Enable GPS on the Verizon Blackberry Tour 9630

I just switched from AT&T to Verizon (oh my god -- I can make calls now!!), and noted that Google Maps was using Skyhook WPS as its location finder instead of using the GPS. It turns out that Verizon ships with the GPS off. I went to **Options -> Advanced Options -> GPS** and set **GPS Services** to "Location On". Google Maps now tracks my location accurately (using GPS).

AT&T Wireless, terrible service in San Francisco

Those of you who follow my posts know that I complain about AT&T at least a few times a week. I finally called them up today to have a chat about the deteriorating service in San Francisco, threatening to terminate my account, and was informed by the retention department that a tower a 4th and Howard stopped working some time ago. This may be one of the main reasons I'm getting such terrible service because it's the closest tower to me; however, it does not explain failed calls in other parts of the Bay Area. The retention specialist told me that two new towers would be going in at 5th and Shipley on July 31st. She then credited my account $30 for my troubles. If I turn off 3G on the iPhone, I can often make calls without getting the dreaded "Call Failed" screen. Since the Blackberry Bold on AT&T doesn't have a feature disable 3G, I'm out of luck unless I de-brand the device, which seems a bit risky.

If AT&T service is still bad after the new towers go up on July 31st, I'm switching my Blackberry plan over to Verizon[^1] (I'll probably get the Blackberry Tour, since works overseas with its support for CDMA/EV–DO, 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE and 2100 MHz UMTS/HSPA). It will be worth the $175 termination fee to have a phone that can do things like making and sustaining calls without failing. The iPhone will stay on an AT&T plan, but I won't be using it for voice anymore.

**UPDATE, August 3, 2009**: I switched my Blackberry over to Verizon and am loving the call quality and ability to make a phone call. My iPhone is still on AT&T. The new towers are supposed to be up less than a block from me. I am getting 3 bars on 3G instead of 1 bar, but I've already dropped one call this morning. I'll write another update after more testing.

**UPDATE, August 3, 2009**: I am actually fluctuating between 1 bar and 3 bars, even when the phone is stationary. Whatever.

[^1]: When I used to be on Verizon, I would drop about one call every month. On AT&T, I'm dropping a few calls a *day*, and if something happens like WWDC or a typical day's rush hour, it can be difficult to even connect on a single call. Many friends on AT&T have reported similar statistics.

PalmOS is dead; Palm Pre is coming

Palm CEO Ed Colligan has announced that there will be no more PalmOS devices released by Palm. In 1996, I bought the U.S Robotics Palm Pilot 1000, a truly revolutionary product in its time. I was a software intern in Austin, TX, that summer, and have fond memories of coding for the Palm device using Metrowerks' Codewarrior for PalmOS. Because Metrowerks was in Austin, I walked into its headquarters to pick up my software order; they had it at the front desk -- a box with a yellow sticky on it that said, "Eric".

Finally, on July 12, 2005, I abandoned PalmOS (and all Treo devices) in favor of Blackberry. As innovators, Palm had been stagnant for years, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. All I wanted to do with my mobile device was communicate efficiently, and the Treo running PalmOS was riddled with problems.

Still, I used Palm devices for 9 years -- a significant chunk of my life. I look forward to seeing what Palm does with its new Palm Pre phone. Competition is good. :)

Getting Google Sync to work again on Blackberry

Like many other Google Sync users on Blackberry, calendar sync stopped working some time between the end of November, 2008, and when I returned to network coverage areas in mid-January. No amount of uninstalling and reinstalling Google Sync had any effect. Luckily, I found a thread in Google Mobile Help that contained the solution. I'm on a Blackberry Bold 9000 on AT&T, v4.6.0.167 (Platform 4.0.0.157), and here are the steps I took to get Google Sync working again:

1. On a Windows machine, connect your Blackberry and run Blackberry Desktop Manager 2. Go to Backup/Restore, and then click on Advanced 3. In the device pane, select "Calendar" and "Calendar-all" (Control-click to select both) and click on Clear[^1] 4. On your Blackberry, uninstall Google Sync (requires restart) 5. Install Google Sync 6. Run Google Sync, enter your login credentials, and sign in 7. Go go Options, and de-select contact sync (I don't use it), and then select the Calendars you want to sync 8. Sync!

