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Posts Tagged ‘3volution ROM’

The T-Mobile Dash 3G Summary Post

January 7th, 2010 No comments
This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Dash 3G

Over the last nine or ten months I have tweaked, upgraded, and generally overhauled my T-Mobile Dash 3G smartphone. I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. And after my most recent upgrades I think I finally have a really solid phone that I love. So if you’ve recently picked up a Dash, or are thinking about it, here’s all the information I have in one place.

The Basics

To turn your new phone into a lean, mean, communications machine, I recommend ditching the Windows Mobile 6.1 that comes on the phone and upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5. Since neither T-Mobile or HTC has released an official 6.5 upgrade yet, you’re best bet is a custom “cooked” ROM. I use the latest version of ookba’s “3Volution” ROM. In the interest of full disclosure, modifying your phone with custom software will invalidate any warranty on the device, and most probably violates several copyrights. However, in defense of this practice, it has been well established that Microsoft is aware of, and its employees contributors to, the XDA-Developers community among others. And with all the resources at its disposal, Microsoft has not attempted to shut down the practice. So if you choose to do this, do so with an understanding of what you’re doing. (See sidebar for more info.)

How Can I Do This

As I mentioned, upgrading the software on this phone likely violates several copyrights. So how can I do it with a clear conscience?

By my reckoning, there are three parties to be concerned about: the manufacturer (HTC), the distributor (T-Mobile), and the OS Provider (Microsoft).

My feeling is that the manufacturer, HTC, doesn’t care about software upgrades. Like any computer provider (Dell, HP) they provide an initial OS, but have no vested interest in what I eventually run on their hardware. Just as I can install Linux on my Dell, I figure I can install a different OS without HTC being concerned.

As for T-Mobile, they too provide a modified OS, which incorporates their proprietary features. But, again, as long as I don’t run anything on their network that violates their terms of service, I don’t think they care whether I run WinMo 6.1 or 6.5.

That leaves Microsoft. And there is an issue here. Just because I have a valid WinMo 6.1 license, doesn’t mean I should also have a 6.5 license. So, ordinarily, upgrading with a cooked ROM would be something I’d avoid. However, in this case, Microsoft has indicated on their website that they will be offering a 6.1 to 6.5 upgrade for the Dash 3G (see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/en-us/meet/wm65-upgrade.mspx#phoneList). So I feel somewhat justified in turning my 6.1 license into a 6.5 license. Since they say that their partners (HTC and the various carriers) will be releasing the upgrade, I figure that as far as they are concerned, getting it from ookba is just as good as Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile.

So that’s why my conscience is clear.

To install it, follow these steps:

  1. Install a \”hard SPL\” security fix, which allows non-official ROMs to be installed.
  2. Install the latest version of ookba\’s ROM.

I’ve written a little about the upgraded ROM here and here.

Upgrade the Radio

Although I’m not sure upgrading the radio made a really dramatic improvement, it does seem to have helped a little. It certainly hasn’t hurt.

Install Some Useful Applications

I’ve made a couple of lists of useful software that I’ve installed. The main list is here and the second list is here.

Learn

There are many resources on the web for Dash 3G owners. Here are some good ones:

Another Dash 3G Update – Upgrading the Radio

January 7th, 2010 1 comment
This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Dash 3G

The other day I flashed my phone to the latest version of the 3Volution ROM which Ookba had released on XDA-Developers. It’s been three days now and I’m very happy with it. It’s stable and fast and, so far, everything woks as expected. Even the Skyfire ALT key bug has been fixed.

There was really only one last thing to tackle on this device: the cellular radio itself. In a cellphone, there are really two sets of code that make things work, The Phone’s Operating System (OS) and the radio software. The OS controls all of the functions that you can see, while the radio software controls the way the phone communicates with the network. The OS and the radio can be installed separately.

