Monday, June 25, 2007

Hacking my 8830

Ok, so not really. I've had my Blackberry for a little over a week, and I continue to be more impressed with it. Here are some useful things.

  1. Enable mass storage. You get a cryptic message for this, but totally want to do to this. It let's you access your Blackberry's file system. On my Macbook it makes the Blackberry look like a mounted drive, a la a DMG file or something, only its read/write not read-only. This is the easiest way to put pics or MP3s on there.
  2. MP3 Ringtones. Forget buying ringtones. Just load some MP3s on there. Go to your song by going to Media -> Music. Pick your favorite song and the pick Menu -> Set as Phone Tone. Now that MP3 is your default ring tone. Want a special ring tone for different people? Go to the person in your address book. Click Menu -> Edit. Then click Menu -> Add Custom Phone Tune. Click enter. This will bring up a list of pre-set ringtones. You don't want any of this garbage. But scroll to the top of the list and click Browse. Then click Menu -> Explore. I went to Media Card/MY_MP3S. That gave me all of my MP3s. I just picked whatever I wanted from there.
  3. Google Apps. Google obviously loves Blackberry users. GMail and Google Maps both rock for the Blackberry. Google Talk from RIM also rocks. If you open up Google Maps and pick a location, you can get directions. You'll notice that the "from here" is disabled. That's because GPS is not enabled for Google Maps by default, which brings me to my next tip.
  4. Enable GPS. A former co-worker of got an 8850 and thought that Verizon had disabled the GPS. That would be a very Verizon thing to do, but it turns it's not the case. Go to Options -> Advanced -> GPS -> GPS Services and switch it to Location On. It's set to "911 Only" by default. Open Google Maps and you'll have to grant Google Maps permission to use the GPS. Now you've got the full GPS enabled Google Maps functionality. I found that I needed to be outside to get a good signal on it.

These tips are for Mac users only.

  1. PocketMac. The Blackberry version is free and is very good.
  2. Google Calendar. I sync iCal to my Google Calendars, and then sync iCal to my Blackberry via PocketMac.
  3. Plaxo. I use Plaxo as a central repository for my contacts. I then installed the Plaxo plugin for Address Book. It becomes a cool read/write system. I update contacts in Address Book. That syncs things to Plaxo where they are persisted and available to me at work, etc. They are also copied to my Blackberry via PocketMac.

Other stuff...

  1. I downloaded Opera Mini. It works ok. There are some web pages I can view in it that I cannot view in the Blackberry browser, such as ESPN Fantasy Baseball. Entering text into Opera is a pain though. It has its own interface for this that seems awkward. I still think it will come in handy in the long run.
  2. I haven't tried syncing my Safari bookmarks to the Blackberry. That's a cool feature offered by PocketMac. I would need to clean up my Safari bookmarks first though.
  3. Facebook Mobile is really well done. You can do most things that you'd want to do on a mobile device there. A lot of folks prescribe to the iPod/iTunes model when it comes to mobile apps, i.e. read-only on the device, do all your writes from your computer. Facebook does a good job of giving the right "writes" on their mobile version.
Update: An old co-worker of mine and an anonymous commenter both pointed out that even though you can supposedly enable GPS, Google Maps and other similar programs are not able to use it. My friend claims that Verizon has disabled the GPS in some way. My experience has been the same, so maybe this is true. I don't know why Verizon would do this...

Update #2: Ah ha, now I know why Verizon has disabled the GPS on the 8830. There's got to be a hack though...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

On my 8830, even if I enable 'location' in the advanced options->gps, the GPS still doesn't work.

Google maps says "updating location" but can never find a signal. Blackberry maps on the other hand doesn't allow me to select a GPS source. I've also tried 2 other GPS software (nav4all etc.) and still no luck.

Maybe the additional hacking you did is necessary to get it working?

Steve said...

I also enabled "location" and it did not work BUT I was able to send a lat long emial to myself and a friend as to my location? Weird!

Any more information on this one?

bill said...

I spent quite some time on the phone oday asking similar questions of Verizon. I have a very good friend that works for a Verizon re-seller and is looking further, but this is what I have gotten so far. Verizon has disabled the GPS as a result of some unknown conflict that they are working on currently. I was told that the device does have the ability(something we all know) but Verizon can't get it to work properly with their software. I was assured they ARE working on it and I specifically asked if they were going to get the GPS to work or VZ Navigator and I got no commitment either way. Obviosly I prefer the former and Verizon will profit from the later...what do you think?

Bill

steveB said...

sorry for being dense, but how do I enable mass storage mode? I saw the option under "Media Card" item, but that only refers to the microSD media card, not the device storage itself (i.e. when I connect the 8830 to my computer, I see a drive letter show up, but there is nothing in it because my device doesn't have any microSD card in it).

David Lee said...

It's not a software issues Verizon has gimped the GPS no the 8830 on purpose so they can sell you their VZ software.

http://weblog.infoworld.com/gripeline/archives/2007/08/verizon_locks_o.html

chi said...

did you have any issues with syncing your 8830 with ical? whenever i update my 8830 with changes, it reverts back to old data that shouldn't be there...i've tried to do so many things to get this to not happen...i've done a "soft" boot, and a "hard" boot. right now i've changed the settings on pocketmac to "overwrite device," but to no avail...at least now i'm not getting old calendars from way back when.

Anonymous said...

Our company has Sprint service, GPS works great with google maps. I have a personal verizon unit but until this company will actually let you use the phone without paying extra for every feature look for another carrier if you have a phone with features.

another cool feature of google maps is you can use the satillite view with GPS.. freekin sweet

halda said...

There seems to be a class action lawsuit in the works...

http://www.cyberlawonline.com/cyberlawg/general-interest/suit-challenges-verizon-on-blackberry-gps.html

I'm trying to investigate this further while I get the word out...

DanceMacob said...

yay, the gps enable really helped my dumb ass out, thanks!