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Posts Tagged ‘Dash 3G’

T-Mobile Signal Strength and Bad SIMs

June 2nd, 2010 1 comment
This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Dash 3G

Over the holiday weekend my Dash 3G simply stopped connecting to the network. No data, no phone, no bars, no nothing. Don’t know exactly when it happened, but when I picked up my phone to go to work on Tuesday morning, I had nada for signal strength. And no matter how I tried to reboot, pull the battery, pull and reinstall the SIM, nothing helped. I began to suspect there was a widespread outage in the Northeast, but nope … it was just me.

I called T-Mobile to check and the phone tech was helpful. I was pleasantly surprised at their ability to troubleshoot a Windows Mobile phone. We tried to reset the network settings, but nothing helped. The phone tech was the one who suggested that perhaps the SIM had failed. This had never happened to me before – a bad SIM? A SIM failing for no apparent reason? I mean, it’s not like I remove it from my phone. I hadn’t opened the back in months – how the hell could it just fail?

I didn’t believe it. I searched the web and one of the first hits to come up was a thread on XDA-Developers by a couple of people running the same 3VOlution modified ROM that I am … uh-oh. Maybe a ROM problem? But the ROM shouldn’t affect the radio I reasoned – those are separate programs. But you never know … So like an idiot I hard-reset my phone and wiped everything to go back to a fresh ROM installation. It didn’t help.

When my wife returned home that night I finally got to test the SIM theory. Sure enough, my SIM was bad. If I swapped my wife’s SIM for mine (she has a Dash 3G also) she had no bars and my phone was fine. So I put them back and resigned myself to getting a new SIM first thing this morning.

When I got off the train I dropped into the T-Mobile store on Lincoln Street on Boston (near South Station). I walked in and someone asked if they could help. I told them I needed a new SIM. He asked if I was sure, I said yes, and he asked for my phone number and ID. Then he took one out from behind the counter, put the number into the computer, and told me I was good to go. Total time took less than 2 minutes from when I walked in the door. And there was no charge. I plugged it in while in the store and sure enough, my signal came right back.

After spending a couple of hours rebuilding my phone (because I had reset it like an idiot) I did notice one improvement. It seems that I now get a better signal in many places than I did. I’m not saying that I get a dramatic improvement in strength, just that I am able to hold a 3G signal in places where I used to drop to EDGE speeds. On my train ride home (thered to my MacBook where I am writing this) I’d say I’m seeing a 30% improvement. I drop out of 3G coverage less than I did. Who knew that the SIM itself could have such an effect on signal.

Anyway, T-Mobile Customer Service was very good to me again, reminding me why I stay with them as a carrier. And I’m glad my Dash is working again, even if I did have dreams of getting a new My Touch or HD2 if it was my phone that was dead. But I’m happy I saved the money.

Thanks T-Mobile.

Google Voice Web App for Windows Mobile

January 31st, 2010 1 comment
This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Google Voice

The other day it was announced all over the web that Google Voice was finally available again for the iPhone, only as a web app instead of a true app. Google created a web page at http://m.google.com/voice rather than trying to get another app approved n the App Store. I checked it out on my iPhone (yes, I have one too — for work) and it is a great app. Although it doesn’t integrate fully with the iPhone contacts and dialer, it does present a decent dialer of its own and works very quickly and cleanly, initiating calls via the web and calling the handset back to complete the call.

Google says on the mobile web page that the m.google.com/voice page works for the iphone and for BlackBerries; the page identifies the phone type when you get to the page and directs you appropriately. So I wondered what would happen if I went there with a Windows Mobile browser like Opera.

Google Voice Mobile Screen

The result is a useful if ugly web page. The interface is limited to simple links, but all the necessary functionality is available. You can initiate a call by simply adding the number or selecting something from your Google contacts (it doesn’t integrate with your phone contacts). You can also see and manage any voicemail messages that you have.

By assigning Opera to a speed dial key on the phone and then assigning the Google page to a numbered bookmark, the page is only three clicks from any page on the phone. It isn’t quite iPhone convenient, but it works.

The downside to this implementation is that it’s dependent on a data connection, so you can’t use it where you have phone only service. This probably isn’t an issue for Verizon customers, but us T-Mobile and AT&T folks need to worry about these things.

Google Voice Mobile Connect Screen

Initiating a quick call is pretty simple and it does integrate with your contacts. It uses the callback method, so once you input a number or select a contact to call, you are presented with a list of your registered phones and the option to select the one to connect with the call. The iPhone app recognizes that it’s your iPhone, and once set up will always ring back to that number.

Please note that I have captured these screens from my Dash 3G with its tiny QVGA screen. I’m willing to bet that this app will look and work better on a larger touchscreen device. But at least those of us with non-touchscreen Windows Mobile smartphones finally have a workable Google Voice method besides GVoice Dialer. At the very least, it will give me another option to overcome the problems I’ve been having with GVoice Dialer connecting, particularly in noisy environments.