Users on various message boards have reported that their phones seem to drop their 3G data connection back to EDGE speeds whenever they end a phone call. And a few people have complained that their ability to capture a 3G signal in the first place is suspect. Some people hope that an upgraded radio software package from the manufacturer will address some of these issues. In fact, it probably won’t, since connection speed decisions are made by the network and not the phone, but at any rate I figure that if HTC released a newer version of the radio software, there must be some improvement in it….

My Dash 3G originally shipped with radio version 3.44.25.30 (check yours by going to START/SETTINGS/ABOUT). The manufacturer (HTC) released a Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade separately from the T-Mobile upgrade, and the HTC version had some updated radio code in it. Ookba managed to extract this package and build it into a stand-alone update, with version 3.47.25.29 in it. And that’s what I installed.

The Verdict

Well … the flash worked perfectly and everything installed in about a minute of work. Did it change the way my phone behaves? Not that much that I can see. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt anything, but there is no dramatic improvement either. I think that I am able to get better signal on my normal commute, but this could also very well be the result of T-Mobile’s ongoing network upgrades too. I don’t get any faster speeds when my laptop is tethered. I’m not sure yet whether actual phone performance is enhanced (I haven’t made enough calls).

So my recommendation is this: if you are comfortable flashing your phone, go for it. You might see some marginal improvements. But if flashing makes you nervous, then there’s no reason to suffer through this – the improvements aren’t dramatic.

Upgrading the 3Volution ROM on my Dash 3G

January 3rd, 2010 1 comment
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series 3volution ROM

I’ve been running a custom ROM on my Dash 3G since its creator, Ookba, released it on XDA-Developers.com. I had been running his version 3VO.1.60.090209 since it was first released.

Since then a couple of supposedly improved versions have been released, and although the 090209 version had only one major flaw as far as my use was concerned (a weird bug where the ALT key didn’t function correctly when the SkyFire browser was launched from an e-mail link – it worked fine everywhere else) I thought I’d upgrade anyway to take advantage of any additional fixes Ookba built in.

I downloaded the latest version posted (3VO.2.50.112509) and installed it following the same procedure I used initially. The install worked flawlessly.

Although I initially had a problem where it seemed that the keyboard map was wrong and the SHIFT and ALT keys wouldn’t work, I believe that I had a corrupted download. Because I re-downloaded the file and flashed again and everything seemed to work.

So far, this release solved my major problem — the keyboard now works in Skyfire. I’m sure there are many more things to cover and I’ll write about them soon.

I just wish I could say the same thing for the ROM. The 112509 version had a major bug in it that left me dead in the water: It appears that the English keyboard maps are totally corrupted in this version and the SHIFT and ALT keys don’t work properly. And unlike before, where it only affected Skyfire, in this version they were broken everywhere. So the 3VO.2.50.112509 version was a total bust for me — and I cannot recommend that anyone use it — at least until the keyboard map issue is fixed.

For what it’s worth, I did switch the keyboard map and tried not only the stock Dash 3G map but a British version and the map for the Sprint Snap. Neither fixed the issue.

So – rather than rolling all the way back to the 3VO.1.60.090209 version, I rolled back to a version between that and the 3VO.2.50.112509 version. I am currently running the 3VO.2.00.101009 version. After 15 minutes of configuring my mail and getting my apps set back up it seems like a good successor to the 090209 version. There are some cosmetic changes to the START menu — I don’t know what else was supposedly fixed or tweaked. I’ll write about anything that comes up.

3 Weeks With the 3volution ROM

September 23rd, 2009 1 comment
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series 3volution ROM

And it’s awesome!

This is just a quick post to confirm what a number of people already know — the 3volution ROM for the Dash 3G is solid. I’ve used and abused the phone for 3 weeks now and it is still fast, clean, and stable. The only bug I’ve found so far is that the Fn key doesn’t work in the Skyfire browser, if you’ve clicked a link in an e-mail to launch it. It works fine if you start the browser on its own. Weird.

