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 The Blackberry owner's survival guide    
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 Dated:  Wednesday, August 12 2009 @ 12:27 AM PDT
 Viewed:  848 times  
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A work in progress. These are the things you need to know as a new Blackberry owner.

Resources

The first step in Blackberry ownership is to go to http://www.crackberry.com and create an account. The forum at Crackberry is the first place I go when I have an issue with the phone. Usually it's already been solved, but when I do have to ask a question I usually get a quick and helpful answer.

The Battery Cover Design Flaw

Don't get me wrong, the Bold 9000 is a great phone with a nice combination of up-to-date features, but the battery cover sucks. The Curve (any Curve) has a much better design. I have no idea why Blackberry used the design they did, but they ought to be ashamed.

I returned my first Bold because the battery cover would just fall off at odd moments. The second (brand new) phone had the same problem to a lesser extent.

There are two problem with the cover -- (1) the release button is right on the bottom edge of the bezel, where it's easy to bump against things, and is precisely in the spot your hand naturally goes to pick up the phone off the desk, which results in usually leaving the battery cover sitting on the desk. (2) The button is extremely sensitive. The slightest bump against the button causes the cover to fall off, sometimes without you realizing it. The combination of a sensitive button in a prominent place practically insures that you will be having issues with the cover.

I brought this up on Crackberry, and apparently it's a common problem. The most common solution was to put a piece of scotch tape or duct tape across the bottom to keep the cover on. I'm sorry, I WILL NOT walk around with duct tape hanging off a $540 phone!

Fortunately, there is a more elegant solution. Go to any office supply store and get some sticky velcro dots. Put one dot on the bottom of the battery, with it's mate attached and the backing removed. Put the cover on and press down, sticking the other dot to the back of the cover. This not only prevents the cover from coming off, it also puts some pressure on the cover, which reduces the rattly feel and makes the connection a little more secure. If the button gets pushed accidentally, at least you won't lose the cover.

The Speaker Volume Flaw

The speaker volume drops to an almost inaudible level, including alert sounds like the ring tone for the phone.

This is caused by a bad connection between the circuit board and the speaker. A short term solution is to take the back off and squeeze the phone gently at a point just above the flash on the back and right over the ear hole on the front.

A longer term solution is to take the back off, take off the battery and the six screws (Torex #5) and gently, VERY gently, lift up a tiny bit the little gold connectors that make contact between the circuit board and the speaker. Carefully put it back together. After doing this, I never again had a problem with speaker volume.

I think they had quality control problems with the Bold.

More about this issue here.

Accessories

Get the charging pod. (I got mine from Amazon.) It's a heavy, stable device that attaches to your home charger. You don't have to connect anything to the blackberry. Just dump it in the pod, and it magically starts charging. The pod looks sharp and is solidly constructed. The Bold automatically switches to "desk clock mode" when you drop it in.

As links to products on Amazon tend to change, I won't include a link here to the charging pod. Do a search on "Blackberry charging pod" and include your model (Storm, Bold, Curve, etc) and you will find the appropriate pod.

This seems like such a necessary device that I'm surprised it's not included in the original kit. Fortunately it's cheap. (I got mine for $18.)

Note: You must get the pod that's specifically made for your phone.

The pod does not provide a "hotsync" connection to your computer, as, for instance, the Palm Pilot cradle did. For that you'll still need to connect a data cable directly to the phone (which will also charge the phone if you use a powered usb port). The good news is that your five major categories -- email, phonebook, calendar, memos, and tasks, are synced through the Blackberry server, so you'll only need to hard-tether your phone to perform backups and occasionally to install apps.

Backups

It's a good idea to perform regular (at least monthly) backups of your device through the Blackberry desktop applet. This makes restoring your stuff much easier after a total fail or if you need to replace the device. Backups are very fast and create a single file that contains your data. Connect your phone to the computer, bring up Blackberry Desktop, click Backup, and follow the directions.

Mass Storage mode

When connected to a Windows PC, your Blackberry will ask if you want to turn on mass storage mode. If you click "yes", it will appear to your computer as two devices in "My Computer" -- one gives access to files on the phone, and the other gives access to the memory card (if installed). This is a simple way to back up your photos or install new photos, videos or music to the device. (Although the itunes sync applet does a better job with music -- more on this later.)

Video support

The Blackberry Bold and Curve 8900 support the DiVX video codec natively. This means that any video encoded with this codec will play unaltered on the phone. Just plug it into your computer and drop the file into the video directory in mass storage mode. For more about DiVX, see http://www.divx.com.

The desktop software includes the Roxio media manager, which will convert video files to a PDA-friendly format. Whether you use this is up to you -- it does make the files smaller, which is an advantage, but it takes significant time to convert a 2 hour video. I just drop the files onto the media card and let the phone figure out how to play it. Your mileage may vary.

Blackberry Media Sync

You can sync your blackberry with itunes through the Blackberry desktop Manager. Bring up Desktop Manager, connect your Blackberry to the computer, go to Media, find "Blackberry Media Sync" and hit "Start". Decide which playlist you want to sync to the Blackberry. "Music", the first one, will sync everything. I don't have enough room for that, so I create a playlist (called "blackberry") just for this purpose. I add new music to playlist "blackberry" and then sync it the next time I've got the phone connected.

Stereo Bluetooth

If your car supports stereo bluetooth, once you pair your Blackberry with the car radio in the usual way, you will discover that your Blackberry will play music through the car stereo. If your car stereo supports control of Bluetooth enabled devices, you will discover that you have rudimentary control (start, stop, track change) of your blackberry's media player from your car stereo. I use this all the time -- it's really slick!

Youtube support

As of this writing, the Blackberry browser does not work very well with Youtube. There is a gateway/translator site that will give you access to Youtube videos on your Blackberry. Direct your phone's browser to http://blueapple.mobi.

Start here with task switching and other usability secrets.

More later.

Also see What's on my Blackberry.




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