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.

Google Voice Clients for Windows Mobile

October 24th, 2009 No comments
This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Google Voice

My Dash 3G is currently running Windows Mobile 6.5. The smartphone version — it’s not a touchscreen device. Since I’ve been using Google Voice I wanted a client or dialer on the phone that would seamlessly integrate with the phone’s normal calling function. I’ve tried several to this point and none is really satisfactory.

Making Google Voice Calls

There are really two ways to initiate a Google Voice call — via telephone or via the internet. In the phone-based method, you call your own Google Voice number and then enter your PIN and elect to make a call. You enter the number to dial and Google connects the call. In the internet version, you navigate to the Google Voice web page, log in, enter the number to dial and tell Google which of your phone numbers you wish to use for the call. Google completes the call and then rings your designated phone.

All of the Windows Mobile programs out there use one or a combination of these methods to make Google Voice calls.

GV Dialer

Confirmed 10/26/2009: the GV Dialer author has abandoned the project and left current users hanging out to dry. See this blog post and this screen:

F' You GV Dialer Users!

F' You GV Dialer Users!

It’s a shame too, because GV Dialer was probably the best Windows Mobile client out there.
Google doesn’t offer a dialing app for Windows Mobile yet so I was forced to look for 3rd party apps. The first that I found and tried was GV Dialer. And frankly I liked it. GV Dialer was simple: it inserted itself in the native Windows dialer so that whenever you initiated a phone call via any of the normal methods, you would be prompted whether you wanted to use your normal phone or Google Voice (it could also be set to always use one or the other). GV Dialer would then call your Google voice number and automatically enter the digits to work through the Google menu and initiate your call. It was very simple and it worked seamlessly. I liked it. The problem? It seems like the author stopped development abruptly before my trial expired and I can’t activate it to a full license. When you go to their website now, all you get is this:

No GV Dialer For You!!

No GV Dialer For You!!

Based on the blog on the site, I’ll bet that having the iPhone version pulled from the App Store killed any hope of actually making money so the author abandoned it. But it’s a pretty shitty thing to do to not even let people activate versions they already have. So I’m, stuck with a no longer functioning version of a program I liked and I had to start all over again.

iDialer

iDialer is a popular dialer replacement for Windows Mobile, originating (like so many things) on XDA-Developers, but now hosted on its own page. Upgraded or hacked dialers are popular with the touchscreen smartphone people (for reasons totally lost on me — I’ve never seen a single one that really offers much more than the standard dialer, with the exception of the Google Voice Support in iDialer) and iDialer is one of the more popular ones available. The new integrated Google Voice support is particularly cool. The problem of course is that the author wrote it for touchscreen devices only, so it works poorly at best on the Dash 3G. And, like most hacked dialers, it doesn’t replace the native dialer, so you have to start the dialer separately to use it which seems ridiculous to me. Nonetheless, a few users swear by it, even for non-touchscreen phones (see the second post of  this thread for example).

The main advantage of iDialer is that it can use both the dial-up and internet methods of initiating a Google Voice call. In some cases, the internet method is faster since there are fewer digits to input. But that isn’t nearly enough to overcome the limitations of trying to use this touchscreen app on my non-touchscreen device. So I gave up after only one day.

GVoice Dialer

That leaves GVoice Dialer as the client I am currently using. It works similarly to GV Dialer only not as seamlessly. For GVoice Dialer you need to initiate a call by starting the app first. Then you can select a number from your address book and initiate a Google Voice call. This is one extra step than GV Dialer required, but I guess it’s better than nothing. To speed up the process I assigned GVoice Dialer to a speed dial key on my phone so I can start the app quickly and then quickly jump to my address book.

The Ideal Program

What would be the ideal Google Voice client for me? First and foremost it would integrate with the native dialing functionality. That means absolutely no starting of any extra programs before initiating a call. One should be able to browse the native address book or type a number as normal and then be prompted whether to make a normal call of a Google Voice call. The program should also have a blacklist and whitelist, so you could designate numbers to always use Google Voice or never use Google Voice. If someone could do that I’d pay good money for it.

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 GPS Help?

September 23rd, 2009 No comments
This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Dash 3G
GPS Satellite

GPS Satellite

After more than a month of struggling with the slow GPS lock on the Dash 3G I may have found something that speeds up the lock times a little. Using a freeware program called GPS Test (freeware from a British company called Chartcross), the onboard GPS seems to use a much more efficient search algorithm and finds a lock faster. Still not as fast as my OnCourse bluetooth GPS, but in a few tests much faster than the built-in GPS by itself.

I’ve found that starting GPS Test and letting it find the satellites, and then switching to Google Maps or another application works fairly well. I’ll keep trying this and we’ll see if it really makes the system more usable.

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

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!