But otherwise I can say that Windows Mobile 6.5 looks and performs great. The other day I realized that as I was walking to work, I was running Pandora, connected to my bluetooth headphones, Google Maps was running with Latitude turned on, I had Nimbuzz and GV Dialer running in the background, and I was sending and receiving e-mail on an Exchange account and a Google Apps account. And the phone didn’t even slow down when I switched screens. I am impressed. Together, the Dash 3G and the 3volution ROM are a fantastic pair.

Dash 3G – Quick Impressions of 3volution ROM

September 7th, 2009 No comments
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series 3volution ROM

It’s been one day since I flashed my phone with a “cooked” (custom) ROM that I found on XDA-Developers. And so far I have no regrets.

3volution Homescreen

3volution Homescreen

ROM chef “ookba” did an excellent job on this package, including some very clean and tasteful themes for the phone. I normally find most phone themes so cluttered and distracting that the first thing I do is set the background to a simple, plain black. But the default “Islands” wallpaper on this ROM is actually so nice I want to keep it. And it passed the ultimate test … my wife saw it and said that she’d like to flash to this ROM just for the look of it. And, perhaps greatest of all, as you can see in the homescreen picture to the right, there are some decent colored battery, signal, and other icons baked right in! I don’t have to spend another day with those shitty white icons that ship with the default Windows Mobile ROMs.

Once installed, it only took me about an hour to reinstall all my software and get my mail accounts set back up. I have to say, using an Exchange server at work for my primary contacts manager is a blessing, as is Google Apps’ support of IMAP4. Long gone are the days of losing mail that was saved to your handheld. It takes only 5 minutes to completely rebuild my mailboxes from the server. Add to that my Google Apps Calendar for personal use and my Exchange calendar, and my life is back under control within 15 minutes of wiping my phone.

Cool Tools

Cool Tools

Windows Mobile 6.5 added some nice features, and chef ookba made sure that critical system things were accessible. Like putting Internet Connection Sharing right on the main app list (it works — one of the first things I checked). He has also added several tools to allow easy management of the look of the ROM as well as several useful 3rd party apps that you would normally need to add separately to a default WinMo installation. Eight of them are shown on this capture of the Tools menu. Especially nice is the implementation of the “Titanium” homescreen architecture, which really advances the look and feel of the phone light years beyond the standard Windows Mobile homescreen and well beyond even the sliding panels in WinMo 6.5.

So, the bottom line after 1 day – the phone works perfectly after flashing, the ROM looks and works well, and I am very happy I took the plunge. More information as I dig deeper into the ROM and use it for daily work.

Flashing ookba’s 3volution ROM Part 2 – Flashing the ROM

September 6th, 2009 2 comments
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series 3volution ROM

Windows Mobile 6.5 … er, excuse me, Windows Phone 6.5 … here I come.

In Part 1, I successfully installed the HardSPL security fix on my phone. The process and instructions worked like a charm. So I’m, willing to try part 2. Here it goes.

As before, I created a dedicated working directory on my PC and downloaded the file from http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=551642. The file is in a RAR archive (as opposed to a ZIP archive) so you will need to uncompress it before you can use it. I use 7Zip, but WinRAR and other programs work for this too.

Please see Part 1 of this series to see the parameters of my Dash 3G and the computer I am using to flash.

As before, here are the steps.

  1. Read, re-read, and re-re-read the flashing tutorial and the entire thread about this ROM (yes, all 266 posts at the time of this writing).
  2. Fully charge phone battery.
  3. Remove SIM and MicroSD from phone.
  4. Prepare computer by disabling firewall/virus software.
  5. Connect phone and allow ActiveSync to connect.
  6. Run ROM Update Utility (my ohone was HardSPL’d in Part 1)
  7. Follow prompts … Hit OK
  8. ActiveSync connection drops … bootloader screen starts.
  9. Wait. Progress bar on phone and screen. The progress bar on phone and screen moved steadily for about 90 seconds to 100%.
  10. Computer shows Rom Update Utility completion.
  11. Phone booted to 3volution/HTC start screen and hung there for about a minute. Then booted to WinMo 6.5 screen with “Preparing Device” message.
  12. After 2 minutes moved to SIM Failure screen.
  13. Phone rebooted again to 3volution/HTC screen then to WinMo6.5 screen.
  14. Clicked OK on Sim screen and saw 3volution homescreen! Success!

