2Google.apk
phone:/# rm /system/app/Exchange2Google.odex

Install new packages

Installing the newly built packages is also just as simple. First, copy the packages to your sdcard:

$ adb push out/target/product/generic/system/app/Exchange2.apk /sdcard/
$ adb push out/target/product/generic/system/app/Email.apk /sdcard/

and then copy those packages to /system/app/ and give them appropriate permissions:

$ adb shell
phone:/$ su
phone:/# cp /sdcard/Email.apk /system/app/
phone:/# cp /sdcard/Exchange2.apk /system/app/
phone:/# chmod 644 /system/app/Email.apk
phone:/# chmod 644 /system/app/Exchange2.apk

Reboot your phone and let the phone optimize your app (i.e. generate the odex file) for your phone. ActiveSync should now start working on your phone!


Net4 and the agony of Received-SPF

Posted: Jan 24, 2010, 01:51

Warning: This is a bit of a rant, so read on only if you’re in a bad mood and want someone to cuss at (either me or the entity I’m cussing at ;) )

I had recently bought email hosting services for my Mom from Net4 following decent service on the domain and web hosting front. It was a stupid decision. Net4 support for email pretty much sucks. Maybe I have only been lucky with the web hosting support too as I did not have to deal with morons for the most part. For the last two days I haven’t been so lucky.

I noticed the problem soon after the email hosting got activated — emails that I would send to any gmail accounts would go into the spam folder. I ignored it in the beginning mainly because I wasn't interested enough to look hard for what is wrong. But recently mom started complaining about it since her customers were not getting her emails. So we opened a ticket with Net4. For good measure, I also called so that I get immediate feedback. I was told to attach a sample email that went into spam. I did that. The support person then closed the ticket the next day asking for a sample email. Interesting.

So I open a support ticket once again and this time I try to do some research on why gmail may be doing this. I noticed the following header:

Received-SPF: neutral (google.com: xx.yy.zz.aa is neither permitted nor denied by best guess record for domain of mom@example.com) client-ip=xx.yy.zz.aa;

So I look up google and come across this article on SPF records. Apparently, net4 ought to be adding an SPF entry for my domain associating it with their mail servers. This entry will lead to the Received-SPF header being "pass" instead of "neutral". This is something that gmail takes into consideration while filtering for spam. While I realize that there may be other matters (email content, subject, etc.), all those factors do not come into the picture with my sample email. This seems to be the only missing link since my domain, mail server, etc. are not blacklisted either. I mention it in the support ticket and again attach the sample email. The ticket gets closed again with a request for a sample email. WTF?

I call up and ask the support tech. I try explaining about SPF and how that might be affecting things and he goes all ballistic (not figuratively, he's positively shouting) on me saying that this is on Linux and it does not work the way I am saying. With my ego hurt, I shouted back saying that I work for a Linux company :P

We end the call with the tech telling me that I am only throwing keywords around without knowing anything about it. He asks me how I would fix this and I admit that I don't know right away but I can do his job and look it up. He then bullshits me about how it is "the pop3 end which marks the spam with either SPAM tag in subject or moving to a spam folder" and so on. According to him SPF is something different and there is nothing wrong with it. He ended it saying that I was being an ass and that he will escalate the issue.

No, there is no hope. The last two issues were escalated too. Apparently everyone at Net4 is just a bunch of incompetent fools. Either that or those who aren't are eyeing management positions since that is the "way up the ladder". Or they're on their way out.

I think I need to be on my way out of this service. I may not get a refund this time but I can surely make sure that I don't renew my services with them and definitely not recommend their services to people I care about.