[^1]: Note that this will delete all calendar data on your Blackberry. You may want to backup.

I'm glad it's working again.

Updating PRL / firmware on Sprint Novatel Merlin EX720 EVDO card

My Sprint Novatel Merlin EX720 EVDO card has become nearly useless over the past year. It actually seems to work well -- I clocked it at 1153 Kb/s down, 295 Kb/s up, ping: 84ms (to Los Angeles) today -- but after a few minutes of use, it slows down to dial-up speeds. Luckily, Roget works with these cards every day, and he recommended that I make sure my PRL (Preferred Roaming List) was current. I discovered that I was running PRL 20224, which is dated 09/18/2006 (!). Roget was surprised that my connection was even working properly, and said that I should be running a PRL in the 6-series instead of the 2-series.

Sprint provides software called SmartView, and using the Mac OS X version, I was able to update my PRL to 20233 (09/30/2008). Unfortunately, my transfer speed here at home in San Francisco immediately dropped to around 400 Kb/s down. Not good! Roget speculated that an update using the Windows version of SmartView might do a firmware upgrade that would kick me over to a 6-series PRL, so I tried running SmartView in Windows XP running in a VMWare Fusion virtual machine. In that environment, SmartView identified my need to do a firmware upgrade (to v145). It downloaded the 10MB update, but failed during the process, telling me: "ERROR: NwUmtsPstResponseDM: ReadFile read 0".


Updating a Merlin EX720 card's firmware in Fusion = no good

I sent out a plea to my friends for the use of a Windoze notebook with an ExpressCard slot, and luckily, Warren was able to provide one. Using his notebook, I successfully updated my EX720's firmware to version 145. Unfortunately, the PRL is still at 20233. The firmware update did not kick me over to a 6-series PRL, and Sprint SmartView now says that there are no more updates to install.

Does anyone out there have information on how to upgrade a Novatel Merlin EX720 to 6-series PRLs?

**UPDATE, 3 FEB 2009**: We figured it out.

The Novatel Connection Manager comes embedded with the 60711 PRL. Roget warned me not to install both SmartView and Novatel Connection Manager at the same time, so we uninstalled SmartView on Warren's Windows machine, installed Novatel Connection Manager, did an update... and it worked! My Merlin EX720 had been migrated over to 60711, a 6-series PRL.

I then uninstalled Novatel Connection Manager and reinstalled SmartView (again, on the Windows machine). Unfortunately, uninstalling Novatel Connection Manager nukes the EX720 drivers, and reinstalling SmartView doesn't always re-install the drivers properly. If you're going to do this, be sure to reinstall SmartView the right way. I ended up using SprintView on Mac OS X to update my PRL to 60714. For some reason, 60750 is not available at the moment.

So here is a summary of the steps to migrate a EX720 from a 2-series to 6-series PRL:

1. Get ahold of a Windows machine 2. Install Sprint SmartView 3. Do an "application update" (in the Tools menu). After the program downloads a bunch of data and stops, you may have disconnect, remove the card, reinsert, and update again (I had to). 4. Continue to do application updates until it tells you that there are no more 5. Uninstall SmartView 6. Install Novatel Connection Manager 7. Using Novatel Connection Manager, update your application (it may do a firmware update) 8. Uninstall Novatel Connection Manager 9. Re-install SmartView the right way, or switch back to SprintView on your Mac 10. Do application updates until there are no more 11. Curse Sprint for making this difficult

On PRL 60714, I am now getting around 1.6Mbps / 370Kbps from my home in San Francisco.