All in all — a pretty painless process. And at first glance, the 3volution ROM looks awesome! I will be reviewing after I get my mail accounts etc. set back up!

Flashing ookba’s 3volution ROM Part 1 – Installing HardSPL Fix

September 6th, 2009 No comments
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series 3volution ROM

OK … I could be spending Labor Day shopping at T-Mobile to replace my $350 brick if this goes horribly wrong. But, I think ookba’s ROM has reached the point of reasonable stability. So I’m willing to give it a shot. This will be a play-by-play — you can live or die along with me!

Why Am I Flashing?

This is an incomplete answer. Partly, just because I can. There really isn’t that much wrong with the stock WM 6.1 ROM. Unlike my previous Wing, there is no major memory leak affecting performance. The T-Mobile ROM also doesn’t have too much bloatware which can’t be turned off — dumping the MyFaves display is pretty simple for example.

I guess part of me wants to move to WM 6.5 simply because I expected it to be released by now and I expected that new phones released during the summer would have it. Also since Microsoft has finally confirmed that 6.5 will be released this month, I expect that most 3rd-party programs will support it so there shouldn’t be that much risk in switching. So — we’ll see how it goes.

Background Parameters

Phone Info:

  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
  • OS Rev: 5.2.21048 (Build 21048.1.6.3)
  • Radio Version 61.25t.25.19U_3.44.25.30
  • RIL Version 2.002
  • ROM Version: 1.17.531.5 (50264)
  • ROM Date: 06/03/09
  • Protocol Version: 61.25t.25.19U

Flashing Computer Info:

  • Model: Dell Studio 1735
  • OS: Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1)

If your system parameters differ by much, good luck.

Flashing Steps

  1. Read, re-read, and re-re-read ookba’s tutorial about flashing and unbricking your phone: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=551959
  2. Read, re-read, and re-re-read the HardSPL flashing instructions at http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=550620
  3. Fully charge phone battery over night!
  4. Remove SIM and SD cards.
  5. Power device on.
  6. Bypass missing SIM error screen (hit DONE).
  7. Connect to PC and allow ActiveSync to connect (I actually don’t sync my phone via ActiveSync, so I always choose “Connect without setting up device” . Allow any additional programs to finish communicating (for example, one of my PC Corel photo programs “sees” the pictures on the device when it’s connected. Let this finish.)
  8. Download and unzip 1.17 Hard SPL patch. (I created a folder on the desktop to hold the files.)
  9. Disable firewall software on PC! It’s bad enough that the Vista User Access Control pops up as programs run … having more warnings or possible interruptions due to virus/firewall programs just makes this worse.
  10. Execute ‘auto.bat’ and follow directions on PC screen — hit any key as requested.
  11. Screen on phone pops up warning about untrusted software. Hit Yes and then click trackball on the next screen (there is an OK button that is partly obscured on our screen — you need to hit OK to continue).
  12. Phone goes blank for about 30 seconds.
  13. ROM Update Start Screen

    ROM Update Start Screen

  14. Rom Update Utility pops up on PC.
  15. Check box and hit next:
  16. Second update screen appears. Verify that you have the device connected, etc. and hit NEXT.
  17. You’ll see the progress screen warning that the update might take 10 minutes … it won’t (we’re not installing a complete ROM, just the SPL fix). After just a few seconds, the bar is at 100% and you are done.
  18. Install Complete

    Install Complete

After this step is complete you should verify that the SPL version is correct before you continue trying to flash a custom ROM. To do this, enter the bootloader (with phone off, hold Volume Up on side and power on) and see what’s listed on the tri-colored bootloader screen.

The text you want to see flashes by in less than a second, and is the first line in yellow at the top of the screen. You can enter the bootloader without continuing and wiping your phone clean, so don’t worry too much about this step. What you want to see is the string: “1.17.HARD” at the end of this line. If you don’t want to go through the process of actually setting your phone back to the factory default, then hit any key to exit the bootloader without continuing. I needed to start it twice before I read the line correctly and verified that my phone said “1.17.HARD.” Excellent it worked ….

In part 2, I flash the cooked ROM!

New Dash 3G ROMs Being Cooked

August 28th, 2009 No comments

[Update: I’ve flashed my phone to ookba’s 3volution ROM. See this post for the flashing procedure and this post for my initial review.]

Closely watching XDA-Developers member ‘ookba’ who has been cooking some new ROMs for the Dash 3G based on the Windows Mobile 6.5 core and his “3volution” design. (The Dash 3G ships with a Windows Mobile 6.1 core.)

ookba is on his second release as of today (Build 3VO.1.00.082609). I usually wait for the early adopters to find the most critical bugs (like a white text on a white background problem in the first release on the caller ID pages so you couldn’t see who was calling.) But I think I’ll be flashing my phone soon.

ookba’s released ROMs for the HTC Maple (T-Mobile Dash 3G) found here and for the HTC Cedar (Sprint Snap & Verizon Ozone) found here.

For those not familiar with cell phone software, here is a very basic primer, at least for Windows Mobile / HTC phones.

Operating Systems

Like any computing device, a cell phone has an operating system or OS. For the Dash 3G, that OS is Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard.

Unlike regular Windows XP or Vista, when a cell phone manufacturer and carrier decide to release a Windows Mobile phone, they have the ability to customize the OS to a great extent. Think of T-Mobile’s “My Faves” application as an example — this is something T-Mobile builds into the phone’s OS.

The OS for a cell phone resides in a memory chip on the phone that the phone itself can not change or write information to. So it is called Read Only Memory or ROM. The copy of the computer code that resides in this memory is called a ROM Image, or also simply a ROM. So, in the lingo of cell phone hackers, the terms ROM and OS are interchangeable.

Almost anyone can use a  Software Development Kit (SDK) (called a Kitchen) to build their own ROM (called “cooking” a ROM). Getting it installed on the phone is the hard part.

Protection

Cell phone carriers and manufacturers are notoriously protective of their OSes. So every cellphone is locked in multiple ways to prevent people from changing the software. The two most common locks for GSM phones (like the Dash 3G) are CID locks and SIM locks. The SIM lock prevents a SIM card from another carrier from working in your phone, so you can’t move to another carrier easily. More important to the OS is the CID (Carrier ID) lock, which prevents software ROMs not “signed” by the carrier from installing on your phone. This is why you can’t normally change the OS on your phone.

Luckily, there are some very talented people out there who are able to break this lock for most phones.

Bootloader

Every cell phone is equipped with something called a bootloader, which is a program that is designed to take the ROM Image from its memory and load it into the working memory of the phone (normally, this resets the phone to its factory settings, and can be invoked on the Dash 3G by powering the phone off, then turning it on while holding the volume up button).

This bootloader also verifies that the image its loading is a “signed” or authorized image. It does this with an SPL program (no idea what SPL stands for).

In order to replace the ROM on a phone you need to defeat this security check. One way is to defeat it permanently (a Hard SPL break). Another way is to change the routine so it can be bypassed as needed (Soft SPL break).

Updating Sequence

So, this means that the basic sequence to changing your phone’s ROM is this:

  1. Change the SPL security.
  2. Load or ‘flash’ a new ROM image to the Phone’s ROM.
  3. Engage the bootloader to load the new ROM to the phone.

Of course the devil is in the details. A very good primer on flashing ookba’s ROMs is: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=551959